Solidarity is trending right now in this tough, weird new world order and we’re already seeing all sorts of people come together to fight back in the coming months and (gulp) years of the next administration. Here’s one issue we didn’t expect to see come out of last week’s election: the intersection (pun not intended I SWEAR) of racial justice and traffic safety. Yesterday, Transportation Alternatives, the pro-cycling and pedestrian advocacy group that fights against the ugly tyranny of cars on our streets, issued a statement aligning itself in support with Black Lives Matter.
“Transportation Alternatives stands in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement,” the group’s statement said. “Because we fight to protect New Yorkers in every community, our fight for Vision Zero must also be a fight against institutional, individual and implicit racism.”
The data on traffic crashes back this up: People of color are disproportionately harmed by traffic violence. Research has shown that drivers are less likely to yield to pedestrians of color. For the group, this means identifying that racism has long played a part in the transportation planning of the city, and fighting to correct those inequities. But some of its members are upset at the stance, and are stating they’ll cancel their memberships over affiliation with a “violent hate group.”
In making the decision, the board of TransAtl — which includes members such as Brooklyn Brewery founder Steve Hindy, Curtis Archer of the Harlem Community Development Corporation and “No Impact Man” Colin Beavan — identified some historical planning and policies that have been used as tools of oppression and segregation in the city, from the construction of the Cross Bronx Expressway to broken-windows police crackdowns on fare-beating and sidewalk bicycling in black communities. Plus, black people are more likely to be stopped, ticketed or searched compared to white drivers. Nationwide, that leads to things like traffic stop shootings — the very instances that inspired the Black Lives Matter movement in the first place.
“We will fight to correct these historic inequities as we advocate for streets that serve all New Yorkers,” the group said in its statement “Our campaigns will proceed with full acknowledgement of this history and preparedness to overcome it.”
But of course, some people are not happy about this, because we live in an age where saying something as simple as “black lives matter” is met with furor and controversy. Here’s a sample of TransAlt’s Facebook page:
The trope of calling Black Lives Matter a terrorist group is language ripped right out of right-wing media, which have been eager to find ways to legitimize this decentralized movement, because the simple request of “please stop killing us in the street” is too much for some white people to handle, I guess.
Several other people commented to say they cancelled their membership or were disappointed with the group; many others commented in support of the stance.
“Black Lives Matter – absolutely and unequivocably [sic],” one supporter wrote. “I applaud your addressing these issues and welcome changes that reflect inclusion and compassion and solidarity with ALL New Yorkers.”
Transportation Alternatives’ Principles for Racial Justice in Traffic Justice
We Fight for Unbiased Automated Enforcement: To address the epidemic of traffic violence that disproportionately kills Black people, we will work to expand the use of automated speed safety cameras, red light cameras and failure-to-yield cameras. These cameras only capture a vehicle’s license plate and do not risk ticketing based on race or other discriminating factors. We pledge to help ensure that these cameras do not unfairly target communities of color.
We Oppose Discriminatory Enforcement: We renew our call for the NYPD to focus traffic enforcement resources on the streets that are most hazardous to pedestrians and cyclists, and on the offenses that kill and injure most New Yorkers, and we encourage disavowing historic practices that have targeted and harmed communities of color. We are concerned about melding quality-of-life policing and traffic enforcement, and we ask the NYPD to detach Vision Zero from other types of enforcement. Transportation Alternatives is proud to endorse the Right to Know Act to protect all New Yorkers against unconstitutional searches.
We Fight for Transportation Justice and Equity: Black communities face historic disadvantages from decades of transportation disinvestment. We will fight for investments great enough to correct this systemic inequity. We will take a hard look at what that investment looks like, listening to Black communities about how transportation can benefit a neighborhood’s current residents. Nationally, this conversation began at the Untokening Conference in November, where we joined with leaders across the country to discuss transportation policy and displacement prevention strategies.
We Respect Local Knowledge and Leadership: We will work to increase representation of communities of color on our Board and our Advisory Council, as well as on New York City’s community boards. We will continue to engage with local stakeholders to develop streets that directly benefit current neighborhood residents through the existing Participatory Budgeting process and, as members of the NYC Participatory Budgeting Steering Committee, by fighting for the program’s expansion across the City. In our borough activist committees, we pledge to work with our activist leaders of color to facilitate conversations about addressing the systemic racism in transportation planning and in enforcement, and we will examine implicit bias within our own organizing model.
We Fight for Restorative Justice: We will work to expand the country’s first restorative justice program for people convicted of dangerous driving offenses, in Red Hook, Brooklyn; and we will only fight for enforcement measures that deter dangerous driving and seek to repair the harm done. We seek to promote traffic safety and justice in a way that can serve as a model of a constructive criminal justice system, avoiding the problems and inequities that have devastated generations of Black families and communities.
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