Park Slope residents have been intensifying their call for street safety improvements since 12-year-old Samuel Cohen-Eckstein was killed on Prospect Park West last month. On Tuesday, the City Council Transportation Committee will vote on a bill that would reduce the speed limit from 30 to 20 miles per hour on residential side streets that are less than sixty feet wide. But instead of waiting on city government to act, members of activist group Right of Way have put up their own 20 mph speed limit signs in the neighborhood.
The group, known for their street memorials to pedestrians killed by negligent drivers, as well as painting vigilante bike lines, says it's time the city slowed down traffic in areas heavily populated by children. "This road is directly adjacent to a park where children play and then cross the street to go home,” Benjamin Heim Shepard, an organizer with Right of Way, said in a statement about Prospect Park West. “There is no reason drivers need to go 30 mph here, or on any residential street in New York City."
The guerilla signs, which read "20 is plenty," are the same size, shape, material, and height as the official DOT signs, and they are installed on every other block along the busy road. "We need complete street redesigns, speed and red light cameras, and vigilant law enforcement to eliminate traffic deaths," fellow Right of Way organizer Keegan Stephan said in a statement. "But even signs alone can save lives."
At a City Council hearing last month, Samuel's mother Amy Cohen brought the room to tears when she testified about her son's death and the need for speed reform. "Our family has suffered an unspeakable loss," she said. "Every day is filled with pain so deep we are not sure we can bear it."
According to Cohen, Samuel, who was hit by a truck while retrieving a ball from the street, might have survived had stricter speed laws been in place. " If the van that hit Sammy had been going slower, the driver would have had plenty of time to stop when he saw Sammy’s ball in the street, like the car in the next lane that stopped so that Sammy could enter the crosswalk," Cohen said in a statement.