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The Silver Lining in a Horrible Tragedy

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Seattle City Councilman Nick Licata is determined to make his city the model for pedestrian safety. This is according to a Feb. 24 article in the Seattle Times.

Licata’s stepson, now 18, was critically injured three years ago while trying to catch a bus to school. The teenager was in a coma for months and suffered brain injuries.

The article by Sanjay Bhatt states that Licata’s stepson, Josef Robinson, has filed a lawsuit alleging that negligence by the city and county led to his severe injuries. Filed in December, the suit doesn’t specify a dollar amount, but an earlier administrative claim against the city sought $20 million in damages.

As it turns out, it’s not just one councilman. In what can only be described as a strange coincidence, others on the council also have a personal concern about pedestrian safety: David Della’s chief of staff, Tatsuo Nakata, was fatally struck by a motorist in November. Peter Steinbrueck was hit by a car at age 11, lapsed into a coma and spent a year mending a broken body. Jean Godden was nearly run over as a child and escaped with bruises.

The council adopted a resolution this month calling for a complete review of city policies affecting pedestrians. A pedestrian master plan, if approved by the council, would influence the city’s future landscape — from road design to building permits — and guide a nine-year spending plan of some $8.5 million annually on improvements for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Before the accident, the article states, Robinson was a cross-country runner with a hectic social life, a poet and songwriter. Now, his vision and speech are impaired and he reads at fourth-grade level. Driven by her son’s tragedy, his mother has also become committed to the issue of pedestrian safety. She is executive director of a new advocacy group, Pedestrian InRoads, which aims to spread awareness about the gravity of pedestrian-auto collisions.

The Seattle City Council must be commended for trying to make their city safe for pedestrians. It’s an issue as serious in California, but it receives so little attention in the Golden State, especially in Southern California, which is completely driven by the car culture.

Most pedestrian accidents result in the death of the pedestrian. Injuries are often very serious – traumatic brain injury, paraplegia, spinal cord injury, quadriplegia, coma and fractured bones.

It is heart-warming to hear of instances where something as negative and tragic as this can give birth to something positive. This teenager’s life has been devastated, but his family is doing everything they can to make sure what happened to him doesn’t happen to someone else. It’s quite a daunting challenge, but it’s a good start.

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