Call

Blog

Law
02

Blog

Tragedy & Activism  

The Role of the Fierce Family Advocate

This year’s Vision Zero (VZ) conference held at Temple University was hosted by the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia for the third time.  Attendance and participation were strong, reflecting solid community support for better road safety in the city.  Many themes of the day bubbled up including how hard change is, how long advocacy takes, and how many lives are at stake in the meantime. This post, however, is not about the conference per se, but rather, the important role of family advocates in creating lasting change.   While there are many family advocates working on pedestrian and cycling safety, we will shine a light on two warrior families, Latanya Byrd and The Fredricks. Bike accident attorney Joe Piscitello of Bike Law PA is honored to work alongside both families in our shared commitment to safer roads. 

Latanya Byrd and Speed Cameras

Latanya Byrd, Co-founder of Families for Safe Streets Greater Philadelphia (FSSGP), helped to open the VZ conference by sharing her family’s tragedy which took place on July 16, 2013 on Roosevelt Boulevard.  Latanya’s niece and her three young children were killed by a speeding car while walking across the dangerous Philadelphia Boulevard. It was a preventable tragedy.  Each time she recounts the details of the horrific crash, she is visibly shaken, but her resolve to create lasting change is always unwavering.

Byrd-Lawson Traffic Tragedy

Since her family’s tragedy, she has made the case for road safety personal, by presenting her story at numerous conferences and before Pennsylvania state and Philadelphia city officials. Over the past seven years since the crash, she has made it her mission to make the Boulevard safer for pedestrians and cyclists.  Thanks to her, along with the Families for Safe Streets and the Bike Coalition, change is happening.  Automated speed cameras will be installed on the Boulevard by the summer of 2020.

Mike Carrol, the Office of Transportation, Infrastructure and Sustainability also spoke at the VZ Conference and shared expectations that the new speed cameras will impact driver’s behavior, ultimately reducing driving speed along the Boulevard.  He also pointed to the Mayor’s recent budget proposal which includes funding for more traffic safety officers.  Joe Piscitello of Bike Law PA notes that this win for road safety involved many stakeholders, but  “there is no doubt that Latanya’s persistent and personal advocacy helped tip the scale on this legislative victory.” He witnessed her fierce advocacy firsthand during a lobbying visit to the state capital in Harrisburg, PA in 2018.  

In a recent interview, Latanya was asked what keeps her going in this advocacy work: 

“I am driven to advocate for safer streets to prevent families from the pain my family has endured. We lost 4 people, 2 generations, our lives were shattered. I feel sick every time I hear about a crash. I know our loved ones did not die in vain. Change to prevent more deaths on our roads is inevitable.” 

Vision Zero Philadelphia

Bicycle Coalition: Bob Previdi and Sarah Clark Stuart (Bicycle Coalition), Dr. Ivan K. Cheung (National Transportation Safety Board), Latanya Byrd & Joe Piscitello (Bike Law PA) at the 2018 Vision Zero event.

Laura and Rich Fredricks and Bike Lane Delineators

Our second example of the important role of family advocates shines a light on the Fredricks family, their tragedy and their effective and persistent advocacy.

During the VZ conference, speakers addressed the issue of protected bike lanes in Philadelphia.  Currently, the city has only five miles of protected bike lanes including a corridor along Spruce and Pine Street. While the city planned to install bike lane delineators from east to west, somehow a small civic association managed to interrupt complete installation of the city project.  The Society Hill Civic Association (SCHA) quietly lobbied Philadelphia City Council reps to not install the bike lane delineators along Spruce and Pine Street in their neighborhood, from Front Street to 8th street.

Philadelphia Bike Lane

The SCHA actions were taken unilaterally without engaging public comment by their residents. The issue drew wide- spread criticism and was captured in this November 2019 article aptly titled “When did Society Hill become a city state onto itself?”  Key objections by a handful of residents in the SHCA include the appearance of the bike lane delineators and inconvenience.

Laura and Rich Fredricks, co-founders of Families for Safe Streets added their strong voice of support to complete the bike lane delineator project. Their daughter, Emily Fredricks was killed in November 2017 while riding her bike to work on Spruce street. Laura and Rich consider whether a bike lane delineator in that area could have prevented their daughter’s death.   In an interview with the Fredricks, Laura admonished that:

“The city has an obligation to protect all of its residents and no one person or civic association should have the ability to opt out of a proven safety measure. We need to use all measures available to prevent these traffic deaths. Our daughter, Emily, was killed at the corner of Spruce and 11th Streets on November 28, 2017.  We miss her every second of every day and we still cannot believe that she was taken from us.”

The Fredericks

Over several months, residents in Society Hill (over 60+) mobilized to push City Council and the SHCA to complete the installation of the bike lane delineators and to create community engagement for future initiatives.   Included among the resident activists was Joe Piscitello, as his Law offices are located in the Society Hill neighborhood.  In an open letter to SHCA, the supporters note that the “installation hold” has caused unnecessary dangers to residents. 

When the Fredricks got involved, they were uniquely suited to speak with City Council representatives who were familiar with their family’s loss and their commitment to create safer streets. In a recent communication, Laura shared this compelling and personal statement: 

“The repaving/bike lane switch project is a direct result of her death. Emily would have traveled along a section of the street that does not have the delineators installed.  We are requesting that these delineators be installed as soon as possible for the safety of all. Please do not allow the Civic Association to make the rules.”

As a result,  we do anticipate that the bike lanes delineators will ultimately be installed this spring.   Additionally, SHCA created a new process to secure resident input which we expect will be utilized for future initiatives impacting road safety.

While public policy change does indeed come slowly, and often spans several years, we have witnessed the important role of the fierce family advocate. Often the most compelling voices are our family advocates who have endured the ultimate tragedy of losing a loved one to traffic violence.

Piscitello Law is honored to work alongside these courageous and fierce family advocates. Thank you, Latanya Byrd, Rich and Laura Fredricks for your tireless advocacy to make our roads safer for pedestrians and cyclists.  Your work inspires us. We salute you and Families for Safe Streets Greater Philadelphia.

Bike Law PA

Marissa Perrone & Joe Piscitello (Bike Law PA) stand with Laura and Rich Fredricks Vision Zero conference (March 2020).

Emily Fredricks Foundation info here.

Comments

Ann Groninger Jan 04, 2024

Many of our cycling clients find themselves having to interact with the criminal justice system. Typically, it’s because the driver who hits them (or their family member) is charged with a crime or traffic offense. Occasionally bicyclists themselves are charged with traffic offenses! Every state’s criminal laws are different, but there is a lot of […]

Read More
Bike Crash Road Defect Georgia
Peter Wilborn Jun 14, 2023

We recently shared the story of a trial victory from the State of Texas where a bicyclist was injured due to a defect in a road maintained by the Texas Department of Transportation. Texas Road Defect   We now can tell the story of another huge win in a road defect case, this time from […]

Read More
Road defect dangerous to cyclists
Charlie Thomas Mar 14, 2023

Recently, attorneys with the Bike Law network took a case to a trial against a titan of a defendant: the Texas Department of Transportation. TxDOT was represented by the Attorney General’s Office, one of Texas’ largest legal teams. We had a great client, but it was a tough case to prove. So tough, in fact, […]

Read More
bike path charlotte
Ann Groninger Jan 13, 2023

  2023 got off to a rough start for Charlotte, North Carolina, particularly in the context of road safety. Within about a week, we lost a young woman who was riding her bicycle, a pedestrian killed in the same area of town, and four people were killed in a car wreck on I-85 in the […]

Read More
North Carolina Bike Crash
Ann Groninger Dec 06, 2022

Unless you’re a very recent follower of ours, you’ve heard us talk before about “contributory negligence.” To recap: “pure contributory negligence” is the law in North Carolina and only 3 other states (Alabama, Virginia, Maryland). In pure contributory negligence states, if a person is injured by someone else’s fault and the injured person contributes even […]

Read More
Is It Illegal to Ride Your Bike on the Sidewalk bikelaw
Peter Wilborn Aug 01, 2022

The laws dictating whether you can ride your bike on the sidewalk differ depending where you live. Different states have different laws on this matter, and local ordinances also vary. Let’s take a look at the legal framework behind various state laws related to cycling on sidewalks. The laws of sidewalk-riding can be very complicated […]

Read More
Ebike crash
Bruce Hagen Apr 26, 2022

DRIVER ON METH KILLS 17 YEAR OLD BICYCLIST, BARROW COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY REFUSES TO CHARGE DRIVER WITH FELONY.   On August 23, 2020, at approximately 8:40pm, 17-year old Obianuju Osuegbu was on her way home from her summer job working at a grocery store. She had earned enough money that summer to buy herself a […]

Read More
Stop as Yield
Brian Weiss Apr 25, 2022

Finally, “Stop As Yield” (the much sought after common sense traffic law for bicyclists) is coming to Colorado in 2022, likely July 1st.   Stop as Yield, aka the “Safety Stop” After the Governor Polis signs the law and the Safety Stop becomes effective, anyone who rides a bicycle or scooter on public roads will […]

Read More
Contributory Negligence
Ann Groninger Apr 25, 2022

It took losing at trial and a long appellate process, but it ended in a blow to contributory negligence in North Carolina. We just won an appeal on a bicycle crash case that happened in 2016 and came to us in 2018. The case went to trial during the spring of 2021. Our client was […]

Read More
Load More