ROANOKE, Va. – When Sandy Beyers thinks of her granddaughter, Kenzie Beyers, she remembers a kind, young woman who loved butterflies, playing guitar and had dreams of working with children.
“She had the most contagious smile with big blue eyes,” said Beyers. “She was just so full of energy. She just wanted people to be able to achieve their dreams, whatever they might be. She was just so caring.”
But the 18-year-old’s dreams were cut short. On May 15, 2020, Roanoke Police say that Kenzie was hit by a speeding vehicle while she was crossing Brandon Avenue near Malcolm Street.
“Witnesses told us she looked to the left and looked to the right, but didn’t have the chance to look back to the left. And she was hit by a large SUV,” said Beyers.
Kenzie was in the hospital for nearly two weeks on life support before her family decided it was time to let her go.
“We know that she’s safe in God’s arms,” Beyers said.
More than a year later, Brandon Avenue looks a lot different. This week, the city’s repaving the road.
Instead of four lanes, now there will be just one lane each way, a center turn lane, buffered bike lanes on both sides of the street and new crosswalks.
City Traffic Engineer Andrea Garland said Kenzie’s death was a wake-up call.
“That made us look at it more critically,” said Garland.
The city studied traffic flow patterns and conducted surveys. By changing signal times, Garland says the new traffic pattern won’t impact travel times during peak hours.
Surveys found that 63% of residents and commuters who responded supported the changes.
“There is a place for everybody: pedestrians, people on bikes, people in strollers, people in wheelchairs and drivers,” said Garland.
Beyers said she’s happy the city is taking action and that something good can come from her family’s grief.
“We know she’s smiling down and that her life means something,” said Beyers tearfully.