Proof of what we already knew? Data shows speed camera violations soared in lockdown

Unusually light traffic on Canal Street on May 9, 2020. (Photo by Mark Hallum)
Photo by Mark Hallum

Not that New Yorkers did not generally notice an increase in speeding at the height of the pandemic, but new data illustrates that speed camera violations were nearly off the charts when the few motorists left in the five boroughs ripped through deserted streets.

The Independent Budget Office says that although parking violations were issued despite restrictions being lifted during the March 23 to May 31 period in Question, 77% of all summonses were for speed.  The IBO report compares March 1 through March 22 with just under 15,000 speed camera violations to the over two month period on lockdown which saw over 22,000 issued.

Not only was speeding up, revenue from fines was also down across the board for the city which had collected over $70 million from parking and speed camera violations in March until it came crashing down to $30 million in May. The IBO analysis based its findings on data from the city Department of Finance.

(Source: NYC Independent Budget Office)


“The data is new, but we’ve known since March and April that there’s been a big uptick in speeding,” Jon Orcutt, Director of Communications for Bike New York said. “It seems like there’s more of a joyriding thing going on, just around my neighborhood in Brooklyn I’m seeing more people doing stupid stuff in cars. A couple times I’ve rented cars I’ve seen people doing crazy things on the highways too.”

June would become the deadliest month for traffic deaths in nearly two years with 29 fatalities on New York City roadways, four of these were cyclists. Orcutt says the city is tracking ahead of 2018 for overall traffic deaths, something Orcutt said demands action from Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“Four bike deaths in June is a lot for the city without that much activity and certainly with Manhattan still being pretty dead, every time I’ve gone in,” Orcutt added. “New York has actually led the country for most of the mayor’s term in terms of bucking the trend… Traffic deaths are going up all over the country and the mayor’s driven them down until last year. And now, looks like there’s another dynamic that may cause another uptick this year. We need a policy response.”

Source: NYC Independent Budget Office


De Blasio’s effort to grab street space for social distancing and cycling so that New Yorkers could stretch their legs safely during quarantine has not been aggressive enough for critics who believe too much space is handed over to cars at the risk of people’s lives.

Transportation Alternatives released a progress report on Wednesday that said the open streets plan, meant to aid the city’s recovery has “lacks ambition” with only about $37 New Yorkers being within walking distance of the nearest thoroughfare off-limits to cars. Most average less than .22 miles in length and only 44% of the promised 18 miles of dedicated bike lanes have been implemented.

We do see more activity in terms of car traffic, but not as much, by any stretch, as what we’re seeing with mass transit – an increase of 23 percent of the East River Bridges; 17 percent on the Harlem River bridges. So, we definitely recognize that real activity, real progress is happening, and all of these pieces have to come together for it to work.”

As the mayor addressed the transportation situation in the city Thursday morning, he made no elaboration on how said progress would take place.

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