Central to the city’s transportation policy are the Complete Streets and VisionZero national movements. Bicycling activists founded both programs in the U.S. In Alexandria, movement advocates have grossly exaggerated safety risks to promote road redesign projects that often slow motor vehicle traffic to a crawl and increase traffic congestion at peak times. Just ask the commuters on north Van Dorn Street or those traveling to and from T.C. Williams on King Street.
Do we really have a serious road safety problem in this city? Federal statistics from 2017 show that the rate of traffic deaths in Virginia is 20 percent lower than the national average. State government statistics show that Alexandria’s rate was 80 percent lower than Virginia as a whole. So, if Alexandria’s rate was (therefore) 84 percent lower than the national average, is there any reason to believe that we have a serious safety issue on our streets?
Movement advocates will point to Alexandria’s five traffic deaths in 2018 as evidence that we have a road safety crisis. However, two of those who died had lost control of their motorcycles, one at 2:30 a.m. Two others died in a one-car accident driving at an excessive speed down an exit ramp off the beltway after midnight. The fifth died in an accident he caused on the inner loop of the Beltway, also after midnight.
None of these accidents should justify the next road narrowing project on another of our major arterials, Seminary Road. This does not mean that there are not unsafe intersections and crosswalks. Let’s identify those and make them safer. But let’s not let a small group of activists continue to drive an agenda that creates more congestion for the purpose of completing a citywide network of lightly used bike lanes.
The majority of residents still prefer, and generally need, their automobiles to get to work, run their errands and transport their kids to school and activities. Perhaps our city government should focus less on meeting the guidelines of trendy programs and more on expediting peak traffic flow. That would solve a real problem, allowing many of us to reclaim our residential streets from careless cut-through drivers.