NYC Marks “Decade of Road Safety” With Launch of City’s First Slow Zone

Mayor Bloomberg and DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan were joined in Madison Square by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon for today's traffic safety announcements. Photo: Brad Aaron

New York City is plagued by speeding drivers. According to Transportation Alternatives, 39 percent of motorists drive in excess of the city’s 30 mph speed limit, regardless of the presence of pedestrians or even school children. Its ubiquity notwithstanding, speeding is far from a victimless crime. Speeding-related crashes killed 71 people in the city in 2009, and injured 3,739.

Joined by DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, Mayor Bloomberg today announced a multi-pronged program to reduce deaths caused by speeding. Locally, the city is initiating its first “slow zone,” enacting a 20 mph speed limit in the Claremont section of the Bronx. In addition, DOT will be placing radar-equipped signs at locations in all five boroughs, alerting drivers to their speed.

Speaking from Madison Square at Broadway and Fifth Avenue, the mayor unveiled the measures as part of DOT’s pedestrian safety action plan, released last summer. “The slow-speed zones and increased speed boards we are announcing today will target the biggest killer on our roads — speeding — in the most dangerous locations,” said Bloomberg.

On the heels of her department’s much-publicized safe-cycling campaign, Sadik-Khan reintroduced the driver-targeted “That’s Why It’s 30” PSAs. A person struck by a vehicle traveling at 30 mph has up to an 80 percent chance of surviving the collision, according to figures cited by the city, while the likelihood of survival drops to 30 percent when the vehicle is moving at 40 mph.

“Every crash is preventable,” said Sadik-Khan, who noted that overall crash-related injuries have dropped by 41 percent since the installation of pedestrian plazas at the site of today’s event. “That’s not an accident,” she said, “that’s an accomplishment.” During her remarks, Sadik-Khan pointed to the city’s goal of reducing traffic fatalities by 50 percent by 2030.

Absent from today’s presentation was any mention of enforcement. When asked about NYPD cooperation, Bloomberg replied that budget constraints don’t allow for “a cop on every corner.” The city would like to rely more on automated enforcement, the mayor said, but has been stymied by Albany. (After the presser, a Bloomberg aide told Streetsblog that the administration asked for the current speed camera bill, which we reported on last week.) Future “slow zones,” meanwhile, will be considered by request.

Today’s announcements came as the United Nations launched its “Decade of Action for Road Safety” campaign to reduce traffic fatalities in 120 countries. By 2020, said Secretary General Ban, the UN hopes to save five million lives worldwide. On a global scale, he said, road fatalities are the leading cause of death of people age 15 to 29, and kill 1.3 million every year. Ban also praised Bloomberg for recently donating $125 million to improve worldwide road safety.

If the questions lobbed at the mayor from the city press corps are any indication, expect less media emphasis on traffic deaths and speed enforcement and a lot of attention on those radar signs, which will feature “digital displays of skeletons” to goad drivers into slowing down. Skeleton queries outnumbered questions about reducing fatalities by a sizable margin. Said an obviously impatient Bloomberg: “If you save one life, it’s one of the most brilliant ideas I’ve ever heard.”

A couple more tidbits: During the Q&A session, Bloomberg expressed unequivocal support for the city’s bike lane program, and took a jab at preemptive criticism of the upcoming bike-share launch. And addressing Sadik-Khan, the mayor was unambiguous in his appraisal of her job performance.

“The bottom line is you’ve done exactly what we’ve asked,” Bloomberg said. “You are saving lots of lives.”


NYC Aims to Make the Most of Its Handful of School-Zone Speed Cameras

Details concerning New York City’s first-ever speed camera program are scarce. To slow down as many speeding drivers as possible with the small number of cameras permitted by Albany, this is as it should be. On Tuesday, DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan joined Mayor Bloomberg at P.S. 81 in Riverdale, where 96 percent of motorists observed for […]

Five Eclectic Questions for Streetfighter Janette Sadik-Khan

Right before former New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan set off on a multi-city book tour for Streetfight (along with co-author Seth Solomonow), I was able to get a few minutes to ask her five eclectic questions in Washington Square Park. Want to know the story behind the appearance of hundreds of cheap lawn chairs on opening day in car-free Times […]

The Metamorphosis of NYC Streets

There’s nothing more dramatic than looking back five or ten years at Streetfilms footage to see how much the streets of New York City have changed. In this wonderful montage, check out the incredible changes at Times Square, Herald Square, the Brooklyn waterfront, and many other places that outgoing NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and […]

Bloomberg, Sadik-Khan Commit to a World-Class, 21st Century Broadway

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, and leaders from the Midtown business community announced this morning that the new public spaces along Broadway will become permanent features of the city’s landscape now that an eight-month trial period has ended. The city will seek to build on the trial project’s success by […]