Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Three 14th Street intersections listed among the city's most dangerous -- obviously

Shuler Be careful walking in Columbia Heights. DCist reports, via TBD, that four different intersections in Columbia Heights are among the most dangerous in the city, what DDOT is calling "the most dangerous intersections for pedestrian crashes over the past 3 years."

The intersections in our neighborhood are 14th and Park, 14th and Irving, and 14th and Columbia, as well as Georgia and New Hampshire. And I must say, I am not surprised by these intersections, and I think I know why.

In the case of 14th and Park, the stoplights and walk/don't walk lights there don't make sense. The traffic lights are often red in all directions and no cars are going. Pedestrians often stand for a couple seconds, look around, and then cross during the don't walk signs. Of course people shouldn't cross on the don't walk signals, but I've done this myself because it's just a weird situation -- why is all the traffic stopped, and then why can't we cross? Especially considering how this is a busy intersection, Kenyon and Park both join at 14th and there's a lot of pedestrian traffic. I think DDOT should take a look at the traffic and pedestrian signals at this intersection.

As for the other intersections, I've written before about cars not paying attention to people walking legally in the crosswalk, they just turn then have to slam on their brakes. That's probably part of the issue. However, I know there are often people crossing 14th Street all over the place when it says don't walk, and often crossing in the middle of the road, not in a crosswalk. I'm sure this is part of the problem too. I think if the city wants to address these issues, they need to station police officers and ticket both cars turning into pedestrians and pedestrians doing dangerous jaywalking, like running across 14th.

A lot of DCist commenters said traffic calming is the issue, as in they drive too fast, but I'm not sure that's it.

At least, that's my opinion. It would stink having police officers busting jaywalkers, but if people are always getting hurt there, we need to do something. And I think busting drivers turning into people is worthwhile.


  1. At 14th and Park/Kenyon, the "no light" situation happens when the traffic flowing west on Park gets a right arrow to turn north on 14th. Unless you are standing in a place to see the green arrow, it looks like nothing is going on anywhere, but that's what's happening. This is also when the folks on this most northern part of the intersections get a walk signal to cross 14th.

  2. There are many good points in this post. An additional problem I see at 14th & Irving: the traffic light on 14th turns red for northbound traffic before it turns red for southbound traffic to allow for southbound drivers to turn left onto Irving. Many pedestrians waiting to cross 14th (usually from east to west) don't seem to realize this (or don't care), so they'll dart into the street after the northbound light turns red, and risk getting hit by southbound cars.

    I'm not sure what the solution to this problem is. A sign probably wouldn't help. Maybe issuing some jaywalking tickets would.

  3. After DDOT changed the traffic flow (making Park turn north only) they did not update the Walk signals, which no longer make sense. Also we have pedestrian signals that are not even turned on. I've reported them, but nothing got done and they closed the ticket.

  4. 14th & Park/Kenyon would benefit from additional crosswalk durations. Maybe there could even be periods where all of the traffic lights are red and all the crosswalks white, a la 7th & H NW. Alternatively, Park could be made one-way eastbound between 14th and Holmead.

  5. I completely agree about 14 & Park. 14 & Irving has a similar situation, but it's more subtle. If you try to cross by looking at the traffic lights rather than looking at the walk sign, you WILL get hit by someone making a right turn. Unless you're familiar with the intersection, it's not obvious that the lights are set up to favor a delayed right turn.

    The huge number of buses actually makes safety worse, because bus drivers and car drivers have completely different motivations, and people abuse the fact that bus drivers are careful about not hitting people. I can't tell you how many times I've seen someone jump out into the street because a bus stopped and the guy walking thought that meant that the car traffic would stop, too.

    In the long term, I think the solution is going to be putting in a traffic circle at Park/Kenyon, and maybe prohibiting privately-owned automobiles from driving on Irving between 16 and 13. Obviously, though, those are radical solutions that would meet resistance.

  6. A handful of walk signals around the 14th & Girard / Fairmont area are also of the type that never trigger unless a pedestrian pushes the request button. I've yet to see the buttons actually work in this area, so I always have to make a dash or walk a block to another intersection when traffic is heavy.

  7. Yes, some of it is based on signaling issues. But - and I say this as a non-car-owning pedestrian - people there just walk out into the street against flowing traffic all the time. I could not tell you the number of times I've seen people slowly stroll across the street, counting on cars to slow down or steer around them. Maybe a public education campaign featuring a few bloody mangled corpses that are the end result of a person vs car matchup, would get peoples' eye. And tickets for those "pedestrians", AND those drivers who consider that the first two seconds of a red light is as good as a green light.

  8. ITA about the intersection at 14th and Park. It's completely ridiculous. The result is even careful pedestrians, like myself, end up crossing against the light because we're not sure what the cars are even supposed to do. It's disheartening to hear that a PP tried to get this fixed and the problem was ignored by DDOT.


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