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Slow ride: Speed limit to dip to 20 mph in parts of Heights

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A Brooklyn Heights institution’s battle to slow down cars in the neighborhood — which it kicked into high-gear after one of it’s own was struck by a vehicle and killed earlier this year— is starting to pay off.

The city announced this week that the Heights will be one of 15 neighborhoods where speed limits will be cut to 20 miles per hour in certain areas. The so-called “slow zones” come after months of lobbying by the Brooklyn Heights Association, which made the zones a priority after one of its members, Martha Atwater, was killed by a driver who jumped the curb on Clinton Street in February.

In most areas of Brooklyn, the lower speed limits take up just a few blocks, but in the Heights, nearly the entire neighborhood will have the speed limits reduced to 20 miles per hour by 2016.

And Heights Association members say it can’t happen soon enough.

“We are saying thank you, but we would like this to be done sooner,” said Patrick Killackey, the head of the association’s transportation committee.

The association also wants the borders extended — currently, the reduced speed limit does not include a small area north of Middagh Street, which is close to PS 8.

The Heights Association predicts the slow-down will save lives.

“Anyone walking around the streets can speak to the benefit of slowing it down to 20 miles per hour,” said Killackey. “The data shows that it makes an extraordinary difference. And, obviously, it’s a lot less likely that an accident would happen to begin with.”

The change is part of the citywide Neighborhood Slow Zones program, in which select communities will have speed limits reduced. Fifteen neighborhoods joined the program last week, including five in Brooklyn.

“Speeding played a role in 81 traffic deaths in New York City just last year and more and more communities across the five boroughs are demanding that traffic along neighborhood streets return to the speed of life,” said Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, in a statement. “Dropping the speed limit by even 10 mph dramatically increases the safety odds and drives home the message that the city’s residential streets aren’t shortcuts.”

The city considered about 75 neighborhoods for the program, Killackey said, but only these 15 areas were chosen. So it’s a real victory for the association, whose newly elected President, Alexandra Bowie, was a close friend of Atwater, a 48-year-old Emmy Award-winning television writer and mother of two who was killed near Atlantic Avenue after buying cookies for her family.

Slow Zones are partially chosen based on crash data and the proximity of schools and senior centers, but they’re also chosen based on community support. Because of this, community organizations including the Brooklyn Heights Association spent months collecting signs of community support through petitions and polls. In May, the organization launched an online poll asking Brooklyn Heights residents if they would want to see Slow Zones in the neighborhood; of the nearly 700 people who responded to the poll, 91 percent said “Yes.”

Ultimately, the area was chosen based on the large number of schools in the neighborhood, along with strong community support, according to a city fact sheet.

Mayor Bloomberg first launched the Neighborhood Slow Zones in 2011 and credits the program and others like it with bringing traffic fatalities down to the lowest levels in city history. Still, speeding caused 81 of the 274 traffic fatalities in 2012, according to the city.

Reach reporter Jaime Lutz at jlutz@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow her on Twitter @jaime_lutz.
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Reasonable discourse

S from Brooklyn says:
This is great. Thanks to the BHA for making this happen.
Oct. 16, 2013, 9:27 am
david from parkslope says:
Parkslope next please
Oct. 16, 2013, 10:44 am
Jay from Nyc says:
I dont understand why this has not already been done for every school in the city as pretty much eveeywhere else in the country it was done 70 years ago. Once again nyc behind flyover country.
Oct. 16, 2013, 11:36 am
Chicken Underwear from Park Slope says:
Yes, 8th Ave in Park Slope!
Oct. 16, 2013, 1:41 pm
John from Bay Ridge says:
Please roll this out in Bay Ridge.
Oct. 16, 2013, 1:46 pm
Ed from Bay Ridge says:
Yes, please bring this to Bay Ridge.
Oct. 16, 2013, 6:18 pm
Julia Kung from Brooklyn Heights says:
Yeah, and who's going to enforce it? The same clowns who do eff all now? How about starting with red lights and stop signs? Or would that require cops getting off their cell phones and iPads and actually work? The job is dead!!!
Oct. 16, 2013, 7:41 pm
John from Bay Ridge says:
Julia, speed bumps, narrowed lanes and speed/red light cameras can enforce this. We sure know that the 68th Precinct won't.
Oct. 17, 2013, 8:55 am
ty from pps says:
There's also the general overall reduction in speed in these zones -- regardless of enforcement. With a speed limit of 30 mph, ALL traffic will tend to move at or slightly above that speed. Now ALL traffic will have a lower average speed.

There are always exceptions... and even if the majority of cars are driving at 25 mph (5 mph over the limit), that is better and much more survivable than if the majority of cars are driving at 5 mph over the 30 mph speed limit.
Oct. 17, 2013, 10:09 am
common sense from bay ridge says:
All the special people who can flash their credentials when pulled over will still be doing 40 mph wherever they want.
Oct. 17, 2013, 11:50 am
ty from pps says:
You can't go 40 mph when the car in front of you is going 22 mph.
Oct. 17, 2013, 12:13 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
I find slow zones to be nothing more than a punishment on the many just for the acts of a few. Nobody is saying that reckless drivers are justified, but it's just wrong to take it out on everyone else as whole. How would any like it if there was some way to make all pedestrians or even cyclists be forced to comply to certain signs or lights just because a few don't seem to do that? I am sure many of you would be crying foul to that. Of course, it's true if there is hardly anyone there to actually enforce the law, so many can actually get away with, though I can't picture anyone actually driving fast on local streets in the city.
Oct. 17, 2013, 3:09 pm
t from brooklyn says:
"How would any like it if there was some way to make all pedestrians or even cyclists be forced to comply to certain signs or lights just because a few don't seem to do that?"

The irony! It hurts!

Fake Tals are the best.
Oct. 17, 2013, 3:14 pm
t from brooklyn says:
Maybe you can't picture anyone driving fast on local streets in the city because you don't live here and probably never spend any time here?
Oct. 17, 2013, 3:19 pm
Ted from Frandillio says:
I are porkchops!
Oct. 17, 2013, 4:19 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
For the record, I have been on many local streets throughout the city, and I have seen how many drive on them including myself, plus many were around the speed limit, not exceeding it unless it was mostly clear, which was a rarity for many of them.
Oct. 17, 2013, 5:15 pm
bkdude64 says:
Tal, As always thanks for chiming in. :)

always nice to hear from you
Oct. 17, 2013, 8:32 pm
Scott from Park Slope says:
I second Park Slope's addition to the list. I'm surprised it wasn't the first on the list, with the vast multitudes of toddlers and families in this neighborhood.

If drivers want to move faster than 20mph they should take the BQE.
Oct. 18, 2013, 9:33 am
Other Michael from Park Slope says:
Thanks for visiting Tal.

Do you think it is ok to "exceed the speed limit when it is mostly clear."?

Be quite and go away. I have children that walk to school
Oct. 20, 2013, 7:08 pm

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