Overcoming Heedlessness

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an out-of-the-box message to new district attorneys

by bette dewing

for the record, what i wrote in the recent new york times' "spokes" column ("i strongly fear there are too many bicycles in new york") left out the next sentence after that: "i mean those who break every law in the books."

and very much do i fear the increasing number of "private wheels" and walkers that are crowding these finite streets and sidewalks. by far, the safest way to travel is public transit and that has been cut back more and more.

even when they follow all of the rules, the heedless motoring, bicycling, jogging, pram-pushing, motorized-wheelchair operators and walkers create a stressful environment.

if you remember nothing from this column, make sure and remind our elected officials, who are so scarily allowing the crippling of public transit, that traffic tragedies cost the nation more than 150 billion dollars annually. the human cost is, of course, beyond measure and lasting.

also remember that elders and disabled persons are the most vulnerable travelers.

i tried to get this message across in a recent training class to 50 newly minted manhattan district attorneys, many of them from out of town. as much as i dread public speaking, i agreed to sub for local civic leader betty cooper wallerstein. it took some hours to get the talk together with heavily highlighted talking points. a livery car provided the transit-i also have automobile fear. all pretty traumatic. am i too sensitive? yes, but most aren't sensitive enough!

traveling down east river drive to the talk, what did i see out the car window, but a large storage company sign reading: "storage with parents means having to visit."

anti-parents sentiment is everywhere! so i included, "do stay close to your folks!" in my very brief address (i always fear taking more than my share of time) to the "quality of life criminal offenses" class. well, staying close to one's family can prevent them.

but back to traffic crimes. they're too often treated like mere quality of life violations. often charges aren't filed even when a traffic tragedy occurs. and quality of life problems that aren't criminal adversely affect health and cause heart-stopping stress. new york has been called the number one fatal heart attack city.

noisy neighbors are the number one grievance to 311; more than 127,000 calls have been placed this year alone, says an aug. 27 daily news "noisy neighbor" feature. invaluable information on sound-proofing measures and overcoming the heedlessness to blame are found there. yet this number one grievance is not in the mayor's noise code. and noisy neighbors can lead to friction, even violence.

on to another topic. while the newly articulated speedy bus' multi-leveled, cramped interior is not illegal; it can't help but cause more rider conflict, injuries and costly lawsuits. the only official concern is "trip time," not rider comfort and safety. i fear the speedier bus plan in high density manhattan-anywhere, really.

one of my out-of-the-box ideas at the district attorneys conference was dubbed the "smile crusade," which tentatively noted: "makes you feel better, calms the troubled waters. less crime."

but how to get these young d.a.s to remember or read my handouts? how to get them to remember that i was the only speaker who needed a steadying hand getting up and down the steps to the podium where i also needed a chair? and to make them realize how few disabled and/or elder persons address, or are able to attend, public forums-making this a social injustice they must surely overcome. and we'll keep trying. help!


dewingbetter@aol.com"> dewingbetter@aol.com

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