Unsignalized Crosswalks Under DDOT’s Microscope

Pedestrian safety affects all members of the DC metro community; however, seniors and their caregivers are disproportionately affected by unsafe walking conditions. Below, Marlene Berlin, a DC pedestrian and transportation advocate, writes about the dangers of unsignalized crosswalks in DC.  

Did you know that on a busy four- to six-lane road like Connecticut Avenue, having a marked crosswalk with no traffic signals is actually more dangerous than having no crosswalk at all? On Connecticut between Albemarle Street and Chevy Chase Circle, we have ten marked, unsignalized crosswalks, with four leading to bus stops.

On March 12th, DDOT Pedestrian Coordinator George Branyan presented these data and other findings (PowerPoint) at a community meeting hosted by The Methodist Home, Iona Senior Services, and Sunrise Senior Living.

Please click to view a larger version this chart, part of George Branyan's Mar. 12 presentation. It shows the results of a 2002 Federal Highway Administration study of 5,000 legal unsignalized crosswalks, marked and unmarked, on high-traffic roads. The purple bars represent pedestrian crashes on marked crosswalks.

Commissioners from ANCs 3/4G and 3F and community members gathered to brainstorm with Mr. Branyan and representatives from WMATA about increasing the safety of these ten crossings, including the possibility of moving bus stops to safer locations, installing a HAWK pedestrian signal or full traffic signal, and as a last resort, removing the crosswalk.

Marked, unsignalized crosswalk at Connecticut Ave. and Ellicott St.

Mr. Branyan started his presentation with Legation Street, which has a bus stop. From there, he looked at unsignalized crosswalks at Kanawha, Jocelyn, Ingomar, Chevy Chase Parkway, Everett, Ellicott, Cumberland and Appleton Streets.

He pointed out that “it will not be possible or desirable to put a signal at every uncontrolled crosswalk on the corridor. In many cases, the existing crosswalks are less than 300 feet from adjacent existing signals, and this is a minimum distance that is needed, by engineering standards, for installing any kind of traffic light.”

However, there appeared to be consensus that DDOT should act expeditiously on installing a signal at Ellicott. Mr. Branyan mentioned that it might even meet the qualifications for a full traffic light, and installing this signal, DDOT would also remove the crosswalk at Everett.

As for the rest of the intersections, George Branyan stressed that “simply un-marking crosswalks does not improve pedestrian accessibility in an urban area and does not address the city’s goals of increasing the number of walking and transit trips.”

Connecticut Avenue Pedestrian Action, in 2009, recommended safety improvements to these crosswalks.

Detail of 2009 CAPA map of Connecticut Avenue intersections. The blue triangles represent marked, unsignalized crosswalks. Click on the map to download the full version (PDF).

Options for making them safer include pedestrian signals, moving bus stops to safer locations, and removing marked crosswalks. Another option, not mentioned during the meeting, is to lower the speed limit, which would decrease the severity of injury but not the frequency.

Mr. Branyan is working to complete evaluations of all these intersections, which will determine the type of safety fixes they might receive. The ten intersections will be evaluated on these conditions, among others: the number of traffic crashes in the last three years, traffic volumes, number of lanes at peak hours where motorists and pedestrians will come into most conflict, density of age 65-plus population in the area, proximity to schools, commercial areas and other pedestrian traffic generators, and bus stop use.

The point system he is using to calculate the need for a HAWK signal is explained in this chart.

Some of the criteria George Branyan uses to evaluate an intersection for a HAWK signal. Click the image to download the full spreadsheet.

After completing the evaluation, Mr. Branyan will meet with Wasim Raja, traffic signal manager for DDOT, and confer with WMATA about bus stop locations. Next is a draft plan for these crosswalks, which will be presented to the community for feedback.

And since DC has many such crosswalks, this will be a pilot project that will begin to address this problem city-wide. So stay tuned!

 

This piece was originally published by Forest Hills Connection and is republished here by permission of the author. 

 

Marlene Berlin, Chair of Forest Hills Connection, has been a resident of Forest Hills and community activist since 1989. Currently she heads a pedestrian initiative, Connecticut Avenue Pedestrian Action (CAPA).

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