How Safe Is D.c. For Pedestrians? (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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How Safe Is D.C. For Pedestrians?

MS. EMILY BERMAN

00:00:09
Welcome back to "Metro Connection." I'm Emily Berman, in today for Rebecca Sheir. Our theme this week is "Safety" and a few weeks ago we put out a query to members of our public insight network asking a pretty basic question, "What do you feel is the biggest threat to your personal safety?" The answer, our local roads. They can be scary for drivers and especially scary for pedestrians and it's this latter group we'll focus on in our next story.

MS. EMILY BERMAN

00:00:41
Roughly 2,600 pedestrians and bicyclists are injured in crashes in our region each year. That's according to the Public Awareness Campaign, Street Smart. To put that number in context, Tara Boyle caught up this week with a D.C. resident who's been working on pedestrian safety for years and asked her whether she thinks things are getting better for people strolling around the city on their own two feet or worse.

MS. TARA BOYLE

00:01:07
Marlene Berlin is the pedestrian advocate for Iona Senior Services and also vice-chair of the D.C. Pedestrian Advisory Council. She and I meet at 8:00 on a steamy, sticky Monday morning at the corner of Reno Road and Tilden Street. A spot that she says is particularly dangerous for pedestrians.

MS. MARLENE BERLIN

00:01:25
The reason I wanted to meet here is that this one of a commuter route and a very busy all during the day.

BOYLE

00:01:36
This stretch of Reno Road also runs parallel to Melvin Hays and Park. A trailhead from the park empties right into the street with no sidewalk as a buffer between pedestrians and cars.

BERLIN

00:01:47
And there's no sidewalk to lead them to either corner and it's very overgrown so they actually are forced to cross in a very dangerous place. We live in an urban environment and sidewalks are a basic infrastructure for all modes of transportation.

BOYLE

00:02:10
How big of an issue do you think this is for older Washingtonians particularly as the demographics shift and a number of Baby Boomers decide to retire and stay in the city?

BERLIN

00:02:19
Well, first of all, seniors are much more active and we are shifting from, in this city, from especially as seniors, their reaction time slows so they often move to a public transportation and in order to access public transportation you need sidewalks.

BERLIN

00:02:44
One of the first things I did when I came to Iona is I did a focus group at Friendship Terrace which is retirement home. Their first priority was they needed sidewalks.

BERLIN

00:02:59
They wanted to be able to walk around their building in the neighborhood and at that time and it's much improved now there were a tremendous number of sidewalk gaps and because of stimulus money that came into this city a lot of sidewalk gaps around schools were closed and Janey (sp?) was one of them and that's the Janey area.

BERLIN

00:03:22
So they were absolutely thrilled. Mobility for seniors is really important as it is for any age and sidewalks are really important.

BOYLE

00:03:35
So earlier this year the organization Street Smart released some pedestrian education ads on buses, on TV, on the radio featuring people with tread marks on their faces and messages like "pedestrians don't come with airbags." What do you think of that particular approach? Do you think that that's effective?

BERLIN

00:03:54
I think you need everything. I don't think one approach is effective. I think, you know, everything together becomes effective. I think we could utilize the DMV a lot more in driver education, the types of questions they ask. I did a piece on Crosswalk 101.

BERLIN

00:04:16
People do not know that law, they do not, they assume, there are certain assumptions that are made about pedestrians jaywalking and pedestrians have a lot of rights to cross the street in the city and they're not given them.

BOYLE

00:04:31
I've read that on average there are about 2,600 pedestrians and bicyclists injured in accidents on the road each year in our region. That seems like a lot, can you kind of put that number in context? Do you think things are getting better in D.C. for pedestrians than they were five or 10 years ago?

BERLIN

00:04:50
I think there are a lot more pedestrians, there are a lot more cyclists, there's a lot more conflict. The number of fatalities have gone down tremendously. The number of crashes for injuries are going up. So again we just have a lot more work to do in this area and we all have to pay attention a lot better.

BERMAN

00:05:18
That was Marlene Berlin the pedestrian advocate for Iona Senior Services and also vice-chair of the D.C. Pedestrian Advisory Council. She spoke earlier this week with "Metro Connection's" Tara Boyle.

BERMAN

00:05:38
And we're curious, how safe do you think our local roads are for pedestrians? You can reach us at metro@wamu.org or find us on Twitter. Our handle is @wamumetro.
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