D.C.'s Official Pedestrian Advisory Body

Appointed by the D.C. Council to advise the Mayor, the D.C. Council, DDOT and other agencies.

Next Meeting: July 8th, 2024

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With winter weather ahead, D.C. Council considers plans for clearing snow

The Washington Post Capital Weather Gang predicts above average snowfall and below average temperatures this winter, and District government agencies are planning their response. The forecasters laid out their gloomy predictions and Department of Public Works Director Bill Howland laid out a strategy for clearing snow at a hearing earlier this month. Despite the bad news about the forecast, there was some good news for pedestrians. In locations where local government is responsible for sidewalks, pet-safe de-icer will be used more this year, Howland said. In addition, DPW is ready to deploy specialized equipment for clearing sidewalks along bridges. The challenge of clearing bridge sidewalks was tragically highlighted in February when a man was killed while he was walking along the roadway on the Sousa Bridge after a snowfall left the sidewalk inaccessible.

Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh seemed generally satisfied with preparations for this coming winter. “We’re ready, and we’re in good shape,” Cheh declared as she adjourned the Nov. 14 hearing.

A few days after that hearing, the D.C. Council approved Cheh’s sidewalk clearing bill. “The Winter Sidewalk Safety Amendment Act” would make it easier for the city to press homeowners and business owners to clear snow off their sidewalks. Currently, the District can fine homeowners who fail to shovel, but the law requires going to court to do so. The new law, which won’t go into effect until next winter, would allow the District government to issue fines of $25 to residences and $150 to businesses that fail to clear snow from sidewalks within 24 hours of the end of a snowfall. Residents who are over 65 or are disabled would be exempt from the fine. The Council approved the bill with amendments by a vote of 10-3, with Councilmembers Barry, Bowser and Graham rejecting the plan because of concerns that elderly and disabled homeowners would receive fines.

20 intersections safer under MoveDC action plan

MoveDC plans align with goals of the Pedestrian Advisory Council (PAC), the PAC’s Ward 7 Representative Robin Murphy testified Friday at a hearing in D.C. Council chambers. The Council Committee on Transportation and the Environment held a hearing on the District Department of Transportation’s (DDOT) MoveDC and streetcar plans in order to gather feedback from concerned citizens and information from DDOT leaders. MoveDC states that pedestrians will be the first priority in transportation planning over the next couple decades, and an action plan released in October named a goal of making at least 20 intersections safer for pedestrians over the next two years. Just before the MoveDC action plan was released, the PAC agreed at its September meeting to make safer intersection design its priority for the year ahead. “We feel strongly that careful design can help reduce pedestrian crashes and promote walking in our neighborhoods,” Murphy testified. Read Murphy’s complete testimony here.

At its next monthly meeting on Monday, the PAC will host Sam Zimbabwe, associate director of DDOT’s Policy, Planning & Sustainability Administration, to discuss the plan for improving at least 20 intersections within in the next two years. The meeting will be 6 to 8 p.m. on Nov. 24 at 441 4th Street NW, Room 1117. See the agenda.

Street Smart campaign highlights road diets

Transportation officials from the District, Virginia and Maryland gathered on Sherman Avenue on November 7 to launch the Fall 2014 Street Smart campaign and draw awareness to street safety for pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers. The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments brings the three jurisdictions together every fall when daylight savings time ends because of the increased danger on roadways after dark. Seventy percent of pedestrian fatalities occur at night, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The Street Smart campaign literature urges road users to “remain alert, share the road and obey traffic laws.”

“Last year 66 pedestrians and seven bicyclists were killed in the Washington region and that number needs to move toward zero,” said George Branyan, the pedestrian program coordinator for the District Department of Transportation (DDOT).

Engineering, enforcement and education are the tools for improving safety, said speakers at the Street Smart launch.

“We are trying to make our network in the District and around the region accessible for all,” DDOT Director Matt Brown said at the Street Smart kickoff. The location for the kickoff event was the D.C. Fire Department Engine Company 4 station on Sherman Avenue NW, a street that underwent a “road diet” in order to increase safety for all users. The roadway was narrowed from four to two lanes, sidewalks were widened, and a bicycle lane and median were added. “This was a significant engineering solution,” Brown said. The 85th percentile motor vehicle speeds were reduced from 35 mph to 28 mph after the road diet, he reported. The District needs to do more of those kinds of projects, Brown said.

“We are holding D.C. up as an example across the nation,” said Keith Sinclair, a highway safety engineer at the Federal Highway Administration’s National Resource Center. “Road diets can reduce crashes. It’s a very effective counter measure,” Sinclair said.

Officials from Virginia and Maryland discussed beefing up enforcement efforts and expanding bicycle and pedestrian facilities.

One speaker’s personal experience highlighted the importance of the efforts of these transportation and law enforcement officials.
Kenniss Henry talked about her daughter's life and death at the 2014 Fall Street Smart campaign kickoff.
“Far too many bicyclists and pedestrians die each year, and one is far too many,” said Kenniss Henry, the mother of Natasha Pettigrew, a Prince George’s County woman who was struck and killed by a driver in 2010 while she was training for a Half Ironman competition. She urged drivers to obey traffic signals and drive proactively. “We must pledge to save lives,” she said.

The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) held a pedestrian safety action on Sherman Avenue at Girard Street NW immediately following the Street Smart kickoff. MPD officers issued 8 to 10 citations to drivers who failed to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks and/or were using cellphones while operating their vehicles.
MPD officers issued citations on Sherman Avenue NW to drivers who failed to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks.

Vulnerable road users rally for a fairer legal system

Photo from @cmdgrosso
Pedestrian and bicycling advocates gathered at the Wilson Building on Thursday for a press conference held by Councilmembers Tommy Wells and David Grosso to bring attention to a bill that would improve the ability of vulnerable road users to collect damages if they are struck by a motor vehicle.

Wells and Grosso were promoting the “Vulnerable User Recovery Act of 2014,” legislation that would allow the District to adopt a legal standard of comparative negligence in place of the existing contributory negligence standard. The District is one of a handful of jurisdictions in the country that still practices the contributory negligence doctrine, meaning that a bicyclist or pedestrian can be denied insurance compensation even if an automobile driver with whom they collide is found to be 99 percent at fault and the bicyclist or pedestrian is just one percent to blame. Using a comparative negligence standard instead of a contributory negligence standard would allow a judge, jury or insurance adjustor to weigh the fault of the driver and bicyclist. For example, under comparative negligence a $10,000 award to a bicyclist from a driver’s insurance would be lowered to $6,000 if the bicyclist is determined to be 40 percent at fault for the collision. Under current District law, the bicyclist can be denied any compensation.

“This is unjust,” Grosso said at the press conference. He vowed to reintroduce the bill in January if the measure fails during these closing days of the current legislative session.

The bill was originally introduced by Grosso to cover bicyclists only, but at a September 29 hearing pedestrian advocates, including the D.C. Pedestrian Advisory Council, asked that pedestrians be included in the legislation. Pedestrians are no match for cars, PAC representative Jessica Tunon testified at the hearing. “Pedestrian errors do not have the same inherent potential for danger and violence as driver errors,” Tunon said. “It seems only fair to weigh each party’s degree of responsibility and distribute compensation in proportion to the degree of fault.” In addition to bicyclists and pedestrians, the bill would cover wheelchair users, roller skaters, road construction or emergency services workers and others.

In asking council members to support Bill 20-884, the PAC listed the following reasons:

  • More than 800 pedestrians are struck each year in the District, and 300 of them sustain serious injuries. Pedestrians are much more likely than drivers to suffer injuries, incur hospital bills and miss workdays.
  • Although collision victims sometimes succeed in court despite the existing contributory negligence law, crash victims with less serious injuries may never hire lawyers or go to court. Instead, they seek compensation through insurance claims, and those claims may be denied because of the District’s contributory negligence law. The change in law will allow victims to have a greater chance to collect compensation.
  • The bill has been amended specifically to address the concerns of the trial lawyers regarding joint and several liability.
  • During some crash investigations, misunderstandings or confusing evidence result in pedestrians being unfairly ruled at fault. The change in law will allow them to have a chance to collect compensation despite those mistakes.
  • 46 other jurisdictions have already dropped the contributory negligence standard.

On Friday, the D.C. Council Judiciary and Public Safety Committee will consider the “Vulnerable User Recovery Act of 2014.” Committee members have the opportunity to create a fairer legal system for injured pedestrians and other vulnerable road users throughout the District.

MPD continues pedestrian safety actions in Wards 3, 5, 7 and 8

MPD conducted a pedestrian safety enforcement action at the HAWK signal on Connecticut Ave. NW in Cleveland Park on October 9.
Following on the Ward 4 actions highlighted previously on this blog, the Metropolitan Police Department continued its series of pedestrian safety enforcement actions during the weeks of September 15, 22 and October 6 in Wards 3, 5, 7 and 8. The intersections were chosen based upon their proximity to pedestrian crash locations and/or complaints from the public and included signalized intersections in Friendship Heights, unsignalized intersections in Brentwood, Brookland, Deanwood and Randle Highlands, and a High-Intensity Activity crossWalK (HAWK) signal in Cleveland Park. Pedestrian Advisory Council member Eileen McCarthy, along with George Branyan of DDOT and PAC staffer Heather Edelman, attended some or all of these MPD enforcement actions.

MPD officers issued citations to drivers along Benning Road NE during a pedestrian safety enforcement action on September 24.
On September 18, Sgt. Terry Thorne of MPD’s Traffic Safety and Specialized Enforcement Branch led enforcement actions at Brentwood Road and 13th Street NE and at 12th and Jackson streets NE. On September 23 and 24, Officer Arlinda Page, also of MPD’s Traffic Safety and Specialized Enforcement Branch, conducted enforcement actions at the intersections of Wisconsin Avenue and Jenifer Street NW, Wisconsin and Western avenues NW, 45th Street and Benning Road NE, and Minnesota Avenue and 21st Place SE.  Officers Whitfield, Foreman, Huff and Johnson took part as well.  Overall, the officers issued numerous citations to drivers who failed to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks and/or committed other serious traffic violations (e.g. handheld cellphone use while driving). They also counseled pedestrians on safe street crossings and listened to driver and pedestrians concerns about traffic safety issues.

The videos below show MPD Sgt. Terry Thorne and MPD Officer Arlinda Page in plain clothes crossing Brentwood Road and Benning Road during MPD's crosswalk enforcement actions.

An enforcement action also was conducted on October 9 by MPD’s Second District at the mid-block crosswalk on Connecticut Avenue NW in Cleveland Park, which is regulated by a HAWK signal. Most drivers yielded to pedestrians, but MPD Officer Anthony McElwee issued four citations to drivers and counseled a pedestrian about waiting for the walk signal.
MPD Officer Anthony McElwee watched for drivers who failed to stop at the crosswalk in Cleveland Park during a safety enforcement action on October 9.

The District got its first HAWK signal in 2009 on Georgia Avenue NW at Hemlock Street NW after DDOT received consistent complaints from elderly residents who were having difficulty getting to the library, said George Branyan, DDOT’s pedestrian program coordinator. At the time there was a marked crosswalk at Hemlock but no traffic signal, making it “a very challenging place to cross,” Branyan said. Although HAWK signals were not part of the national highway safety engineering manual at the time, Branyan knew that Tucson, Arizona had implemented about 80 of them and suggested the District install them, as well. Arizona now has hundreds of HAWK signals in use, and Tucson locations studied experienced a 69 percent reduction in pedestrian crashes and 29 percent reduction in all traffic collisions, Branyan said.

The HAWK signal in Cleveland Park was installed in May 2013 because of the high number of pedestrians crossing the busy commercial section of Connecticut Avenue between Ordway and Macomb streets, the closest fully signalized crosswalks in the same area. The long distance between Ordway and Macomb streets led pedestrians to cross Connecticut Avenue in between the two signalized intersections. While such a crossing is not illegal under DC law, pedestrians do not have the right of way outside of crosswalks. After a study by Howard University students of such crossings, DDOT concluded that this section of Connecticut Avenue, which is traveled by nearly 40,000 cars daily, did not meet engineering standards for a traditional traffic signal but was appropriate for a HAWK signal.

While a HAWK signal appears different to motorists than a standard traffic signal, the signal works for pedestrians similarly to other push-button-activated traffic signals by stopping vehicular traffic with a red signal and allowing pedestrians to cross with a “WALK” signal, according to a description from DDOT. While one DC HAWK signal (at 16th and Jonquil streets NW) is automatically activated by the presence of pedestrians, the one in Cleveland Park is activated only when a pedestrian pushes a button to request a signal. The traffic lights never turn red if pedestrians are not present (or do not push the button).

The DDOT website describes the signal this way:

“When not in use, the HAWK signal is dark, and motorists should proceed normally. When activated, it will display a flashing yellow light, indicating to drivers to proceed with caution. Next it will display a solid yellow light for four seconds, indicating to drivers that they should slow down and prepare to stop. Next it will display a solid red, indicating to drivers to stop. Pedestrians will get a WALK signal at this point. Next, the motorists’ signal will flash red in an alternating pattern to indicate to drivers that they may proceed, after stopping, if the crosswalk is clear and it is safe to do so.”

The video below shows the cycle of the HAWK signal on Connecticut Avenue NW in Cleveland Park.

The HAWK signal in Cleveland Park is one of only six in the District, which may explain why some drivers are a bit confused by it. In particular, some stopped drivers are unaware that they may proceed with caution if no pedestrians are in the crosswalk once the solid red light turns to a flashing red light. In Cleveland Park, the signs explaining this fact to drivers are placed behind the stop lines, meaning that the drivers of the first cars stopped at the light may not see the signs. Frustrated drivers behind them often start beeping. In any case, drivers lose mere seconds of time waiting until the light goes dark and all drivers proceed.

For pedestrians, confusion about HAWK signals may be created by the fact that while signs posted at the crosswalk do advise pedestrians that they should push the button to request a WALK signal, the same signs also appear at many other intersections where pedestrians do not actually need to push a button to get a WALK signal; in the latter case, the WALK signal is triggered automatically as part of the traffic light cycle and requires no action by the pedestrian. Pedestrians also should be aware that their right of way under DC law at signalized crosswalks is triggered by stepping into the crosswalk while the WALK signal is still flashing; a pedestrian who does begin crossing with a WALK signal has the right of way until reaching the other side of the street (or a “safety island” if one exists).  On the other hand, a pedestrian who steps into a crosswalk after a “DON’T WALK” (or orange flashing hand) signal begins flashing does not have the same right of way.

Despite the unfamiliarity of District drivers and pedestrians with HAWK signals, the signal in Cleveland Park daily allows hundreds of people to cross busy Connecticut Avenue at a signalized crosswalk much more safely than crossing elsewhere. This makes shopping and dining on that commercial strip more appealing for pedestrians. As is the case in Cleveland Park, HAWK signals are appropriate for very specific types of situations, which include busy, fast-paced streets, the presence of many pedestrians, and significant distances between signalized intersections. Perhaps more HAWK signals in the District would increase familiarity and acceptance, as well as contribute to the economic growth of some of the District’s busy arterials.

District ranks third among safest cities for pedestrians

The District ranks third on a list of the safest cities for pedestrians, according to a study commissioned by Liberty Mutual Insurance. Released Oct. 7, the Liberty Mutual Insurance Pedestrian Safety Index lists the 15 safest pedestrian cities based on statistics reported by the cities and surveys of residents’ perceptions of safety. The District rates behind Seattle and Boston and just ahead of San Francisco and New York.

Top 15 Safest U.S. Cities for Pedestrians
  1. Seattle, Wash.
  2. Boston, Mass.
  3. Washington, D.C.
  4. San Francisco, Calif.
  5. New York, N.Y.
  6. Portland, Ore.
  7. Pittsburgh, Pa.
  8. Minneapolis, Minn.
  9. Chicago, Ill
  10. Atlanta, Ga
  11. Denver, Colo.
  12. Philadelphia, Pa.
  13. Baltimore, Md.
  14. Columbus, Ohio
  15. Los Angeles, Calif.

Source: Liberty Mutual Insurance Pedestrian Safety Index

“The goal of the Liberty Mutual Insurance Pedestrian Safety Index is to recognize the U.S. cities that are taking exceptional measures to keep their streets safe and to help others across the country learn from those best practices," according to David Melton, managing director of global safety for Liberty Mutual Insurance. Features highlighted by the company include adequate crossing time, visible crosswalks, sufficient street lighting and good signage. While releasing the study, Liberty Mutual Insurance also listed safety tips for drivers and pedestrians:

  • Don’t use cell phones while driving
  • Drive slowly and be prepared to stop quickly, especially in residential neighborhoods and school zones and when approaching crosswalks

  • Don’t use cell phones while crossing the street
  • Use sidewalks and crosswalks and wait for the walk signal
  • Look both ways, even when there is a walk signal or stop sign

Speed cameras get support at City Council hearing

City Council members confirmed their support for speed cameras and other types of automated traffic enforcement at a roundtable on Wednesday. The roundtable was scheduled in response to a critical report by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) that highlighted flawed ticketing procedures and questioned the justification for speed cameras.

While they stated the importance of ticketing procedures that are consistent and fair, Council Members Mary Cheh, Tommy Wells and David Grosso also expressed a high level of concern that the OIG report unfairly portrayed the District’s automated traffic enforcement program. “This is not a gotcha operation,” Cheh said. Speed cameras improve drivers’ behavior, she said, and her constituents strongly support them.

D.C. Pedestrian Advisory Council (PAC) Chair Jason Broehm testified at the roundtable that the PAC backs the program, too. “The Pedestrian Advisory Council has previously expressed our support for the District’s Automated Traffic Enforcement program, and I want to reiterate today that we strongly support the program because it improves safety on our roads – for pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers alike,” Broehm said. “The presence of cameras across the city encourages drivers to slow down, stop at stop signs and lights, and stop for pedestrians in crosswalks.” The PAC is recommending that revenue from automated enforcement be designated for traffic safety instead of going into the District’s General Fund where it can be used for other purposes.  This is a best practice identified by the Governors Highway Safety Association and mentioned in the IG report to help increase public acceptance of automated traffic enforcement programs. Broehm also explained at the roundtable that the PAC opposes limiting cameras to school zones or school hours as some other jurisdictions do. Read Broehm’s complete testimony here.

Hillcrest resident Gladys Graye, who has previously discussed her concern about speeding with the PAC, also testified at the roundtable: “We have blind people, we have children, we have old people,” Graye said. “Two hundred forty cameras? That’s not enough.” (Here is a link to the list of camera locations.)

Reminder to drivers: stop for pedestrians in crosswalks

The number of pedestrian crashes often peaks in September, and District police are making a special effort this month to remind drivers to watch out for pedestrians. The Metropolitan Police Department and the D.C. Pedestrian Advisory Council (PAC) have teamed up to identify locations for multiple pedestrian safety actions around the city. Two safety actions today along Georgia Avenue resulted in MPD citing 20 drivers in just one hour. Issuing citations for failing to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk sends a clear message to drivers to follow the rules, said Sgt. Terry Thorne of MPD. If a pedestrian has stepped into the crosswalk, drivers within 1 ½ lanes must stop. In addition to the citations issued today for crosswalk violations, two drivers received tickets for using cellphones and one was arrested for driving without a license. (The fines for common traffic violations are listed on the MPD website.) 

During today’s pedestrian safety action, MPD officers also handed out fliers asking for information about a pedestrian who was killed in a hit-and-run crash along the same stretch of Georgia Avenue early Sunday morning. Bareket Haile, 26, of Northeast DC was struck by a driver heading north on the 2700 block of Georgia Avenue NW. According to police, the vehicle was last seen fleeing west on Girard Street. The car is described as a dark colored four-door vehicle, possibly a Chrysler, with stock chrome wheels. The car has noticeable damage on the driver’s side, according to a police statement

The two safety actions today were held on Georgia Avenue at the intersections of Newton and Girard Streets NW, locations where pedestrians frequently try to use crosswalks without traffic signals to reach nearby stores, apartments and schools. While many drivers yielded to pedestrians and some who seemed unsure how to respond crept past slowly, several sped right past within a couple feet of the pedestrian. Footage from the safety action is provided below. Three drivers seen in the video received citations.

MPD will hold pedestrian safety actions at about eight more locations this month, and traffic captains in each police district will continue holding two each month as we previously reported.

Foxx introduces new pedestrian and bicycle safety campaign

This week U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx unveiled an initiative to cut pedestrian and bicyclist injuries and fatalities by connecting sidewalk networks, implementing road diets and promoting other infrastructure improvements. Foxx announced the initiative on Wednesday at the Pro Walk Pro Bike Pro Place conference in Pittsburgh in front of city planners, transportation engineers and bicycle and pedestrian advocates from around the country.

“This initiative is aimed at reversing the recent rise in deaths and injuries among the growing number of Americans who bicycle or walk to work, to reach public transportation and to other important destinations,” said Foxx, who wrote about his personal experiences with pedestrian safety in a recent blog post. Nationwide, pedestrian and bicyclist injuries and fatalities have increased since 2009, at a rate higher than vehicle fatalities, according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Pedestrians and bicyclists in low-income areas that lack safe infrastructure are particularly vulnerable.

The new 18-month campaign will start with road safety assessments conducted by U.S. D.O.T. field offices. The initiative will promote infrastructure safety, education, vehicle safety and data collection. Click here to read the plan.

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.

MoveDC moving forward

The public is invited to give feedback until July 31 on moveDC,the District’s multi-modal plan for getting people around the city over the next 25 years. During a roundtable held by the D.C. Council Committee on Transportation and the Environment to receive comments on the plan, several speakers requested more time to review the massive document. The comment period was extended more than three weeks to the end of July.

The significant aspect of moveDC from the perspective of the D.C. Pedestrian Advisory Council (PAC) is that pedestrians are listed as the first priority in any decision-making around transportation. Filling gaps in the sidewalk network, prioritizing traffic calming and engineering safer crosswalks are all recommendations made in moveDC.

“Overall, moveDC presents an important step forward, and if fully implemented, the recommendations promise to improve conditions for walking across the city,” PAC chair Jason Broehm testified at the roundtable. Follow this link to Broehm’s full testimony. The PAC will submit feedback after its July 28 meeting.

Pedestrian, bicycle and transit advocates attending the June 27 roundtable were generally supportive of moveDC, but it got negative feedback from some residents and visitors who rely primarily on cars to get around the city. A AAA representative called cars “an endangered species” if the plan moves forward. Adding to the dissent were several speakers who brought up concerns with specific aspects of the plan, such as bus lanes planned for their residential roads and bike lanes that would remove parking, as well as overarching worries such as DDOT’s lengthy environmental review process and lack of data to prioritize projects. Councilmembers Mary Cheh, David Grosso and Muriel Bowser offered general support, and all noted the importance of planning for a future that includes hundreds of thousands of new residents.

The deadline to submit public comments on the plan is July 31. After the document is complete, DDOT will release an action plan. MoveDC should be updated every five years, DDOT Director Matt Brown said.

Roundtable tomorrow on moveDC

MoveDC, the city’s multi-modal transportation plan, will be the topic of tomorrow’s roundtable called by the D.C. Council’s Committee on Transportation and the Environment. The roundtable is scheduled for 11 a.m. on June 27 in Room 412 of the Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Ave. NW.

The plan prioritizes pedestrians and calls for the city to:

1. Reduce the number of pedestrian injuries and fatalities;
2. Prioritize pedestrians in transportation projects;
3. Create a pedestrian environment that accommodates people of all ages and abilities, with special attention to children and older adults;
4. Create a fully-connected pedestrian network.

In order to achieve these goals, the moveDC plan makes several recommendations, including some the D.C. Pedestrian Advisory Council has been advocating over the past year. Expanding the network of sidewalks, creating better systems for identifying and tracking needed sidewalk repairs, increasing automated enforcement, and adjusting traffic signals to optimize pedestrian safety are among steps moveDC lays out. The plan also urges improving the design of intersections, especially “high-hazard locations,” and improving access and safety at transit stops. Growing street trees would improve the walking environment, the plan states. In addition, MoveDC suggests creating a dedicated traffic enforcement unit within the police department.

Creators of moveDC are seeking public feedback on the plan by July 6. Visit the moveDC website at www.wemovedc.org to download the report and find a link to the survey.

The high cost of pedestrian crashes

Car crashes are costly, and collisions involving pedestrians result in $14 billion in economic costs each year, according to a study released recently by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

The review of 2010 crash data from across the country, titled “The Economic and Societal Impact Of Motor Vehicle Crashes, 2010,” reveals the many costs associated with car crashes. The study calculated medical expenses, property damage and legal costs, as well as lost productivity and congestion costs associated with added fuel use and negative environmental impacts. Considering these factors and others, the total economic cost of motor vehicles crashes in the U.S. in 2010 was $277 billion, according to the study. Drinking drivers caused 18 percent of the economic loss, speeding was found to create 21 percent of the cost, and distracted driving produced 17 percent of the cost. About $200 billion, almost three-quarters of the total cost, is paid for by people who are not involved in the crashes but pay insurance premiums, taxes and congestion-related costs as a result of them.

Although much of the study is devoted to issues around alcohol use, speeding, distracted driving and use of seat belts, the study does take a brief look at the costs of crashes involving pedestrians. Of the 32,999 people killed in motor-vehicle related crashes in 2010, 4,372 were pedestrians. In addition, 110,000 pedestrians were injured that year. The $14 billion cost of pedestrian crashes represent 5 percent of the total economic cost of crashes.

NHTSA previously studied the cost of motor vehicle crashes using data from 2000. Fatalities and injuries have declined since then, due to safer vehicles and increased seat belt usage. Economic costs increased over the past decade because of inflation, however. Authors of the study state that the purpose of the study was “to place in perspective the economic losses and societal harm that result from these crashes, and to provide information to government and private sector officials for use in structuring programs to reduce or prevent these losses.”