The four-way intersection of 14th and U streets NW is one of the District’s most crash-prone roadways, according to city data. This afternoon, members of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) will protest there, installing tall “balloon towers tied to PVC-pipe,” with each balloon meant to represent a recent fatality or serious injury from D.C. traffic collisions.
Fifty-two people have died as a result of crashes in the District since the beginning of 2018. In addition, 1,250 people have suffered serious injuries from crashes during that time, says WABA. The demonstration is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and comes as D.C. seeks to eliminate road deaths and injuries by 2024 through its Vision Zero traffic safety program. Although traffic deaths are down 36 percent compared to this point last year, to 16 from 25, they increased every year from 2014 through 2018 despite the District pursuing Vision Zero.
“The data is clear: even being inside an automobile with the most advanced safety features in the world isn’t enough to protect you from another driver going too fast, acting reckless or driving distracted,” WABA executive director Greg Billing notes in a statement. “We need to change behavior, and we need to change our streets.” The city should take measures to limit driving speeds and facilitate alternatives to car-based modes of transportation, Billing adds.
In response to the recent fatalities and pressure from advocates, the District Department of Transportation has said it is implementing short- and long-term measures to improve traffic safety in the city, including roadway redesigns, curbside management, and bike lanes. Still, driving remains the most common commuting method in the D.C. region, per a new report.
Update, 5:10 p.m.:
Here’s a glimpse of what WABA’s balloon installation, outside the Reeves Center, looks like.
Each gray balloon = two serious injuries.— WABA (@WABADC) September 19, 2019
Each black balloon = one fatality. pic.twitter.com/Reo0B7xhQb