In her 2015 State of the District address, Mayor Muriel Bowser says Vision Zero “means being able to take a walk or wait for a bus without concern for your safety.” The premise is simple, if idealistic: it's a politically-backed initiative aimed on implementing infrastructure to reduce traffic-related fatalities on the city’s roads to zero over a nine-year period. It’s an “all hands on deck approach to transportation safety,” according to DC's Vision Zero Action Plan.
Vision Zero should be an urbanist’s dream: it marries the ideals of transportation safety with accountability. Safer roads and sidewalks mean residents are more likely to visit businesses, homes, schools and libraries via foot, bike, and even public transit. Engineering! Education! Enforcement! Data!
But here’s the reality: each week people are being struck and often killed by drivers on DC roads. I’m not a math person by any means, but I know that when a program is aimed at reducing fatalities, the numbers should be going down each year and not up. The Metropolitan Police Department’s 20-year traffic fatality trend data shows fatalities were lowest in 2012 at 19 deaths. Since then, the numbers have been creeping back up.
# includes traffic fatalities in US Park Police territory (Rock Creek Parkway)
* as of October 25, 2018
As of the publication of this article, DC had recorded 31 traffic fatalities in 2018**. That’s more the 2017 total of 30 fatalities, and October isn’t even over. Of these 31 fatalities, nearly half of these people were not travelling in cars when they were struck and killed by drivers. We don't have good numbers for the people walking, bicycling, and scooting who survive being struck but suffer injuries— from bumps and bruises to ones that are life-altering.
I’m having trouble keeping track of all the fatalities. Since I began writing this article, I’ve had to update it twice because drivers keep killing people traveling on DC roads. I also had to update my Vision Zero Roundtable testimony not once, but twice. Then within the two weeks after the roundtable while the official record was still open, I had to write an addendum to document even more fatalities on DC roads.
So I *think* I gathered all the pedestrian/cyclist/scooter fatalities in DC in 2018 now according to what I was able to pull from the MPD website. Please let me know if I'm missing any. Next step is mapping out all the wards. https://t.co/PcTkAVIgHC— HandlebarsDC �� (@HandlebarsDC) October 16, 2018
This is not ok. It’s not ok to be killed riding your bike to work. It’s not ok to be killed crossing the street.
But here’s the other kicker: every time I try to make a list of all the vulnerable road users including pedestrians, bicyclists, and e-scooter riders (i.e. those not traveling via powerful motorized vehicles), I inevitably leave somebody out. It’s not ok that so many people have been killed by drivers in 2018 that I needed to make a list, and with the help of a friend, this map.
Click on the map to see more information about each fatality. Map created by Jessie Wilson.
Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, did you know four pedestrians have been killed by drivers in Ward 5? Councilmember Jack Evans, do you know two cyclists, one scooter rider, and one pedestrian have all been killed by drivers (within one mile of each other) in Ward 2?
This is not ok.
While she’s remained mostly silent on the rise in driver-caused fatalities in her city this year, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the week of October 22 is “Vision Zero Week” in DC. On Monday she held a cabinet meeting. On Tuesday, October 23 Vision Zero was the topic du jour for the monthly Mayor-Council Breakfast.
The District Department of Transportation came armed with a list of tangible action items aimed at making DC roads safer for the most vulnerable users. A Traffic Safety Blitz will begin on Thursday, “to raise awareness about the dangers of double parking, blocking the box, obstructing bike lanes and other violations that threaten the safety of pedestrians, cyclists and motorists. David Alpert recapped the meeting here.
Will Vision Zero 2.0 be the driving force that lowers traffic fatalities in DC? I sure hope so. But in the meantime, more than 200 DC residents and commuters signed onto a letter calling for the Office of the DC Auditor to conduct an in-depth analysis into DC’s Vision Zero program.
Is the government funding the program that’s supposed to protect the lives of all road users? If so, how is that money being spent? What has the District government been doing for the last three years while traffic fatalities crept up? As DC taxpayers and road users, we demand answers and accountability. It's time for city leaders to get serious about stopping these preventable deaths.
**The original title of this article was “Vision 29 and counting.” Sadly, two fatalities occurred in the time it took me to write this article.