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Families of Traffic Violence Victims: Implement Vision Zero Now

11:48 AM EST on February 24, 2014

Nearly 100 people gathered yesterday afternoon on the steps of City Hall to launch Families for Safe Streets, a group of New Yorkers who have lost loved ones to traffic violence. Families for Safe Streets are demanding an accelerated timetable for the Vision Zero plan to eliminate traffic fatalities within a decade.

Speakers yesterday included Amy Cohen and Gary Eckstein, whose son Sammy was killed on Prospect Park West; Amy Tam and Hsi-Pei Liao, whose daughter Allison was killed in a Flushing crosswalk; Judith Kottick, whose daughter Ella Kottick Bandes was killed while crossing the street in Bushwick; Mary Beth Kelly, whose husband Dr. Carl Henry Nacht was killed while riding his bicycle; and Greg Thompson, whose sister Renee was killed by a turning truck driver on the Upper East Side.

“There are thousands of other survivors,” Cohen said. “We invite them to join us.”

Families for Safe Streets supports the Vision Zero Action Plan that the de Blasio administration unveiled last week [PDF], but the group wants firmer commitments from City Hall. “The Vision Zero plan did not have any timeline, so while we were really pleased with the recommendations, we are demanding a timeline for rapid implementation,” Cohen said.

City Council transportation chair Ydanis Rodriguez said he is looking for more information on when the various components of Vision Zero will be rolled out. “I would hope that they would come and say, three months from now, five months from now, we expect to start with Vision Zero fully as we planned.”

Dana Lerner’s son Cooper Stock was killed by a taxi driver who failed to yield to Cooper and his father, who were in a crosswalk at 97th Street and West End Avenue. “No charges have been brought against the driver, and under current law, they probably won’t,” she said. “You could hail a cab right now and the driver could be the man who killed my son.”

De Blasio has proposed a 25 mph citywide speed limit, but families yesterday continued to push for a 20 mph limit. “I have friends in the Bronx who are even nervous when their children walk down the sidewalk. They’re worried about them getting hit by a car,” said Dave Sheppard, whose fiancée Sonya Powell was killed crossing Baychester Avenue. “We can move forward now with implementing 20 mph speed zones as part of Vision Zero. We need these traffic calming principles so that no New Yorker will ever have to endure the pain of losing a loved one.”

During a question-and-answer session, a reporter asked what the group thought of the media frenzy surrounding the behavior of the mayor’s police detail. “Everybody needs to obey traffic laws, including the mayor and the police,” Cohen said. “But that story is really overshadowing what is important to New York City.”

Some of the mayor’s Vision Zero agenda, especially reducing speed limits and introducing more automated enforcement, relies on support from the governor and legislature. Cohen told Streetsblog that the group is looking to go to Albany after the budget process wraps up to make their case. “Widespread use of speed cameras in Washington, DC, resulted in a 76 percent reduction in traffic fatalities,” Cohen said, noting that police can’t be everywhere to catch speeders, but cameras can. “We need them here.”

“We cannot and will not allow traffic violence to go unaddressed any longer,” Rodriguez said in a statement.

“We’re New Yorkers. We can lead. Forget Stockholm,” said Kelly, referring to Sweden, where the Vision Zero concept originated. “Let’s do it here.”

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