May 10, 2023 - Politics

Richmond officials promising safer streets after another traffic death

A battered yield sign on Cary Street. Photo: Ned Oliver/Axios

City officials are promising changes to city streets, and fast.

Driving the news: Drivers have struck and killed two pedestrians on Main Street in VCU's Monroe Park campus so far this year.

  • The most recent death was Shawn Soares, a 26-year-old grad student who had previously worked for former Gov. Ralph Northam's administration and was well known in the local politics and advocacy scene.

What's happening: Officials say that they plan to begin installing new traffic-calming measures on VCU's campus beginning this week.

What they're saying: City council members voiced frustration during their Monday meeting at what they described as increasingly erratic and dangerous behavior by drivers.

  • They pledged to take additional steps in the coming months, with some calling for a dramatic reengineering of some of the city's busiest thoroughfares.
  • "The roads of the city were designed in 1970," councilman Andreas Addison said. "Everything is about cars getting in and out as quickly and as fast as possible. What we need to do is take our city back and make it a place that people want to walk and come to, not get out of."

What's next: VCU is in the midst of a traffic study examining potential roadway improvements on its campus.

  • The study is due July 1 and expected to include recommendations for "traffic-slowing street alterations."
  • "VCU will enact meaningful change to the city streets on and adjacent to campus through our partnership with the city," said VCU President Michael Rao in a letter to the community after Soare's death.

💭 Ned's thought bubble: The city has a spotty record when it comes to following through on pledges to reduce traffic deaths.

  • One of the city's most visible initiatives to date — the placement of signs in major crosswalks reminding drivers they're supposed to yield to pedestrians — resulted in all of the placards being destroyed after being repeatedly hit by cars.
  • A second round of signs installed recently isn't faring much better.

The big picture: Traffic safety advocates say they're going to hold the city accountable.

  • "The unfortunate reality is that it has been getting worse as a pedestrian for several years in Richmond," the advocacy group Bike Walk RVA said in a statement.

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