Safe Crossing to Host Regional Safety Summit

Safe Crossing to Host Regional Safety Summit

On Nov. 12, a regional summit on pedestrian safety will be held under the aegis of the Safe Crossing Campaign. It's aim is to explore area-wide initiatives to curb the increasing confrontation between pedestrians and motor vehicles.

"Pedestrian advocates and representatives from various government agencies concerned with pedestrian safety are going to attend our meeting in an effort to coordinate actions throughout the region," said David J. Lyons, director, Safe Crossings Campaign.

The gathering will be held at the Knights of Columbus Hall, 8592 Richmond Highway, beginning at 7 p.m., according to Lyons. "There seems to be a consensus that the Route 1 corridor can serve as a laboratory for looking at both the problem and potential solutions," he explained.

In addition to representatives from advocacy groups in Northern Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia, invitations are going out to government officials in all those jurisdictions as well. The general public is also encouraged to attend, Lyons said.

DURING A MEETING on Sept. 26, representatives of the Fairfax County Department of Transportation and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) agreed on three traffic-calming initiatives along Route 1 to be financed by $43,000 of reallocated funds from the offices of Mount Vernon and Lee district supervisors, Gerald W. Hyland and Dana Kauffman, respectively.

The money will be used to improve pedestrian safety at the intersections of Route 1 and Ladson Lane, Lockheed Boulevard, and Beacon Hill Road. VDOT has agreed to install countdown pedestrian signal heads at each of the intersections, according to Chris Wells, Fairfax County Department of Transportation pedestrian program manager.

One of the primary concerns to pedestrian safety advocates and law enforcement, in addition to vehicular speeds and driving characteristics, is that of jaywalking by pedestrians. "Police are enforcing jaywalking laws along Route 1 as well as the new laws discouraging vehicles from cutting off pedestrians in crosswalks," Lyons verified.

The regional campaign was kicked off at the beginning of the month by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. During a press conference at that time, a multi-year pedestrian and bicycle safety campaign was launched. Its purpose is "to reduce the number of pedestrian and bicycle injuries and fatalities in the Washington metropolitan region."

ELEMENTS OF THE campaign include television and radio announcements that feature people whose lives have been touched by such accidents. Fairfax County government has contributed $50,000 to help in the first year of the campaign, according to Merni Fitzgerald, director of public affairs.

In Fairfax County the pedestrian safety issue came to the forefront in 2001 when the Transportation Advisory Commission hosted a meeting on pedestrian access issues. The outcome of that gathering was a report recommending various ways to improve pedestrian safety.

Since that time there has been increased activity, including a variety of actions such as better signage, improved pedestrian education programs, increased public awareness through media campaigns, changing the county code to increase penalties for crosswalk violations by drivers failing to yield the right of way, and enforcing jaywalking violations by pedestrians.

OTHER INITIATIVES and accomplishments have included the following:

* Providing $1.5 million for a comprehensive pedestrian safety review of all 7,000 public transit bus stops;

* Initiating Location Review Teams (Fairfax County Department of Transportation, Fairfax County Police Department, Department of Public Works and Environmental Services) and VDOT to jointly review the top 20 county locations where pedestrian accidents occur. Seven of those are in the Mount Vernon/Lee districts;

* Changing the county code to increase fines for failing to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalks to $100-$500;

* Constructing $9 million of sidewalk/trail projects and $160,00 worth of bus shelter under DPWES;

* Producing and distributing multilingual pedestrian safety brochures;

* Jointly working with VDOT on a wide array of projects throughout the county to enhance pedestrian safety through increased signalization and better-marked crosswalks and developing integrated systems for roadways, pedestrians and transit systems.

The ever-increasing importance of pedestrian safety throughout the county was highlighted with the appointment, within the past year, of Chris Wells as the county's first pedestrian program manager. The upcoming summit will continue and strengthen that commitment region-wide.