A new law recently went into effect in New York City that requires the Department of Transportation to “identify each intersection next to a school that does not currently have a traffic control device” and install one by October 2024, according to a report by Streetsblog. Introduced in 2018 by former City Council member Inez Barron, it was opposed by former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration and stalled until passing last year.
Streetsblog describes the law as an “end-run around the city’s fealty to faulty federal guidelines” that lay out various criteria for the placement of traffic control devices. These criteria reportedly include high traffic volume, high pedestrian volume, and a record of “severe and frequent crashes,” criteria that the report describes as counterintuitively “biased against pedestrians.” Why? Because low pedestrian volume is correlated with areas pedestrians are concerned about, and because the implementation of safety strategies leads to higher traffic volume. In other words, pedestrians typically steer clear of the unsafe intersections, depriving them of the numbers necessary to make them safer. One city official suggested to Streetsblog that because city transportation authorities complete their traffic studies when school is out of session, “all but ensuring a particular intersection won’t meet the federal guidelines.”
While residents and elected officials have applauded the new bill, Streetsblog notes, they have also criticized the city for hinging the safety of its streets for schoolchildren on the passage of legislation, a lengthy and winding process. “Some of our biggest victories have been getting a traffic signal installed near a busy intersection near a school,” one Brooklyn-based Council Member told the publication. “That shouldn’t be some huge colossal victory.” Mayor Eric Adams’ administration has said that while it will still follow federal guidelines, it will nonetheless put the new law into effect, while implementing other plans to make the city’s streets safer—like redesigning 1,000 intersections by 2023.
More information on the new law to install traffic control devices in school-adjacent intersections is available via Streetsblog.