UPPER WEST SIDE — The city is dropping the speed limit in Central Park to 20 mph — 5 mph below the limit on other city streets — as well as rolling out a series of traffic-calming measures at major park intersections in the wake of a series of fatal pedestrian crashes, officials announced Tuesday.
The new speed limit, which will go into effect when the signs are changed over the next few days, applies to all vehicles and bikers using the park's roads, the Department of Transportation said in a statement.
In addition to the speed reduction, the DOT will put up new pedestrian safety signs at four major intersections. The signs, which will be installed on both sides of the crosswalk, will include warnings reading “Pedestrian Crossing." Additional 10 mph speed signs will be placed 200 feet ahead of the crossings, the department said.
The DOT will also repaint the markings around the following four crosswalks: West Drive at the Delacorte Theater, near West 81st Street; Sheep Meadow near West 68th Street; Heckscher Ballfields Crossing near West 63rd Street; and East Drive at East Terrace, near East 72nd Street.
As another safety enhancement, the DOT will add barricades to the western lane of West Drive at crosswalks at the Delacorte Theater and Heckscher Ballfields Crossing, where the road is wider than at other locations, the agency said.
The barriers will shorten the distance pedestrians have to cross by narrowing the roadway, but they will be removed between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. on weekdays when cars use West Drive, the department noted.
“There’s no question. Slower traffic will mean a safer park,” said Doug Blonsky, president and CEO of the Central Park Conservancy.
In late September, Jill Tarlov, 59, died from injuries she sustained when a cyclist crashed into her in a crosswalk on West Drive at West 62nd Street. About a month earlier, a 75-year-old jogger was killed after being hit by a cyclist on East Drive at East 72nd Street. This past weekend, U2 frontman Bono hurt his arm while cycling in the park.
DNAinfo reported last month that within Central Park, 35 people had been hit by cyclists in Central Park while only one had been hit by a car so far this year, according to police.
Responding to the crashes, Upper West Side City Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal and Councilman Mark Levine proposed a bill that would make Central Park car-free this summer. Without cars, there would be more room for cyclists and pedestrians to safely coexist, they said.
Rosenthal expects a Council committee hearing on the pilot program in January or February, she said.