Questioning Commuting Behavior Vol. 27 – Pedestrians

Dear PoPville,

I was on my drive this morning and saw a traffic lane on Rhode Island Ave NW right in front of the HRC building being used as a sidewalk by some really insane pedestrians. The closure of the sidewalk is very clearly marked, and people can use a crosswalk to get to the sidewalk on the other side of the street. Being that the sidewalk is closed for only half a block, walking in the street seems completely lazy and incredibly dangerous on the pedestrian’s part. Cars turning onto Rhode Island from 17th street can’t see if pedestrians are in their lane of traffic, especially if it’s raining or at night, and it seems only a matter of time until someone is hurt. Not to mention this creates traffic problems when cars have to get out of the lane for wayward pedestrians. Not sure if others have seen this or think it’s as crazy as I do but I had to pass it along.

Ed. Note: See Vol. 26 for an experience questioning cars.

40 Comment

  • Seems almost as crazy as taking pictures with your cell phone while driving.

  • Looks to me like someone is taking pictures while driving. Sounds to me like another no-no!

  • I see bikers going against traffic from time to time; at least the pedestrian can more easily get out of the way. And at least she’s walking against traffic which is what pedestrians are supposed to do when they walk on the roads. All that said, of course she’s tempting fate.

  • I was fully stopped when I snapped this. Thanks though!

  • Ehh, I walk this block every day on my commute and I almost always do what the above pedestrian is doing. The street is usually down to one lane there due to work trucks from the construction site. I’ve been doing this for months and don’t intend to change. I — and apparently hundreds of others from my morning walks — don’t see the need to cross the street. As to the safety point, this is always during the time that 17th is southbound only.

  • This is a self-correcting problem.

  • I remember hearing somewhere that construction sites are required to provide an on-side pedestrian area when they close a sidewalk in the District. Is this actually true? Who should be called to enforce it?

    (More on point, I walk this way from time to time and never cross over precisely because it is only half a block. If it were longer, the detour might be worth it. But as it stands, the street-crossings are longer than the block in traffic, and you have to wait for traffic to slow to cross. No thanks.)

    • I really do hope someone answers this. As far as I know it is true and I would love to have the knowledge handy to act on it.

      • “Remember hearing”, and “As far as I know” doesn’t make it true.

        Please educate yourselves before you start randomly calling people and bothering them with your lack of knowledge.

        There are large construction projects in process all over the city and depending on the scope of the construction not all of them can accomodate the pre-construction pedestrian or vehicular access during construction.

        I agree, this is Darwinism in action. I hope someone isn’t hurt but if someone is hit by a vehicle on that stretch of road, it will be their fault alone.

    • When Gabe Klein was director of DDOT he required construction companies to provide alternative pedestrian access when petitioning to close a sidewalk. Although I though he was a poor administrator for a whole host of other reasons, on this issue he made the right call.

      Now, with our good ‘ole Barry-II mayoral administration, we’re back to ignoring citizens for the benefit of private developers.

  • It’s a generalization, but DC seems quick to resort to closing sidewalks. Other places I’ve been to appear to make effort (and spend the money) to construct ped. passage ways, erect scaffolding and and use jersey barriers to separate peds. and cars. I’m sure construction companies find it easier and cheaper to close sidewalks entirely, but I wish the city would advocate pedestrian safety more, not to mention uninterrupted use of a public resource.

  • What I don’t understand is how the city can allow multi-million dollar projects to close down the sidewalk completely. Why is it not a condition of the bulding permits that the project provide for secure pedestrian access past the site? ‘Across the street’ is not sufficient. It should be required and it should simply be part of the cost of doing business – especially when the project in question will result in several dozen condos priced at +/- $800,000 each – make them $810,000 each and be done with it. WIth the amoung of high-end development that goes on in tis city, I cannot believe the market woundn’t just absorb the extra cost. Why do they get to interrupt the public circulation on public space? It’s not just this project, it’s plenty others – most others. There are cities (not to be named) which do it, I cannot understand why the District doesn’t as well. (Obviously I am not addressing the OP’s actual question – I’m using it as a jumping-off point. Just because the sidewalk in the photo shouldn’t be closed doesn’t make walking in the street smart either. )

  • JT21 beat me to the punch – concisely. I need shorter rants!

  • Agreed with the safety issue but peds will do what peds do and the city should manage this and require a temp sidewalk.

  • I’m also one of the many who risk their lives walking in the road on RI Ave on my daily commute. I do it mostly in protest of the fact that the city has allowed construction to take over a sidewalk in a high traffic pedestrian area without establishing some sort of walkway for us. Of course I wouldn’t do it if I felt legitimately unsafe; for the most part not many cars come up RI in the morning and the lane is wide enough for everyone to maneuver comfortably.

  • I work in a building nearby there. Because of the construction of the new CSIS building, the walkway between the HRC and the University of California building (which houses hundreds of students all year around) has been cut off. This walkway is the main artery for access to the University of California Building from the Farragut Metros. In typical DC City fashion, their solution is for the students to use the crosswalk at the intersection of Rhode Island and Bataan Street. However, using the crosswalk has proven more dangerous. Cars do not stop coming on or off the circle thus ignoring the law that pedestrians in the crosswalk have the right of way. I personally have been almost hit multiple times in this crosswalk. I can also tell you that since construction began, there has never been a cop position at the crosswalk to ensure that cars follow the rules of the road. It is sad, but logically it makes more sense to walk in the street at the picture shows, and face the oncoming traffic, putting your fate in your own hands, than to use the crosswalk where your fate is put in the non law obeying drivers of DC.

    • yes!!! cars obeying this crosswalk is a joke. I stoppeded at this crosswalk last thursday to let an elderly woman (with a cane might I add) cross because of the closed side walk. Let me also add i was on a bicyle. I signaled to the drive behind i was stopping, so in typical fashion he layed on the horn, causing a reaction of blaring of horns. Again… in typical fashion a MD driver slams the wheel into the left lane having no idea why we are stopped, slams on the gas and then see’s the woman and hits the breaks, skidding the car. Yes the should provide a safe passage for pedestrian as opposed to trying to cross this street

  • You’d feel a lot differently if you worked in that HRC building and the sidewalk to work was shut for the next 2 years.

    • +1.

      I’m not familiar with the intersection in question, but I work near a similarly blocked-off section of sidewalk (3rd Street SW between D Street SW and C Street SW). I don’t attempt to walk in a traffic lane, but it’s really annoying to have to cross to the other side for that short a distance and then to cross back.

      So I can sympathize with pedestrians walking in a traffic lane, even if I only rarely do it myself.

  • Boo Hiss! Why would one go to the trouble to cross the street if the sidewalk is closed for only one block? Also, driving is always way more lazy than walking. OP is a silly-face. I bite my thumb at thee.

    Stopping in the street to snap a picture from behind the wheel is way more dangerous than what the pedestrian is doing. Props to the commenters for calling this dude out.

  • I definitely walk around things like this. Very rarely a problem unless you meet a pedestrian coming the opposite direction and you have to wait for traffic to clear to get around each other.

    On a slow moving and wide street, e.g., RIA downtown, there’s typically plenty of room. But it’s a risk I take knowingly and carefully with long experience jaywalking in DC.

  • I would rather walk on the road by a closed sidewalk then use a cross walk with drivers taking photos and driving.

  • I’m pretty sure you could post a story about a pedestrian crossing the Beltway and the drivers would be at fault. They should just ban cars.

  • I agree that this is dangerous, but as a pedestrian I have done it and at this exact spot. This city needs to make pedestrian safety a priority and create temporary sidewalks whenever they eliminate the real one. There are more people walking and biking in this city and safety should be paramount. I went to Nage the other night and used the sidewalk near Beacon and then used the pedestrian crosswalk to get to Nage, only to have a car fail to stop for me. There were several people using that cross walk and more then one car blew through without bothering to stop and there was more then one near miss.

  • I walk through their on my way to work and I absolutely do exactly what that pedestrian is doing. First of all, it’s crap that there is no alternative offered. There was ZERO notice that this closure was coming, just one day all of a sudden the sidewalk was closed. And I don’t know about other pedestrians but for me who walks 20 blocks from home to work, timing of lights is an art that I have perfected over several years in selecting my exact route and blocks that I walk. This half block closure totally screws that timing up on my walk. Also, in the morning there is RARELY EVER a car that actually uses that lane – even before the sidewalk was closed. 17th St is all one way south in the AM and barely anyone is coming east from 18th and Connecticut. Like one of the others mentioned here I do it mostly in protest, but it really does screw up my light timing for the next three blocks if I have to cross the street.

    So to the OP, worry a little more about driving and put the camera phone and judgement aside.

  • are smartphones to blame or do people really not know that they are spelled “brakes” ? I have read they used the “breaks” at least half a dozen times this week.

  • “I was on my drive this morning”

    And that’s why you don’t get why it’s a pain in the butt to be forced to cross the street twice (once at the unsignalized crosswalk your car was in when you took this shot, good luck crossing!) in order to walk a block.

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