Prompted by two critical crashes in two weeks, Arlington County is taking a look at a common thread between them: alleys.
Last week in Westover, a car struck a toddler, who is now recovering from serious injuries, while exiting an alley onto N. Longfellow Street. Neighbors say the alley is frequented by cyclists and pedestrians, including students from nearby schools, but has dangerous blind spots.
Two weeks ago in Green Valley, a motorcyclist — who witnesses say exited the 23rd Street S. alley at a high speed — died while trying to avoid hitting a school bus. Instead, he flew off his motorcycle and into the bus, which had children onboard.
A team that includes Arlington County police, Virginia State Police, transportation engineers, public health representatives and a representative from the County Manager’s office will be evaluating these crashes, while county transportation engineers will be looking at other local alleys to find improvements, says Katie O’Brien, a spokeswoman for the Department of Environmental Services.
“As part of our Vision Zero Action Plan, we regularly review and evaluate critical crashes to identify actionable items that we can implement and respond to quickly,” O’Brien said. “In addition to reviewing this terrible incident [in Westover], the team is taking a systematic examination of alleys throughout the County to improve safety given the recent tragic crash that also occurred at an alley on 23rd Street S.”
The toddler from Westover remains hospitalized but is recovering, says Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage. The child, who was pulled from under the striking car before first responders arrived on scene, suffered serious injuries including, reportedly, a fractured skull.
Meanwhile, the body of the 26-year-old Alexandria man who died in the motorcycle crash will be transported overseas for his funeral.
Both crashes remain active and ongoing investigations, Savage said, adding that there are no additional details to provide.
Blind spots add peril to Westover alley
In Westover, neighbors say the alley where the crash occurred is frequented by students headed to Swanson Middle School and folks on bikes and with strollers, who use a hole in the fence at the end of the alley to get to school or to the Custis Trail.
“It’s actually a more trafficked area than it might appear to be,” said one neighbor, Stefanie Cruz.
But it has blind spots for drivers. Where it intersects with N. Longfellow Street, there’s a large hedge to the right and a house to the left that neighbors say can obscure oncoming pedestrians, playing kids and traffic.
“It’s a dangerous alley, and it’s been a dangerous alley, and I don’t know if anyone’s been paying attention to that,” she said. “It’s unfortunate that it took something like this to make the alley safer.”
Cruz drove out of the alley just 10 minutes before the toddler was struck. She says she saw the child, who was riding a scooter, go in and out of view because of the hedge and house, and warned the person watching the child that she feared a collision.
“Within 10 minutes, I was driving back home and I saw the ambulance, a fire truck and the police cars and I knew that little boy had been hit,” she said.
There are other safety concerns, too. People turning from the alley onto N. Longfellow Street have to watch for speeding cars using the street to avoid traffic on Washington Blvd at the intersection with N. Patrick Henry Drive.
Cruz says some people drive quickly through the alley, which connects N. Longfellow Street and the cul-de-sac at 15th Road N., adding that the streetlights on the alley don’t have working bulbs, making it hard to see after nightfall.
The crash led the Westover Civic Association to ask on Nextdoor for reports of similar accidents or incidents in the area, which the civic group intends to present to the County Board.
The alley is county-owned, and there are no reports in the county’s system about speeding in that area or streetlight outages around the alley, O’Brien said. She said that the streetlights team will investigate the alley for potential repairs.
“We strongly encourage residents to submit issues or complaints, like a streetlight outage, using our Report-a-Problem tool,” she said. “For information on how to report a violation dealing with private property, visit our Code Enforcement page.”
Speeding a concern for alley in Green Valley
In Green Valley, neighbors have noted that the 23rd Street S. alley sees traffic and fast driving.
The deceased motorcyclist was coming from a nearby auto shop business and neighbors told ARLnow that they’ve previously warned the business about vehicles traveling at high speeds.
Speeds in the area could be taken down a notch through another Vision Zero initiative. The site is one of 13 pilot “slow zones” approved last week for streets near schools, meaning the speed limit there will drop to 20 mph, with implementation coming this winter or in the spring.
Similar to Westover, however, the county does not have any reports of speeding for that area in its system, O’Brien said.
“The last speed study we did in that area was in April 2010. The study showed an 85th percentile of 24 mph for combined directions,” she said. “If residents do have concerns, we encourage them to visit our Transportation Issues and Investigation Requests page and submit their request.”
Matt Blitz contributed to this report. Some photos via Google Maps.
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The sister-city partnership started in 1993 by the Arlington Sister Cities Association, which seeks to promote Arlington’s international profile through a variety of exchanges in education, commerce, culture and the arts. The exchange, scheduled June 17th to July 4th, includes a two-week homestay in Aachen plus three days in Berlin. Knowledge of the German language is not required for the trip.
Former participants have this to say:
_”The Aachen exchange was an eye-opening experience where I was fully immersed in the life of a German student. I loved biking through the countryside to Belgium, having gelato and picnics in the town square, and hanging out with my German host student’s friends. My first time out of the country, the Aachen exchange taught me to keep an open mind, because you never know what could be a life changing experience.” – Kelly M._
Learn about the new assessment of Arlington’s urban tree canopy and the many ecological and social benefits trees provide. Staff from the Green Infrastructure Center (GIC) will share study results and compare canopy cover for different areas of Arlington.The webinar will include assessments of ecosystem services such as stormwater mitigation, air quality, carbon uptake, and urban heat islands. For background on Arlington trees see the “Tree Benefits: Growing Arlington’s Urban Forest” presentation at http://www.gicinc.org/PDFs/Presentation_TreeBenefits_Arlington.pdf.
Please register in advance to assure your place at the webinar, https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/29543206508863839.
About the Arlington County Civic Federation: The Arlington County Civic Federation (“ACCF”) is a not-for-profit corporation which provides a forum for civic groups to discuss, debate, inform, advocate and provide oversight on important community issues, on a non-partisan basis. Its members include over ninety civic groups representing a broad cross-section of the community. Communications, resolutions and feedback are regularly provided to the Arlington County Government.
The next meeting is on Tuesday, February 21,2023 at 7 pm. This meeting is open to the public and will be hybrid, in-person and virtually through Zoom. Part of the agenda will be a discussion and vote on a resolution “To Restore Public Confidence in Arlington County’s Governance”. For more information on ACCF and this meeting, go to https://www.civfed.org/.
Valentine gifts for someone special or for yourself are here at George Mason University from noon -4pm on February 14, 2023. Satisfy your sweet tooth with Kingsbury Chocolates, find a handmade bag from Karina Gaull, pick up treats from Village