Rally in October 2018 by Joe Flood licensed under Creative Commons.

Greater Greater Washington periodically publishes opinion posts on topics of interest to our readers. The views expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of Greater Greater Washington.

On Wednesday night, a tour bus driver struck and killed two people crossing Pennsylvania Avenue. The victims were two woman visiting DC: one was the mayor of Skagway, Alaska, and the other was her mother who lived in Elbe, Washington.

The pair had just spent the evening enjoying holiday decorations around the capital. Instead of going home to celebrate the holidays with their loved ones, their relatives are on the way to DC to claim their bodies. This is not ok.

Sadly, stories like this are all too common in 2018. Month after month, the number of traffic fatalities creeps higher and higher. In October, the same month Mayor Muriel Bowser hosted Vision Zero Week, the year-to-date tally reached the 2017 traffic fatality total. This is not ok.

With the end of this deadly year in sight, we remember the 35 people drivers have killed in DC this year. These 35 people will never celebrate another holiday, and never hug another loved one. So on Thursday, we turned our collective grief into action.

We hand delivered the letter below and attachments to Bowser’s office, personally handed a copy to Councilmember Jack Evans, and dropped copies off for several other councilmembers. We followed up by emailing a copy to every single councilmember, Attorney General Karl Racine, DDOT Director Jeff Marootian, and Police Chief Peter Newsham.

Left to right: Rachel Maisler, Robb Dooling, Jack Evans, and Matthew Sampson. Image by the author.

We refuse to sit idly while drivers continue to kill people traveling in Washington, DC. Our elected and appointed officials can and must do more to keep all road users safe.

December 20, 2018

Mayor Muriel Bowser
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20004

Dear Mayor Bowser,

As you know, a tour bus driver killed two pedestrians last night at 7th & Pennsylvania Ave NW, one block from the National Mall, within eyesight of multiple bus stops and a Metro station, and just six blocks from the Wilson Building.

The timing of these deaths are uncanny because just a couple weeks ago, you asked DC residents what we’d do if we weren’t afraid to fail. Our answer to your question is quite simple: we’d do whatever it takes to eliminate traffic-related fatalities in Washington, DC. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Ban right turns on red citywide as soon as possible
  • Ban private vehicles from certain downtown streets
  • Expedite creation of a protected cycletrack network
  • Install curb extensions at crosswalks in commercial areas or busy pedestrian areas
  • Reduce speed limits by 5 MPH citywide
  • Expedite creation of dedicated loading/unloading zones for ride-hailing services
  • Enable DDOT to experiment and study with tactical urbanism
  • Develop a long-term plan to reduce the size of delivery trucks and tour buses

As Councilmember Mary Cheh said during the Council’s Roundtable on Vision Zero in September (paraphrased): DDOT studies, and studies, and studies until the studies are obsolete then needs to start the study again. Please direct DDOT to stop studying and start implementing. Vision Zero is not a blitz, it is an ongoing campaign to protect the lives of the most vulnerable users. Studying is not enough, only implementation will protect us.

The two fatalities last night bring the total number of traffic fatalities in 2018 to 35. That’s 35 too many; 35 people will never celebrate another holiday or hug a loved one. 35 families have gaping holes in their hearts.

Like you, we want to live and work in a city where we can live, work, play and travel without fearing for our lives. Nobody should die while traveling on DC roads. We need action, not words.

Sincerely,

Rachel Maisler, Bicycle Advisory Council and Age-Friendly DC Taskforce
Matthew Sampson, 2B01 Commissioner-Elect
Robb Dooling, Multimodal Accessibility Advisory Council and 6C06 Commissioner-Elect

cc: DC Department of Transportation Director Jeff Marootian
Metropolitan Police Department Chief Peter Newsham
At-Large Councilmember Anita Bonds
At-Large Councilmember David Grosso
At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman
At-Large Councilmember Robert C. White, Jr.
Councilmember Brianne K. Nadeau
Councilmember Jack Evans
Councilmember Mary M. Cheh
Councilmember Brandon T. Todd
Councilmember Kenyan R. McDuffie
Councilmember Charles Allen
Councilmember Vincent C. Gray
Councilmember Trayon White, Sr.

Robb Dooling serves as an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner for 6C06 in NoMa and Old City. He is also a member of DC's Multimodal Accessibility Advisory Council, advocating better transit and public spaces for people with disabilities. Robb is a bike adventurer, progressive dreamer, and writer/editor. He also has a Computer Science degree that he no longer uses because he is too busy biking.

Rachel Maisler is an avid city cyclist and advocate who enjoys exploring DC and beyond. She represents Ward 4 on the Bicycle Advisory Council and serves on the Age-Friendly DC Task Force. When she's not fighting for safe roads, Rachel is a health policy wonk. Rachel has lived inside the Beltway since 2005 and currently resides in Petworth. She also writes for Petworth News.

Matthew Sampson is a graduate student at the Urban and Regional Planning program at Georgetown University. As a native of San Diego, he has grown to love the quirks of life on the East Coast. He is a pedestrian and bicycle activist who wants to enable a car-free lifestyle for more residents in the DMV area. Matthew is the commissioner-elect of the 2B01 seat in the Dupont ANC.