Launched in 2011, the DOT Neighborhood Slow Zone program is intended to keep drivers from exceeding 20 mph in residential areas. Strengthening and expanding the program should be a key aspect of Vision Zero, but instead, DOT has watered down some Slow Zone features, apparently in response to motorist complaints about curbside parking.
This week DOT unveiled a proposal for a new Washington Heights Slow Zone, west of Broadway from W. 179th Street to Bennett Avenue, to the Manhattan Community Board 12 transportation committee. According to the DOT presentation [PDF], the residential area within the proposed zone was the site of one traffic fatality, one serious pedestrian injury, and four serious injuries to vehicle occupants from 2007 to 2015.
“We all have young children, preschool age or younger,” resident Andrea Martinsen told DNAinfo, referring to parents who attended the Monday meeting. “We find that navigating the neighborhood can be really difficult, especially when it comes to cars speeding and spots where there are no crosswalks.”
Another resident who supports the plan told DNAinfo that some people initially opposed slowing drivers down if it meant losing parking spots. But DNA’s Lindsay Armstrong reports that “the DOT has since changed the way that it installs signage to decrease the impact on parking.”
A look at existing Slow Zones reveals that DOT is pushing “gateway” signage from the roadbed onto the sidewalk. In Inwood, where Manhattan’s first residential Slow Zone was implemented, prominent parking lane signage alerting drivers that they were entering the 20 mph zone was later shunted to sidewalks. The same thing happened in the Claremont section of the Bronx, the first neighborhood Slow Zone in the city.