Wrong of way: Pedestrian/cyclist fatality rates on the rise

2016 saw an increase in pedestrian and cyclist fatalities according to preliminary data.

Rally 4 Safer Streets
At the Rally 4 Safer Streets on the Grand Street corner where Rafael Nieves was fatally struck (l to r) Council Member Antonio Reynoso; Evelyn Cruz, Community Coordinator for Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez; Council Member Ydanis Rodríguez; Council Member Stephen Levin; and St. Nicks Alliance Board Member David Dobosz

Vision Zero (Mayor de Blasio’s effort to lower traffic fatalities to zero by 2024) has seen some success. Traffic fatalities for motor vehicle occupants and motorcyclists have declined since 2014. However 2016 saw an increase in pedestrian and cyclist fatalities according to preliminary data.

According to the NYC DOT, 70% of pedestrian fatalities in New York City are the result of “reckless or dangerous driving decisions by motorists”.

The start of 2017 brought this issue front and center on January 9th when Rafael A. Nieves, 85, was fatally struck by a delivery truck as he crossed Grand Street at Lorimer Street. The driver left the scene, but was found the following day. It was revealed that the driver wouldn’t be charged as it is believed he didn’t know he had hit anyone. The month saw two other car collisions. These two incidents seriously injured young pedestrians: January 6th a young boy was hit on Nassau Avenue and Russell Street and on January 22nd a 14-year old boy was struck on Manhattan Avenue and Greenpoint Avenue leaving him in serious condition.

Soon after the January 6th incident, Assemblyman Joe Lentol sent a letter to New York City Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg requesting the installation of a traffic light at Nassau Avenue and Russell Street, where the young boy was hit. The letter also asked for an investigation of Nassau Avenue between Russell Street and McGuinness Boulevard, a highly trafficked stretch of Greenpoint. “With the community growing, the BQE under construction and the filming that occurs, traffic is dispersed to new and unfamiliar patterns to drivers and we naturally see higher chances of accidents. However, we need some safety improvements to Nassau Avenue immediately,” said Lentol.

Brooklyn CB1 Pedestrian Fatality Crash Map
Not many places safe in North Brooklyn!

Transportation Alternatives has mapped fatalities and injuries in Brooklyn’s Community Board 1 district that occurred from July 2012–January 2017. The 5,129 injuries, represented by red spots, pretty much cover ¾’s of the map. Spiky black stars blotch the area to show where the 25 fatalities happened.

A spate of other car clashes with pedestrians and cyclists have occurred throughout the rest of the city causing worry that this is an indication the numbers for 2017 could set a record breaking increase.

The day after Mr. Nieves’ death, concerned city councilmen and community leaders held a rally to discuss the need to make our streets safer. Council Member Ydanis Rodríguez represents northern Manhattan and, as he serves as the transportation chair, he joined Council Members Antonio Reynoso and Stephen Levin on the corner of Grand and Lorimer Streets. Rodriguez introduced legislation the week prior that would pay up to $1,000 for tips to hit-and-runs.

At the rally, Council Member Reynoso mentioned the constant truck traffic that zoomed past on Grand Street during the rally, “Truck after truck after truck!” He also mentioned this road is the same as it was about 33 years ago.

“It saddens me to see fatality after fatality and that our elected officials and community consistently has to call on the City to address much needed safety measures and accountability for drivers that would prevent these tragedies from happening. […] My heart goes out to the families.”

Council Member Levin added the need to establish a stronger culture of safety on our streets and strengthen the efforts to catch people who think they can hit and run.
Artineh Havan, Executive Director of the Grand BID, expressed sincere condolences regarding the loss of Mr. Rafael Nieves and asked elected officials and city agencies to improve Grand Street and make it safer for pedestrians and cyclists. The corner where Nieves was struck is just two blocks from where cyclist Matt Von Ohlen was killed by a hit-and-run driver in July 2016.

Karen Nieves, member of CB1 Transportation Committee and former committee Chair, stated “It saddens me to see fatality after fatality and that our Elected Officials and Community consistently has to call on the City to address much needed safety measures and accountability for drivers that would prevent these tragedies from happening. I am hopeful that when the long awaited NYC DOT, North Williamsburg Transportation Study recommendations come back that it will include street safety enhancements for those areas that are plagued with fatalities and incidents. I also hope that it will address some of our congestion issues burdening our community. My heart goes out to the families.”

Two weeks later on January 25th Mayor de Blasio announced: $400 million in new resources for street redesign, street markings, lighting and other engineering improvements, while increasing the number of NYPD crossing guards and increasing capacity of the NYPD to crack down on dangerous driving. According to the NYC DOT, 70% of pedestrian fatalities in New York City are the result of “reckless or dangerous driving decisions by motorists”.

Author: Lori Ann Doyon

Managing editor, head writer, and lead photographer of Greenline | North Brooklyn News since October 2014. Resident of Williamsburg, Brooklyn since 1990.

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