D.C.'s Official Pedestrian Advisory Body

Appointed by the D.C. Council to advise the Mayor, the D.C. Council, DDOT and other agencies.

Next Meeting: May 13th, 2024

Hear from city officials, help us develop policy recommendations, and learn about our work to upgrade the city's streetscape.

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Calls for sidewalk funding received favorably at DC Council hearing

Neglected and broken sidewalks in the District will get the fixes they need if the DC Council approves about $33 million set aside in Mayor Vince Gray’s budget, and prospects for approval are looking good following a budget hearing Tuesday.

At the DC Council Committee on Transportation and the Environment hearing for the District Department of Transportation’s 2015 budget, Council Member and Committee Chair Mary Cheh signaled that a pattern of annually underfunding sidewalk repairs may be reversed soon. “I fully expect the Council to support the budget increase,” Cheh said following testimony by a handful of District residents about the dangers to people of all ages created by cracked sidewalks. “Like you, we believe sidewalks are a form of transit and deserve to be a priority.”

The Mayor’s proposed budget calls for spending $33.5 million on sidewalk repairs in fiscal years 2015 through 2017. This would be an increase from the $7.9 million that had been budgeted previously. The District receives about 3,000 requests for sidewalk work each year and would need about $13 million annually to meet the demand, a DDOT official told the DC Pedestrian Advisory Council (PAC) last year.

The PAC has been pushing for several months for speeding up the pace of sidewalk repairs. In January, the PAC passed a resolution requesting the city address the long list of broken sidewalks.

“The backlog in sidewalk maintenance puts pedestrians across the District in danger as they try to navigate around real sidewalk defects that go unaddressed for too long,” testified Robin Murphy, the Ward 7 PAC representative. Others who testified described incidents in which older residents tripped and fell because of damaged sidewalks and sustained injuries that limited their daily activities.

Council Member David Grosso pressed DDOT for quality control. After he expressed concern during the hearing that newer sidewalks appear to be low quality and quick to deteriorate, a DDOT official described discussions among engineers in the region about the possibility that snow removal chemicals are having a degrading effect. Grosso is requesting that DDOT fully investigate the cause. “It’s imperative we have quality. Otherwise it’s a waste,” Grosso said of the expense and effort.

PAC member Marlene Berlin urged DDOT to make sure it has good systems in place before ramping up its work on sidewalks. “Doing the work of building and maintaining the sidewalk network, the roadway for pedestrians, needs coordination between planning and engineering, the capacity at DDOT to execute the work, and adequate capital funding,” said Berlin, testifying in her role as pedestrian advocate for Iona Senior Services.

The Committee for Transportation and the Environment holds its budget mark-up meeting for DDOT on May 15. The DC Council votes on the budget on May 28.

Join us to discuss tracking sidewalk repairs and promoting street trees

The DC Pedestrian Advisory Council’s Walking Environment Committee holds its regular meeting on April 28 from 6-8 p.m. at One Judiciary Square on the 11th Floor. Kirsten Oldenburg, ANC6B commissioner, will describe how her ANC collected information about sidewalk conditions and tracked repairs. Earl Eutsler of the District Department of Transportation’s Urban Forestry Administration will discuss street trees, an important component of our walking environment.

New report shows commuting on foot popular but not equal among DC residents

A new report from the Alliance for Biking & Walking examines the hard data behind the growing movement for more bicycling and walking and finds that walking to work in Washington, DC is more common than in other cities -- especially among wealthier residents -- and is also safer than in other cities.

Bicycling and Walking in the United States: 2014 Benchmarking Report collects and analyzes data from all 50 states, 52 of the most populous cities, and 17 small and midsized cities. The report traces the rise of walking and biking and explores their connections to health, economic and environmental issues, as well as their prominence as policy and funding priorities among state and local governments.

Washington, DC’s data indicates strongly that there is safety in numbers when it comes to traversing the city on foot. While residents are more likely to walk to work than in almost every other city, they are less likely to be struck and killed by cars than in other cities. At the same time, the report finds that walking to work is more common among residents with salaries above $65,000 than among those with salaries below $35,000.

Following are some highlights from the report.

Commuting on Foot: Washington, DC ranks second among large cities in its share of commuters who walk to work. (The city aims to greatly increase this share in the future: the Sustainable DC Plan establishes the goal of increasing walking and bicycling to 25 percent of all commuter trips by 2032.)

Share of commuters who walk to work
City...Percent of commuters
Washington, DC (ranked 2nd)...11.8%
Boston (highest)...15.0%
Fort Worth (lowest)...1.2%
Average among large U.S. cities...5.0%

Wealth disparites: An interesting yet perhaps not surprising statistic is that in Washington, DC, more than in many other cities, getting to work on foot is more common among residents with higher incomes than people with lower incomes. People earning $65,000 make up 41% of commuters who walk, while people earning less than $15,000 make up only 18% of the pedestrian commuters.

Percent of workers who walk to work, by annual income (total = 100%)
Less than $15,000...$15,000-$34,999...$35,000-$64,999...$65,000+...Annual income
18%...16%...25%...41%...Washington, DC
34%...28%...19%...19%...Large cities average
45%...30%...14%...9%...Large cities median

The statistics about commuting and wealth both could be the result of the growth of the city core as a place to live. Perhaps as the center of the city, where most jobs are located, has become a place where higher income people are living, those residents are able to walk to work, while lower income residents who live farther from job centers are driving or taking public transit. Whatever the reason, the disparity between the rates of commuting by foot among residents of different income levels contrasts to the experience of residents in similarly sized cities such as Baltimore, Boston and Seattle where many more low-income residents are walking to work, according to the report.

Pedestrian fatalities: Between 2009 and 2011, Washington, DC averaged 11.7 pedestrian fatalities each year. This number is relatively low, with Washington, DC ranking third among cities with the lowest pedestrian fatality rate per 10,000 pedestrians.

Pedestrian fatality rate per 10,000 pedestrians
City...Fatality rate
Washington, DC (ranked 3rd lowest)...3.3
Boston (lowest)...0.9
Jacksonville (highest)...41.6
Average among large U.S. cities...8.3

Interestingly, the data shows an inverse relationship between biking and walking levels and fatality rates. In that vein, in a comparison of walking to work and pedestrian fatality rates, cities in which a higher percentage of people walk to work experience a lower pedestrian fatality rate. Among large cities, Washington, DC pedestrians fare well, ranking second among the 52 largest cities for its low rate of pedestrian deaths compared to its high rate of commuting. Only Boston was ranks higher; New York City ranks third.

“A possible explanation is that in places where more bicyclists and pedestrians are present, motorists are more used to sharing the roadways with bicyclists and are more aware of pedestrians at crossings. Environmental factors (such as signed routes, bike lanes, and sidewalks) that contribute to increased bicycling and walking also likely contribute to increased safety,” according to the report.

Generally speaking, bicyclist and pedestrian fatalities are a smaller percentage of roadway deaths in cities where there are more people who bike and walk to work. Unfortunately, a shockingly high rate of Washington, DC’s traffic fatalities are pedestrians.

Percentage of traffic fatalities that are pedestrians
City...Fatality rate
Washington, DC (ranked 2nd)...43.8%
New York City (highest)...55.0%
Colorado Springs (lowest)...10.0%
Average among large U.S. cities...27.8%

The Alliance for Biking & Walking’s 2014 Benchmarking Report shows that many Washington, DC residents are enjoying the city’s walkability. However, the city can do more to ensure that all residents are enjoying the benefits of walking equally – and safely.

Mayor proposes millions to fix backlog of required sidewalk repairs

Mayor Gray’s proposed 2015 budget and six-year capital improvement plan call for significant funding for sidewalk repairs over the next three years, a welcome proposition for pedestrians. The mayor has allotted nearly $5.5 million to repair and maintain curbs and sidewalks in fiscal year 2015. In addition, the capital budget proposes spending $7.5 million, $13.3 million and $7.2 million respectively in 2015, 2016 and 2017 for curb and sidewalk rehab, according to John McGaw, director of the capital improvements program.

 “We would like to recognize the mayor for making progress toward addressing the backlog in sidewalk investment needs,” PAC chairman Jason Broehm said. PAC has been pushing for months for the city to address the estimated $22-28 million backlog in unmet sidewalk repairs. In the weeks ahead, PAC members will engage in conversations with DC council members about the importance of this funding.

The 2015 budget also calls for an increase in spending on the Automated Traffic Enforcement program, which includes cameras that catch motorists speeding, running red lights and failing to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks. Budget documents released April 3 proposed a budget increase of $4.1 million in 2015 for automated traffic enforcement.  The PAC strongly supports this programs because of the demonstrated safety benefits.
The DC Council Committee on Transportation and the Environment will hold its District Department of Transportation budget hearing on Tuesday, April 29 at 11 a.m. in the Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Room 500. Anyone wishing to testify at the hearing about the importance of safe sidewalks and curbs should sign up to do so by contacting Aukima Benjamin at abenjamin@dccouncil.us or by calling 202-724-8062.

Crash data and sidewalk repairs examined at oversight hearing

The D.C. Council Committee on Transportation and the Environment held its oversight hearing on the Pedestrian Advisory Council (PAC), Bicycle Advisory Council and District Department of Transportation on March 21.

In her testimony, PAC Vice Chair Marlene Berlin highlighted some of PAC’s activities in 2013, including pressing for continued photo enforcement and participating in the development of the Strategic Highway Safety Plan. Looking ahead, Berlin called for completion of the $20-28 million backlog of sidewalk repairs and asked for easier access to recent crash data. (Read Berlin’s testimony or watch a video of the hearing. Berlin’s testimony can be heard about 1 hour and 12 minutes into the video.)

Also testifying at the hearing was Sonia Conly, a representative of Capitol Hill Village, an organization that promotes opportunities for residents to stay in their communities for life. Conly explained to the council members attending the hearing, Mary Cheh and David Grosso, that only one of 40 sections of broken sidewalk in the Capitol Hill neighborhood that were reported to DDOT last summer had been repaired. “Safe sidewalks are key to being out and about, connecting with neighbors, community services and utilizing public transportation,” Conly testified. (Read Conly’s testimony and view photos she brought to the hearing.)

At the hearing, rescheduled twice because of snow days, Cheh and Grosso expressed concern for pedestrian safety and access. “Pedestrian safety should be a performance metric for DDOT,” Grosso said. (Read Grosso’s synopsis of the hearing.)

If you would like to share your concerns about pedestrian safety in the District, please attend the next PAC meeting at 6 p.m. on Monday, May 19, at 441 4th St. NW, Room 1117.