• FABB strongly supports the county’s “Take a Moment” safety campaign.
  • Now also is the time to make sustained rapid moves to address roadway safety problems that require action beyond business-as-usual engineering and enforcement approaches.

FABB noted earlier our strong support for Fairfax County’s recently launched countywide safety campaign, “Take a Moment,” to eliminate traffic related deaths and injuries. We must note, however, that within days of the launch two pedestrians died and three were injured in the county, a tragic sign of how much work is needed to change the dangerous status quo.

FABB wants to work with the county to make the campaign a success. Our organization strongly agrees with the campaign that safety is everyone’s job. We work hard to educate and encourage bicyclists to obey traffic laws, ride with consideration for others, and ride defensively while avoiding behaviors that might confuse or frustrate drivers.

But, in line with the campaign’s position that driving a vehicle is a great responsibility, we urge it to emphasize that the onus for avoiding crashes primarily belongs to the drivers of multi-ton machines surrounded by numerous protective devices.

In addition, FABB has long advocated for local elected and transportation officials to place more emphasis on immediate action to address the road and street design problems that contribute to speeding, distracted, and reckless driving. We have loudly applauded the county for its work on the ActiveFairfax Transportation Plan and its inclusion of many safety elements. But, the fact that many recommendations of the original 2015 Bicycle Master Plan, which is now part of ActiveFairfax planning, have still not been completed indicates that sustained leadership in implementing these much needed improvements has been inadequate

In short, it takes more than a moment of a driver’s attention to improve safety. It takes consistent adherence to traffic laws that protect vulnerable road users enforced by the police. In addition, it takes a commitment to install as quickly as possibly the traffic calming measures—road diets, traffic islands, and, yes, protected bike lanes—that have been shown to reduce speeding and protect vulnerable road users.

We applaud efforts such as the speeding crackdowns on Fairfax County Parkway and Route 28 earlier this year. But, to protect pedestrians and bicyclists, we need crackdowns, installed red light and speeding cameras, and reduced speed limits NOW around local schools, parks, recreation centers, and neighborhood streets where speeding and cut through traffic are known to be problems.

Raising speeding fines, as was done following the tragic crash that killed two Oakton High School students and injured another earlier this year, is meaningless without consistent enforcement.

Police and transportation officials also could make immediate safety improvements with persistent enforcement  and physical infrastructure to keep parked cars from crowding crosswalks/curb cuts, blocking bike lanes, and limiting lines of sight.

In Tysons, near the metro stations, parking violations make it difficult for strollers and wheel chair users to stay out of the street while blocked bike lanes push riders into traffic.

In addition, the public needs more information and education about safety problems and the efforts to correct them. FABB would like to see the county issue quarterly safety updates for the public. This could include privacy protected information about the judicial handling of crashes that result in death and injury and the accompanying fines and punishment. Finally, data is needed on the cost of government police, emergency, and medical responses to vehicle crashes and vehicle-vulnerable road user crashes plus the economic impact of related lane and road closures to improve comparative analysis on the costs and benefits of increased enforcement and immediate engineering changes to avoid crashes. Such updates would help concerned nonprofits, parent teacher associations, chambers of commerce, sport clubs, businesses, media outlets and all Fairfax residents better understand safety issues and will contribute to the synergistic involvement of these groups.

We all know what changes need to be made to create a safer transportation system. What we most need is the commitment and funding to make those changes happen sooner rather than later. We all seem to agree that a top priority is the creation of safe conditions for all road users, so we should provide the necessary leadership and funds to enable governmental enforcement, engineering, and education efforts to make it happen.

FABB is working hard to make bicycling (and walking and rolling) better for everyone in Fairfax County. Want to help create a safer, cleaner, more active, and more vibrant county? Join us by contacting [email protected].

 

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