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Warsaw. Socrates two years after the tragic accident. What changed? “It was the drop that poured the cup of bitterness”

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Today we are to know the verdict in the case of Krystian O. Two years ago, a speeding BMW crashed into a pedestrian at the crossing of ul. Sokratesa. The accident was widely publicized and contributed to changes in Polish law. How has the street itself changed?

On October 20, two years have passed since the tragic accident at Sokratesa Street in Bielany. Krystian O., an orange BMW fatally hit a man crossing a pedestrian crossing. The tragedy happened in front of his wife, who was driving a pram with a child.

According to experts, the driver, in a place where the speed limit is 50 kilometers per hour, had 136 km / h on the dashboard. Last Friday in the District Court in Warsaw took place the last sitting on the case of Krystian O. The prosecutor and the representative of the deceased’s family wanted him to answer for the murder and demanded 15 years in prison. In turn, the defense lawyers asked for the act to be reclassified as an “accident with a fatal result”.

A BMW driver ran into a man crossing the pedestrian crossing on Socrates TVN24

– My best friend was murdered in front of my eyes. It’s hard to call it an accident when, where there is a limit of 50 kilometers per hour and there are signs about pedestrians every now and then, the driver was driving hellish fast and killed my friend who was going for a walk with his wife and son – his witness said after the accident, Mr. Witold. – He will not bring anything back to my friend’s life, but I hope that someone will finally come to their senses – he added.

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The accident not only turned the lives of the deceased’s relatives upside down, but also shocked the public opinion and mobilized the inhabitants of the area to take to the streets in order to protect pedestrians. The day after the incident, about 300 people gathered in silent protest at the scene of the accidentto open the eyes of all those who have an impact on road safety.

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Protest after the accident against SocratesTVN24

Money for reconstruction only after the accident

It quickly turned out that it was not the first accident in this place. Residents of the area already before they alerted the Municipal Roads Authority that Socrates was dangerous. They wanted road workers to put up traffic lights there. The then spokeswoman for the Municipal Roads Authority, Karolina Gałecka, explained that the road workers were aware that the street was dangerous, but money hindered the improvement of safety in this place. More precisely, their lack.

These were found only after the accident. Week after the tragedy in Bielany, the mayor of Warsaw, Rafał Trzaskowski, announced a package of changes on the capital’s roads. He announced that Socrates would undergo a thorough modernization. He also declared the continuation of audits of pedestrian crossings without traffic lights and their lighting, as well as covering almost two-thirds of city streets with the pace zone, calming traffic by building roundabouts and narrowing the road.

Trzaskowski also announced an appeal to the government to amend the rules on pedestrian priority.

Temporarily, speed bumps were installed on the street. However, the “Socrates Effect” was short-lived. Opponents of change became active very quicklywho were afraid that the narrowing of the street would clog the estate. – Let them leave Socrates Street alone. After one accident, they want us to narrow the street. If there will be one lane in this place, people will race, overtake and it will only be dangerous – Zygmunt Morawski, chairman of the local government of the Wawrzyszew estate, told us in January 2020. He himself proposed that the funds for the narrowing should be allocated to the extension of another parallel street – Nocznickiego, which – in his opinion – would reduce traffic on the estate.

But officials remained unfazed and ultimately the reconstruction of Socrates started in July. For now, the street is excavated, and extensive work is underway. A reporter from tvnwarszawa.pl, Mateusz Szmelter, was on site a few days ago. – Works are underway along the entire southern line. The halves of the roundabouts are slowly emerging. There are also pedestrian sanctuaries under construction along the entire length of the street. The traffic runs along the northern part of the street, he reported.

As announced by road workers, the works are to be completed by the end of the year. The street will be narrowed down to one lane in each direction to a width of 3.25 meters. There will be a parking space next to it, once on one side of the street, sometimes on the other side of the street. The bicycle path that leads on one side of Socrates will be moved away from the pavement to the place of the current extreme lane of the road. A bicycle path will also be built on the opposite side. Pedestrian crossings will be rebuilt. They will be separated by a two-meter-wide sanctuary so that pedestrians can stop between the roadways.

The vice president has lost control of the office

Reconstruction of the street is not the only consequence of the accident. It also decided the fate of the former vice-president of Warsaw, Robert Soszyńskiwho in February 2020 lost supervision of the Mobility and Transport Policy Office. Rafał Trzaskowski decided that these tasks would be taken over by his other deputy – Michał Olszewski. We unofficially heard then in the town hall that the reason for the change was precisely the case of ul. Sokratesa, where, one year after the loud accident, the works aimed at improving safety had not started. The loss of supervision over an important office meant in practice the degradation of Soszyński, who was already in the eyes of city activists as “braking” projects aimed at improving the situation of pedestrians and cyclists. A few months later he left the town hall.

The Office of Mobility and Transport Policy has been dissolved. He took over his competences Road Traffic Management Office, with Tamás Dombi at the head of the new unitwho previously served as the deputy director of the Municipal Roads Authority.

“It was such a drop that filled the cup of bitterness”

Pedestrian safety was also one of the priorities set out by Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki in his expose from November 2019.

– It can no longer be the case that a pedestrian crossing is the most dangerous element on the road. Research shows that pedestrians are mostly prudent on crossings, so we will introduce pedestrian priority before entering the crossing – he said then. The government draft amendment to the Highway Code was drafted in January 2020, but finally new road regulations entered into force on June 1, 2021. They concerned the priority of pedestrians entering the crossing in front of each vehicle with the exception of trams, the prohibition of the so-called bumper driving and the unification of speed in built-up areas, regardless of the time of day.

We ask Łukasz Zboralski, a journalist specializing in road safety from the brd24.pl portal, for a broader perspective: was it precisely that accident that led to systemic changes?

– It was undoubtedly a breakthrough. Not even himself, but how he shocked the public and how the media approached it – so solidly, going deeper and wondering why such events happen at all. It was such a drop that filled the cup of bitterness. Even the prime minister referred to this accident indirectly in his expose. The social pressure was so strong that, after 30 years, the authorities for the first time made a decision about systemic changes regarding the right-of-way for pedestrians at the pedestrian crossing. And the positive effects of introducing these changes are already visible today – said Zboralski in an interview with tvnwarszawa.pl.

The brd24.pl portal has checked how the new zebra priority rules affected accident statistics. The number of pedestrians killed at crossings has fallen by more than 40 percent this year compared to the same period in 2019. There is also an improvement in the victims injured as a result of the deduction – a decrease of 30 percent. According to Zboralski, one change freed another: – After its introduction, politicians saw that improving road safety does not lose money, on the contrary – you gain politically.

According to our interlocutor, the new regulations, which are to enter into force on January 1, 2022, are also the result of the first changes introduced after the accident on Socrates. – After 26 years, the rates of fines will finally be corrected. Another amendment is also pending in the background, which will involve the confiscation of the car after drunk driving – noted the expert.

We remind you: On January 1, 2022, the rates of fines are to change. The act provides for an amendment to the Code of Petty Offenses, which provides for an increase in the maximum amount of a fine imposed by a court from PLN 5,000 to PLN 30,000 in the event of traffic offenses.

Main photo source: Lech Marcinczak / tvnwarszawa.pl



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