Every time I read about a traffic fatality in the District, I breathe a sigh of relief when I don’t recognize the name. On Friday April 19, 2019, that all changed. That morning, I saw on twitter that a cyclist had been struck and killed. I said a silent prayer, raged a little on the inside, and then moved on with my day. Later that evening, I open twitter and I saw a name I recognize, Dave Salovesh. In the middle of the movie theater, I burst into tears.
There’s not much I can more say about Dave that hasn’t already been said here, here, here, here, and countless other places. Dave and I had known each other for nearly a decade. He and I rode the Fort Circle Trail in Ward 7 a few times, including the one time he, Brian McEntee, and I wiped out on the hill between Branch Avenue and Naylor Road SE. When I would get discouraged about the challenges I faced in my projects, Dave was always there to support and encourage me. My friend is no longer here because he was struck and killed by someone driving 70mph on Florida Avenue NE. The most upsetting part of Dave’s passing is that it was preventable, as are most other traffic-related deaths.
Last year, over 40,000 people died in a traffic-related incident. While not a significant percentage of the total U.S. population, each person, like Dave, left behind family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, and other loved ones. Not to mention the residual trauma experienced by bystanders who witness the crash and emergency responders. In addition to the social loss, there is the cost of each death via lost wages for the family, property damage, city resources, and others. For example, the CDC estimates the cost of crash-related deaths for the District of Columbia was $34 Million in 2013.
Nspiregreen developed the Vision Zero Action Plans for the District of Columbia and the City of Alexandria. As Chanceé Lundy mentioned in our last blog post about Vision Zero: “Without swift action and accountability, DC Vision Zero is just a plan with pretty graphics. We developed it with policies and enforcement mechanisms that should be implemented. It is a tool to address what has become all too common behavior in the District. There should be less talk about Vision Zero and its possibilities and more actions that prioritize the District’s most vulnerable users.”
To the political leaders, fellow planners and engineers, advocates, and residents: Vision Zero requires more of us than platitudes, dreams deferred, and delay by unnecessary studies. It requires us to take immediate actions to prevent people from dying on our roadways. It requires us to be okay with removing parking, reducing the number of vehicle travel lanes and lane widths, removing highway infrastructure to reconnect the street grid, and changing the signal timing to ensure safety, as well as reallocating the public right-of-way for public transportation, bicycle facilities, and sidewalks. As a region (and frankly as a nation) a paradigm shift needs to occur. We have to begin prioritizing safety over urgency, traffic flow, or speed. If we are willing to accept a few minutes delay in our drives, we can guarantee that all will reach our destinations safely.
The DC region has the tools, knowledge, and plans to make our streets safer. All we need now is bold, brave, and steadfast leadership to make the tough (but right) decisions to advance those plans from paper to reality. No one else should lose a friend to a preventable traffic crash.
Veronica O. Davis, PE is a transportation guru who uses her knowledge to spark progressive social change. As Co-owner and Principal of Nspiregreen, she is also responsible for the management of the major urban planning functions such as transportation planning, policy development, master planning, sustainability analysis, and long range planning. In July 2012, Veronica was recognized as a Champion of Change by the White House for her professional accomplishments and community advocacy, which includes co-founding Black Women Bike.