Dear Newsday, October 11, 2015
I was heartbroken by your article about the Smithtown doctor, Dr. Kenneth Rich, who was killed by a vehicle on Friday evening (http://www.newsday.com/long-island/suffolk/kenneth-rich-killed-by-dodge-charger-driven-by-timothy-burke-suffolk-police-say-1.10944247). I applaud that you took the time to write about and personalize the victim of this horrible event. I am, however, bothered that this doesn’t happen more often.
Since September 14th I’ve been keeping my own log of traffic crashes with pedestrians and cyclists in Long Island that result in critical injury or worse. You might be surprised to hear that in just the 27 days since I’ve been keeping this list, there have been a total of ten fatalities and five critical injuries! You can see the full list here http://www.car-lessli.org/crash-list/ .
As far as I can tell from the usually very short news blurbs I find about these crashes, only two were caused by a drunk driver: this one and a fatality in Carle Place on October 1st. The others were simply crashes that were barely reported; just unfortunate victims of a traffic infrastructure that is outrageously dangerous for those of us who attempt to commute without a car, many of whom do not have the means to commute in any other way. In all of the other fourteen crashes, the only information I could find on the victim was his or her age, name and hometown, if even that.
My list starts on September 14th when a 48-year-old Hempstead woman, Elzire Presume, was killed crossing Sunrise Hwy. Who was Ms. Presume? Did she leave a family? Why was she a pedestrian in Massapequa on that tragic day? Was she just out taking a stroll, or returning from work or maybe from shopping?
Choosing randomly, I see the fourth victim on the list is 24-year-old Farmingdale University student Eyyad Almargi, of Yonkers, who was killed the evening of September 17th, in Farmingdale. Ironically, this is the very day of the Car Free Long Island Day rally at Farmingdale University. Who was Mr. Elmargi? What was his major; what were his ambitions? How are his parents and friends coping with his untimely death just as he was beginning to blossom into an adult? Why was he risking his life as a pedestrian on that day?
I could ask the same question of every single victim on that list other than Dr. Rich, but doing so would make this letter too long to publish. I am afraid that it already is.
Long Island is deadly for cyclists and pedestrians and we need to do something about it. We need a significant investment in infrastructure such as bike and pedestrian lanes or paths, preferably away from traffic. We also need an emphatic public awareness campaign about vehicular responsibilities towards cyclists and pedestrians. I, myself, have almost been hit by a vehicle on several occasions, two of which stopped in horror when they realized that they almost hit me. The fact that there might be a pedestrian in the crosswalk they were turning into or racing through at a stop sign just never occurred to them. The existence of pedestrians and cyclists needs to be on the minds of every driver in Long Island. We should never have another month with ten fatalities and five critical injuries on Long Island, and we need to recognize and memorialize all of the victims of these crashes.
Founder, Car-less Long Island