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.