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Another Pedestrian Killed on the UES

Steve Vaccaro, Chair of Transportation Alternatives East Side Committee and fellow UESider, files this post on last night’s tragedy:

(Disclaimer: The views expressed below are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of Upper Green Side)

For those of you who have not heard, a young woman named Laurence Renard was killed yesterday near the intersection of First Avenue and 90th Street, when a garbage truck struck her. According to one press report, the impact was so great that it literally “severed her body.” The driver of the truck had a suspended license and was arrested, although the charges are not known.  While every death is a loss, it seems from the media reports (and here) the death of Ms. Renard, 35-year-old fashion professional, was particularly tragic.

Ms. Renard is the second pedestrian killed on the Upper East Side in as many months.  On December 7, 21-year-old Jason King was killed on Madison Avenue near 81st Street by a dumpster delivery truck that backed up through a crosswalk King was using, and dragged him for 30 feet. The driver and his employer received a few summonses for equipment and other technical violations.  No summons was issued for the act of backing up through a crosswalk and killing King.

Given these events, I am deeply disturbed by the events of the Community Board 8 meeting I attended last week. Elected officials, Commanding Officer Whelan of the 19th Precinct, and a number of community board members all spoke pointedly about the “menace” of delivery cyclists who use electric bicyclists, and the tremendous
police resources devoted to summonsing them. Inspector Whelan even told a joke about the lawlessness of cyclists, suggesting that there may be only one cyclist in all of the Upper East Side who follows traffic rules.  These people–to whom we entrust our safety and who should be leading the fight for safe streets– seemingly are blind to the real danger.  I hope to be surprised, but I fully expect the Ms. Renard death to be shrugged off by these leaders as a fluke attributable to a “bad apple” driver.

In fact, Ms. Renard was killed right near the spot where DOT had slated installed of a protected bike path, along with concrete pedestrian refuges and other traffic calming measures. Those measures would have been in place today and might have saved her life, but for the fact that DOT cut the First Avenue bike path short due to the vague, inarticulate concerns of Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith about the DOT traffic-calming program.  You can read what is known about Goldsmith’s role in killing the project that could have saved Renard, here.

Our leaders in city government are failing us. It’s up to us.

We’re the ones who have fought tirelessly for traffic calming along the entire stretch of First and Second Avenues.  We’ve got to keep fighting.  We’re the ones who have helped draft the East Side Action plan for street safety, to be launched this Thursday.  We’ve got to make that Plan a reality.  We’re the ones who have been trying to make our leaders acknowledge the simple fact that motor vehicles are the single greatest cause of preventable death in our city and ruin the quality of our life in so many other ways.  We’ve got to make them see.

Please come to the East Side Committee Meeting this Tuesday (6:30 p.m., Vanderbilt YMCA on 47th bet. 2nd/3rd) to get involved in Transportation Alternative’s “Vision Zero” initiative to end traffic deaths and the many other projects our East Side committee will be working on to reclaim our streets from cars and trucks.