Pedestrian Unfriendliness

Throughout the District, including at Thomas Circle, police officers will keep an eye on pedestrians and traffic.
Throughout the District, including at Thomas Circle, police officers will keep an eye on pedestrians and traffic. (Photos By Kevin Clark -- The Washington Post)
By Allison Klein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Leaders in the District, Virginia and Maryland kicked off a pedestrian safety movement yesterday, citing the approximately 90 walkers killed and thousands injured each year on the region's streets.

Officials pledged to make streets safer for walkers and bikers and to encourage pedestrian-friendly communities. Their initiative has a somewhat macabre name: "Steel vs. Flesh -- It's no contest."

Across the District yesterday, police were posted at several intersections looking for pedestrians and motorists who violate the law. The extra enforcement will continue every few weeks through the summer in an effort to crack down on violators and educate the public.

Jaywalkers will be issued $10 tickets, and motorists who do not yield to walkers will be fined $50.

Since January, nine pedestrians have been killed by vehicles on District streets, including two Alexandria women hit by a Metrobus while crossing Pennsylvania Avenue NW. The women had the "Walk" signal when they were struck.

Montgomery County and Alexandria each have had one pedestrian fatality this year, and Fairfax County has had two, according to police data. Representatives from those jurisdictions participated in a news conference yesterday.

Late last night, a 22-year-old man was struck by a car and seriously injured while crossing a street on the Mall. Police took the driver into custody about six blocks from the scene after a witness followed the motorist, the U.S. Park Police said.

The pedestrian was struck about 10:30 p.m. near 14th Street and Madison Drive NW, apparently just after he stepped from a curb. A D.C. fire department spokesman said the man was taken to a hospital with a head injury. Police said a motorist followed a vehicle from the scene and boxed it in near Ninth Street and Constitution Avenue NW.

Pedestrians account for about 25 percent of the region's highway deaths and 40 percent of the District's traffic fatalities.

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D), an avid runner and bicyclist, said he is extra careful on the District's streets. "I see too many vehicles that are not obeying the laws," he said. "They aren't used to bicyclists. We're going to step up our enforcement."

Acting D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said that motorists aren't the only problem. She said she often sees distracted walkers endangering themselves, too.

"When you're walking with your BlackBerry or your cellphone or your pager, even though we're all busy, we have a responsibility to stay alert," Lanier said.

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