Fairfax County continues to look for ways to make roadways and communities safer so that more people can enjoy biking and walking. Education is a key component to traffic safety and in a new collaborative effort, schools, county agencies and Providence Supervisor Dalia Palchik created opportunities for children and families to learn more about the rules of the road on a small stretch of blacktop near the Graham Road Community Center.
Officials came together to plan and create one of Fairfax County’s first “traffic gardens” that serve as a place that mimics real-life street conditions and that’s out of harm’s way.
Fairfax County Supervisor Dalia Palchik, who represents the Providence District, explains:
“This year I had the opportunity to participate in the Virginia Walkability Action Institute. The institute is a model for the type of multi-sector partnerships we need to address community challenges around traffic safety and walkable/bikeable communities. The grant that supported the creation of this traffic garden at the Graham Road Community Building was an excellent way to end the program with an actionable improvement for the community.”
Established in the 1940’s, the intersection of Graham Road near Arlington Boulevard is now a traffic commuter hot-spot with over 51,000 vehicles traveling through the intersection each day, yet 12% of residents don’t own a vehicle and hundreds of pedestrians walk to school, work, shopping, and houses of worship each day. The area is diverse and rich in culture, with a full 50% of residents who speak a language other than English at home.
Anna Ricklin, MHS, AICP, Health in All Policies Manager for the Fairfax County Health Department, was a key partner in making the traffic garden a reality.
“Ensuring that people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities can walk safely is an essential part of a healthy community. Anything we can do as a county to improve the walkability of our streets and teach people safe walking habits will reduce pedestrian injuries and deaths and validate walking as a viable means of transportation. This traffic garden can help empower young people to learn how to walk safely and bring dignity to walking as a basic human right.”
Led by the Fairfax County Health Department, the following agencies collaborated on the Traffic Garden project: Fairfax County Public Schools, Fairfax County Police Department, and the Fairfax County Department of Transportation.
October is National Pedestrian Safety Month. With daylight hours getting shorter, visibility challenges can increase. According to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, there were 94 pedestrians and five bicyclists struck and killed on the streets of Northern Virginia, DC, and Maryland in 2020.