Ban Cars Near Schools, Says Mom of Slain Biker Carling Mott

Janice and James Mott, whose daughter was killed by a truck driver in July, endorsed congressional candidate Suraj Patel (left) on Monday. Photo: Julianne Cuba
Janice and James Mott, whose daughter was killed by a truck driver in July, endorsed congressional candidate Suraj Patel (left) on Monday. Photo: Julianne Cuba

The mother of 28-year-old Carling Mott, who was killed last month by a truck driver while biking on the Upper East Side, says streets near schools should be closed to traffic — a simple, though still contentious, solution to make streets safer, and one that could have prevented her daughter’s death.

Mott was killed by the driver of a tractor trailer on E. 85th Street near Madison Avenue on July 26 as she was riding a Citi Bike to work. Six years earlier, the city shelved plans for a bike lane at that very location after pushback from nearby parochial schools and the area’s congressional representative, Carolyn Maloney, who feared that it would somehow pose a “security breach,” as Streetsblog reported.

But the victim’s mom, Janice Mott, called the city’s failure “ridiculous,” and said that children deserve to get to and from school safely, absent speeding cars and trucks.

“Even a truck being on a street where school is in session, to me, is ridiculous,” said Janice Mott as she endorsed Maloney’s congressional rival Suraj Patel at a press conference on Monday. “That street should be closed during school hours, or at least when kids are coming to school or leaving so kids can get on their bikes and go home, or they can walk.

“That was the most ridiculous statement I have ever heard in my life,” Mott added, referring to the “security breach” voicemail that Maloney (D-Upper East Side) left on a community board member’s phone to lobby against the city’s bike lane plan.

In that call, Maloney also said that a bike lane on the same street as St. Ignatius Loyola Parochial, St. Regis, and the Ramaz School would be “a security challenge” because of all the “community activities taking place.”

Jesse Coburn's investigation on school streets.
Click to read Jesse Coburn’s investigation on school streets.

The real security challenge is cars operating on streets with kids.

A Streetsblog analysis from May found that kids are most at risk of being injured or killed in traffic violence near schools, and when school is in session — during the 8 a.m. hour on school days, there are 57 percent more crashes and 25 percent more injuries per mile on streets near schools than on streets without them, and that danger only increases for kids of color.

And as Streetsblog reported in a follow-up to that investigation, New York City is light years behind other cities around the country and world, where officials have cordoned off so-called “school streets,” where cars are banned, to protect their youngest and most vulnerable residents.

London, for example, now has more than 500 school-streets, most of which were installed in just the past few years. That’s one for roughly every 18,000 residents. Paris has more than 160 school streets, or one for every 13,000 residents. Even Albania’s capital has more safe school streets per person than we do.

But here in the five boroughs, by mid-June, the city had just 41 school streets serving 38 schools, or one for every 207,000 residents.

The Department of Transportation recently announced plans to redesign some streets for safety outside schools, but nothing as bold as what’s being done across the globe by banning cars entirely.

Mott’s demands for safer streets near schools, and for dedicated crosstown bike paths, came amid her and her husband James’s endorsement of Patel in the 12th Congressional District race against Maloney and Rep. Jerry Nadler, who currently represents the west side. Transportation Alternatives and Streetopia UWS have also called for crosstown bike lanes on the Upper East and West sides.

“My daughter was a biker,” said Mott, standing just a block from where her daughter died. “She didn’t just pick up that bike for the first time and couldn’t control it. She knew what she was doing, a dedicated bike path — to get her from over there to over here — would have saved her life.”

And James Mott, a traffic engineer in New Jersey, believes a dedicated bike lane would have saved their only child’s life.

“We are both bikers, we’ve both done the Five-Boro Bike Tour and I’m a designer,” he said. “Certainly protected are going to be better than unprotected, but any bike lane is going to be better than what caused my daughter’s death.”

Patel had called Maloney’s call to the community board member an “abuse of power,” but Maloney later told Streetsblog that she was merely passing along the concerns of her constituents and had no actual sway in the city’s decision to nix the paired painted lanes on E. 84th and E. 85th streets.