BATH BEACH – Just one month after seven-year-old Sama Ali was killed crossing the street on her scooter, local politicians announced pedestrian safety improvements are coming to the intersection – those crossing will get between 3-7 seconds head start before cars.
Sama was killed on September 28 as she was crossing Bay 23rd Street and Bath Avenue on her scooter from west to east. A man driving a 2015 GardaWorld Armored Truck approached the intersection and struck her, killing her in the process. Sama was at least the 182nd person killed in traffic violence and the ninth child to die on NYC streets to date in 2020. Just a five minute walk away from where Sama was killed, three-year-old Elnur Shavkator was riding his scooter and was crossing the Bay 25th Street and Benson Avenue in 2019 when a driver in a van made a right and struck the little boy. He was killed just days before Ramadan. And just one block away from Sama’s fatal crash, 56-year-old Alfiya Djuraeva was killed by a vehicle making a left turn on Bath Avenue and 20th Avenue in 2016. Local officials and residents have urged the city to install traffic safety measures for years.
A Leading Pedestrian Interval (LPI) will be added at the Bath Avenue crossing at the intersection with Bay 23rd Street, where Sama was killed, the Department of Transportation (DOT) confirmed. LPIs are low-cost adjustments to signal timing that give pedestrians a headstart and can reduce collisions by up to 13%.
“This is clearly the right move, but it’s a shame that seven years into the Vision Zero era,” Joe Cutrufo, the communications director at Transportation Alternatives, said, “life-saving interventions aren’t being implemented until after fatal crashes take place.”
“While we thank DOT for taking action, it is beyond tragic that a potentially life-saving improvement came to the area too late for 7-year-old Sama Ali. We need a constantly proactive DOT that will do everything in their power to prevent traffic deaths like the absolutely tragic loss of Sama Ali,” State Senator Andrew Gounardes said.
“While this is a step in the right direction, we also need a full traffic study to ensure we are taking every step imaginable to prevent another traffic death from occurring in this neighborhood. Having lost two children in just the past two years to traffic violence is unthinkable. As we fight for street-level improvements, we also need to pass legislation to change the culture of reckless driving and ensure that there are real consequences for those who perpetuate traffic violence.”
Council Member Justin Brannan said that while the addition of the LPI is a welcome safety measure, it’s too late for Sama and her family.
“We have lost two children in the last two years to traffic violence in Bath Beach. While the community continues to mourn their loss, it is imperative that DOT enacts a total study of Bath Beach traffic and come up with safety solutions that spare more loss of life,” Brannan said. “The bottom line is that now is the time to be proactive. We’ve learned the hard way what happens when we are reactive. Finally, a plea to all drivers: Please slow down. A few seconds or minutes faster isn’t going to make a big difference to you, but it could save a life.”