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First GW Parkway Safety Changes Coming Today

by ARLnow.com | June 15, 2012 at 5:00 am | 3,118 views | 68 Comments

The first of several planned safety improvements along the GW Parkway will be made today (Friday).

This morning, the National Park Service is expected to starting installing the first of 46 signs (including 9 pedestrian warning signs and numerous trail and route guidance signs) that will be placed near five crosswalks around Memorial Circle. The signs, along with planned directional pavement markings, rumble strips and a trail crossing relocation, are all steps being taken in response to numerous accidents between cars, pedestrians and bicyclists near Memorial Circle.

At a press conference Thursday afternoon, officials said the changes, though simple and relatively inexpensive, will help improve the safety of all parkway users.

“We believe these improvements will increase the awareness of the dangers of crossing a very busy parkway for all travelers, whether it be on foot, bicycle or motor vehicle,” said Capt. Scott Fear of the U.S. Park Police. “Our officers have handled many, many crashes related to this area, and we continue to look for ways to improve the safety of the park’s visitors and travelers. The steps being taken should held decrease the crashes and educate the public of the surroundings and challenges they may face as they visit the park.”

“We’re going to see a major reduction in accidents,” promised Rep. Jim Moran, at the press conference. “This is going to affect thousands of people on a daily basis. It’s the right thing to do, it doesn’t interfere with anyone, and it makes everyone feel more safe and secure.”

The changes are all expected to be complete by the end of October. The Park Service, meanwhile, says it will explore more dramatic, long-term changes that could be made to improve safety, including creating a traffic island in the middle of the northbound lanes of the GW Parkway.

Fear said Park Police are considering stepping up speed enforcement along the parkway, but no final decision has been reached yet.

See the full National Park Service press release, after the jump.

 

 

National Park Service, U.S. Park Police, Congressman Jim Moran Announce Safety Improvements on George Washington Memorial Parkway at Memorial Circle

McLean, VirginiaThe National Park Service (NPS), United States Park Police and Congressman Jim Moran (D-VA) have agreed to begin addressing safety concerns as soon as tomorrow, Friday, June 15 in order to help improve safety conditions between motorists, bikers and pedestrians in the vicinity of the west end of Memorial Bridge, Memorial Circle and the pedestrian/biker trail that crosses the northbound lanes of the George Washington Memorial Parkway (GWMP).

The GWMP commissioned the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHA) Eastern Lands Highway Division to conduct a study regarding all safety issues in this area.   The FHA’s final audit was completed last week, thus allowing the NPS to take action beginning tomorrow.  That action will involve the placement of the first 46 signs warning motorists, bikers and pedestrians. The safety items recommended include:

  • replacing many of the directional and regulatory signs in Memorial Circle and along the pedestrian and biker trail;
  • adding lane direction and destination directions painted onto the traffic lanes of westbound Memorial Bridge in order to help drivers select the proper lane well before reaching the west end of Memorial Bridge so that drivers are in the correct lane that will get them to their destination;
  • installing rumble strips to alert drivers before one of the crosswalk areas; and
  • realigning one crosswalk away from merging traffic lanes.

The signs and painted signage are the first actions to be undertaken.  The NPS will have long-term items to consider including creating an island in the middle of the northbound lanes.  This will require compliance with environmental laws which will take more time.

“This is just the beginning of what we’re planning,” said Jon G. James, Acting Superintendent of the GWMP.   “There are short-term goals and longer-term goals that may take a few years to complete, but we are committed to accomplishing them.”

“The United States Park Police fully support the NPS’ improvements and believe these improvements will help increase the safety and the safety goals we are all trying to achieve,” added Captain Scott Fear, Western District Commander for the U.S. Park Police.

“These improvements wouldn’t be happening without the advocacy of local cyclists, runners and drivers bringing attention to what are dangerous crossing areas along the Parkway.   Commuters and those simply using the trails for exercise and enjoyment shouldn’t fear for their safety on a daily basis.  I want to thank the Park Service and the Park Police for working with my office to make this happen, and look forward to their speedy completion.”

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  • CrystalMikey

    Cool name, this Capt. Fear.

    • BreakPause02

      Nice guy too.

  • pedi

    I hope they get rid of those stop signs that lead everyone to think the motorists have the right of way at the crosswalks

    • G Clifford Prout (now moderated for extra purity)

      Hope they add one of those “dismount before crossing” signs.

      • dick

        hope they add a sign that says “stop get out of your car then get back in again before proceeding” for the motorists

      • cyclist

        Why dismount? That’s pointless.

        • cyclist

          It is safer. Plenty of us do it.

          • meh..

            I never dismount. It’s not a safer or more unsafe method. It’s like saying wear shorts or wear long pants.

          • real “cyclist”

            It’s not safer.

          • Neutrino

            How about a sign for the drivers that says “Ghost-ride your whip”?

    • arglebargle

      A quote from the previous accident from a Park Police spokesman

      “According to Brooks, cyclists and pedestrians are “required to stop and make sure the roadway is clear before crossing” the section of parkway where today’s accident occurred.”

      There is a stop sign there because they are required to stop.

    • cyclist

      pedi,

      Are you seriously saying peds/cyclists have the right-of-way at all times?

      Or are you being sarcastic, and suggesting that peds/cyclists routinely plow across, thinking they do?

      • pedi

        so the stripes are to tell drivers to speed up?

        • drax

          I asked you a question, pedi.

          I’ll assume from your cryptic answer that you actually believe that pedestrians have the right of way.

          No, they only have the right of way when they are already in the crosswalk. When a car is approaching and a ped is waiting to cross, the car has the right of way.

          This is just common sense anyway. Peds shouldn’t jump in front of cars that are two close to slow without hitting them, and cars shouldn’t mow down pedestrians when they’ve already begun to cross.

          But it’s not as simple as “pedestrians have the right of way.” They must stop if necessary before crossing a road, even without a stop sign, while cars do not have to stop at a crosswalk unless there is a sign or a pedestrian already crossing.

          • pedi

            “they only have the right of way when they are already in the crosswalk”
            - well they don’t reallly need the right of way if they are standing on the trail do they?

          • cyclist

            Exactly!

            You seem to be saying they do, which is why you brought up stop signs.

            Peds don’t have the right to expect cars to slow or stop so that they can BEGIN to cross.

          • pedi

            yes they do. Cars should slow down and allow people to cross

          • Josh S

            I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest it depends on the location / circumstances.

      • Eric

        Why don’t we make GW Pkwy motorists stop at all crosswalks before proceeding. Treat the parkway like a surface street. And reduce speed limits to 25 mph in the Memorial Circle area.

        • cyclist

          That would work!

    • arglebargle

      And from a different blog…

      “Crosswalks along the GW Parkway are very dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists. But instead of fixing the problem, the Park Police are pulling over and criticizing drivers who stop to let people cross.

      TBD’s Andrew Beaujon reports that this morning, he was trying to cross the parkway on his bike, and a driver slowed down to let him. In response, Park Police officers pulled over the driver.

      The officer then told Beaujon that he had pulled the driver over because his stopping might have led to a collision”

      • BreakPause02

        Well, in the places where the crosswalk is two travel lanes, it makes sense. This has been discussed numerous times, but person #1 stops to “be nice” but person #2 in the other lane has no idea, and rams right into person in crosswalk.

        It’s probably safer to wait for a break in traffic.

        Heck, on my commute, there are places where I have to cross a main road from a secondary road. Each cycle is 3 minutes. While you are sitting there, it feels like forever. And sometimes you have to wait more than 1 cycle because of traffic. Sure, I’d love to just go through (especially if I’m #1 and the coast is clear) but I don.t

      • Quoth the Raven

        Unbelieveable that the Park Police would pull you over for stopping for a ped in a cross walk. That said, although I try to stop for peds and cyclists, it’s always scary to do so – you really have to check your mirrors to make sure no one is super close to you, or that no one goes around you in the other lane as you slow down.

      • Eds

        That’s the crux of the problem. You can say in practice that drivers have the right away and cyclists should wait until it’s safe to cross, and that works as long as everyone knows that. But in practice you have a mix of drivers that understand the rule, and other drivers that don’t and think they are supposed to stop if they see someone waiting to cross. That’s where the collisions happen – someone suddenly stops and drivers behind them aren’t expecting it (which I see a lot of close calls particularly at crosswalk #4 where drivers are going fast), or, drivers behind the person that stops get irritated and try to go around them, which is particularly dangerous for the cyclists and joggers (which I see a lot at crosswalk #3). Throw in the fact that drivers are focused on checking their mirrors b/c of all the merging and lane changing happening right before the circle, along with some cyclists and pedestrians that don’t follow the rules or cross outside of the crosswalks, and it’s a recipe for problems.

        I agree that a tunnel or overpass would probably be the ideal solution if they wanted to fix this problem for good.

        • meh..

          If they would just turn entire stretch into a single lane that would significantly help as well. Even when I drive that route it’s a pain to pass through the circle because too many people don’t understand proper protocol regarding right lane and left lane right of ways…

        • pedi

          So let’s be clear…..you are all saying that drivers always have right of way at all crosswalks (where there are stripes on the pavements and signs) and should never stop for pedestrians?
          It’s certainly not that way in Europe.

          • JamesE

            Drivers have to yield to pedestrians who are already crossing
            Pedestrians have to yield to traffic, it is pretty simple.

          • WeiQiang

            Pedestrians and/or cyclists may cross only after they determine it is safe to do so. Approaching cars suggest that a safe condition may not exist. Only after it is possible to safely cross should pedestrians/cyclists cross, at which point vehicular traffic must yield to the pedestrian/cyclist in the crosswalk. There is a logical, serial path through this issue … should anyone choose to abide by the rules.

            The crosswalk is not license to stop traffic.

            It’s not rocket surgery.

          • pedi

            where did the cars come from in your little exercize then? They weren’t approaching because “Approaching cars suggest that a safe condition may not exist.” but they suddenly show up when I’m half way across!

          • WeiQiang

            No – here’s where the laws of physics kinda come in to play. If you want me to define “approaching”, I’m happy to. This is why I used the terms “suggest” and “may”. However, that’s kind of pointless because each potential victim crossing has to determine this for themselves and, based on their abilities to walk/run/bike, decide whether an approaching car is exceeding the speed limit sufficiently (because I’d wager that most cars do) to endanger the victim should s/he decide to cross. The approaching cars are either going too fast or are too close [unsafe] or they are far enough away for their speed. This is a decision that a potential victim has to make. I bike there and am confident that I can make the decision that is right for me, knowing that I can’t simply take over the crosswalk and expect all the other participants in this scenario to discern my thinking – or even have situational awareness – to be able to accomodate me.

          • cyclist

            pedi, if you cross and cars get too close for comfort its because you used poor judgment and crossed when you shouldn’t.

            Would you cross when a car was 50 feet away going 75 mph? No, because he couldn’t stop in time, and that’s why it’s your responsibility to yield, not to mention in your interest. You heirs wouldn’t get any money if they sue the driver. You can’t overturn the laws of physics.

          • cyclist

            Pedi, if pedestrians had the right of way in all circumstances, that would mean they could just jump out in front of a car and the car would be required to slam on the brakes. That would be insane, which is why the law says cars have the right of way unless a ped is already crossing. It all makes sense when you think about it, and you shouldn’t need to consult the law, which you also go wrong.

          • pedi

            no—that’s wher the laws of physics come into play. Drivers should be prepared to stop. Peds/bikes should wait until they do or if there is a large enough gap in the traffic

          • cyclist

            “Drivers should be prepared to stop.”

            If someone crosses in their way too close, they CAN’T stop. Law…of…physics. They can’t be expected to stop for absolutely anything at any distance, because it’s impossible.

            “Peds/bikes should wait until they do or if there is a large enough gap in the traffic”

            There you go. Cars have the right of way.

          • WeiQiang

            Please see the regs concerning GW Pkwy:

            The following is from “Title 36 – Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Compendium George Washington Memorial Parkway”. There are no references to crosswalks or the like. However, there is a section on operating a bicycle [p.12, for those singing along here]
            http://www.nps.gov/gwmp/parkmgmt/upload/REV0611_GWMPCompendium-6-20.PDF
            “4.30 Bicycles

            Bicycles must adhere to safety equipment requirments and regulations set by the applicable state or county.” At the locations in question, the applicable jurisdiction is DC. Note also that the code requires cyclists to travel in a single file.
            So, what does DC say?
            2303 RIGHT-OF-WAY IN CROSSWALKS
            2303.1 [Repealed]
            2303.2 No pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb, safety platform, safety zone, loading platform, or other designated place of safety and walk or turn into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impossible for the driver to yield.
            2303.3 No pedestrian shall cross a roadway intersection diagonally unless authorized by official traffic control devices.
            2303.4 When authorized to cross diagonally, pedestrians shall cross only in accordance with the official traffic control devices pertaining to such crossing movements.
            SOURCE: D.C. Act 7-62 published at 34 DCR 5316 (August 14, 1987).
            http://www.dcregs.dc.gov/Notice/Download.aspx?VersionID=3037378
            Reply

          • the DC LAW

            “The driver of a vehicle shall stop and give right of way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or unmarked crosswalk at an intersection.”

          • WeiQiang

            … however, the law requires the pedestrian to abide by 2303 before entering the crosswalk.

        • drax

          Eds,

          A pedestrian should never cross when cars don’t have time to slow anyway. So they shouldn’t really have to know the law, since the laws of physics abide.

          (Bonus points to first person to respond with certain Cohen Bros. quote).

        • jan

          Everyone,
          If you pay attention, you will note that most streets have solid lane divider lines before intersections. They may not be double yellow, but they are solid. In my book that means do not pass.

      • Eric

        Park Police insanity. Admit they have no clue how to manage traffic. Unclear of the concept of public safety.

    • JR

      If there’s a stop sign for bikes and not cars, cars do have the right of way.

      I imagine that’s kind of the point.

      • drax

        Even without a stop sign, cars have the right of way, unless someone is already in the crosswalk, in which case they may not run over them.

      • the DC LAW

        The driver of a vehicle shall stop AND GIVE RIGHT OF WAY to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or unmarked crosswalk at an intersection.

        • WeiQiang

          … after the pedestrian has abided by the law:

          2303.2 No pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb, safety platform, safety zone, loading platform, or other designated place of safety and walk or turn into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impossible for the driver to yield.

          • Mack

            So what you’re saying is, if it is possible for the driver to yield, then pedestrians are allowed to jump out in front of them?

        • drax

          AFTER the pedestrian has begun to cross the roadway, the driver has to stop (duh! because otherwise he’d run the pedestrian over).

          BEFORE the pedestrian is in the intersection, he/she must WAIT (i.e. does NOT have the right of way) until there’s a gap in traffic that makes it safe to cross (duh! because if he didn’t, he could get run over).

          Laws of traffic, laws of physics.

  • jigga

    great news brah, dont have to worry about getting splattered all over the gwp

  • yequalsy

    I’m glad some effort is finally being made and some of these might improve some of the problems with confused drivers. But overall these are superficial and won’t solve the crossings problem. You can put all the signs there you want. Hell make them flashing neon. It won’t make those crossings safer. Short of putting “Slow, Nudist Colony Crossing” signs up (old joke), the only thing that will work on GW Parkway is either getting rid of at-grade crossings or finally getting serious about controlling vehicle speeds. NPS is unable to do the former and unable to do the latter.

  • CrystalMikey

    LOL at CaBi guy with no helmet.

    • JamesE

      Messes up my blowout, brah.

  • esmith69

    I think part of the confusion is that typically with crosswalks in neighborhoods, I believe the peds have the right of way even if they’re not already crossing. Or at least, I’ve heard of drivers getting tickets for not stopping to allow peds to cross (even if the peds were not already crossing by the time they left the sidewalk). I could be mis-remembering that though, I know Montgomery County had a huge enforcement thing about this a few years ago. I think that’s made drivers very paranoid about crosswalks, and some mistake this GW parkway crossing for a true crosswalk, when in fact it’s not.

    The peds/bicyclists on the trail clearly have a STOP sign.

    Hopefully the improvements by the park service will focus mostly on alerting people on the trail that they need to actually stop or at least that they need to yield to vehicles. It’d also be helpful to add in signage along the road that says something like “DO NOT STOP for PEDS not already in crosswalk” People are really dumb though and maybe that would create more confusion.

    • pedi

      “and some mistake this GW parkway crossing for a true crosswalk, when in fact it’s not.”
      …what is it then exactly?

      • cyclist

        Yes, esmith, what’s THAT mean?

    • cyclist

      “I believe the peds have the right of way even if they’re not already crossing.”

      That is not true. It makes no sense!

      The only time a ped can begin to cross is when a car has time to slow (i.e. when it’s safe). Cars don’t have to slow down to make it safer to begin to cross.

      Once the ped begins crossing, it makes sense that they have the right of way because you can’t just kill them.

      Here’s the law in DC (the GW crossing is in the District):

      “2303.2 No pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb, safety platform, safety zone, loading platform, or other designated place of safety and walk or turn into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impossible for the driver to yield.”

      Cars need not stop or slow down to let a ped start a crossing, but must stop to avoid hitting one that is crossing. Simple laws of traffic and of physics.

      • come on drax

        drax – stop pretending to be a cyclist

  • esmith69

    Also I will add that I think some kind of tunnel/bridge is definitely the ideal solution. It’s going to cost money though, and people need to be ready and willing to help fund it.

    If you’re OK with helping to fund it (either through higher taxes, or maybe a one-time additional tax or something, I don’t know) then tell your political representatives your concerns and also your willingness to help fund it, and get your neighbors to do the same.

    If you’re not willing to help fund this, I guess that’s fine too. You just forfeit all right to complain about the safety of this crossing.

    • cyclist

      “If you’re not willing to help fund this, I guess that’s fine too. You just forfeit all right to complain about the safety of this crossing.”

      Uh, no, that’s a false dilemma.

      • Neutrino

        It’s Federal money, duh. There’s infinity of that!

  • One or the Other

    So all this article says is that safety improvements are coming, but never states WHO must stop. This back and forth between posters of who has right of way is tiring. No wonder there are accidents. Oh well, it keeps Moran busy.

    • cyclist

      You mean you’re not sure who must stop?

      It’s not in dispute. The Park Service shouldn’t have to clarify it, or educate drivers about it. Maybe some peds and cyclists could use some extra help, but drivers have licenses, and drive huge deadly machines – they should know.

      • Bjork

        Ya wanna see a huge deadly driving machine?

        I’ll show you a huge deadly driving machine.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3biZkA-TNvs

      • One or the Other

        Just read the posts regarding WHO has right of way. Some argue it is car/truck on roadway. Some argue it is those on trails. All I ask is that these “improvements” spell out clearly at the impact point what people are to do specifically at that location. Oh never mind. People will always do what they want to do anyway.

      • pedi

        and the answer is?

      • WeiQiang

        Concur, especially in the era of distracted driving and crazy speeding on these and other roads. I’d like to add that cyclists [inexperienced ones, in my opinion] are often throwing themselves on the trails without a clear understanding of their rights and responsibilities for keeping themselves and others safe. I cringe when I see smiling families or wobbly single riders on bikes and not one of them is wearing a helment or they meander in to oncoming bike lanes. Our trails are such a precious resource for enjoyment, exercise, and travel. I would say that it’s an obligation on everyone’s part to know the rules and know how to keep yourselves and others safe. We’d be able to enjoy the trails a whole lot more.

  • WeiQiang

    OK, everyone seems to be hung up on the letter of the law here. The following is from “Title 36 – Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Compendium George Washington Memorial Parkway”. There are no references to crosswalks or the like. However, there is a section on operating a bicycle [p.12, for those singing along here]

    http://www.nps.gov/gwmp/parkmgmt/upload/REV0611_GWMPCompendium-6-20.PDF

    “4.30 Bicycles

    Bicycles must adhere to safety equipment requirments and regulations set by the applicable state or county.” At the locations in question, the applicable jurisdiction is DC. Note also that the code requires cyclists to travel in a single file.

    So, what does DC say?

    2303 RIGHT-OF-WAY IN CROSSWALKS

    2303.1 [Repealed]

    2303.2 No pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb, safety platform, safety zone, loading platform, or other designated place of safety and walk or turn into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impossible for the driver to yield.

    2303.3 No pedestrian shall cross a roadway intersection diagonally unless authorized by official traffic control devices.

    2303.4 When authorized to cross diagonally, pedestrians shall cross only in accordance with the official traffic control devices pertaining to such crossing movements.

    SOURCE: D.C. Act 7-62 published at 34 DCR 5316 (August 14, 1987).

    http://www.dcregs.dc.gov/Notice/Download.aspx?VersionID=3037378

  • C. Heston

    Why is that flag so short? It’s almost touching the ground.

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