From today's Fairfax Times, we hear that Fairfax County has earned the distinction of being the deadliest county for pedestrians of all of the counties in the D.C. Metro Area:
Fairfax County is the “most unsafe locality for walkers in the region,” according to a study released last week.
“Washington Area's Mean Streets,” a study by the Coalition For Smarter Growth, said Fairfax County has the highest “Pedestrian Death Index” of metropolitan Washington. The index is calculated as a function of population relative to number of pedestrian deaths.
The study listed Richmond Highway (Route 1) as the area's most deadly road, with 22 pedestrian fatalities occurring there between 1995 and 2005.
It's interesting to note who the proponents of this little study think is to blame for our pedestrian safety issues:
Cheryl Cort, policy director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth and author of the study, agrees with McKay.
“Fairfax has taken the first step and paid a lot of attention to pedestrian safety,” Cort said. “VDOT is the culprit,” she added.
Cort, Wells and McKay all blame VDOT's strict regulations regarding the use of crosswalks and other pedestrian safety aids for Fairfax's problem with pedestrian safety.
“Arlington and Alexandria control their own roads, but we're under VDOT jurisdiction. You can't compare apples to oranges,” McKay said.
“VDOT continues to build roadways with the viewpoint of how to speed more motorists down the highway,” Cort said.
This, of course, is complete and utter bullcrap
.If you want to get an idea of why we have so many pedestrian deaths in this county, you might
want to drive down some of these stretches of roads for yourselves. For example, during my five years
of driving on Route 7900 (the Franconia-Springfield Parkway), which connects to 7100 (Fairfax County Parkway), I have observed people crossing the highway
part of the road—in other words, nowhere near
an intersection or at a marked crosswalk—dozens
of times a week.Dozens!
Sometimes, these pedestrians will race
across the highway
with children in tow, apparently too lazy to walk the extra 500 feet up the road to the marked crosswalk
And it's also interesting to note that one of the most "dangerous" roads for pedestrians, according to this farce of a study, is Interstate 495
—which, strangely enough, is not for pedestrian use
So are we really
expected to blame VDOT's "strict regulations" regarding crosswalks for pedestrian deaths in Fairfax County, when the pedestrians themselves
are ignoring the "safe and legal" crosswalks that we've built into our roads all over the County? Is VDOT really
to blame for pedestrians running
(or even casually strolling) across a high-speed
4-lane highway, at all times of the day and night?
I don't think the truth is quite so simple, unless you're living in Gerry Connolly's twisted little world
, however, think it might be time to rethink our pedestrian safety laws, if pedestrian deaths are becoming such a concern to our regional planners. A page might be taken from the Russian Federation on this front—If a pedestrian is struck by a car when crossing the road unsafely
, the driver is not
held responsible in any way. After all, if we go through all of this trouble to mark safe places
to cross the street, shouldn't we be "encouraging" people to use them?
As a side note, can you imagine the utter
outcry that we'd be facing if VDOT paid attention
to this study, and immediately reduced the speed limit on all
county roads to 35 MPH? After all, if "moving cars quickly" through Fairfax County is not
the goal of the Department of Transportation
, then what is
Methinks the Coalition for Smarter Growth
might need a remedial lesson or two on what constitutes "transportation" in an already widely-dispersed county.Update:
As another aside, it's important to note that the people I observe doing this on Route 7900 are almost without exception "immigrants" of some sort. Could it be that this "crisis" is one that can be resolved through greater "community" education? Perhaps. But I definitely do not
think that blaming VDOT or otherwise browbeating them into turning all of the County's roads into the slow, gridlocked disaster
that is Vienna will solve anything.