Families for Safe Streets Greater Philadelphia gathered in the cold at 11th and Spruce Streets Thursday morning, outlining a list of demands for the City of Philadelphia and law enforcement, alongside several bicyclists and safe streets advocates.
While there, FSSGP founding members Laura Fredricks, Anne Javsicas and Latanya Byrd spoke about the work their organization is currently doing, what they’ve already accomplished, and, most importantly, why they are working to end traffic violence in Philadelphia.
“Last year, more people were killed in traffic in Philadelphia than in 2017, and pedestrians and bicyclists made up nearly half of those people killed,” said Laura Fredricks, whose daughter, Emily, was killed while lawfully riding her bicycle on Spruce Street in 2017. “We need to reverse these trends, and the only way to do it is to speed up the implementation of Vision Zero in Philadelphia. Better safety precautions on commercial trucks in the city, better enforcement of vehicles parked in bike lanes, protected bike lanes and more education services—that’s where we need to begin.”
As it happens, the driver who killed Emily Fredricks was charged on Wednesday with vehicular homicide, among other crimes related to the crash in November 2017. It was for that reason, and others, that the group chose 11th and Spruce, where Emily was killed, for the announcement.
FSSGP will be pushing for more and better installation and maintenance of safe infrastructure in Philadelphia—the fates of thousands of people relies on it, added Fredricks.
“On those streets that have seen upgrades, the proper maintenance is an issue we hope to continue to address,” she continued. “Our organization is calling for resources to be directed specific to Vision Zero projects and maintenance.
We want to see the mayor’s office and City Council set aside money for Vision Zero funds and money for protected bike lanes. Bicycling is not a sport or a game for the people who ride on the streets of the city—it is often a means to a livelihood or the only way to connect with a community. That was why Emily rode a bike, and it’s why tens of thousands of Philadelphians continue riding a bike every day.”
Next, Anne Javsicas, of Mt. Airy, spoke. Javsicas’ husband, Peter, was killed while standing on the sidewalk at 16th and JFK Boulevard in 2016. Peter was a long-time transportation advocate and dedicated much of his time to ensure families could age in place in the city.
“Our organization has been meeting and discussing ways to make sure no one has to be in my position ever again,” Javsicas said in her remarks. “My husband was an advocate for better streets and better transportation and now, our children and I are taking on that role.”
Between 2017 and 2018, she noted, only 16 percent of drivers who killed a pedestrian, bicyclist or motorcyclist was charged in Philadelphia, despite, as in Peter’s case, there being overwhelming evidence that the driver was at fault.
The last speaker of the morning was Latanya Byrd. In 2013, Byrd’s niece and three of her niece’s four sons were killed by out of control drag racers on Roosevelt Boulevard. Over the past two years, Byrd has been traveling with the Bicycle Coalition and members of the Vision Zero Alliance to Harrisburg to advocate for speed cameras on the Boulevard.
“And my travels, along with many advocates present here this morning, was worth it. The law to put speed cameras along the Roosevelt Blvd. was passed,” she said. “It was passed to prevent more people from dying. I don’t want any family to have to go through what mine has.”
All speaker noted there’s lots of work left to be done. In Latanya’s case, our organization, and pedestrians and drivers all over the region, are still waiting for City Council to pass legislation enabling the automated enforcement on the Boulevard.
“We need a champion here in Philadelphia,” Byrd continued. “We did our part. We advocated for the legalization of life saving speed cameras on Roosevelt Boulevard. We are now calling upon City Council to pass this life-saving legislation and make speed cameras the law in Philadelphia.”
For more information about Families for Safe Streets Greater Philadelphia, check out FamiliesSafeStreetsPHL.org.