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New Pedestrian Safety Board Proposed

A pilot Pedestrian Safety Board will be established by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors to study issues within the Mount Vernon/Lee districts on how to make walking along Richmond Highway less of a death defying experience.

At the May 24 BOS meeting, Mount Vernon District Supervisor Gerald Hyland and Lee District Supervisor Dana Kauffman, requested the formation of such a Board to study issues within these two districts and report their findings to the Board of Supervisors for final presentation to the Fairfax County Department of Transportation" and VDOT.

As explained by Hyland to the BOS, "Frank Cohn, Chairman of the Transportation Committee of the Mount Vernon Council of Citizens' Associations, recently attended a Walkable Community Workshop. During this workshop, Mr. Cohn decided ... many of the techniques and concepts presented ... could be valuable in making recommendations to County and State transportation agencies..."

Their original proposal to BOS was to concentrate the work of the newly established Board on their two magisterial districts which border each side of the Route 1 corridor. "However, when they [BOS] heard the proposal it was suggested that it be made a countywide project. I was willing to accept that amendment. So that's what it will be," Hyland said.

Hyland and Kauffman envisioned the makeup of the original two district Board to be composed of three appointees from each of their districts and that one joint appointee be named for a total of seven. They also suggested that "consultants from Fairfax DOT and VDOT be invited to the meetings for their technical expertise."

THE BOARD WOULD be empowered to select their own Chair from the members. The proposal was also amended to have the Chairman of BOS appoint the seven member.

With the concept expanded to the entire county the makeup is being reconsidered, according to Hyland. "It would still be one Board but with representatives from all magisterial districts," he said.

"The idea is to look at ways to put into practice some of the things that were brought forth at the recent Walkable Communities Workshop," Kauffman said. "The Board would work with county staff to see how many of the ideas we can put in place."

A Walkable Communities Workshop was held at the South County Government Center early this spring under the aegis of the National Center for Bicycling and Walking {NCBW). It was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Active Living grant program as an effort to explore ways to make walking safer and more desirable.

Conducting the workshop, in conjunction with county personnel, was Peter Lagerway, an instructor for NCBW from Seattle. That city has won countless awards for its efforts to better blend pedestrian and vehicle interaction.

NCBW literature distributed at the workshop noted, "Creating places for people to walk means more than just special trails ... Creating an active community environment means taking a look at the broader scope of where there are, and aren't, opportunities to safely walk. It involves land use design, retrofitting the transportation infrastructure, funding and much more."

Some aspects working against walkable communities, according to NCBW, include: lack of sidewalks, narrow walkways, missing curb cuts, poorly maintained and/or constructed walking surfaces, difficult and dangerous street crossings, and high speed/high volume traffic.

The newly constituted Board would look at these factors and ways to overcome them in developing a more pedestrian safe environment, according to the Hyland/Kauffman proposal.