Excessive speed is consistently a top contributing factor in fatal crashes on New York City streets. In 2014, the City Council lowered the default speed limit, from 30 mph to 25 mph, a move the NY Post argued would endanger the lives of drivers. Instead, traffic fatalities have continued to decrease. On Thursday afternoon, the City announced that it would lower the speed limit on the five-mile stretch that is Route 9A from Battery Place to 59th Street—colloquially known as the West Side Highway—from 35 mph to 30 mph.
According to the Department of Transportation, ten people have been killed on 9A since 2013, including three pedestrians, two cyclists, and five vehicle occupants (that tally does not include the eight people killed in the 2017 terrorist attack). An average of 300 people are injured in traffic crashes on 9A each year, one of the highest rates in the city per mile.
"Route 9A is designed like an urban boulevard—with a median, traffic signals and frequent crosswalks—but because it functions as a connector between highways, bridges and tunnels, drivers often move closer to 40 mph, a speed at which nearly 90 percent of pedestrian or cyclist crashes are fatal," reads a DOT release.
The NYPD, along with multiple speed cameras will begin enforcing the 30 mph speed limit after the new signs are installed on Saturday.
The DOT also said they'll be adjusting traffic signals at West Street from Battery Place to West 14th Street, 11th Avenue from West 14th Street to West 22nd Street, and 12th Avenue from West 22nd Street to West 59th Street.
Mary Beth Kelly, one of the founding members of Families for Safe Streets, attended a Thursday press conference announcing the new speed limit. In 2006, Kelly and her husband, Dr. Carl Henry Nacht, were biking on the Hudson River Greenway when a tow truck driver pulled out in front of them while they had the right of way.
"He missed me, but he hit my husband, and my husband died three days later from his injuries," Kelly told Gothamist. The driver was not charged.
"We have someone dying on the streets of New York City every 40 hours. We have a 170 percent increase right now in cyclist deaths in the city," Kelly said, referring to the 24 cyclists who have been killed on the city's streets this year. "We need some sanity. And this is just one move that brings a little more sanity to our city and the sense of ease that people need to have when people are getting on their bikes or walking where they are meant to be and cars are not."
Kelly added, "We need this to be a livable city. Only by influencing a culture that has been built up around cars and the heedless disregard for pedestrians and cyclists are we going to make this what it could be—the vision that my husband and I always had for this city when we visited places around the world and saw how they treat people who walk and bicycle."