20 Is Plenty, Central Park

20 IS PLENTY, CENTRAL PARK

Contacts: Keegan Stephan, 907.244.6426, keeganstephan@gmail.com

Charles Komanoff, 347.961.9684, kea@igc.com

The Street Safety group Right of Way has installed ten “20 is Plenty” signs on the Central Park Drives. The installation was done on the evening of Sept. 23 — four days after a cyclist collided with Jill Tarlov, a resident of Connecticut who was walking on the Central Park West Drive at 63rd Street. Ms. Tarlov died three days later, on Sept. 22.

The first time Right of Way installed these signs was in November 2013 on Prospect Park West in Brooklyn, a month after another tragic traffic fatality – that of 12-year-old Sammy Cohen Eckstein.

Then, as now, Right of Way installed these signs as a demonstration against any assault on the public right of way, as defined in their mission statement:

The fundamental human right to move about in public space without being intimidated, injured, or worse is the “right of way.” On the streets of New York City, drivers routinely violate this basic right of others. Right of Way uses direct action to highlight this issue and rectify it. Our mission is to assert the public right of way and turn the streets into vibrant public space for all.

“Our signs and other installations use artistic direct action to encourage people to slow down, reimagine the areas through which they are traveling as public space, and consider their place within this context,” said Keegan Stephan, an organizer with Right of Way. “A speed limit is obviously just the beginning of this process. Ultimately, everyone needs to behave in a manner that is conducive to vibrant public life.”

“A legal right of way to a certain speed, through a light, to yield or not yield, does not equate to a moral right of way in an interaction with a more vulnerable road user,” added Stephan. “No matter what vehicle you are operating, you should operate it in such a way that you are prepared to react to any foreseeable interaction with a more vulnerable road user without injuring or killing anyone. To embrace Vision Zero, we must accept that there are no ‘unavoidable accidents’ that seriously injure or kill. We must act with enough due care that we can avoid such crashes.”

“In the case of the crash that killed Jill Tarlov, the court of public opinion seems to agree with our interpretation of the public right of way,” said Stephan. “We applaud the press for thoroughly scrutinizing this crash, although we have been disappointed by their failure to seriously investigate most crashes that seriously injure and kill New Yorkers.”

“We also applaud the NYPD for stepping up their enforcement on the specific crime that led to this tragedy – speeding in Central Park. Now we need them to do the same after every fatal crash, the vast majority of which are caused by drivers speeding and failing to yield to pedestrians,” said Keegan.

Right of Way also supports Councilmember Mark Levin’s plan to lower the speed limit in all NYC parks to 20 mph, and we support consistent enforcement of that speed limit for cyclists and motorists.

“We would like our action installing the signs to shift the discussion around this crash from vilification of one person to safety for all,” said Charles Komanoff, another organizer with Right of Way.

“The NYPD can serve the public interest by accessing all available data recording devices to fully investigate the crash that killed Jill Tarlov, and sharing its findings with the public,” added Komanoff. “We hope that the new leadership of the NYPD’s Collision Investigation Squad will treat all future crashes in this fashion.” Komanoff said.

“We also need infrastructure that encourages more responsible behavior,” said Liz Patek, organizer with Right of Way. “Curb extensions for pedestrian crossings and speed humps are ubiquitous in NYC, why not on Park Drives?”

“There is a culture of traffic violence in NYC,” added Stephan, “perpetuated by a pecking order from motorists, to cyclists, to pedestrians, with everyone aggressively vying for their place on the streets. We must break this cycle and begin to share the streets as public space if we are ever going to end traffic violence.”

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