The Washington Area Bicyclist Association installed a ghost bike for Alice Swanson on July 9, 2008 in an effort to highlight the need for better bicycle safety and driver education efforts in the D.C. region. WABA is calling for a full investigation into the crash and hopes this incident will draw attention to the need for improved traffic enforcement, increased penalties for drivers who strike cyclists and pedestrians, and more safety public service announcements to encourage everyone to share the road safely.
Established in 1972, WABA is a local non-profit bicycling safety and education organization dedicated to promoting safe cycling for transportation and recreation. The association offers free Confident City Cycling classes to adults and reaches thousands of area school children each year with its bike and pedestrian safety courses. WABA has also produced a variety of safety materials including a Safe Bicycling in the Washington Area guide, a Pocket Guide to DC Bike Laws, and numerous others designed both to encourage cycling and to make it safer.
Good evening. My name is Eric Gilliland and I’m the director of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association. I want to thank you all for coming out tonight to join with us on such a sad occasion.
On behalf of the WABA staff and board of directors and cyclists everywhere, I’d like to express our deepest sympathies to the friends, family and colleagues of Alice Swanson. Our thoughts are with you in this terrible time.
The death of Ms. Swanson yesterday has hit the cycling community very hard. We all love the excitement, joy and freedom of riding a bike, but it is at sad times such as this that we recognize just how vulnerable we can all be when we are out there enjoying the thing we love. Around 7:40am yesterday morning, Alice was struck and killed by a trash truck at this very corner. And while the details of what caused this terrible tragedy remain uncertain, there is one thing that is very clear: much more needs to be done to make bicycling a safe alternative for anyone who wants to strap on a helmet and give it a go.
This may seem like an odd time to say this, but there has been a lot of progress made for bicycling in recent years. We are seeing more bike lanes being striped, more trails being built, better bike parking and on and on. In my years at WABA I have never seen a city government more committed to making bicycling a real transportation option for people who live, work and play in the District of Columbia. But as more and more people turn to bicycling, the need for safe streets and better driver and cyclist education is greater than ever.
You should note that I mentioned the education of cyclists as well. We all share in the responsibility for safe streets. All of us, drivers, pedestrians and, yes, cyclists.
But while great effort has been made to teach cyclists to obey the laws and to ride safely, little has been done to educate drivers on how to properly interact with cyclists on our roads. And today WABA is calling upon not just the District of Columbia, but all the surrounding Maryland and Virginia counties, to take the necessary steps to try to prevent tragedies such as this from happening again.
What are these steps?
We need better education of both drivers and cyclists on their rights and responsibilities on the road.
We need to encourage our law enforcement professionals to properly enforce traffic laws.
We need to ensure that the laws and regulations that govern the use of our roadways properly protect the most vulnerable roadway users.
And I’m here to tell you that WABA will not rest until anyone that wants to can bike safely wherever they want to go.
As I mentioned previously, the details surrounding Alice’s death remain uncertain, and we are by no means passing judgment tonight. But WABA and all cyclists request that police department conduct a thorough examining of the case and ensure that justice is served.
Ghost bikes, such as the one you see here, have been used around the country as a reminder of the tragedy and as a quiet statement in support of cyclists' right to safe travel. Today we dedicate this one to Alice Swanson. If you have brought flowers or any mementos that you’d like to leave at the bike you are welcome to do so. But before we go, I’d like to have a moment of silence in honor of Alice Swanson.
Thank you very much for coming. Please ride safely.