Bike/Ped Advocates Want Zero Tolerance on Street Safety

Mary Beth Kelly's husband was killed by a tow truck while bike riding.

Mary Beth Kelly and her husband were riding their bikes along the Hudson River greenway bike in 2006 when an NYPD tow truck turned into their path, striking her husband, Dr. Carl Henry Nacht, who died three days later of his injuries.

Five years later, Kelly remains appalled at how little progress New York City has made at preventing tragedies like hers. At a press conference at the corner of Essex and Delancey streets yesterday, Kelly joined leaders from Transportation Alternatives and The Drum Major Institute for Public Policy to demand the city’s government step up its efforts to prevent the deaths of cyclists and pedestrians, one of which occurs, on average, every 35 hours.

“We’re not spending enough to prevent the loss of life and the loss of lucre on our city’s streets,” Kelly said, citing more proactive efforts by cities such as Berlin and Stockholm.

Statistics in a new report authored by the two groups show that traffic incidents cost the city and its residents more than $4 billion in 2009, yet the city dedicated less than one percent of that amout to its street safety programs that year.

The report, “Vision Zero: How Safer Streets in New York City Can Save More Than 100 Lives a Year,” praises improvements made in recent years such as pedestrian refuges and new bike lanes. It outlines specific recommendations such as orchestrating better cooperation among differing government agencies and bodies and more rigorous enforcement of speed laws.

TransAlt Executive Director Paul Steely White blamed a “culture of acceptance” about traffic dangers that must be dismantled for real progress to be made. While Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s goal to reduce traffic fatalities by half by 2030 is admirable, it’s not aggressive enough, White said.

“We must get to a place where it is not acceptable for a few fewer people to die,” White said, as vehicles honked their way through the intersection his group has labeled the city’s most dangerous. The latest accident there took the life of 51-year-old Patricia Cuevas, who was hit by a garbage truck May 10. Pedestrian Hector Vera was killed crossing Delancey in April 2010, just three months after a cyclist was killed by a school bus at nearly the same spot.

A "ghost bike" commemorates the death of cyclist Fuen Bai on Delancey at Essex in January 2010.