The New York State legislature recently passed a measure that gave to New York City the right to enact a citywide 25mph speed limit (it is currently 30mph).
This law is a product of Mayor DiBlasio's Vision Zero, a plan to reduce to zero the number of pedestrian traffic deaths in New York City.
At a recent press conference the DiBlasio administration released the following statement as justification for lowering the speed limit:
"70% of accidents involving pedestrians are the result of speed or the failure to yield"
This statement is disingenuous as it conflates two concepts. If the speeding statistics were so jarring so as to merit a speed limit reduction, they would stand on their own without needing be paired with "failure to yield" numbers.
It also strikes me as outrageous that this legislation is considered an appropriate response when the current speed limit of 30mph is largely unenforced in the city.
Not enforcing the speed limit is tacit approval of the speed limit and occasional departures from it. Seeing cars pulled over for speeding with some degree of regularity gives drivers incentive to obey they law rather than to flout it.
Having spent time in traffic court (the NYC traffic violations bureau) studying cases, I can confidently state that police officers, when they enforce traffic rules, give the most citations for failure to yield and for various minor moving violations like failure to use a turn signal.
To me, common sense says that the primary problems that drive pedestrian traffic fatalities are aggression and distractedness on the part of both the driver and the pedestrian, not driver speed. I will concede that the speed at which a pedestrian is hit will largely determine their prognosis, but under no circumstances will I ever agree that speed (that isnt reckless) alone is the cause of accidents.
The people who speed in the city are the exception, not the rule. An NYC DOT traffic study that I read recently declared this to be the case on a major avenue in my neighborhood in Brooklyn. This avenue could be an anomaly, but my observations as a pedestrian, cyclist and driver confirm that this conclusion is the case across the city.
On another note, I think that NYC drivers need to unite to ensure that transportation policy reflects our interests. It is far too easy to get support for anti-car legislation in a city where so few residents drive. Maybe I need to be the person to start it.
Photo Credit: NY Daily News