Gordon Chaffin is a freelance journalist who focuses on infrastructure and traffic news and insights for Street Justice. You can support independent journalism by subscribing to Gordon’s newsletter. He’s offering a 20% discount to THIH readers. –Maria Helena Carey
Vision Zero In the Suburbs
Last month, Washington Post reporter Katherine Shaffer wrote a high-quality story covering the challenges of DC-area suburbs attempting to successfully implement Vision Zero. The goal is challenging because its success is predicated on changes to culture and to infrastructure. These two things can only be at their best with time and under the best leadership. And infrastructure is hella expensive. Interventions of other types can help: greater enforcement of traffic laws, more robust encouragement of safer travel decisions (e.g., fewer car trips), better evaluation with more accurate and numerous data collection, and even education like PSAs. The original Scandinavian VZ campaigns did not mince words; the literal translations come out to “stop the child murders.”
Shaver’s story is good because it uses other U.S. cities as comparisons, including Tempe, Arizona. Tempe is a suburb of Phoenix and the home of Arizona State University. I lived in Tempe 2016-2017. The sunshine city with a fake lake has modern suburban design flaws: every road seems to be 4-6 lanes wide with minimal traffic calming. Roads are designed to accommodate the peakiest-peak time traffic flow. This dangerous design is shown on Washington Street, the Tempe road where a self-driving Uber killed a pedestrian crossing at night. It’s nearly deserted outside of rush hours. The road almost never is in gridlock. I would run there a lot; on weekend days it carried residential street-level volumes. Also: Washington and nearby roads have long gaps between marked crosswalks — between half- to a full mile apart — so pedestrians commonly cross outside intersections.
I rode the light rail commuting every day along Washington Street and Apache Boulevard — a similarly-designed road circumnavigating ASU’s Tempe Campus. The Tempe street grid is full of these wide roads. This is due to a lack of geographic constraints and because there has been much recent sprawling housing and jobs growth. Phoenix has 365-day bike commuting weather and decent cycling culture, so many of these roads have unprotected curbside bike lanes. Broadway, McClintock, Rural, Mill south of campus, Southern. They’re all anti-pedestrian, anti-cycling roads with lots of both groups because of poor, high-% Hispanic residents riding buses and all-year bike commuters. Phoenix itself and the suburbs, including Scottsdale’s main drag, are similarly filled by wide, flat, fast-by-design roads.
The DC area has fewer of these roads and more of a non-car commuting culture for historical, and other, reasons. However, DC has seen many traffic deaths in roads of this kind. These are some of the roads where Vision Zero will be won or lost: River, Old Georgetown, Georgia, Colesville, East-West Highway, Rockville Pike in Montgomery; Baltimore Ave/Route 1, Riverdale Rd, Annapolis Rd, Landover Rd, Greenbelt Rd, University Rd, Kenilworth Ave in Prince George’s. I’m missing some and that’s just suburban Maryland.
Urgency Qs, Influential Churches Delay 9th NW Safety Vote
On Monday morning, DC Councilmember Brianne Nadeau (Ward 1) removed a bill from the body’s legislative agenda that would force the DC Department of Transportation (DDOT) to finish design and begin constructing a bike/pedestrian safety project on 9th Street NW. CM Nadeau learned Monday morning “of wavering support among [her] colleagues as the result of some last-minute community concerns.”
Councilmembers have not publicly outlined those concerns
My reporting this week shows a familiar influence fighting against the project: Mayor Bowser’s Office of Policy and Legislative Affairs (OPLA) under the direction of Senior Aide Beverly Perry. However, OPLA and other staff from the Executive Office of the Mayor (EOM) don’t seem to be the overarching factor swinging Councilmember support. Swing votes hinge on the substantive merit of the bill, a rare and temporary gambit forcing action from DC’s Executive Branch.
Project stakeholders, therefore, have the power to influence the outcome of this ongoing fight between the DC Council and Mayor Bowser. The question for uncommitted Councilmembers is, why this way and why now? Why should the Council intervene in this extraordinary manner, in direct confrontation with the demonstrated wishes of EOM, and why is it an urgent matter? By reporting these details, this reporter believes advocates have the motivation to contact their local lawmakers and communicate answers to those questions
DC Drops Bird and Lime Scooters for 2020
Yesterday, DC’s Department of Transportation (DDOT) announced the list of approved micro-mobility operators for 2020:
Electric-Scoters: Jump, Lyft, Skip, Spin
E-Bikes: Helbiz: Jump
The District moved this fall to reduce the number of companies permitted while increasing the number of vehicles allowed per company and substantially raising the total number of shared scooters and e-bikes. Most notable omissions from permit renewal are Bird — the United States’ first-mover in this shared, electric scooter market — and Lime. Lime had recently hired Robert Gardner from WABA and deployed their 3.0 version scooter. [Full Story]
Safe Streets Org Expands to Arlington
The Alexandria Families for Safe Streets organization has expanded to Arlington County. There was a kick-off meeting for Arlington Families For Safe Streets (Arl FSS) on Tuesday, November 5th. The Alexandria group intends to “form a grassroots organization focused on making walking and biking safer in Arlington,” wrote Alexandria FSS Founding Member Mike Doyle. [Full Story]