Parents of Center City bicycle crash victim: Don't let her death be in vain

EMILY30-09
Emily Fredricks died in a collision on her bicycle with a trash truck in Center City on Tuesday.

Emily Fredricks had thought of becoming a doctor but decided to become a pastry chef instead, preferring a creative pursuit over hard academics.

Having worked at the Sagamore Resort in Lake George, N.Y., and the Ritz-Carlton in Naples, Fla., Fredricks, 24, moved to Philadelphia with a friend in May and landed a job at Le Chéri near Rittenhouse Square. By all accounts, she had a promising future in the field.

But on Tuesday morning, while pedaling her small-wheel commuter bicycle from her home on the 700 block of South Street to work,  a privately owned trash truck turned into her path along the Spruce Street bike lane at 11th Street, killing her.

The accident is still under investigation, but Fredricks’ death immediately struck a nerve in Philadelphia’s expanding bicycling community and has led to demands for safer bike lanes.

At their home in East Brunswick, N.J., her parents spoke lovingly of their daughter and their wish that her death would prompt change.

Camera icon Courtesy of the Fredricks Family
Emily Fredricks, who was killed in a bicycle crash Tuesday, with her family after graduating from college.

“She was in a biking lane and she still got hit,” her father, Richard, said. “Hopefully this won’t be in vain.”

After graduating from East Brunswick High School in 2011, Fredricks went to Johnson & Wales University in Providence,  R.I., graduating in three years with a B.A. in baking and pastry and a minor in psychology.

“She always thought she wanted to be a doctor, but she’s very creative,” her mother, Laura, said. “She got burnt out by the academics and said she wanted to do something more creative, and decided to be a pastry chef.”

Besides baking, she also was an artist, and her parents proudly showed dozens of paintings and portraits she had made since high school.

Her first job was at the Sagamore, a 100-year-old resort overlooking Lake George. At her next stint, at the Naples Ritz-Carlton, she helped construct enormous decorative gingerbread homes for the resort’s lobby.

When she moved to Philadelphia in May, Fredricks gave up driving because of the inconvenience and cost, and her parents bought her a bicycle to get around.

Biking every day was new to her, her parents said.

“We bought her a bicycle that was light and could collapse so she could carry it down the stairs of the restaurant,” Laura Fredricks said.

She said her daughter insisted on using bike lanes when possible.

“To me, the street behind her — Lombard, maybe — I thought that was the easy street to go down, and then you make a right and the restaurant is right there,” Laura Fredricks said. “But she said, ‘Ma, I can’t ride on that road because there’s no bike lane.’ So I actually don’t even know what street she did ride down to get to work.”

Bicyclist Fatalities in Philadelphia

At least 26 bicyclists have died in accidents on Philadelphia streets since 2010. Seven of the fatalities involved collisions with trucks, including Tuesday morning’s accident at 11th and Spruce Streets that killed 24-year-old Emily Fredricks.

SOURCES: PennDot; Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphioa
Staff Graphic

Fredricks’ mother said her daughter came to baking easily.

“I love to cook and bake, so she was constantly around it,” Laura Fredricks said. “She’d sometimes say, ‘Ma, will you come out here and work with me?’ She was very creative and artistic.”

Charlotte Calmels, owner of Le Chéri, on 18th Street near Rittenhouse Square, where Fredricks had served as the executive pastry chef since June, said she had been speechless since learning of the young woman’s death.

“She was a very talented pastry chef,” said Calmels, who is also the mother of three young girls. “Just the nicest person, getting along with absolutely everybody at work.”

Yuki Schaper, private event coordinator at Le Chéri, agreed, calling Fredricks happy, bubbly, and, of course, sweet.

Fredricks seemed to enjoy working on specialty cakes for the restaurant, like the 95th birthday cake she made for a client over the weekend, Schaper said.

“She was kind of giggly, and she was very talented for being 24,” she said. “When we first hired her, I was like, ‘She’s going to crush it when she gets older.’ ”

Schaper said she knew something was amiss when Fredricks didn’t show up for work on Tuesday, and then began coordinating calls between Fredricks’ mother and roommate until she heard about the bike accident.

“And then it was just, ‘Is there any way in the world that that could be her?’ ” Shaper said.

“She had this amazing personality,” Richard Fredricks said of his daughter.

“She was like snow,” he said. “Everyone she touched she left an impression on. We were very lucky.”​

Besides her parents, she is survived by brothers Jack and Michael.