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New York Post

 

When Crashes Kill Pedestrians

January 20, 2014

By Nicole Gelinas

Last year, 29 New Yorkers fell victim to a murderer they didn’t know, The Post reports. That same year, 174 pedestrians fell victim to death by a driver they didn’t know. No wonder middle-class moms are more worried about reckless drivers than about reckless shooters.

Three wrecks Saturday killed two people and sheared off another woman’s leg.

Especially awful are the deaths of children under the wheels of trucks and cars. Renee Thompson, 16, died in a crosswalk on the Upper East Side. Noshat Nahian, 8, died in a crosswalk on Northern Boulevard. Olvin Figueroa, 3, also died on Northern Boulevard.

Samuel Cohen Eckstein, 12, died on Prospect Park West. Three-year Allison Liao died crossing Main Street in Flushing; 5-year-old Kiko Shao died on Brooklyn’s Fifth Avenue. Kyrillos Gendy, also 5, died on a road in Staten Island.

And all that was in the second half of the year.

The tragedies continue this year. Two Fridays ago, 9-year-old Cooper Stock went out for a walk with his father and died, struck in a crosswalk by a taxi driver near his West End Avenue apartment. The same day, Alexander Shear, 73, died in another crosswalk two blocks away, hit by a private bus.

Cooper’s neighbors held a vigil on Wednesday. The turnout — about 300 people — and anger were important.

Twenty years ago, the Upper West Side’s frustration with violent crime helped get Rudy Giuliani elected. Now, nobody thinks about crime.

Julie Dermer, a mom who lives with her husband and two children in the same building as Cooper, says, "We knew Cooper since he was a baby," Like Cooper, her 10-year-old daughter "was born in the building. . . My kids are in middle school."

Yesterday’s urban babies are growing up — and "they want to walk around on their own." Dermer says she "definitely" worries about her kids being hit by cars, not muggers.

Like moms who once warned their kids of violent panhandlers, she says she wants them to "beware," even though "it’s definitely causing anxiety in both of my kids."

Mayor de Blasio has responded to this outcry. Last week, he directed Police Commissioner Bill Bratton as well as the Transportation, Health and Taxi commissioners to cut deaths.

"We aren’t going to wait and lose a son, a daughter, a parent or a grandparent in another senseless and painful tragedy," the mayor promised.

Half of de Blasio’s task is to continue doing what Mayor Michael Bloomberg did: redesigning streets to discourage speed and inattention.

Annual pedestrian deaths fell from 193 to 174 in the Bloomberg years. And though the figure spiked last year from even lower levels the year before, they were down in Manhattan (through November, the last month of data available).

Better road designs — including narrower avenues and new pedestrian islands to make room for bikes — have reduced violent crashes.

The intersection where Cooper died — 97th Street and West End Avenue — is a good example of the problem. Car and truck drivers can speed through Central Park, then straight through three more intersections before making a fast, wide turn onto West End Avenue to get to the West Side Highway.

"The timing of the lights means you can make it all the way through [on] green," Dermer says. Speed bumps would force slower, more careful turns.

Bloomberg wasn’t as good at the other part of pedestrian safety: getting the NYPD on board. De Blasio says he’s increasing the NYPD’s highway-enforcement personnel by half (to 270). And precinct offers were out in force after Cooper’s death, berating reckless drivers.

But cutting deaths through both methods — engineering and enforcement — will require fortitude.

Consider where these tragedies spiked last year: Pedestrian deaths in Queens skyrocketed 70 percent, from 27 to 46. They doubled in The Bronx, from 15 to 32.

The problem is fewer pedestrians — not enough to slow drivers down en masse, as Manhattan’s walkers do — and faster speeds on wider avenues.

Jia Zhou, a Forest Hills mom of two, says she had a hard time crossing Queens Boulevard at Cornish Avenue when she was pregnant. She worries now about crossing the busy thoroughfare with her 4- and 2-year-old kids— as does her mother-in-law.

Police, including precinct police, have to stop aggressive turners before they kill someone — and slap them with a ticket so that they remember not to do it again.

A sustained, aggressive push both on road design and speed enforcement will work — but will anger a vocal minority of drivers, too.

Let’s see if de Blasio can do what Bloomberg did, and put safety over being liked.

Original Source: http://nypost.com/2014/01/19/nycs-baby-killers-when-crashes-kill-pedestrians/

 

 
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