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Family of Carlos Vasquez, Killed by Hit-and-Run Driver, Calls on de Blasio to Bring Safe Streets to the Bronx

Left to right: TransAlt Executive Director Paul Steely White, Families for Safe Streets’ Hank Miller, and Council Member Ritchie Torres with the family of Carlos Vasquez. Photo: David Meyer

Carlos Vasquez, known as "Lito" to his friends, loved to ride his BMX. On April 23, he rode his bike for the last time, at the age of 20. A box truck driver cut Lito's life short, striking him as he was biking on Webster Avenue at around 10:40 p.m. and fleeing the scene.

Last night, Vasquez's family gathered with 75 of the BMX-ers he rode with, volunteers with Transportation Alternatives, and Council Member Ritchie Torres to install a ghost bike at the site of the collision. They called on the de Blasio administration to take more aggressive steps to make biking safer in the Bronx.

"[Our pain is] a weapon that we will use to ask the city to build a safe path for cyclists, youth, everyone who comes out to the street, to feel safe and feel sure that a car will not collide into them," Vasquez's aunt Doris Nouel said in Spanish.

Last week was especially deadly on Bronx streets. The same day Vasquez was killed, 8-year-old Cellou Diallo lost his life when a family friend jumped the curb attempting to parallel park and hit him on the sidewalk in Williamsbridge. On Friday, a private trash hauler struck and killed a senior citizen in Melrose.

TransAlt has called on the de Blasio administration to bring "real Vision Zero" to the Bronx. In 2017, the city built 2.3 miles of protected bike lanes in the Bronx, compared to an average of 7.5 miles in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens.

"A car crash that results in the loss of someone's life is not an accident, it is a form of violence. There is nothing accidental about the city's failure to design safer streets," Torres told the crowd. "Here in the Bronx we deserve the same standard of safety that's available in Queens, and in Park Slope, and in the wealthiest parts of our city. Our right to life is no less than anyone else's."

The Bronx has some of the densest residential neighborhoods in the city, where car ownership rates are low and the vast majority of residents get around without driving. But these neighborhoods are criss-crossed by streets designed for speed like Webster Avenue, which has six lanes of motor vehicle traffic and no safe space for cycling.

At the intersection where Vasquez was killed, two lanes of southbound Webster funnel turning traffic toward a Cross-Bronx Expressway ramp. There is no marked crosswalk for people crossing in the path of highway-bound drivers.

The white arrow indicates the direction Vasquez was traveling and the red arrow shows the approximate path of the driver. Image: Google Maps
The white arrow indicates the direction Vasquez was traveling and the red arrow shows the approximate path of the driver. Image: Google Maps
The white arrow indicates the direction Vasquez was traveling and the red arrow shows the approximate path of the driver. Image: Google Maps

Friends who rode with Lito in his "bike life" BMX crew said they deal with dangerous driving all the time, but it doesn't scare them off their bikes.

"Crazy cab drivers, crazy people just driving, period," one rider, who identified himself as Sleepy, told Streetsblog. "We don't pay that shit no mind though. We just do what we do, continue riding the way we ride."

"People in the Bronx will continue to ride their bikes," said TransAlt Senior Organizer Erwin Figueroa. "It is the duty of the city to protect them."

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