It’s a plan with vision, but zero execution.
Have you ever cursed at a car that blows past you? Shaken your fist as drivers blow their horns at you because you’re in the crosswalk? Raised your most effective finger in protest to a car choosing not to stop at a stoplight or a stop sign? We live in a pedestrian city, but is it pedestrian friendly?
Bay Ridge has big-city convenience while retaining some suburban flavor, namely the car-to-person ratio: 46 percent of Ridge families own cars, higher than many other Brooklyn neighborhoods (like Brooklyn Heights/Williamsburg, at 34 percent, and Carroll Gardens/Boerum Hill, at 39 percent). With 170,000 residents, we are a densely populated neighborhood, but we still have driveways cutout right where you thought you were going to park.
Having a significant car presence in a neighborhood also filled with pedestrians and strollers raises the stakes of protecting people on two feet or two wheels. Vision Zero, enacted a year ago, was a citywide measure to slow down surface-street speeds to an across-the-board 25 mph, reduced from 30 mph. Studies of pedestrian incidents show that this small adjustment in speed reduces the likelihood by 50 percent of a pedestrian dying from being struck by a moving vehicle. Speed reduction, along with street and intersection redesign in troubled areas, are important steps to safer streets and sidewalks.
I’ve gotten to see firsthand that certain areas of our neighborhood are treated like The Autobahn. Was changing the signage to 25 mph enough to slow these drivers down? How were these speeds going to be enforced? Has local law enforcement taken steps to do so?
Scouring the public records of moving violations issued by the 68th Precinct shows that, here in Bay Ridge, fewer tickets are being given out. How is this possible? As of April, year-to-date violations overall, between 2015 and 2014, are down more than 25 percent (to 2,634 from 3,558), with key violations—cell phone use, improper turns, failing to yield right-of-way to a pedestrian and speeding—down 22 percent, to 984 tickets from 1,265.
According to the 2013 April report, summonses are down even from that year (3,166 in 2013). In contrast, the 78th Precinct in Park Slope shows an uptick this year of almost 25 percent in overall violations issued, but the 90th in Williamsburg and the 63rd in Marine Park are also both down 11 percent, showing that we’re not alone in having to ask these questions. The drop in cell-phone-usage tickets, to 292 in 2015 from 496 summons in 2014, stood out to me, because every day while watching The Today Show (hey, it’s good in the background!), I see a Vision Zero commercial with a texting driver running into a man with groceries.
Citywide, speeding and failure-to-yield summonses were up 42 percent and 126 percent between 2013 and 2014, according to the Vision Zero One-Year Report. Why are we not seeing those kind of numbers in Bay Ridge? No one wants car chases on surface streets, but there has to be a way to get speeding vehicles and traffic violators in check without adding speed bumps two-to-a-block (I’m looking at you, Park Slope) and red-light cameras everywhere.
For now, look both ways and proceed with caution until Bay Ridge catches up to the rest of the city.
Follow Hey Ridge on Twitter @heyridgebk