WNYC: Most City Streets Are Currently Eligible for 20 MPH Speed Limit

WNYC has put together a map showing that the majority of streets in New York City are close to a school — meaning that, according to state law, the speed limit on those streets can be lowered to 20 miles per hour without Albany’s approval:

NYC DOT told the City Council transportation committee last month that state law permits the city to set speeds at 15 to 24 miles per hour only if other physical traffic-calming treatments are also implemented, but those treatments are not required if a street is within a quarter-mile of a school. The October 31 hearing was convened to gather testimony on Intro 535, which would set speed limits no higher than 20 miles per hour, down from the current citywide 30 mph limit, “on all streets fewer than sixty feet wide in areas zoned for residential purposes.”

The hearing was held in the wake of a number of traffic crashes that took the lives of children. City motorists killed at least five children age 12 and under in the months of August, September, and October, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog.

Council Member Brad Lander asked DOT for a map of streets that are currently eligible for 20 mph limits. In the meantime, WNYC did its own analysis. Kate Hinds reports that 55 percent of all NYC streets are within a quarter-mile of a school, including 75 percent of streets in Manhattan, 71 percent in Brooklyn, 64 percent in the Bronx, 48 percent in Queens, and 28 percent in Staten Island.

City Council transportation chair James Vacca told WNYC he would “push legislation in the council to limit speeds in those areas,” and said he wants to bring a bill to the full council before Mayor Bloomberg leaves office.

Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio is on the record supporting Intro 535. De Blasio has pledged to dramatically reduce city traffic fatalities and serious injuries, and his “Vision Zero” plan specifically calls for traffic-calming measures near schools. A spokesperson told WNYC de Blasio is in favor of lower speed limits in general.

The Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade, a group that represents the owners of 5,200 of the city’s 13,000 yellow cab medallions, and which raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for de Blasio’s mayoral campaign, also endorsed Intro 535.