Senator’s Elizabeth Little’s bill (S.1356) will enable towns to establish maximum speed limits on all town highways that are functionally classified as “local roads.” Senator Little also characterized the legislation as mandate relief for local governments.
The adoption of New York’s Complete Streets law in 2011 produced significant momentum for walking and biking in our communities. Across the state, towns have been eager to invest in pedestrian and bicycle projects, knowing that these projects improve their community’s quality of life, promote healthier life styles, revitalize downtowns, increase real estate values and business activity, provide more equitable and affordable transportation choices, and reduce air pollution. Unfortunately, in 2012, NYS had the worst record in the nation for pedestrian and bicyclists fatalities: 27% of the fatalities on our roads were pedestrians or bicyclists.
Since crash severity increases substantially with vehicle speed, slowing cars down is one of the best (and cheapest) ways to reduce injuries and fatalities. For motor vehicle-pedestrian crashes, every 10 mph reduction in vehicle speed increases the chances of survival by 40%. Currently, local leaders do not have the authority to adjust the speed limit in their communities. Instead, they must petition the State Department of Transportation. This is a long, arduous process and often results with a denial. Moreover, an inability to control speed on local roads is an impediment to the implementation of the 2011 Complete Streets law.
PTNY supported Senator Little’s legislation, but also recommended that it empower towns to further reduce the speed limit, to 20 MPH. We applaud Senator Little for her role in promoting pedestrian and cyclist safety and, as one of the co-leaders of New Yorkers for Active Transportation, PTNY will continue to work with our advocacy partners towards passage of A. 6089 in the Assembly.