Last week was one of the worst for New York pedestrians, with 11 pedestrian deaths occurring across the city in a span of several days.
This recent surge in traffic fatalities reflects poorly on Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative, a plan introduced last year that reduced speed limits, increased the number of red light cameras and cracked down on jaywalkers in order to eliminate auto injuries and fatalities. Many critics say Vision Zero is not doing nearly enough to reach the mayor’s goal.
Last week’s pedestrian deaths included 3 trick-or-treaters killed when a car jumped the curb, as well as a grandmother struck by a dump truck on her way to a Bronx laundromat. 50-year-old Floria Burton, known as Ms. Pat by her friends and neighbors, was caught under the truck’s wheels while crossing the street with her friend Maritza Delesus. When Maritza banged on the driver’s door asking him to stop, the driver reversed back over Floria, crushing her body a second time.
Last Thursday, the same day that Floria was killed, an elderly woman was struck by a Skyliner bus in a hit-and-run collision in Flushing. Agalia Gounaris, who suffered from arthiritis and partial blindness, was jay-walking when a bus ran her over and then continued on its scheduled route to Foxwoods Casino.
Agalia’s remains were crushed to such a degree that it took police several hours to identify her. Much of the evidence from the collision was lost in the rain. Police pulled over the driver responsible 90 miles from the scene, in Madison, Connecticut. No charges have been filed against him.
In response to Agalia’s death, the NYPD have decided to crack down further on jaywalking, spreading awareness about traffic rules and increasing tickets. “Cross at the green, not in-between, and hopefully we will be able to reduce the number of traffic fatalities,” says State Assemblyman Mike Simanowitz in support of the measure.
For others, including transportation safety group Transportation Alternatives, focusing on jaywalking is a misguided approach to improving traffic safety. “It’s easy to blame victims,” said Transportation Alternatives spokesman Brian Zumhagen.”It’s harder to track down hit-and-run drivers, curb the culture of reckless driving and fix fatal streets designed decades ago when pedestrians were just an afterthought.”
Mayor de Blasio responded to the many tragedies last week with another defense of his Vision Zero initiative. “It is critical to keep deepening Vision Zero because it works. It’s never been more necessary than now.”
Sources: Fermino, Jennifer, Molly Crane-Newman and Thomas Crane, “Mayor de Blasio says despite 8 pedestrian deaths in 1 week, Vision Zero is working,” New York Daily News, 7 November 2015.
Honan, Katie, “Targeting Jaywalkers After Fatal Hit-Run is ‘Victim Blaming,’ Activists Say,” DNAinfo, 11 November 2015.
Sit, Ryan and Thomas Tracy, “Road deaths in Bronx, Queens bring toll to 8 in week,” New York Daily News, 6 November 2015.