To the editor:
I am responding to the letter, “Vision Zero has zero benefits” in the Jan. 17 Alexandria Times. The writer views the Vision Zero program as anti-automobile and infers that the city plans to remove automobiles from our streets. The letter concludes that Vision Zero is not needed “but we need four lanes on Seminary Road.”
With all due respect, I disagree. Vision Zero is a plan that’s a combination of engineering, enforcement and education programs focused on street safety. When implemented correctly, it can save lives and reduce the frequency of vehicles crashing into pedestrians, cyclists and other road users.
In Alexandria, the number of pedestrians and cyclists crashed into by vehicles has hovered in the lows 80s from 2016 to 2017. It looks like such crashes decreased in 2018, perhaps because of the public awareness of Vision Zero, or the result of street engineering changes that have been implemented in recent years. KingStreet has gone from 10 crashes annually to zero in the past 12 months. Unfortunately, the percentage of people killed or seriously injured has increased in Alexandria over the past three years, going from 8 percent of all crashes to 16 percent.
This is due to speed. The speed limit on some of Alexandria’s four lane roadways like Seminary Road is 25 mph. However, in June 2018 radar guns registered many cars traveling at more than 40 mph on Seminary Road. Police confirmed that speeding is a problem on Seminary Road, even in front of the middle school and hospital.
Road engineering studies have proven that drivers are inclined to go faster on wide, multi-lane roadways. Conversely, drivers will instinctively go slower if the path ahead is not as wide. Cyclists and pedestrians will avoid roadways where cars are traveling at high speeds. Perhaps that is the reason why the number of pedestrians and cyclists killed or seriously injured on Seminary Road is not as high as some other streets in Alexandria.
No one likes sitting in stalled or slow traffic. On the other hand, as a person who was crashed into while walking with the right of way in the middle of a crosswalk, I know what happens to the human body when more than 4,000 pounds of metal crashes into it. Like many fellow crash survivors, I live with injuries that have been life altering. On behalf of the 80 or so people in Alexandria who might be crashed into by vehicles on our roads, including Seminary Road, and the more than 10 people who might be seriously injured or killed, I urge the city to implement Vision Zero as quickly as possible. Who knows, a fully implemented Vision Zero program may save your life.
-Mike Doyle, Founding Member of Alexandria Families For Safe Streets