Washington Area’s Mean Streets

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Executive Summary:
A disturbing increase in the number of pedestrian deaths in the Washington, D.C., region is prompting public concern. In response, area officials have launched a “Street Smart” education campaign exhorting both walkers and motorists to watch out. Area jurisdictions are also stepping up law enforcement. Caution is always warranted and enforcement essential, but the only lasting way to ensure all users can travel safely is to design communities and streets that make walking and bicycling less risky and provide convenient connections. Each land use and transportation decision must consider and design for safe walking and bicycling.

In the long term, walking will be made safe by community designs that offer compact, mixed use, pedestrian-friendly places where walking is a practical and pleasant transportation choice. In the short term, transportation professionals, land use planners and public officials must act to make high-risk areas safer for pedestrians. Rising energy prices, the cost of car ownership, concern about health, frustration with traffic, and increased demand for walkable communities are all contributing to an increase in walking, bicycling and riding transit. Based on the growing ranks of walkers, bicyclists and transit riders, we call on our region’s leaders to actimmediately to ensure that walking is a safe way to travel and to commit to reducing, by half, the number of pedestrian crashes that result in death and severe injury in our region.

To achieve this goal, we recommend:
1. Fix the worst places: Immediately identify and fix high-crash/high-risk intersections and roadways.
2. Complete the streets: Ensure that all streets and intersections are built and operated for the safety and convenience of all users.
3. Institutionalize changes: Update standards in all relevant planning, design, and maintenance manuals, and retrain all personnel responsible for street design and operations.
4. Build mixed-use walkable places: Local governments should revise land use plans and development regulations to guide new development and retrofit existing development to create mixed-use, walkable environments that make walking, bicycling, and riding transit safe and convenient choices.

To learn more, read the full report.