Renewed Calls for Ped Safety Summit as Death Toll Mounts

After a weekend that saw three pedestrian fatalities and just as many serious injuries -- with no known criminal charges filed against any of the motorists involved as of this writing -- a Manhattan-based advocacy group has renewed calls for action on pedestrian safety.

Spurred by the death of third-grader Prince Harris, Jr. (pictured), the fourth pedestrian to die this year along a notorious stretch of Ninth Avenue, the Clinton/Hell's Kitchen Pedestrian Safety Coalition (CHEKPEDS) is again urging the city to convene an interagency panel "to address this critical health issue."

amd_prince_harris.jpgOn Friday, 8-year-old Harris was on his way to a park with his father and siblings when he reportedly "darted on W. 17th St." and was hit by a Toyota Scion, driven by an unidentified 44-year-old man. Harris's father said the Toyota and a taxi "were speeding down the block to make the light." The driver stayed at the scene and was not issued a ticket.

Today CHEKPEDS issued an e-mail bulletin offering condolences to the Harris family, and imploring the city to turn its attention to the pedestrian casualty epidemic.

The "new DOT" is moving fast and all problems cannot be tackled in one day. Priorities must be set, and in our book none is more important than pedestrian safety. 11,000 injuries and 163 deaths annually would qualify as a national disaster if they were all happening in one day. But they keep happening year after year.

In March, CHEKPEDS worked with Community Board 4 to draft a letter (PDF) to City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer asking them to organize a citywide task force "bringing the various players to the table to address street and signal engineering, agencies jurisdiction, enforcement and traffic safety laws, reporting traffic problems and police procedures in accidents." But it hasn't happened.

Also over the weekend, a speeding taxicab jumped a curb and struck three members of the same family, killing 60-year-old TV helicopter pilot Paul Smith; no criminal charges have thus far been reported. On Staten Island, a 4-year-old is "fighting for her life" after being hit by a car yesterday while trying to cross the street with a group of other children; the unidentified driver was not ticketed. And yesterday morning in Coney Island, the driver of a charter bus making a U-turn hit an 60-year-old woman, knocking her down and running over her abdomen; the driver was not charged.

This weekend's carnage comes after last week's angry memorials to Hope Miller and Julia Thomson, who were run down five days apart at the end of September.

Photo of Prince Harris via New York Daily News