A man was run over and killed by a car on the sidewalk just outside my office building recently. Not only was it a tragedy, but there was some small irony because he was a prominent local safe streets activist.
Here is what the Mayor of Philadelphia had to say:
My administration, through its Vision Zero initiative, remains committed to preventing all traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries by 2030, and the death of Peter Javsicas is a stark reminder of the importance of that mission.
Tacky. People are dying from violence on our poorly designed streets every day, and if anything is being done about it the pace of change is imperceptible to me.
Here is what the Philadelphia Police had to say:
A police captain on Tuesday afternoon said he didn’t expect charges to be filed because the crash was an accident. It was not immediately clear Wednesday, after the pedestrian’s death, whether charges were being considered.
Because people being killed on the streets of Philadelphia every day (and this was not even the street, it was the sidewalk) is not the kind of thing the police are paid by us taxpayers to take an interest in. Now, I want to say the Philadelphia Police have been there for me when I have experienced other types of crimes, and have always treated me courteously (yes, I am a white male just in case you were wondering), so I don’t necessarily blame individual officers. But there is a whole institutional and political culture that does not treat reckless driving and traffic violence as serious crimes, when they are killing people just like any other type of crime, and they are disproportionately deadly to children, the elderly, and people with disabilities.
Here is what the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia had to say:
The circumstances of the crash — a vehicle encroaching on the sidewalk, sacred space for people on foot — is easily preventable. A parking protected bike lane on the north side of JFK Boulevard would have eliminated the right lane, providing a space cushion of nearly 15 feet from the between the sidewalk and the travelway.
Instead of running into people on the sidewalk, the driver would have smashed into parked cars. Secondly, bollards on the sidewalk: this exposed street corner could have also absorbed the impact of the crash. Bollards were cited recently in saving many lives last month in Times Square.
Is this tacky, trying to score some advocacy points off the man’s death? Just from what I have read about him, I don’t think he would think so. And I wouldn’t think so either if it were me. And it could easily have been me. Or my wife and our baby daughter. Or my son’s entire kindergarten class out for a lunchtime walk.