Addendum to Testimony to DC Council on Vision Zero

Addendum to the Testimony of Rachel Maisler,
Ward 4 Representative, DC Bicycle Advisory Council for the
Transportation & the Environment & Judiciary & Public Safety Joint Public Roundtable on the Implementation of the Vision Zero Initiative and the Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Amendment Act of 2016
October 10, 2018

Today, one day before the record for the Sept. 27 Vision Zero Roundtable is closed, I have found myself so disturbed that I couldn’t sleep.

Just one week ago, nearly 300 people came together for a memorial bike ride for Tom Hollowell who was killed by a hit and run driver at 12th & Constitution NW on Sept. 24.[1] I mentioned Dr. Hollowell in my original testimony. Yet, as a member of the Bicycle Advisory Council and a concerned citizen advocate, I have been unable to obtain the crash report via the Metropolitan Police Department’s FOIA process. We know no more about the driver than we knew at the ride: it was a “dark sedan.” Police have not asked for the public’s help in identifying the driver and conspiracy theories about the driver are spreading like wild fire.

But still, 300 people came together to remember Dr. Hollowell and call for safer infrastructure and more enforcement. DDOT and MPD have been silent.

And while it’s only been two weeks since the roundtable, nothing has changed. If anything, our roads are getting worse. Day after day I hear about cyclists and pedestrians getting mowed over by drivers. Every time I ride my bike or walk in DC, I’m thankful I made it to my destination unscathed – usually having experienced at least one near-miss per ride. I’m one of the lucky ones.

On Sep. 28, a driver hit a scooter rider at 5th & K NW.[2]

On Oct. 2, a driver killed a pedestrian on the 5500 block of Central Ave. SE.[3]

On Oct. 4, a driver hit a cyclist at 11th & Rhode Island NW.[4]

On Oct. 8, a driver hit a cyclist riding in the 15th Street protected bike lane by M St NW.[5]

On Oct. 10, a driver hit at cyclist at 13th & I NW.[6]

On Oct. 10, a driver hit a cyclist at 10th & Woodley NW.[7]

On Oct. 10, a driver hit a pedestrian at 2nd & M SE.[8]

On Oct. 10, a driver hit a cyclist at 7th & Constitution NW – just five blocks from where Dr. Hollowell was killed.[9]

And I’m sure this list isn’t inclusive of all the crashes in the past two weeks that involved a driver hitting a cyclist or pedestrian. These are only the crashes I’ve heard about.

THIS IS NOT OK. THIS IS NOT NORMAL. THIS IS NOT VISION ZERO. 

I want to ride my bike and smile. I love to ride my bike. I love to walk around DC. I want to be proud of my adopted hometown. I don’t want to be sad, embarrassed and angry that our government isn’t doing enough to protect road users – especially the most vulnerable ones. DC can and must do better.


[1] https://wamu.org/story/18/10/05/memorial-ride-cyclist-killed-driver-shuts-constitution-ave-rush-hour/

[2] https://twitter.com/CraigPChester/status/1045774745537576962

[3] https://mpdc.dc.gov/release/traffic-fatality-5500-block-central-avenue-southeast

[4] https://twitter.com/MiriamGoldste/status/1047851251021561857

[5] https://twitter.com/AimeeCustis/status/1049325056663441410

[6] https://twitter.com/JDLand/status/1050041502951452672

[7] https://twitter.com/mikafrak/status/1049996431430434816

[8] https://twitter.com/Jglane16/status/1050045020345122816

[9] https://twitter.com/jackiebensen/status/1050177466633990145

What does Vision Zero look like in Washington, DC?

It’s been a tough summer to be a cyclist in Washington, DC. In less than four months, three individuals on bicycles and one on an e-scooter have lost their lives after being struck by a driver. While the circumstances around each crash are different, there are two commonalities: each person lost their life and can no longer speak for himself, and these tragic deaths were preventable.

In 2015, the Mayor of the District of Columbia announced an ambitious initiative called Vision Zero. The goal: zero traffic fatalities by 2024. With an action plan, a website, even a Twitter account, I have to admit, I was hopeful. Anything we can do to prevent people from being killed by vehicles, sounded good in my book.

Now it’s 2018 and fatalities have been going up, not down since the initiative was announced three years ago.

So here we are today. With the assistance of Wonk Policy & Communications, LLC, the bike community in DC has planned three memorial rides (a fourth is still in the works). Dozens of cyclists and others attended the rides we organized. We coordinated a robust media campaign to make sure the Mayor, DC government agencies, and most importantly, the public, heard the silence of the individuals who senselessly lost their lives. We called for the DC Council to hold a public hearing, to hold the Mayor and DC government agencies accountable for implementing the policies. Those policies, from safe infrastructure to speed enforcement and everything in between, will protect the lives of DC’s 700,000 residents and 20 million annual tourists. That hearing happened today and WPC Founder Rachel Maisler was one of the first people to testify.

Read her testimony here.

Testimony to DC Council on Vision Zero – Sept. 27, 2018

Testimony of Rachel Maisler,
Ward 4 Representative, DC Bicycle Advisory Council for the
Transportation & the Environment & Judiciary & Public Safety Joint Public Roundtable on the Implementation of the Vision Zero Initiative and the Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Amendment Act of 2016
September 27, 2018

My name is Rachel Maisler, I’m an avid cyclist, and I represent Ward 4 on DC’s Bicycle Advisory Council[1]. Thank you for taking the initiative to host this roundtable on Vision Zero. However, I’m horrified that we have arrived at the point where this hearing is more than necessary.

We’re here today because the number of traffic-related fatalities has been going up since Mayor Bowser announced Vision Zero in 2015 and not down. We’re here today because Malik Habib, Jeffrey Hammond Long, Carlos Sanchez-Martin, Thomas Hendricks Hollowell, and 23 other individuals[2] have been killed by vehicles on DC this year and can no longer speak for themselves.

As you are aware, the bike community initially called for this hearing after two cyclists were killed on DC roads this summer. The first was Malik Habib. On June 23, he was riding his bicycle home from work on the 300 block of H Street NE when his tire got caught in the streetcar rail and he was crushed by a charter bus. According to the police report, the bus continued on its path, and it’s unknown whether the driver or passengers were even aware of the collision. Mr. Habib was 19 years old and didn’t deserve to die.

Just two weeks later on July 7, Jeffrey Hammond Long was riding his bike to yoga in the protected bike lane on M Street NW when the driver of a refrigerated box truck made a right turn across the bike lane striking and pinning Mr. Long. According to the police report, the driver didn’t see Mr. Long as they made the hairpin turn. Mr. Long was 36 years old and didn’t deserve to die.

After each of these two tragedies, we planned memorial rides, not only to remember those we lost, but to bring attention to the safety issues that plague cyclists every day and cost these individuals their lives. At each of these rides, we called for immediate safety fixes to prevent future crashes, but also for a public hearing: for DC Council to hold the agencies responsible for implementing Vision Zero accountable.

On H Street, we called for:

  • Rubber flaps on the streetcar rails.
  • A speed plan and enforcement on the H street corridor.
  • Protected bike lanes on the parallel G and I Streets.

On M Street, we called for:

  • Parking to be removed at the intersection of M Street & New Hampshire Avenue.
  • The intersection to be repainted.
  • No turns on red in the Central Business District and Golden Triangle.

To their credit, the District Department of Transportation responded to some of the action items we called for: they removed parking spaces that were blocking sightlines on M Street and put “traffic calming” flexiposts at the intersection of 3rd and H NE. At the BAC meeting earlier this month, DDOT said they discovered there were no speed limit signs on H Street and were in the process of installing news ones. By the way, the speed limit on H is 25 miles per hour. We haven’t heard from MPD.

This past Thursday, the Bicycle Advisory Council sent a letter to Mayor Bowser, Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Kevin Donahue, DDOT Director Jeff Marootian, DPW Director Christopher Shorter, Police Chief Peter Newsham, Department of Motor Vehicles Director Lucinda Babers, and Interim Chief Technology Officer Barney Krucoff. I had intended to talk about the recommendations in that letter here today, but unfortunately since Friday, two more individuals have lost their lives on DC roads.

I had thought the events this past summer and the letter would serve as the tipping point for the DC government to redouble their efforts in reducing traffic fatalities. I thought this roundtable would lead us to an updated Vision Zero action plan and help us citizens continue to hold our government agencies accountable for protecting all road users.

Silly me.

On Friday, Carlos Sanchez-Martin was struck, pinned, and killed by an SUV driver as he rode a rented scooter around Dupont Circle.

We held a memorial ride for him last night. We called for:

  • Protected infrastructure around Dupont Circle for scooters, bicycles, and other personal mobility devices.
  • Raised crosswalks and crossing times long enough for pedestrians to make it across all travel lanes without getting stranded on an island.
  • Improved way-finding signage and road markings for motorists.

Mr. Sanchez-Martin was 20 years old and didn’t deserve to die.

And I can’t even believe I have to say this, but as I was literally writing this very testimony, Thomas Hendricks Hollowell was riding his bike to work on Monday when he was struck and killed by a driver running a red light at 12th and Constitution NW. The driver fled the scene. Dr. Hollowell was 64 years old and didn’t deserve to die.

Road safety is an issue that affects all users – from daily commuters to the nearly 20 million tourists that flock to DC each year. Whether on foot, on bicycle, on scooter, skateboard, moped or car, every single road user should be able to travel safely in Washington, DC.  Yet given the statistics[3], I’m asking you, as well as the DDOT, Metropolitan Police Department, Department of Public Works, and other agencies: What do we need to do to keep people from getting killed on our roads?

I realize I’m one of the lucky cyclists. I’ve had my fair share of near misses and only sustained minor injuries from being doored once. But my ability to travel safely shouldn’t be a matter of luck. Almost every time I ride my bike, I encounter cars parked in bike lanes forcing me to swerve into traffic, impatient drivers looking for their first opportunity to wiz past me on narrow streets, oblivious drivers making turns across the bike lane. I’m forced to make split-second decisions that can prevent a trip to the ER or worse without the protection of a steel cage. Sure, I wear a helmet and use bike lights, but those aren’t going to save my life if I get run over by a box truck or struck by a speeding vehicle. My protection is attentive drivers who respect the rules of the road. My transportation choice shouldn’t be a death sentence. But, I also realize how lucky I am that using my bicycle as transportation is a choice. There are many people who ride bikes as transportation because they can’t afford other options.

After hearing of Dr. Hollowell’s death on Monday, I sent this haiku to Jeff Marootian:

There are no more words
Two traffic deaths this week alone
We need to save lives

I wish we didn’t have to be here today. I wish that traffic fatalities were declining, rather than increasing in our city. I wish I didn’t have to plan two memorial bicycle rides for the cyclists killed by drivers over the summer, yesterday’s scooter memorial ride, and yet another memorial ride for Dr. Hollowell. When will these senseless deaths end?

[1] http://www.bikedcbike.org

[2] as of 12 p.m. on September 25, 2018

[3] https://mpdc.dc.gov/page/traffic-fatalities

Introducing Wonk Policy & Communications, LLC

insurance-1991216_1920First, welcome to Wonk Policy & Communications! We’re really excited to be here. Wonk Policy is a boutique, health policy-focused consultancy with a niche for Medicare and aging policy, over a decade communications experience, and a special interest in active transportation advocacy.

So you’re probably thinking to yourself, ‘Wonk Policy? That’s an odd name. What’s a wonk anyways?’ A wonk, according to Webster’s Dictionary (and various other online sources), is “1. a person preoccupied with arcane details or procedures in a specialized field; 2. a nerdy expert.”

The next thing you’re probably thinking is, ‘What exactly do you do at Wonk Policy?’ We offer an array of services and expertise to help your organization achieve its health policy goals – whether its digging into the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule to pull a set of billing codes for a product, service or condition, or helping your organization craft its comment on a regulation, we’re in the weeds so you don’t have to be. We help organizations develop communications strategies – both long-term and short-term. We offer blog writing services, media training, social media management, and even workshops on a variety of topics. We delve into community development coordination with a holistic mindset: the vitality of a community relies on the health of its residents and vice versa. Access to resources and infrastructure are interconnected with the healthcare system. With that in mind, we work with individuals on active transportation advocacy – from bicycling to walking, combining these with public transit. Our experience working with the government and organizations has resulted in solution-oriented action.

Whether your project is larger or small, we’re looking forward to partnering with your organization. We’re happy to be here.