What Gabe Klein is brewing up in Chicago: Pedestrian-safety mannequins

Gabe Klein once represented a new vision of transportation for Washington, D.C. He saw the promise of bikesharing, the Circulator, streetcars, the idea of carsharing fostered by his own experience in the industry, and a way to grow the city’s transit in smart, decisive ways. The District’s former mayor Adrian Fenty had appointed Klein as the District Department of Transportation director a couple years back and he hit the ground running.

But Fenty was defeated in his reelection campaign, and Klein left the position as transportation chief late last year. Now he’s joined Mayor Rahm Emanuel in Chicago as the head of the Windy City’s Department of Transportation. Among his many activities is, this week,  the unveiling of 32 pedestrian-safety dummies throughout the city, one for each of the pedestrian lives lost in Chicago in 2010. He emphasizes how vulnerable pedestrian lives are in our overall transportation system.

“We want to remind people when you’re behind the wheel that these are real people and real lives,” Klein told local news broadcasters.

Would D.C. benefit from a similar move to raise awareness? People in the District area always ready to complain about traffic but not quite as many will concede the risks of walking around as a pedestrian. The danger, of course, is a huge shame given how immensely walkable our different neighborhoods are, a fact reinforced by mqVibe’s ranking of the top 10 most walkable neighborhoods in D.C.

“Pedestrians and bicyclists now account for 30% of the region’s traffic fatalities,” according to a September 2011 Street Smart report on the Washington region. “On average, over 2,600 pedestrians and bicyclists are injured in the region every year, and 89 are killed.” Earlier in October, WTOP reported that hit-and-run accidents are on the rise this year in D.C., with the majority resulting in death. At the time, there were 16 fatalities.