Vision Zero pays a visit to Rego Park
by Michael Perlman
Jun 30, 2015 | 4034 views | 0 0 comments | 69 69 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Officer Crawford distributes Vision Zero pamphlets
Officer Crawford distributes Vision Zero pamphlets
NYPD Vision Zero patrol truck on 63rd Rd & Queens Blvd
NYPD Vision Zero patrol truck on 63rd Rd & Queens Blvd
Beginning in mid-June, locals and commuters along one of Rego Park’s busiest and most unsafe thoroughfares at 63rd Road and Queens Boulevard came upon something more than shopping; they encountered a priceless lesson in safety.

Parked in front of Marshall’s was the NYPD’s “Vision Zero” patrol truck, as well as crossing guards at Queens Boulevard’s intersections. Vision Zero is Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to end traffic deaths and injuries, and after pursuing an initial goal of education, the focus has shifted to enforcement.

According to published reports, on an annual basis approximately 4,000 New Yorkers are seriously injured and more than 250 are killed in traffic crashes. That adds up to vehicles seriously injuring or killing a New Yorker every two hours.

Pocket-size pamphlets were distributed, which informed pedestrians and motorists about how to engage in safety measures. “Getting To Zero” offered tips for “sharing the street,” while a postcard emphasized the city’s current speed limit set at 25 mph. It noted that drivers who obey the speed limit are more likely to avoid crashes, and pedestrians struck by vehicles traveling at that speed are half as likely to die as compared to those struck by a vehicle traveling at 30 mph.

Interactive books were geared toward children, where mind games made learning safety memorable with titles like “The Buckle-Up Issue,” “The Bike Safety Issue” and “Play It Safe!”

Community residents commended the move to provide education and enforcement in a highly visible location. Rego Park resident Peter Beadle serves as co-chair of Transportation Alternatives Queens Activist Committee and is also a member of Community Board 6.

While visiting the Vision Zero table, he witnessed cars running red lights, blocking crosswalks, and accelerating through a right turn at risk of striking pedestrians.

“A disappointing observation has actually been blatantly dangerous behavior and flagrant violations of the law by all road users, but especially drivers within sight of the Vision Zero truck,” he said. “Hopefully, the strong enforcement push will convince people that they must start making different choices.”

Beadle is a proponent of redesigning Queens Boulevard, which has been nicknamed “The Boulevard of Death.” Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz envisions its transformation into “The Boulevard of Life,” and allocated $1 million for upgrades back in March. In addition, the city has pledged $100 million to overhaul this 7.2-mile stretch, and the Department of Transportation is holding community visioning workshops.

A redesigned Queens Boulevard will increase pedestrian space while making it safer for everyone.

“Extending the medians and installing curb extensions at 63rd Road should calm drivers, and the width of the intersection should be narrowed, since it causes a natural reaction among drivers to increase speed as they cross north over the boulevard,” Beadle said.

Beadle is also a proponent of protected bike lanes on Queens Boulevard, which has already received a nod of approval in Sunnyside.

“This will bring some order to the interactions between bikes, drivers, and pedestrians,” he said.

Furthermore, Beadle explained that as development is on the rise in the immediate area, vehicular and pedestrian traffic will only increase, so the time for Vision Zero improvements is now.

“If we build roads that focus on the human beings that live in the neighborhoods rather than cars, we will have safer streets, even when the police cannot be present,” said Jessame Hannus of Rego Park.

She recalled when the 112th Precinct spent a day at that intersection last year, ticketing for failure to yield.

“One of the most important results of the current right-of-way debate is that drivers are finally learning that they are breaking the law when they cut off pedestrians in the crosswalk,” said Hannus.

“It is so frustrating that these dangerous situations exist, when they can be remedied to save lives,” added Forest Hills resident Leslie Lowry, who crosses Queens Boulevard at Ascan Avenue daily. She noted the intersection’s addition of countdown signals in recent years, and said, “This is definitely helpful for someone that can walk quickly, but many elderly people cannot cross fast enough, even at the beginning of the light.”

She also recommended traffic light upgrades.

“Whenever it rains heavy or it is very windy, it just blinks without changing,” Lowry said. “Cars do not let people cross, so I have to cross under the subway. I always call 311, but it results in a temporary repair.”

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