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NYC Set for 25 MPH Limit After Overwhelming Votes in Assembly, Senate

The New York state legislature voted last night to lower New York City’s default speed limit from 30 to 25 mph. The bill now heads to Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is expected to sign it.

NYC’s default speed limit will be 25 mph once Governor Cuomo signs a bill that passed the legislature last night. Photo: DOT [1]

While the votes last night were overwhelming and bipartisan — 106-13 in the Assembly [2], followed nearly two hours later by a 58-2 vote in the Senate [3] — the legislation almost didn’t make it through the tumult of Albany politics. After last-minute action [4] by Senate Co-Leader Jeff Klein on Monday, the bill was almost derailed by Republican Dean Skelos [5], Klein’s fellow co-leader. Mayor Bill de Blasio had made the bill one of his major requests of Albany this session while also simultaneously vowing to engineer a Democratic takeover of Senate leadership. Skelos, not inclined to do the mayor any favors, threatened to keep the bill from a floor vote. While Skelos ultimately relented, an eleventh-hour disagreement over when to vote on an unrelated piece of legislation almost delayed Senate action on 25 mph before the vote finally happened shortly after midnight. The bill takes effect 90 days after the governor signs it.

In the end, its success was possible because of the tireless work of families of traffic violence victims, livable streets advocates, and officials in both Albany and City Hall.

There are four big things to know about the bill that passed last night:

Many people deserve credit for helping pass this bill, especially Families for Safe Streets and Transportation Alternatives, who pushed for a lower speed limit to happen this year and went to Albany repeatedly [15] to ask legislators to back the bill. Senator Martin Malave Dilan and Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell were pioneers as sponsors of the original 20 mph legislation, and Senator Jeff Klein later took up the issue to see it through the Senate.

Why does a lower speed limit matter? Deaths and serious injuries drop dramatically when speeds are reduced, even 5 mph. Image: AAA [16]

Why does this matter? Deaths and serious injuries drop dramatically with lower speeds, even just 5 mph. Image: AAA [17]

Without leadership from the city, especially from City Council Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez and Mayor de Blasio, the request might not have become a priority in Albany in the first place.

During their remarks on the floor before the vote, O’Donnell and Senators Dilan, Hoylman, Klein, Squadron, and Stavisky mentioned the work of Families for Safe Streets. “The activists who have fought for this legislation for the last several months deserve our highest praise,” Hoylman said. “There are no such things as car accidents. They are car crashes, and by lowering the speed limit we will reduce them.”