Street Smart campaign highlights road diets

Transportation officials from the District, Virginia and Maryland gathered on Sherman Avenue on November 7 to launch the Fall 2014 Street Smart campaign and draw awareness to street safety for pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers. The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments brings the three jurisdictions together every fall when daylight savings time ends because of the increased danger on roadways after dark. Seventy percent of pedestrian fatalities occur at night, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The Street Smart campaign literature urges road users to “remain alert, share the road and obey traffic laws.”

“Last year 66 pedestrians and seven bicyclists were killed in the Washington region and that number needs to move toward zero,” said George Branyan, the pedestrian program coordinator for the District Department of Transportation (DDOT).

Engineering, enforcement and education are the tools for improving safety, said speakers at the Street Smart launch.

“We are trying to make our network in the District and around the region accessible for all,” DDOT Director Matt Brown said at the Street Smart kickoff. The location for the kickoff event was the D.C. Fire Department Engine Company 4 station on Sherman Avenue NW, a street that underwent a “road diet” in order to increase safety for all users. The roadway was narrowed from four to two lanes, sidewalks were widened, and a bicycle lane and median were added. “This was a significant engineering solution,” Brown said. The 85th percentile motor vehicle speeds were reduced from 35 mph to 28 mph after the road diet, he reported. The District needs to do more of those kinds of projects, Brown said.

“We are holding D.C. up as an example across the nation,” said Keith Sinclair, a highway safety engineer at the Federal Highway Administration’s National Resource Center. “Road diets can reduce crashes. It’s a very effective counter measure,” Sinclair said.

Officials from Virginia and Maryland discussed beefing up enforcement efforts and expanding bicycle and pedestrian facilities.

One speaker’s personal experience highlighted the importance of the efforts of these transportation and law enforcement officials.
Kenniss Henry talked about her daughter's life and death at the 2014 Fall Street Smart campaign kickoff.
“Far too many bicyclists and pedestrians die each year, and one is far too many,” said Kenniss Henry, the mother of Natasha Pettigrew, a Prince George’s County woman who was struck and killed by a driver in 2010 while she was training for a Half Ironman competition. She urged drivers to obey traffic signals and drive proactively. “We must pledge to save lives,” she said.

The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) held a pedestrian safety action on Sherman Avenue at Girard Street NW immediately following the Street Smart kickoff. MPD officers issued 8 to 10 citations to drivers who failed to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks and/or were using cellphones while operating their vehicles.
MPD officers issued citations on Sherman Avenue NW to drivers who failed to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks.