D.C.'s Official Pedestrian Advocacy Body

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Next Meeting: July 28, 2014

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DDOT releases construction zone safety rules

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) announced its proposed rules this week for making constructions sites safer for passing pedestrians and bicyclists. The regulations aim to meet requirements of the Bicycle Safety Amendment Act of 2013. “I bike to work every day, so I have first-hand experience with the hazards that work zones can sometimes pose for bicyclists,” DDOT Acting Director Matthew Brown said. “These proposed rules will make getting around the city safer for everyone, especially pedestrians and bicyclists.”

The new regulations would include the following guidelines:
-If construction is going to block a sidewalk or bike lane, the entity getting the permit for the work must provide “safe accommodation” for pedestrians and bicyclists.
-Any temporary route for pedestrians and bicyclists should be equal to the option offered before the path was blocked.
-Rerouting people to the opposite side of the street should be the last resort.
-A covered walkway must be provided if there is potential overhead danger.
-Pedestrians should be separated from vehicles.
-The path should be free of mud and loose gravel.
-Signs and markings should warn users of changes ahead.
-DDOT may revoke a permit authorizing blockage of a sidewalk or bike lane if the entity fails to comply with the rules.

DDOT is accepting comments on the proposed regulations until September 13. Written comments should be submitted to publicspace.policy@dc.gov or to Samuel D. Zimbabwe, Associate Director, District Department of Transportation, 55 M Street, S.E., 5th Floor, Washington, D.C. 20003. For questions about the rules, contact Alice Kelly at Alice.Kelly@dc.gov at 202-671-2252.


PAC urges action on moveDC recommendations

The D.C. Pedestrian Advisory Council (PAC) submitted its official comments on July 30 on moveDC, the multi-modal plan for moving people around the District of Columbia over the next 25 years. The moveDC plan spells out numerous ways to improve the pedestrian experience, and the PAC urged the District of Columbia Department of Transportation (DDOT) to prioritize pedestrian accommodation and safety over vehicle flow and travel times.

The PAC comments submitted applauded the moveDC plan for making a number of good recommendations that will help the District realize several important goals:
(1) reduce pedestrian injuries and fatalities;
(2) prioritize pedestrians in the design of transportation projects;
(3) create a pedestrian environment that accommodates people of all ages and abilities; and
(4) create a pedestrian network throughout the city.

The PAC’s comments included suggestions for the final draft of moveDC and for future steps. Following are some excerpts from the comments submitted to DDOT by PAC Chair Jason Broehm on behalf of the entire PAC:

On safe street crossings - “The forthcoming action plan should include goals for increasing the installation of LPIs and HAWK signals and improving marking and signage at a greater number of uncontrolled crossings.”

On traffic calming – “There is a great need for significant traffic calming, re-engineering both neighborhood streets and especially arterials like Georgia Avenue, North Capitol Street, Alabama Avenue, 14th Street NW, and Connecticut Avenue NW. While moveDC certainly addresses this, it should go farther in the implementation to clearly indicate that safety considerations are considered more important than vehicle flow and travel times considered in level of service.”

On data collection – “The Pedestrian Element section could be strengthened by explicitly describing how DDOT will collect, maintain, and use data – including assessments of existing conditions, the locations of different types of pedestrian infrastructure, and pedestrian crash data – to drive transportation planning and decision-making.”

Overall, the PAC’s comments were very supportive of moveDC’s focus on pedestrian issues. The PAC expressed its commitment to working to ensure that the many good pedestrian components of the plan are put into place. “The plan establishes a strong vision for a safer, more walkable city in the years to come. This vision is supported by a series of good goals and recommendations for improving conditions for pedestrians across the city. The key will be ensuring that as many good elements of the plan as possible are implemented,” the PAC stated in its comments.

Police expand pedestrian safety stings

The Metropolitan Police Department announced it is initiating regular pedestrian safety “stings” at busy and dangerous intersections. These enforcement actions involve deploying a handful of officers to an intersection to hand out safety tips and citations to drivers and walkers over a two-hour period. In the photo above, for example, an MPD officer counsels a taxi driver who has obstructed pedestrians' path through a crosswalk. MPD is committed to holding at least two stings per month, Sgt. Terry Thorne informed the D.C. Pedestrian Advisory Council at its most recent Enforcement and Education Committee meeting.

At a pedestrian safety action on Connecticut Avenue in Woodley Park in early June, four MPD officers stopped drivers who were blocking crosswalks or obstructing pedestrian or vehicle flow through the intersection. They also stopped pedestrians who were crossing on "don't walk" signals. In addition to educating people passing through the intersection, the sting yielded nearly two dozen citations, including seven for driving with hand-held cell phones and five for failing to clear an intersection after the light turned red. Among those cited were two pedestrians. Officers also handed out education cards that explain key rules for drivers and pedestrians.

The intersection at Connecticut Avenue NW and 24th Street NW in Woodley Park is complicated and heavily traveled by drivers and pedestrians. At this "T" intersection, 24th Street NW is divided by an island, with marked crosswalks on each half. Pedestrians crossing 24th do not have a continuous walk signal; they must stop on the island. Although the island is fairly big, an overflowing crowd of pedestrians often gets marooned there for 45 seconds while turning cars wind around it. Adding to the complexity is the fact that drivers are allowed to turn right on red even though sight lines are limited for drivers and pedestrians. In addition, a poorly placed stop line and confusing voice signals cause confusion for drivers and pedestrians. D.C. Pedestrian Advisory Council members Eileen McCarthy and Marlene Berlin and ANC Commissioner Gwendolyn Bole observed the Woodley Park sting and had a chance to discuss problems with the intersection with officers and a DDOT representative. Some of the problems can be addressed more quickly than others, the DDOT representative cautioned.

Similar enforcement actions were held in Tenleytown in May at the complex intersection of Albemarle Street NW and 40th Street NW near the Tenleytown Metro station. At this busy location, cars, buses, high school and college students, commuters and shoppers all converge on a five-legged intersection. While safety tips were discussed with drivers and pedestrians during a mid-day enforcement action, a follow-up sting during rush hour resulted in officers spending most of their time directing traffic.

District police already hold safety stings, but the commitment to hold two a month is new. Chicago recently enacted a similar approach. The PAC is working with MPD to schedule the next round of pedestrian safety stings in hopes of giving drivers and walkers, as well officers, more opportunities to learn safe practices on our busy streets.

Contact the PAC at dcpedcouncil@gmail.com to submit an intersection to be considered for a pedestrian safety sting.