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‘Too easy to speed:’ DC road deaths lead to major road safety proposal

Activists hold a sign calling on the Bowser administration to create safer roads in D.C. after a biker was killed on Florida Avenue in Northeast D.C. (WTOP/Melissa Howell)

The growing number of people killed on D.C. roads could spur major changes to traffic laws, roadway and development design, and parking enforcement.

“I don’t care if you’re walking or if you’re riding or if you’re driving, you deserve to get from point A to point B safely. But our streets are not designed for safety. They’re designed to move cars,” Councilman Charles Allen said.

He introduced a wide-ranging bill Tuesday, with the support of a majority of the council, that would ban all right turns on red and limit speeds to 25 mph on many roads. Neighborhood streets would have 20 mph speed limits. The consequences of a crash jump dramatically as speeds increase.

“It’s too easy to speed and plenty of intersections are a tragedy waiting to happen based on the way they’ve been designed,” Allen said.

The bill also pushes for faster redesigns of roads to address safety issues, increasing the use of all-way stop signs at intersections, and increasing requirements for large private developments to include sidewalks, crosswalks, bike lanes and to include plans to prevent delivery trucks or pickups and drop offs from blocking sidewalks and bike lanes.

Drivers would also be required to take a written test not only as part of the process to get a new license, but also to renew a license.

“We all felt the urgency of doing more to make it safer to travel in our city following the weekend around April 19 — I know I did — when three people were killed while on District roads,” Allen said.

Two more people died this weekend due to traffic crashes.

“That’s now 10 people that have died in traffic collisions this year,” Allen said.

Allen’s bill would also test a system where normal D.C. residents could get some basic training and then enforce parking rules by taking a photo of the car double parked in traffic, blocking a bike lane or otherwise violating the law.

It would also require all DDOT capital projects to increase traffic safety or transit equity, clarify the city’s ability to impound cars parked illegally in crosswalks and bike lanes and allow the impounding of parked cars with five speeding violations at 31 mph or more over the speed limit or violations for passing another car stopped for pedestrians in a crosswalk.

“Safe streets are for everyone, and they need to be in every neighborhood across our city,” Allen said.

Other proposals include more open data requirements on crashes and speeding, and a $10,000 per day fine for contractors who do not fully restore a street within 24 hours of completing excavation work. The fine would apply if they failed to reapply lane markings, crosswalks or bike
lanes.

In addition to safety, the bill sets out new steps toward the District’s goal of cutting car use to reduce pollution. The efforts would be part of District Department of Transportation plans that would be approved by the council every two years. The plan would be required to list one street or bus line in each ward that will get a dedicated bus lane.

The details of the proposals could be tweaked as the bill goes through the committee process.

Separately, the council backed emergency legislation Tuesday focused specifically on Florida Avenue in Northeast, where Dave Salovesh was killed last month by a driver who was speeding away from police. DDOT has been working on temporary safety fixes there, near Gallaudet University, that could include jersey wall barriers.

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