The Arterial Slow Zone program is one of 63 proposals included in a report released in February on the city’s Vision Zero initiative, which aims to end traffic deaths and injuries on New York City streets.
While arterials make up only 15 percent of the total mileage of the city, they have accounted for about 60 percent of pedestrian fatalities.
“Vision Zero is a commitment made for safer streets and roadways by our Mayor Bill de Blasio. The epidemic of traffic fatalities and injuries are unacceptable,” NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan said. “Our city agencies are working hard to achieve these ends.”
Between 2008 and 2012, Atlantic Avenue saw 25 deaths, including the deaths of 13 pedestrians. DOT hopes that a combination of timed lights, police enforcement and a lowered speed limit — from 30 to 25 mph — on Atlantic Avenue, and eventually on 24 other arterials, will help reduce this number.
The 7.6 mile stretch of Atlantic Avenue that is undergoing changes runs from the waterfront all the way to 76th Street in the Woodhaven section of Queens.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams applauded DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and de Blasio on their quick development and implementation of the Vision Zero initiative.
“Brooklyn and Queens have the unfortunate title of having the largest percentage of […] deaths due to vehicle accidents. We don’t want that title,” Adams said. “We want to send a large message that Atlantic Avenue is the beginning of many other important arteries that will slow down to ensure that we save lives.”
In addition to the arterial slow zones, Commissioner Trottenberg discussed adding more speed cameras throughout the boroughs.
In January, DOT launched a new speed camera program, placing five cameras in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. The cameras catch motorists driving more than 10 mph above the speed limit.
A spokesperson from DOT said that since the program started, the five cameras have caught over 14,500 speed violations. The tickets issued from these violations are $50 each.
Trottenberg pointed out, however, that tight state law restrictions limit where and when these cameras can be used. Currently cameras are only allowed on streets adjacent to schools or within a half-mile of a school, and they can only be turned on between 7 a.m. and 4:10 p.m., during school hours.
The state has authorized 20 cameras to be used in New York City, and while Trottenberg said, ideally, there would be local control over where and when speed cameras could be used, DOT is looking into areas that meet the criteria needed to use the 15 other authorized cameras.
Amy Cohen, a representative from Families for Safe Streets — whose members consist of people who have loved ones who have been killed or injured in traffic accidents — attended the press conference announcing the Atlantic Avenue slow zone.
Cohen’s son Sammy was just shy of 13 when he was hit and killed by a van on Oct. 8 of this past year. Sammy was waiting for a friend to pick him up for soccer practice when his ball rolled out into the street. Chasing after it, cars in one direction stopped for Sammy. The driver of the van admitted he saw the ball and the stopped traffic, but could not stop quickly enough.
“If he had been driving slower, he would have been able to stop,” his mother said.
Cohen held back tears as she expressed the sorrow of losing her child, representative of the sadness all members of Families for Safe Streets have experienced.
She called on the city to continue to work hard to make its streets safe, saying the Atlantic Avenue slow zone is “a positive step, but it’s only a first step.”
“We envision a city where pedestrians, bicyclists and vehicles safely coexist and children and adults can freely travel without risk of harm, where no loss of life in traffic is acceptable,” Cohen said on behalf of Families for Safe Streets. “I have come here today to remind everyone of the urgency of this work and to plead with you to do everything in your power to rapidly implement Vision Zero.”