Three months after Vision Zero’s speed camera program began, the city and state Department of Transportation (DOT) officials announced that they will lower the speed limit in Manhattan’s West Side Highway from 35 to 30 miles per hour, a move that local politicians and safe streets advocates had long been fighting for.
The new speed limit will go into effect this Saturday, October 12. The five-mile stretch, between Battery Place and 59th Street (or Route 9A) has had 10 traffic fatalities—three pedestrians, two cyclists, and five passengers of a motor vehicle—since 2013, according to the DOT.
In all, it’s been a particularly tragic year for cyclist deaths in NYC: There have been 24 cyclist fatalities this year, more than twice the total number of deaths last year. There have also been 171 traffic fatalities so far this year, up 15.5 percent compared to last year, according to NYPD stats.
“With the growth of Hudson River Park and the Greenway, the country’s busiest bike path, never mind great gathering places like Chelsea Piers, it is quite clear that the old ‘West Side Highway’ is now more boulevard than highway—and this new speed limit reflects that evolution,” DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said in a statement.
As part of the new measures, the DOT will adjust traffic signal timing on three parts of Route 9A: West Street from Battery Place to West 14th; Eleventh Avenue from West 14th Street to West 22nd Street; and Twelfth Avenue from West 22nd Street to West 59th Street.
Route 9A, DOT says, is designed like an urban boulevard with a median, traffic signals and frequent crosswalks, but since it connects tunnels, bridges, and highways, drivers move at close to 40 miles per hour, which 90 percent of the time leads to a pedestrian or cyclist death.
“Here in Lower Manhattan we have long advocated for improved safety measures along the West Side Highway,” City Council member Margaret Chin said in a statement. “By curbing the high-speed, dangerous traffic at three critical junctures, increasing pedestrian crossing times and improving signal times, the Department of Transportation is showing they understand the urgency of the situation.”