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'Ride of Silence' | DC cyclists, pedestrians want safety improvements now

DDOT data shows one pedestrian or cyclist died every 18 days on a D.C. road in 2021

WASHINGTON — Traffic data shows D.C. was more dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists in 2021 compared to when Mayor Muriel Bowser launched the Vision Zero initiative in 2015.

The mayor envisioned, under Vision Zero, that D.C. would have zero fatalities and serious injuries to travelers of the District’s transportation system by 2024. The initiative hoped to achieve that goal by more effectively using data, education, enforcement, and engineering.

Well, DDOT data on Vision Zero’s website, shows 20 pedestrians and cyclists were killed on D.C. roads in 2021. That number equates to one pedestrian or cyclist death in D.C. every 18 days.

In 2015, D.C. experienced 16 pedestrian and cyclist fatalities, or one pedestrian or cyclist death every 22 days.

The Urban Institute, a D.C.-based nonprofit research organization, first brought attention to that data in an article it published in late April.

On Monday, during a press conference, Bowser was asked if she was surprised about the data inside the Urban Institute’s article.

She said that she did not believe the Urban Institute’s findings.

“I don’t believe that that is a fact so I would have to go back and look at that,” Bowser said.

WUSA9 reached out to the mayor's office on Wednesday to see if she had anything else to say about the Urban Institute’s finding.  Her office has yet to respond.

The Urban Institute’s reporting coincided with D.C.’s annual “Ride of Silence.” The event, which takes place in different cities across the world, honors cyclists who have died on local roads while encouraging drivers to be safer around cyclists.

“This is an opportunity to pause, stop, and honor those who can’t be with us,” said the ride’s organizer Jay Swiderski.

Wednesday’s ride started at the Wilson Building on Pennsylvania Avenue, Northwest. Participants wore white, while cycling in silence, toward the ride’s destination: District Department of Transportation headquarters in Navy Yard.

Swiderski said the group wanted to send a message to District leaders.

“We need better laws and regulations from our city government,” he said.

D.C. cyclist Tom Bridge added traffic safety improvements should be for everyone in the District as well.

“Whether that’s cars, pedestrians, cyclists, everybody deserves a safe way to get around D.C."

The mayor did recently propose investing more in traffic safety initiatives.

In March, as a part of her latest budget, Mayor Bowser proposed investing $200 million over six years for longer-term streetscape projects to redesign D.C.’s most dangerous roads and intersections.

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While last year, the mayor and DDOT Everett Lott also announced D.C. would streamline the process of road safety projects to complete them quicker.

So far, DDOT data shows that nine pedestrians have died on D.C. roads in 2022.

However, it should be noted D.C. is not the only American city to recently experiencing an increase in traffic fatalities or injuries.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration revealed earlier this month that the number of fatalities on urban roads increased from 21,940 in 2020 to 25,411 in 2021.  That represented a 16% increase.

Pedestrian and cyclist fatalities were up 13% and 5% respectively.

In a statement to WUSA9, DDOT Director Lott said the issues identified in the index are just some of the reasons why the mayor is dramatically increased funding and staffing for pedestrian safety in her recent budget proposal. The proposal included $200 million over the six-year budget to redesign "dangerous roads and intersections."  

"DDOT has worked with the researchers at Urban and we support their ongoing work understanding walkability better across the District. Work like the Urban Institute’s index helps us and the community we serve grasp the magnitude and shape of our ongoing pedestrian safety needs, particularly as we navigate through a pandemic during which there’s been a nationwide spike in roadway fatalities."

RELATED: A crisis on the roads: Traffic fatalities hit a 16-year high in 2021, data shows

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