D.C. lawmakers introduced emergency legislation Tuesday that would expedite pedestrian and bike improvements on a long troubled road where a cycling activist was struck and killed last week by a man driving a stolen van twice over the posted speed limit.
The bill, introduced by Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), aims to expedite plans to redesign Florida Avenue NE into a safer space for pedestrians and bicyclists following the death Friday of David Salovesh, 54, of Northeast Washington.
Police had attempted to stop a van when its driver sped away, hit a vehicle at 12th Street and Florida Avenue NE and then struck Salovesh, who was pronounced dead at the scene.
The bill was one of two introduced Tuesday. A second bill would require the District to build protected bike lanes on roads being repaired or rebuilt.
Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) said broader legislation for safer roads will be named after Salovesh.
Salovesh's death struck a chord among the region's commuters; he was an avid rider and vocal advocate for a network of protected bike lanes and safer streets. He was one of seven people killed in traffic crashes so far this year, in a city where increasingly more people are commuting by bike and on foot — and where traffic deaths are also on an upward trend. On Sunday, 31-year-old Abdul Seck, of the Bronx, was struck and killed while walking in Southeast D.C.
"We need to demand and expect more," said Allen, noting it has taken the District Department of Transportation a decade to move forward with plans to redesign Florida Avenue.
"For every year I've been on the Council, I've asked DDOT to move forward with the redesign of Florida Avenue NE. And each year, action is promised and then not delivered," Allen said. Allen's bill establishes "an aggressive set of deadlines" the agency would need to meet for the redesign of Florida Avenue and penalties for when those deadlines are missed, including "new and greater Council accountability on their budget," Allen said.
The project focuses on an area known to be problematic for speeding. Ruby Whitfield was killed six years ago on the same stretch of Florida Avenue as Salovesh when a speeding driver struck her as she headed home from a church service.
Allen said he also plans to reintroduce a bill that failed to pass last year. It sought to better enforce safety, slow dangerous speeds and build better roadways for everyone's travel.
"But this time, it will be much bigger, bolder and try to represent a comprehensive set of reforms," Allen said. "The number of people killed on our streets has gone up, not down. It is past time to bring greater urgency. If you knew Dave Salovesh, you knew he would push hard and wouldn't settle for half measures."
Robert Earl Little Jr., 25, of Northwest Washington, has been charged with second-degree murder and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle in connection with Salovesh's death.
Last year the District logged 36 traffic deaths, up from 31 in 2017, and the highest in a decade, according to records. As of Tuesday morning, seven people had been killed in traffic crashes in the District this year, including two drivers, four pedestrians and one bicyclist.