By Rich Bockmann
Dropping the citywide speed limit from 30 mph to 25 mph is one of 63 items in the Vision Zero action plan to curb pedestrian fatalities that Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration released Tuesday afternoon.
“Reducing the citywide speed limit has received tremendous support already in the City Council and we believe it’s the most holistic way to approach the problem with our partners in Albany,” de Blasio said at an afternoon news conference Tuesday.
The likelihood of a pedestrian surviving a crash is greatly increased when a vehicle is driving slower than 30 mph, said the mayor, who will be looking for a home-rule message from Albany to allow the city to make the change.
“The default speed limits on streets filled with pedestrians shouldn’t be at a level that could be fatal to pedestrians,” he said. “They have to be at a level that will give the maximum chance of saving pedestrian lives.”
De Blasio visited Queens about a month ago when he stood with the family of an 8-year-old boy who was fatally struck by a tractor trailer in Woodside to announce the interagency group — composed of the city Police, Transportation and Health departments and the city Taxi & Limousine Commission — tasked with drafting the blueprint for his Vision Zero plan.
In addition to lowering the city’s speed limit, the plan proposes creating a Vision Zero task force in the mayor’s Office of Operations, increasing the size of the NYPD’s highway unit, expanding its Collision Investigation Squad and increasing penalties on unsafe TLC drivers.
The DOT is also looking at a broad overhaul of the five boroughs’ roadways, including the creation of 25 arterial slow zones.
“As many of you know, these broad and busy streets, they were originally designed for the fast movement of cars and trucks, not for safe pedestrian and cyclist movement, and they present a great safety challenge throughout the city,” DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said.
Proposals specific to Queens were not immediately available, but Trottenberg did cite improvements made to the intersection of Jackson Avenue and 11th Street near the Pulaski Bridge as an example of how effective the city’s safety measures can be.
“This made it easier for pedestrians to navigate. Injuries dropped a staggering 63 percent in just three years, thanks to those redesigns,” she said. “So as the mayor says, we do know how to do this. We need to take the good work we’re doing and take it citywide.”
De Blasio called the agenda a “living, breathing plan” open to adjustment and said he hopes the conversation about pedestrian safety will encourage motorists and pedestrians alike to pay more attention when on the roadways.
“This entire plan involves a number of physical and material measures, but it’s about much more than speed bumps and the issuing of violations,” he said. “It’s also about all of us taking greater responsibility every time we get behind the wheel and every time we step into the street.”
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.