Fairfield honors pedestrians and cyclists killed by cars: ‘She’s missed every day.’

FAIRFIELD — For Charles Proctor, of Fairfield, the death of his adult son is not only devastating but dumbfounding.

His son, Charlie, was struck by a motor vehicle while biking in Massachusetts last year

“People don’t respect that an automobile is a lethal weapon improperly operated,” Proctor said.

Proctor and his wife, Judy, were in attendance Sunday afternoon at Sherman Green to share their son’s story as part of World Day of Remembrance — an international series of local gatherings aimed at bringing awareness to bicycle and pedestrian safety. This is the first time Fairfield has participated.

“More and more drivers feel they have the right to maintain their speed,” he said, noting that some consider it an impingement on their freedom to have to slow down to accommodate a biker or pedestrian on the side of the road.

“Heaven forbid we should have any of our freedoms obstructed,” he said.

Judy Proctor said that the Fairfield Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee, which organized this event, is working toward creating a better roadway for everyone.

“Those are things we want to avoid here in Fairfield,” she said.

Fairfield resident Denise Fernandez was also in attendance and shared about the tragic death of her soon-to-be sister-in-law, Marileidy Morel-Araujo, who was struck by a hit-and-run driver while walking her dog on Redding Road last July.

Along with honoring victims of such tragedies, Sarah Roy, chair of the committee, said the goal is to also change the thinking about traffic and roadways going forward.

She said accommodations for cyclists or pedestrians are inadequate, largely because roads are based on out-of-date designs — especially in the Northeast where roads are very narrow.

“It was created 60 years ago for a world that no longer exists,” Roy said of the roadway system.

But even as so-called improvements are made to roads, the priority is always to augment faster speeds for cars, not necessarily shared usage, she said.

“I’m tired of the old way and I hope you’re tired of it too,” she said.

Her group continues to work closely with the town and police department in particular to create more bike routes and address intersections throughout town that are especially hazardous to pedestrians.

“To me, the education is a large piece,” said Karen Secrist, a Fairfield resident and member of the committee since its inception several years ago.

She spoke of the concept of “calming” traffic, and bringing about a shared roadway more in line with other municipalities around the country.

“Bridgeport has an amazing bike-lane system,” she said, “so it can be done. It’s just challenging.”

Unfortunately, Roy said, people simply accept traffic violence as “a small price to pay” in meeting their transportation needs.

“Until it happens to us,” she said, “and then we can finally see it for the injustice and tragedy that it is.”

First Selectwoman Brenda Kupchick, who was in attendance — along with Police Chief Robert Kalamaras, State Rep. Cristina McCarthy-Vahey, and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal — said she continues to work closely with the committee, as well as the police, to make improvements.

“There are a lot of areas of town that could be improved regarding pedestrian safety,” she said.

Following the rally, some of the 50 or so attendees planned for a memorial walk over to the Mill Plain Road exit of I-95, where last November local resident Christine McMahon was fatally struck by a car.

“I’m really grateful there are efforts being made to improve conditions for pedestrians and bikers,” said her sister Cathleen Hamill, a veteran health teacher at Fairfield Woods Middle School.

“My sister was a beautiful being and walked this earth with such grace,” she said. “She’s missed every day.”

Hamill said this remembrance event, as well as seeing people involved in trying to make things better in her memory, help her and the family heal from the tragedy.

“That support is actually what helps you move forward,” she said.