Letter on September 13th Crash

WABA, Greater Greater Washington, and DC Families for Safe Streets sent the following letter to the Mayor’s office on September 14th, 2021 in response to a driver killing a 5 year old. A PDF version is available here if you’d like to send it to your elected officials.

Mayor Muriel Bowser
Deputy Mayor John Falcicchio
Deputy Mayor Christopher Geldart
Acting Director Everett Lott
Senior Advisor Beverly Perry

September 14, 2021

To Mayor Bowser, Deputy Mayor Babers, Deputy Mayor John Falcicchio, Deputy Mayor Geldart, Director Lott, and Senior Advisor Perry:

Last night, another driver killed another child in our city. Another sudden, violent hole torn through the heart of a family. It did not have to happen. Today, we demand change as we begin grieving this devastating loss. Traffic violence has a profound physical, emotional, and spiritual impact on our lives, families, and communities. It doesn’t have to.

The District has the resources, the tools, and the expertise to make every intersection in this city safe for people—regardless of race, income, age, gender, or ability—to cross on foot, on a bike, in a stroller, or in a wheelchair.

Instead, we see the same grim pattern, over and over again: a violent crash, a public outcry, and a feeble, “tactical” response from the city—some marginal infrastructure changes at the site of the crash, with no plan to address thousands of other similarly unsafe streets and intersections across the District with the urgency that a five-year-old’s death demands.

In the wake of the 185th traffic death in the past six years, we aren’t asking for more funding or more planning for infrastructure. The administration went a long way toward addressing that challenge in the FY2022 budget. We thank Mayor Bowser for her historic investment in transportation improvements and look forward to the release of an updated MoveDC long-range transportation plan. 

We see, however, that on street after street, project after project, the District drags its feet, implementing proven safety measures only reluctantly and after aggressive compromise.

Mobility is a human right. The first section of Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights from the United Nations states, “Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.” But the reality is that most American cities limit that freedom to people in cars. 

The District can do better. We can and should interpret the right to freedom of movement to mean that people have what they need to protect and preserve their wellbeing as they move through the city.

Thus far, however, the District has only demonstrated that level of commitment to people who are driving cars.

We are asking for an ideology of safety from those leading the District: We want to see, and feel, that Mayor Bowser cares more about safety than parking, more about safety than driving fast, and more about safety than driver convenience. We want to see equitable policy and decisive action to create city streets that ensure no one else’s life is lost. 

An ideology of safety will lead the District to do everything in its power to slow traffic through the reallocation of parking and driving lanes to multimodal infrastructure, increase investments in transit to ensure every resident has a reliable alternative to driving, advance automated enforcement, and, overall, to shift its culture to one in which lazy, reckless, and unsafe driving is not tolerated.

This will require constraining the privilege of individual drivers, and will no doubt be accompanied by public backlash. We think saving a person’s life is well worth that unpleasant endeavor.

Sincerely,

Chelsea Allinger, Executive Director
Greater Greater Washington

Kristin Frontiera, Acting Executive Director
Washington Area Bicyclist Association

Christy Kwan, Co-Chair
DC Families for Safe Streets

The Vision Zero Fund

Included in the committee report is a legislative act that would dedicate ALL new Automated Traffic Enforcement (ATE) revenue towards funding + implementing the Vision Zero Bill. 

And not only that, that funding will continue beyond the full implementation of the bill–meaning dedicated funding for infrastructure/safety improvements, road design, bike lanes, sidewalk repair and expansion, etc.

This is a major change. 

So needs to happen next?

Two things need to happen next. 

1. All the budget recommendations coming out of the committee need to be included in the full Council budget, and the Council needs to pass that budget with no changes 

2. The legislative act creating the vision zero fund is called the “ATE System Revenue Designation Amendment Act of 2021” and it must be added as an amendment to the Budget Support Act and the Council needs to pass that as well. 

To do both of these things we need you to take action!

Take action to demand a future where we fully fund and implement legislation that will move us towards vision zero! Read the full Fiscal Year 2022 Transportation and the Environment Committee Report here.

Tell the DC Council to Fund Key Priorities in the Vision Zero Bill

This past year, people were killed because we failed to invest in a solution that is currently law. People were killed because we failed to implement a solution that is currently law. That law is the Vision Zero Enhancement Omnibus Amendment Act. And as it stands now, a law that can potentially save lives is not a priority in the Mayor’s budget, therefore the DC Council must show leadership and make it their priority. 

It has been well-documented that the District has seen an increase in speeding during the pandemic, and in 2020 we saw an increase in the number of people who lost their lives to traffic crashes compared to 2019. And these numbers could get worse if we don’t make significant investments in moving forward with funding and implementing the Vision Zero Enhancement Omnibus Amendment Act. 

In this year’s budget the Council can take the step to fund budget items in the Vision Zero Act that only require one-time funding. We specifically would like to highlight sections 3, 4, 5(b), 7(), 7(b), 7(c), 7(d), 7(e). 8, 9, 10, and 12 of the legislation for funding in the FY22 budget. Additionally, the Council should re-purpose $250,000 in the Mayor’s budget for vision zero public outreach and align it with the public outreach requirements of section 7(d) in the Vision Zero Act. 

We want to clearly state that is just part of what needs to be done to fully fund and implement the Vision Zero Act. Until the act is fully implemented, the Council must hold DDOT accountable, by requiring DDOT to be publicly transparent with how they plan to fully implement this act over the next few years. 

Funding the Vision Zero Enhancement Omnibus Amendment Act

On May 13th 2021, WABA testified at the D.C. Council Roundtable on “The Surge in Traffic Crashes, Fatalities, and injuries in the District and the urgent need to fully fund The Vision Zero Enhancement Omnibus Amendment Act”.  Below is our testimony:

Good afternoon Councilmember Cheh and Members of the Committee,

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today. My name is Hannah Neagle, and I am the Vision Zero Manager at the Washington Area Bicyclist Association. I am submitting testimony on behalf of our 5,000 members in DC and across the region. 

Our mission is to empower people to ride bikes, build connections, and transform places. We envision a just and sustainable transportation system where walking, biking, and transit are the best ways to get around.

Yet the past few months, DC has experienced a deadly uptick in traffic violence. In the aftermath of these crashes, mothers have raised their voices for safer infrastructure, and friends of lost loved ones have protested the District government’s glacial and inadequate response to this crisis. Civic leaders have sent thousands of letters to Mayor Boswer, the Department of Transportation, and the DC Council asking for bold action to fix unsafe streets. 

Therefore, we strongly support fully funding and implementing the Vision Zero Enhancement Omnibus Amendment Act of 2020. 

The bill has more than a dozen traffic safety provisions that align with DC’s Vision Zero goals. However, funding and implementing the bill is just a first step forward. It will take this action and many more like it to prevent death on our streets by 2024. 

While we are requesting full funding of the entire Act, we would like to highlight the following six key provisions. These must be fully funded in the upcoming budget and implemented without delay: 

  1. Sections 5 and 7 – Pass and implement MoveDC, Complete Streets and the mandatory protected bike/bus lanes requirements. 
  2. Section 3(a) – Create mandatory sidewalk and crosswalk construction with DDOT capital projects. 
  3. No Turn on Red – Prohibit right turns on red at 80% of signalized intersections where vulnerable road users are most likely to be. 
  4. Speed Limits – Lower speed limits on local and collector roads (~13% of DC streets) to 20mph to fall in line with the recent new default limit for unsigned streets and local streets. 
  5. Section 7(e) – Enhance Fatal Crash Response to inspect the site 30 days after a fatal crash, require DDOT to inspect site and publish interim design installed and include permanent or interim design planned for later installation within 30 days of inspection. Additionally, add Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to the Major Crash Review Task Force. This will ensure crashes receive the same amount of attention and intervention. 
  6. Section 8(b) – Establish a public outreach program to educate on traffic safety, dooring, and emphasizes zero-tolerance for automobile-bicycle related injuries and fatalities including an education forum in each ward aimed at educating the public and raising awareness about automobile-bicycle injuries & fatalities. 

We know strategies like lowering vehicle speeds and improving infrastructure will make DC roads safer for vulnerable road users and drivers. We must take the first step in fully funding and implementing the Vision Zero Enhancement Omnibus Amendment Act of 2020 without delay.

Thank you for your time and continued commitment to street safety issues.