The New York Times reported this week on a decision targeting cyclists that might surprise some: “In the wake of two pedestrian deaths caused by collisions with bicycles, Central Park has lowered the speed limit for cars and bicycles to 20 miles per hour from 25, while reconfiguring intersections with especially heavy foot traffic.” Though the announcement mentioned cars it was mainly focused on bikes since large sections of the park are closed to motor vehicles at any given time (on weekends the entire park is off-limits to cars except for a couple of car-only passages that are largely below ground level and mostly invisible to other park users).
The speed limit change is part of “Vision Zero,” a program of safety improvements touted by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio with the goal of eliminating pedestrian deaths citywide. Earlier this year the Times reported that as part of Vision Zero police had stepped up speed limit enforcement in the park, at one point issuing “tickets to 103 bicyclists” in a single weekend, though that level of enforcement is not the norm. The program’s most visible element has been the lowering of the speed limit on most of New York’s streets from 30 mph to 25 mph.
In both fatal accidents congestion appears to have been a major issue, according to the Times. One victim was struck by a cyclist who “said he had swerved to avoid other pedestrians.” The other involved “a 17-year old bicyclist dodging a pedicab.” The paper quotes the head of the Central Park Conservancy, the non-profit group that handles day-to-day operations of the park, saying “There’s no question: Slower traffic will mean a safer park.”
Regular readers know that as a Portland bicycle accident lawyer I have long been a strong advocate of our city’s cycling community. I’m pointing out these developments from far-off New York, however, to remind Portlanders that the “share the road” slogan carries a message for bike riders too. Awareness of pedestrians and a requirement to follow the rules of the road (speed limits, stopping at traffic lights, respecting crosswalks, etc) apply to bikes as well as cars. Portland is justifiably proud of its bike culture, but cyclists need to acknowledge that safety is a concern for everyone, not just drivers.
The New York Times: Central Park is Lowering Speed Limit
The New York Times: Deaths Expose Chaos of Central Park Loop