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On the steps of the John A. Wilson Building, Sherri Joyner raised her mangled red bicycle above her head.
“I survived,” she told the crowd that spilled out onto Pennsylvania Avenue NW. “This is my bicycle.”
A couple hundred people gathered at the District’s seat of government on Friday afternoon to rebuke Mayor Muriel Bowser for what they see as delays and inaction in building infrastructure that would make the roadways safer in D.C.
Activists constructed a harrowing sculpture of bike parts, car bumpers, shoes, and helmets; Joyner and others spoke with passion and anger about the need for greater road safety infrastructure; and people lay across all lanes of Pennsylvania Avenue NW as organizers read the names of nearly all 128 people (the names of some victims are unknown) who were killed in traffic-related incidents since 2015, when Bowser took office.
That same year, Bowser announced her campaign to eliminate traffic-related fatalities, known as Vision Zero. Deaths have only increased since then, from 26 in 2015 to 36 in 2018, according to police statistics.
So far in 2019, there have been eight traffic-related deaths, including cycling advocate Dave Salovesh, who was killed April 19 while on his bike, and Abdul Seck, who was fatally struck by a vehicle while on a sidewalk in Southeast on Easter Sunday. He was visiting D.C. from his home in the Bronx.
Joyner, 58, said she was riding on Michigan Avenue NW after dining at a restaurant with friends last October when an SUV rear-ended her and catapulted her into the air. She escaped with severe road rash and no broken bones, but often wonders how she wasn’t more severely injured or killed. Joyner said she does not own a car and still rides a bicycle almost everywhere she goes.
“Please, Mayor, make it better,” she said.
Joining her in front of the government building, Meredith Tomason told the crowd about her mother, Carol Tomason, who was hit by a truck while crossing the street at 15th and H streets NW.
“Mayor Bowser, D.C. city council, DDOT, MPD, community members, I am glad we have your attention,” Tomason said. “But I also know we live in a world where attention is ever fleeting. You may have this top of mind today, my family and I, and the many families that have been touched by this violent, shocking, and preventable kind of death and injury have been living with the pain, frustration, and purest form of loss ever since the moment of impact.
“This is not a trending news story for me,” she continued. “This is everyday life, and its impact will be something that I feel for the rest of my life. For my family and I, we have been living in this new world, a world without my mother for six months and 13 days.”
Another speaker, Ronald Thompson Jr., told the crowd how he previously alerted the city to the dangerous 16th and V Street SE intersection where Seck was killed. But officials took no action, he said.
“We know the dangers in Ward 8,” he said. “But if you look at the roadways, if you look at how long we have had to wait for the improvements made for our safety, you would think that there were no traffic fatalities caused in Ward 8. You would think that no one died in Ward 8 at the hands of a motorist. But in 2018, 11 people died.”
The rally in front of the Wilson Building, where people held signs that read “Mayor Bowser Broken Promises Cost Lives,” and “Safe Streets for All,” struck a different tone than Bowser’s news conference at Farragut Square just the day before.
Surrounded by smiles and people holding signs that read “Keep D.C. Circulator Free,” Bowser announced a $122 million investment to redesign the K St. corridor from 12th to 21st streets NW. She told the crowd that during her ride to that very news conference, she decided to get out and walk so she could make it on time.
“So that’s just a small example, especially at this time of day, of how the traffic on K Street can be,” Bowser said. “K Street NW is indeed an international destination, home to hotels, restaurants, conference centers, and more. One hundred and fifty thousand people travel along this corridor every day.”
Bowser acknowledged that it has been a “difficult week for the D.C. transportation community … with very difficult tragic crashes in our city,” while touting her dedication to keeping the D.C. Circulator bus free of charge and restoring late night hours to the Metro system.
The K Street NW redesign features a dedicated bus lane, protected bike lanes, and widened sidewalks.
The mayor was not at the Wilson Building during Friday’s rally, according to the Washington Post. But her Deputy Mayor for Operations and Infrastructure Lucinda Babers promised the passionate crowd they will do better.
In a perfectly ironic twist, Jay Leno drove his Model T Ford through the bike lane during the rally. Not a good look, Jay.