Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity
Share Stories  |  Traffic  |  Columns  |  Q&A     |  Get Gridlock:    Twitter |    Facebook  |     RSS   |  phone Alerts

Traffic Safety Challenges for Drivers, Walkers

At 7th and Pennsylvania, which recently became ground zero for our concerns about traffic safety, you can see the four corners of the issue.

Challenging Junction.jpg The broad junction of Pennsylvania Avenue and 7th Street in downtown Washington is daunting for pedestrians. (Robert Thomson)

Traffic control officers from the D.C. Department of Public Works, those people who earn their living by standing between us and oncoming vehicles, were directing the flow through that enormous intersection where two pedestrians were fatally struck by a Metrobus last month. Metro and the District government can put up signs and retrain bus drivers, but there's nothing as effective for both pedestrians and drivers as a person with a whistle and a pair of arms controlling the rush hour flow.

Traffic Monitor.jpg Traffic officer gets the attention of pedestrians and drivers. (Robert Thomson)

To reach the intersection, I took the new MetroExtra bus down Georgia Avenue into downtown. Along the way, I was reminded about the pressures on bus drivers, who must interact with passengers, watch out for moving and parked vehicles and try to stay on schedule. At one intersection, our driver was the only one who stopped for pedestrians in a crosswalk. The cars in the other lanes went right on by.

Yield Sign.jpg Design, signs and signals can help improve safety. (Robert Thomson)

The design of the intersection couldn't be more challenging for pedestrians. The avenue and the street join like the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers to form a wide expanse of swirling autos and people. It's all Pierre L'Enfant's fault, but it's probaby too late to prosecute. We've got to fix such problems ourselves. Traffic engineers have learned how lane striping, concrete, signs and signals can combine to reduce injuries. The District and other local governments have been doing more in recent years to adjust the contest between drivers and walkers, but recent events highlight the extent of that challenge.

Crossing Pennsylvania.jpg People cross the wide, wide expanse of Pennsylvania at mid-block. (Robert Thomson)

But there's only so much others can do for us. I saw plenty of people accepting the safety challenge by crossing Pennsylvania in the middle of the block. Hello? You go through two time zones walking across the avenue. There's no island in the middle to provide refuge and there's no way to monitor all the directions from which trouble may approach you. In modern America, we can live a long time -- if we just try.

By Robert Thomson  |  March 22, 2007; 8:29 AM ET
Categories:  Safety  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Campaign For Pedestrian Safety Begins
Next: Expect Severe Overcrowding at Union Station

Comments

Have they adjusted the light timing? As I recall, one of the factors is that the lights were timed solely for the convenience of drivers on Pennsylvania. Seventh street traffic got maybe 20 or 25 seconds of green, which is barely enough for a car to clear the intersection, let alone a pedestrian.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 22, 2007 10:59 AM | Report abuse

Walking is a right, driving is a privelege. All road planners need to keep this in mind.

Posted by: joe | March 22, 2007 11:07 AM | Report abuse

Your air, your atmosphere, your health, while my car just sets there waiting for your sorry, fat a$$ to waddle across the intersection.

Posted by: Stick | March 22, 2007 11:39 AM | Report abuse

Really, stick? you think the pedestrians are the fat ones? maybe more people should get out of their cars and try using their legs, and not only would the traffic problem be resolved, but the obesity issue might improve

Posted by: Really? | March 22, 2007 12:15 PM | Report abuse

"Walking is a right, driving is a privelege. All road planners need to keep this in mind."

Walking legally (that means in a crosswalk when the light says "Walk") is a right. Walking against the light, or at midblock, is not.

I think that what they need on Pennsylvania Avenue is an island on the median similar to the one at the corner of Bridge Street and Parliament Street in London (just outside Parliament). You cross to the island and then you have to make a turn to go through some fences that prevent a straight-across transit, and the next crosswalk is offset from the previous one. It cuts down on the illegal crossing and it also gives the pedestrians a safe place to stand.

But this idea doesn't fit with the current line that the DC government and the media want to feed us that "the pedestrian is always right." BS. If you walk illegally at midblock in front of a moving bus and you get hit, you deserve it!!!!

Posted by: Rich | March 22, 2007 2:09 PM | Report abuse

As someone who walks 5 blocks from the Metro to my office, I have noticed how some people think that once the opposing intersection turns red they can walk. NOO! If you still have the red hand, it's not your turn to walk. This gives people who have a green light to make a left turn, not only are these people risking their lives, they are tying up traffic further. I have also seen the other side. Just this morning. I had the walk symbol and waited as I watched a Metro bus slam on it's brakes in order not to run the red light. If I hadn't waited, I probably would have been another pedestrian fatality for Metro. I can remember 10 years ago, my sister complaining because she got a ticket for jay walking. I never see that enforced nowadays. EVERYONE, whether they drive, walk, bike (especially you bikers, you do not own the road) all need to pay attention.

Posted by: Sharon | March 22, 2007 3:08 PM | Report abuse

Some of the posts have ranged a little off topic - we are talking about the intersection, right? Jaywalkers are another subject for another post.

The sad truth is the intersection of 7th and Pennsylvania Ave is massive and you can't walk across during one light-cycle ... you end up stuck in the middle. A radical solution that will solve the problem (and one I am sure everybody will hate) is this:

No turns on red lights and all lights turn red for pedestrians to walk. If you turn on red OR walk during a red Don't Walk you will be ticketed.

Putting a live person in the middle of this intersection is merely providing a target for some of these drivers. Better to put somebody on each corner to regulate the turners and walkers. I know it uses more live bodies but the goal is to reduce dead bodies, correct? Will it take you another 1.5 minutes to get home? Probably, but at least we can ALL get home safe.

Posted by: SoMD | March 22, 2007 3:24 PM | Report abuse

As a walker, I've noticed the growing trend of walkers waiting to cross who stand off the sidewalk in the road. I've even gotten pushed aside before so people can do it. And it's at times where there's a steady stream of traffic that has the green arrow with no break in sight, so I am baffled why walkers do it. If pedestrians want the respect of the right of way, they must respect the drivers when they have it and stay on the sidewalk while waiting for the walk signal.

Posted by: Ballston | March 22, 2007 5:21 PM | Report abuse

Those people in the photo crossing the "wide, wide expanse" of Pennsylvania Avenue have a pretty wide, wide expanse of their own. This country is in an obesity epidemic. Trimming down will reduce the chances of a bus hitting you.

Posted by: Jethro | March 22, 2007 7:43 PM | Report abuse

For intersections this large, perhaps overhead walkways would be in order. (Similar walkways on the Vegas strip worked wonders.)

Posted by: Suburbanite | March 23, 2007 11:30 AM | Report abuse

Hey Sharon, with your comment "especially you bikers, you do not own the road": Anytime you want, you can borrow one of my bikes. Ride it for one mile in DC traffic. It shouldn't take more than 5 or 10 minutes. Then come back and tell me who thinks they own the road.

Until you've actually ridden a bike in DC traffic you have no basis to comment.

Posted by: 2wheeler | March 23, 2007 12:15 PM | Report abuse

A bicyclist has every bit as much right to be in a traffic lane as an automobile.

Posted by: ridetoo | March 23, 2007 1:27 PM | Report abuse

"A bicyclist has every bit as much right to be in a traffic lane as an automobile."

And just as much responsibility to follow the rules! Many bikers think they are above following the rules; many others follow the rules selectively. THAT'S what annoys drivers and causes antagonism. No matter what their "rights" are, a person on a bicycle is no match for a vehicle. And don't give me the "hit a biker go to jail and/or get sued" nonsense. Regardless of what happens tothe driver, the bicyclist will still be injured, cripppled, or worse.
One thing: a bicyclist's "right to be in a traffic lane" doesn't give them If you can't keep pace with the traffic, move over.

Posted by: CEEAF | March 25, 2007 8:43 PM | Report abuse

"A bicyclist has every bit as much right to be in a traffic lane as an automobile."

True, but you have no right to impede or slow down traffic. If you can't keep up, yield.

Posted by: CEEAF | March 26, 2007 1:19 PM | Report abuse

"One thing: a bicyclist's "right to be in a traffic lane" doesn't give them If you can't keep pace with the traffic, move over. "

Actually, part of the right to use the road is the right to impede other traffic, if that's what's necessary to your using the road. What you're implying is some sort of conditional right to use the road, where you can use the road as long as others aren't inconvenienced. That's just not the way the law works.

Also, people who have never cycled in traffic often don't pay attention to things like lane widths. They want cyclists to "move over" without realizing that there really isn't any "over" to move into.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 26, 2007 1:47 PM | Report abuse

"Actually, part of the right to use the road is the right to impede other traffic, if that's what's necessary to your using the road. What you're implying is some sort of conditional right to use the road, where you can use the road as long as others aren't inconvenienced. That's just not the way the law works.

Also, people who have never cycled in traffic often don't pay attention to things like lane widths. They want cyclists to "move over" without realizing that there really isn't any "over" to move into."

Then use the bike paths. Oh, I forgot. You gonzos are too damn macho to use the bikepaths. Thanks to people like you, I can't drive my elderly mother to parts of Rock Creek Park on weekends, because you prefer to exercise your "right" to use the roads instead of the bike paths installed for your benefit at the public's expense. I dare you to keep to "exercising" your "right" to impede or slow down traffic. You'll learn very quickly that you're no match for a moving vehicle andno matter how much the driver has to pay or how long he stays in jail, you will STILL be either injured or dead.

BTW, I cycle. I just don't make myself into an obnoxious a$$$ when doing it.

Posted by: CEEAF | March 27, 2007 2:39 PM | Report abuse

"Actually, part of the right to use the road is the right to impede other traffic, if that's what's necessary to your using the road. What you're implying is some sort of conditional right to use the road, where you can use the road as long as others aren't inconvenienced. That's just not the way the law works."

Your "we have a RIGHT to use the roads" mindset explains a lot.

As a matter of fact, you're very sadly misinformed. Contrary to what you and many other byclists believe, use of public roads is not a "right". It's a priviledge. And it IS unlawful in many areas to impede or interfere with traffic flow. That's why bicycles are prohibited from using freeways as well as from using many main roads, bridges, and tunnels.

Posted by: CEEAF | March 27, 2007 2:51 PM | Report abuse

You, CEEAF, are the one that is sadly misinformed. You write "And it IS unlawful in many areas to impede or interfere with traffic flow." That is not what the law says and I challenge you to demonstrate otherwise. What the law says is that it is unlawful to unnecessarily or deliberately impede traffic flow. However, the law recognizes that the government has the right to ban any vehicle from any road. If the government has not chosen to ban a vehicle, then it is lawful to operate that vehicle on that road, even if the maximum speed of that vehicle is less than surrounding traffic, and creates a temporary impediment.

Here is a link to a good discussion of the finer points of the law:
http://www.velonews.com/news/fea/5496.0.html

If you don't like the law, you should work to get it changed.

Oh, and I can assure you that I had nothing to do with the closing of Beach Drive on weekends.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 28, 2007 12:41 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company