Reprinted from the November 28th issue of the Northwest Current:
[title]Pedestrian Crashes Need More Attention[/title]
Why was I the only one who knew about the gruesome pedestrian crash at Northampton Street and Connecticut Avenue on Oct. 21? It put a young man in the hospital in serious condition with broken bones and a punctured lung; he is still under heavy sedation. If he had been shot or beat up by muggers, everyone would have known. It would have been in the news. The community would demand action, the police would have been out in force, meetings would be held. But in this situation there was silence.
This silence is shocking. Yes, there was a police report. But did the police contact the Advisory Neighborhood Commission or the Chevy Chase Citizens Association and suggest a meeting? Did the police apprise the D.C. Department of Transportation of this crash? And how did I know when no one else did? I walk on Sundays with a friend whose daughter is a friend of the young man who was hit. Last week she told me about it and then got in touch with the young man’s girlfriend, who sent me a description of the crash and his injuries.
I then contacted the police to ask whether there was a police report. Then I contacted the Transportation Department, our D.C. Council member and the local advisory neighborhood commissioner. Aside from the police report, no one knew about the crash. What does this lack of knowledge and the acceptance of the danger on our streets say about how we deal with such threats to public safety? We appear to accept crashes, unlike crime, as the cost of doing business.
I also feel partly to blame. As the leader of Connecticut Avenue Pedestrian Action and a participant in the Rock Creek West Livability Study, I pressed for a pedestrian signal at Northampton Street. That recommendation made it into both reports. But for two years now we have been waiting for this pedestrian light. I have called folks in the Transportation Department periodically to bug them about the signal. But I could have pushed harder.
We have two major problems that need to be addressed. One is the silence. The police need to alert the community whenever there is a crash causing injury or property damage. This is important public-safety information that should go to newspapers, advisory neighborhood commissions and citizens associations.
Second is the presence of dangerous marked crosswalks at intersections with no traffic lights on four- and six-lane “main streets,” especially ones at bus stops. Connecticut Avenue has quite a few of these. Do we need to wait for more pedestrian crashes to fix this public safety risk?
Coordinator, Pedestrian Initiative
at IONA Senior Services