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World Day of Remembrance

Opinion: We Are Victims of Road Violence and We Demand Change

If we’re going to make progress on safe streets, we all need to get involved. We hope you will join us on Nov. 19, arm-in-arm, to help push. No one else should die. 

Just two years ago, we spent the weekend before Thanksgiving preparing for the holidays. We brined our turkeys, peeled our potatoes, and made final trips to the store arm in arm with our family. We had no idea it would be some of our last holidays together. 

Within the next two years, all three of us would lose a child or a partner – Jayden, Karina, and Tammy – to a reckless driver.

World Day of Remembrance is on Sunday.

This year, we’re spending the weekend before Thanksgiving marching, arm in arm on World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims with hundreds of other New Yorkers who’ve also lost loved ones to demand more and demand better.

Losing Jayden, Karina, and Tammy ripped apart our lives. Our pain was sudden, wrenching, debilitating – but it wasn’t unique. This year alone, traffic violence has killed 219 New Yorkers so far. Traffic violence has killed more New Yorkers than gun violence, and nearly five times more than were killed from fires. This year is on track to be the second deadliest year for cyclists in recorded history. In just the past week, we’ve lost two New Yorkers to double hit-and-runs – crashes where someone was hit twice by different drivers who then just kept driving away.

Traffic violence is an epidemic across New York City, but Astoria has been hit especially hard. We live here, and so did Jayden, Karina and Tammy. Earlier this year, 7-year-old Dolma Naadhun was killed by a reckless driver when she was crossing the street in the crosswalk. We can and must take action now to prevent more suffering. 

Each traffic death is a tragedy, especially because every single one is preventable. Our loved ones should still be here with us – alongside every other New Yorker who has been killed or injured this year – and they wouldn’t have died if our leaders just made different and better choices. 

This Sunday, we will be demanding those leaders do more to protect us from traffic violence. We know what keeps us safe – critical street safety infrastructure – but New York City repeatedly lags behind key metrics. Our city is suffering from a lack of political will to systemically address this completely preventable crisis, and instead, we’re trapped in an endless cycle of reaction. We only reliably see movement on safety infrastructure after there is blood on the streets. Too often, even then, good proposals are rolled back on the whims of just a few people in the mayor’s inner circle.

This piecemeal, pin-prick, and unsteady response is unacceptable. It’s bad policy, bad government, and fundamentally only leads to more death and suffering.

All figures are through Nov. 14 of each calendar year. Chart: DOT

This is especially true in Queens. Our borough is experiencing a significant increase in traffic fatalities, and cyclist injuries have jumped 35 percent this year alone.

The problem doesn’t lie in just one or two dangerous intersections, but a transportation infrastructure that’s broken. We can’t let our streets remain dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians, and we won’t stay silent as long as our streets are deadly. 

We have to build basic, critical safe streets infrastructure before someone is killed – instead of waiting until after our community is suffering. Our loved ones’ deaths shouldn’t be the sacrifices that make street safety possible or easy. 

At the city-level, we need greater emphasis on holistic neighborhood-wide safety plans. This means universal daylighting (repurposing parking spaces closest to intersections to improve visibility), Open Streets, school streets, bike boulevards, protected bike lanes, and everything that traffic engineers and urban planners already know reduce crashes and fatalities for everyone using our roads.

We also need our state-level leaders to step up in a major way. New York City lost 16 children to traffic violence last year, but there were – appallingly – zero street safety bills passed in Albany. We need to pass Sammy’s Law – which would allow New York City to control its own speed limits. We also need to take lessons from the successes we’ve had fighting drunk driving, and pass legislation to mandate that the vehicles of the worst-of-the-worst repeat speeders have intelligent speed assistance installed in their vehicles, slowing them down so they have to drive like the rest of us. Lastly, the speed safety camera program has been a life-saver, but we need to do more to prevent red-light running. That program needs to be expanded and strengthened. 

If we’re going to make progress on safe streets, we all need to get involved. Ultimately, it takes a community to move mountains, and we hope you will join us on Nov. 19, arm-in-arm, to help push. No one else should die.

For information about attending a World Day event, click here.

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