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A gutsy move to end the silence on traffic violence

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Members of Families for Safe Streets will do everything in their power to stop the epidemic of traffic crashes 

In my role at Walk SF, I’m lucky enough to work with members of San Francisco Bay Area Families for Safe Streets, a group of advocates who have been directly impacted by traffic violence, either having lost a loved one in a crash or survived a crash themselves.

If I know one thing about the members of San Francisco Bay Area Families for Safe Streets, it’s that they will do everything in their power to end the epidemic of traffic crashes happening in our communities and everywhere.

So when the New York Families for Safe Streets chapter reached out with an audacious but powerful way to start a national conversation about traffic violence, I was confident our group here in the Bay Area would support it however possible. 

Fast-forward to this past Sunday. I get on an airplane to Las Vegas with Stephen Bingham for the first-ever presidential candidate forum focused on infrastructure issues.

Stephen Bingham lives in San Rafael with his wife Francois. Their 22-year-old year old daughter Sylvia, only months out of college, was riding her bicycle to her new job when she was struck and killed by a hit-and-run truck driver. Bingham became a passionate advocate for pedestrian and cycling safety, and joined San Francisco Bay Area Families for Safe Streets to connect with others who are channeling their grief into action.

In Las Vegas, Stephen and I meet up with Jeri Lynch, a member of the Los Angeles Families for Safe Streets group.  Jeri’s 16-year-old son Conor was training with his high school cross country team when he was killed by a distracted, unlicensed driver. 

We sit down and Jeri and Stephen put their heads together. Their plan is bold. At a key moment, they will stand and raise an #EndTrafficViolence banner, as well as large photos of their children. Stephen suggests they state simply and loudly, “Our children were killed. You need to pay attention.” 

Jeri has been in front of a crowd many times since Conor’s death. She isn’t a shy person, but is a little unsure about their planned action. “My mom told me not to get arrested,” Jeri tells us. Stephen smiles and says it would be great if this happens. 

Moments before the event begins, we’re moved to the 5th row only a few feet from the stage and I’m convinced the organizers are onto us. 

The forum begins. We listen to the candidates have animated conversations about electric cars, smart wastewater systems, modernized rail, and infrastructure that can withstand fires, drought, and floods. 

So many topics are covered. But the devastation and loss of life happening every day on streets and roads throughout the country? It never comes up. 

I can see the frustration on Stephen and Jeri’s faces. And then they make their move. Stephen and Jeri quickly stand and raise the banner and their photos. After a few minutes they’re flanked by event police who quickly call off their quiet protest – but not before they turn heads and get the attention of local media.

When the event ends, our fearless advocates give it one more try, raising their banner and photos again as people file out of the auditorium. We all smile as police once again head our way. 

Nearly 40,000 people are killed and 3 million people are injured in traffic crashes every year in the United States. This should be a national conversation. Families for Safe Streets groups around the country will not stop sounding the alarm on this epidemic until there are meaningful, major changes to put an end to these preventable tragedies. 

Learn more about San Francisco Bay Area Families for Safe Streets and the End the Silence on Traffic Violence campaign. 

If you would like to join or learn more about San Francisco Bay Area Families for Safe Streets, contact Aly Geller. San Francisco Bay Area Families for Safe Streets receives support and guidance from Walk San Francisco. 

A crowd of people on Market Street holding signs supporting a car-free Market Street