The Fight for Slow Streets Is Speeding Up

On May 6th, Families for Safe Streets, Transportation Alternatives and a pair of powerful New York City Council members headed north to talk to State Legislators in Albany about life-saving laws that could keep New Yorkers safe.

In total, more than 150 committed activists had more than 50 meetings, urging lawmakers to pass legislation that would let New York City lower its default speed limit to 25 mph. The law would also empower DOT to lower the speed limit to 20 mph with signs only, when previously such a reduction would require traffic-calming measures. Though life-saving engineering enhancements are always a good thing, freeing the City from brick-and-mortar requirements will allow it to lower the speed limit in more neighborhoods in less time.

After the lobby day, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, one of the most powerful officials in the state, became the lead cosponsor of the bill. As of this writing, the legislation has yet to be passed, but advocates and elected officials are working tirelessly to ensure New Yorkers get a safer speed limit.

If that weren’t news enough, just days before the trip, and after years of T.A. advocacy, the State Assembly and the State Senate passed legislation allowing New York City to install 120 new speed cameras in school zones throughout the five boroughs.

Automated enforcement cameras are a proven tool in the fight for safer streets, significantly reducing overall traffic speeds, particularly for drivers traveling 15 mph or more over the speed limit. A study in the British Medical Journal found that speed cameras reduced the number of traffic deaths in a test corridor in London from 68 to 20, and the number of serious injuries fell by over a quarter, from 813 to 596, in just two years.

The City’s Department of Transportation is also accelerating its efforts to slow speeds. Taking aim at the City’s big, broad and dangerous thoroughfares, it has started an “arterial slow zone” campaign.

Along seven miles of Atlantic Avenue, from Furman Street in Brooklyn Heights to 76th Street in Woodhaven, the agency will lower the speed limit to 25 mph, increase speed enforcement and install life-saving engineering enhancements.

Belkys Rivera shares her son’s tragic story with Assembly Member Carmen Arroyo.
Image courtesy of Cassandra Giraldo

“We can have a smooth traffic flow of vehicles without having a reckless and senseless traffic flow of blood,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams at a press conference announcing the changes.

In addition to the Atlantic Avenue arterial slow zone, the DOT has installed similar treatments on Broadway, McGuinness Boulevard and the Grand Concourse. Up next are, East Gun Hill Road, Southern Boulevard, Canal Street, Jamaica Avenue, Northern Boulevard, Queens Boulevard, Rockaway Boulevard, Forest Avenue and Eastern Parkway.

T.A. member and Families for Safe Streets cofounder Amy Cohen, whose son Sammy was killed by a van last fall, also spoke at the Atlantic Avenue launch event. “Today’s announcement is a positive step,” she said, “however, it is only a first step. I have come here today to remind everyone of the urgency of this work.”

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