BY LYNN EDMONDS
Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest) waited for the traffic light on Union Turnpike to turn red. Then he ventured out into the four lanes of traffic and politely attempted to get stopped drivers to roll down their window. One middle aged woman in a black four-door sedan looked skeptically at Lancman, who was wearing a suit with a bright yellow vest over it, and was trailed by half a dozen TV, radio and print journalists, before she eventually acquiesced.
Somehow, he cracked one of his jokes and even got her to smile before the light turned green again and Lancman and his entourage scuttled to safety.
But first, he dropped a “Vision Zero” pamphlet in her hand.
The proceedings were an attempt to educate drivers about the traffic safety initiative, which aims to reduce traffic-related deaths in the City to zero. Lancman’s efforts came in the middle of a week-long education campaign by the Department of Transportation. The outreach was followed by increased enforcement by the NYPD.
Vision Zero is a signature policy of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration. It covers safe driving behaviors like adhering to New York City’s 25 MPH speed limit, yielding to pedestrians when turning and driving while texting or driving drunk.
Lancman was joined by state Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) and Community Board 8 Chairwoman Martha Taylor, as well as representatives from the 107th Precinct and the DOT.
Taylor, who said she’s witnessed problems in the area for years, praised the initiative.
“I cannot tell you how many times people crashed into these traffic signals. It was just awful. And they were bad accidents. We’re looking forward to people learning the rules of the road and being cautious,” she said.
Comrie added that the state Senate recently passed complimentary legislation to make sure there are clear demarcations for bike riders. He also said he wanted to see pedestrians and turning cars no longer sharing the right of way – especially in dense areas.
Currently, about 4,000 New Yorkers are injured and about 250 are killed every year in vehicle crashes. The Mayor’s initiative seeks to reduce the number of fatalities through education, increased enforcement, street redesign and data collection.
The intersection of Union Turnpike and Utopia Parkway, where St. John’s University is located, and where Lancman spoke with drivers on Thursday, is one of the most dangerous in the 107th Precinct. Nine crashes were recorded there in 2014 and six in 2015.
“The arrow there is going in the right direction,” Lancman said. “The information from DOT and the 107th will help remind drivers, pedestrians and bikers to look up from their phones, slow down and pay attention to their surroundings.”
In the precinct as a whole there were 723 traffic injuries between Jan 1, 2015 and March 1, 2016, as well as two fatalities.
Targeted violations will be speeding, disobeying signage and aggressive driving, as well as failure to yield to pedestrians, distracted driving and parking in traffic lanes.
Reach Lynn Edmonds at (718) 357-7400 x127, firstname.lastname@example.org or @Ellinoamerikana