October/November 1999, p.4-5

New Traffic Calming Law Opens Way for Transformation of City Streets

Pour the champagne!
After a tough three year legislative campaign, T.A.'s traffic calming bill was signed into law on September 28. The new law permits New York City to use traffic calming techniques to design streets for speeds as low as 15 mph. Its passage sends a powerful signal to traffic engineers that the public demands equal rights for pedestrians, bicyclists and neighborhoods.

The law got its start four years ago when T.A. asked the traffic calming planners at the DOT what obstacles they faced. At the top of their list was the state law forbidding maximum speed limits below 30 mph. City traffic engineers interpreted it to mean streets must be designed for motor vehicles to drive 30 mph or faster. As a result, most traffic calming methods were deemed unacceptable. Upon hearing this, T.A. vowed to change the state law. And now we have.

The new law puts a powerful tool in the hands of DOT engineers responding to community concerns about speeding and traffic. T.A. and the Neighborhood Streets Network will make sure the DOT uses its new found powers. We will vigorously educate community groups and elected officials about the potential benefits of the new law. We will also push the City to vastly expand the scope of its traffic calming efforts and the street designs it uses. In the next year, our goal is to see the DOT start another large scale traffic calming effort like the Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming Project (perhaps in West Brooklyn) and begin using mini-roundabouts and sidewalk extensions or "neckdowns."

Leading traffic calming countries like Holland, Germany and Denmark put their efforts into making big, arterial, streets congenial to bicyclists and pedestrians. As New Yorkers enjoy more of the benefits of traffic calming that will be the next step in New York City. But for the time being, traffic calming here is more likely to be used to redesign major pedestrian crossings and create slow speed zones on neighborhood streets.

Pedestrian Safety

Sidewalk extensions, like this one on 48th Street in Manhattan, make walking easier and safer.The new law should spur the DOT to redesign dangerous pedestrian crossings. For instance, neckdowns should be added at 7th Ave. and 60th Street, where a woman and her elderly mother were killed by a turning truck in 1997. On huge, dangerous streets like Queens Boulevard and Upper Broadway, DOT should emulate London by raising the pavement under crosswalks crossing parallel side streets. This will slow turning vehicles and give drivers more time to yield to pedestrians. The slower design speeds allowed by the law should also be taken into consideration at major pedestrian locations like Times Square, Herald Square, Mulry Square and Grand Army Plaza.

Slow Speed Zones and Area Wide Traffic Calming
London and other leading European cities make wide use of slow speed zones, so should NYC. These are areas with a 20 mph speed limit and extensive traffic calming measures intended to reduce through traffic and slow cars. The idea is to change traffic patterns and motorist behavior in a large area, instead of at one location. An ideal place to start is in Downtown Brooklyn. Here the public expects real results from the Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming Project.


Bicyclists benefit tremendously from traffic calming. Indeed, bicyclists and bike lanes are themselves effective at reducing speeding. Traffic calmed streets are ideal bicycle habitat.

Read the latest news on this subject.

Thank You for Supporting Calmer, Quieter Streets

Transportation Alternatives extends our gratitude to you, our membership, and the elected officials, civic groups and individuals that helped win this powerful tool for calmer and quieter streets. Special appreciation is due the bill's sponsors: Assemblymember Deborah Glick and State Senator Frank Padavan. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani also deserves our thanks for putting his weight, and the City's Albany lobbyists, behind the legislation.

Rudolph Giuliani
Mayor City of New York

Peter Vallone
City Council Speaker

Sheldon Silver
Speaker of the Assembly

Joseph Bruno
President of the State Senate

Fernando Ferrer
The Bronx Borough President

C. Virginia Fields
Manhattan Borough President

Howard Golden
Brooklyn Borough President

Guy Molinari
Staten Island Borough President

Claire Shulman
Queens Borough President

Legislative Sponsors
Deborah Glick and Frank Padavan

Our deep appreciation to the civic, environmental and neighborhood groups for their powerful support. You persuaded the City Council, and State Legislature to pass this new law.

Atlantic Avenue Betterment Assn.
Auburndale Improvement Assn.
Banana Kelly
Brooklyn Heights Association
Bronx Shepherds Restoration
Carroll Gardens Association
Chambers-Canal Civic Assn.
Charles St. Block Association
Clinton Hill Society
East Side Association
Eden Wald Center
Environmental Advocates
Environmental Defense Fund
Environmental Watchperson
First Street Resident's Association
Fulton Ferry Landing Assoc.
Grand Avenue Block Assn.
Harlem Environmental Impact
Highbridge Advisory
Institute for Public Administration
Jane Street Association
Jefferson Avenue Block
Juniper Park Civic Association
League of Conservation Voters
Natural Resources Defense Council
Neighborhood Streets Network
NYC Environmental Justice Alliance
Park Slope Action for the Environment
Project For Public Spaces
Our Lady of Refuge
Richmond Town Civic
Scenic Hudson
Sierra Club-NYC Chapter
SoHo Partnership
South Bronx Community Assn.
St. James/Fulton/Gates Block Assn.
Sunset Park Restoration
Trees Not Trucks
Tri-State Transportation Campaign
University-West Burnside Neighborhood Association
West Ninth St. Block
West Village Houses Tenants

Lastly, our appreciation to:

Gene Russianoff of the New York Public Interest Research Group for his advice and counsel.

Carl Campanile of the New York Post for his interest.

Seth Kaye, former Director of the Mayor's Office of Transportation, who recognized the importance of this issue.

Recognition is also due to the current and former T.A. staff advocates who won this tremendous success: Susan Boyle, Elizabeth Ernish, Paul Harrison, and Neel Scott. Thank you and congratulations.