Families of traffic violence victims gathered with advocates and elected officials this morning to ask State Senate leadership to lower New York City’s default speed limit from 30 to 25 mph. The families are hoping key Senate leaders will introduce and pass a companion to the 25 mph Assembly bill sponsored by Speaker Sheldon Silver before this year’s legislative session closes out in just over a week.
Across the street from State Senate offices on Broadway, victims’ relatives pleaded for action. ”We need a lifesaver in the Senate,” read the sign held by Lindsey Ganson, whose father was seriously injured in a crosswalk by a speeding driver. “Which senators will save lives?” read another sign.
“People often applaud the courage we demonstrate in coming up and speaking out,” said Families for Safe Streets member Aaron Charlop-Powers, whose mother was killed riding her bicycle in the Bronx in 2010. “We can’t be the only ones demonstrating courage.”
Excess speed is the leading cause of traffic fatalities in New York City. Combined with strong enforcement and street redesigns, a 25 mph speed limit could prevent 70 pedestrian deaths and 6,500 serious bicycle and pedestrian injuries annually, according to an estimate from Transportation Alternatives.
TA’s estimate tracks with an analysis of the life-saving potential of a more limited 25 mph bill in Massachusetts. ”Initially, we were fighting for 20 mph. And this bill makes it so much easier for people to request that their local streets be designated at 20,” said TA policy director Jennifer Godzeno. “We’ll see savings from that, as well, and this [analysis] doesn’t even account for that.”
The 25 mph legislation has the support of City Hall and received another boost from the City Council this afternoon, when a committee unanimously voted for an official home rule message on the bill. Tomorrow, that message is likely to be enacted by the full City Council, which has already passed a resolution indicating its support for a lower speed limit.
The bill’s fate now rests in the hands of Senate leadership.