Warmer weather and longer days bring more Washington area residents out on foot and bicycles, whether for their daily commute, to run errands, or for exercise or recreation.
When that happens, the risk of deadly collisions between automobiles, pedestrians, and bicyclists goes up.
That's why the Transportation Planning Board times one of its twice-yearly "Street Smart" bicycle and pedestrian safety campaigns to occur each spring, soon after the switch to Daylight Saving Time and once the final weeks of winter have passed.
This spring, the "Street Smart" campaign will kick off April 17 with an event in Woodbridge, Virginia, where local law enforcement personnel, elected leaders, and transportation officials will gather at the corner of Opitz Boulevard and Montgomery Avenue, just off Route 1. The intersection was the site of a November 2013 collision that took the life of a 59-year-old woman who was crossing in the crosswalk with a walk signal.
At the event, officials will formally announce the beginning of the multi-week mass marketing campaign to raise awareness of pedestrian and bicycle safety, accompanied by increased enforcement of traffic safety laws.
The marketing campaign will again employ the outdoor advertising campaign known as "Tired Faces," which features images of individuals whose faces have been symbolically blemished by a tire tread to call attention to the dangers confronting bicyclists and pedestrians.
The "Tired Faces" ads will be featured, among other places, on bus shelters and on the backs and sides of buses. The ads will include safety messages aimed at highlighting the behaviors that put motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians at greatest risk of injury or death. Related safety messages will also be broadcast on area radio stations during regular traffic reports.
One of the newer features of the Street Smart campaign this spring will be the placement of ads on the tops of gasoline pumps at more than a hundred filling stations across the region. The idea is to reach more motorists, especially in places where buses and bus shelters -- the main platform for the outdoor ad campaign -- are less prevalent.
Street-level marketing teams will also be a part of this spring's campaign. The teams will be set up mainly during afternoon commute times through early May at key intersections or near busy Metro stations to distribute safety cards and reflective safety items, and to raise further awareness of traffic safety.
Stepped-up enforcement of traffic safety laws by local law enforcement personnel will complement the mass marketing campaign. Enforcement efforts will be focused in areas where pedestrians and bicyclists are at particular risk of being involved in a collision, either because of a history of collisions in that area, or because high vehicular and pedestrian traffic volumes make collisions more likely.
Street Smart started twelve years ago as a cooperative effort by local, state, and federal agencies to reduce the number of bicyclist and pedestrian injuries and deaths in the Washington region. That number had remained relatively constant until 2012, when it dropped from 86 to 72, a break in the years-long trend. Preliminary data for 2013 show that last year's drop has been maintained, with 73 fatalities reported.
Note, this TPB Weekly Report was edited to reflect the event’s postponement to April 17, due to inclement weather on April 15.