The Sea Cliff village board voted to support the Crash Victim Rights and Safety Act at a meeting on May 9. If passed by the State Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Kathy Hochul, the act would allow the village to set its own speed limits and enact other safety measures to make streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists.
The act was brought to the attention of the board by resident Daniel Flanzig, who made a presentation on Feb. 14. The chair of the Sea Cliff Traffic and Safety Committee and a member of the New York Bicycling Coalition’s board of directors, Flanzig said he believed the act would make the village and the state safer places to walk and bike.
“So, Nassau and Suffolk counties have the highest crash and pedestrian fatality rates in the entire state, outside of New York City,” Flanzig said. “So, you know, this is a life-saving set of laws that will change not only driving culture, but will also improve our infrastructure.”
The act has four major parts. First, it would allow villages, towns and cities to lower their speed limit to 25 miles per hour without having to get approval from the governor’s office.
The second section deals with creating “complete streets.” It would funnel more state funding to a municipality like Sea Cliff that decides to build a new street, to cover half the cost of resurfacing, pavement recycling projects, and other general maintenance.
Third, the legislation would protect vulnerable road users, requiring drivers to maintain a minimum of 3 feet of distance between their vehicles and cyclists they pass, and educate motorists about safely interacting with pedestrians and others. It would create a course on safe driving that new potential drivers would have to pass in addition to their driver’s test.
The final section, called the Crash Victims Bill of Rights, would guarantee rights and a voice for crash victims and their loved ones in legal proceedings.
Assemblyman Mike Montesano, whose district includes Glen Head, said that while he supported some of the bills that make up the act, there is at least one he said he would not vote for.
“I support these bills, with one exception: the law to reduce the speed in New York City,” Montesano said in an interview. “In general, I will support the act, but of the seven bills that come up, I may only support five or six.”
The village board first discussed lending its support to the proposed act at a public board conference on May 2. Board members spoke about it at length, in particular the section detailing changing speed limits, which would reduce Sea Cliff’s from 30 to 25 mph.
Trustee and Deputy Mayor Dina Feinstein noted that the “complete streets” proposals would be beneficial for the village as well. “We would like that, because if we incorporate complete streets concepts, it requires the state to match funding,” Feinstein said at the conference.
“Complete streets is the thought that the streets should be for motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians, so whenever you’re modifying a street, you take into account all those three parties to the extent possible.”
There was some concern, however, over the Safe Passage Law section, which would require motorists to give cyclists a wide berth. As the trustees pointed out, many of Sea Cliff’s roads are rather narrow, which could make such a requirement problematic.
In the end however, the board decided to support the act, ultimately coming to the conclusion that it would make the streets safer for the community. Mayor Elena Villafane and the board announced their support at a village board meeting on May 9.
“These bills are currently before the Assembly and Senate,” Villafane said, “and these bills promote safety and seek to reduce injuries and deaths for bicyclists and joggers.”
Trustee Tannaz Nasirzadeh Balooch said that in a village with such narrow roads, where vehicles frequently speed, the act would bring with it necessary changes. “It really serves to make the streets as safe as possible,” Nasirzadeh Balooch said in a phone interview. “I think it would really only benefit us, because nothing I can see would be a disadvantage, which is why the board of trustees moved to give it support.”
So far, more than 80 organizations, villages and towns have announced their support for the Crash Victim Rights and Safety Act. They include municipalities such as the Town of Oyster Bay, as well as statewide and national nonprofit organizations including the National Safety Council and the NY Coalition for Transportation Safety.