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Bonus Reader Submitted Question of the Day

by Prince Of Petworth February 1, 2008 at 2:30 pm 16 Comments

“i have a question, maybe you would know or if not, maybe your readers would know.

last fall, a friend of mine was hit and killed by an automobile on capital hill as he crossed the street. saturday, i was nearly hit by a car in my neighborhood, then watched an accident happen when that car turned into an SUV. it was the first time i have called 911, actually. [this was on 14th at kennedy, btw].

anyway, what can we do to make this city safer for pedestrians? i’ve lived in several cities, chicago, nyc, and london, and i have felt the most unsafe here, as a pedestrian.

how do neighborhood residents get things like a crosswalk button for pedestrians at intersectinos (there are none there, fyi) or those flouresnect ‘ped x’ signs put in?

who do i talk to/call?”

  • MKing

    I live very near you on Gallatin – they installed speed bumps on my road 2 weeks ago because of the cars speeding through there. I used to live in Dupont and thought that was bad, but our neighborhood is the pits for drivers who won’t stop at crosswalks for pedestrians. In fact, I have had police cars nearly hit me.

    There is supposedly a program in the DC metro area called Street Sense that is working on this problem (and has been for a long time). But honestly only the answer is enforcement. Other jurisdictions like CA where if you put a toe in the street cars come to a schreaching halt got that way because police gave out tickets (lots of them) for cars that tried to outrun or go around or simply not let pedestrians cross.

    I would suggest calling in the license plate of the car anytime you nearly get hit. It is a bit of a pain, but it is against the law.

  • bogfrog

    This is a very important topic. I work in an exurb and have been nearly hit while in a crosswalk, with a walk sign. I blamed it on the self-important suburban moms and patio dads who are always racing to the mall or Linens-n-Things. I assumed that drivers in the District would be safer. But you have gone through a tragedy. It would seem that your tragedy was avoidable, and it is awful to hear that story.

    My first suggestion would be to contact Richard Layman for some resources, or to organize about specific hot spots/dangerous behaviors. His blog is the Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space one.

    Another richard, who reads this blog, has been successful in getting speed cameras set up on Sherman Avenue. Maybe he could explain how.

  • Flipflopirate

    Insta-Speed Bump


    4 bags Quik-crete
    1 wheelbarrow
    2 Shovels
    2 Trowells
    1 can Blaze Orange Spray Paint
    1 roll industrial-grade reflective tape

    Just add water, Shape, Spray, Tape, & Wait

  • Call your councilmember, especially if you find other people are concerned about the issue in the neighborhood, and without a doubt you won’t have a hard time finding people who are.

    Hell, even just get in touch with D-DOT. They know this is a problem. Our government isn’t exactly known for it’s effectiveness, but traffic deaths are a major issue in the District. Contact the director, Emeka Moneme, directly at [email protected]. You can find more contact info for him here. The worst that can happen is they ignore you, which then you should get the word out that you’ve been ignored, either here, in a listserv, or by contacting any other local media.

    District officials also take to the media and take questions from residents. Ask the Mayor/Ask the Chief on WTOP, Connect withe the Mayor on Ch 4. If your talking about transportation issues/safety the call screens will probably put you right through.

  • Tim

    There really is no hope as far as pedestrian safety goes. The best thing to do is once it looks like you have the right to walk, and maybe that little florescent dude shows you that you can walk, wait 4 seconds, look both ways, and run like a bat out of hell to the other side. Seriously, I am not joking. The folks that drive around here are 1. angry, 2. usually on a damn cellphone (though it is illegal), 3. to busy “pumpin’ the jams” to watch where they are going, 4. got their drivers license out of a box of Sugar Puffs, and 5. have absolutely NO IDEA where they are going cause they have never looked at a map of DC and get all their directions via their damn cellphones (see point 2). And furthermore, jaywalking is an epidemic., it’s like driving in a version of Death Race 2000. People with kids in strollers, pushing them across roads like New Hampshire Avenue or 14th Street, it’s insane! No, just except that as a pedestrian “You are in the way!” and you have to walk like it’s a minefield…cause it is. I used to live at the corner of 16th and Lamont, lived there for just under 5 years and in that time 3 people where killed by hit and run drivers…never found out who did those. With people that callous on the roads…like I said, run, run real fast across the street.

  • ontarioroader

    As someone previously stated, it simply comes down to enforcement. If there are no repercussions to folks driving like a jackass & ignoring every traffic law under the sun, then they’ll continue to do so. There’s a bit of a of a mindset among law enforcement in this area that pulling people over for traffic violations is ‘petty’ and that they should be focusing on ‘real policing’ & real crime. This has got to change or our pedestrian fatalities are just going to keep going up as they have in the past few years in this region. To their credit, MPD has been targeting & ticketing drivers for failure to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk, but these have been brief single location efforts, and mostly downtown or on the other side of the park [at least that I’ve seen]. MPD used to have a ‘traffic division’ years ago, but I think all they do now is after-the-fact investigation of the increasing number of serious &/or fatal traffic accidents.

  • Kat

    I live in Foggy Bottom. Lately I find that I often am risking my life when crossing the street near GW Hospital. The two sections where people seem to realize that red means stop is crossing 23rd and New Hampshire, both next to the hospital. Yesterday, the Kennedy Center Shuttle didn’t seem to notice that he had a red light while I had the right-of-way. Another idiot was babbling on her cell phone unaware that she was to stop. The people who seem to not understand red means stop are those on their cell phones. Some days I feel like I am bobbing and weaving to avoid getting hit. On the flip side, the jay walking in this town is ridiculous. I have seen numerous people nearly get hit by a car flying by because they think since they are a pedistrian, they can go. It does work both way. I have also found that stop signs are for mere show because no one, at least in Foggy Bottom realizes that a stop sign means stop, not slow down a little and then slam on the gas.

  • dk

    I have to disagree with ontarioroader that MPD officers view traffic stops as petty. So many arrests start as a mere traffic stop. They are a vital part of fighting crime. And most officers know that.

    Do you see the conflict in what people might ask for in stepping up traffic enforcement? How many posts on this blog have screamed for more foot patrols, more officers out of cars, etc. But an officer can’t pull over a red-light runner if he’s on a foot beat. So there is a balance that must be struck.

    Unfortunately, as with most crime, the problem starts before trying too enforce the violation. Of course traffic enforcement is part of the solution, but the problem is deeper than that. How many of you have rolled through a stop sign? Ignored a “No Turn on Red” sign, no U-turn, raced through a yellow, etc.? And I bet you think you’re a “lawful” person. Now think of what someone who doesn’t even care is going to do.

    Too many people who think that getting their driver’s license and driving are some sacred right. How many people screamed bloody murder in VA when they tried to increase the penalties for driving like a lunatic. Look how that turned out.

    Until society is ready to punish bad driving a little more than just getting a $30 ticket, it’s not going to stop.

  • sara o,

    what is the procedure for reporting the license plate of a dangerous-pedestrian-hunting car?

  • Personally, the only place I’ve come near to death at a pedestrian is in New York City. Had to dive into a snowbank to avoid being killed by a car turning onto the street I was crossing.

    But unfortunately, bad driving is bad driving. In the case of the incident you describe, I doubt that laws or enforcement would have made a difference. The cops won’t be around 99% of the time someone does something asinine, and that guy is clearly a menace.

    The bottom line is you have to watch yourself. I always look all around the intersection when I’m crossing a street. If there’s a car who looks like he’s about to make a turn, make eye contact with the driver before stepping into the road.

    At the same time I also sympathize with Kat – pedestrians and cyclists run stop signs and red lights all the time. I nearly ran over a biker who blew through a red light at Park and 11th the other day as I was about to go straight through on 11th. I honked at him when I slammed on my brakes, and he had the nerve to shout some choice words back to me. So there are two sides to this coin.

  • Mark

    I recently moved from Glover Park / Cathedral area to Columbia Heights and I must say that on 13th & 14th, at least north of Irving, drivers are much more pedestrian friendly than they are around Wisconsin and Connecticut Avenues, from Massachusetts all the way out to the Maryland line. That’s just my experience. Below Chevy Chase circle, for example, people use *orange flags* to cross the street at crosswalks. They make their kids hold them out in front as they inch across the streets. On 14th St I see drivers stop for pedestrians pretty regularly. The pedestrians (correctly) expect it from drivers. And when I stop for pedestrians, nobody fake-skids to a halt behind me and lays on their horn. I know the congestion is bad on 14th but believe it or not I think the drivers are nicer.

  • DCer

    This is the first time I’ve read this from the pedestrian’s point of view. About 10 years ago I was driving to work and stopped at a stop sign a block from my home. I looked both ways and proceeded through the intersection when a couple walked off the sidewalk and into the crosswalk right next to me. The guy pounded on the trunk of my car screaming that he had the right of way and that he was going to call me in for almost hitting him. His girlfriend was pulling on his arm, but he was really pissed at some totally mistaken infraction. I definitely stopped at the sign and the couple was definitely on the sidewalk while I was at the sign.

    A similar thing happened with me and a bicyclist at Mt Pleasant and Irving St NW a few years back. I was stopped at a 4-way stop and after letting a car go through the intersection I saw no traffic and proceeded through. A bicyclist comes into the intersection behind me, my wife thinks from off the sidewalk riding diagonally into the intersection, hits my trunk with his hand and starts screaming at me to share the road and threatening to call the police! It’s worth noting the cyclist had neither his required helmet not required bike bell nor was stopped at the 4-way stop and I had enough right of way to be almost through the intersection by the time they got angry with me.

    Those are the only two times a pedestrian has ever yelled at me and in both cases the pedestrian is probably going to talk sh*t about me and in both cases they would be totally wrong. As a pedestrian, I’ve only had a few issues with crazy drivers downtown or in Southwest, I’ve never seen any problems in Columbia Heights or MtP in the 12 years I’ve been here. Some speeding, some crazy turns with El Lame-o doing the gangster lean, but that’s it.

  • reuben

    tim is right on the money. even when i have the “right of way”- i look left and right -like linebacker ray lewis reading the opposing team’s offensive formation. our rights as pedestrians dont mean —- to these angry, cell phone using and goodness knows what else “drivers.” everyone, please be careful.

  • ontarioroader

    DCer – not justifying the cyclists actions in any way, but just FYI: there’s no helmet law in DC for adult cyclists.

  • theneighbor

    It is bad here, but have you ever tried to cross a street in Boston?
    It makes DC look tame.

  • chris

    addendum: as i said, i witnessed an accident (and was nearly hit) last saturday at kennedy and 14th; well, this week, there two more car accidents within one block of that intersection. what is wrong with these people (drivers)? do they just suck?


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