Pedestrians should know their place

Have you ever been driving down 17th Street NW, getting ready to turn right on E to head out to Virginia, when some guy in an ill-fitting suit talking on his cell phone jogs across the street against the light? Have you ever given him a look and thrown up your hands in frustration? Has he ever had the audacity to flip you off in return? This didn’t happen to me this afternoon just after five, in case you’re wondering. I pride myself on paying attention to pedestrians and right-of-way. I know, what do I want, a cookie? But really, many, many people in this city, especially Maryland drivers (You know who you are) pretend that pedestrians don’t exist, and crosswalks are merely warnings before stop signs or red lights to run. So when I’m treated like this by pedestrians who think they are much, much more important than they really are, it bothers me. When you have the right of way, I’ll gladly wait. But when I have the right of way, I expect you to be on the sidewalk where you belong.

Your government at work – 16th and U to get a makeover

You may recall that I was nearly killed in a crosswalk not too long ago. No, not that time, this was another time when I was nearly killed in a crosswalk. Before my foot surgery (And again as soon as it’s healed enough, which should be soon), I walked to work with the wife every day. We had a few “incidents” at 16th and U, where cars like to turn onto New Hampshire without yielding to pedestrians. I understand that the traffic pattern is a little confusing, but it’s still a problem. So I emailed my councilmember, the often-helpful Jim Graham, and asked him to do something about it. I didn’t hear much for a while, until yesterday when I got an email from a member of his staff.

I apologize for the delay. I misfiled your email. I am forwarding this to the pedestrian safety coordinator so that he can evaluate options for increased enforcement here. Councilmember Graham reported a new law out of his committee that will increase fines to $250 for drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians. The bill also requires that signs be posted to warn motorists. This law will come before the Council for final vote on September 16. Obviously, increased enforcement is also necessary as part of this effort. Councilmember Graham has been working to get the Department of Transportation involved in issuing moving violations to improve pedestrian safety. Finally, in a few years, DDOT plans to redesign this intersection to make it much safer. I’ve attached an image of the proposed changes. Jonathon Kass Committee on Public Works and the Environment Office of Councilmember Jim Graham

So that’s pretty awesome. Below is the picture he sent me. I’ve never used Photobucket before, and it has a very “We built this site for AOLers in 1997 and just slapped a Web 2.0 facelift on it” feel to it, but theoretically if you click the picture you can see a bigger version.

Photobucket

And that’s your DC government at work. They may be slow sometimes, but they do listen when you voice your concerns. The plans look pretty decent to my untrained eye. It looks like they’re widening the sidewalk on the northwest corner, which is good. And the goofy traffic pattern on the northeast corner will be gone. Of course, it will be a few years before this happens. And I imagine that intersection will be a bit of a disaster during construction. But in the end, it’ll be safer and better. I hope.

A congestion tax alone is not enough

I’ve long thought that a large congestion tax on cars entering DC would be great. Charge $10 to enter the city. Take most of that cash and spend it on expanding Metro and putting giant parking garages out at the end of the Metro lines. Make those garages FREE. It would make public transportation a heck of a lot more attractive. They’ve tried it in London with mixed results:

At first, the new fees did seem to ease the traffic moving through the congestion zone. Now, studies are finding that the measure has actually managed to somehow slow down the pace of traffic through central London.

The problem here is the reason it hasn’t helped – construction and new pedestrian walkways have caused more traffic jams than before. It got rid of 100,000 cars each day, so it sounds like it made a huge difference. I don’t think it’s fair to blame London’s mismanagement of construction and pedestrians on the congestion tax.

Crosswalk misadventures

I got hit by a truck today. Seriously. I’m fine, although a little bruised. I went to the post office after work to send a cd of wedding photos to the father of the bride and a Book Mooch book. I was meeting the wife at Whole Foods, but I was early, wanting to catch the post office before 5. So I decided to walk to Whole Foods. It’s not a bad walk, although it was pretty hot and disgusting out today. I was waiting to cross 16th St NW at P when the light changed and I got the walk signal. I began to walk. A Ford F-250 coming the opposite direction tried to make a left before the crossing traffic started to move, and I guess he didn’t see me. I didn’t have time to get out of the way. The truck’s bumper hit my left leg, just below the knee. I also have a bruise on my knee and a bruise on my left wrist. I kind of bounced off the truck. Luckily, someone’s Lexus (I think it was a Lexus – it came up on me kind of quick) was parked where I could bump into it and not fall on my face in the middle of 16th Street. That would have been totally embarrassing. I can’t recount the exact conversation I had with the driver. He got out, and was suitably freaked out and apologetic. I think after the initial shock, I was mostly sort of amused that I had actually just been hit by a truck. Have you ever seen an F-250? It’s a big truck. And here’s where I’m non-confrontational to a fault. I’ve gone over this in my head dozens of times since this afternoon, and I still don’t regret walking away. With this guy right in front of me, apologizing profusely and clearly concerned with my well-being, I just wasn’t mad. There were numerous witnesses, and I think some of them called the police. I just wanted to keep walking. Which I did. I got most of the way down the block before the guy caught up with me. There were two DC government employees at the scene, possibly Metro, but I’m not really sure. Apparently they told the guy that he had to get something in writing from me saying that it was cool or they’d have to report it. I didn’t have any extra paper, so I had to wait while the guy called one of the passengers in the truck to bring paper and a pen. That was kind of weird. We both stood there, looking across the street, pretending we were somewhere else. I mean, what are you supposed to do in that situation? “So, you hit me with your truck. Where were you going?” I signed a note saying that I was okay and this was over with, and that was that. The guy thanked me, shook my hand, and sort of hugged me. It was not quite as awkward as it probably sounds, but close. I did ask him what kind of truck it was. I had thought it was an F-250, but I wanted to make sure I got my story straight. I mean, I wouldn’t want to claim to have taken a hit from a bigger truck than actually hit me. I’m no liar. Most of the witnesses were more upset than I was, I think. Two of them came up to talk to me, and one gave me the license plate number of the truck. I appreciate that. I guess maybe I’ll keep it, although I can’t imagine I’d ever need it. My leg is sore, but I’ve been hit harder playing flag football. I imagine other people would have reacted differently. I was in the crosswalk. I did have the right of way, and even if I hadn’t been there, he was still breaking some traffic laws. If he had reacted differently, I probably would have, too. If he had blamed me, I would have been angry. But I’m okay with my reaction. I realize that I take a lot more than I have to without getting angry, or even demanding what I deserve. I’ve always been like that (You can ask my mom). And now I can truthfully tell people that I was hit by a truck and didn’t even fall down. How many people can say that?

I could have been killed

Have you ever walked south on 16th Street on the right hand side across U Street? You have a light there, but then you have to cross New Hampshire with a crosswalk and no light.
View Larger Map The wife and I do it just about every day on the way to work. It’s not a problem to cross U Street, but crossing New Hampshire is a little dicey. Almost every day, someone assumes that, because they aren’t turning at a 90 degree angle, they don’t have to yield to pedestrians. Twice in the last month or so, we’ve had a car actually slow down or pull over to yell at us for getting in the way. This is all while walking in a crosswalk, by the way. The wife, being more confrontational than I, has exchanged words with some of these drivers. I emailed Jim Graham yesterday, and he has tasked a staff member with looking into it. I want them to put up a sign reminding people that they have to yield. I know it’s a funny intersection, but it’s an area with a lot of foot traffic, and it’s dangerous. It doesn’t help that many pedestrians will yield their right of way to cars. I understand the reasoning there – if you get hit by a car, your broken bones and whatnot don’t really care about the stand you were making for pedestrian’s rights. However, when you give up your right of way, you are also taking mine, because now the drivers think they’re right. So stand up for your right of way. And if you’ve ever had this trouble at this intersection, or any other, write to your councilmember. I don’t actually know who’s in charge of that area – Ward 1 and Jim Graham’s turf ends just north of there at Florida Avenue. But your councilmember would no doubt be aware of who needs to be notified. I’ll keep you posted on what he intends to do about it.