Central Park's speed limit will fall from 25 to 20 mph. According to a DOT release, in addition to the lowering of the speed limit, "four key crossings across the park will receive substantial enhancements, including highly prominent “Pedestrian Crossing” warning signs at the intersections, advisory 10 MPH speed signs, and advance pedestrian crossing signs before each intersection."
Per the release, the four intersections are West Drive at Delacorte Theater (near W. 81st Street), West Drive at Sheep Meadow (near W. 68th Street), West Drive at Heckscher Ballfields Crossing (near E. 63rd Street), East Drive at Terrace Drive (near E. 72nd Street).
The news was first reported by A Walk In The Park.
Geoffrey Croft of NYC Park Advocates implies that the lowering of the speed limit is designed to slow bike traffic, after two pedestrians were killed by cyclists in Central Park this year; three others had their skulls fractured in their collisions with cyclists.
Jason Marshall, the cyclist who fatally struck Jill Tarlov near West 63rd and West Drive in September, denied that he was speeding at the time of the crash. Witnesses claim otherwise. In August, Irving Schacter, 75, was fatally struck on the loop near East 72nd Street by a 17-year-old cyclist. Neither has been charged.
The number of tickets the NYPD has issued to cyclists in Central Park this year has quadrupled compared to 2013. According to Croft, police have written 865 citations as of November 12—the most common infractions are failure to yield to pedestrians (386), wearing two headphones (164), biking on pathways (117), and running red lights (94)—compared to 212 over the same time period last year.
The Central Park Precinct has issued a total of 4,035 moving violations this year [PDF] as of the end of October, and only 177 of them were for speeding. Improper turning was the most common citation (923), followed by failing to yield to pedestrians (515).
A spokesman for the Mayor's Office did not return an email concerning the new speed limit.
Last month, Irving Schachter's wife, Hindy, wrote an editorial for the Daily News about street safety:
At present, the government allocates almost all traveling space to automobiles. Cyclists and pedestrians share the leftover slivers. This pattern allows car drivers to see themselves as central to the urban way of life and other travelers as a trivial nuisance.
That leaves cyclists frightened, particularly as they traverse Manhattan streets — a perception that sometimes leads bicycle riders to intrude on pedestrian space.
In Central Park, a simple line separates bicycle and pedestrian lanes on the East and West Drives. Such a demarcation is woefully easy to cross. Two lines enclosing marked space would produce a more durable separation.
Maximizing cyclist and pedestrian safety would not end all crashes. Driver behavior matters, too. But giving more safe space to people walking and biking would change the current attitude of driver entitlement to the road.