Local Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts: News of Greater Falls Church

It was a bad week for cyclists and pedestrians in Fairfax County; in fact, it’s been a bad year for them. Sadly, 2021 is on a path to be the deadliest year for county pedestrians. Earlier this week, the county recorded its seventh pedestrian fatality, this time in Annandale. An unidentified man was struck as he crossed Maple Place at night, outside of a crosswalk. The man was taken to the hospital, where he died the next day. Two cyclists also were killed in vehicle/cyclist crashes since May 16.

In 2020, 14 pedestrians died in Fairfax County, slightly lower than the 16 victims in 2019 and 2018, respectively. Fortuitously, 2017 was an outlier, as only five pedestrian deaths were recorded. A review of this year’s pedestrian deaths indicates that no district or demographic is immune:

On Jan. 27, an 81-year-old woman was struck by a hit-and-run driver in the 7200 block of Lee Highway in the Providence District.

A 71 year-old woman passed away on Feb. 25 from injuries sustained in a Feb. 5 pedestrian accident on Telegraph Road and Jeff Todd Way in the Lee District.
On April 9, a 36-year-old man was killed when crossing Arlington Boulevard near Graham Road. The driver stayed at the scene.

A 77 year-old woman was killed on Little River Turnpike near Backlick Road as she crossed outside of the crosswalk at night on April 26.

On May 16, a hit-and-run driver killed a 43 year-old man in the early morning, on Route 7 in the Great Falls area of Dranesville District. A few days later, a 64 year-old male cyclist was hit and killed in Centreville.

A 54-year-old man was killed while walking across South Kings Highway in the Lee District on June 3. This was just two hours after a 24 year-old female cyclist died at Telegraph and Franconia Roads, a signalized intersection.

All of the pedestrian/vehicle crashes occurred on multi-lane roads that sustain a lot of traffic, day or night. Following the April 26 crash in Annandale, patrol officers and the motor squad conducted a daytime safety blitz in the area, citing dozens of motorists, mostly for speeding, and a couple of citations or warnings to pedestrians. Traffic engineers use a three “E” approach for roadway analysis – engineering, education, and enforcement. Roads are engineered for safety and movement, so things like topography, sight distance, turning radius, etc. are considered, whether in an urban or suburban environment. Education — how to use the road, speed limits, traffic signals, all those items found in the drivers’ manual — is important for anyone who uses the road, driver, cyclist, scooter, or pedestrian. Finally, enforcement is an important tool, especially when education doesn’t work!

Pedestrian/vehicle crashes almost always are avoidable. Some of the recent fatalities were the result of pedestrians being outside the crosswalk, or crossing against the signal. When walking, please cross at marked intersections, wear light-colored clothing or something reflective at night, and always look both ways, and then look again, when attempting to cross a busy roadway, signalized or not. Drivers need to be aware of any pedestrians or cyclists nearby, and be prepared to yield or stop to avoid a collision. A split-second reaction can be the difference between a good day and a disastrous one, for all involved.

Longtime Mason District resident Mike Cook ran 38 marathons, but a knee injury forced him to cross-train, and soon he was cycling the 15 miles back and forth to his EPA office every day. He became a serious contender in more than 200 triathlons, and competed in the 2000 Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. After retirement, Mike continued his bike riding until shortly before his death, from pancreatic cancer, on May 27. He had just celebrated his 79th birthday. Mike had an outstanding Foreign Service and EPA career, but considered his greatest accomplishment to be his marriage to Le Thi Kim Oanh, and their family. Together, Mike and Kim established the Vietnamese Resettlement Association, a non-profit that has helped thousands of refugees adapt and adjust to their adopted home. Truly a hero in anyone’s book..

 Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at [email protected]