Bay Ridge parents organizing to shine spotlight on reckless driving

Speeding cars. Vehicles that run red lights or stop signs. Illegal U-turns.

These are just a few of the threats facing Bay Ridge pedestrians these days when they venture into area roadways, leaving many feeling endangered. So endangered, in fact, that they have organized a petition drive to draw attention to what they consider to be an epidemic of aggressive and reckless driving in the neighborhood, with the goal of getting it under control, once and for all.

“There are numerous pedestrian deaths and accidents caused by cars in the Bay Ridge area,” the petition contends. “Drivers do not respect the pedestrian right of way, the speed limit, or the traffic laws.”

Members of Community Board 10 learned about the petition at their January meeting, which was held in the community room at Shore Hill, 9000 Shore Road, when the authors of the petition approached them for support.

At that time, the residents — most of them parents — expressed their outrage over the situation, which they say is a hazard faced on a regular basis by those who live and visit Bay Ridge, and requires an increase in enforcement to bring under control.

Michelle Kennedy, a Bay Ridge Parkway resident, cited several serious accidents on that thoroughfare and told board members, “I’ve had near misses with my children.”

“We are extremely concerned about aggressive and erratic driving,” added Alan Aja, who pointed out that the neighborhood – thanks to an increasing number of senior citizens and recent immigrants – is “more pedestrian-oriented than ever before. This is a very, very serious issue,” he stressed.

There are currently 112 members of the Facebook group set up earlier this month, said Maureen Landers, one of the organizers. Simply posting a notice of the upcoming CB 10 meeting on the Facebook page, “Bay Ridge Residents Fed Up With Reckless Driving” brought about 15 of the petition’s supporters to the meeting, Landers added.

These are not well-known activists, she added. Rather, those who have signed on to the cause are being turned into activists by their concern for pedestrians young and old on Bay Ridge streets.

The effort began earlier this month when members of the Bay Ridge Parents Yahoo group learned that a toddler and an elderly woman had been struck by a vehicle at 92nd Street and Third Avenue, said Landers, who herself was struck by a turning car in the crosswalk at Fourth Avenue at 78th Street when she was pushing her double stroller that was, fortunately, empty at the time.

“There was just an immediate outpouring of concern,” Landers recalled of the news of the 92nd Street accident. “Then, everyone said, when are we finally going to do something about this because we all feel we are under attack?

“I have lived in a lot of neighborhoods in Manhattan and Brooklyn, and I feel more threatened by aggressive drivers here,” Landers added. “I think pedestrians here have been beaten into submission by aggressive drivers because it’s so rampant.”

Among the most dangerous areas, the petition’s backers assert, are Third and Fourth Avenues, Shore Road, Bay Ridge Parkway, the streets around Owls Head park and those near Russell Pederson Playground, at Colonial Road and 84th Street.

To turn the tide, what they would like to see, Landers stressed, is increased enforcement. In addition, she said, those who have gotten involved want to see an effort to increase public awareness of the rights of pedestrians. “We want more respect for pedestrians,” she emphasized.

Deputy Inspector Eric Rodriguez, the commanding officer of the 68th Precinct, said that the precinct takes reckless driving extremely seriously.

“Our policy,” he told this paper, “is to target quality moving summonses,” such as people driving while talking on cell phone or texting, driving under the influence, speeding, and running red lights. “There’s sometimes a total disregard for the law,” he noted.

To counter that, Rodriguez said that, in 2009, the precinct wrote 11 percent more moving summonses than it had the year before.

In addition, he said that the precinct had what is “probably the biggest increase in the city” in terms of DWI arrests. “We were up 75.5 percent in 2009,” he recounted. “There were 300 people locked up for DWI last year in the 68th Precinct, compared to 170 in 2008.”

Rodriguez also said the precinct responds to community concerns. “When people complain about certain areas, we have people go there and target them,” he explained. “We also look at the engineering of the road, and when we find problems, we sit down with other agencies and discuss them.”

The precinct also “targets” known problem locations, Rodriguez said, utilizing officers whose sole job is to do enforcement in such areas.

“We do recognize issues with reckless driving and we do work on them,” Rodriguez continued. “Are we going to get everybody? We try.”