NEW YORK (Reuters) - The default speed limit on the streets of New York City dropped to 25 mph from 30 mph on Friday, the centerpiece of Mayor Bill de Blasio's plan to reduce pedestrian deaths in the country's largest city and one of its most crowded.
The de Blasio administration, which took office in January, has argued that the speed reduction, while small, can have important safety consequences. Pedestrians are half as likely to die when hit by a car traveling at the lower speed, according to the city.
Even so, New Yorkers may need a little time to grow accustomed the change. The 30 mph speed limit had been in effect in the city for about a half century, since a statewide law was enacted in 1964, according to Wiley Norvell, a spokesman for the city.
So far in 2014, 110 pedestrians were killed in traffic mishaps, down slightly from 134 deaths in the same period last year, Norvell said.
Losseny Cisse, a livery cab driver waiting for customers in midtown Manhattan, was not very pleased with the new speed limit. He said the slower speeds were already irritating passengers, who he said were always in a rush.
"This morning a customer told me, 'You got to find a way to get me to work,'" he said, waving a leaflet announcing the new limit handed to him by a police officer earlier on Friday. "I showed him the flyer and he said, 'What is this? It makes no sense!"
The city still needs to replace more than 3,000 signs. On Friday, municipal workers started replacing 89 signs at "gateways" into the city that read "NYC LAW SPEED LIMIT 30 UNLESS OTHERWISE POSTED," Norvell said.
The city wants to get the message out to drivers like Kendrick Rodriguez, 20, cruising in Upper Manhattan on Friday morning in a Honda Accord, who admitted to driving above the speed limit in some circumstances.
"When I'm in a rush I tend to go a little fast," he said. "We're still young and we feel that we have to go fast."
But he said he was considering slowing down because of the new law. "It's hard though," he said. "Nobody looks at their dashboard to see how fast they go."
For some drivers, speed limits may be made to be broken, no matter how fast or slow. Adam Tang, a 31-year-old Canadian seen in a YouTube video looping around the island of Manhattan in just 24 minutes, faces a year in jail after his conviction on reckless driving and endangerment charges.
Shiba Scott, 42, seated in her gleaming Mercedes-Benz E550, said she welcomed the change in part because so many New Yorkers were "jaywalkers," crossing the street against the traffic lights or outside of crosswalks.
"We're not in San Francisco where the jaywalking laws are enforced," she said. "This is New York - everybody crosses wherever they are in between the lights."
(Writing By Frank McGurty; Editing by Richard Chang)