Death by Car: After Years of Decline, the Number of Traffic-Related Fatalities in New York Has Suddenly Spiked. Why?
Death by Car: After Years of Bloomberg-Era Declines, the Number of Traffic-Related Fatalities in New York Has Suddenly Spiked. Why? Inside the Imperfect Science of Traffic Safety. « Sigmund, Carl and Alfred
New York has become a much more efficient city. In the City that Never sleeps efficiency can make the quality of life much more tolerable. But there are always trade-offs. Has New York’s much heralded efficiency come at the cost of safety? New York relies heavily on the science of traffic management and traffic safety and yet traffic fatalities nare on the rise. How did that happen and why? In a city where pedestrians and vehicles can make equal claim to be the lifeblood of the organism that is the big city how does science prioritize the right of way? Have cyclists added to the problem? And New York is a city of traffic signs- some necessary and some would say others pointedly missing.
Can traffic engineers factor in the human element of big urban areas?
Jessica Dworkin was an old-fashioned Greenwich Village character. Living in the same rent-stabilized apartment on Thompson Street for decades, she had been an artist during the Soho loft era and a music promoter during the Studio 54 years. At age 58, she no longer worked, but she had taken on the role of unofficial mayor of her neighborhood. Dressed in hippie garb, she’d spend her days chatting with friends at the Local café on Sullivan Street and greeting strangers en route to swim laps at Dapolito Pool—on a foot-powered scooter. Those who didn’t know her well called her the Scooter Lady.
On August 27, the Monday before Labor Day, Dworkin began her morning by feeding the sparrows at Vesuvio Playground on Thompson Street. Less than an hour later, just before 9 a.m., she approached the intersection where Houston meets Sixth Avenue and Bedford Street. She was trying to cross Sixth from east to west when an eighteen-wheel flatbed truck made a right turn onto Sixth from Houston, entering the same intersection.
A witness heard Dworkin scream, then saw her being pulled under one of the truck’s rear tires. Dworkin’s scooter fell onto the asphalt, but the driver, unaware that he had hit anyone, kept going. Dworkin was dragged two blocks, to the corner of Sixth and Carmine Street, before the truck stopped. A slogan printed on the vehicle’s cab read: GREG SMITH 7 YEARS SAFE DRIVING. When Smith emerged and saw what had happened, he placed his hands on his head as if to say, “What did I do?” Dworkin was pronounced dead at the scene.
In the days that followed, family members, friends, and much of downtown, it seemed, mourned the loss of Dworkin’. The monthly Community Board 2 meeting, on September 11, felt more like a wake, with some 100 neighbors and friends gathering to remember Dworkin and press for details about her death. Had the driver run a light? Was he texting? Had he broken any laws? The police didn’t have much in the way of answers. “I think,” said Martin Baranksi, the community-affairs officer sent by the Sixth Precinct, “it was just a terrible accident.”