Friday, September 10, 2010

Update on Rebecca Johns fatality

A roadside memorial for Rebecca Johns has been placed near where she was crossing Franconia road on her bike when she was killed by a motorist. Included in the memorial is a letter from "A mom of 3":
Franconia Road should have a bike lane on both sides. This is a very unsafe road for children to walk to school on and I will make it my duty to pursue all I can in her name.
We sent the following email to Lee District Supervisor McKay:
Dear Supervisor McKay,

In light of the recent death of Rebecca Johns in a bike crash, I am writing to request that something be done to help make Franconia Road more bike-friendly. While I do not regularly ride on the road, cyclists in the area tell me that it is a dangerous place to bike. Because of the nature of the neighborhood streets in that area, cyclists are often forced onto Franconia Rd to reach major destinations. Many cyclists ride on the road and yet there is no on-road space devoted to cyclists.

For cyclists like Rebecca who ride on the paved trail, there are few safe crossings of Franconia Road for them to use. There is nearly a mile between the crosswalks at Twain Middle School and Sable Dr, both unsignalized. This includes the stretch where Rebecca was killed.

We hope there is a way to make Franconia Rd safer for everyone. Some possible measures include:

1. Lower speeds - It's been shown that lower speeds result in fewer pedestrian and bicycle fatalities. Speed enforcement and traffic calming measures should be implemented to make the road safer. It's an outrage that police basically ignore speeding motorists unless they are exceeding the speed limit by 10 mph or more.
2. Bike lanes - Dedicated on-road space will allow cyclists a place to ride, could lead to narrower travel lanes that should help lower speeds, and be a message to motorists that bicyclists belong on Franconia Rd.
3. Safer Crosswalks - Existing crosswalks should have pedestrian-activated signals to help pedestrians and cyclists cross safely, especially at Twain Middle School. Additional crosswalks are needed between the two mentioned above.

Anything you can do to help make users of Franconia Road safer is appreciated.


Bruce Wright
Chairman, Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling
Supervisor McKay has been a strong supporter of bicycling in the past. We're hopeful he will work with VDOT and others to make Franconia Road safer for bicyclists.

TheWashCycle recently posted an update as well that mentions an a story at TBD/ABC7 about residents complaints to VDOT about the safety of Telegraph Road.
"It's been a nightmare," said Mary Kelly, who lives in the neighborhood. "People have complained for years about it - all along Franconia corridor - with no response from VDOT."

Resident say there is no safe place to cross Franconia, which is the site of a park and two schools, and is frequented by children. Pedestrians and bikers only have a paved trail on the north side of the road to travel on.

"There are some painted crosswalks, but I don't trust a driver to stop just to let me cross to the other side," said Matt Iden, another neighbor.

Mary Kelly says she's complained to state legislators and VDOT for years but without success.

"VDOT says it's really just a traffic problem," Kelly said. "'We don't have money to widen the roads and there's nothing the county can do about it.'"

Kelly and her neighbors have begun an e-mail campaign, hoping that what happened to Rebecca Johns doesn't happen again.
We're trying to find out more about the e-mail campaign to see if FABB can help. If you have more info, leave a comment or let us know at

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Unless the county can pony up the funding for more significant improvements...the only thing I can reasonably see VDOT funding is either some flashing pedestrian signs (similar to what Alexandria has on Braddock Rd at the Braddock Rd Metro), or perhaps a traffic signal at Clermont Dr (the only intersection with even a remote possibility of meeting traffic signal requirements). Outside of that, better traffic enforcement is about all one can hope for.

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