Mayor Bloomberg to drivers: Slow down, the road isn't only for you
When his third term ends, Mayor Michael Bloomberg might want to consider becoming a crossing guard.
Bloomberg unveiled the city's newest proposal to boost pedestrian safety Tuesday, announcing that "slow zones" would be created in more than a dozen neighborhoods, reducing speed limits from 30 to 20 mph. Bright blue signs and speed bumps will accompany traditional speed limit postings throughout each of the 13 areas, expected to be in place by the end of 2013.
Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan said the city was targeting speeding drivers because they make up for about a quarter of traffic deaths. She argued that the likelihood of dying after being hit drops from 70% to 5% if drivers ease up on the gas pedal from 40 mph. to 20 mph.
"Speeding on our streets is really a matter of life or death," she said Tuesday at a news conference in Corona, the first neighborhoodto get the traffic changes, later this year. "Slow zones send a strong message to drivers that our neighborhoods are not shortcuts."
The program was tested out in the Claremont section of the Bronx last year; the transportation department said it resulted in a 10% reduction of top speeds.
Tuesday's announcement was the latest move by the Bloomberg administration to make streets easier to navigate for pedestrians and cyclists, even if it means stoking frustration among drivers. Bloomberg argued that the efforts are worthwhile since the city had a record-low number of traffic fatalities last year.
"Our roads are not here for automobiles," Bloomberg said. "Our roads are here for people to get around."
The mayor has ruffled some feathers for shutting down swaths of roadways to drivers for pedestrian plazas, constructing miles of bicycle lanes and a plan to bring a bike-sharing program to midtown by the end of the summer. Pedestrian advocates have also slammed the NYPD for what it says is a poor job investigating traffic accidents involving bikers and walkers.
Hizzoner seemed unfazed by those complaints yesterday, saying the changes "help a lot more people than it hurts."
When pushed for a response to criticism of police investigations, he said, "You can't afford a cop on every corner, nor do you need one"
"You can't please everybody," he added.
Robert Sinclair, a spokesman for AAA New York, said he was "suspect" of the need to create the slower speed limits.
"The DOT's programs seem to be doing everything that they can to increase congestion and make it more difficult for those that choose to use motor vehicles as their means of transportation and for all businesses that rely on vehicles," he said. "It does not seem to be a coordinated strategy with the idea of sharing the road."
"The mayor seems like he does not like motor vehicles, yet he rides in one on a regular basis," Sinclair added. "Like it or not, automobiles are a fact of life."
Lindsey Ganson, the safety campaign directorof Transportation Alternatives, praised the city for its efforts to increase pedestrian safety, saying she was certain it would be effective, since it focused on large areas, instead of a few specific locations.
"It changes the way people are traveling through a community rather than just one block," said Ganson. "No one is gonna speed over a speed bump unless they want to ruin their car."
Former city traffic commissioner "Gridlock" "Gridlock" Sam Schwartz said he likes the slow zones, as long as the city can prove they work.
"There are a lot of things the DOT is doing that I wouldn't have done, but the statistics are very powerful," Schwartz said. "I would encourage them to continue."
The 13 locations preliminarily selected for implementation of a Slow Zone are:
-- BRONX: Mt. Eden, Baychester, Eastchester and Riverdale.
-- BROOKLYN: Boerum Hill.
-- MANHATTAN: Inwood
-- QUEENS: Corona, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights/ East Elmhurst and Auburndale.
-- STATEN ISLAND: New Brighton/St. George, Dongan Hills and Rosebank.