Uptown Council Member Rodriguez’s Hearing On Street And Vehicle Safety Opening Statement

Here’s a statement from Uptown Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez: This year we have seen at least 9 pedestrians killed, many of them were killed by large multi-ton vehicles.

Larger vehicles can pose a higher danger to pedestrians and cyclists when compared to average-sized cars driving at similar speeds. Many times trucks fail to have adequate technology and safety measures like side-guards which can save lives. For this reason, I convened this hearing today because I believe that the number of vehicular crashes occurring in the city must be treated as an emergency. And today I am calling on the City of New York to declare the deaths of pedestrians and cyclists we have seen in recent years as an emergency.

Over the past couple of months, there have been a series of crashes that have taken precious, human life. Towards the end of December 2019, we heard that six pedestrians who were struck and killed in a matter of three days. Then we started off this year with four pedestrians getting killed during the first week of 2020, including a 10-year-old boy who was on his way to school with his mom. In mid-January, we learned that three pedestrians had been killed in separate crashes within a span of 48 hours.

Something needs to be done to reduce the number of crashes and fatalities that are happening quite too often. That is why I say this is an emergency, and we should treat it as one. Due to all these vehicular crashes, I recently convened a roundtable at City Hall with various truck industry stakeholders and city agencies to discuss what else can be done to address this safety crisis. It became apparent to me that we aren’t doing enough and we must push all stakeholders to increase safety measures.

It is unacceptable that trucks operating in our city, and across our nation, do not have advanced safety features, like sensors, that can warn drivers if there is someone on the side or back of their vehicle. I am dismayed that the majority of the private sanitation trucks operating in our city still do not have the side guards that need to be installed on all their trucks by 2024. I have been advocating to make this sooner, we should be seeing side-guard installation by 2022. I hope that cost is not preventing them from installing this potentially life-saving feature.

Other countries mandate that vehicle manufacturers install side-guards before they go onto the streets. We must also be supporting the bipartisan federal legislation ‘Stop Underrides Act’ which would pressure vehicle manufacturers to install under-ride guards on trucks. We must also ensure that the pedestrian walking lights are not programmed to go at the same time vehicles can make turns. We need to ensure pedestrians are protected at all intersections.

Despite all our efforts through Vision Zero initiatives, pedestrians and cyclists are still very much in danger. We need to come up with concrete solutions to reduce the number of fatalities occurring on our city streets. It is my hope that during today’s hearing we will continue the dialogue that began during the roundtable session a couple of weeks ago and we can explore additional ideas to address these critical street safety issues, especially surrounding trucks and other heavy-duty vehicles.

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