Tragic Victims of Automobiles Memorialized in Street Art Advocating Safer Roads

Arts & Culture

New York pedestrians and cyclists killed by cars are remembered in moving stencilled art on Ride of Remembrance and Hope

Vashti Hallissey
  • 7 august 2014

We all know that millions of people die in car crashes every year but the numbers can never show what it feels like to lose a loved one because of careless driving. New street art memorializing pedestrians and cyclists killed by cars on the site where they died delivers a poignant message on the need to reform our roads.

Road accidents in New York are woefully common. One New Yorker suffers a traffic-related injury every ten seconds and one city-dweller is killed in a car accident every 30 hours.

Right of Way is a grassroots group that campaigns for safer streets in the city, advocating “the fundamental human right to move about in public space without being intimidated, injured, or worse”. The group campaigns for Vision Zero, a plan to eliminate traffic fatalities in New York by 2024.

The group was approached by Audrey AndersonandEvelyn Cancel, whose sons were killed 9 and 17 years ago respectively. They have both been working with the group ever since and they requested that Right of Way re-stencilled the sites where their children were killed with its famous body outline and Killed by Automobile artwork.

A release explains how this request evolved into a new memorial design:

Right of Way was imagining a new stencil to reflect the emerging era in which the public is coming to regard traffic injuries and deaths not as accidents but as preventable crimes, and in which city officials are embracingVision Zero, a plan to eliminate traffic fatalities by 2024. Forcing this new era into being are the very families that were suffering the tragedies, who this year organized asFamilies for Safe Streetsin order to turn their losses into redemptive change.

Artist Robyn Hasty created a stencil that re-interpreted the chalk body outline of victims into a new and striking design. He created an intricately detailed stencil that combines roses, angels’ wings and rays of light.


Right of Way approached members of Families for Safe Streets to see if they wanted to install the design at the site where their loved ones were killed. Twelve families agreed and this lead to a collective bike ride in tribute to the victims.

Of the three cyclists and nine pedestrians memorialized, the youngest was just three years old and the oldest was 22.

At 6am on August 3rd, Right of Way and Families for Safe Streets members gathered in the South Bronx for the Ride of Remembrance and Hope (RORAH). They cycled 60 miles across New York, spanning four boroughs and ending 12 hours later in Rock Faraway.


The group used Robyn Hasty’s design to create personalised installations using stencils and spray paint. Each features the name of victim, the date of their death and a message of remembrance from the victim’s family. The Right of Way logo is at the top of each image to inspire advocacy.

Family and friends gathered to honour the victims, scattering flower petals, reading poems and speaking of the need for reform to prevent further casualties of cars.


Keegan Stephan, an organizer with Right of Way, explains in the release:

This action was intended to honor the dead and the courage of their family members, who have pressed on despite unimaginable grief to advocate on behalf of all of us. And also as a call to action to our fellow New Yorkers to listen to these families and do everything we can to make sure no one else suffers what they have suffered.

This incredibly moving street art show the human tragedy behind traffic accident statistics. They are heart-breaking to look at but, like the title of the ride, they also offer hope. They carry Right of Way’s message that through citizen activism, roads can be made safe for everyone.


Images: Right of Way, Ride of Redemption and Hope, photos by Rabi Abonour/ Flickr

[h/t] Gothamist

+new york city
+street art

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