The family of a woman run over while cycling in Center City last year has received a $6 million settlement from the owners of the truck that killed her.
"As a parent, you take what happened to her, and you don't want it to happen to anyone else," Laura Fredricks, mother of Emily Fredricks, 24, said at a news conference Thursday announcing the settlement, "and that has been a driving force for all of us."
Beyond the settlement with the family, the truck's owner, Gold Medal Environmental, also will contribute $25,000 a year for the next five years to an organization dedicated to safe streets in Philadelphia. The first recipient will be the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia. That organization has announced it is working with the Fredricks family to create a group for families affected by traffic deaths and injuries.
The Fredricks family has established scholarships and athletic awards at Emily's high school in East Brunswick, N.J., and intends to use the settlement to support a foundation in her name.
Lawyers working on the case believed the settlement a first in Philadelphia, because the resolution went beyond a monetary payment. Gold Medal Environmental, a company with offices in Philadelphia and Deptford, which lawyers said has hundreds of vehicles operating in the city, committed to creating a regional training facility for drivers; hiring a safety consultant; barring drivers from stopping or idling in bike lanes; implementing 26 new safety policies to improve their drivers' performance, including preventing distracted driving; and inviting the Fredrickses to speak to drivers about safe driving.
"This settlement shows how they have taken their unimaginable tragedy to turn their grief into action to make our streets safer," said Larry Bendesky, who represents the family.
Gold Medal Environmental is also in the process of buying new vehicles with safety cameras installed, lawyers said.
"The bar has been raised for the entire trucking and transportation industry," said Stuart Leon, a lawyer who specializes in bicycle death and injury cases.
Representatives from Gold Medal Environment did not respond to multiple calls for comment. The company was acquired in January by Kinderhook Industries, a private investment firm, according to that New York company's website. Gold Medal Environmental's website describes it as having hauling and recycling facilities. The company site says Gold Medal has more than 500 employees and a fleet of 250 collection vehicles.
Emily Fredricks, a pastry chef, was hit by a trash truck turning right from Spruce Street onto 11th Street in Center City as she biked to work on Nov. 28, 2017. Her death was a flash point for advocates concerned about street safety in Philadelphia, and in the months since, new attention has been paid to the safety of the city's bicycle lane network. Among the city's initiatives that the family supports are a policy to shift bike lanes to the left side of streets, where cyclists are less likely to fall into vehicles' blind spots, and upgrades that put up physical dividers between vehicle traffic and cyclists.
During the news conference Thursday, Bendesky contended that the truck driver, Jorge Fretts, was not paying attention and failed to follow the rules of the road requiring him to yield to a bicycle.