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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
More communities are organizing for Vision Zero than ever before, including holding events as part of World Day of Remembrance.
World Day of Remembrance 2023 in Denver, CO pic.twitter.com/kdoafiaR4D
— Rob Toftness (@NoSquish) November 20, 2023
A somber and moving World Day of Remembrance for Traffic Victims on Sunday, organized by SASS @WalkMedford & local activists for traffic safety.
— Christine Barber (@Barber4StateRep) November 22, 2023
Thank you to all who came out for the World Remembrance Day for Road Traffic Victims. We honored those lives lost as well as called on the city to commit to Zero Traffic Fatalities by 2035. pic.twitter.com/mmHhYuR9Ni
— Bike Indianapolis (@BikeIndpls) November 20, 2023
Michelle's daughter, Asia, led folks in the memorial event for #WDoR2023 yesterday. They placed balloons along Troost to create a prominent visual cue about the lack of #sidewalks.#TrafficViolence is a policy choice. It means our leaders can choose a different, safer path. https://t.co/dFbledN6sV pic.twitter.com/e5jk9z8ely
— Michael Kelley (@mkelleykc) November 20, 2023
Thanks @worcesterda and @MassDOT Secretary Tibbits-Nutt for attending this important event in #Worcester. @WalkBoston @MassBike @StreetsBoston @MassDPH @TweetWorcester @FFSafeStreets @T4MASS https://t.co/UrS8orPQjg
— Safe Roads Alliance (@Safe_Roads) November 20, 2023
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.
Last night, City Council proclaimed Nov. 19, 2023 World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims. We were so thankful to be joined by many community partners who are working towards our #VisionZero goal of 0 traffic deaths & serious injuries on city streets by 2030 #WDoR2023 pic.twitter.com/b8onGMbLwx
— Bellevue Transportation Dept (@BvueTrans) November 15, 2023
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.
“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.
“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.
"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 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.
"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
Our goal is to get to zero roadway deaths.
— U.S. Department of Transportation (@USDOT) November 20, 2023
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.”
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.”
“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.”
On Sunday for the 2023 World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, ATLDOT, @CityOfAtlanta officials, and @ShepherdCenter joined friends, families, and survivors to reflect on the lives lost due to vehicle crashes. We remain committed to #SafeStreetsForPeople.#WDoR2023 pic.twitter.com/8YyOlgDHRH
— Atlanta Department of Transportation (@ATLDOT) November 21, 2023
These deaths are 100 percent preventable. As one parent said, “People have to stop dying on our roads getting from point A to point B”.
We are committed to achieving Vision 0 - no more pedestrian/cyclist deaths…. pic.twitter.com/NLLRFMwerS
— Jacob Kupin (@JacobKupin4D19) November 19, 2023
1.35 million people lose their lives in traffic crashes across the world each year.
Councilor Méndez with Bend Bikes President Elisa Cheng to accept The World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims Proclamation. https://t.co/Ij47IqsseQ pic.twitter.com/f8ymAxtTiK
— City of Bend, Oregon (@CityofBend) November 16, 2023
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.
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:
- Requiring Intelligent Speed Assistance technology in new vehicles and in vehicles of repeat drunk driving offenders, as recommended by the National Transportation Safety Board.
- Redesigning dangerous streets and adding traffic calming measures to discourage high speeds, including narrowing travel lanes, emphasized in a new report by public health experts from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.
- Addressing the dangers of super-sized vehicles, including SUVs, which are 45% more likely to cause fatalities in crashes with pedestrians compared to smaller cars, according to new research by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
- Passing Pennsylvania Senator John Fetterman’s recently introduced Building Safer Streets Act, which would require a slate of reforms aimed at building safer roadway infrastructure and slash red tape that’s strangling America's ability to design safe streets for vulnerable road users.
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
- Reconvene WDoR participants and supporters to both acknowledge your accomplishments so far and strategize what’s next. Building on your WDoR activity can spur a stronger Vision Zero movement!
- Request a meeting (or walk or bike ride) with local elected leaders and other influencers, such as key agency leaders, to make sure they’re aware of the roadway safety problems – and solutions! –in your community. You can build off World Day of Remembrance messaging & data to help build your case (templates for outreach here).
- Contact reporters and editors at your local newspapers and media stations to help make them aware of your community’s Vision Zero needs (see above). And help educate them on why words matter — because “accidents” imply inevitability, but “crashes” can be prevented (templates for outreach here).
- Submit an Op-Ed to your local papers, building on the activities and messaging from WDoR and laying out calls to action. And see these impressive examples in Philadelphia, PA; Washington DC area, San Diego, CA (more on Op-Eds here).
- Find out if your community has applied for Safe Streets & Roads for All funds, an exciting new program by the U.S. Department of Transportation supporting Vision Zero work at the local, regional and tribal levels. If not, contact your local electeds and encourage them to do so!
- Leverage our WDoR Toolkit and other Vision Zero resources for ongoing advocacy work.
- Stay up to date on Vision Zero work happening across the country by subscribing to our monthly Vision Zero e-news.
- Learn about and support the work of our organizations: Vision Zero Network, Families for Safe Streets, It Could Be Me & Road to Zero Coalition.
- Mark your calendar for the next World Day of Remembrance – November 17, 2024 – and build on the momentum from this year’s event. Stay tuned for future WDoR updates.
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.