Another Pedestrian Peril

15thNYAve

“Dear PoPville,

Seeking to raise awareness about a crosswalk that I have now had problems half a dozen times at. When I cross from the Treasury building across 15th towards Old Ebbitt Grill, despite having the walk sign, drivers honk and scream and refuse to stop. A few weeks ago I was with my niece, who is 8, and a driver accused me of child endangerment for walking with the walk sign across the intersection. This was during rush hour, and I understand that were all battling SafeTrack but it’s unnecessary and unsafe.

Has this happened to anyone else? It seems to happen to me only at rush hour, but every time I use it at rush hour. Hoping to get advice on how I can bring awareness to drivers that the walk sign is there since they don’t seem to be able to see it.

I captured the image of it on google earth (above.) Essentially what seemed to be happening was that 15th was backed up with cars coming straight down towards the freeway on ramps, and cars trying to left from New York Ave onto 15th. I was trying to cross across 15th from Treasury, towards that White House Gift Shop tourist mecca at rush hour to meet family for dinner at Old Ebbitt. When the cross walk turned in my favor I waited for the cars in to advance a bit out of the intersection, then proceeded to walk with my 8 year old niece in the crosswalk. Traffic began moving (I THINK from New York Avenue drivers turning left, though I could be mistaken) and they didn’t seem to realize or care that we had a walk sign and accelerated at us and began honking as if trying to prove a point. One of them was a cab driver and he started yelling and his customers in the back leaned out and yelled “I hope you value your life as much as that child’s because you deserve to get run over you dumb bitch” which was EXACTLY what my 8 year old niece needed to hear. It was obviously disturbing to me, but she’s 8 years old and lives in the suburbs and it was outright terrifying for her.

This was at rush hour in the evening. I tried to shake it off, but I don’t want it to happen to anyone else and everytime I use this intersection at that time of day its similar (although this occasion was by far the worst.) I’m not looking for sympathy, or a conversation about how horrible drivers are, or a debate about owning a car in the city. I am hoping to bring attention to this intersection to make it safer.”

59 Comment

  • Will drivers ever be held accountable for their dangerous, violent behavior? You use any other weapon to intimidate another citizen and you’re arrested, but not if you use a car to intimidate, harass, bully and victimize a pedestrian.

    • One time my friend and I were crossing in the crosswalk on 18th and New Hampshire and we finished crossing right as the walk signal ended. To the driver parked at the intersection thought we were cutting it a little too close and floored his car right before the light turned green, scaring the crap out of us.

      Little did the driver know that a cop was parked right on the other side of New Hampshire and immediately pulled him over. It was the most satisfying moment I’ve ever had as a pedestrian!

  • Yes, yes, yes. OP is absolutely right.

    I’ve found that both the 15th and New York and the 15th and G crosswalks are dangerous, with people blowing through them all the time. Adding to this, I’ve noticed that drivers turning left from New York onto southbound 15th regularly (as in, the vast majority of the time) ignore the red left-turn arrow that is activated when the crosswalk sign is illuminated. I wish they’d bother having police monitor this intersection and ticket drivers, at least occasionally.

    • I cross here regularly too, and also regularly am almost run over by cabbies and/or MD drivers turning onto 15th southbound from NY Ave. The intersection is wide enough that I can understand why drivers would be surprised to get around the turn and then be barreling down on pedestrians mid-street, however the pedestrian signal is remarkably short and timed as if most of the NY Ave traffic will continue onto PA Ave (impossible because it is permanently closed). It seems the pedestrian signal should be re-timed to be an exclusive crossing or, barring that, the NY Ave signal should be a turn-on-green arrow that delays southbound traffic until after the crossing signal runs for 30 seconds or so.

  • I was once almost run down by a bicyclist in this same intersection,who berated me for getting in his way. I also had the walk sign.

    • +1. This has happened to me numerous times. Many bicyclists want to be respected, but then should also operate with the same traffic laws as cars.

    • +1 I work nearby and I’ve had many scary close calls with cyclists at this intersection, but never with cars.

    • This is a very confusing area for cyclists entering the cycletrack from the plaza section of Pennsylvania Ave. NW. It is hard to see the signals and traffic is often moving in a fashion that makes it appear OK to go. No excuses for anyone here, just noting there are lots of problems with this particular area.

      • Agreed. Many cyclists wrongly don’t stop for pedestrians as they turn right into the cycletrack from plaza. Similarly, many pedestrians cross the plaza against light w/out looking b/c there’s no car traffic and congregate at that corner blocking the cycletrack and/or just step into the cycletrack and wait for the walk signal. I’ve never seen law enforcement step in and clear the way for people or bikes.

      • Yes, agree with this too!

    • Just wanted to say that I agree with you on the bicycle problem. It can be dangerous

      But we can agree that the consequences on getting rammed by a 20lbs bike aren’t quite as problematic as getting squished by a 4,000 lbs SUV

    • +1 me too.

  • niceflipflop

    You gotta have pretty big stones to drive aggressively and antagonize pedestrians right in front of heavily armed Secret Service officers. But perhaps they don’t care, either way.

    • They don’t care. All the federal police forces in DC can’t seem to be bothered when witnessing traffic crimes which apparently are beneath them to bother with.

      • Unless they see an opportunity to get their rocks off on a power trip. I was once chastised by the Capitol Police for pulling over to the wrong side of the road (one-way area) to let an ambulance pass. Yes, because hurtling across 3 traffic lanes to get to the right curb would have been a much better decision that wouldn’t have impeded the progress of the ambulance or potentially caused a collision AT ALL.

        • Is there even a wrong side to pull over on when on a one-way street? It isn’t a highway we are talking about…

      • I once asked an agent if he would please direct people to use the sidewalk on the other side of the street rather than the cycletrack as the sidewalk was closed on the same side as the cycletrack. He told me it wasn’t his problem, he was secret service.

      • gotryit

        Just yesterday I saw a capitol police officer who witnessed a minor collision (car/car) get involved appropriately.

        • I am greatly thankful to the Homeland Security officer who responded immediately to my car vs bike accident and stayed with me, injured, for 30 min to an hour, whatever it was it felt like ages, while we waited for MPD to respond.

    • Nothing to do with whether they care. It’s not their job to enforce traffic laws any more than it is your job.

      • But as part of my job, if I see something wrong that isn’t my responsibility, I contact the person who is responsible. In the say 7 years I’ve been taking this route I have seen one police officer get invovled with traffic control at this intersection (outside of special events) and that was only because someone drove a car into the cycletrack and tried to park there.

        • Yes, but it’s *not* part of their job. That’s my point.

          • But as part of their job, they could contact DC police for traffic control, no? The sheer number of buses and trucks I’ve seen illegal parked on 15th street indicates to the contrary. Also, secret service routinely sets up barricades in configurations that pit cyclists against pedestrians and washes its hands of the problem.

          • Also, they are also the only law enforcement I’ve seen that will straight up park in the Penn bikelanes right at 15th and Penn. Sometimes I’m lucky enough to have 2 cruisers parked in there completely blocking both lanes. They also ride motorcycles down the cycletrack.

          • As I said in my subsequent comment below, there is no reason to assume that they have any more sway over MPD (or whomever) than you or I do in this matter. For all we know this matter has been discussed between them already. They can’t sit there calling 911 all day just because their job happens to place them in that location.
            .
            If you’ve got a beef with secret service’s behavior then that’s fine. But don’t try to pin MPD’s failure on someone else who just happens to work there. Just because you’re mad isn’t an excuse to point the finger at the wrong people.

          • I think you’re misunderstanding me. I’m annoyed with secret service, not MPD. And yes, their job is security, but tell me that the bicycle agents I see congregating and talking couldn’t help out pedestrians once and a while? And let’s be honest, I’m sure MPD does know that intersection is a cluster and could station a traffic control person there during rush hour to prevent people from being hit.

          • I understand you perfectly, I think actually you don’t understand me. You are annoyed with secret service (I got that) but you should not be, because you are annoyed with them for not doing something they shouldn’t (and possibly are not allowed to) do. Nothing in their job duties includes traffic control or enforcement, either directly or indirectly. That is MPD’s job, and MPD is who you should be annoyed with regarding this particular matter. I don’t know how many different ways I can try to say this.

          • I can be annoyed with the ordinary course of business and accept it as reality at the same time. I’d prefer for the government to strive to be better and accept change rather than operate under this is the way it has always been. It may not be part of their job now but why can’t it be? I doubt either one of us has the knowledge to answer that question but it’s worth examining. I can also express my frustration at whomever I want, thanks. It may not be justified, in your opinion, but it’s my feelings.

          • The Traffic Control Officers in DC work for DDOT, not MPD. If there are concerns about long term problems at an intersection, redesign and re-engineering is also DDOT. MPD has a lot of responsibilities that no one else can assist with. How about we push DDOT for better traffic design and control?

        • Plus, if it’s not their jurisdiction they have no way of compelling MPD or whoever to do anything about it. Maybe you just want them to call 911 every time they see a traffic violation from now until the end of time, but I don’t think that will help them focus on their own jobs.

          • Your explanation, while correct, demonstrates why getting positive results in this town is an uphill battle. The OP rightly notes that this interesection is unsafe. There are dozens of agents nearby who either don’t have jurisdiction and/or don’t involve themselves traffic violations. Instead, MPD and who knows what law enforcement agencies have to be looped in at the request of the pedestrian, who first has to wade through byzantine circles of jurisdiction.

          • “Your explanation, while correct, demonstrates why getting positive results in this town is an uphill battle”
            .
            Well, we agree on this, for sure. But it is the reality of the situation.

          • Actually all federal police have concurrent jurisdiction over DC traffic laws and could enforce them if they so desired. The fact is they just don’t.

          • +1 to annony
            I’ve seen Secret Service and other Federal policing agencies ticketing dangerous drivers in the CBD multiple times next to my office, nowhere near Federal buildings. They definitely have jurisdiction to enforce, if they so desire. No one is stopping them.

      • Agree – not to mention the concern of Secret Service enforcing traffic laws and potentially missing a security issue/threat.

    • I was rear-ended on my bicycle here in the cyceltrack by a Secret Service officer, also on a bike, who apparently felt that red lights didn’t apply to him. Which he explained to me in greatly explicit (ie profane) detail.

  • I know this cross walk quite well, and definitely agree with OP’s statements, as I’ve seen cars barrel through here all the time with the walk sign.

    Also agree with Caroline that bicyclists from what I’ve seen usually ignore this cross walk with the walk sign too.

  • I may be wrong on this but I think cars have to yield to a pedestrian in ANY crosswalk no matter lights or “walk” signs. Pretty sure this was how they convicted the Metro bus driver who killed the two ladies on PA Ave 15+ years ago (the driver tried to contend that the “red hand” had started and they were crossing “illegally”). Almost certain the DC Council cleaned it up so if it is “unclear” the car must yield no matter. But who is going to try and debate that point with some asshat from Maryland anyway?

    • I found something from 10 ish years ago where a bus driver killed 2 women on Penn ave, and the article said the women had the walk sign, and the driver turned into penn ave without looking. Drivers are only supposed to yield all the time at crosswalks without a light; otherwise, the usual right of way rules apply. The exception is letting someone who started to cross legally finish even after the light is in the driver’s favor.

    • You’re wrong. But, there are plenty of pedestrians who think you’re right.

      I’m not even sure how you think your imaginary system would actually functionally work. Do you honestly believe that pedestrians always have, or should have, the ROW?

      • Do you honestly believe murdering a human being is justified? Apparently you think it’s open season on a pedestrian if he/she hasn’t finished crossing when cars get a green light.

        • Yes, in fact I killed two pedestrians just this morning. Its great sport, but Im worried about blood corroding the undercarriage of my car. I average 4-5 per week and I normally just leave their carcasses out in the hot sun as a deterrent to other pedestrians.

          • yeah, because that is pretty much the case you are making. Well done you. Arguing for your right to kill human beings makes you awesome.

  • This is true for most crosswalks in Washington, DC. The drivers are speeding. They’ve blown in, along traffic sewers from the sprawling suburbs. They’ angry, frustrated, embarrassed, and they haven’t planned ahead. They’re amped-up on hate radio. They don’t know the law. Of course they get angry when some pedestrian gets in their way. I figure our job, as city dwellers, is to educate our visitors by asserting our right to cross in crosswalks. Being timid and deferential to their law-breaking just rewards bad behavior and ignorance of the law.

  • Comment Artist

    Another nearby intersection that is very dangerous for pedestrians is the one on the west side of Vermont Avenue, crossing I Street. Pedestrians cross with impunity when they don’t have the signal, as cars on northbound Vermont are trying to turn left onto I Street. I would be surprised if nobody’s been struck by a car there yet.

  • OP here – sad to hear I’m not the only one that this has happened to. Any advice on who I can talk to/what I can do to help make this intersection safer?

  • There’s actually a reason why this is a huge disaster for cyclists. The right light is obstructed by a tree, and the left one is pretty far away. You often can’t tell as you approach traveling south, trying to dodge hoards of tourists who treat the cycle track as an extension of the sidewalk, whether the light is green or red.

  • Seems like DC could make some sweet cash with a red light camera here, and protect pedestrians at the same time.

  • This area seems like a candidate for an all-way/cross-corner walk signal a la 7th and H St in Chinatown. I believe DDOT called it the “Barnes’ Dance” intersection. I’d contact DDOT and ask if they are considering any more candidates under that pilot program.

  • “They’ve blown in, along traffic sewers from the sprawling suburbs. They’ angry, frustrated, embarrassed, and they haven’t planned ahead. They’re amped-up on hate radio. They don’t know the law. Of course they get angry when some pedestrian gets in their way. I figure our job, as city dwellers, is to educate our visitors.”–A Midwest Transplant

  • Threaten someone with a knife or a gun intentionally, get locked away for a long time. Threaten someone with your car, small chance of getting caught and given a minor traffic ticket. Have the knife kill the person or the gun go off accidentally? Murder. Wind up hitting someone with your car? An “accident.”

    I flipping hate American driver culture. It’s like it’s fine to murder people as long as the weapon was your car.

  • I must disagree with the OP here. As a driver this intersection is phenomenally frustrating. It is impossible to turn left and the constant barrage of pedestrians make traffic even worse. The intersection should be changed so that the cross walk is only on the side before the left turn. Or there should be a turn arrow. I am sorry but as a driver you have to get a little aggressive sometimes to get where you need to go. That’s just the reality of DC. Don’t blame the drivers, blame a lousy intersection.

    • Don’t drive through this intersection? It’s always a mess. Why torture yourself? There are faster routes. Only tourist neck-craners and taxi drivers looking to pad the meter drive next to the WH and Treasury.

  • Isn’t the best way to do something about this if you are in this area frequently to 1) contact the police about having an officer direct traffic there at rush hours? It seems to me that is the only way to control driver behavior at dangerous intersections; and 2) contact whichever DC agency is responsible for things like the timing of lights to suggest a pedestrian-only crossing time? The area must be part of an ANC, and have a council member. – perhaps bringing this to their attention could help?

  • Was also nearly mowed down by an SUV at this light (green walk signal, solid red light for the driver) several months ago. Driver came from the north, not turning from NY Ave. I called 911 and gave full details including the license plate, no idea what followed though.
    Please share your thoughts about this intersection with @DCVisionZero on twitter or record them on their map here http://dcvisionzero.com/maps—data.html#safetymap in order to DC inform traffic planning.

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