Thursday, October 31, 2013

20 Miles Per Hour for New York Neighborhoods, Intro N. 535

The tragicomic expression of urban living - clowns and earnest cyclists lamenting the lack of safety on the city streets. 

For years now, cycling advocates have pushed to create a safer city for all New Yorkers. We have testified at City Council on the need for the city to investigate car collisions with cyclists and pedestrians. Advocates have painted stencils and memorials for cyclists and pedestrians killed by cars reminding the world of their lives and the reality that the NYPD did little to investigate the causes of their deaths. We organized Critical Mass Rides celebrating non-polluting transportation and even dressed like clowns to push cars out of bike lanes.

Some years it has felt like the city is pushing back against our efforts. And in others, it feels like they are actually working with us, like they are actually starting to hear us. At least this was the case today at City Council, where the Transportation Committee was debating Int. No. 535 by Council Members Greenfield, Cabrera, Chin, James, Koslowitz, Mealy, Palma, Vann, Levin, Mark-Viverito and Koo.

A Local Law to amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to a speed limit in residential areas on residential streets.

Be it enacted by the Council as follows:
Section 1. Section 19-177 of the administrative code of the city of New York is amended by adding thereto a new subdivision d to read as follows:
d. Notwithstanding the aforementioned provisions, speed limits not exceeding twenty miles per hour shall be established on all streets fewer than sixty feet wide in areas zoned for residential purposes and shall be indicated on speed limit signs posted at all appropriate locations as determined by the department.
§2. This local law shall take effect ninety days after its enactment into law.

I saw the call for the hearing on a few list serves and members of Right of Way planned to attend. I would go as well. Maybe this is an idea whose time has come, I wrote on facebook announcing the hearing. My friend Wendy noted: .

o A ped/cyclist crash at 20mph is survivable - written testimony can be submitted but how? Is someone going who can take mine? I will write Chin now too

Wendy sent me testimony on the hearing, which I would print out for the day of the hearing. It declared:

I am Wendy Brawer, a 25-year Lower East Side resident. I urge you to support Intro

535 to save lives and make our neighborhoods more livable.

As a proponent of safer streets, I often stand up at community meetings and request

that motor vehicle speeds be reduced on residential streets. Today, vehicle traffic

speeds through at 30 MPH, causing stress, excess noise, and most importantly dozens of

deaths and hundreds of serious injury to pedestrians, cyclists, drivers and passengers

each year.

Intro 535 and enforcement of this rational 20 MPH speed limit will go a long way

towards ending the carnage!

It’s been proven that 97 % of people on the street can survive a 20 MPH crash. Doesn’t

every New Yorker and visitor deserve this protection? Elders and children are especially

vulnerable. Only 80% can survive a 30 MPH crash, as detailed in the New York Times

on July 12, 2012, when the NYC DOT expanded the neighborhood slow zone program.

That is a critical difference especially drivers often go even faster - only 30% survive a 40

MPH crash.

Thank you for supporting a better future by supporting Intro 535


Wendy E. Brawer

I saw my friend Joanna on the subway on the way to the hearing. Her kids are cyclists.

Walking in I thought this would be just another hearing. But when I saw that the first group to testify were the family of Sammy Eckstein, the boy recently killed by a car in Park Slope I knew this was not going to be the usual.

“On October 8th at 5:11 pm, my 12-year-old son, Sammy Cohen Eckstein, was struck by a van just across the street from our home,” declared his mother Amy. “He died a few hours later. As best we understand it, he crossed into the intersection from Prospect Park with the light to get a soccer ball. While he had the light when he entered the intersection, it quickly changed and he slipped and was hit by a van approaching the intersection at full speed. Sammy was a bright, kind and generous soul….”

There was not a dry eye in the room, except council.

The tone of the hearing was radically altered with the words of the slain boy’s grieving mother, father, and sister’s lamenting his passing and calling for the council to prevent future deaths.

Eric McClure later asked what all of us were thinking, what if the speed limit had been twenty and the driver had had a second to swerve away? We’ll never know, but its worth slowing things down, as the Prospect Park West Bike Lane has done.

Chairman Vacca followed the family, choking up as he tried to speak, noting he has been on this committee for years and he has never been as moved as he had been by the Eckstein’s testimony.

“I will never forget this day,” he confessed, wiping away tears. “I will personally give your letter to Commissioner Kelly so we can step up enforcement of traffic laws. That’s the least we can do.”

Brad Lander, who is the councilman for their district, followed noting their kids went to the same synagogue. “This is an issue that the council has been motivated to speak out about, but not enough. We will push it harder.”

Paul Steely White followed nothing the Epstein’s are proud members of Transportation Alternatives.

New York City’s Neighborhoods Need a 20 mph Speed Limit

T.A. Supports Council Member David Greenfield’s Bill for Safer Residential Streets

Transportation Alternatives is supporting a City Council bill to adopt a 20-mile-per-hour speed limit on narrow residential streets, to reduce the number of traffic crashes, injuries and fatalities.

“Around the world, it’s been proven that lower speed limits save lives,” said Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White, testifying before the City Council Transportation Committee today.

In September of this year, the City of London joined Paris and Tokyo in lowering the speed limit to 20 miles per hour. “New York City would greatly enhance the safety of all its residents, motorists and pedestrians alike, by adopting a similar measure,” White said. “Our city’s most vulnerable people – our children and seniors -- would have the most to gain, in terms of increased safety.”

“It is clear that we must do much more to make our streets safer for everyone, especially pedestrians,” said City Council Member David G. Greenfield (D-Midwood, Boro Park and Bensonhurst) who in 2011 introduced the Safe Streets Act, which would advance the widespread adoption of a 20 mph speed limit on all residential streets fewer than 60 feet wide.

“Barely a day goes by without another New Yorker being injured or killed by a speeding or reckless motorist,” Greenfield says. “This is a problem that impacts every community and everyone who walks our streets. One of the simplest things we can do is reduce the speed of drivers traveling throughout our residential and side streets. That's why I am proud to have introduced this common-sense legislation and to help lead the fight in New York City for safer streets.”

More than 1200 New Yorkers were injured in traffic crashes every week during 2012. 58 people lost a limb or suffered other life-altering injuries, and five city residents were killed each week during 2012. Speeding was one of the leading causes of that pain and suffering.

“Studies show that a one-mile-per-hour reduction in average speed on pedestrian-dense urban streets with low average speeds will lead to a 6% decrease in traffic crashes. And New York is home to the most dense urban streets in the country,” White said.

While noted the city council has already passed legislation supporting increased speed cameras to track speeding. Yet, so far the city has only bought twenty more cameras.

“All the cameras are a drop in the ocean,” noted a frustrated Vacca. “Why do we need to consult with Albany about this?”

White noted the 20-miles-per hour speed limit was already yielding major benefits in London, where the law has saved hundreds of lives, something like a 40% reduction in fatalities. I’ve seen cars drive 45 miles per hour to go stop at a red light. Speed limits create a calming effect.

After McClure and Joanah and others, I was the last person called to speak.

“Thank you Chairman Vacca,” I began. With little need to review the statistics everyone had already cited several times, I would speak as a Dad and driver, a cyclist and pedestrian. “I have seven and ten year old daughters, friends with Joanna’s kids. And I don’t want any of these kids to be the next casualties. We have been to many council hearings and heard many accounts from families of those killed. I do not want any of us to be invited to come speak or be honored in another hearing after our kids have been hit by cars. This legislation will prevent future incidents.

For ten years I lived on Sackett Street in Brooklyn and motorcycles and cars would race up my street like it was a speedway, only to careen to a stop at the red light. The cars menaced and screamed at cyclists, such as myself, just trying to find a place to ride.

Recently I moved to the Gowanus, where we have been designated a safe zone. And the policy works great. When I drive and my mind is on other things, the 20-miles-per hour signs remind me to slow down and keep an eye on the big picture. They are a huge help.

The policy is going extremely well. And should be expanded citywide.

Chairman Vacca remember the feeling, of sadness, we all had today. We have to get this bill passed. I know the second year leave the hearing you are going to be pressured to kill this bill. So let us know what we can do to move this. If you need us to stack hearings or committee meetings or get in the streets, we’ll do it.

Thank you for your time.”

Councilman Levin followed noting that the police have all sorts of quotas for tickets. Why not have quotas for speeding tickets?

Councilman Greenfield thanked the advocates noting that we should make no mistake that the city can move this. If they say they can’t it is because they will not. It is not because they cannot. Soda ban, term limits, etc, when they want something they believe in they get it, regardless of the obstacles or questions about constitutionality. You could sue or them or scream at them they do not care. They can move on issues they care about. So don’t believe them they cannot do this.

Vacca concluded noted he was going to move the bill. He had just texted someone noting the bill had to move. Everyone felt that way. 20 mph Speed Limits are an issue whose time has come. It is time to make it happen.

For right now, its worth asking how many more kids, brothers, sisters, and friends have to die before Council acts?  If you support 535 write your council person and ask for their support for safer streets.  James Vacca is head of the Transportation Committee.  Write him and let him know we need 535 to pass.
District Office Address 
3040 East Tremont Ave. Room 104 Bronx, New York 10461 
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Legislative Office Address 
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For additional coverage, see:

Kids growing up and running free as they should.
Top three pics... by Jeff Siegel

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