Get Happy? Here Come 20 MPH Streets—and Skeleton Enforcers

skeleton sign Get Happy? Here Come 20 MPH Streets—and Skeleton EnforcersPrepare to do the impossible, New York.

Back in November, Rod King told The Observer the secret to New Yorker’s happiness would be for everone to slow down a little bit. Or probably a lot. The city’s posted speed limit is 30 miles per hour on most streets, though who honestly follows that? Eastern Parkway, Second Avenue, 59th Street, on all of these major throughfares, and a good many sidestreets, New Yorkers fly around at breakneck speeds–kind of like the way we walk and talk. Mr. King, and evangelist for the 20 Is Plenty movement, believes we could save our lives and our sanity if that is how fast everyone drove.

Now, we may not have much choice. Yesterday, Mayor Bloomberg, along with Transporation Commissioner Janette  Sadik-Khan and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, announced plans for “slow zones,” a new pilot program that would create 20 miler-per-hour corridors in some of the city’s unsafer sections. While the project is currently planned for only one street in the Bronx, do not be surprised if it spreads further. After all, the Time Square plaza, and many of its smaller siblings scattered across the city, have become permanent–and popular–and the same has been the case for more controversial bus rapid transit routes and bike lanes. Pilots have a way of taking off.

But if people will not even respect the current 30 mile-per-hour speed limit, what is to make them follow an even slower one? How about a healthy dose of guilt. From the same administration that has brought us nanny state cigarette bans and browbeating fatty-soda subway ads, the mayor now plans to introduce new street signs that will display the speed limit, except when the driver surpasses it, at which point it will switch to the commanding words “SLOW DOWN.” Beside these, a Keith Herring-style pedestrian will transform into a skeleton.

Meanwhile, according to our own David Friedlander over at The Politicker, the mayor gave a full-throated defense of his transportation czarina, who has come under fire lately, mostly for the bike lane wars:

“When I hired Janette Sadik-Khan to be the commissioner of the city’s Transportation Department, I urged her to be bold and to think outside the box,” he said. “That is exactly what she has done. She has taken what her predecessor Iris Weinshall did so ably and took it to even higher levels.”

[…]

“The bottom line is you’ve done exactly what we’ve asked. Road safety statistics show that your efforts are bearing fruit. You are saving lots of lives and making the city better,” he said before ceding the microphone to her.

mchaban [at] observer.com | @mc_nyo