Advocates rally in Manhattan for national push to make America’s streets safer

Senator Charles Schumer joines Families for Safe Streets who rallied seeking to put traffic safety on the front burner of presidential platforms and on the priority for congress this year. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

Street safety advocates rallied in Lower Manhattan Sunday to call on the litany of presidential candidates to adopt their cause of seeking greater protection for bicyclists and pedestrians.

Nearly 100 advocates from Families for Safe Streets gathered at Bowling Green urging elected officials and candidates for the White House to support safer transportation and better protected pedestrians and bicycle riders.

A slew of local lawmakers — led by U.S. Senator Charles Schumer and Congressman Jerry Nadler — joined the Nov. 17 event to champion that push.

The rally organizers brought out 100 white bodybags, representing the number of people killed each day in vehicular crashes in the country; they also read off the names of those killed in New York City traffic collisions this year.

Activists also held up photos of loved ones or family members killed in crashes, both pedestrians and bicyclists – 26 bicyclists already this year, making it the deadliest for bicyclists ever.

Amy Cohen, a founder of Families for Safe Streets, lost her son to a vehicle. She held up a picture of her son as she spoke about the lack of a national imperative to create safer transportation.

Families for Safe Streets is seeking to put traffic safety on the front burner of presidential platforms and on the priority for congress this year. Here, they speak with simulated body bags at their feet representing the 100 traffic fatalities per day in this country. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

Schumer, a long-time bicycle rider near his home in Brooklyn, said it is imperative to make streets safer on a national level. He outlined positions he has taken in favor of safer streets including grants for municipalities who create infrastructure for safer streets; mandating rear back up camera technologies in all vehicles made after 2018; stricter enforcement of speed limits; and requiring governors that restrict speed on large trucks to 65 miles per hour.

Were he to become the Senate majority leader if the Democrats win the chamber back in 2020, Schumer pledged to allocate a trillion dollars to infrastructure that would make travel safer and work towards “reducing fatalities to zero.” Ultimately, he said he would call for the Democratic presidential platform to include highway and street safety initiatives.

“If you are not in a big car or truck, walking or riding a bike is dangerous and unnerving,” Schumer said. “People are so reckless, uncaring, not aware of danger created. This year, 26 cyclists killed and that is unacceptable. So I salute Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero – but it didn’t happen on its own, but because of all of you. This will be a national fight, and I join with you.”

Nadler affirmed his support for Schumer’s measure.

“If we lose 100 people a day, that’s 36,000 people a year – we lost 58,000 soldiers in Vietnam over eight years – we do that in a year and a half in traffic deaths,” Nadler remarked. “We must make this country safer for people, not automobiles.”

Amy Cohen  founder of Families for Safe Streets, is seeking to put traffic safety on the front burner of presidential platforms and on the priority for the House of Representatives this year. A photo of her son Sammy Cohen Eckstein is held by Stephanie Mansfield. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

Joe Cutrufo, a spokesman for Transportation Alternatives, said he is encouraged to hear support from elected officials, especially on infrastructure — his group’s priority in New York City. He pointed out that many streets are “clogged with drivers, cars and trucks,” but we can “use more space for people walking and riding bikes.”

Mila Harris holds her button for safe street. Families for Safe Streets is seeking to put traffic safety on the front burner of presidential platforms and on the priority for congress this year. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

Todd Maisel