Last week, I had the pleasure of joining advocates from across the United States (and even Canada) at the annual Vision Zero Cities Conference!
Transportation Alternatives in New York City played host to me (as a rep of SAFE) and hundreds of leading industry and policy experts, advocates, elected officials and members of the public who are committed to realizing a safer street environment. All gathered as one at Columbia University's Lerner Hall. It was amazing to see everyone there with the same mission of making safer streets. The theme was Safe Streets Save Lives!
It was a jam packed schedule!
Day One included keynote addresses from 3 different leaders in safety:
After which, the main group was split into smaller focus seminars, all focusing on different aspects of street safety awareness.
Day One was topped off by a press conference announcing the victory of NYC Senator Elect Andrew Gounardes. I proudly stood with several members of Families for Safe Streets chapters from across the United States. The Senator elect personally thanked members of FFSS for their effors and support in his campaign for safer streets, saying, "Without you, I'd just be a guy on a soapbox. But you brought this into the political mainstream. Thank you for your tireless work."
- Janette Sadik-Khan (Principal at Bloomberg Associates and former New York City Transportation Commissioner. Her accomplishments include: closing Broadway to cars in Times Square, building nearly 400 miles of bike lanes and creating more than 60 plazas citywide
- Vishaan Chakrabarti (Founder of Practice for Architecture and Urbanism (PAU) and Associate Professor of Practice at Columbia University. He is also the author of "A Country of Cities," which argues that a more urban United States would result in a more prosperous, sustainable, joyous and socially mobile nation
- And last, but not least, Lisa Bender (Founder of Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition, which is now known as "Our Streets"). Lisa discussed strategies put forth in the state of Minnesota for convincing political elects that achieving Vision Zero is a must in any city.
The previous Senator was not so supportive of efforts for safe streets as Gounardes seems to be. Some of the efforts of Families for Safe Streets that targeted the previous governor of NYC (Golden) and his ignorance of the need for safe streets include: delivering 400 cups of pudding to his office (as in proof is in the...), holding a 24 hour public vigil, getting school kids to offer him coffee in the morning (as in wake up and smell the...), and walking a marathon around his office.
Senator Andrew Gounardes also stated that making NYC streets safer is his central issue. "You're setting a standard [for candidates] all over the country," said Mary Beth Kelly of NYC Families for Safe Streets. "Urban life should be fine of fear."
"I am his voice now because he can't speak."
I (and other members of Southern California Families for Safe Streets) were honored to meet a well-known NYC Street Safety advocate, Lizi Rahman. In 2008, Lizi's son, Asif, was killed while cycling on what is known as NYC's "Boulevard of Death." Lizi fought for 7 years for a bike lane on Queens Boulevard, which the NYC Department of Transportation began to install on the 7 mile cooridor in 2015 (along with several other safety improvements). She spent the morning speaking with us on Asif's life and how what happened to him inspired her to be his voice in advocacy. I admire her strength and tenacity in the face of tragedy.
The whole experience of this trip was emotionally changing and allowed me to connect with so many other advocates and families affected by the violence on our streets and come away inspired and ready to continue my own fight in advocacy and change!
Every year, more than 1.2 million people lose their lives in traffic collisions across the globe -- including more than 37,000 in the United States. In Los Angeles, 587 people lost their lives to traffic collisions in the past 3 years, 64 of them in just the first 6 months of 2018. We can do better.
We will continue to organize and build capacity to effect change. Safe Streets Save Lives! Huge thank you to Transportation Alternatives for a great few days. See you next year!