Road Cycling

The cycling community grieves as a driver kills Dave Salovesh, an outspoken critic of DC’s inaction on road safety – Greater Greater Washington

Ghost bike for Dave Salovesh by Ben Harris used with permission.

Dave Salovesh, a friend to many DC transportation advocates and known to many more as @darsal on Twitter and a GGWash contributor, was killed by a speeding driver Friday morning. According to news reports, the driver of a stolen van, Robert Earl Little Jr. was racing from police when he hit a blue Hyundai at 12th Street, kept driving, crossed the center of the road, and then struck and killed Salovesh.

For those of us who follow DC bike advocacy on Twitter, timelines were filled Friday and over the weekend with grief and anger.

Bike activists and the Washington Area Bicyclist Association will be organizing actions in the coming days, and GGWash plans to partner with those people and groups. If you want us to keep you informed, sign up here:

Keep me posted!

It’s horrible, and tragic, when any person is killed on DC roadways, and there have been many heartbreaking deaths recently. It’s even more difficult when it’s someone many of us knew personally as friends while others (like me) knew well from discussions online.

Here are some other thoughts about Dave from Twitter and email.

Rudi Riet: “Yes, it was my best friend in DC, @darsal, who was killed by a reckless driver today. I am crushed, shelled, bewildered, angry, at a loss. He was my brother from another mother. The sky is crying.”

Will Handsfield: “Dave was my friend and riding buddy. A very experienced cyclist and effective advocate, but first and foremost a father and a husband. I’m gutted by this terrible news.”

Nelle Pierson: “Dave and I fought. And always made up. He was family to #bikedc. Like my uncle. He showed up to almost every ride, meeting, hearing, my engagement party riding my mother in law in tow. He was everything @WABADC needs now. So now we recruit. An show up. For Dave.”

“I don’t understand why DC is moving so slowly”

Many others were frustrated and angry that this happened on Florida Avenue NE, a road that’s been known to be dangerous for many years. There’s a plan to reduce traffic lanes and add protected bikeways on Florida Avenue, which DDOT officials say is now funded, actively moving forward, and should be installed in 2020. But it has taken years to get to this point and many local residents have been long beyond frustrated with the pace of progress and sparse updates about the project. Some also feel the current plan is not sufficient.

Robb Dooling, until recently an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner in that area: “#FixFloridaAve was one of the main reasons I ran for elected office. All three of my ANC predecessors – going back to at least ‘07 – and I repeatedly sounded the alarms on how awful Florida Av is but nothing changed because any fixes would have been too inconvenient for drivers.”

Martin Di Caro: “I don’t understand why D.C. is moving so slowly on bike lanes, regardless what happened today. From [a] WAMU report: ‘In 2017, DDOT completed preliminary plans to install protected bike lanes [on Florida Ave., 3rd-9th Sts.] but project updates have been limited since.’”

Charles Allen, Ward 6 councilmember: “At times, I wish the legislative branch built the roads. I’ve pressed DDOT on Florida Ave redesign at every oversight hearings, wrote & pushed for more aggressive VisionZero laws, argued for more funding for pedestrian/cyclist safety – and I’ll continue to fight for these things.”

“Vision Zero must be more than a bumper sticker”

Many more were simply outraged that Salovesh, whose online persona was in large part devoted to haranguing DDOT and Mayor Muriel Bowser for inaction or far too little action about making streets safe, was the one struck down due to streets being unsafe.

Rudi Riet: “And yes, @DDOTDC @DCPoliceDept @MayorBowser @DCVisionZero @councilofdc: you are ALL on notice about this. A person on a bicycle who was fighting the good fight was killed because we’ve paid #VisionZero lip service here in the District, rather than make the necessary bold moves.”

Bill Schultheiss: “Dave was killed today by a driver of a stolen car while bicycling in a shared lane. #VisionZero must be more than a bumper sticker. It’s insulting & pathetic that our society builds multi-billion dollar highway widenings faster than it delivers safe city streets.”

Rachel Taylor: “And I think about how the next time, it could be any one of us pedestrians and cyclists being killed by a vehicle. Two pedestrians have been killed this year in Rockville in locations I pass not too infrequently, one at which I’ve even crossed myself. #visionzero/#zerovision”

In a thread, Matt Johnson wrote (in part):

I’m angry. I’m angry at the District for not doing more. For not working harder to tame streets like Florida Avenue, which I’m too terrified to bike on, and don’t even like walking along. I’m angry that their study for fixing Florida Ave is collecting dust on a shelf somewhere.

I’m frustrated. Frustrated that agencies like MPD and DPW seem to have no sense of urgency about enforcing the law when drivers park in the bike lane or drive in the bike lane or fail to stop at red lights, or turn right on red illegally.

I’m sad. Sad that Dave’s family is suddenly without a loved one. Sad that DC has lost a neighbor. Sad that we’ve lost a tireless advocate. Sad for my friends who knew Dave much better than I did. And sad that I’ll never get to meet Dave.

I’m irritated. Irritated at the drivers who don’t care about other road users. Irritated that many neighbors don’t understand the need for protected infrastructure, or are unwilling to make a sacrifice in the name of safety.

I’m afraid. Afraid that this could happen to me. Or to someone else I know.

I’ve had close calls in the past. Most recently, it happened to me on New Hampshire Avenue, near R Street. And if this could happen to Dave, it could happen to me. Or you.

I’m tired. Tired of fighting these battles over and over again. Tired of waiting for the progress to happen. Tired of seeing projects shelved. Tired of never seeing facilities improved.

Even when the City is moving on these projects, the wait can seem interminable.

I do this for a living. It’s my job to design better bike infrastructure. And I worry that I won’t do a good enough job. That a project will take too long, or it won’t be safe enough. That’s my fear. My nightmare.

It will take a lot of effort and a lot of time to get to a place where we don’t have so many deaths on our roads.

We didn’t build this auto-centric world overnight, and we can’t fix it overnight. It’s a big job. It’s going to take a lot of work. And a lot of sacrifice.

But Dave would be the first to insist that we have to do it right. And that we have to do it right now.

Dave’s gone, but his mission remains. It’s our job to carry on.

#VisionZero NOW.

“Florida Avenue is not safe”

And the road is still not safe. If this were an airplane or even WMATA, it’d be shut down indefinitely.