May/June 2000, p.8
Where's the Traffic Calming?
The passage of T.A.'s NYC Traffic Calming Law in September 1999 was a landmark moment for pedestrian safety and neighborhood quality of life. The law makes it clear that the city is allowed to use new traffic calming tools such as extended sidewalks, raised crosswalks, slow-speed zones in residential neighborhoods, and more effective speed humps that were previously resisted because of the state-mandated "design speed" of 30 m.p.h. in NYC.
However, despite Mayor Giuliani's enthusiastic endorsement, the NYC Department of Transportation has thus far not used the law in any form, and a November letter from the Neighborhood Streets Network requesting a meeting with Deputy Mayor Joe Lhota to discuss the law went unanswered. Meanwhile, neighborhoods all over the city continue to clamor for relief from dangerous and oppressive traffic.
T.A. sent Lhota another letter in early April renewing our request for a
meeting to discuss how and where to begin implementing slower speeds and
traffic calming. T.A.'s agenda for the meeting would include a basic citywide
traffic calming plan, a working list of initial pilot traffic calming
projects, an agreement on standards for traffic calming projects in all five
boroughs and a statement of total funds dedicated to speed humps and other
traffic calming methods. T.A. hopes to meet with DOT in the next several
weeks, and to see steps towards greater use of the law by the fall.
Queens Boulevard is one of the most hazardous streets for walking in NYC, with more than 50 pedestrian deaths since 1993. Cars tear down the ten-to-twelve lane boulevard and create a great divide that area residents cross at their own peril. Recently, in a particularly gruesome incident, a 26-year-old Brooklyn man was the victim of a hit-and-run on New Year's Eve when he was struck by two cars in succession and dragged four blocks to his death.
A recent study funded by the Queens borough president's office and Councilmember Karen Koslowitz found that, during rush hours, pedestrians often had only 33 seconds to cross the average 170-foot wide boulevard. Even more dangerous, lights were timed at 38 mph on the 30 mph road, thus encouraging rampant speeding. While the city has increased pedestrian crossing time at certain intersections, it has been slow to act on many of the study's recommendations and has yet to commit to significant pedestrian improvements such as neckdowns and widened pedestrian refuges. Meanwhile, Queens Boulevard remains a no man's land.
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