Skip to Content
Streetsblog USA home
Streetsblog USA home
Log In
World Day of Remembrance

‘World Day of Remembrance’: Connecting Grief to Activism

Here's why events like a "Ride for Your Life" are so important — and how to keep the spirit going long after World Day of Remembrance is over.

Photo: North Carolina DOT|

A pair of shoes to memorialize a child lost to traffic violence.

On Nov. 20, 2022, nearly 2,000 DC-area residents took what may have been their coldest and most important bike ride of the year — the Ride for Your Life, in honor of Sarah Debbink Langenkamp, a U.S. diplomat and mother, who had been killed in Bethesda just a few months before.

We rode to Congress on that particular day in observance of the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims and to press for legislation to fund safe streets infrastructure. World Day of Remembrance is an international event started in 2005. The day honors the 1.35 million people killed and millions more injured on the world’s roads each year and organizes for change to prevent such tragedies. That is more deaths than those who die from AIDS each year. It is more than die from malaria.

Dan Langenkamp speaks at last year’s Ride For Your Life.Photo: Brian Rimm

The numbers are shocking: The Governor’s Highway Safety Association estimates that 7,508 pedestrians were killed in U.S. traffic crashes in 2022, the highest number of pedestrian deaths since 1981 — and, this estimate does not include cyclist fatalities. In the DC region, we saw an astonishing 37-percent rise in the death of pedestrians and bicyclists. But it is not just bicyclists and walkers of all types who are dying. Roughly 46,000 people were killed in preventable motor vehicle crashes in America in 2022, a level not seen in more than a decade, according to the National Safety Council. 

Why? The reasons are simple, according to experts: poor roadway design, including a lack of pedestrian and bicycle facilities; bigger, heavier cars; faster speeds; and, electronic devices that are more distracting to drivers than ever before.  

What’s frustrating for so many who follow this issue is that traffic violence is a preventable public health crisis. With the right policies — like safer speeds, safer roads, improved driver practices (safer drivers), improved vehicle safety standards, and better post-crash care, these deaths can be prevented. We know this because countries all over the world are implementing these proven policies and driving down deaths. There is a reason people are less than half as likely to die in road crashes in Canada than in the United States.

World Day of Remembrance is this Sunday, Nov. 19. This year, the Montgomery County and District of Columbia chapters of Families for Safe Streets will ride past several crash sites that have broken our hearts in recent years to continue to raise awareness and demand  change on behalf of traffic victims in the DC metro area.

The sites will include those for Enzo Alvarenga, a 19-year-old student at the University of Maryland; Sarah Debbink Langenkamp; Nijad Huseynov, a 24-year-old George Washington University graduate student from Azerbaijan; and Allie Hart, a five year old killed on her bike in a crosswalk. But they are just a few of the DC-area residents who were killed in traffic crashes in recent years. 

In addition, family members, friends, crash survivors, and other volunteers in Montgomery County and the District of Columbia have installed signs at nearly 100 crash sites to call attention to this growing crisis on our streets. Crashes are more than dots on a map or the haphazard news blurbs that came directly from the police blotter. They are locations where lives were forever changed through the loss of a loved one or serious injury that may never fully heal.

(Left) Two fatal crashes have occurred on the 2700 block of Martin Luther King Jr Ave SE in Ward 8 in Washington, DC since the last World Day of Remembrance. (Right) A sign was installed at the intersection of Newport Mill Road and Veirs Mill Road in Silver Spring, MD, near where Hernan Zuasnabar Cunyas was struck and killed on May 21, 2023.Photos: MoCo and DC Families for Safe Streets

The Ride For Your Life 2023 will take place this Sunday starting at 9:30 a.m. Our objective in this ride is simple: We want as many people as possible to join us to show the city and the region that these loved ones will not be forgotten and that their deaths will never be acceptable. The more people we have, the more our elected leaders and our news agencies will feel compelled to cover these events. Our leaders must implement changes so more innocent people don't die on our roads.

Members from the District of Columbia chapter of Families for Safe Streets are urging District residents and loved ones impacted by crashes in DC to tell DC Mayor Bowser to follow through on her commitment to reach zero traffic fatalities. Members of the Montgomery County chapter of Families for Safe Streets urge community members to contact State and County elected officials, to follow through on similar commitments made in Montgomery County and across the State of Maryland.

Everyone knows someone who has been hurt or injured in a car crash. We have the tools to protect them. It’s time to begin the work of implementing them. Learn about the World Day of Remembrance events in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States. We hope to see you there, in community to remember, support, and demand for change.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog USA

The Paris Plan for Olympic Traffic? Build More Bike Lanes

A push to make Paris fully bikable for the Olympics is already paying dividends long before the opening ceremonies.

July 25, 2024

Thursday’s Headlines Face Our Fears

What happens if Republicans win the trifecta in November? Judging by the GOP-controlled House budget, a lot less money for transit, Smart Cities Dive reports.

July 25, 2024

Wednesday’s Headlines Are in a Good Place

How should we react to public indifference about the danger cars pose to society? Perhaps a sitcom has something to teach us.

July 24, 2024

Opinion: Is Kamala Harris ‘The Climate President We’ve Been Waiting For’?

Kamala Harris fought hard for a better transportation plan in the San Diego region despite big political risks. If elected president, will she do the same for the country?

July 24, 2024

America is Setting Micromobility Records — But That Boom Could Go Bust Without Public Funding

Shared bike and scooter trips soared 20 percent in a single year. So why are so many U.S. systems shutting down — and what will it take to keep the revolution rolling?

July 24, 2024
See all posts