Say goodbye to New York’s “No Honking” signs. The Department of Transportation announced this week that by the end of the year, all of the signs, warning motorists of a $350 fine, will be taken down as part of a sign streamlining program. The decision has sparked confusion and outrage among New Yorkers who fear that getting rid of the signs will only add to the urban din.
Janette Sadik-Khan, the DOT commissioner, released a statement saying that “for the first time in generations, we are systematically updating our streets to eliminate the signs that don’t work and improve the signs we actually need. While honking signs have been around for decades, there’s no sign that they do anything except add clutter to our streets.”
To bolster the case, the DOT argued that over the past five years, honking complaints have decreased 63 percent. But there are plenty of residents on both the Upper East and West sides who do not hear things quieting down.
“Whenever there’s a sudden blast of a horn, it creates road rage. Its very hostile,” said Bette Dewing, an Upper East Side resident, traffic safety expert (and columnist for Our Town). “I’m a great believer in signs. I don’t know why they’re so concerned with clutter. I am more interested in traffic safety rules.”
Dewing, also an activist for elder rights and safety, added that for older New Yorkers, a sudden horn honk can be jarring to the heart, which is unpleasant for anyone, but potentially dangerous for older pedestrians.
Council Member Gale Brewer said that in her district on the Upper West Side, there are several horn-honking problem areas, including the intersection of Riverside and 79th Street, where drivers coming off the highway tend to loudly announce their presence. She also said that congestion and noise occurs near schools like Columbia Preparatory School at West 94th Street. When school lets out, cars and buses idle in front of the school, causing frustration and honking.
Brewer said she is puzzled by the DOT’s decision.
“The neighbors want to be able to point to a sign and say, ‘do you see that sign? that’s the law,’” she said. “We’re in a city; we like noise but not excessive.”
Arlene Bronzaft, a noise expert and psychology professor, said that she does not buy the DOT’s explanation of de-cluttering the roadways. She said that where she lives at 79th and York, there are four signs telling people to cross at the green light.
“Why do we need four signs to tell us that?” she said. “You’d think we were smarter than that.” She also said that keeping the no-honking signs will guilt people into following the law.
“It’s simple psychology,” she said. “The signs are prompts for good behavior.”
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