A walk on the wild side — or rather, a wild walk from side to side.
That was the message of paramedic David Lyons, founder of Safe Crossing, as he corralled attendees in the exhibit area of last Saturday's Mount Vernon Town Meeting.
"There is a severe problem with people attempting to cross Richmond Highway," Lyons insisted to all that would listen. "We have an increasing walking population. Government encourages them to use public transportation but isn't willing to provide safe access to that transportation."
He further emphasized, "Government can't have it both ways. Route 1 should connect neighborhoods not be a barrier separating them."
Lyons' handout asked the rhetorical question, "What's the most dangerous thing to do on Richmond Highway?" His answer? "Try crossing the road."
It went on to note that, "Since 1995, the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department responded to over 260 reports of pedestrians being struck along the Richmond Highway corridor. Thirteen of these have been fatalities.
"Anyone who lives or works here has seen the problem first-hand. There are few safe and legal places for pedestrians to cross. Resident complaints have gone unheeded, and VDOT has become legendary for their inability to follow through on promises to make the road safer."
Safe Crossings is an independent, grassroots coalition of concerned citizens who want to make the Richmond Highway area safer for pedestrians, according to Lyons. It was formed last summer and is presently attempting to form area chapters.
The seven and one half miles of Route 1 in Fairfax County has the negative distinction of being one of the most dangerous thoroughfares in the state for pedestrians. It carries nearly 80,000 vehicles per day.
A paramedic with the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department since 1987, Lyons has first-hand knowledge of the highway carnage of which he speaks. "A lot of the pedestrian accidents are preventable. More needs to be done to help those who flow back and forth across the highway," he said.
Lyons admits that some of the problem is based on pedestrians not adhering to proper crossing areas. He feels that that could be eased by putting in more pedestrian signals with countdown meters.
Both Alexandria and Arlington have these to alert pedestrian how much time is available to cross safely.
The exhibit table at the Town Meeting was one part of Safe Crossings initiative to begin a public education campaign. Additional information is available by calling 703-491-9889 or on the internet at Safecrossings.metroped.org.