Why work across the region?

The Greater Washington region is part of the Safe Routes to School National Partnership regional network project. My counterparts are working in Southern California, the San Francisco Bay area and Atlanta. But why have the “regional” perspective?  Well, I have a story to share.

I recently met Lucy Neher who is the Safe Routes to School Coordinator for the City of Takoma Park.  She runs a great Safe Routes to School program and a community 5K to support the program (which by the way, registration is open). We met at a lunch place close to the Takoma Metro station. As Lucy walked me back to the station, she motioned across the street and said “that is the District” and motion to where we were standing and said “this is Takoma Park, Maryland.”

As a transit rider and pedestrian that day, and for the folks who owned the bikes parked outside the Metro station, we are not really concerned with who has jurisdiction over the streets. I only care that I can safely get to my destination.

This is why the regional perspective is important. As residents of the Greater Washington REGION we need to be able to get to where we are going no matter what jurisdictional lines we cross. We live in the whole region.

At the recent Street Smart kick-off, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments highlighted the traffic fatalities for the region.  There were 68 pedestrians, 5 bicyclists and 184 motorists killed in 2011.  While the numbers for motorists and pedestrians are improved over previous years (the bicyclist fatalities have fluctuated more), the Prince George’s County EMS professionals at the event stressed that these were people’s lives. For each fatality, there was a family, by-standers and EMS professionals affected.  The Fire Chief spoke about the resources consumed by accidents in terms of the number of EMS and fire personnel that are sent to the scene, transporting the victim and trauma room resources.

All speakers emphasized their anger that most of these accidents were preventable. This brings me back to the fact that we live in the whole region. In order to prevent these deaths, all modes of travel must be incorporated into the way transportation, planning, health, law enforcement and school professionals do business. It cannot be piecemeal. Policies adopted across jurisdictions are the key to creating safe communities for walking and bicycling.

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