Reader Submitted Question of the Day


“Take these “DC Law. Yield to Pedestrians in Crosswalk” signs along Sherman, New Hampshire, and Georgia. Do you think they pose more of a risk to people trying to cross. I find myself in situations where a car will stop allowing me to cross; however, another behind it swerves around it to get by, almost hitting me in the process. Do these actually hinder or help the situation?”

Whenever I encounter these signs they always scare the hell out of me. Do you think they’re helpful?

27 Comment

  • I think they do help – the same situation exists without them, but at least they are a very visible indicator to the cars so you’ve got a better chance of everyone stopping. But regardless, as a pedestrian, right or wrong you lose if a car hits you. So you’ve always got to be sure you’re all clear before stepping into the road.

    I have noticed a marked improvement in cars stopping for pedestrians in the last year or so. I think the signs have helped raise awareness of this law for the masses of oblivious drivers. But when you’re on foot, you should never just assume cars will stop for you- make eye contact, and don’t enter the road until it’s obvious everyone who’s a threat has seen you and is stopping.

  • People will begin to take these signs more seriously if DCPD enforces them with a campaign to ticket cars that don’t stop. I used to live in Oregon and the cops there would set up traps where a pedestrian would cross the crosswalks back and forth and if you didn’t stop there was a cruiser a block away watching who would pull you over. Trust me, it took me one time getting caught to learn to stop for pedestrians. I believe Arlington County has done this same campaign in the past.

  • Like any rule its worthless without enforcement. Cue discussion on ineffective policing in DC.

  • Let me go on the record in support of not turning DC into a dumbass west-coast city where traffic (foot, bike, and auto) is overregulated. Pedestrians and cyclists should be able to do whatever the fuck they want, and if someone gets hit then liability should be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Period.

  • I think the point is being missed… I too have almost hit the car in front of me when it seems to come to an immediate stop for no good reason (no stop light, no stop sign). Then a pedestrian comes into sight. I’ve also almost been hit when stopping at one of these signs for pedestrians.

  • I don’t think I’m understanding the complaint of the critics of those signs. Or better, I see the dangers you’re pointing out, but the alternative seems to be putting pedestrians’ lives in danger or else not allowing them to use crosswalks at all?

    I agree with others that without regulation, drivers are unlikely to take these too seriously. But on the other hand, I have much more often been put in danger at crosswalks without them, so it appears to have some effect.

    DC clearly has some pressing priorities, of which crosswalks in otherwise safe neighborhoods is probably not too high, but for several years I had cross the driveway in front of the Washington Hilton on Connecticut, and regularly had cabs try to zoom in or out when I was already crossing, because putting my life in danger was more important than waiting the 30 seconds it would take me to get across. Once the city put a cop to adjudicate between pedestrians and cars there during rush hour, I thought the situation improved markedly during other times as well.

  • Well, it’s not a big deal if someone doesn’t like the signs – they’ll likely be gone in a few weeks anyway. DDOT routinely puts them up all down 18th Street in Adams Morgan and they’re struck by cars/trucks and pulled out of the street in no time. No surprise since we have the worst drivers in the country:

  • There are times that even at a traffic light, specifically 16th and T nw, when it is the pedestrian’s turn, people get hit. my boyfriend has witnessed to people get hit at that intersection, and both times it was a cab who hit them. I think that we would all agree that cabbies need to pay more attention (i’ve been in at least one cab where the driver was drunk) and should definitely have to pass a more rigorous driver’s test than the layperson.

    Where I live (in arlington, unfortunately dc is too expensive), i have to cross a very busy street, where there is a crosswalk and a permanent sign, but i’ve still almost been hit by cars swerving around others who are stopped to let me pass. i agree that if there was more enforcement it would help tremendously.

  • It depends on where the signs are located. On a slower traffic, generally residential streets with low to moderate traffic, these signs act as a reminder to allowing pedestrians to cross the street and drivers can react to them and the movement of peds in response to them.

    However, on many, high speed, heavily traveled streets (where drivers are often at their worst, like Sherman), they present a danger. It becomes a game of chicken where the speed and volume of traffic cannot safely altered in response to a pedestrian deciding to exercise their right to cross at these signs. They suggest that pedestrians act upon what people (drivers, in this case) SHOULD DO, but we all know how far that gets you in this city.

  • To Alicia, really Arlington is cheaper? In what ways, housing, food, restaraunts, rent? Just curious

  • No Arlington isn’t really cheaper. It’s just that more desireable areas in DC are more expensive than Arlington. Apartments in far southest, Southern Ave SE, and NE are much cheaper but no out of town white people would be caught dead living there, let alone those of us from here.

  • traffic lights would work better on Sherman Ave. But, sometimes they’re not synchronized right. I think Sherman Ave is ok because we have a traffic light every couple of blocks and central medians, so you know there will always be a break in the traffic sooner or later.

  • I have walked to and from work for the past 5 years, somewhere between 3 and 8 miles a day, depending on where I’ve lived and whether I walk both ways or just one. I have long since lost count of the number of near hits I have had, not to mention the cars that honk, yell, swear or make obscene gestures because I’ve delayed them by 10 or 20 seconds. I am always fascinated by the extra irritation I see on rainy or snowy days… I wish I could remind the drivers that they are inside a vehicle while I am out in the elements.

    That being said, what most galls me is the blatant disregard by city officials of these laws. I cannot count the number of times a police vehicle, sans lights, sans sirens, sans emergency, has blown by me at a properly marked crosswalk. Recently I came within an inch of being hit by a city vehicle that was speeding along 13th street when he took a left turn into an alley without slowing at all, tires screeching, the individual honked at me and made a nasty face.

    I called 311 which took the report but informed me that I should not expect a follow-up call. Later that afternoon I spoke with a 311 supervisor who informed me that citizens have no right to follow-up on these matters as it involves city personnel and privacy issues. He also informed me that I would be wrong to contact 911 as no crime was committed. Is that true? Speeding? Failing to yield to a pedestrian? Hmm.

    I called and spoke with the director of community affairs who informed me she was very concerned but had to run to a meeting and that someone from her office would follow-up… it’s been two weeks and nothing at all.

    I followed up with Councilwoman Bowser who promised she was indeed concerned with pedestrian and citizen safety but all her office has managed to do is tell me that it was a DPW employee driving the vehicle, and even that took a week.

    Now, many of you might know that the city has obligated $18mm for a pedestrian safety program. How about we start at home? Punish city employees who break the rules? How about some accountability?

    Apologies for the soapbox, but this is a real issue here in DC.

  • I think they help only in the sense that they’re not near a crosswalk and they’re good tools to help drivers learn to avoid things/people in the middle of the street in the middle of a block.

    oh and +1 on the ineffective enforcement.

  • Lau — I think the complaint about those signs in particular is that they usually appear where there’s no light, and no other obvious signal that there might be pedestrians, and those tiny signs in the middle of a thoroughfare may only be visible to the first car. If the first car comes to a screeching halt, it appears to be for no reason to cars behind it, and since drivers in DC are such idiots, other cars behind that car are typically safe to assume that the car in front is stopping for no reason (or is too lazy to find a parking spot, so has just stopped in the middle of the road, like a dumbass), so said rear cars speed around, in which case pedestrians trying to navigate these invisible crosswalks occasionally get hit.

    In short, crosswalks should be at traffic lights. When pedestrians cross at places other than lights (which should be entirely legal), they’re simply on their own.

  • Ironically – when I’ve nearly been run over in these crosswalks (both at 14th/Kalorama and Georgia/Gresham), it’s been the police officers aiming to mow me down.

  • We should have a ban on hitting pedestrians to complement our gun ban. Maybe a ban on mosquitos too? And very hot days?

  • Tuesday at noon – – –

    File a lawsuit against the city and the driver for assault if you felt that your safety was threatened. Apparently, the driver’s menacing approach and horn honking is a indication that he intended to threaten your safety so that you would not impede his progress into the alley even though you had the right of way. At least you will get civil damages and make some money. There is no reason to wait to get hit — animal mother — liability can be sought just for the threat. For ease, you could just sue in small claims court, with its speedier legal process and without a lawyer, and make $500 each time it happens.

  • Aren’t these signs typically posted in crosswalks that are at intersections that don’t have a stoplight? It would seem to me that drivers should be able to see that there’s an intersection and crosswalk ahead even if they can’t see that there is a pedestrian crossing yet and put two and two together and slow down — or am I just too optimistic to believe that drivers actually think like this?

    I agree that pedestrians need to make eye contact with drivers and not assume a car sees them and will stop for them. And thank you Tuesday at noon for following up on the experience you had — I tend not to do anything when something like that happens to me, but maybe it’s time that more of us do the same. I didn’t realize city workers behaved this way, and don’t get me started on a rant about irresponsible cab drivers!

  • I always think it’s sad when you see one of these signs that has been run over…

  • Tuesday at noon: As long as you keep preaching the gospel, you stay on that there soapbox as long as you want!

  • The speed limit on 95% of the streets in the city is 25 miles per hour. No car should be going so fast — or following so closely — that it can’t stop for a car that brakes for a pedestrian. Drivers who violate these laws should be punished harshly. Citizens who are threatened by motorists, city employee or otherwise, should contact 911 and the appropriate councilmember with annoying frequency.

  • CP – you must live in a nice neighborhood to think that you’d get a police response to that sort of thing. I can’t even get a response on gunfire and child abuse and such.

  • A friend of mine was hit by a cab while crossing 16th St (near Varnum) in a crosswalk. The cab just kept going despite the fact that it left a pedestrian laying on the ground.

    I was crossing 16th at Q last week, when a car BLATANTLY ran a red light. It had been red for a few seconds, the other light had turned green, but he still felt it necessary to speed through. Luckily I noticed that he wasn’t stopping, b/c there’s no way he could have seen me coming w/a bus parked along the curb.

    Then there was the time (of course, this was in Bethesda) that I WAS hit by a car. I was walking before the car came to a stop at the stop sign, but the driver didn’t even look before she hit the gas (I was already halfway across the road)…PLUS she was on her phone.

    I *heart* being a pedestrian!

  • Nah, no luck getting a response. But it’s better to call and feel I’ve done the right thing than let it slide. If everyone called (and wrote the councilperson, and flooded the Post with letters demanding police accountability), things would eventually get better in this place.

  • I think the signs are informative for out of state drivers in high traffic areas.

    This morning I stopped going south on 13th street at Emerson for a pedestrian. The car behind me flew by in the parking lane even though I honked. A second car started to pass so I held my horn and scared the pedestrian but it got the driver to stop. Both drivers had Maryland tags.

    Since moving to DC from Virginia I have found MD drivers ignore our laws everyday, maybe it is because I live off 13th St NW and it is a major north/south route for MD drivers. I feel if we had more police officers who could enforce our traffic laws drivers would not ignore them.

    I remind friends and family that 13th St is my neighborhood street and they would be upset if I or others ignored the laws in their neighborhood.

  • I agree that D.C. cops should step up enforcement of traffic laws. I’ve been driving in this area for 15 years and I am still amazed by the level of stupidity of some drivers, as well as their disregard for pedestrians or other motorists.

    I drive in the district quite a bit and always try to stop at those signs. People always seemed kind of shocked when I do stop for them…

    Incidentally I don’t think you can say that it just Maryland, or DC, or VA drivers. I am from Maryland and have never had an accident in or out of the district. The fact is that 90+% of drivers in this area don’t pay attention to the road, or know the driving code, or care.

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