Slow down! Mayor to lower speed limit on Third Avenue

BOROUGHWIDE — Mayor Bill de Blasio has a special holiday message for motorists driving on Brooklyn’s Third Avenue: Slow down!

The city is planning a major crackdown on reckless drivers, according to the mayor, who announced that the city will lower the speed limit from 30 MPH to 25 MPH on Third Avenue and Hamilton Avenue starting this month.

The new speed limit will be in place along a 2.2-mile-long stretch of Third Avenue from Prospect Avenue to 62nd Street and along a 1.9-mile-lomg section of Hamilton Avenue from Luquer Street to 18th Street.

In addition, the New York Police Department will step up enforcement on city streets. The efforts will include expanded truck enforcement. The NYPD is focusing on commercial trucks to ensure these vehicles are following traffic laws.

The city’s action, announced by de Blasio and Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg on Dec. 23, comes in the wake of six fatal crashes on Third and Hamilton avenues in recent months.

“The recent traffic fatalities have made us even more determined to keep Vision Zero moving forward. We’re increasing our traffic enforcement efforts and lowering the speed limit on two of Brooklyn’s busiest streets to ensure that all New Yorkers arrive home safely for the holidays,” de Blasio said in a statement.

Vision Zero is the de Blasio administration’s ambitious plan to reduce the number of traffic fatalities on city streets. The plan went into effect in 2014.   

“We believe that lowering the speed limit along Third and Hamilton avenues, coupled with strong enforcement, will help calm traffic in the burgeoning neighborhoods of Gowanus, Red Hook and Sunset Park,” Trottenberg said.

Local elected officials endorsed the safety initiatives announced by the mayor.

“Reducing the speed limits on Third Avenue and Hamilton Avenue, where we lost too many lives this year, is a good step,” said Councilmember Brad Lander, a Democrat representing Park Slope.

“For years, residents of Sunset Park have been calling for action as pedestrians and cyclists have been killed by motorists due to an outdated and dangerous transit grid at major roads like Third Avenue. We are pleased the mayor has responded, but lowering the speed limit is just the beginning,” said Democratic Councilmember Carlos Menchaca, whose district includes Red Hook and Sunset Park.

Local officials and street safety organizations have implored the de Blasio administration to take strong measures to safeguard bike riders.

In 2019, there was a shocking number of deaths of bicyclists on Brooklyn streets, according to city officials. Of the 28 deaths of bike riders on New York City streets this year, 17 were in Brooklyn. That’s a sharp increase from 2018, when there were two bicyclist deaths in the borough.

The fatalities included a 30-year-old cyclist killed on Third Avenue near 36th Street in July. The victim was riding north on Third Avenue when she swerved to avoid a parked car’s opening door and was hit by an oncoming tractor-trailer, police said.

Still, the city is making strides in its push to increase safety for bike riders under the Vision Zero initiative, according to de Blasio and Trottenberg.

In July, the de Blasio administration released its Green Wave plan with the goal of expanding the number of protected bike lanes on New York streets. In 2019, DOT installed 21.4 miles of new protected bike lanes, including bike lanes on Fourth Avenue in Sunset Park, Seventh Avenue in Bay Ridge and Fountain Avenue in East New York.

DOT expects to install 60 additional miles of protected bike lanes by the end of 2021, 30 miles in each of the next two years.

“As New York City saw an increase in cyclist and pedestrian fatalities in 2019, we must increase our focus on the timely implementation of Vision Zero. By using known and proven solutions, we can save lives and provide all New Yorkers with safe, equitable and dignified transportation alternatives,” said Danny Harris, executive director of the organization Transportation Alternatives.

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