The city reduced the speed limit on Prospect Park West to 25-miles-per-hour last Friday as part of Mayor DeBlasio’s push to bring citywide traffic deaths down to zilch.
The surprise change came two days after the city started issuing tickets from speed cameras in school zones as part of the Sloper-in-chief’s road safety agenda. Slope activists, including the parents of a 12-year-old boy killed by a van on the road in October 2013, have been pushing for a 20 mile-per-hour cap on residential streets citywide, but said they will take what they got.
“Dropping it by five is definitely progress,” said Charles Komanoff, a founding member of the group Right of Way. “It shows the power of community organizing.”
A spokesman for the Department of Transportation said the speed limit was lowered as the result of an “evaluation of the corridor,” but did not elaborate on what the evaluation entailed, or why 25 was chosen.
The move comes three months after Samuel Cohen Eckstein was mowed down by a van, unleashing a wave of new activism aimed at slowing traffic on the road that first became a cultural battleground in 2010, when the city replaced a car lane with a two-way bike highway.
The boy’s parents, Amy Cohen and Gary Eckstein, testified before the Council in November to persuade it to pass a bill lowering speed limits. Pedestrians have a 19 out of 20 chance of survival if struck by a car going 20 miles per hour, compared to a 12 in 20 chance at 30, according to federal data Cohen pointed out at the hearing, but the law has since stalled.
Right of Way agitators grabbed headlines the following month when they lined the hot-button thoroughfare with fake 20-mile-per-hour-speed limit signs. They have since devised an online counter that will clock the number of traffic deaths in real time to keep the issue fresh in DeBlasio’s mind — and inbox.
Lowering a speed limit on one road is just a tiny step toward the promised end to reckless driving, the road warriors said.
“This is not going to have an immediate effect,” said Eric McClure, founder of the Park Slope Street Safety Partnership. “This is going to take something more prominent than speed limit signage.”
Komanoff said Right of Way will continue to pressure DeBlasio, and Slope politicians, to put the screws on lead-footed car pilots.
“There is obviously a very aroused and vocal community, and we need to multiply it a thousand-fold,” he said.