Wheel of a ghost bike memorializing a traffic fatality

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A driver struck and killed a bicyclist at the intersection of 2nd Street and Massachusetts Avenue NW Friday evening. The crash involved four cars. The bicyclist’s name was Jim Pagels

The 29-year-old was a lover of boardgames, an economist who wrote about pop culture, and a safe streets advocate. Pagels wrote about biking, for instance about the lack of parking enforcement that often requires cyclists to swerve into car lane traffic due to vehicles in bike lanes. He tweeted about the dangers of biking roughly six hours before he was killed. 

“Since moving back to DC this year, Jim fell in love with Capital Bikeshare. He meticulously calculated the cost-benefit of everything, always chasing the best deal in town, but he decided an annual membership was worth it, even though he had his own bike,” tweeted a close friend of Pagels. “And so he died on a CaBi not six hours after he tweeted about how unsafe DC is for cyclists. I’m so mad. I’m so tired.”

The community is hosting a memorial and bike ride for Pagels this Thursday at 6 p.m. It will also be livestreamed. 

On April 8, exactly one week from Pagels’ memorial, the community held a vigil for 4 year-old Zyaire Joshua, who was killed in a traffic crash at the intersection of Georgia Avenue and Kennedy Street NW in Ward 4. The driver of a Nissan Rogue fatally struck Zyaire while he was crossing the street on Thursday, April 1, according to a police report.

“How do we make sure this doesn’t happen again? What needs to be done to make sure that this type of situation doesn’t happen?” Ward 4 Councilmember Janeese Lewis George told WUSA9 the day of Zyaire’s vigil. “There are always ways to make our streets safer.”

Two days after Zyaire was killed, 54 year-old Evelyn Troyah was killed in a hit-and-run at the intersection of South Dakota Avenue and Bladensburg Road NE. Troyah, of no fixed address, was found laid down at the crosswalk. The day after that, on April 4, 30 year-old Brian Johnson was killed after the driver of a Nissan Altima ran a red light and crashed into his Toyota Camry at 14th Street and C Street NE.

“Traffic violence continues to rise on our streets,” tweeted Greg Billing, the executive director of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association. “Four people dead in the last eight days. Where’s Mayor Bowser? How about [Council Chairman] Mendelson?”

As of April 12, there have been 12 traffic fatalities this year, a 71 percent increase as compared to this time last year, according to the Metropolitan Police Department.

Bowser committed to ending traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2024 through the Vision Zero Initiative. In Sept. 2020, the Council unanimously passed the Vision Zero Enhancement Omnibus Amendment Act. The mayor shortly thereafter signed the bill into law. The law lowers speed limits and bans right turns on red. The law also mandates protected bike lanes whenever a roadway goes under construction, which is modeled after a Cambridge, Massachusetts, ordinance

The Washington Area Bicyclist Association demands fully funding the street safety law in the 2021 budget, along with other provisions the District Department of Transportation deems necessary. The group also calls on DDOT to set a maximum speed limit of 20 miles per hour on all streets that aren’t limited access highways, among other things

—Amanda Michelle Gomez (tips? agomez@washingtoncitypaper.com)

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