Today’s news:

Boulevard lights leave little time to cross: Study

The Forest Hills/Rego Park Crosswalks advocacy group has conducted a survey of Queens Boulevard’ that found lights are timed to give pedestrians between 41 and 55 seconds to cross 12 lanes of traffic during non-peak hours when children are in school and many motorists already are at work.

But when the peak travel period resumes, children are leaving school and the crossing times are cut by as much as 20 seconds, according to Alan Ziess, who founded the group two years ago.

Ziess, the president of the civic organization, has not convened news conferences or made headlines. But with the dogged, fact-finding missions of an urban scientist measuring, timing and pacing the boulevard, he hopes to quantify the problem with palpable data.

“The numbers tell a story in and of itself,” Ziess said.

Since 1993 73 pedestrians have been killed crossing Queens Boulevard, which is seven miles long and 12 lanes wide at points.

In early February, an 83-year-old Holocaust survivor was struck and killed while crossing the boulevard at 80th Road in Kew Gardens.

The most recently injured include 26-year-old Sonam Tsering of Brooklyn, who last Feb. 28 was struck while crossing Queens Boulevard at 63rd Drive in Rego Park around 11 p.m., police said. Tsering was taken to Elmhurst hospital where he was listed in stable condition with a concussion, said police spokesman Louis Cruz. Police said the driver of the car, Camillo Bencosme, 18, allegedly tried to flee, but was apprehended and charged with leaving the scene of a crime.

Last Thursday at 5 a.m. 17-year-old Manuel Huerta ran against traffic into the side of a taxi driving along Queens Boulevard, police said. The incident occurred at 42nd Street in Elmhurst and Huerta was taken to Elmhurst Hospital with head trauma, said Officer Cheryl Cox, a police spokeswoman. The driver was given two summonses for insurance violations, but no arrests were made, Cox said.

While Ziess has praised city Department of Transportation Commissioner Iris Weinshall, who “has done more in her few months than all of her predecessors,” he said “there are misstatements being made by DOT.”

Those misstatements involve the city’s decision to lengthen the times needed to cross the boulevard before the light changes, according to Ziess. While 8 to 10 seconds were added to crosswalks, they were added during the non-peak traffic hours between 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., he said.

But peak hours for motorists are also peak hours for pedestrians, Ziess said, including area school children who are released from their classes at 3 p.m. well after the pedestrian crossing lights revert to the shorter timed intervals.

DOT spokesman Tom Cocola said “Mr. Zeiss brings up several good points” and many of those will be revisited by DOT’s engineers in the coming months.

But when addressing the difference in peak vs. non-peak crossing times, Cocola said the reason is to “ensure a better flow of traffic.” Otherwise, he said cars would “queue up” in the intersections.

Walking each of the 21 crosswalks that transverse Queens Boulevard between Eliot Avenue and 80th Road at Union Turnpike with stopwatch in hand, Ziess tracked the length of time and the distance from curb to curb.

During the non-commuter hours on weekends and Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., crossing times range from 75th Avenue’s 41 seconds to 78th Avenue’s 55 seconds. But that changes during the morning and afternoon rush hours when on average, 20 seconds are lopped off the crossing time, he found.

Another issue Ziess brought to light in his many letters and pleas to the DOT and elected officials is the routing of school buses along Queens Boulevard. Ziess, the father of a 3 1/2-year-old, said motorists do not stop for a standing school bus when it lets off children.

“We watched 30 cars go past,” he said, describing the problem as prevalent and statewide. “Police just can’t enforce that, and they’re not even looking for it now.”

But most of his ire is reserved for the mayor and other officials who blame pedestrians for the bulk of the tragedies along Queens Boulevard. Their recent actions, and much of the law enforcement, he argued, “singles out pedestrians as the culprits.”

Signs that read “A Pedestrian Was Killed Crossing Here,” the safety fences on the medians, jaywalking tickets, the lack of crosswalks and increased crossing times established only during non-commuter hours reflect an attitude Ziess described as less a transportation policy and “by and large a traffic policy.”

Reach reporter Jennifer Warren by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 155.

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