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Most Dangerous Crossings

This week, we'll be talking about traffic jams connected to the Wilson Bridge project and transit delays because of Metro's plan to replace a switch at Mount Vernon Square. There will be forums about the Purple Line in Maryland and an announcement from Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine about how he wants to restore financing for transportation.

But I'd like to start by asking you a question about pedestrian safety stemming from a letter in Sunday's Dr. Gridlock column in The Post.

First, the letter.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:
So many people cross between corners that it is no wonder there are so many pedestrian deaths. Add to this the fact that people do not pay attention to the crosswalk signs, and there is a major problem.

A gentleman walked in front of me in the middle of a block while on his cellphone last week. Downtown Silver Spring could probably support the county just on illegal crossers at the corners around the Discovery Channel building if there was even minimal enforcement.
Philip Lalka

I asked newspaper readers, and now I'd like to ask online readers: What are your nominations for the region's most dangerous spots for pedestrians and why? You might name the same places covered in the recent study by the Coalition for Smarter Growth, or you might know one that has missed our attention.

I plan to focus on this in an upcoming Dr. Gridlock column.

[Join me at 1 p.m. for an online discussion about any local transportation topic. If you'd like to submit a question or comment in advance, use this link.]

By Robert Thomson  |  May 5, 2008; 9:44 AM ET
Categories:  Safety  
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My vote for the worst strip of road is Georgia Ave between Veirs Mill and University Blvd. Nobody waits for a light or even considers crossing at a crosswalk.

Posted by: Silver Spring | May 5, 2008 11:20 AM | Report abuse

My nomination for dangerous crosswalk is DuPont Circle where it intersects with Connecticut Ave. Here you have seperate crosswalk signals for the inner and outer roadways of the circle, and the crosswalk signals aren't synchronized! Meaning you only have that 3-foot divider strip to wait on while you wait for the ped signal behind you to go to "steady hand" and the one in front of you to change to "person walking" mode. I've seen a few near spectacular incidents where pedestrians didn't realize the second ped signal was on "steady hand" even though the first one was on "walking person", and step right out into the path of oncoming vehicles. It would be nice if DDOT could synchronize these ped signals and keep inner roadway traffic stopped for a while longer to facilitate safer ped crossings here.

Posted by: Woodley Park | May 5, 2008 11:48 AM | Report abuse

Washington Circle. Every week, I watch as at least 2-3 cars barrell through a red light with pedestrians crossing in the crosswalk. As a pedestrian, you can't even look to see where oncoming cars are coming from. Drivers enter the circle at excessive rates of speed from other streets that are not visible and do not slow or stop for the red light in front of GW Hospital. It's an accident waiting to happen.

Posted by: M Street | May 5, 2008 11:52 AM | Report abuse

#1: Route 1 in Prince George's County between the University of Maryland and the Beltway. There are several long stretches where there are no crosswalks, despite the fact that this area has many bus stops and is full of businesses. Pedestrians have no choice but to run into the road and dodge 40MPH traffic.

#2: University Blvd in Prince George's County between Adelphi Road and Metzerott road. No sidewalks + pedestrians + 50MPH traffic = disaster.

#3: University Blvd and New Hampshire Avenue in Langley Park. No description necessary.

Posted by: stuckman | May 5, 2008 11:53 AM | Report abuse

Near the pseudo traffic circle at 16th St and Colesville Road at the very northern tip of DC. There is no easy way for pedestrians to safefly cross here.

Posted by: Silver Spring | May 5, 2008 12:35 PM | Report abuse

It USED to be nearly impossible to cross Brentwood road near the DMV during rush hour. This is a very frequently used crosswalk from a neighborhood to go through the Home Depot parking lot and to the Metro. For a while, we actually had a police officer every morning to help us cross.

Now - a compliment to DDOT! The new crosswalk button with flashing lights is AMAZING. I've never seen anything like it in the District. It works incredibly well. Dr. Gridlock, you should check it out.

Posted by: Brentwood | May 5, 2008 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Route 1 in Virginia south of Old Town is terrible.

There is no way for pedestrians or bikers to cross the Beltway down there either, short of going all the way around the Belleview golf course to the G.W. parkway/trail -- something on the order of a two-mile detour. (That vaunted Washington St. ped deck has yet to emerge.)

Posted by: Chris Combs | May 5, 2008 2:27 PM | Report abuse

I nominate Georgia Avenue and Forest Glen Rd, just north of the Beltway, in Silver Spring.

You have the combination of an intersection that has often won the dubious distinction of being the most congested in Montgomery County, and pedestrians headed for the Forest Glen Metro station. The station is one of the few on very busy roads, that do not have an entrance on both sides of the road.

The state is starting a study on adding an entrance on the east side of Georgia.

Posted by: Joe Davidson | May 5, 2008 2:48 PM | Report abuse

From Dr. Gridlock: Thanks for all these great nominations. It's interesting how many sites involve wide commuter routes, traffic circles, intensive pedestrian use or some form of confusion -- or all those things.
And thank you, Brentwood, I will go look at the new crosswalk lights.

Posted by: Robert Thomson | May 5, 2008 3:29 PM | Report abuse

The joke of it in DC is that the police alternate between enforcing jaywalking and dangerous driving. Fair's fair, and jaywalkers should be ticketed just as drivers should be. But why not station police in dangerous areas and ticket both violators at the same time? A few weeks ago I received a jaywalking ticket shortly after being nearly run over by a car failing to yield. The officer wasn't having any of my explanation that crossing in the middle of the street was safer than at the corner, because at least cars could see me.

Posted by: ah | May 5, 2008 3:30 PM | Report abuse

I second Forest Glen/Georgia. Marc Fisher's column about little used Metro stations last week highlighted that Forest Glen was the least used stop on the Red Line, and crossing Georgia is the primary reason why. I'd rather drive to Wheaton or Silver Spring and pay to park (or wait for Ride On's that often don't show) than cross Georgia when traffic is moving.

The entire Langley Park area is brutal. SHA is spending a ton on making the area look pretty, but none of their measures will stop people from crossing mid-block.

New Hampshire Avenue around Adelphi is a bad one - had someone killed there a month ago.

New Hampshire Avenue near Lockwood Dr.

Seven Corners in Virginia was similarly tough, I don't know if the bridge over Route 50 will change much.

Route 1 down towards Hybla Valley is also pretty bad, as I recall.

Posted by: Joe in SS | May 5, 2008 4:10 PM | Report abuse

I would also like to add that the SHA's solution of putting up "No Turn On Red" signs at seemingly every light in Silver Spring and Wheaton has made things worse, not better. Now what you have is a crush of traffic fighting to turn through the pedestrians once the light finally turns green. Not to mention angry drivers sitting at a deserted intersection at 11pm with no one coming in any direction.
If SHA had any common sense, they could at least put 7a-7p signs on the NTOR. It would be quite helpful.

Posted by: Joe in SS | May 5, 2008 4:13 PM | Report abuse

crosswalks are for pusssies

Posted by: Go Army | May 5, 2008 4:16 PM | Report abuse

#1: The whole eastern side of Mount Vernon Square, especially where K Street runs into Massachusetts Ave at 7th Street. Cars blow through red lights at very high speeds with every light change and I mean blatantly blow through red lights. If I had a dollar for every car that did it, I'd eat lunch for free all week.

#2: 7th and H Streets in Chinatown, not by bad design but by bad actions all around. At least one car runs every red light and the pedestrians ignore the walk signals. Oh, and a large population of street people who seem to have no concerns about walking into oncoming traffic.

#3: Wisconsin Avenue at Wisconsin Circle in Friendship Heights. Afternoon rush hour resembles some videos I have seen of traffic in India. If you want some real entertainment, it is well worth it to buy an ice cream and stake out a spot on the raised area beside Clyde's.

Posted by: Huntington | May 5, 2008 4:27 PM | Report abuse

This is a spot I see as a driver, not as a pedestrian, but I think the point is valid. Virginia Avenue NW has two uncontrolled crosswalks at the intersection with G Street and another at the intersection with 22d Street. What makes them dangerous is that in between these spots Virginia Avenue dips under 23d Street. Lots of drivers go too fast, and the crosswalks are not visible until you're right on top of them, making it very dangerous for pedestrians. This would be an ideal spot for those flashing yellow lights in the pavement.

I think Washington Circle is all-around dangerous regardless of whether you're a driver, a pedestrian, a cyclist, a roller-blader....

Posted by: Rich | May 5, 2008 6:09 PM | Report abuse

I agree with the above poster about 7th & H NW, and would also add the intersection one block south - 7th & G NW. The 70/71 bus regularly blows through the red light there, as do MANY, MANY cars - lots of them are ghetto-fabulous Escalades blaring music, but really all kinds of cars. Cars (and the 70/71 bus) also speed through the light when it's yellow.

Posted by: PQ | May 6, 2008 2:02 PM | Report abuse

PQ, yellow means speed up, even if you're two blocks back.

Posted by: Mark | May 6, 2008 3:55 PM | Report abuse

On May 1 we parked in the "disabled" lot at Nationals Park. People should know that it is NOT a lot suitable for people with disabilities, but rather a regular parking lot with narrow spaces, too narrow to maneuver a walker, a wheelchair, or even for someone with stiff joints. There's certainly no room for someone with a wheelchair lift. And from there it's a long hike to the park, with employees who don't know where the elevator is. Come early to park while there's still space next to the car, and bring a wheelchair and pusher. One little guy on crutches was practically in tears by the time we both reached the park. And the park itself lacks true accessible bathrooms, so don't drink the beer!

Posted by: Ann Zuvekas | May 7, 2008 10:30 PM | Report abuse

Ann, learn from your neighbors and park in two spots.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 8, 2008 12:54 PM | Report abuse

Colesville and Georgia in beautiful downtown Silver Spring - I have already expressed this to Dr. Gridlock in e-mail, but too many cars run the red there, causing pedestrians to act badly, and the whole thing becomes a mess.

I also second the nomiations of 16th and Colesville, Georgia and Forest Glen, University and New Hampshire, University and Adelphi, and Washington Circle.

Posted by: Lindemann | May 9, 2008 9:36 AM | Report abuse

DC should be incinerated and start over.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 9, 2008 12:34 PM | Report abuse

Looks like we may have a winner - I'm poster #4 to mention Washington Circle.

The pedestrian crossing @ Washington Circle (i.e. Foggy Bottom metro commuters) behind GW Hospital is very dangerous b/c many pedestrians unthinkingly do a "double cross" rather than wait/herd on that unrealistically tiny median strip. There are many cases of near accidents, road rage, traffic backups, and constant horn blares that startle pedestrians. This is also a problem for DuPont and other traffic circles, which were conceived by DC city planners in the horse-and-buggy era but are a dangerous anachronism today. I've lived in many cities and none have this kind of problem.

Posted by: Washington Circle Intersection | May 12, 2008 10:44 AM | Report abuse

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