Are Pedestrians and Bicyclists Safe?

Are Pedestrians and Bicyclists Safe?

Crashes involving pedestrians have been increasing over the last three years, up from 144 in 2021 to 191 in 2022 to 233 in 2023.

In 2023, FCPD motors and patrol officers participated in a High Visibility Enforcement to slow down drivers and not have them drive distracted.

In 2023, FCPD motors and patrol officers participated in a High Visibility Enforcement to slow down drivers and not have them drive distracted.

Bruce Wright

Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis



NOVA Safe Streets reports ten pedestrian fatalities in 2023 (updated Jan. 14, 2024) for Fairfax County, with 233 crashes involving pedestrians resulting in 57 pedestrians sustaining serious injuries.

In 2023 (updated Jan. 1, 2024), Fairfax County had zero bicyclist fatalities and 74 crashes involving bicycles.

 Note FCPD records Fatal Crashes in 2022 as 24 Pedestrian Fatalities and nine in 2023.

Set clear goals, no impaired driving.

Drivers crashing into pedestrians and bicyclists causing fatalities and injuries is preventable through safe systems that equal safe mobility.

Traffic safety reminders by FCPD 

U.S. DOT adopted the Safe System Approach as the guiding paradigm to address roadway safety. “This is a shift from a conventional safety approach because it focuses on both human mistakes and human vulnerability and designs a system with many redundancies in place to protect everyone.”

 Fairfax County Police Pedestrian Involved Crash Comparison


Part of an ongoing series.

The Fairfax County Police Department (FCPD) Public Affairs Bureau posted on March 12, 2024, "Pedestrian fatalities saw a significant decline in 2023." FCPD reported nine pedestrian fatalities in 2023, compared to 24 in 2022, based on “data collected by the crash reconstruction unit."

The department recently issued its Year End 2023 Crime Report that covers Jan. 1- Dec. 31, 2023. Insights include those findings in its “key highlights for traffic safety initiatives and fatal crashes.”

Virginia’s state-of-the-art comprehensive Traffic Records Electronic Data System, TREDS, maintained by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, holds Fairfax County data, including the towns of Clifton, Herndon, and Vienna. TREDS’ data concurs that pedestrian fatalities in Fairfax County decreased when comparing data from 2023 to 2022. 

FCPD transitioned to TREDS from January through May 2017. The Department of Motor Vehicles maintains the official record of all reportable crashes occurring within the Commonwealth and is responsible for disseminating these reports.

Yet FCPD’s records do not always agree with those of TREDS. For instance, TREDS reports that in 2023 (updated 1/14/2024), there were 10 pedestrian fatalities in Fairfax County. FCPD currently reports nine pedestrian fatalities for 2023. For 2022, TREDS reported 32 pedestrian crash fatalities, while FCPD reported 24 pedestrian fatalities.

The accuracy of pedestrian and cyclist safety statistics and whether they are publicly transparent influences residents' and leadership's perception of Fairfax County’s safety and needs. TREDS’ current crash findings involving pedestrians and cyclists on streets, roads, highways, and parking lots maintained by state, county, or municipal funds throughout Fairfax County paint a somewhat different picture from the one FCPD presents.

Specific to Fairfax County, the 2023 Safe Streets Report, which uses TREDS, reports that total crashes involving pedestrians have been increasing over the last three years, up from 144 in 2021 to 191 in 2022 to 233 in 2023. Additionally, according to TREDS data in 2023, Fairfax County experienced an increase in serious pedestrian injuries — 57 serious pedestrian injuries in 2023 compared to 53 in 2022. FCPD did not draw attention to these statistics in its 2023 Crime Report and insights for traffic safety initiatives and fatal crashes.

FCPD also did not provide in its posted 2023 Crime Report and Insights elements of crash data relative to “key highlights for traffic safety initiatives and fatal collisions," such as whether the collision killed a pedestrian or bicyclist, whether speeding was involved, whether the driver or the person killed by the driver was impaired by alcohol or drugs, or whether the driver was distraction-free.

FCPD’s Fatal Crashes Table, provided in the 2023 Crime Report, compares only two elements of crash data: the type of participants (driver, passenger, motorcyclist, pedestrian) and the years 2022 and 2023.

As for bicyclists, the 2023 Safe Streets Report using TREDS data presented better news for bicyclists: no fatalities during 2023. Safe Street’s report also cited a decrease in crashes involving bicyclists sustaining serious injuries — 10 in 2023 compared to 14 in 2022.

“The caveat is that only the worst bike crashes get reported if there’s $1500 in damages or serious injury,” said the Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling founder Bruce Wright. “Minor crashes are not reported to the DMV, and many others are not reported to the police,” he added.

"Those numbers are unacceptable, and I don't think police are doing enough to keep pedestrians and bicyclists safe. Speeding is out of control. Police have limited resources, and the Virginia state legislature has limited the use of speed cameras," Wright said. Wright adds that Fairfax police do not issue speeding citations when motorists travel less than ten mph over the speed limit. “Motorists expect to be able to travel at those speeds without consequences."

In May 2023, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and Fairfax County reduced the speed limit along the crash-prone 7-mile stretch of Richmond Highway, also known as Route 1, between Mount Vernon and the Capital Beltway, south of the City of Alexandria, to “optimize safety and operations for pedestrians, bicyclists, drivers, and transit users,” according to the departments.

Nonetheless, a hit-and-run crash claimed the life of Eder Machado Aleman, 36, of Fairfax, who was attempting to cross Richmond Highway “outside of the crosswalk,” the Fairfax County Police Department posted on Oct. 7, 2023.

In the past, Fairfax County’s pedestrian and bicyclist safety initiatives focused on altering road users' behavior and encouraging responsible parties. 

In contrast, Vision Zero’s Safe System approach considers how the people who design, build, and manage the transportation network, including VDOT, can prioritize the lives and health of users.

The responsibility for enhancing pedestrians' and bicyclists' safety is shared. It is not limited to drivers and cyclists complying with traffic and highway laws, not being under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or not paying attention. Modifications and infrastructure construction are needed to accommodate pedestrians, cyclists and drivers safely.

Kenneth Comer, chairman at large of the county Trails, Sidewalks, and Bikeways Committee, wrote in a letter on July 5, 2022, to Jeffrey C. McKay, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, citing increasing urgency for pedestrian and bicyclist safety issues especially along the Route 1 corridor. 

From Jan. 1 through March 14 of this year, drivers traveling on roads within Fairfax County have fatally crashed into four pedestrians.

A Feb. 15 pedestrian crash at Route 1 and Huntington Avenue in Belle Haven marked the county’s first fatal pedestrian collision of the year. An adult man was crossing Richmond Highway outside a crosswalk when a northbound 2006 Toyota Camry struck him. He was pronounced dead at the scene, according to Fairfax Police.

The second, third, and fourth fatal pedestrian crashes in 2024 occurred in three separate collisions on Sunday, March 10. 

The first deadly collision on March 10 occurred just after midnight that Sunday in Hybla Valley and involved a stolen Sonata, according to Fairfax County Police. An officer reportedly saw the stolen car on Buckman Road, near Russell Road. When the police approached, the motorist drove away, and "officers did not pursue." Fifteen minutes later, an officer saw the stolen vehicle speeding along Janna Lee Avenue. The driver sideswiped an occupied vehicle, crashed into a dumpster, and exited the vehicle and fled. "Officers then found a struck pedestrian in the grass nearby. James Johnson, 63, of Hybla Valley, was taken to the hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries. Officers saturated the area but were unable to locate the driver,” police said.

March 10’s second fatal pedestrian collision occurred at 3:39 a.m. on the shoulder of 495's westbound lanes just east of Exit 176 where a person appeared to be changing a vehicle's tire, according to Virginia State Police. The driver of a passing truck struck the pedestrian, who died at the scene.

Less than 15 minutes later, troopers encountered a woman in the eastbound lanes of the same area of I-495 near Exit 176. A 2005 Honda Accord, heading eastbound in the right center lane on I-495, “was unable to avoid striking a female pedestrian who had stepped into traffic,” the VSP said in an update on Tuesday, March 12. The woman, Vanessa Schwartz, 35, of Alexandria, died at the scene of the crash. The crash remains under investigation, with the assistance of the Virginia State Police Crash Reconstruction Team.

Even one death is not acceptable. In 2023, for the first time since the City of Alexandria’s Vision Zero goal of eliminating roadway deaths and severe injuries was adopted in 2017, the city ended the year with zero fatalities. The program webpage provides more information on the city’s Vision Zero Program. Additional resources include the Vision Zero Action Plan, the Vision Zero Fiscal Year 2024 Annual Work Plan, and the Vision Zero Annual Report for Fiscal Year 2023.

Fairfax County Police responded to questions about traffic safety statistics with a statement: “Our 2023 crime report includes all the data relating to fatal crashes that occurred and were investigated by FCPD. The reason there is a difference between the TREDS numbers and ours is that they do not make that distinction with jurisdiction, so the numbers can vary.

"The FCPD works hard all year long implementing traffic safety initiatives, public awareness, and safety tips through our social media platforms, Traffic Safety Division, and Crime Prevention Unit.”

The Fairfax County Police Department and Virginia State Police will  launch the Road Shark campaign for 2024. Road Shark is a high-visibility and coordinated enforcement and education effort to deter aggressive driving, reduce crashes, and change driving behavior,  enhancing traffic safety on the roadways of Fairfax County. Last year, nearly 25,000 citations and warnings were issued over four waves