Schenectady

Schenectady City Council to discuss reducing citywide speed limit

The posted speed limit in the City of Schenectady as seen here on Erie Boulevard may soon change from 30 to 25 mph.
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The posted speed limit in the City of Schenectady as seen here on Erie Boulevard may soon change from 30 to 25 mph.

SCHENECTADY — The City Council on Tuesday will discuss reducing the citywide speed limit to 25 mph, a move that has been talked about previously and championed by neighborhood associations.

Councilwoman Carmel Patrick, who will be leading the discussion, said she hopes reducing the speed limit will be the first step the council will take in addressing reckless driving and speeding, which she called a citywide problem.

“It has been an issue that has been raised very, very frequently by our residents throughout the city, and it is something that all of us are concerned about,” Patrick said.

The discussion comes on the heels of legislation approved by state lawmakers a few weeks ago that would allow municipalities to impose a 25 mph speed limit except on state roadways where the speed limit is at least 45. The bill is awaiting final approval by Gov. Kathy Hochul.

The governor’s office on Monday did not return a request seeking comment regarding the pending legislation.

Still, Patrick said she wants council members to begin discussing steps the city will need to take to implement the change, and is hopeful the council’s Public Safety Committee will advance some type of legislation that will allow the change to be adopted immediately should the governor sign the legislation.

She said several details still need to be hammered out, including those around enforcement and determining the price of new speed limit signs — an issue that could potentially be costly and take months, depending on supply chain issues, Patrick said.

The council will also discuss potentially adding speed humps to streets as a way of further reducing speeding, and Patrick said she is looking into ideas on how to further reduce speeding.

“There’s obviously issues that need to be looked at like the street signage, the enforcement issues. It’s not a simple thing and it’s not a simple solution,” Patrick said.

Neighborhood groups throughout the city have been pushing lawmakers to reduce the speed limit and adopt a complete streets model that would bolster pedestrian safety and make it easier to navigate city streets using non-vehicular modes of transportation for a number of years.

Reducing the speed limit from 30 mph to 25 is not without precedent and dramatically reduces the risk for serious and fatal injuries, according to studies.

A person struck by a vehicle moving 25 mph has a 25% chance of sustaining a serious or fatal injury. But the risks increase to 50% when a vehicle is traveling 33 mph and to 75% for vehicles moving at 41 mph, according to a AAA study.

An Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study released in 2018 also found that reducing the speed limit by just 5 mph not only reduced speeding but increased safety for pedestrians and bicyclists.

The study determined that when the speed limit in Boston was reduced from 30 to 25 mph, the odds of a vehicle exceeding 35 mph fell by nearly 30%.

And when New York City reduced its speed limit to 25 mph back in 2014, and pedestrian fatalities decreased by 23% over three years, according to a memo attached to the legislation.

Tom Carey, president of Schenectady United Neighborhoods, last week again urged council members to adopt a lower speed limit and require future streetscaping contracts to include a complete streets model, including raised crosswalks, protected bike lanes and narrower roadways, which studies have shown reduce speeding.

“Once these measures are put into place the city can finally begin to address speeding and unsafe driving in a meaningful way,” Carey said. “This approach has been widely adopted by other cities and has proven to be effective.”

Carey pointed to a recent study that determined Schenectady was one of the most dangerous cities in the country for pedestrians, and urged members to act swiftly.

The study, completed by Insurify, an insurance comparison agency, examined the number of traffic citations issued for failing to yield to pedestrians using a pool of more than 4.6 million car insurance applications in cities with a population of more than 50,000.

The study determined that 38.1 drivers out of every 10,000 drivers in Schenectady were cited for failing to yield to pedestrians, more than nine times greater than the national average of 4 out of every 10,000, and second-worst in the county behind Elizabeth, New Jersey.

Mayor Gary McCarthy, however, pushed back on the study, noting that he believes the city is being made to look bad for its strong enforcement, adding that pedestrian safety is a top priority for his administration.

He pointed to a number of streetscaping projects the city has undertaken in recent years to bolster pedestrian safety, including work along the Brandywine Avenue corridor, as well as ongoing work around City Hall.

Still, he believes the city should look into reducing the speed limit.

“It’s something I think we have to take a look at,” McCarthy said.

Contact reporter Chad Arnold at: 518-410-5117 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @ChadGArnold.  

Categories: News, Schenectady, Schenectady County

3 Comments
Lorraine Reidel June 21, 2022
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They don’t enforce 30 miles per hour, what good would it do to decrease it by 5? I think that enforcing the current speed limit would be a better bet.

DONALD LANG June 21, 2022
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II think the timing of the traffic lights on Erie Blvd encourages speeding as people try to make it through the light. It’s crazy to have to stop at State, Liberty, and Union on Erie heading north.

C Meyers June 21, 2022
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Both a lower speed limit and speed bumps  might be helpful in my neighborhood where Park Avenue has cars hitting 50mph as they speed between Union Ave and Union Street now that potholes have been repaired.