Lusk, Alcorn ask county to examine pedestrian safety measures

Teddy bear and flowers
A roadside memorial next to the spot on Richmond Highway where a pedestrian was killed in early January.

In less than one month in 2020 there have already been as many pedestrian fatalities on Richmond Highway as there were all of last year.

Those deaths — coming after a year in which the entire county had 16 pedestrian fatalities — have spurred Lee District Supervisor Rodney Lusk and Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn to formally ask the Fairfax County Department of Transportation to begin a review of the ActiveFairfax planning process.

“Sixteen pedestrian fatalities in our county in 2019 is too many,” Alcorn said. “Most of our built environment is still designed for moving vehicles, which creates obvious conflicts and we need to evolve toward safer walking and cycling.”

The goals of the ActiveFairfax plan include reconciling the county’s bicycle master plan, countywide trails plan and regional connectivity in area plans. It also looks to coordinate better with neighboring jurisdictions and bring the planned regional bicycle and trails network recommendations up to current standards.

Lusk and Alcorn’s board matter request, which can be read in full here, calls for FCDOT to review the following aspects of the ActiveFairfax Plan:

  • The working timeline for the ActiveFairfax Plan
  • The external communications strategy being contemplated
  • An evaluation of the current approach for funding pedestrian improvements (including how we braid funds from multiple and sometimes disparate sources).
  • How the application of new technologies can help improve pedestrian and bicycle safety without waiting for finalization of the plan
  • The ability of the county to establish and achieve measurable safety goals such as Vision Zero.

During his remarks at the meeting, Lusk lamented the recent deaths on Richmond Highway and listed statistics about Route 1’s ongoing problems with pedestrian safety. He noted that in the past five years, 11 percent of the county’s pedestrian-involved deaths have happened in the Richmond Highway corridor. During the same period, 7 percent of the county’s pedestrian injuries have occurred in the corridor.

“There is no road in our county with as many injuries or fatalities,” Lusk said. “The data is clear — Route 1 is the deadliest road in our county, our commonwealth and one of the most dangerous in our entire country.”

(Video courtesy of Lee District Supervisor Rodney Lusk’s office.)

Lusk’s and Alcorn’s board matter triggered a lengthy discussion among the supervisors about the ongoing effort to reduce pedestrian deaths. Chairman Jeff McKay, who served as Lee District Supervisor from 2008-2019, called on the state to provide more assistance, and said the county has major strides on pedestrian safety, including on Richmond Highway. He cited the addition of numerous sections of sidewalks in the past five years, as well as flashing beacon crosswalks in some area and pedestrian crossing countdown timers at all intersections.

Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck said the two deaths on Richmond Highway this year have been particularly tough to address because police have said the drivers involved did nothing wrong.

“The pedestrian deaths along Richmond Highway are deeply concerning,” Storck said. “Frankly we are at a loss at what all can be done. … But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do exactly what you all have brought forward.”

Storck said future improvements to Richmond Highway included in the VDOT widening project and the FCDOT Bus Rapid Transit project will help. Those projects include connected sidewalks and bike paths up and down the highway, as well as underpasses at two spots and larger island refuges in the middle of the road.

Lusk acknowledged that preventing all pedestrian-involved crashes would not be a simple task, but said that the current status quo is unacceptable.

“I just can’t blame the victim in this case,” Lusk said. “I need to figure out what we can do to help them.”

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  1. Martin Tillett