Does Vehicular Chaos Push Families Out of NYC?

Streetsblog contributor Charles Komanoff had an excellent letter in the New York Times on Sunday in response to the article about Sara Robbins, the Brooklyn Heights woman tragically, horrifyingly killed by a private sanitation truck last month:

To the Editor:

Your reporting in "A Death in the Family" (Dec. 24) makes clear that the traffic maneuver that killed Sara Robbins, the director of Brooklyn Law School’s library, in Brooklyn Heights last month was a left turn by a private sanitation truck.

So it’s mystifying, and maddening, that for all the article’s fussing over the "intricate mechanics of the collision," it neglected to say that Ms. Robbins, who was proceeding straight and on foot, had the right of way over a turning truck.

Eight years ago, our study of New York City pedestrian fatalities, "Killed by Automobile" (PDF file), established that the most lethal crash scenario is drivers turning into pedestrians in crosswalks, and that the most lethal vehicles, per mile driven, are private sanitation trucks.

Ms. Robbins’s awful death, combined with that of Jessica Schmitz, who was killed two days later when a private sanitation truck turned into her path as she was lawfully crossing Park Avenue in Manhattan, suggests that nothing has changed.

Charles Komanoff
The writer is coordinator of Right of Way, a pedestrian advocacy group.

The letter resonated with Kelley Pillow, a West Village woman who strolls around the neighborhood with a 9-month old baby. Here is the e-mail she sent to Komanoff after reading his letter, re-published with permission:

Dear Mr. Komanoff:

Thank you for responding to the NY Times re: garbage trucks and their rampant driving that is killing pedestrians. I did not know there existed an advocacy group for pedestrians in NYC and am happy that someone is paying attention!

I live in the West Village and am the new mom of a 9-month old baby boy. Prior to parenthood, I viewed the task of getting from Point A to Point B in the city as a kind of life-or-death adventure challenge, but now that I am strolling Sam I have increased stress and anxiety about running the simplest of errands.

DAILY I witness cabs, buses and delivery trucks (not to mention the other private cars) blatantly running the red lights – bursting between hoards of pedestrians who have the legal walk sign. And just last week, at 23rd Street and 7th Avenue, I was grazed by a private medical van that was turning – while the walk light was so very clearly in my favor! He hit my side, missing the stroller. Can you imagine what might have happened if he hit the stroller? The other pedestrians who witnessed the hit all breathed a great sigh of relief. I had tears in my eyes.

No wonder families move out of the city. I was not aware of the statistic on the garbage trucks, who do in fact appear aggressive. But the biggest violator and "out to kill" pedestrian vehicles I see regularly are the city buses. They run red lights at high speeds to cross intersections and screech to a violent halt on the other side where pedestrians jump away to avoid their wrath! Funny, we’re funding public transportation and garbage trucks that put our lives in harm’s way.

Anyway, just wanted to say thank you for fighting for us. I don’t feel we should have to move out of the city to raise Sam.


Kelley Pillow