Last Thursday night, a four year child was killed at the corner of Kennedy St and Georgia Ave NW in Ward 4. The lives of the family, the driver, and bystanders who heroically attempted lifesaving aid will never be the same. This is unspeakable trauma.
This tragedy was preventable. Humans make mistakes, but it’s the design of our streets that makes those mistakes deadly. We know what it takes to make our streets safe for everyone, including kids. It takes slower speeds, less driving, and more space for people outside of cars. The solutions are not complicated, what’s missing is the political will to implement them. Please join me in writing to the Mayor and Council demanding immediate action.
I live a few blocks away from Georgia and Kennedy, and hurried to the scene when I heard the news of the crash. We all live near and travel through dangerous intersections and hostile streets. Last week’s deadly crash could have been blocks away from your home, work, a place of worship or a school.
Despite a dramatic drop in driving and commuting due to the COVID-19 pandemic, traffic fatalities are unacceptably high. People walking make up a disportionately high percentage of the fatalities and serious injuries, with communities of color bearing the burden of most traffic violence. These unjust outcomes are the result of decades of disinvestment and broken priorities.
As I stood at the corner of Kennedy St and Georgia Ave NW on Thursday attempting to comprehend the pain of a family losing a child, across town advocates, residents, and civic leaders were pleading with city officials in a public meeting to make another dangerous corridor, Connecticut Ave NW, safer. We should not have to plead, block by block, project by project, for streets that don’t kill people. The system is broken. It’s deadly and it’s unjust. Our elected officials bicker, and our agency leaders keep their heads down and hide behind bureaucracy, and our city fails to make sufficient progress. Why is it so hard? We know what it takes to make our streets safer, and it might appear unpopular, but here it is:
It will take longer to drive places. It will be harder to find a parking space.
That’s it. That’s why people keep dying on our streets. I don’t think that’s a good enough reason.
Please join me in calling for urgent action by Mayor Bowser and the entire DC government to address the continued harm of dangerous streets in our city. The pace and scope of the District’s current safety efforts are inadequate. Five years ago, Mayor Bowser committed to ending traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2024. The numbers continue to move in the wrong direction. To save lives, we need commitments to the following:
The Department of Transportation must immediately implement aggressive traffic calming and pedestrian safety measures on every arterial street in the District. Speed limits, and design speeds, should be 20 miles per hour or lower.
Further, DDOT must immediately dismantle its internal, systemic barriers to implementing safer streets, including, but not limited to:
- Rejecting the Level-of-Service engineering standards, which prioritize driver convenience over safety.
- Setting a maximum Speed Limit and Design Speed of 20 miles per hour on all streets that are not limited access highways.
- Explicit directions to all agency staff to prioritize pedestrian safety over parking in every single instance.
- Drastic and immediate improvements to the agency’s pace of Project Delivery. The status quo—safety projects that take years, and deliver piecemeal, mediocre, results—is deadly and unacceptable.
The District’s 2021 budget must include complete funding for all elements of the Vision Zero Enhancement Omnibus Amendment Act of 2019, as well as any additional funding DDOT needs to immediately overhaul pedestrian safety on every arterial street.
On September 24th, WABA brought together advocates, engineers, elected officials, professionals from the transportation sector together for the fourth annual Washington Region Vision Zero Summit.
This year’s Summit was different from previous years. The event was postponed from March until September and then ultimately hosted virtually. However, those were just the logistical changes. Both the covid-19 pandemic and nationwide protests against police violence have highlighted how much racial injustice is built into our transportation system.
Charles Brown, MPA, Senior Researcher, Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center (VTC), Adjunct Professor at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, Rutgers University delivered a keynote address highlighting institutional racism and inequity in the transportation system that causes arrested mobility in Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPoC) communities.
This year’s conference also included workshops, case studies, a rapid fire lunch session, global and local perspectives, a session on the intersection of vision zero and climate change. You can find a complete agenda here, but for a quick recap, check out these graphic interpretations by graphic Mark Kosak of See in Colors.
This year we included a mid-day rapid fire session: speakers were asked to respond in five minutes or less to the question: What is your one great idea for a sustainable, equitable, on-going and post-pandemic transportation system? Many highlighted the need for a multi-modal safe, connected, transportation system—more dedicated space for buses and people on bikes—but making sure those improvements are implemented equitably by focusing on safety in communities that have been underserved by safe and reliable transportation.
We closed this year’s Summit with the Closing Plenary: ‘Vision Zero in the Washington Region.’ The session was moderated by WABA Advocacy Director Jeremiah Lowery and speakers included Greg Billing, Executive Director, Washington Area Bicyclist Association, Councilmember Monique Anderson-Walker, District 8 Prince George’s County, Mayor Justin Wilson, City of Alexandria, and Councilmember Elissa Silverman, D.C. Topics highlighted included the impacts covid-19 has had on the region transportation system, enforcement on our streets and the need for street design to take precedence over policing, as well as the need for a connected and well maintained trail network throughout the region.
In addition to the Summit, In February, WABA hosted two Community Listening Sessions, one east of the Anacostia River and one West of the Anacostia River. The intention of listening sessions was to bring Vision Zero to residents who may now be able to attend a daytime, weekday Summit, to listen to community members’ needs, and bring those to the forefront for the Summit audience to hear. Watch a video (sponsored by SPIN) from these Community Listening Sessions below:
Thank you to our sponsors: