Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Pedestrian Chronicles: Life Without a Car in DC

What is it like to give up your car and rely on Metro and your own two feet to get around? One Cleveland Park resident chronicles her transition from driver to full time pedestrian on the Cleveland Park Listserv, our companion email list:

Since I gave up my car a few years ago, I have relied on public transportation leavened with a considerable amount of walking, both around Cleveland Park and further afield.

I have become increasingly disturbed about my safety as a pedestrian, having frequently encountered reckless drivers who seem oblivious to or uncaring of my presence.  After encountering two egregious examples a few weeks ago (in separate incidents, a police car and bus brazenly drove through red lights up at Van Ness), I resolved to undertake my own unscientific survey for a week.  Here are the results:

Early morning, Saturday, Sept 11:  My experiment starts off with a bang; the driver of police car #126 pulls into the cross walk at the intersection of Van Ness and Connecticut, looks carefully up and down Connecticut (but without apparently seeing me) and makes an illegal right turn on red onto Connecticut southbound (ignoring the "no right turn on red" sign).

Sunday, Sept 12: The driver of car runs a red light at the intersection of Porter and Quebec (at the synagogue--this is a popular red light running destination--see subsequent entries).  I yell and get a wave in return.

Monday, Sept 13: (1) As I am about to enter the crosswalk at Upton/Connecticut (walking south), car heading west on Upton drives through crosswalk without slowing down and turns northbound onto Connecticut.  (This happens all the time--people, there is a stop sign here, not a merge or yield sign). (2) Walking south on Connecticut at Woodley Park, nearly run over by bicyclist heading northbound on the sidewalk who dodges me and other pedestrians without slowing down.

Tuesday, Sept 14: A motorcyclist runs the red light at Porter/Quebec.

Wednesday, Sept 15: Amazing: nothing to report.

Thursday, Sept 16:  Makes up for yesterday:  (1) As I am actually midway into the crosswalk at Sedgwick/Tilden, car on Tilden angles towards Sedgwick without slowing down and finally stops abruptly right in front of me.  Driver enraged when I shake my head in disbelief. (2) Taxi turns right from Reno Road onto Van Ness as I am about to enter crosswalk with walk signal--does not yield or apparently even see me.  (3) Later in the afternoon, waiting to cross Wisconsin and Western Avenue, car waiting at intersection pulls directly in front of me and other pedestrians once the light changes and we have the walk signal--misses us by about a foot.

Friday, Sept 17: (1) Around 11 am on Connecticut Avenue across from the Giant/CVS, I take a mini 5 minute survey of cars driving southbound and see 6 drivers talking on hand-held cell phones (I actually thought there would be more). (2) Hour later, walking southbound back to CP, proceed (with walk sign flashing) into crosswalk at Van Ness/Connecticut when car heading south on Connecticut cuts across northbound traffic to make a left turn and stops inches from me. (3) Late afternoon: Cars stopped at red light, Porter/Quebec, poised to proceed westward; walk signal given, I and other pedestrians start to walk, one of the stopped cars drives through the intersection while the light is obviously still red.

Saturday Sept 18, early morning: Crossing Connecticut at Tilden on walk light, when car making turn from Tilden onto Connecticut northbound doesn't see me and nearly hits me. (OK, this is outside my one week window, but it was the closest call, so I've included it.)

So, that's the results of my informal survey, and it's not pretty.  Please bear in mind that these are the most dangerous examples--I didn't keep track of all the cars that blocked crosswalks or went through yellow or "pink" lights. It really does seem that once I strap on my backpack and hit the streets, I become either invisible or a target.  Must we double or triple fines for moving violations and use the funds to hire a sufficient number of police to actually enforce the traffic laws?  I'm definitely not your classic "law and order" person but that's the only answer I've come up with, since right now drivers clearly think the risks of suffering any consequences for driving recklessly are minimal.

And, finally, while I'm on my soapbox, one last request to all you drivers:  Please come to a stop when I have the right of way and am walking in a crosswalk--rolling, coasting, or inching your way past me is just plain intimidating--and makes me feel like you're trying to see just how close you can come to scraping my kneecaps without actually doing so.

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