Sunday, March 16, 2014

Neighborhood Slow Zones and the Battle for Safer Streets

This week, the movement for safer streets took several amazing steps ahead. 

Monday street activists met to talk about ways to make Jay Street a safer place to ride, instead of a thoroughfare of double parked cars, cops taking u turns, cars texting in bike lanes, and congested streets.

We all know it: Jay Street is a mess. Pedestrians, bicyclists, taxis and buses all compete for space on this chaotic, dangerous street. But we can improve it! This community planning meeting will give you a chance to imagine a better Jay Street, to mark the most dangerous local intersections on a map and most important, to make your voice heard by decision makers. – See more at:

A typical day of cars double parked on Jay Street, as they were on March 14th at lunch time. 

The event was a great success but it starts with enforcement of current traffic laws, which today are being neglected by police and drivers, making cycling through the area very, very difficult. But the day after the event cars were again double parked all along Jay Street. 

The movement continued on Saturday with the Right of Way Neighborhood Sign Raising Event.
The Right of Way press release declared:


When: Saturday and Sunday, March 15th and 16th
Where: 10 Neighborhoods Across Four Boroughs
New York, New York: On Saturday and Sunday, March 15th and 16th, 10 communities that have applied for Neighborhood Slow Zones but have yet to receive any traffic calming infrastructure from the city will install their own “20 is Plenty” signs.
The rejection of Neighborhood Slow Zones grabbed headlines this week when the widow of Antonio Ramirez called on the DOT to reevaluate a Slow Zone that was denied two days before he was killed by a speeding driver.

Speed is the leading cause of traffic fatalities in NYC and pedestrians are twice as likely to survive being struck by a car going 20mph as 30mph.

NYC allows communities to apply for Neighborhood Slow Zones (NSZs). When applications are approved, the zones are supposed to receive traffic calming treatment including speed humps, road narrowing, daylighting, and 20mph speed limits. As part of his historic Vision Zero initiative to eliminate traffic fatalities in NYC, Mayor de Blasio has called for a rapid expansion of Neighborhood Slow Zones.

“Yet there are currently dozens of communities that have applied for Slow Zones and await groundbreaking while people are dying,” said Keegan Stephan, an organizer with Right of Way. “If you look at this recent slew of tragic deaths, they all occurred in neighborhoods that had applied for slow zones – Noshat Nahian in Jackson Heights, Coopers Stock on the Upper West Side, Lucian Merryweather in Fort Greene, Sammy Cohen Eckstein in Park Slope, and so many more. These communities knew their streets were dangerous and asked the city to fix them, but were told no or not yet by the last administration.”

“These rejections and delays are largely due to the last administration granting community boards veto power over slow zones,” added Stephan. “Even one of the Slow Zones slated to be installed this year, in Bed Stuy, has since been rejected by the community board. This policy is not required and is non-sensical for a public safety initiative. If the water supply were poisoned and killing 250 people a year, would we ask for community board approval to fix it? No. The DOT must use the mandate of Vision Zero to revoke the veto power of community boards and begin installing life-saving infrastructure today.”

 “We are calling on the Mayor to reverse these decisions and begin groundbreaking on all of these applied-for slow zones today. That is the only way they will be guaranteed,” said Michael Mintz of Right of Way. “As a grassroots, city-wide effort, this action also demonstrates support for the DOT’s push to lower the speed limit across all five boroughs, which we will advocate for in every way we can. But that will take months of lobbying in Albany. In the meantime, we are calling on the city to lower the speed limit on every street that it can, starting with these slow zones.”

“Reducing speed limits to 20mph is a great first step to making our streets safer for everyone,” added Liz Patek, an organizer with Right of Way. “To make these slow zones truly effective, it is imperative to redesign our streets with additional traffic calming measures. Human error will occur, but streets designed according to the principles of Sustainable Safety eliminate or greatly reduce the consequences of human error.  The cost of redesigning our streets is far outweighed by the cost of losing even one life.”
A note from our sponsor: “We’re so pleased to to help Right of Way get their message out with our signs,” said Conrad Lumm of “Sometimes it falls to citizens to bring local governments’ attention to pressing safety issues, and we applaud Right of Way for their creativity and persistence.”
All signs generously donated by

The Right of Way facebook invite noted:
Tomorrow's first meeting point is the intersection of Clermont and Dekalb at 12:30.
From Make Brooklyn Safer, who is organizing this installation of the week-end long, city-wide demo:"Have your photo taken with a 20 is Plenty Sign and demand that our city bring 20 mph to our residential streets. If the city won't, the people will.  WE CANNOT WAIT FOR SAFE STREETS."

I joined cyclists on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, meeting everyone at the corner of Clermont and Dekalb in Fort Greet at 12:30.  The street corner was the location where a 9-year-old boy was killed by a car, while he stood on the sidewalk, last November.  At the scene, Hilda Cohen, of Make Brooklyn Safer, stood with Keegan, of Right of Way, in front of the memorial wall for the boy. 

Cohen explained the rationale for the event.  We know slow zones save lives.  Speed and wreck less driving effect all of us.  Speed kills. But our Ft Green application for slow zones was rejected.  Sometimes it take the people to remind those in power to do the right thing.  So grab a sign and take a picture of yourself with a twenty if plenty sign.  We can’t wait for Brooklyn streets to become safer.  If the city refuses to move on neighborhood requests for slow zones, then we will show them we can do this ourselves. 

Several of us started taking pictures and posing with signs.

“I love driving fast but in a neighborhood with kids, there can be no compromise (for reducing fast driving)” explained one bystander, standing with his daughter.  Several families were in attendance at the event.

We posted signs up and down lovely Adelphi street.  

 And then moved onto Clinton Hill and Prospect Heights, where we conducted interviews. 

"The argument has been, 'It's expensive to put these signs up, it's going to take a lot of work and take a lot of approval,'" I was quoted in Brooklyn News 12. "We're here to say, 10 cyclists with some signs can put these signs up in an afternoon and we know that this saves lives. That's the point."

By the end of the day, streets throughout Brooklyn were covered with 20 is plenty signs.

And cars were not double parked in bike lanes. 

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