A raised crosswalk outside of Maury Elementary School, on Capitol Hill, forces drivers to slow down as they approach the school. Parent advocates are asking for similar raised crosswalks near Amidon-Bowen Elementary School in Southwest. Courtesy of the Author

Parents offer specific suggestions to DDOT to enhance child safety

By Mike Goodman

In August, the DC Department of Transportation (DDOT) released a revised plan to install protected bike lanes on the portion of I (Eye) St., SW between South Capitol St. and 7th St., SW. Child safety advocates praised improvements to the plan, as compared to earlier drafts obtained by The Southwester, but believe that much more can be done to ensure the safety of the toddlers and children who attend Amidon-Bowen Elementary School.

In response to the revised DDOT plan, the Amidon-Bowen Parent Teachers Association submitted comments to DDOT, urging a number of other improvements to reduce the risk of traffic accidents near the school. The request asks that DDOT “embraces a systems approach and uses engineering controls to isolate the hazards and minimize the risks to all children who pass through SW DC.” Specifically, the comments called for:

  • Raised intersection at the 6th St. and I (Eye) St., SW intersection
  • Raised crosswalk mid-block between 6th and 4th Streets, SW. Maury Elementary School on Capitol Hill has a raised crosswalk to ensure that cars slow down.
  • Addition of chokers to create a protected drop off and pick up zone for cars on the north side. The choker would extend to the edge of the bike lane and not impede the bike lane. A choker is a narrowing of one or several traffic lanes, which forces drivers to slow down.
  • Raised intersection and corner extensions at the 4th and I (Eye) St., SW intersection
  • Raised crosswalk mid-block at Wesley Pl., SW and raised crosswalk at the intersection of 3rd St. and I (Eye) St., SW. DDOT has previously indicated that there will be a mid-block crosswalk installed at Wesley Pl., SW. If this crosswalk is installed, there will likely be increased usage with children and families going to the SW library and adjacent playground. To fully utilize the systems approach, the PTA asked that these crosswalks be raised.
  • Flashing signs noting the school zone.

“Southwest parents, and the entire community, take traffic safety very seriously, especially when it comes to our children. The Amidon-Bowen PTA has put forward concrete, tangible ideas to improve traffic safety around the school, and some of these suggestions already exist at other schools in DC. We hope that DDOT takes our concerns and recommendations seriously, and we encourage DDOT to act quickly to protect our schoolchildren, parents, and teachers,” said Kirk Sander, a traffic safety advocate and parent.

The idea of a “systems approach” has recently been encouraged by federal officials. According to the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT), “Reaching zero deaths requires implementation of a Safe System approach, which was founded on the principles that humans make mistakes and that human bodies have limited ability to tolerate crash impacts.” USDOT recommends an approach that “requires a supporting safety culture that places safety first and foremost in road system investment decisions.”

In addition, USDOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a study earlier this year showing traffic fatalities on the rise, nationally. According to their website, “NHTSA projects that an estimated 42,915 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes last year, a 10.5% increase from the 38,824 fatalities in 2020. The projection is the highest number of fatalities since 2005 and the largest annual percentage increase in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System’s history. Behind each of these numbers is a life tragically lost, and a family left behind.”

Recently, Amidon-Bowen parent advocates also raised these concerns with the office of Councilmember Charles Allen (Ward 6). Councilmember Allen previously visited the school for discussions around the initial bike lane proposals. The Southwester reached out to Councilmember Allen’s office requesting comment on these recent traffic safety proposals.

According to the office of Councilmember Allen, “DDOT owes Amidon PTO’s concerns a response that shows they’ve carefully considered and looked at the suggestions in the full context of the project. Our office will follow-up to ensure they receive it. In general, Councilmember Allen supports installing more elevated crosswalks as one of the tools we have to get cars to slow down and help pedestrians to be more visible. Projects like this are a big lift, and as we tackle getting I Street safer, we want to consider making the right decisions now to ensure that safety lasts for years to come.”

The Southwester reached out to DDOT multiple times during the writing of this article, requesting comment. DDOT did not respond to emails or phone calls.

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