People Behind the Progress: Appreciating the Tireless Advocacy of Kyle’s Mom, Gina LaBlanc

Gina LaBlanc is a member of Families for Safe Streets (San Francisco Bay Area, CA chapter) and a passionate and effective road safety advocate. Most importantly, she is the Mom of Kyle (18), who was killed in 2016 by a speeding tow truck driver near a Light Rail Station in San Jose. For many years, Gina advocated for safety improvements in San Jose and specifically at the crash site where this tragedy happened. Last year, the City secured a $12.9M Safe Streets and Roads for All (SS4A) grant for road safety improvements at some of the most dangerous locations, including at Canoas Garden and Curtner Avenue, where Kyle and too many others have been killed. We are honored to know Gina and appreciate her taking time to share insights about her advocacy journey so far.

Vision Zero Network: After Kyle’s tragic death, how did you find your way to engaging in road safety advocacy?

Gina LaBlanc: Kyle was blamed for his death and this made me feel angry. It was not right that a pedestrian should be blamed for failed infrastructure (no signage, no sidewalk, confusing crosswalks, broken lights, unprotected bike lane) next to a public transit station. I started to research how roads should be safely designed and how transit stations should direct vulnerable road users to the station safely. After a chance meeting with founding members of the NYC Families for Safe Streets (FSS) chapter, I felt inspired to use my voice. I went to City Hall with a photo of Kyle and spoke during public comment, asking the Council members to see my son not as a data point on their crash map, but as a precious human being. That was the beginning. I joined the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of Families for Safe Streets to continue my advocacy in order to prevent others from feeling the pain that I experience.

Vision Zero Network: What advice would you share with safety advocates and transportation professionals and policymakers about ways to work with people who have been impacted by traffic violence?

Gina LaBlanc: My advice would be to not be afraid to reach out to those impacted. Be compassionate and give them space to consider advocacy in their own time. Someone impacted by traffic violence may need the time to process a request to speak. Support their choices and realize that grief comes in waves. For myself, it was more painful to remain silent and watch more deaths happen in my city than to find my voice and speak out. Advocacy allowed me to channel my pain and grief into something productive and hopefully save lives.

Vision Zero Network: What are some of the toughest challenges you’ve encountered in your advocacy and how have you dealt with them?

Gina LaBlanc: One challenging aspect has been the lack of understanding of lawmakers and city government leaders about what constitutes a Safe Systems approach, Complete Streets, and even Vision Zero. I see part of my advocacy as educating Council members and the general public as to what these terms mean and why we need them.

I also find it challenging as an advocate to set boundaries for myself, though I am getting better. I cannot say “yes” to every Lobby Day or interview. I need to step back at times to let my batteries recharge so I can continue to do this work.

Vision Zero Network: Can you share any takeaways from your participation in World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims (WDoR)? Have there been benefits to your advocacy in San Jose?

Gina LaBlanc: World Day of Remembrance has been an important day to raise awareness. When we set out 250 pairs of shoes in 2020 representing those killed by traffic violence in San Jose since the adoption of Vision Zero in 2015, it was a powerful visual. I was able to meet face to face with the Council members serving on the Vision Zero Task Force that day, and it was very helpful to my future advocacy to have those conversations.

2020 World Day of Remembrance in San Jose. Kyle’s photo inside a pair of basketball shoes.

And for 2023 WDoR, I was asked to speak in front of the full City Council and receive a proclamation from the Mayor. This helped keep Vision Zero on the City Council & Mayor's minds and drew media attention to my asks for specific bold actions to reduce traffic fatalities.

Vision Zero Network: After many years of tireless advocacy, your efforts paid off in helping San Jose win significant Safe Streets & Roads for All (SS4A) federal grant funding to (finally!) address some of the city’s known deadly locations, including where Kyle was killed. How does this feel? And what advice do you have for others who may have experienced such pain and loss and who may be struggling to make positive change in their communities?

Gina addresses the audience during the announcement of the SS4A grant for roadway safety improvement in San Jose on December 13, 2023

Gina LaBlanc: This felt like a very personal win for me after eight years of pointing out this deadly area to city leaders. I feel relieved to know that I have been heard and that finally lives will be saved here. The availability of SS4A grant money was a game changer. My advice to others is to not give up. Find a supportive community of advocates and continue to tell your story. Someone is listening.


Thank you, Gina, for sharing your powerful story with us. Your advocacy is a profound tribute to Kyle’s memory and it ignites meaningful change in our hearts and on our streets as well.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a crash or have lost a loved one in a crash, we encourage you to learn more about Families for Safe Streets and visit their new Story Map to honor those killed and injured in crashes and to engage with others advocating for safety for all.

Learn more about World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims – November 17, 2024 this year – and sign up to get involved.

And there’s still time to work with your community to submit a Safe Streets & Roads for All (SS4A) grant. Upcoming deadlines are May 16 & August 29, 2024. Check out our tips.

Finally, stay updated on the latest Vision Zero advocacy news and opportunities by signing up here.

Gina LaBlanc is a member of Families for Safe Streets (San Francisco Bay Area, CA chapter) and a passionate and effective road safety advocate. Most importantly, she is the Mom of Kyle (18), who was killed in 2016 by a speeding tow truck driver near a Light Rail Station in San Jose. For many years, Gina advocated for safety improvements in San Jose and specifically at the crash site where this tragedy happened. Last year, the City secured a $12.9M Safe Streets and Roads for All (SS4A) grant for road safety improvements at some of the most dangerous locations, including at Canoas Garden and Curtner Avenue, where Kyle and too many others have been killed. We are honored to know Gina and appreciate her taking time to share insights about her advocacy journey so far.

Vision Zero Network: After Kyle’s tragic death, how did you find your way to engaging in road safety advocacy?

Gina LaBlanc: Kyle was blamed for his death and this made me feel angry. It was not right that a pedestrian should be blamed for failed infrastructure (no signage, no sidewalk, confusing crosswalks, broken lights, unprotected bike lane) next to a public transit station. I started to research how roads should be safely designed and how transit stations should direct vulnerable road users to the station safely. After a chance meeting with founding members of the NYC Families for Safe Streets (FSS) chapter, I felt inspired to use my voice. I went to City Hall with a photo of Kyle and spoke during public comment, asking the Council members to see my son not as a data point on their crash map, but as a precious human being. That was the beginning. I joined the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of Families for Safe Streets to continue my advocacy in order to prevent others from feeling the pain that I experience.

Vision Zero Network: What advice would you share with safety advocates and transportation professionals and policymakers about ways to work with people who have been impacted by traffic violence?

Gina LaBlanc: My advice would be to not be afraid to reach out to those impacted. Be compassionate and give them space to consider advocacy in their own time. Someone impacted by traffic violence may need the time to process a request to speak. Support their choices and realize that grief comes in waves. For myself, it was more painful to remain silent and watch more deaths happen in my city than to find my voice and speak out. Advocacy allowed me to channel my pain and grief into something productive and hopefully save lives.

Vision Zero Network: What are some of the toughest challenges you’ve encountered in your advocacy and how have you dealt with them?

Gina LaBlanc: One challenging aspect has been the lack of understanding of lawmakers and city government leaders about what constitutes a Safe Systems approach, Complete Streets, and even Vision Zero. I see part of my advocacy as educating Council members and the general public as to what these terms mean and why we need them.

I also find it challenging as an advocate to set boundaries for myself, though I am getting better. I cannot say “yes” to every Lobby Day or interview. I need to step back at times to let my batteries recharge so I can continue to do this work.

Vision Zero Network: Can you share any takeaways from your participation in World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims (WDoR)? Have there been benefits to your advocacy in San Jose?

Gina LaBlanc: World Day of Remembrance has been an important day to raise awareness. When we set out 250 pairs of shoes in 2020 representing those killed by traffic violence in San Jose since the adoption of Vision Zero in 2015, it was a powerful visual. I was able to meet face to face with the Council members serving on the Vision Zero Task Force that day, and it was very helpful to my future advocacy to have those conversations.

2020 World Day of Remembrance in San Jose. Kyle’s photo inside a pair of basketball shoes.

And for 2023 WDoR, I was asked to speak in front of the full City Council and receive a proclamation from the Mayor. This helped keep Vision Zero on the City Council & Mayor's minds and drew media attention to my asks for specific bold actions to reduce traffic fatalities.

Vision Zero Network: After many years of tireless advocacy, your efforts paid off in helping San Jose win significant Safe Streets & Roads for All (SS4A) federal grant funding to (finally!) address some of the city’s known deadly locations, including where Kyle was killed. How does this feel? And what advice do you have for others who may have experienced such pain and loss and who may be struggling to make positive change in their communities?

Gina addresses the audience during the announcement of the SS4A grant for roadway safety improvement in San Jose on December 13, 2023

Gina LaBlanc: This felt like a very personal win for me after eight years of pointing out this deadly area to city leaders. I feel relieved to know that I have been heard and that finally lives will be saved here. The availability of SS4A grant money was a game changer. My advice to others is to not give up. Find a supportive community of advocates and continue to tell your story. Someone is listening.


Thank you, Gina, for sharing your powerful story with us. Your advocacy is a profound tribute to Kyle’s memory and it ignites meaningful change in our hearts and on our streets as well.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a crash or have lost a loved one in a crash, we encourage you to learn more about Families for Safe Streets and visit their new Story Map to honor those killed and injured in crashes and to engage with others advocating for safety for all.

Learn more about World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims – November 17, 2024 this year – and sign up to get involved.

And there’s still time to work with your community to submit a Safe Streets & Roads for All (SS4A) grant. Upcoming deadlines are May 16 & August 29, 2024. Check out our tips.

Finally, stay updated on the latest Vision Zero advocacy news and opportunities by signing up here.


Learn more: advocacy, ss4a


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