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Being Smart on the Streets

In the wake of two pedestrian fatalities, city leaders encourage safety.

At the end of the year’s third month, Alexandria has already recorded two pedestrian fatalities — a fact that has prompted city leaders to remind residents of the importance of pedestrian safety. This week, police officials will be increase their presence in the west end by handing out safety information to pedestrians along South Van Dorn Street and Duke Street. Traffic managers will set up message boards on South Van Dorn Street and Duke Street to flash safety tips to passing motorists. Then, on March 22, the city government will hold a community meeting at 7 p.m. in Room 1101 at City Hall to discuss the city’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Mobility Plan.

“This plan is going to become the blueprint for the city as we make pedestrian and bicycle improvements over the next 10 years,” said Yon Lambert, the city’s pedestrian and bicycle coordinator. “It’s an intensive study to see where we have deficiencies in the existing network.”

City leaders are trying to reduce dependence on private automobiles, and the city government is in the process of spending $3.6 million in grant-funded and local projects to improve the pedestrian Alexandria’s pedestrian and bicycle network. The plan hopes to document the problem areas in the city by identifying “priority assessment areas,” which will provide guidance on ways to incorporate walking and bicycling into the city’s transportation system.

“We must not forget that pedestrian safety is everyone’s responsibility,” said Councilman Ludwig Gaines, who advocated Alexandria’s participation with the regional Street Smart Campaign sponsored by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. “This campaign is an opportunity for jurisdictional leaders to band together to show their commitment to the welfare of their communities.”

In the past two years, five pedestrians have been killed in Alexandria including Jessica Aromin, a 69-year-old woman who died after she was hit on March 9 in the 100 block of South Van Dorn Street, and German Gonzalez, a 29-year-old man who was fatally injured on Feb. 28 in the 5700 block of Edsall Road. All five pedestrian fatalities occurred in the west end. None of the victims was in a crosswalk.

“Cars and pedestrians need to learn to share the road,” said Amy Bertsch, spokeswoman for the Alexandria Police Department. “And it’s so important for pedestrians to take steps to protect themselves, like using crosswalks and not crossing in the middle of a block.”