For Laura Fredericks, not a second goes by without her thinking about her late daughter, Emily, 24, who was struck and killed by a commercial garbage truck while biking to work in 2017.
On Sunday, Fredericks, the group she co-founded, Families for Safer Streets of Greater Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Bicycle Coalition, and more than 60 people gathered at Salvatore Pacella Field in Roxboro for a two-hour commemorative bike ride to the Lil’ Philly Fishing Safety Village. A park in honor of the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims.
“When Emily was killed, there were 94 dead, including two cyclists,” Fredericks said of road deaths in Philadelphia that year. “This year (…) we have up to 115 deaths including 10 cyclists. We are going in the wrong direction!”
This year’s data, provided by the Philadelphia Bicycle Coalition, includes former Julia R. Masterman School teacher and coach Dean Kevin St. Clair — who became the 10th cyclist killed this year, on Nov. 6, after being hit by a car while riding his bike from his son’s home in Roxboro to His home is on Chestnut Hill, turning from Wise’s Mill Road to Henry Street. That collision pushed 65-year-old St. Clair into the northbound lane, where he was struck by another vehicle.
Kelly Yemen, director of the city’s Complete Streets program, said traffic deaths are “unacceptable and preventable.” It is the focus of Vision Zero, an initiative launched by the Kenney administration to reduce traffic deaths to zero by 2030.
“We are installing road grids, separated bike lanes, speed cushions, and slow zones in neighborhoods,” Yemen said on Sunday. “These interventions are successful; “Overall, Complete Streets projects have reduced fatal and serious injuries by 34%,” she added, urging a citywide recommitment to Vision Zero before the transfer of municipal authority in 2024.
But while the group named every Philadelphian who died in “traffic violence” in 2023, it also used Sunday’s ceremony to push for bigger changes, urging Pennsylvania to pass pending statewide protective legislation, including:
House Bill 1283, which would provide more protection for bike lanes.
House Bill 1284, which would make automatic speed enforcement available statewide — a measure that organizers said reduced traffic crashes on Roosevelt Boulevard by 36% between 2020 and 2021.
Senate Bill 730, which would create an alert system to make it easier to catch hit-and-run drivers and reduce speeding through residential neighborhoods.
“It’s a shame that we’re still fighting about this,” said Mary Sanchez Smith, whose 23-year-old son, Jorge Andre Muñoz Sanchez, died in 2018 after being hit by a car on his way to work.
“A lot of people depend on their bike to get to work, and their livelihood depends on (riding their bike) to be safer,” Sanchez said. “This is not a problem that affects a few people, it can happen to anyone – we never thought in our wildest dreams that this could happen to our family.”