Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Need to Make Streets Safer

Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Need to Make Streets Safer

An open letter to residents concerned about pedestrian safety.

I am a resident of Alexandria who incurred severe injuries when a car crashed into me last December as I was walking in the middle of a crosswalk in town. The driver was ticketed for a failure to yield violation. While I survived, the injuries were severe and it took me months of rehab to regain my balance and get back to work. My wife bore a major burden during my recovery because she was my 24/7 care taker.

After my injury, I wanted to do something to prevent other citizens from such crashes so I spoke at a City Council hearing to ask that action be taken to make Alexandria’s streets safer. I held follow-up meetings with the city’s Transportation staff and the Chief of Police. I was told about the City of Alexandria’s Vision Zero program (https://www.alexandriava.gov/VisionZero) which is a formal program to end traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries for all road users.

On Jan. 24, 2017, the City Council adopted a Vision Zero policy with the goal of eliminating all traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2028.

Yes, you read that correctly. By 2028! By 2028, how many more people will have been killed, injured, or lost a loved one? By 2028, how many of you will be affected?

I think our City Council and our city government staff members should have a greater sense of urgency in implementing the Vision Zero program.

In 2016, Alexandria had four pedestrian deaths by car crashes and close to 70 pedestrians were hit by cars but survived the crash. Waiting until 2028 or even 2020 is too long. While it helps to have a policy and goal in place, the risk of such a distant goal is that the planning, investment, and tough decisions necessary may be delayed. Alexandria staff is in the midst of preparing the Vision Zero Action Plan now and there is an important opportunity for us to advocate urgency and effort on traffic safety initiatives that will yield the best results expeditiously.

It’s crucial that victims’ voices are heard in this process. I would like to talk with other crash victims and/or their family members who might join me in helping to make Alexandria safer for people to walk, bike, and drive. More voices and more stories than just mine are needed to personalize the issue and advocate the cause with staff and decision-makers who set the budget and schedule for implementation. If you have been injured or a family member has been killed or injured in a traffic crash in Alexandria, I encourage you to reach out to me to talk about what we can accomplish together.

The city is planning to introduce a draft of a plan for Vision Zero by September of this year and then a final plan will be submitted to City Council for budget approval later in the year. To have an impact on the city’s Vision Zero plans and budget, we need to form a coalition of interested parties (“Alexandria’s Citizens for Safe Streets”) very soon —

by the middle of August, if not sooner. If you are interested in such an effort, please contact me at alxcfss@gmail.com. We can share our respective stories and discuss how we might work together to eliminate serious injuries and fatalities from traffic crashes in our city.

Thank you for your time and consideration. Be careful when crossing streets. I look forward to hearing from you.

Mike Doyle