Speed Bump Parkway

NEWS
Typography

 Miss the good ol’ days of riding the Atom Smasher at Playland? Take a ride along Shore Front Parkway (SFP) and it might bring back some memories. SFP might earn the name Speed Bump Parkway after some new additions. Many motorists were caught off guard last week as seemingly out of nowhere, 18 speed humps appeared along one of Rockaway’s main thoroughfares. Now they’re asking, why?

Last week, the Department of Transportation (DOT) installed nine speed humps in each direction along SFP, between Beach 73rd Street to Beach 108th Street. While the 18 signs along the stretch of road indicate “Speed Bump 15 mph,” by the DOT’s own definition, the new raised portions of road are called speed humps, as smaller speed bumps have been deemed illegal on city streets since they caused damage to vehicles. Whatever you may call them, they’re already being noticed.

For many, their first introduction to the speed humps was when their car suddenly went airborne while going over them before they were painted on Tuesday, November 23. Others got earlier notice as the Speed Bump signs went up in October, indicating they were coming, but it’s hard to pinpoint who requested them in an area that just got a speed camera in June. Community Board 14 (CB14), which is supposed to get an advisory about the installation of any new speed humps, says they got nothing, nor did elected officials. “I found out from my podiatrist in October when he asked what’s going on with the speed humps. It was the first I heard about it,” Robby Schwach of Councilman Eric Ulrich’s office said. He called DOT the following day, which told him they had notified the community board and local civics. CB14 says that isn’t true. “I came home and saw the signs and said, ‘what is this?’” Dolores Orr, chair of CB14 who lives in a building along SFP said. “We reached out as soon as we saw that,” CB14 District Manager Jon Gaska said. “They didn’t tell us they were gonna do it, nor did we ask for it.”

As of 2019, the DOT no longer requires input from community boards about their plans to install them. “The hardest part of all this is that at some point, this administration made the decision that the community did not matter,” Orr said. “We always got notice and were able to make decisions. About two years ago, they stopped, and DOT said that if someone wanted a speed bump, they would do a study and give notification about them, which is scary because anyone can say they want a speed bump anywhere.” Gaska elaborated, saying through 311, even people who don’t live in the area can request that a speed hump be added to a block.

According to the DOT, they did involve CB14 in discussions—in 2017. “In 2017, following multiple speeding complaints, we developed a multi-faceted plan to calm the roadway and add enhanced crosswalks,” a DOT spokesperson said. It was part of a plan that proposed adding metered parking to the south side of Shore Front Parkway, which became the hot-button issue of the meeting, so other aspects did not receive as much attention. One aspect called for adding enhanced crosswalks, especially in areas with no traffic calming measures in the Beach 70s and 80s. In order to install these enhanced crosswalks, DOT said speeding would have to be reduced. If it didn’t, DOT said it would have to investigate additional traffic calming measures to reduce speeding. A slideshow from the presentation does not specify speed humps and according to Orr, specific measures were not mentioned at the 2017 meeting.

According to the DOT, speeding has not decreased. “We continued to get speeding complaints and have since worked to develop a plan for speed humps and enhanced crossings,” a spokesperson said. “We are installing speed humps at nine locations along the corridor.” (DOT considers there to be nine since the median separates the speed humps on each side.)

Orr says she asked the DOT for the data on speeding since a speed camera was installed on SFP in June, to see if the speeding complaints are justified, but says her request has been repeatedly ignored.

There is no doubt that SFP has had issues. Memorials along the stretch are a reminder, like the ghost bike in memory of a 14-year-old boy who was killed in 2005 on Beach 77th, and most recently, a memorial to a motorcyclist who died while speeding near Beach 81st Street. At this month’s 100th Precinct Community Council meeting, traffic Sergeant Charles Grimm said this year to date, there have been 18 accidents along SFP, seven with injuries and the one fatality over the summer.

However, some are concerned that the new speed humps may cause more accidents. “I don’t think they’re going to help. I’ve seen people slow down, go over the hump and then speed up,” Orr said. Others have said they’ve witnessed people try to avoid them. On the north side of SFP, the humps extend to the curb, which some say now reduces parking. However, on the south side, the humps do not extend into the bike lanes. As a result, cars have been seen driving into the bike lanes to avoid going over the humps.

In an informal poll conducted on the large Friends of Rockaway Beach Facebook group, members were asked if they thought the speed humps were needed or not. Out of 482 responses, 453 or 93.98% said No, 22 or 4.56% said Yes and seven or 1.45% said they were Unsure. In another informal poll on the Rockaway Times Instagram account, 77% said the humps were not necessary but it is unclear how any people participated.

Asked for reasons for their answers, many said the humps were overkill with the new speed camera in the area. Some suggested a traffic light be installed instead. Others expressed concerns about it being a main road in an evacuation area. Some expressed concern over the humps hindering emergency vehicles, on a road that emergency vehicles access for beach emergencies, including drownings. “I’ve driven and rode in the back of an ambulance for many years. Speed bumps will be a great hinderance for emergencies on the beach. If there is a spinal injury for example, going over those bumps can really pose a problem when getting to a hospital quickly is pertinent,” Susan O’Hare said.

While there were votes in favor, no one in the thread provided their reasons for why. In an Instagram message, one local said they have witnessed people speeding at 50 mph and an officer told them they recently pulled someone over going 80 mph along SFP.

Whether for or against the speed humps, the community can leave input. After similar attempts to install speed humps on SFP in 2012, the DOT removed them after heavy pushback. The DOT has a system through 311 where people can request that speed humps be added or removed. Several residents have started utilizing this system to request for their removal. Schwach of Ulrich’s office suggested contacting the local elected officials’ offices. “If someone is unhappy with the installation, contact us,” he said.

Orr is hopeful that with the incoming administration, the DOT will go back to requiring community input before making changes. “All we can do is hope with the new administration, they return to community participation,” she said.

By Katie McFadden

 

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