Provo advocacy groups host memorial walk, vigil for traffic fatality victims
Families for Safe Streets and BikeWalk Provo held a memorial walk and vigil Sunday afternoon to mark the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims.
Participants began at the intersection of 500 North and 400 West in Provo, where 15-year-old Caleb Lane was killed in a pedestrian crash in 2018, and individuals drew chalk art in memory of him. Caleb’s father, Jason Lane, drew the time machine from the television series “Doctor Who,” telling the group his son loved the fictional show.
After the chalk art, attendees walked to Pioneer Park, where a few guests spoke about improving traffic safety for pedestrians and cyclists and ending car dependency.
“Far too many victims are tolerated in the U.S. as an unavoidable cost of mass mobility,” said Christine Frandsen, executive director of BikeWalk Provo. “But these tragedies are not unavoidable. We need to change our culture and our infrastructure and prevent the sudden loss of life. … Eliminating deaths on our roadways must be our goal.”
Around 70 people attended the vigil on Sunday afternoon. Speakers included Jason Lane; U.S. Rep. John Curtis; Matt Parr, father of Isabelle Parr, who was killed by a vehicle while jogging in December 2022; Provo City Councilman George Handley; End Car Dependency co-founder Spencer Tuff; and Britta Sedig, who was hit by a car while riding her bike in Provo.
Lane, who helped organize the event, spoke about his son and the tragic collision that took his life. He said his son was on his way to visit his friends when he was struck by a vehicle in a crosswalk near the Provo Recreation Center.
“Something needs to be done to ensure that everyone who uses our streets is dignified,” he said. “I hope that we can do that in the future.”
Curtis, who was the Provo mayor for eight years, said he quickly learned the importance of improving traffic safety while in the city post and is proud of improvements that have been made but acknowledged the “job is never done.”
“I just want you to know on my behalf, my role in the federal government, I’ll keep working for safer streets to protect all of our residents and all of our people, no matter how they do it,” he said.
Matt Parr said the vehicle that killed his daughter left the scene and police still have not identified the driver. He thanked Provo police for their investigative work.
“Stories like Isabelle and Caleb, they don’t need to happen,” Parr said while holding a framed picture of his daughter.
Sedig told her story of being hit by a car while riding her bike with her husband shortly after they moved to Provo for graduate school.
She said she and her husband were on their bikes at the intersection of 900 East and 700 North and went to cross the intersection, which was green for pedestrians. As she was crossing, a vehicle turned right on red and hit her while in the crosswalk.
Sedig said she suffered a traumatic brain injury that negatively affected her mental health and her academic work in a rigorous graduate program.
“And it’s just heartbreaking to me that pedestrians are, in a lot of ways, considered second-class citizens … not even considered, actually, when it comes to people going from point A to point B,” she said. “They’re not thinking about the people that are on the streets trying to survive.”
Handley said as a lifelong cyclist, he has witnessed firsthand how roads are often not designed with pedestrians in mind. He said the City Council has an opportunity and responsibility to design cities better and be more accommodating to active transportation.
He also encouraged community members to continue reaching out to elected leaders with their concerns.
“I’m heartbroken about these stories,” he said. “And I do pray for their comfort and their peace, and I pray that we as a community can be better and make needed improvements wherever and whenever possible to make this a safer city.”
Tuff addressed the need to change not only road infrastructure but also zoning to allow mix-used planning to bring businesses and services closer to residents and reduce the need to drive.
“Our roads are dangerous because we as a society have put precedence to the car over the people,” he said.
Tuff proposed three steps to reduce car dependency. First would be to allow mixed-used zoning and mixed-wealth housing; second to prioritize walkability; and third to add public transit.
“If we can destroy entire cities just to put in car infrastructure, we can tear out that car infrastructure and put back the beautiful things that once existed there,” he said.