November 21, 2023 BY Tiffany Smithin News

Calls for Action Heighten on World Day of Remembrance

From Portland to Pittsburgh, Louisville to Las Vegas, and Madison to Montgomery County, Maryland, a record-number of people joined forces to call for an end to the tragic and preventable roadway safety crisis across the nation.

On this World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims (WDoR), more than 75 communities organized rallies, memorial walks and bike rides, candle lighting vigils, installations of shoes and life-size cut-outs to represent those killed in preventable traffic deaths. Organizers include crash survivors, people who have lost loved ones in crashes, elected leaders, public agency staff, community advocates and others. 

Spurred by historic highs in roadway deaths, particularly amongst people walking, WDoR organizers across the nation called for change – including more safe space for people walking and bicycling; lower, slower speeds; re-designed Complete Streets that encourage safety over speed; renewed commitments to Vision Zero; stronger safety regulations in vehicles; and more.

Following is a sample of WDoR actions across the nation:

In Albany, New York, advocates from the Albany Bicycle Coalition and local leaders gathered to remember 19 victims of traffic violence and advocated to reduce speed limits to 25 mph on all non-limited access roads, add speed safety cameras in school zones, and to carry out the recommendations made in local complete streets planning studies.

Albany, NY. Photo credit: Ed Brennan, Albany Bicycle Coalition

In Washington, D.C., hundreds of people joined the Montgomery County chapter Families for Safe Streets for the Ride for Your Life event to show that their loved ones will not be forgotten and that their deaths will never be acceptable. Members from the DC chapter of Families for Safe Streets welcomed the Ride For Your Life participants at a family-friendly community event and urged DC Mayor Bowser to follow through on her commitment to reach zero traffic fatalities. Concurrent to the Ride, Remembrance signs were posted at over 40 fatal crash sites across Montgomery County to raise awareness and memorialize loved ones lost since the last WDoR.

Ride for Your Life in Washington, DC. Photo credit: Brian Rimm Productions

In Decatur, Georgia, advocates gathered in the wake of a recent crash that killed a 16-year old boy walking on a street where residents had long advocated for lower speeds and design improvements. They are urging the Georgia Department of Transportation to implement lower speed limits, more crosswalks, traffic calming, and safer road design, overall. See their petition here

Decatur, GA. Photo credit: Patricia Liscio

In San Diego, organizers from Circulate San Diego and Families for Safe Streets San Diego held a candlelight vigil, community walk, bike ride and a visual display in the form of empty shoes: 283 pairs of them, representing those pedestrians and bike riders killed in San Diego County in 2022. They called for San Diego leaders to address the 15 most dangerous intersections in the county, to add protection to 75 miles of bikeways during upcoming repaving work, and to rapidly implement an updated Complete Streets policy. 

San Diego, CA. Photo credit: Andrew Bowen

In New York City, members of the NYC chapter of Families for Safe Streets and Transportation Alternatives organized a rally in Astoria Park and called for the City to implement holistic neighborhood-wide safety planning, which includes universal daylighting, Open Streets, school streets, bike boulevards and protected bike lanes. They also called on state-level leaders to pass Sammy’s Law – which would allow New York City to control its own speed limits for safety.

Queens, NY. Photo credit: Transportation Alternatives

In Nashville, TN, Walk Bike Nashville and Families for Safe Streets Nashville walked to the state capitol building where families gathered to remember the lives of those lost to preventable roadway crashes and urged leaders to invest in safer roads and infrastructure. At the capitol, 1000 yellow flags were placed in the ground to symbolize 1,000 people killed each year in fatal crashes in Tennessee. 

Nashville, TN. Photo credit: Daniel McDonell

Honoring loved ones and urging leaders to take action

While the communities organizing WDoR are diverse, their calls echoed a common refrain: These roadway deaths and injuries are not isolated, inevitable incidents, but largely predictable and preventable.

“It's natural to feel hopeless and helpless in the face of this staggering loss,” says Colin Campbell, whose two teenage kids, Ruby and Hart, were hit and killed in 2019 by a drunk driver. “But now I recognize that the crash that killed my kids was not just a fluke ‘accident’ but was something largely predictable and preventable.”

Colin joined with others to organize a WDoR event in Los Angeles, where he and others called on Mayor Karen Bass to lower speeds and redesign roadways and on President Joe Biden and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to follow the lead of other nations by requiring alcohol detection systems in vehicles. 

Colin Campbell speaking at a WDoR event in Los Angeles. His two teenage children were hit and killed by a drunk driver. Photo credit: Alyson Geller

Another organizer of  WDoR in Los Angeles was Lori Markowitz, picture below, whose son Josh was hit and killed in 2021 at Hollywood Blvd and Wilcox in L.A.

Lori Markowtiz, whose son was hit and killed by a driver, speaks in Los Angeles, CA. Photo credit: Alyson Geller

More communities are organizing for Vision Zero than ever before, including holding events as part of World Day of Remembrance.

Seattle, WA. Photo credit: Seattle Times

Cleveland, OH. Photo credit: Bike Cleveland

Denver, CO. The Latino Cultural Arts Center created an ofrenda for WDoR as a part of an exhibit, along with victims' stories on display at the Denver City & County building (until November 27). Photo credit: Jill Locantore.

Knoxville, TN. Photo credit: Bike Walk Knoxville

Charleston, SC. Photo credit: City of Charleston

Cocoa, FL. Photo credit: Space Coast TPO

Jersey City, NJ. Photo credit: Stop 4 Nikhil

Raleigh, NC. Photo credit: Joe Stewart

 

Quincy, MA. Photo credit: MassBike

Cincinnati, OH (A hike along the proposed multi-use trail in commemoration of World Day of Remembrance)

Boston, MA. A memorial on the steps of the Massachusetts State House. Photo credit: Safe Roads Alliance.

Philadelphia, PA. Photo by Rachel Wisniewski for the Philadelphia Inquirer

Charlotte, NC, Photo credit: City of Charlotte

Bradenton, FL. Photo credit: The Mark Wandall Foundation.

Hollywood, FL. Photo credit: Rachel K. Silber

NYC - Brooklyn, NY. Photo credit: Rodrigo Camarena.

Portland, OR. Photo credit: The Street Trust

Milwaukee, WI. Photo credit: Coalition for Safe Driving MKE

The National Safety Council – Nebraska Chapter (NSCN), Nebraska Highway Safety Office, Keep Kids Alive – Drive 25 and the City of Omaha 244 lives tragically lost on Nebraska's roads in 2022. Photo credit: NSC - Nebraska Chapter.

Pittsburgh, PA. Photo credit: Bike Pittsburgh.

Pittsfield, MA. Photo credit: iBerkshires.

Malibu, CA. Photo credit: KTLA

Hudson Valley, NY. Photo credit: Rose Quinn, Safe Pass Ulster

Treasure Island, FL. Photo credit: Rep. Lindsay Cross

Las Vegas, NV. Photo credit: PedSAFE.

Logan, UT. Photo credit: Eli Lucero for HJ News.

Fresno, CA. Photo credit: Fresno County Bicycle Coalition

Fairfax County, Arlington, and Alexandria, VA. Photo credit: Annandale Today.

Terrytown, NY. Photo credit: Bike Terrytown

Greeley, CO. Photo credit: Chris Bolin for Greeley Tribune

Tacoma, WA. Photo credit: Amber Weilert.

Springfield, MA. Source: WWLP

Las Cruces, NM. Photo credit: Velo Cruces

 

Tampa - Hillsborough County, FL. Source: WTSP

San Francisco, CA. Photo credit: David Chiu

St. Paul, MN. Photo credit: Sarah Risser

In Connecticut, which held its first statewide WDoR event, advocates and families joined together in Hartford to place a sea of more than 700 small white flags to commemorate all who have died on Connecticut roads in 2022 and 2023.

Hartford, CT. Photo credit: Judith Proctor

Provo, UT. Photo credit: KSL TV

 

WDoR highlights the personal impacts of preventable road crashes

Leading up to World Day of Remembrance, loved ones shared their stories. We encourage you to hear directly from those closest to this issue, including those who have been hit and injured and others who have lost loved ones in crashes:

Triny Willerton, a crash survivor who founded It Could Be Me, an organization that advocates for enhanced cycling and pedestrian infrastructure to prevent similar crashes from happening to others, hosted an event in Boulder, CO and urged the media to shift how they cover crashes.

Triny Willerton, founder of It Could be Me, speaking in Boulder, CO

You see, being blamed for being hit by a driver while riding a bike or walking isn’t rare. If we aren’t readily available to speak with the police and or reporters, usually due to injury or death, our side of the story is often omitted from both the police reports and news coverage. Why? Time is of the essence. Far too often, we’re also blamed for causing the crash based on no other testimony than the driver’s. The reason? Windshield Bias. It means the police and reporters unwittingly sympathize with other drivers. As a society, we’ve become so used to cars for transit that it can be hard to relate to other types of road users.” Read her story in this Streetsblog USA Editorial, November 17, 2023.

Steven Shinn, whose wife Laura, was hit and killed in the bike lane by a driver going 50 miles an hour, joined Families for Safe Streets San Diego to call for street safety improvements, including 75 miles of protected bikeways. 

Steven Shinn holding a photo of his wife, Laura. Photo credit: Mike Damron for KPBC

“My grief is worsened every time I hear an uninformed comment about road safety in our community….My wife’s life would have been saved if those bike lanes had been protected. Studies from cities around the country have demonstrated the effectiveness of protected bike lanes to save lives without inconveniencing drivers." Read his story in The San Diego Union-Tribune, November 15, 2023

Carmen, Porsha and David, each of whom lost a partner or child, joined Families for Safe Streets NYC to demand safer street infrastructure in Queens, which is experiencing a significant increase in traffic fatalities. 

 

“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.” Learn more about what Carmen, Porsha, and David are pushing for in Queens in this Streetsblog NYC Editorial, November 17, 2023

Eric Olson & Mary Beth Ellis whose daughter, Sidney, was hit and killed in the crosswalk by a driver in a tractor-trailer, called for safe safe streets for people and for small changes that can make a big difference.

Eric Olson & Mary Beth Ellis' daughter Sidney Mae Olson

"If Sidney had died in a plane, it would have been labeled a crash, and the response would focus on systemwide failures. Yet, like other road deaths, hers was dubbed a tragic accident, even though a woman was killed on the same street a year earlier and there was an outpouring of stories in town forums detailing terrifying near misses, unreported crashes, and changes in behavior to avoid walking in the area." Read their story in the Boston Globe, November 21, 2023.

Laura Keenan, whose husband Matt was hit and killed in San Diego, has organized a chapter of Families for Safe Streets in her community and brought attention to the safety crisis.

San Diego, CA. Photo credit: Council President Sean Elo-Rivera

“San Diego County has had its share of tragic crashes and fatalities on its roads, and until 2021, when my husband, Matt, was killed while riding his bicycle, I thought that affected others. The truth is, Matt was just one of 315 people killed and 17,844 people injured on San Diego County roads in 2021. The single largest factor in all of these tragedies was reckless speeding.” Read Laura’s story in The San Diego Union-Tribune, September 18, 2023

In the Washington, D.C. area, people who lost loved ones joined together to memorialize loved ones and urge change. Dan Langenkamp, a cyclist and US diplomat, lost his wife Sarah when she was hit by a truck driver who had turned into the bike lane when she was traveling. Kristy Daphnis, a founder of Families for Safe Streets in Montgomery County, lost her child’s caregiver Etsegenet Hurissa to a speeding driver while she attempted to cross the street. Christy Kwan, a co-chair of Families for Safe Streets in DC, remembered her cousin Jamie Lai was killed in a crash 22 years ago. Christy, Dan, and Kristy joined Families for Safe Streets DC for Ride For Your Life 2023 to shine a light on the urgent need to address the deadly problem on our streets, sidewalks and bikeways.  

Dan Langenkamp (left) and Christy Kwan (with microphone) at D.C. event. Photo credit: Seth Grimes

"What’s frustrating for so many who follow this issue is that traffic violence is a preventable public health crisis. With the right policies — like safer speeds, safer roads, improved driver practices (safer drivers), improved vehicle safety standards, and better post-crash care, these deaths can be prevented. We know this because countries all over the world are implementing these proven policies and driving down deaths. There is a reason people are less than half as likely to die in road crashes in Canada than in the United States." Learn more about Ride For Your Life 2023 in Streetsblog USA Editorial, November 17, 2023.

Public Agencies and Electeds Step Up on WDoR

 

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg underscored the need to de-normalize the roadway safety crisis and to make significant and lasting changes to prioritize safety:

“Crashes kill as many people in America as gun violence. And yet, road safety gets less attention than so many other transportation issues. When we do think of it, we too often think of it as inevitable, as if it were a painful fact of life. But these road deaths are not inevitable and every one of us has the power to do something about them.” 

The Secretary emphasized ways to advance the goal of zero traffic deaths. We encourage people to read the National Roadway Safety Strategy

“We need to build greater awareness, cultivate motivated communities, harness better technology, more research, smarter planning, safer design, and infrastructure that keeps us all safe - whether you’re in a car, riding a bike, pushing a stroller, out for a walk, or using a wheelchair.” 

Leaders around the nation showed their support and commitment to cultivating safer streets. 

In Louisville, KY, Mayor Craig Greenberg, joined families to honor road traffic victims during World Day of Remembrance.

 “We hear you loud and clear. We are committed to making the roads, the sidewalks, all public safe spaces in Louisville safer for you and your loved ones for other loved ones that have been lost far too soon as a result of vehicular fatalities.”

Louisville, KY. Photo credit: Whas11

In Madison, WI, city leaders remembered those who died on city streets. Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said “We need everyone, everyone in the city to also make this commitment by supporting the changes to the design and operation of our streets, by driving at a safe speed when you get behind the wheel, and by never ever driving distracted or impaired.”

Madison, WI. Photo credit: Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway

Bismarck, ND. Photo credit: Vision Zero ND.

Vision Zero it’s a collaborative effort,” said David Fields, Houston’s chief transportation planner. “We’re designing our streets to be safe, you see a lot of road designs, but we’re asking everyone to use our roads, remembering that others are using them too.”

Houston, TX. Photo credit: Bike Houston

Maryland commemorated their 20th WDoR. Photo credit: Zero Deaths Maryland.

In San Jose, California, Gina LaBlanc was honored by the City Council and the Mayor  in the days leading up to World Day of Remembrance with a proclamation for her impressive advocacy for Vision Zero. Gina’s son, Kyle, was hit and killed by a driver in San Jose in 2016. 

San Jose, CA. Pam Foley, District 9, Gina, Gina's husband Steve (holding a portrait of their son, Kyle), Bien Doan, District 7 and Mayor Matt Mahan. Photo credit: Pam Foley

Transforming Remembrance Into Action at the National Level

National WDoR organizers – including Vision Zero Network, Families for Safe Streets, It Could Be Me, Road to Zero Coalition and National Safety Council – supported local efforts while also shining a light on the need for change at every level of government, including the following:

And they rallied for local, regional and tribal leaders to take advantage of the billions of dollars of new funding available via the new federal Safe Streets and Roads for all grant program for Vision Zero plans and safety infrastructure. 

Ways to keep up your momentum

Most importantly, find ways to stay persistent until leaders take action to address unsafe streets and policies in your community. Show them ZERO is possible.

Many thanks to all who took steps to Remember, Support & Act in organizing for World Day of Remembrance. We are encouraged and inspired by your commitment to safe mobility for everyone in our communities.

Watch this digital memorial prepared by Families for Safe Streets for Tuesday's online candle lighting vigil.


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