A 25 mph speed limit, the cornerstone of Mayor Bill de Blasio's Vision Zero safety initiative, goes into effect Friday to slow down drivers on most city streets.
Transportation officials say the new law, which cuts the speed limit from 30 mph, will affect 90% of city streets. Taming the city's streets with slower driving speeds was a priority for families of people killed by drivers, elected officials and safe-street groups.
"This new speed limit will save lives," said Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. "A person's chance of being killed is cut in half when hit by a vehicle traveling at 25 mph rather than 30 mph. Drivers have more time to react with a slower speed."
"I think there's a real consensus in this town that we need to have people drive more carefully, more safely and slower for the protection of our kids, our seniors," de Blasio told reporters Thursday.
AAA of New York spokesman Robert Sinclair said the city should have stuck to targeting specific intersections, roads and school zones alongside with a study to back it up and speed-reducing measures like bumps or rumble strips.
"We're just worried that this paves the road ... for widespread use of speed cameras, which will be for revenue enhancement," he said, excusing his pun."
The city's DOT will install 3,000 new 25 mph signs across the city by the end of 2015. Starting tomorrow, 89 of the signs will placed by Nov. 14 at gateway points at the city's entrances, like at the Holland and Lincoln tunnels.
De Blasio this year was able to win authority from Albany to let the city control its speed limit. The new speed limit passed overwhelmingly in the City Council, with four 'no' votes from its three Republicans and a Democrat, Paul Vallone of Queens.
In the run-up to the new speed limit, NYPD's top transportation officer Thomas Chan said ticket enforcement is up to the discretion of precinct officers and that there will be no Day 1 ticket blitz. There will also be streets where cars can go higher than 25 mph, Trottenberg has said. Officials said speed enforcement is likely to target drivers blowing the speed limit by 10 mph.
Pedestrian deaths and injury at the hands of motorists are down this year since Vision Zero became a part of the city's lexicon. This year, 93 people on the street died through September, compared to 111 pedestrians in the same period in 2013, according to NYPD data. There were 7,769 injuries recorded through September, while there were 8,641 for 2013 through September. Cyclist deaths, however, are up this year, with 16 bikers dead through September compared to seven last year.
Advocates of the slower speed are pressing for strong enforcement in order to change the driving culture in the city.
"If the NYPD enforces it properly and consistently, the new speed limit can help the city cut the number of yearly pedestrian fatalities in half and prevent thousands of injuries," said Transportation Alternatives executive director Paul Steely White.
(With Emily Ngo and Sarah Allam)