How much do cars speed in Central Park? This much...

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Anonymous's picture

From a TA Press release:



New York, NY (October 21, 2005) – Transportation Alternatives measured speeds on the Central Park Loop Drive to gather empirical data on what appeared to most park users as rampant morning commute speeding. Says Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives, “Clearly, police enforcement is not working to protect the increasing number of park users from dangerous traffic. The city should test the viability of making the loop drive traffic-free by instituting a trial ban during the summer of 2006.” Using a Stalker Radar Gun researchers clocked vehicles traveling in the western most lane of the West Drive at the W88:02 sign post. This location is about 250 feet after a 25mph speed limit sign. On three separate September mornings (9/2, 9/8 and 9/15) a total of 694 cars were clocked; only one was traveling at or below the posted 25mph speed limit. The average speed was 36.67mph. The median speed was 37mph. The mode was 36 mph. Only 34.44% traveled at or below 35mph while 65.42% traveled 36mph or above. 0.14% traveled at or below the posted speed limit. 3.03% traveled between 26mph and 30mph. 22.34% traveled between 31mph and 35mph. 31.41% traveled between 36mph and 40mph. 10.66% traveled between 41mph and 45mph. .86% traveled above 45mph. On September 2 nd, 188 cars were recorded between 7:33am and 8:33am. On September 8 th, 244 cars were recorded between 8am and 8:45am. On September 15 th, 262 cars were recorded between 7:51am and 8:50am. For a copy of the raw data and/or in depth analysis contact Transportation Alternatives. ###


In all the years I've biked in Central Park I've yet to once see a driver ticketed for speeding or for being in the park when it is closed to cars.

Meanwhile, as you go to vote Nov. 8, remember Public Advocate candidate for re-election, Betsy Gotbaum, is the person singly responsible for imposing a 15MPH speed limit on cyclists in the park.

Solution: As a token reminder that we're still out here and remember: Write-in Norman Siegel, a defender of cyclists in the courts who lost Gotbaum in the primary. If you don't know how to write-in a vote, contact me.

Anonymous's picture
ted (not verified)

Cool idea, I have wondered what you would see with a speed gun.
Interesting that over half of drivers are between 36-40. Guess that is a sweet spot for city driving. I wonder if average streets are about the same?
I would have guessed more than 1% were over 45mph. I bet you could get higher speeds on the straight behind the Met on the east side.
My personal thought is that if you ticketed about 3 taxis, and told them anyone clocked over 30 will get a ticket, the word would get around really fast. And if the taxis were going under 30, they would slow down everyone else.

Anonymous's picture
B. Dale (not verified)
Interesting Strategy

An interesting, but potentially dangerous, strategy. Hope city hall doesn't up the ante by pointing those things at cyclists in the park. I'm sure you could find an area in the park where cyclists are breaking the 15 mph bike speed limit in a proportionately similar manner.

Anonymous's picture
esass (not verified)

CBS2 news did that about a months or so ago. Was not a pretty picture for the 15MPH bike speed limit. Very biased news story. Very sensationalistic.

Anonymous's picture
Judith Tripp (not verified)
Norman Siegel

Thanks for the tip. I will be writing in Norman Siegel. If we all did that, would it make a dent, you think?

Anonymous's picture
Bill Vojtech (not verified)

Somewhere I heard, (read?), that in NY state, cops will not ticket for only 10 mph over the limit. Don't know if that's state troopers or all cops.

Do we want drivers staring at their speedometers or watching the road?

Obviously we don't want them in the parks– at any speed. Of course, we want no limits on our speed.

Anonymous's picture
mike (not verified)

if they cant monitor there speed and look at the road, the person should not be driving a motor vehicles.

Speeding (MPH over posted limit)
1 to 10 3
11 to 20 4
21 to 30 6
31 to 40 8
Over 40 11
Reckless driving 5
Failed to stop for school bus 5
Followed too closely (tailgating) 4
Inadequate brakes (private car) 4
Inadequate Brakes (employer's vehicle) 2
Failed to yield right-of-way 3
Disobeying traffic control signal, STOP sign or YIELD sign 3
Railroad crossing violation 3
Improper passing, changing lane unsafely 3
Driving left of center, in wrong direction 3
Leaving scene of property damage incident 3
Child safety restraint violation 3
Any other moving violation 2

Anonymous's picture
Bill Vojtech (not verified)

"Most drivers would not know the difference between 30 and 40 without checking their speedometer, and most just ""keep up with the flow.""

When I drive I tend to keep at or around the limit and have never gotten a speeding ticket, but I don't think any good purpose is served by making drivers paranoid about their speed... They have enough to monitor with their cell phones, blackberry and gps.

Speed limits don't control speed– common sense does. With or without limits people would do about the same."

Anonymous's picture
Christian (not verified)

> Speed limits don't control speed– common sense does.
> With or without limits people would do about the same.

Real-world statistics don't bear this out at all. The increase in speed limits from 55 to 65 in the western states during the 1990s led to a commensurate increase in average speed on the affected highways of approximately 4-6 mph.

- Christian

Anonymous's picture
Bill Vojtech (not verified)
Highway vs. Street

You're talking about 6 mph on highways, (which is miniscule), and I'm talking about local streets. If you did away with speed limits in Manhattan, 5th ave would not turn into the autobahn. People drive on city streets at the speed they are comfortable doing– somewhere between 30 and 40 mph when not stuck in gridlock.

Besides, the potholes limit speed better than any posted signs.

Anonymous's picture
Michael Y (not verified)
speed limit signs on nyc streets?

On highways, drivers are generally cognizant of the speed limit, even when flouting it, and there are no pedestrians or cyclists having to dodge the mayhem. Speed enforcement is also more likely.

How many speed limit signs do you see around the city? The speed limit is rarely enforced in NYC, and wreckless drivers are infrequently held accountable.

The probability of pedestrian death in the event of being hit by a car increases dramatically as the car's speed increases. The likelihood of a pedestrian dying when hit by a car goes from about 25% at 25 miles an hour, to 40% at 30 (the speed limit), to 70% at 40 miles an hour, to 100% at 50.

Having said all this, I too would hate for the 15 mile an hour speed limit in CP to be enforced. ;^)

Anonymous's picture
mike (not verified)
riverside drive

i have seen drivers being comfortable on riverside drive and west street at speeds much higher than 30mph.
30 mph speed limit should be enforced more routinely on all the streets. on amny strets it should be lowered due to congestion and shared use

Anonymous's picture
Christian Edstrom (not verified)

I wasn't talking about highways or local streets; I merely used them as an example. My point was that intuition about people's behaviour is often wrong. Your intuition that speed limits don't influence speeding is demonstrably false.

- Christian

Anonymous's picture
Zoetemelk (not verified)
Where does this information go? Does TA do anything with it?

Why is there no accountability in the city for this?

Can we send it to the mayor's office?

Anonymous's picture
Bill Vojtech (not verified)

The cops are too busy frisking subway riders. Excessive speed is not seen as a problem till someone gets squished. How do we keep the evil pedestrians from jumping under those innocent motorists?

Anonymous's picture
Scooter Cop (not verified)
why we don't write speeders in the city...

The policy of the NYPD is to not have patrol cops in the precincts writing speeding tickets. a for instance: if a car is going 45 MPH on a city street, and passes a cop stationary in his RMP (patrol car) the cop then has to do about 60 MPH to catch up to said motorist. The NYPD does not want cops doing this on crowded city streets (or parks). The only cops that are specially trained to do high speed pursuits are trained and assigned to the Highway Patrol. You will almost never see a Highway cop in any precinct, let alone Central Park.

The other alternative to chasing speeders is called Step-Out Radar. This is where the cop is standing outside of the car with the radar gun. When he gets a speeder, he steps into the roadway and motions to the motorists to pull over, and hopes for the best. As far as I and other cops are concerned, this is way too dangerous. Besides tha fact nobody can find the radar gun.

As far as Mr. Rosenthal's comments that we do not write tickets at all, I have shoe boxes loaded with summonses, thousands of them, to prove him wrong. But I already told him that personally when he came up to my scooter in the middle of a car stop about a year ago. (He was amazed I knew his name without him telling me!!)

So, in conclusion, if you want to tell a cop how to do his job, call 212-RECRUIT, take the test, go through the academy, take a promotion test after 5 years, pass that, then you can us how to do our job. Starting salary is now $25,000.

Or do a google search for the NYPD RANT, and you can post it online.....

Anonymous's picture
Indignant (not verified)

Well pardon us for being a little indignant! Isn't the point of having cops to have people specially trained to enforce the laws that are needed to protect us?

Anonymous's picture
Bill Vojtech (not verified)
Will you really be protected...

Will you really be protected when a cop has to accelerate up to 60 mph to chase down a speeder doing 40 mph?

This reminds me of the recent news story about the robber with a toy gun who was shot twice by the cops who were going after him– they fired over 20 shots and hit their target twice. Eighteen stray bullets went somewhere. This time they didn't hit any civilians.

A cop car doing 60 mph on city streets will squash you just as flat as an SUV with a soccer mom at the wheel. Don't expect them to drive better than they shoot, trained or not, they're human, not super-heros.

Anonymous's picture
Michael Y (not verified)
traffic calming

There are other ways to stop speeding, wreckless car drivers than for the NYPD to chase after them. Speed bumps in key places for starters.

Anonymous's picture
Bill Vojtech (not verified)
do they?

Do speed bumps slow them down or just make them lose control?

Anonymous's picture
Michael Y (not verified)

Speed limit signs, speed bump warnings, signage warnings of hign fines for speeding and wreckless driving, and periodic enforcement, would be effective. Or we can live with the status quo, which you seem to be supportive of.

Anonymous's picture
Richard Rosenthal (not verified)
(nm) see below. I gotta learn to stop double-posting
Anonymous's picture
Richard Rosenthal (not verified)
And now this pause for accuracy...

"What I have said all along is NOT what ""Scooter Cop"" imputes to me and wrongly alleges I said. Or say. Permit me to quote myself because, ya know, inaccuracy kinda grates on me.

What I have consistently said is **I** have never, ever once seen a car ticketed in Central Park for speeding or being in the park when it is closed to cars.

Discerning readers will find a distinction between that and a statement that police don't write tickets for speeding cars, etc.

Let me also note when I did meet this policeman, as he correctly recalls, he was writing a ticket for, if memory serves me correctly here--and I believe it does--failure to use a seat belt. In any event, it was not for going through a red light, speeding, or blocking an intersection or crosswalk.

On the intersection where I have lived for 31 years, I estimate over 1000 cars a day go through red lights and c. 400 block vehicular or pedestrian traffic. Same thing: I've yet to see one driver ticketed for this.

The implication of Scooter Cop, that one may speed with all but total and complete impunity is chastening. As for the deft driving required by a policeman to apprehend a driver, here's an anecdote I previously wrote here:

Driver is in park when park is closed to cars. Car waits at a red light at East Park Drive and 90th (Engineer's Gate) to exit park. Next to him as he waits is a policeman on a scooter. Policeman does nothing. I ask policeman why. Policeman says, ""Ah, he knew what he was doing was wrong.""

Compare and contrast to the charges against the Critical Mass riders resulting not meely in their being ticketed, but arrested and jailied: Going through a red light; blocking intersections. Turns out what you learned in geometry is wrong: things equal to the same thing are NOT equal to each other.

But let me end this on a gentle note: I liked ""Scooter Cop"" a great deal: he was approachable, reasonable, well spoken, and obviously well-intentioned. Would that there were 25,000 like him."

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