By Bette Dewing
Before starting this column, a glance at NY 1 news and once again it’s about Traffic Violence – two speeding NYFD ambulances collide, one overturned. Thankfully, there were no patients inside. But what if? What if indeed, and this should be considered in the Mayor’s admirable Vision Zero program to reduce traffic tragedies, which an article in this paper last week asked if it’s working. And this longtime safe traffic activist, who has unfortunately been an ambulance user, questions the speeding danger of emergency vehicles. Maybe it should be somewhat curtailed for the safety of the patient and the community at large.
Slow Down, Mr. Mayor
Indeed, shouldn’t the community at large be the main concern in general, starting with the mayor’s car breaking the speed limit – as frequently seen racing down East End Avenue to access the FDR Drive. Even if it’s an emergency, his presence is never that pressing. Incidentally, he might get more votes if he vowed to overcome traffic violence – a nationwide plague- worldwide really.
And in a Safety First City, there would be many more fire houses. As for police cars racing, while preventing a crime or catching the perpetrators is critical, but again not at the cost of public safety.
The High Cost of Speed
Consider, too, how now there are many city walkers unable to get out of the way quickly. Some are wheelchair, rolator and cane users, who indeed need more general consideration especially but not only as the population ages.
And far too little is said about traffic-caused injuries, often permanent, painful and costly. And these stories also need to be told by media, and by the paper of record, which rarely if ever covers traffic tragedies, let alone protests the causes of frequent traffic crimes.
The Story Needs to Be Told
Ah, what needs to be revived is former Times head editor Jill Abrams’ Pulitzer-worthy report about the ongoing, painful and difficult traffic injury aftermath – her own and several other such victims. How this too must be stressed and not forgotten. Except traffic deaths and injuries are not hot media topics and still too much a societal given. What needs major protest too is how many don’t want to slow down, stop texting while driving biking and yes walking - and on and on.
Ask Someone Who Knows
And yes, this long time safe-traffic activist, while awarded for her related work by Rep. Caroline Maloney and Senator Liz Krueger, is never consulted. Should a Transportation Alternatives bicycling group be a major consultant? My column has continually called for street signs and stencils warning against vehicular failure to yield when turning into a crosswalk . This crime of traffic is the number one cause of pedestrian injury and death, but is rarely ticketed or punished. Speed cameras are essential, but as again we’ve so long argued, cameras most desperately also need to catch the failure-to-yielders, including cyclists and scooter riders, who incidentally must have identifying license plates. Identifying license plates are long overdue.
Above all, City Hall and the Department of Transportation must become more concerned with moving traffic safely, rather than moving it swiftly. And yes, that applies to city buses, too. So thankfully the 14th street city bus-only plan has been stopped – forever we hope, for the good of the community, which has too often been ignored in traffic-related changes. Far too little said about that, and the community good in general.
The Big Apple Must Lead the Way
Somehow, and your help is so greatly needed, dear readers, we must make this a truly safe traveling city, with great active concern against traffic violence, such as is thankfully seen now against gun violence. Because again, traffic violence is a nationwide and worldwide people-caused plague.
And the Big Apple must become the world’s foremost Safe Traffic City role model. It can be done if enough us try. I know you will, because you act out your belief that “All it takes for evil to triumph is for concerned people to remain silent.” And traffic violence must be universally recognized as a truly great evil that must be overcome.