Dear PoP – I Still think Speed bumps are Needed on 1st St NW

“Dear PoP,

You posted my reader request about speed bumps a week or so ago…
It generated lots of debate about speed bumps, ambulance routes, and whether 1st NW is a side street or not.

There was just a traffic accident last week, right at the intersection of 1st and N NW, where the cross-walks and ped x-ing signs are that all the drivers ignore.

In the pictures, you can see where a car went over the curb, and through two fences, to hit the side of the condo building. (pictures are of 1st and N NW, looking north.)

Just wondering if people still think the car speeds are acceptable and that the kids crossing every morning don’t deserve some safety, or a four-way stop…”

91 Comment


  • It needs a four way stop; it’s nearly impossible to cross during morning or evening rush. That said, I’m no traffic expert, and it might be impractical with the light less than a half block south on New York Ave since it might back the traffic up. An alternative could be to put in a light timed with the New York Ave light.

    • I’d love to see a four-way stop there. It might be harder to actually make a stoplight happen.

    • Agreed. I live a half of block off of this intersection and a 4 way stop would be both the cheapest and most effective option in my opinion

    • ah

      Much better plan than speedbumps, which annoy law abiding citizens too.

      Stick of stop signs and place a cop there if people run them.

    • Living down N, I’m 100%-behind the idea of getting a 4-way stop put in here (as well as at 1st & Bates). I think the stop signs would actually do a lot more for traffic control than the light as people wouldn’t be speeding down to “make that light!”. (not a fan of the adding speed-bumps idea). Given the numerous other lights that are present as you head north on 1st from NY-Ave, some four-ways would help to slow the general flow of traffic along this stretch and would help make these crossing much safer for everyone.

      Additionally, has there been any discussion of pedestrian crossing lights? (i.e. those lights in the middle of the block that only change if someone walks over and pushes the walk button?). Those wouldn’t impede the general flow of traffic but could be helpful during the high-volume crossing times when school is starting/getting out.

      OP – if you want to get a petition going to request some four-way stops, let us know. I know of a lot of people who would be more onboard with signing up for that over the speed-bump idea.

  • As someone who frequently visits some close friends on this stretch of 1st Street, I agree with the poster (again). I understand speed bumps are an annoyance, and it’s possible that the ambulance concerns raised could be an impediment to building the bumps (although I fail to see how North Capitol isn’t a better route for them). However, this stretch borders two schools and houses a number of children who live and play on the sidewalks. The cars drive too quickly and recklessly down this stretch, and absent greater enforcement of the traffic laws, speed bumps are necessary.

    • no, they are not “necessary”. how about speeding cameras? then rather than build the annoying speedbumps that can cause serious pain to those with back pain, internal injuries, the elderly, not to mention shake up your beer cans so that when you open them they spray wonderful beer all over the place, possibly causing you blindness, we make money off of the speeders.

      no speedbumps. no blindness. it’s simple.

    • North Capitol would seems like a nightmare for an ambulance. in rush hour traffic, there are no alternatives for an ambulance… it’s a nightmare for normal citizens during rush hour, i almost always take first if driving

  • andy

    Though you know how much I love speed bumps, there is something to the idea if people are just ignoring signs.

    But – how fast was the car going that hit the fence? Was speed what caused the accident? That could help focus a discussion of whether speed bumps would help in light of this accident.

    • It’s pretty clear that recklessness-which is the issue here- and which speed is an element of, caused this crash. Whatever speed the car was going, if it could do that to those fences, I shudder to think what would have happened to a child or dog.

  • Speed bumps in this town arent anti-speeder, they’re pro-bike, pro-pedestrian, anti-car, and incidentally, pro-SUV.

    When I had an suv, I could go over teh speed bumps at 35-45 (in a 25 zone), now that i’m in a car, I can barely get over them without hitting the bottom of my car at 10-15.

    In a 25mph zone, speed bumps should be able to be passed over at 25mph… they should be used to prevent speeding, not used to prevent driving.

    • Our whole country is the most pro-driver place on the planet. We could use some focus on every other form of transportation, which are all better for everyone than driving. Sometimes, you just might have to slow down…

      • no it isn’t. there are places way more pro-car than here.

      • That makes a lot of sense, lets build a bunch of roads that cost billions and then make it impossible to travel at the posted speed. All with the objective of being anti-car.

        Makes a lot of sense.

        I used to think I was liberal, until I heard liberals talk so much.

        • yeah, me too. but then i travel a bit around the states and come back realizing just how liberal i am compared to the rest of america.

          • haha so true.

            I’m conservative enough to piss off liberals and liberal enough to piss off conservatives.

  • Speed bumps on 1st St NW would be a great idea. All the way up to the Hospital Center as far as I’m concerned.

  • just add traffic lights.

    fuck speedbumps. this isn’t some shopping mall or rural development.

    • I’d prefer traffic lights… but I believe they’re more expensive, and the city tends to be skeptical of a more-expensive fix if it thinks it can get by with a less-expensive one.

    • I’d take the stop signs, everyone (in theory) stops compared to the P and Q lights that almost encourage drivers to speed in order to make the light.

      The 1st

    • traffic lights would only add to the traffic… traffic hardly flows on First as it it, this would make it a complete nightmare. 4 way stop.

  • i’m a neighbor and i will vote against any speed bumps.

  • Speed bumps just lead drivers to race from one to the next. It doesn’t slow their overall speed. Street narrowing has been shown to be a more effective solution to slow traffic.

  • all you traffic experts aren’t thinking about the actual human children who walk across this street every day. It’s great that you read GreaterGreater washington and know lots about roads, but you need to realize that anything that gets the traffic to slow down and follow the law, in order to not run people over, is necessary. Quit saying it’s unfair to drivers. Are you serious? Is it fair to a dead kid? It’s gonna happen too. Keep your eyes open for a fatality on this street. Meanwhile be happy that the poor minority of drivers dodged another bullet.

    • oh please. how many kids have been killed by cars on first street?
      when kids are going to and leaving school there are crossing guards.

      • No crossing guards on 1st street between N and O.
        Nice logic though. Let’s wait until someone, or maybe a few kids die before we care. In the last post, someone said their neighbor’s parents got killed on this street while crossing… good enough for you?

        • Cue sociopathic douchebag crowing, “Why don’t parents teach their kids to stay out of the street!?!”

          What is it about car culture that turns folks into anti-social monsters?

          • I don’t think I belong to this “car culture” you speak of, but I do find it annoying when people claim children are mindless creatures that will run blindly into oncoming traffic. My dog is smart enough to not cross the street without me, and if a child has not yet reached the intellectual capability of a dog they probably should not be outside unsupervised anyway.

          • You don’t have to be a “mindless creature” to get killed by a speeding car careening onto the sidewalk in front of your house.

            Stop being a sensationalist

          • I hope your dog that’s “smart enough not to cross the street without you” doesn’t chase a squirrel into the street next time you take him to the park. And if he does, I hope drivers are not going 30-35 mph in a 25 mph zone.

            Dogs and kids are unpredictable. Folks who operate motor vehicles in residential and commercial areas should drive accordingly.

          • He doesn’t care much for squirrels, but he loves to chase balls. Nevertheless, he stopped at the edge of the park when someone’s baseball went into the street.

          • Chris, maybe you sohulod take your own advice. We were talking about kids crossing the street and getting hit by cars– not cars hitting kids on the sidewalk. Calm down!

          • My 3 year-old daughter stopped at a busy street yesterday, too. Doesn’t mean I’m sending to the store alone. Like I said, everybody thinks their dog’s the second coming of Rin Tin Tin until he runs into the street.

            Then it’s “Rags! Rags! Come Rags! Come! Come! Rags! He never does this! Rags! Come Rags! Come here, Rags! I said come here! Come! Come! He’s usually really good about coming! Rags! Come! &tc…”

          • This post is about a car that apparently lost control and drove over the sidewalk, through a fence, and into the side of a building.

            However it’s not about pedestrian intellectual capability, it’s about setting boundaries and enforcing rules for drivers that will prevent accidents/death. We cannot prevent children, dogs, elderly, blind and retarded people from stepping into the street, however we CAN make it harder to speed and discourage drivers from speeding.

          • I agree. It just rubs me the wrong way when people act like children are idiots who can’t be trusted not to get themselves killed.

        • how far do you take safety though?
          yes, there is a realistic risk assessment to be made. we’ve had a century of cars on first street. how many people have died because of cars? i think that’s a fair starting point.

      • Well 2 adults were killed by a car there last year…no kids yet though thankfully. That’s what the OP is trying to avoid.

    • Ohhh man. Nice one. So if cars need to go slower, try lowering the speed limit, dont put objects in the road to artificially lower the speed limit.

      And if the speed limit is “unsafe” and cars need to be slowed down, should we just ban cars from streets? The only way to make sure no one gets run over is to eliminate cars, everythign else brings risk.

      It seems to be your general opinion, between this comment and others.

      • There’s another option: lower the speed limit, and if a given driver can’t be assed to obey it, levy crushing fines against them and assign a significant number of points to their license. Why ban cars from streets when we can ban irresponsible drivers from driving.

        Of course, my guess is that that would meet with huge opposition. The bottom line is that American drivers have been coddled for decades, and feel entitled to behave however the Hell they want, regardless of how much risk they pass on to other users of the public space.

        • There are already fines and points associated with getting a moving violation. True not all drivers that speed/drive recklessly/etc are caught or receive tickets, but neither do all pedestrians that jaywalk or all bikers that blow through stop signs/lights. There are simply manpower and resource limitations preventing such holistic enforcement.

    • CROSSING GUARDS. that’s what they’re for.

  • if you close off first street at bryant, you alleviate 70% of the traffic between new york and michigan.

    • If you close off First Street, you alleviate all of the problem. Get real. Roads were meant to be driven on, not to be playgrounds for children, or sidewalks.

      • Maybe in the suburbs, but certainly not in DC. The mentality that “Roads are for cars” betrays a profound ignorance of the history of the city.

        • either way, it’s 2011 and we’ve had over 100 years of cars driving on our roads.

          • Hey, we elbowed you fuckers out of the way *decades* ago! What makes you think you’ve got any right to demand decent behavior. Oh well, at least the DC population is self-selecting for a less driver-friendly regulatory environment.

            Given the falling car-ownership stats among DC residents, my guess is you’d better enjoy your hegemony while it lasts.

          • doc,
            you’re projecting.
            no one is suggesting that people shouldn’t act decently.

          • Uhm. Only you, Dr. Pangloss, would argue that cars do not belong on roads and that roads are not meant to be driven on.

            In your crazy, bicycle extremist world, where up is down, and down is up and where car drivers shouldnt expect to have roads, but cyclists can expect to have 25 ft wide paved areas to bike on.

            If the roads werent built for cars, and if cars shouldnt be allowed on them, why are there so damned many of them?

            Its fairly obvious that you hold a worldview that is patently outrageous. The fact that you think that for some reason cyclists “were elbowed out of the way” and now this justifies some world devoid of any cars in urban areas, is laughable.

          • I wasn’t arguing that cars don’t belong on roads. Obviously they do. There are also a hundred other legitimate uses. And if drivers cannot play nicely with others, they need to be brought to heel. Obviously we’re not going to ban cars–but we can certainly make it so that drivers who drive recklessly (and, yes, that includes speedinng) lose the right to operate motor vehicles in the city.

            The great thing is that, there’s a slowly dawning realization by most DC voters that that’s the case.

  • Someone up-thread asked “Why no speed cameras in residential areas?” Would it be possible to get a concrete answer once and for all? Is there actually a technical limitation? Or what?

    (And, yes, I’ve heard various speculations about line-of-sight, widths, etc, etc… Is there someone with some expertise on this, rather than someone with a terminal case of Male Answer Syndrome?)

    • andy

      I know this is a diversion, but I am now curious about Female Answer Syndrome. Also, Male-Answer-to-Female-Question-Syndrome.

      • Female answer syndrome uses personal, anecdotal evidence to prove/disprove everything.

        eg. I cross that street all the time and never have seen a problem, and neither does my dog. In fact, my 2 y.o. toddler knows how to look left, right, and then left again before stepping foot in the roadway.

        Male answer syndrome uses lies and misleading information from dubious studies.

        eg. I read about a study in WaPo that says 4 way stop signs actually cause cars to INCREASE their likelihood for pedestrian accidents, as cars accelerate faster after stopping, and pedestrians gain a sense of entitlement to the roadway.

  • bfinpetworth

    We have a similar problem at the corner of 5th St and Webster, just north of Grant Circle. School just up the road, a playground right at the intersection, and NO stopsign between Grant Circle and Allison. Cars come off of the circle already going too fast and accellerate up 5th St. Our dog got hit by a car (thankfully she is ok) and a woman and child were recently hit (also ok, as far as I know). We’ve written letters and have even personally shown the problem intersection to Councilwoman Bowser. So far nothing has happened. Seriously, what does it take to get a stop sign installed. There are four-way stop intersections all over the neighborhood. Why not there???

    • I go through that intersection frequently and have noticed what you mention. Glad your dog’s okay, BTW.

      I also wonder about the rationale of the many four-way stops all over, and then some real problem spots without them–such as the intersection outside our door. A 6yr old was hit by a speeding car a few weeks ago. The driver stopped and was ticketed, but if there was a stop at the end of this short block, she wouldn’t have been able to accelerate so much off of Kennedy.

      • Or she would have just run the stop sign. If someone won’t stop for a 6-year-old in the road, why on earth do you think they’ll stop for a stop sign?

        • ah

          But teh driver would *definitely* slow down if there were speed bumps.

        • Oh I don’t think she necessarily would–but this is a really short block, 16 or 18 houses total on both sides. She turned south off of Kennedy, and if there was a stop sign at Jefferson, she wouldn’t have had the opportunity to speed up enough to not be able to stop for a kid running out into the street. That’s all things being “right” of course, and giving the driver credit for knowing there’s another stop sign coming up. As is, drivers speed up because they know it’s only a stop for the east/west traffic, not the north/south bound. I stop (well, rolling stop) there even though there’s no sign because I don’t trust others.

    • You should talk to the commenter @ok above:

      His dog is smart enough not to cross the street without him. Also, kids should be accompanied by parents and such.

      • bfinpetworth

        Yes, I love his comment. Very wise man indeed.

      • I’m not a “he,” but since you missed my point and/or deliberately took my comment out of context it hardly matters what gender you think I am.

        • bfinpetworth

          Well what was your point? It seems you were saying that if children are unsupervised then they don’t deserve the protection that a 4-way stop or speed bump will provide.

    • bfinpetworth

      Oh and by the way – the car that hit my dog was cutting through our neighborhood at rush hour with Maryland tags and DIDN’T stop, even though he clearly knew what was happening, since there were two crazy women (me and my partner) on either side of the street screeching and waving our arms to stop. I guess he was in too big of a hurry. Love those Maryland commuters…

  • The answer to how a 4-way stop would impact here is answered a couple blocks north at 1st and R outside of Big Bear. There is a 4-way stop there just before the 1st/Florida intersection that mirrors 1st/New York. I’m guessing there isn’t one here because N St is functionally a 3 way stop: the section between N Cap and 1st is essentially a cul-de-sac with limited traffic coming and going due to the bollards prevent westbound traffic from NY Ave. Most crossing traffic is turning there and I’ve seen several close calls from frustrated drivers getting blocked by cars queued up for the light. A stop sign there would enforce the gap for queued up cars and make that left turn from N more visible. Every single other 4 way intersection on 1st has a light or stop sign, one more is not going to make a appreciable dent except to slow traffic down which is the point.

  • Adding stop signs just teaches people to ignore stop signs.

    Speed bumps slow people down. But they’re a big pain. And they encourage people to buy SUVs.

    Perhaps we should push the MPD to start enforcing traffic laws. That would get drivers to slow down. It would make the streets safer. It wouldn’t cause any problems for ambulances or for law-abiding drivers. And it’d raise a bunch of revenue, so even if you had to hire more police, you’d still come out ahead. I don’t see a downside. But I never, ever see an MPD officer writing a traffic ticket. What’s so politically difficult about getting MPD to enforce traffic laws?

    • Adding stop signs just teaches people to ignore stop signs.

      Huh? That makes no sense to me. If people don’t stop at a sign it’s not the stop sign at fault. Are you saying that stop signs are a useless tool in traffic enforcement? Even if people didn’t come to a complete stop, I think they would be effective enough in this instance to slow people down, and to allow pedestrians to cross.

      • People stop at stop signs for three reasons:
        1) They’re inherently law-abiding people.
        2) They don’t want to get a ticket for running a stop sign.
        3) The stop sign indicates that there might be cross traffic, and they don’t want to get in an accident.

        The folks covered by (1) aren’t a problem. They also obey speed limits and stop at crosswalks.

        (2) doesn’t seem to apply in DC, because no one ever gets ticketed for running a stop sign.

        (3) works just fine until you start putting 4-way stops at lots of intersections where there’s almost never any cross traffic. Then people stop associating stop signs with cross traffic and start running stop signs (and I’m not talking about a rolling stop — I’m talking about ignoring the sign altogether).

        • I think (2) applies if the driver goes into VA or MD often, because they do ticket a lot there and most people don’t change their habits when they cross state lines.

      • Agreed. I don’t know where you people live that drivers routinely ignore stop signs, but it certainly doesn’t happen in my neighborhood.

        That said, I like speed bumps. I’ve never found them to be a pain and they do prevent the occasional reckless driver from going too fast. Do they really contribute to an increase in SUV ownership? That’s crazy.

        • I don’t mind speed bumps either. One further benefit you neglected to mention: they often cause damage to a vehicle if they’re ignored. Strange how this is often listed as a “bug” not a “feature”.

          • If you hate cars so much, move to a planet that doesnt have them. For your sake, I hope you invent the teleporter soon.

          • No need–I already live in a city that is slowly but inexorably moving towards drastically curtailing the unlimited freedom that drivers enjoy today. Only going to get better as DC’s demographics continue to change.

    • True story: I was waiting to cross with my dog, at 1st and N, and a few cars zoomed up 1st like they always do. I looked right and on N behind me was a cop car with his window open. As I started to cross, I asked him, “why don’t those cars have to stop at this cross-walk?” He shrugged his shoulders at me and smiled.
      +1 to your enforcement comment. But even if the cops were better, they aren’t going to be there all the time. So a stop sign, bump, or some other infrastructure seems reasonable.

      • That’s fantastic.

        As a complement to your story: I was about to cross the street south to get to Lincoln Park about a year ago (before the current “speed-tables” were erected, but after the old speed bumps were removed). There was a cop waiting in a marked cruiser. An SUV with Maryland plates came through doing about 15 mph over the speed limit.

        I asked the cop, “Hey, did you see how fast that guy was going?” He kind of shrugged and said, “I’m just here to stop folks who fail to yield to pedestrians.”

        Progress of a sort.

        Anyway, I figured I’d help him out so I waited until there were cars at the far east end of the park, and started to walk out into the crosswalk. Of course, no one bothered to stop, and the cop got to pull someone over. Definitely more satisfying than a speed bump.

  • did ya’ll move onto an ambulance route?

  • I love the idea of speed bumps on 1st Street NW. Drivers need a reason to go over to North Capitol. The street is too narrow, and people blow through the 4 way stops. My neighbor has had her car hit THREE times in the past five years parked on 1st Street.

  • How about a speed camera? I know people think they are evil but I certainly slow down where I know there’s a camera waiting to give me a ticket, or one of those Your Speed Is…signs. Or a White SUV with a mannequin holding a radar gun would be OK.

  • We need more and better traffic enforcement. MPD needs to bring back the centralized traffic division. If laws were regularly enforced driver behavior would change.

    Engineering, enforcement and education are all needed to address our traffic problems. Engineering alone will not slow down drivers or change behavior.

  • There was a cop car hiding at this intersection last night at midnight. Personally, i’d like to see the lights that do exist re-timed. I always hit 3 red lights going from south of NY on 1st, before I get to Bates. That’s not 3 lights — 3 reds, because of their timing. Every time. This is the only legal route from 395/NY to Truxton/Bloomingdale outside of N Cap — which is trickier to use to points north b/c it’s hard to turn west off N Cap.

    Now this is a bit off the main thrust of this discussion, but damn if I wouldn’t like to go 3 city blocks in a quiet residential neighborhood in less than 3 – 4 minutes. I’ll take the bumps, the signs, but please fix the light problem. That’s go to be behind a lot of the congestion here.

    • “Fixing the light timing” in an urban traffic system that’s as complex as DC’s is a fool’s errand. You might be able to tinker arouund the margins, but anytime you optimize one path of traffic flow, you’re going to de-optimize another.

      • It’s silly to think that you can’t improve something, by virtue of it being complex.

        I can tell you why the lights don’t work now. The O Street light has an abnormally long red, most likely because of the school crossing there. Reduce the time of red there during non school hours and the problem would be solved. That’d reduce the line for 395 access via NY.

        Another reason I think they may have staggered the reds there is to slow people down. If that’s the case, it’s causing traffic — and even when there is no traffic at all, it takes me a couple minutes to drive those 3 blocks.

        They should opt for bumps as a measure to slow traffic, rather than badly timed lights.

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