Sunday, October 2

So What If I Drive with One Hand on the Horn?

In the Upper West Side, it is not uncommon to see three “Don’t Honk: $350 Penalty” signs at one intersection. According to the Gothamist, each sign costs $51 to put up—that’s $153 spent for one intersection.

The New York Police Department responds to noise complaints about noise from neighbors, clubs and bars, stores and businesses, and vehicles, according to the 311 website. With 217 noise service requests each, Manhattan’s Community Board 7 (Upper West Side) and Community Board 6 (Stuyvesant Town/Murray Hill/Gramercy Park) tied for most noise service requests.

Screen Shot of the Noise Service Request Count by Community Board
Emily Goodman, an Upper West Side resident, suggests that the high number of noise complaints from her neighborhood is perhaps due to the types of resident (older people and families with young children) and the demographic.

Contrary to the popular notion that it stressful to drive in Manhattan, Goodman drives down the West Side Highway every morning to get to work. “I know it is not politically correct, but I prefer [driving] to public transportation,” she said.

The New York City Noise Code cites that the use of vehicle horns in non-emergency situations is illegal. “I don’t use it the second the light changes,” said Goodman. She only uses her horn if necessary to alert pedestrians or other cars.
On the road, she finds the taxi drivers (they are “not the best drivers”) and bicyclists (they “don’t obey traffic laws”) to be the most difficult. “People usually honk if the flow of traffic is interrupted,” she said.

According to the 311 website, residents can request the City to install a “Don’t Honk” sign at an intersection, and the City will conduct a study to determine if a sign is necessary.

“For example, I had a caller call me last week saying that there is honking twenty-four-seven outside a club near her house,” said Donald, a 311 phone representative, “I would then take down the street address and the Department of Environmental Protection would conduct a study to assess the environment then approve or deny the request.”

When asked if she thinks drivers actually obey the “Don’t Honk” signs, Goodman thinks that people probably don’t pay attention to the threat of the $350 fine. The city's transporation commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan, said to NY1, “We haven’t done studies in the efficacy of honking sign.” So why does the City spend money to put up these signs that drivers just turn a blind eye to?

"What a Hundred Million Calls to 311 Reveal About New York"
 (By Wesley Grubbs and Mladen Balog of Pitch Interactive, 2007)

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