We will be having a free forum on getting home safely, pedestrian and bicyclist deaths, and how we can make our streets safer for everyone. With experts and advocates invited as part of our free Emphasize talk series, our next event will be held in the Bixby Knolls neighborhood of Long Beach on April 25. For more information, click here.
Above: a driver crashes a vehicle into a group of bicyclists mourning the death of a 22-year-old cyclist, hit by a driver who fled the scene the day before. (Source: KTLA)
Editor’s note: this piece contains descriptions of bodily harm caused by vehicles crashing into humans as well as a video of a car crashing into a group of pedestrians and bicylists.
On April 10, a driver (in what police suspect to be a white Porsche) drove his car into 22-year-old Frederick “Woon” Frazier, killing the young Los Angeles resident near the intersection of Normandie and West Manchester.
The suspect chose to propel their vehicle at such a velocity that it not only completely separated Frazier’s bike into pieces, but his body as well, shortly before fleeing the scene.
Frazier [pictured right] was hit hard and fast from behind just blocks from his home.
His bike lies broken – the back end cleanly snapped off – some twenty-five feet back from where its rider came to rest. The handlebars are missing – likely torn off as the bike flipped and smashed into the ground at high speed. Ten or fifteen feet ahead and to the left of Frazier lie what appear to be the mangled remains of the back wheel intertwined with whatever was torn out from underneath the [vehicle].
The fact that the debris sits squarely in the adjacent lane suggests the driver probably watched the youth slam into the concrete and still decided the best course of action was to quickly switch lanes and maneuver around his body.
It’s an incredible thing to contemplate, especially considering the driver must have had some awareness of the severity of the damage done: the skin torn off Frazier’s forearms; the powerful limbs wildly flung askew; a helmet resting quietly in a pool of blood – no match for the force with which Frazier’s head hit the ground; a mouth frozen open, as if in a silent, tortured scream.
The loss of the young man to LA’s biking community can never be filled again—and that prompted his many friends and acquaintances to gather the following day at the intersection to protest the death, partially blocked off by police and surrounded by news crews.
The protest was not just to mourn their friend’s loss of life but to bring attention to South LA’s growing pedestrian and bicyclist deaths-by-drivers. The intersection at which Frazier was killed is notoriously car-centric: industrialized, lacking safe places for pedestrians to walk, wide for vehicular travle, it is built for “the privileging of speedy passage,” in the words of Sulaiman. Woon’s friends saw this, know this, and felt his death could have been prevented were our streets designed in a way that accommodates all forms of travel.
According to KTLA, who also filmed the final moments of the incident, the driver stepped out of the car and got into an altercation with the crowd of mourners. It was then the woman got back into the car and left the scene, only to return later, run a red light at deathly speeds, and crash into the group. She directly hit 24-year-old Quatrell Stallings, who is now mending his wounds.
This all occurred in front of the mourners, news crews, and a sergeant in a police car, who was apparently trying to direct traffic around the protest.
That officer, LAPD Sergeant Rafael Ramirez, stumbled upon the protest, trying to get them to disband. This caused an uproar amongst the protesters, with some even resorting to violence and slamming the police vehicle. The sergeant then circled the intersection, lights on and sirens wailing, trying to clear the roadway. It was when the SUV came to a stop that the Toyota raced through the red light, striking the crowd.
Given the amount of pedestrians, the sergeant had no way of safely pursuing the suspect.
As Los Angeles and Long Beach both seen upticks in pedestrian/bicyclist-related deaths and injuries —in one of the more recent local incidentsa 13-year-old girl and 12-year-old boy, both siblings, were struck while riding their bikes in East Long Beach—the need for Vision Zero policies are becoming an essential part of the advocacy discussion. The Vision Zero project is simple: to achieve a highway and arterial system with no fatalities or serious injuries in road traffic. It started in Sweden and was approved by their parliament in October 1997. Sweden has since cut their traffic fatalities dramatically even as the number of vehicle miles traveled has increased.
When looking at safety on the streets, not all travelers are created equal—and that’s precisely the focus of our discussion on pedestrian and bicyclist deaths as we continue our free talk series, Emphasize. This free, public forum on Wednesday, April 25, at The Kids Theatre Company in Bixby Knolls, will welcome safety expert and Vision Zero Policy & Communications Director Kathleen Ferrier.
“Each year in the U.S., more than 40,000 people are needlessly killed in traffic crashes,” Ferrier said. “Often referred to as ‘accidents,’ the reality is that we can prevent these tragedies by taking a proactive preventative approach that prioritizes traffic safety as a public health issue.”
Some ways that cities can create Vision Zero policies are by designing streets for all modes, increasing funding for bicycle and transit projects, focus law-enforcement at high-risk activities and high-danger corridors and, perhaps most importantly, finding ways to slow-down car traffic.
“Mobility is only as safe as the street’s most vulnerable user,” Ferrier said. “Streets aren’t safe until everyone on them is safe.”
Longbeachize has been no stranger to inviting Vision Zero U.S. experts to speak in Long Beach, having invited its current Executive Director and Founder Leah Shahum a few years back.
This time, however, it is more than just getting Long Beach to formally adopt Vision Zero policies. It will be an emotional and data-driven conversation that looks how society in culpable in these tragedies and the uneven attention we provide to other sources of tragedies.
For example, we will look into how the priority given to cars in our public spaces provides them power over people on their feet. We will look at media’s role in perpetuating that power, as well as policies which do the same.
Even more, we will be asking why we aren’t paying attention to what is essentially a crisis.
“An average of 115 people die every day in this country using opioids, and leaders have declared a crisis and epidemic,” Ferrier said. “Similarly, an average of 100 people die each day in traffic deaths, but there is no outrage, only complacency. The Vision Zero movement pushes back on this complacency and says we have a moral imperative to keep people safe on our roads and save lives.”
Following the success of our previous Emphasize events, we will continue hosting these face-to-face conversations that invite some of the nation’s leading experts on complex topics to talk to Long Beach one-on-one. Our talk on this issue will precede two more future talks on gentrification and urban design.
The discussion, as with all Emphasize events, are entirely free and open to the public. For more information, click here.
Editor’s note: this article originally excluded the name and details of Quatrell Stallings, both of which have been added.
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