Following “too many” pedestrian deaths, Furlong and her group, Make Queens Safer, are trying to target reckless driving, one roadway at a time.
“Pedestrians sometimes don’t have the tools they need, they were never educated on the danger,” she said.
Her group is focusing on an education program, reaching out to everyone from the borough’s youth to local elected officials. The program includes a safe driver pledge for drivers to acknowledge patience and eliminate distraction while on the roads.
Furlong is a 10-year resident of Queens, currently living in Jackson Heights. She is an avid cycler and works as a tour guide for Bike the Big Apple, which provides bike tours through the five borough.
“As a cyclist, I’ve always been interested in safety. But when Laura [Newman, Make Queens Safer co-founder] posted a boy was killed by a drunk driver and put a call to action, I was 100 percent on board,” Furlong said. “We had to do something.”
“The best thing that’s come out of this is being able to support families who have suffered a lot,” Furlong said. “Mothers whose children were killed [by drivers], they have no place to go.”
After a vigil the group hosted for pedestrian victims, Mayor Bill de Blasio held a press conference in Queens to announce his vision of zero pedestrian fatalities, appropriately titled Vision Zero.
“That was a memorable thing,” Furlong said. “Of all places, he chose Queens, recognizing that we have the highest pedestrian injury rate in the city.”
For Furlong, the biggest challenge her group faces is getting people to change their consciousness about reckless driving, she said. They frequently stop drivers on the street to relay safe driving tips, and aren’t always warmly welcomed.
“But we need to establish a responsibility behind the wheel,” she said.
“I think inspiration comes from the people,” Furlong said, referring to parents, family members and friends who have lost loved ones due to reckless driving.
“They’re always available and working so hard with us. I want them to know, hopefully, we’ll change things,” she said.
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