Transit activists, elected officials, and the devastated family of a 10-year-old boy who was slain by a driver in Midwood earlier this week rallied on Thursday to demand bold reforms to protect pedestrians and bicyclists from getting killed on the road.
“We lost our baby, and he’s not coming back,” said the boy’s teary-eyed mother, Mary Majao. “Let’s make Brooklyn a safer place for all.”
Advocates from Transportation Alternatives and Families for Safe Street gathered at Ocean Avenue and Avenue L, where a motorist behind the wheel of a Lexus SUV suffered what police described as a “medical episode” and struck Enzo Farachio as he waited at a nearby bus stop on Sept. 10.
Farachio’s death follows a sharp rise in traffic fatalities across New York City, and in Brooklyn, where traffic deaths have increased 72 percent this year as compared to the same period in 2018, according to Police Department statistics.
City Council Speaker Corey Johnson — who introduced legislation that would require the installation of 250 miles of protected bike lanes and 150 miles of dedicated bus lanes within five years — joined the rally to promote his bill, which he said is designed to take back the city from motorists.
“Prayers and condolences — which we do give — needs to be backed up by action. That is why we are going to move this bill forward,” said Johnson. “We are going to set real benchmarks to pedestrianize areas across New York City. To put in place safer places for pedestrians and cyclists and mass transit users.”
Failure to adopt the Council speaker’s plan — which is slightly more aggressive than the Green Wave bike lane expansion being pursued by Mayor de Blasio, who Johnson hopes to replace come 2021 — would lead to more senseless deaths like Farachio’s, according to a Transportation Alternatives spokesman.
“We will never see an end to traffic violence if we don’t make safe street designs the standard across all five boroughs,” said Joseph Cutrufo. “To do anything less would be an insult to the families of the thousands of New Yorkers killed by unsafe streets and deadly drivers, and put countless more residents at risk.”
One local activists, whose daughter was fatally struck by a car in Gravesend six years ago, claimed that new protected bike lanes would safeguard both cyclists and pedestrians from out-of-control motorists, saying the cycling paths provide an additional buffer between traffic and the sidewalk.
“Protected bike lanes would provide an extra cushion as opposed to the bike lanes that are just painted on the street. It would provide an added level of protection when you’re on the sidewalk,” said Jane Martin-Lavaud. “Of course you should be careful crossing the street, but when you’re standing on the sidewalk, you should not be fearful. You should not be in danger.”
The teary-eyed activists concluded Thursday night’s demonstration with a grim procession to the site of two other fatal crashes — one that left 52-year-old cyclist Jose Alzorriz dead on Coney Island Avenue and Avenue L last month, and another that killed 16-year-old cyclist Yisroel Schwartz at a Borough Park intersection in May.
Hours after the street safety demonstration ended, a motorist behind the wheel of an SUV slammed into a city bus two blocks from where Farachio was killed, injuring eight people.