New York City Asks Drivers To Slow Down

Nov 7, 2014
Originally published on November 7, 2014 8:11 pm
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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

If you've ever been in a New York City cab, you know the city's drivers are not renowned for their patience. But the mayor is telling them - in fact, telling all New Yorkers - to slow down. The speed limit on most city streets dropped to 25 miles per hour today - down from 30. NPR's Joel Rose was out in the streets and has this report.

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: Driving in New York is not for the faint of heart. One second you're stuck in gridlock and the next minute...

KASTIA DOSIADAS: ...They fly. Sometimes I see a car, like, easily doing 50. It's too much. It's way too much.

ROSE: Kastia Dosiadas (ph) has been driving a yellow cab in New York for 14 years.

DOSIADAS: When you have an open avenue, everybody floors it - 'cause everyone's sick of being stuck in the traffic. Once they see an open road, they push the gas, you know, excited - aw, I can move.

ROSE: He hopes everyone will slow down and obey the new speed limit. But...

DOSIADAS: How can you stop this many people? Are you going to be on every street corner with a speedometer? You know, it's like (laughter).

ROSE: He's not the only skeptic. Mustafa Motamed (ph), of Staten Island, drives a black livery cab.

ROSE: You don't think people are suddenly going to slow down today?

MUSTAFA MOTAMED: I don't think so because it's push, push, shove, shove city.

NINA TROTTENBERG, BYLINE: It's culture change and it's going to take a while.

ROSE: Polly Trottenberg, is the city's transportation commissioner.

TROTTENBERG: Last year, in New York City, 291 people were killed on our roadways and thousands more were seriously injured. And there's a real will to get that number down. And lowering speeds is part of how you do that.

ROSE: She says that's why New York is following the lead of Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., which already have a default speed limit of 25. The NYPD says it will use discretion in enforcing the new speed limit, at least initially.

NYPD OFFICER: Drive 25. It's the law.

ROSE: This recording blared out of a megaphone on top of an NYPD truck parked on Delancey Street, a major four-lane road near the Williamsburg Bridge. But even right here, in front of the NYPD truck, many motorists are not abiding by the new speed limit. At least, not according to the radar gun we used.

PAUL STEELY WHITE: Twenty-five, thank you. That's some encouraging signs of compliance here. Thirty - oh, that guy's going fast - 44.

ROSE: Paul Steely White is the director of Transportation Alternatives, a nonprofit group that pushed for the lower speed limit. White says slowing down by just a few miles per hour can make a big difference.

WHITE: The human body isn't built to withstand impacts of over 20 miles per hour. So the difference between 25 and 30 is huge. If you're struck by it car going 25, you're twice as likely to live than if that car was going 30.

ROSE: Besides, White says, there's no reason to slam on the gas if you're just going to stop at that next red light anyway. Joel Rose, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.