U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand aims to enhance safety for pedestrians in the aftermath of a terrorist attack in New York City that killed eight people and injured 12 others.
The Stopping Threats on Pedestrians Act sponsored by Gillibrand, D-N.Y., would establish a new federal grant program to fund the installation of barriers to protect cyclists and pedestrians from vehicles.
The program would be administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The bill would authorize $500 million for the grant initiative — $50 million annually over 10 years.
Local governments could use the funding to install bollards, jersey barriers and planters.
Gillibrand highlighted the importance of the bill after the terrorist attack in Lower Manhattan. The suspected attacker, a 29-year-old who is originally from Uzbekistan, drove a rental truck at a high rate of speed into a bike lane. He targeted cyclists and pedestrians before colliding with a school bus.
It wasn't the first terrorist attack that targeted pedestrians. In June, three terrorists drove a van into a crowd of pedestrians on the London Bridge. Other vehicle-ramming attacks have been carried out in other European cities, including Barcelona and Westminster.
In August, a white supremacist killed one person and injured 19 others when he rammed his vehicle into a crowd of counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The eight people who were killed in the New York City attack included five people from Argentina and another from Belgium. Two Americans were also killed in the attack.
"New Yorkers have proven over and over again that they are resilient and will not let a cowardly act of terror change who we are," Gillibrand said. "But we have to remain vigilant and learn the lessons from this attack to strengthen our infrastructure for the future."
The bill sponsored by Gillibrand was initially introduced in the House last month by two New Yorkers, U.S. Reps. Adriano Espaillat and Dan Donovan.
Donovan, R-Staten Island, and Espaillat, D-Manhattan, touted their bill as a pedestrian safety measure.
"We have witnessed an increase in pedestrian injuries and fatalities as vehicles are increasingly being used as weapons to carry out attacks," Espaillat said in October. "Our bill aims to support cities by providing necessary funding to install safety bollards as preventative measures to guide traffic, protect individuals and potentially save lives."
Donovan agreed that bollards "save lives."
"That's clear from the Times Square car crash earlier this year that would have been far more destructive but for the barriers," he said. "We should have more of them, which this commonsense bill will allow."
The bill has bipartisan support in Congress and the backing of the National Association of Counties.
Gillibrand hopes the bill will advance swiftly through the legislative process.
"Providing adequate funding to install traffic barriers throughout cities across the country is a commonsense bipartisan measure that would help protect pedestrians and bicyclists from these kinds of hateful acts," she said. "I urge my colleagues in the Senate to support this legislation that will keep our cities safer."