Our streets are not safe enough.

Deadly traffic crash on Georgia Ave NW

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.

Restore Funding for the Capital Crescent Trail Tunnel

Update: On Tuesday, March 23rd, the Montgomery County Council unanimously supported restoring funding for the new Capital Crescent Trail Tunnel under Wisconsin Avenue in the County’s six-year Capital Improvement Program. This decision upholds the Council’s unanimous support in 2020, the Transportation & Environment Committee’s February 2021 recommendation and rejects County Executive Elrich’s proposal to delay the tunnel construction by at least two years.

A final vote on the budget will take place in late April or early May. Thanks to everyone who contacted their councilmembers. WABA will continue to track this funding through the budget reconciliation process. The discussion and vote starts around 41 minutes into this video.

Last year, the Montgomery County Council voted unanimously to fund construction of a new trail tunnel to carry the Capital Crescent Trail under Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda starting in late 2024. But this Spring, County Executive Elrich removed the tunnel from his budget, delaying funding to 2026 or later. Email your council member and urge them to restore funding for the trail tunnel.

With the construction of the Purple Line project, the Capital Crescent Trail is being upgraded and extended from Bethesda to the Silver Spring Metro. Without a new tunnel under Wisconsin Ave, the estimated 15,000 weekly trail users must cross Wisconsin Avenue’s (MD-255) six travel lanes and 40,000 daily cars and trucks at an improved, but still at-grade intersection. Restoring funding for the tunnel is critical not just for Bethesda, but for preserving safe access to jobs, recreation, transit and services from all the neighborhoods connected by the region’s trail network.

Urge the Council to restore funding for the tunnel now! Add some personal details to make the message reflect you and why you support a new trail tunnel.

As far back as the 1994 Bethesda CBD Sector Plan, Montgomery County has planned for both a tunnel route and a surface route for the Capital Crescent Trail in Bethesda. After the Hogan administration made significant changes to the Purple Line which removed the trail from the Air Rights tunnel, the County Council and Planning Board reaffirmed the vision for both tunnel and surface alignments by adding a new tunnel project to the adopted 2017 Bethesda Downtown Master Plan and 2018 Bicycle Master Plan. Based on this vision, the Planning Board secured an agreement with Carr Properties to build a part of that tunnel under 7272 Wisconsin Avenue and the Council approved $3.8 million for the remaining tunnel design under Wisconsin Avenue and Elm Street. Construction funding was expected in the Capital budget.

High quality, accessable, and continuous trails are critical to our region’s transportation and sustainability goals, Vision Zero commitments, economic competitiveness, and public well being.  Trails provide low stress access to open space and reliable transportation for people of all ages and abilities. Funding the tunnel under Wisconsin Avenue will deliver on a generation of planning and promises with a truly accessible trail between Silver Spring and downtown Bethesda.

Restoring funding follows the unanimous recommendation of the Council Transportation & Environment Committee last month, reaffirms the 9-0 vote by the Council in May 2020 to put funding into the Capital Budget (FY 21-26) and fulfills the promises made by County officials for over 25 years to provide a facility that will allow thousands of Trail users to safely travel to and from Bethesda.

Bikeable, Walkable Workshop for Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners

in early 2021, WABA hosted a Bikeable, Walkable Streets workshop for Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners. We explored some effective options for making streets more inclusive, how DC’s Department of Transportation moves forward street safety and redesign projects, how to participate in that process some tactics to get a good idea moving.

In the second half, a panel of past and current commissioners shared their experience and tips on workshopping ideas, building consensus among residents and stakeholders, and getting safe streets projects done.

Panelists

  • Salim Adofo – Commissioner 8C07
  • Monique Diop – Commissioner 8D04
  • Randy Downs – Former Commissioner 2B05
  • Erin Palmer – Commissioner 4B02

Questions? Email garrett.hennigan@waba.org. Click here to download the slides.

Advocating for Streets That Work for Everyone

Kids on scooters at Open Streets.

The streets and public spaces that connect communities influence so much about how people choose to get around and where they feel comfortable. Whether we walk, bike, ride transit, or drive to get places, those streets should meet everyone’s needs, especially people walking and biking.

Join us for a workshop on advocating for streets that work for you. In partnership with the Hispanic Access Foundation, this free virtual workshop is designed to help celebrate the inaugural Latino Advocacy Week. We will dive into some of the key issues and possible solutions for making accessible and inclusive streets, plus identify some key first steps to make streets work better for your community. There will also be time to answer your questions and share your own experiences. Upon registering, we’ll send you a link and instructions for how to join the Zoom webinar. 

Register

The workshop will include captions. If you need accommodations or have questions about access or the event, send us an email at patricia.miguel@waba.org.

Tell NPS to make the Memorial Circle improvements permanent!

In November, 2020, The National Park Service (George Washington Memorial Parkway) completed several safety improvements to Memorial Circle. The goals of the project are to reduce risks at key locations within the corridor and to reduce conflicts between trail, walkway, and roadway users—where approximately 600 crashes were recorded in the area between 2006 and 2012. The project includes several safety upgrades for trail users including:

  • Higher visibility crosswalks
  • Relocating trail crossings
  • Lane reductions
  • New signage and rapid flashing beacons 
  • Clearer lane markings
  • Repaved road surface

WABA is pleased with the changes and believes that they are effective, but we know there is still enormous room for making these trail intersections truly safe for everyone (like by installing controlled trail crossings). The National Park Service will now monitor the effectiveness of the changes before deciding to keep the improvements and make them permanent or remove them. Due to the new merge pattern, drivers are complaining that they have to slow down for people’s safety. 

We do not want these complaints to undo the changes that have been made, so we urge you to sign this petition to NPS asking to make these safety improvements permanent! 

Ask VA Legislators to pass The Bicycle Safety Act now!

With the VA General Assembly set to wrap up it’s work this session, there have been a number of bills that are making their way towards the finish line. 

WABA has been in collaboration with partners and networks on the ground to monitor and track the progress of these bills, and we want to highlight a key bill that needs your support as it nears its final vote! The Bicycle Safety Act (HB2262 / SB1263) would require drivers to fully change lanes to pass people biking, allow cyclists to ride two abreast in a lane, and permit people on bicycles to treat stop signs as yield signs. The bill is modeled after Delaware law that has proven safety benefits!

Tell the Mayor and DC Council we need a bold DDOT Director

With the Former DDOT Director Jeff Marootian stepping down to join the Biden-Harris Administration, the Mayor now has to select and the DC Council has to confirm a new leader to tackle the pressing transportation issues ahead. 

The new DDOT Director will be entering at a time where bold and transformative leadership is necessary to ensure that we have safe and equitable infrastructure development in the District. 

Take a moment to tell the Mayor and DC Council, we need a new DDOT Director who prioritizes completing our trials network, developing a connected and protected bike lane network, and ensures safe infrastructure investments are equitably distributed throughout the District.   

New Data: Most DC voters support protected bike lanes

This past December, WABA partnered with Data for Progress on a citywide poll on biking issues. We have some good news: 

  • 79% of likely voters in DC would support a protected bike lane network, including on neighborhood streets, if it meant bike riders could ride in the street and be safe from traffic.
  • 73% of likely voters in DC support adding more protected bike lanes around the city.
  • 63% of likely D.C. voters would bike more around Washington, D.C. if they felt safer biking on the road. 

As the District continues to seek ways to meet its climate and safety goals, a protected bike lane network is a popular solution that can be implemented on a short timeline. Let’s go! 

If you are into spreadsheets you can take a look at the numbers here, but the key takeaway is that this support for a better bike network is consistent across race, gender, and political party. 

When the D.C. economy starts to open up after the pandemic has passed, we need to ensure that DC residents have safe infrastructure to commute on—we need to start building more protected bike lanes now!

Tell your legislators you support MC 4-21: Transferring automated Traffic Enforcement to the Department of Transportation

Police are not experts on street design or what makes a street safe for all of its users.  That expertise resides in the County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) and therefore, the management and implementation of the County’s automated enforcement program should be located within MCDOT, not the county police department.  To resolve this problem,  the State Delegates and Senators who represent Montgomery County are considering a bill, MC 4-21, that would authorize moving the automated traffic enforcement program from the County Police Department to MCDOT.  The County Delegation will vote on this bill on or around December 17. 

Please email your state Senator and Delegates telling them you support the passage of MC 4-21.