To the Editor:
I am writing because I am concerned about safety. While I am delighted that Alexandria has a strong economy and that our leaders are responding with increased road-capacity in the form of transit lanes, I am concerned that too little attention is being paid to people who are out on our streets and sidewalks, walking and bicycling. After all, most people access transit by walking and, according to Metro, more bicycles park at the Braddock Road Station than at any other in the system.
As chair of the Alexandria Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, people write to me often, and safety is first among their concerns. I hear that an increasing number of people are using bicycles for commuting and shopping, which is great news for all of us. However, I also hear increasing complaints from pedestrians of cyclists on the sidewalks and from cyclists of bike lanes that end abruptly (Slater's Lane approaching Route 1) or are simply missing (West Glebe). In some places, even the sidewalks are missing, as on Seminary Road west of Quaker. Just last week someone wrote to me that Crestwood Drive between Kenwood and Valley has no accommodation for pedestrians. I am surprised that this is allowed to persist in a residential neighborhood.
Happily, Alexandria's leaders are taking positive steps to deal with our changing city. The transit corridors and the new metro station are positive responses to the development that is talking place (those who simply oppose development have yet to tell a convincing story, to my ears, here in strong-property-rights Virginia). The bike lanes on Slater's Lane are a very positive step, connecting that neighborhood to the nearby Mt. Vernon Trail.
Alexandria may once have been a sleepy suburb where it was safe to walk in the street, but this is no longer the case. With respect to traffic safety, we are in danger of going the route of nearby Washington, D.C., where the majority of people killed in traffic are people walking or riding bicycles rather than people who chose to ride in cars. This is part of a national trend where, increasingly, ever-fancier airbags serve only to enable drivers to feel safe while yakking on their cell phones.
We in Alexandria can, must and will do better. Now is the time for us to speak up and to move forward, with a focus on people rather than automobiles.