Sunday, January 13, 2008

More on the Pedestrian Signal

A recent piece on NewsChannel8 aired some of the opinions regarding the Pedestrian Signal at Morrison Street and Connecticut Avenue in Chevy Chase. Spurred on by calls from the ANC Chair to oppose the signal. Fellow Commissioner Samantha Nolan, a public and pedesrtrian safety advocate in her own right made an appeal for support of the signal, arguing:

I do not believe a standard light will provide any safety to pedestrians at this intersection, and may lead to our first pedestrian death at this location. The accidents that have occurred at this intersection in the past prior to this new light's installation, were caused when cars and pedestrians were in the same place at the same time. That is what will happen when a green light tells cars on Morrison Street to go, and when the walk sign tells pedestrians to walk across Connecticut Avenue. Cars turning South or North onto Connecticut Avenue will run into pedestrians walking across Connecticut Avenue.

The currrent light has some problems that can be fine tuned, but the one thing it does not permit is for vehicles to go while pedestrians are walking. Throwing the baby out with the bathwater comes to mind here. The light is good and has done what it was made to do. It has problems that can be fixed with better lighting, signage, education and timing. DDOT's engineers are best at correcting those problems. We should wait and see what the study shows, and listen to what DDOT engineers have to offer as fixes for the current light, and not make demands that could cause more harm than good to our pedestrians.

While some posts on the listserv support the majority of the ANC, others suggest that simply removing the signal would be appropriate. One poster noted that if there were other signals like it in the city, it wouldn't be such a pariah. That is, of course, the point of this signal, to be a pilot for review and refinement for the city standard. This signal was installed as a pilot program to test a variation on a signal used in other cities, including Bethesda, Maryland.

Finally, one listserv contributor noted the possible impact that the ANC solution might cause:

Adding a third traditional three-color signal in such a short stretch of Connecticut Avenue may lead to major backups on Connecticut Avenue and overflow of commuters into side streets.

This poster cites Military Road as a recent example of ANC 3/4G traffic expertise. In that case, the ANC urged DDOT to reduce the main 4 lane arterial across the northernmost part of the District to two lanes, causing massive backups and significant cut-through traffic. Since its reconfiguration back to pre-2006 standards, the backups and cut-through traffic has subsided.

Pedestrian safety advocates from around the region have expressed concern that should the District abandon this pilot program, it will set pedestrian safety advances back for some time.

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