The Washington Post
The death of 5-year-old bicyclist at a Northeast intersection revives calls for safer streets.
A 5-year-old girl who was fatally struck by a van in Northeast Washington on Monday evening rode her bicycle into an intersection just as the motorist was pulling away from a stop sign, D.C. police said a preliminary investigation shows.
In a Tuesday statement, police said the driver of the van had come to a “complete stop” before proceeding through the intersection at 14th and Irving streets NE in the Brookland neighborhood. Police said the girl was “unable to stop her bicycle and entered the intersection into the path of the moving vehicle.”
No criminal charges have been filed, but authorities said the investigation remains active and are asking anyone with information to come forward. Police said the van driver, who was not publicly identified, remained at the scene.
D.C. police identified the girl as Allison Hart of Northeast Washington. Efforts to reach her family were not successful. A police spokeswoman said the family told police that they do not wish to speak publicly about the incident.
Prita Piekara, the advisory neighborhood commissioner for the area in which the crash occurred, said that Allison was with her father at the time and that the family lives nearby.
Dustin Sternbeck, a police spokesman, said multiple witnesses, including two on-duty police detectives who happened to be in the area, provided accounts that led authorities to their preliminary conclusions about how the crash occurred.
The Royal Cab Transit van was operating as a D.C. Neighborhood Connect vehicle, according to a spokeswoman for the Department of For-hire Vehicles, which runs the on-demand shared shuttle service.
The spokeswoman said there were no passengers on board at the time of the crash, which occurred a few minutes before 7 p.m. Police said the van was heading east on Irving Street; the intersection at 14th Street is a four-way stop.
Piekara said the girl’s father and other neighborhood residents have been pushing for more stop signs and other trafficcalming measures, particularly to slow vehicles on 14th Street.
“What more do the parents have to do to keep their kids safe?” Piekara said. “Riding a bike in the early fall with your dad shouldn’t be dangerous.”
This is the second time in less than six months that a child was struck and killed while crossing a street in the District. In April, 4-year-old Zyaire Joshua of Northwest Washington was killed when he was struck at Georgia Avenue and Kennedy Street NW.
Monday’s incident revived calls for safer streets in the nation’s capital, where at least 27 people have been killed so far this year in traffic crashes. Some advocates and city residents on social media lamented the death, calling it “heartbreaking” and a preventable tragedy.
“I want to live in a world where my 5-year-old kids can bike or scoot down their street without it being a death wish. That world involves a lot more courage from our politicians, and a lot fewer cars,” tweeted Finn Vigeland, whose close friend Jim Pagels was killed while riding a bike downtown in April.
Last month, the D.C. Council approved a budget that provides funding for the implementation of the Vision Zero Enhancement Omnibus Act, a package of sweeping road-safety measures passed last year to reduce the growing number of traffic injuries and fatalities in the District.
The council directed the city to use revenue from 118 traffic cameras the District is buying to fund the bill passed last September.
The legislation requires the construction of more protected bike lanes and sidewalks on both sides of a street. It also bans right-on-red turns at most intersections and accelerates other improvements to bike and pedestrian infrastructure.
In the wake of a string of fatal crashes this past spring, Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) pledged $10 million for road safety improvements and traffic enforcement across the city. Bowser also pleaded with drivers to respect the city’s speed limits and announced a plan to target specific intersections and upgrade the city’s aging automotive enforcement systems.
Lucinda Babers, the deputy mayor for operations and infrastructure, said in a statement that the city is considering installing additional stop signs in the neighborhood where Monday’s fatal crash occurred, as well as extending curbs into the street to shorten the crossing distance for people at crosswalks.
Traffic safety activists and neighborhood residents say they are planning a memorial with the installation of a “child ghost bike” within the week. Such memorials built with wreckages of bikes, car doors, wheels, walkers and strollers have become common in the nation’s capital where people gather to mourn the victims and raise awareness and prompt action from city leaders to take bolder steps in the fight to end traffic deaths.
Rachel Maisler, a Ward 4 resident, cyclist and community activist who has organized ghost memorials in recent years, said it is particularly difficult to have to plan one for such a young cyclist.
D.C. had 37 traffic fatalities last year, up from 27 in 2019.