22 Apr 2019


We Lost a Neighbor and Friend on Friday. Now what?

Dave Salovesh. Photo by Karen Ramsey.

Ever since my friend Karen Ramsey called me on Friday afternoon to tell me about Dave Salovesh’s death, I’ve been dreading having to write about it. I am but a mere blogger, trying to pass news and information on to you in between my other jobs and raising my kids and weeding my yard so it doesn’t look like a nightmare.

It’s hard to know the degrees of intimacy you actually have with someone when you mostly know that person through your online activities. For me, Dave was a constant presence on Twitter. Sometimes funny, sometimes touching, and sometimes downright scolding, Dave –@darsal, as you may also know him– was there. If you needed to identify a bird, he could help. If you wanted to kvell along with him when his daughter went off to prom, he graciously opened a window into that ritual as well.

What is the definition of a friend? It’s someone who’s there for you– even if it’s 280 characters at a time. Dave was my friend. He was someone who listened and who educated and who shared his life with me and with our Twitter community. And at that personal level, I have lost a friend.

But at another level, we’ve lost a champion in a most ironic way, down to the fact that he died on Good Friday. And this loss– that he, an activist for cyclists, pedestrians, and for all-access, would die destroyed by a speeding van– is a big loss for those who care about having a city that is safe and accessible for all. Dave was the man who once lectured me when I complained about a woman on a wheelchair endangering herself and everyone else because she was riding the wrong way on 4th Street NE. Dave corrected me on my presumption that she was the one who was being unsafe, and waited for her to go by again so he could talk to her. As it turns out, the sidewalk in the 300 block of 4th Street NE, west side, is not wide enough to accommodate motorized wheelchairs, and she had no choice but to use the open road in order to get to her destination. He couldn’t see me, but after he was done explaining the situation, I was red with shame.

Has the sidewalk on 4th changed at all? No, it hasn’t. It’s still too narrow at two distinct points where the fence of the Senate Pages building ends and the light posts begin. I haven’t seen the woman in the wheelchair, but if I ever do, I will ask her where else it’s hard for her to get around.

We should all be so lucky to have a loud, opinionated, patient and unrelenting person as Dave in our lives. His death should motivate us all to harness that opinionated relentlessness and demand change.

There are a few things you can do to start demanding change. One simple way is to write to Mayor Muriel Bowser regarding safer accommodations for bicyclists and pedestrians. Need inspiration? Read the letters neighbors/friends/Twitter friends Jay Williams and Tim Krepp have sent.

I came across this very poignant thread from Twitter user Randall Myers, @ranpuba. I think you should read it, too.

If you haven’t done so, you should read Brian McEntee’s obituary on Washington City Paper— a fitting tribute of friendship and a profile of your friendly neighborhood activist, rolled into one. You can also read DCist’s post on who he was and how he died. Take a moment to read the plans for the 2013 Florida Avenue Safety improvements, many of which did not happen.

Follow Dave’s close friend Rudi Riet (@randomduck) on Twitter, if you are on the platform. Also, follow Matthew Sampson (@riotpedestrian) along with Mark Sussman (@msussmania). They will have more information about future events related to protests and action toward making the city safer for everyone. A few hours after Dave’s ghost bike unveiling, there was another traffic fatality at 16th and V Streets, SE– Abdul Seck of the Bronx was struck while walking down the street. This is an intersection in Ward 8 where neighbors have been clamoring for safer streets. If you’d like to join a vigil in honor of Mr. Seck, there will be one on Wednesday, April 24, starting at 7 p.m.

Please keep Friday morning/afternoon open for a day of action in honor of Dave. He would have wanted you to be there.

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