In Massive Rally, Transportation Activists Call for Safer Streets

Hundreds assemble in City Hall Park on Sunday to tell Mayor de Blasio to "make life-saving street design the rule, not the exception." Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Nov. 19, 2017

Hundreds of cyclists and other transportation activists, along with the families of crash victims, converged in City Hall Park on Sunday, Nov. 19, to call for more life-saving measures on the city’s streets. Citing a 23 percent decrease in traffic fatalities since Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero program began four years ago, the leaders demanded still more and faster action to further reduce deaths and injuries.

The event was part of World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims.

“We are now saving about 50 lives per year over the pre-Vision Zero level, which everyone thought was the best you can do,” said Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, the group that organized the rally along with Families for Safe Streets, its chapter whose members lost loved ones in road crashes. “We know we can do better. We know we can get to zero.”

Better street design—extended sidewalks at intersections that make for shorter streets crossing, more protected bike lanes, and signal timing that prioritizes pedestrians—are among the measures that can help make that happen, he said.

About 240 people are now dying annually on the city streets, White said.

“Our primary message here today is for Mayor de Blasio; make life-saving street design the standard, the rule, not the exception on New York City streets.”

The goal of Vision Zero is to eliminate traffic deaths in the city by 2024.

In 2014, Gov. Andrew Cuomo approved a pilot program to put speed cameras in about seven percent of the city’s school zones, an effort that advocates say has reduced deaths and injuries. But efforts to pass the state legislation needed to increase the number of speed cameras have so far failed.

“Imagine if we have them in every school area in the city,” Queens state Sen. Jose Peralta, a sponsor of the bill, told the crowd.

The names of the 198 victims killed so far this year in vehicle crashes were read by people who had lost family members of their own, and who testified to their own pain. Those who died do not represent just one person, said Milli Muniz, whose husband Delmer Maldonado, 41, and his friend Israel Turcios, 56, were struck and killed last year by a speeding driver. “Each one has a family like us, and we have to live with the horror and the trauma of these ordeals for the rest of our lives. New York City must do more to prevent these senseless deaths.”

In a dramatic show of solidarity, the cyclists and others encircled the park while family members stood at the fountain, holding photos of the people they had lost.

“Whose streets? Our streets! Not one more!” the activists chanted.