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Engineering Solutions for Pedestrians

Followup on posting about the recent crosswalk enhancement on Brentwood Road NE:


New Brentwood Road crosswalk. (Thomson)

Background: Brentwood is a four-lane, heavily traveled roadway between a Home Depot and a small shopping center containing a Department of Motor Vehicles office. It's a difficult crossing for pedestrians.

The new crosswalk installed by the District Department of Transportation to enhance pedestrian safety is quite visible, and has prominent signs alerting drivers that they must stop for pedestrians. A walker can hit a red button that sets amber lights flashing on both sides of the road. (The amber lights are below the words "in CROSSWALKS" in the picture.)

I found traffic stopped most of the time, but had one bracing experience in which a truck didn't even slow down after I hit the button and walked out.

Update: George Branyan, the District's pedestrian program coordinator, said this design isn't perfect, but is a big improvement. DDOT, which recently made public its draft pedestrian master plan for the entire city, will be monitoring this site and looking for lessons learned.

Branyan said a standard traffic signal wouldn't be the best solution for this intersection, south of Rhode Island Avenue NE. Instead, a roundabout is scheduled to be built.

"A traffic signal only slows people down when it's red, whereas a roundabout will slow down every vehicle," he said.

By Robert Thomson  |  June 18, 2008; 6:09 AM ET
Categories:  Safety  
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"A traffic signal only slows people down when it's red, whereas a roundabout will slow down every vehicle."

It has another benefit that should not be quickly dismissed: Unlike all those silly four-way stops and red lights, at a roundabout you only have to stop when you need to yield to someone. Nobody else there, no need to stop. In an age of $4-a-gallon gas and Code Red air days, that's an important consideration. (When you're stopped at a red light, you're getting zero miles per gallon unless you drive a hybrid.)

Posted by: Rich | June 18, 2008 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Yes, because we all know how good people around here are at yielding....

Posted by: Anonymous | June 19, 2008 5:13 PM | Report abuse

So you're saying it must be doomed to failure because some people don't yield? I don't necessarily believe that. I've gone through some of Maryland's roundabouts and have never had a problem other than some people not understanding proper use of the turn signal. They don't work quite as smoothly as they do in the UK, where they are far more common than here, but they worked better than four-way stops.

Posted by: Rich | June 19, 2008 5:32 PM | Report abuse

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