To the Editor:
Alexandria Families For Safe Street (AFSS) congratulates City Council for approving the Vision Zero (VZ) Action plan. While the plan calls for “zero” deaths and serious injuries from vehicles crashes by 2028, the city’s Police and Transportation Departments have rendered plans that have specific actions to be enacted within specific timelines and provides accountability as to which department is responsible for achieving the plan’s goal. Many parts of the plan will be implemented in the near term. Over the past few months AFSS has urged City Council to “Implement Vision Zero Now,” not wait until 2028. We created a broad coalition of citizens to support our petition’s motto and last month we presented to City Council over 1,340 signatures on our petition that was collected over six weeks to serve as testimony to our community’s support of an expeditious roll out of the VZ plan. We congratulate City Council and staff for submitting a bold and comprehensive program with clear benchmarks on how an environment of safer streets can be adopted throughout the City of Alexandria.
Now that the plan is approved, the challenge is to quickly put into service the four critical components of the VZ plan. Namely; Engineering, Enforcement, Evaluation (of crash statistics) and Education. To their credit, city staff submitted a plan that appears to be an excellent start for the VZ program. We are hopeful that the city allocates the necessary resources to carry out this urgently needed program. Otherwise the plan will falter, and people will continue to be seriously injured or killed (242 people were injured in crashes in 2016, including 90 pedestrians who were struck and injured plus 4 citizens killed. Full disclosure, I was one of the 90 people walking who were struck by a vehicle and survived last year.)
A key VZ component that the citizens of Alexandria can help with is the Educational part of the plan. We need to develop educational programs that engages drivers, cyclists and pedestrians alike to be aware of fundamental streets safety practices. Such basic concepts like, “Speed Kills and Maims … slow down” or “Drivers look into the crosswalk when turning” can save lives and avoid serious injuries. All of the AFSS crash survivors or other members who lost a relative were victims of crashes while walking or biking in the middle of crosswalks with the right of way in our favor. In addition to the crash survivors we are fortunate to be joined with many concerned citizens who themselves have experienced too many “near misses” of almost being crashed into by a vehicle. It is also incumbent upon pedestrians to be properly engaged with prudent street safety practices while walking our streets.
AFSS is evolving its focus in 2018 to be an advocacy group encouraging our fellow citizens to interact with each other as drivers, cyclist and pedestrians to promote street safety. If we can engage each other by being cautious and courteous, we can foster a safer environment of mobility while exercising friendly practices to ensure we all arrive at our destinations as planned. If you are interested in helping AFSS to promote educational street safety practices, please contact us. A large coalition of engaged citizens will help the VZ plan become a reality “Now.”
Mike Doyle is a founding member of Alexandria Families for Safe Streets, a grassroots coalition of traffic crash victims, family members and concerned citizens for street safety.