Safety Improvements Coming to GW Parkway

by ARLnow.com June 8, 2012 at 11:42 am 6,859 80 Comments


(Updated at 3:05 p.m.) The National Park Service will be installing a series of safety improvements along the George Washington Parkway, intended to make Memorial Circle and several Mt. Vernon Trail crossings across the parkway less dangerous.

The improvements were announced this morning by Rep. Jim Moran (D). Work on the improvements will start next week and will wrap up by the fall. Among the planned changes, according to Moran’s office:

  • “Replacing many of the directional and regulatory signs in the Circle and on Memorial Bridge”
  • “Installing rumble strips bumps to alert drivers before each of several specific crosswalk areas”
  • “Painting directional arrows, information, and symbols directly onto the pavement to help drivers select proper lanes early”
  • “Moving one crosswalk area from where there are two lanes to where it is only one lane wide”

The announcement comes just three days after a cyclist was struck by a car and injured at a trail crossing just south of Memorial Circle. Several other accidents and close calls have been reported at GW Parkway trail crossings over the past two years.

“It’s a confusing area and unfortunately we have a lot of accidents involving bicyclists and motorists and joggers,” U.S. Park Police spokesman Sgt. Paul Brooks acknowledged earlier this week.

Moran says the changes should help make things safer for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers alike.

“The health and safety of those commuting to work or simply exercising along the Potomac River should never be threatened due to poor infrastructure planning,” the congressman said in a statement. “I am pleased the National Park Service has agreed to put needed fixes into the trails and roads surrounding Memorial Circle. With the scheduled improvements, tourists, commuters, pedestrians, and cyclists will be able to truly share the road.”

  • D’oh


    • charles

      Yes, it’s very confusing when cars plow into each other trying to avoid bikers. It’s really not that difficult if EVERYONE paid better attention.

  • CW

    Wow, this is somewhat refreshing. Say what you want about Moran, but this looks an awful lot like an elected official taking on an issue of importance to his constituency. What a foreign and fascinating concept.

    • Bluemontsince1961

      I’m not a fan of Rep. Moran, but I will give him credit for this and I’m glad to see these improvements.

      • Andrew

        Is there any indication that these improvements are being made because Moran pushed for them, or is Moran’s office just announcing them?

        • nerf

          He designed them at home on his drafting table with a T-square.

          • Sim City

            the fact that it showed up on his public face is a good thing; as anyone who works in a federal agency knows, there are perils to ignoring things that the local congressman has expressed interest in.

          • Mary-Austin

            and a fifth of bourboun

        • brian

          some people will believe anything.

          He is announcing changes to DC land. This is not part of Virginia.

          • Sim City

            yeah, but the woman who got killed there was probably one of his constituents. Could someone purporting to represent any congressional district in this area turn his back on an issue because of a random line on map that most people don’t even know is there?

          • brian

            show me proof where he pushed and isn’t just announcing.

          • drax

            Oh, come on, brian.

            Ask any bike activist who has been working with him on it.

          • brian

            anyways, if they really cared, they would put the yellow flashing lights like they have on 4 mile run to start of w&od in shirlington.

            that would at least notify drivers someone is crossing and that is why the cars ahead of them are stopping.

            or maybe even flash “25 mph” on another sign further up the road when the cross walk is activated.

          • Andrew

            They have those on Columbia Pike as well and could work well here…

          • CW

            Moran is a Congressman. They work for the Federal government, of which the National Park Service is part. Do you really not understand how these things work?

          • brian

            nope, i missed that in civics class

        • drax

          Hard to say, but given that Moran has been pushing, and the NPS is a giant pig-headed bureaucracy, chances are he had something to do with it.

        • arl resident

          Rep. Moran is the top-ranking Democrat on the Interior-Environment appropriations panel that funds the National Park Service. I’m guessing he has some pull with NPS and isn’t afraid to use it to support his district. From his press release: “Moran has obtained funds to maintain, extend and improve the entire length of the Mt. Vernon Trail, which stretches 18 miles from Rosslyn to historic Mt. Vernon. Recently, Moran secured $37 million to reconstruct and widen the GW Parkway roadway over Humpback Bridge.”

          • Sim City


          • b


            tho the humpback bridge part can be largely blamed on frank wolf…

  • Max

    “Moving one crosswalk area from where there are two lanes to where it is only one lane wide”

    What a genius idea. If one driver decides to flaunt the rules and stop for a cyclist/pedestrian, at least another driver in another lane won’t end up hitting somebody.

    • Some Hemi

      I am sure the riders of bikes will be outraged that they have been inconvenienced and that the new route does not reflect the crowd-sourced preferred route and destroys the river viewshed.

      • D'oh!

        Yeah, we’d all much rather get hit by a car.

        • dirty biker


      • Chuck

        Not to mention the bike riders total disregard for the STOP sign at the crossing.

        • drax

          Another pointless generalization.

        • flyfed

          If the bikers would exercise some common sense this could all be avoided.

    • Rick

      Until that driver gets rear-ended

    • Russ

      What I can’t figure out is where they’re thinking of relocating the crosswalk, wouldn’t that affectively eliminate the GW parkway? I don’t see any part where it becomes one lane in the area.

      • bobco85

        I think it’s the crosswalk that’s southeast of the circle where northbound Washington Blvd goes from 2 lanes to 1 before passing under the bridge.

    • what?

      “flaunt the rules and stop for a cyclist/pedestrian” are you for real?

      • Max

        yeah. Normally pedestrians and bikers have the right of way. Here they do not, and when cars ignore this, people die.

        • drax

          No, peds & cyclists do not always have the right-of-way. There are specific rules for when cars have it, or peds/cyclists.

  • Cynic

    At first, I thought “OK, at least it’s a start.”

    After some thought, I think this may actually make things more dangerous. Commuter cyclists have said on this forum before that they would prefer drivers just keep going rather than stop, because they can never be sure if the driver in the other lane will also stop.

    I see these changes as making it more likely that ONE car will stop. If both cars stop, then great–that is the intent. But because there is no physical barrier and no stoplight/stopsign, it basically just makes cyclists/pedestrians more likely to *assume* that drivers will (having seen/felt the additional striping/rumble strips, respectively) yield to them once they are in the crosswalk. I think it also means more drivers will in fact stop–but there will be those who still don’t.

    I drive on the Parkway every day, and I would support a stoplight here, with a camera. Barring a bridge or tunnel, that is the only truly safe option.

    • Zoning Victim

      Yeah, you’re right about that; the pedestrians are as bad as the cars because some of them don’t seem to understand that just because there is a crosswalk there doesn’t mean that they have the right-of-way to just walk out in front of cars. Obviously, very few people know what the right thing to do is; a light would help everybody involved to know what’s going on.

    • dirty biker

      Honestly, no- the two lane crosswalk is far far worse since the second car can rarely see the cyclist and is (worse) sometimes jinking around the stopped car. At least if one car is stopped there is an opportunity for 1:1 communication. No Ped/Cyclist in their right might would assume that the traffic there is going to stop based on the assertion of crosswalk ROW.

      • dirty biker

        “Mind” not “might.”

      • Zoning Victim

        Yeah, the second lane is much less safe than crossing where there is one lane, especially since you’re already checking your mirrors there to see where you can blend in, but a light would help to solve that since the cars would have to stop (theoretically). If there is going to be a light, before the merge would be the best place for it so merging cars don’t have to stop.

      • TGEo^

        Actually there are trail stop signs, so the ROW belongs to the drivers.

        • dirty biker

          Actually no- it gets confusing since that area is technically DC or maybe park service but in VA (and in most states) the second a ped/cyclist “enters” a crosswalk they have ROW, period. Annnd ~67% of drivers (including you) don’t know this which makes it all sorts of dangerous to “enter” a crosswalk to establish ROW. Awesome.

          VA Code:
          § 46.2-924. Drivers to stop for pedestrians; installation of certain signs; penalty.

          A. The driver of any vehicle on a highway shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian crossing such highway:

          1. At any clearly marked crosswalk, whether at mid-block or at the end of any block; ….

          So stop. Please. I’ll be dead but you’ll get a $50 ticket.

          • dirty biker

            This DOES NOT imply that peds/cyclists don’t need to stop at their stop sign… I’m not sure what happens (besides dead cyclist) if they run the stop and you fail to yield.

          • Zoning Victim

            Right but that’s once you’re actually in the crosswalk, and the law also says you can’t enter the crosswalk in disregard of oncoming traffic, which means you don’t have right-of-way until it’s clear for you to cross and you begin crossing. This is exactly why there is a close call almost every time a car stops for someone who is standing on the sidewalk looking like they want to go across (or when some idiot cyclist/pedestrian just decides they do have right-of-way and runs out in front of oncoming traffic that barely has time to stop). Granted this is federal land, not VA, but the stop signs still establish who has right-of-way to before there is a break in traffic for someone to cross.

          • dirty biker

            Kind of- this issue has never been totally settled in VA courts, if a driver slows they show intent to yeild and therefore lose ROW. Additionally, the stat I cited above also includes the pedestrian making an “attempt to cross” gains ROW. At least one civil case that I know of has been settled on the fact that the ped was waiting at a stop sign was clearly “attempting to cross” so when they entered the crosswalk the car should have yielded.

            The other stat that is usually cited in these discussions is cyclist vs ped. At least in VA if a cyclist is using a trail and following trail regs (i.e. stopping at stop signs) then they are considered a ped:

            § 46.2-904
            A person riding a bicycle, electric personal assistive mobility device, motorized skateboard or scooter, motor-driven cycle, or an electric power-assisted bicycle on a sidewalk, shared-use path, or across a roadway on a crosswalk, shall have all the rights and duties of a pedestrian under the same circumstances.

          • dirty biker

            Here are some citations (lest novasteve decide to be a lawyer today)- I cribbed this from an excellent post on this topic on BikeArlington: http://bikearlingtonforum.com/showthread.php?964-Stop-signs-at-crosswalks.-Do-you-yield-to-cars/page5&highlight=crosswalk+lawyer

            At a crosswalk Virginia courts have held “the pedestrian has a superior right — that is, the right to cross from one side of the street to the other in preference or priority over vehicles — and drivers of vehicles must respect this right and yield the right of way to the pedestrian. The pedestrian’s right of way extends from one side of the street to the other. It does not begin at any particular point in the intersection nor does it end at any particular point. It begins on one side of the street and extends until the pedestrian has negotiated the crossing.” (Marshall v. Shaw. Supreme Court of Virginia, 1955) http://scholar.google.com/scholar_ca…=1&oi=scholarr

            “The duty of a motor vehicle driver on approaching an intersection is to keep a vigilant lookout for pedestrians between curbs on the traveled portion of the highway, and when pedestrians are negotiating the crossing, or about to step from the side into traffic lanes, to operate his car at such speed and under such control that he can readily turn one way or the other, and, if necessary, bring his machine to a stop in time to avoid injury to pedestrians.” (Sawyer v. Blankenship, Supreme Court of Virginia, 1933) http://va.findacase.com/research/wfr…0113.VA.htm/qx

          • tool

            Alas, it is not “technically” DC… it *IS* DC.. It is part of the same PSA #207 (Police Service Area) that includes most of the Mall. However, you won’t see Metropolitan Police regularly patrolling Columbia Island, as it is wholly within the National Park Service’s George Washington Memorial Parkway, which is the policing domain of the US Park Police. Virginia traffic law has zero relevance for the area in question.


          • tool
    • bike commuter

      “After some thought, I think this may actually make things more dangerous. Commuter cyclists have said on this forum before that they would prefer drivers just keep going rather than stop, because they can never be sure if the driver in the other lane will also stop.”

      Acually we would much rather that they all stop and that the Park Service and other police enforce the law at all crosswalks, so that cars do so consistently…I find it ridiculous that people (and even some Park Service cops apparently) actually think it is againt the law to stop for joggers and bikes!!!!
      It needs clear unambiguous signage, and enforcement

  • bobco85

    While I like the addition of signs and rumble strips to better alert drivers, I’m uncertain how effective they will be on the dangerous 2-lane crosswalk at the south side of the circle. Anyone crossing there will still need both lanes to stop.

    Looks like the crosswalk they will be moving is the one that is about 200-300 feet southeast of the circle, where the two lanes merge into one. I think that will be an improvement.

    • CW

      Yes, it was probably a misspeak on their behalf – that one is not on the parkway but is rather on Washington Boulevard.

    • Mike Hunt

      Get it right – they’re “rumble strips bumps” – you know – the car equivalent of bollards. . . Heeeyyyy – randomly placed bollards in the middle of the GW road surface – now THAT might actually get drivers to slow down.

  • Andrew

    I think an actual traffic signal that can be activated by pedestrians would be ideal in one or two of these spots. Not sure how well that would work during rush hour though…

    • JohnB2

      I think it would work as long as there was a minimum delay between greens for the bikers. So like a green no more than every 90 seconds during rush. Of course some impatient bikers might blow through it because of the inconvenience of waiting 85+ seconds for the next green. Bollard time!

      • brian

        maybe lower a crossing gate that is impenetrable.

        or raise bollards out of the ground when activated

        • Tre

          or holographic crossing guard

          • UptonHiller

            The Eternal Crossing Guard.

  • ballsteve

    If only getting bollards removed was this easy…..

  • Arlingtoon

    I’m probably a minority of one, but what I appreciate is the sign with flashing yellow caution lights that pedestrians can activate on Harrison Street at the crosswalk that connects the Safeway to the Lee Harrison shopping mall. I can see them long before I can tell whether or not someone is trying to cross, and can immediately start slowing down.

    My problem on the Parkway is that there is one spot where people (cyclists and pedestrians alike) queue up to cross; however it’s right on the other side of the abutment for an overpass and I can’t see them until I’m too close to stop safely.

    Activating flashing lights like those on Harrison would let drivers know before they even go under the overpass, and might add another increment of safety for cyclists and pedestrians.

    Of course, given the number of Maryland drivers who commute on the GW Parkway I’m not sure that anything other than a tunnel or a bridge will help — even if you installed traffic lights they’d blow through those the same way they blow through them in Maryland.

    • Arlington, Northside

      The Parkway might have originally been intended to serve as only a scenic road, but today it is a major thoroughfare, the crosswalks need to be eliminated and replaced with tunnels and bridges. The costs will be well worth the lives saved if you value such things, and if you don’t and only think dollars and cents, it will save tons of money in shortened travel times.

      • BlueLoom


  • Tre

    Is there a way to transplant the Rosslyn skywalks to these areas?

    • Andrew

      Where there’s a will, there’s a way!

    • Michael H.

      Bike/pedestrian overpasses would be the ideal solution, but the cost would be a problem. Maybe some day the overpasses can get built.

      • overpass

        but they would be ugly and this is too lovely a part of the city

      • Nick81

        I doubt pedestrian / bike bridges would be approved, given the significant impact on the scenic views in the area.

        I think tunnels – short, simple, and basic underpasses – for bikes and pedestrians are the way to go. Still expensive, and probably more costly than bridges, but the only acceptable long-term solution that doesn’t mess up all the commuter traffic in the area.

        • drax

          Tunnels flood. And they’re ugly and sometimes unsafe. They scare people.

          How about just slowing traffic down?

  • Ricardo

    I will give credit to Moran, even though I dislike him personally.

    I dislike him personally because back in the mid-1990s he and Tom Davis gave a talk to my telecom company’s PAC, and related an anecdote about how he was driving up to Baltimore because the Red Sox were in town [he is from Boston, I believe]… the Parkway was jammed with rush hour traffic, so he just drove up on the shoulder the whole way. Yes, he actually said this. I couldn’t believe the arrogance of it.

    • Hmmm

      You sure that wasn’t a joke? If he’d done such a thing, why would he then brag about it in public? He’d know this would not endear him to the electorate. Maybe it was a joke that fell flat. Politicians do this from time to time. (See Bush, GW.)

      • Ricardo

        Possible, but it came as an aside. He was talking about a colleague that was in the same car, and how he could name the entire lineup of the 1969 Red Sox.

        He would do such a thing and then brag about it because power corrupts.

  • tool

    Is “social trails” the new euphemism for “donkey paths”??

  • Mack

    In addition to rumble strips, they should put bollards in between the two lanes approaching the crosswalks.

  • Arlingtonian

    This is in D.C. So why aren’t we hearing anything from Eleanor Holmes Norton, who is D.C.’s non-voting delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives? Maybe she doesn’t care about what goes in her jurisidiction.

    • drax

      Maybe she has no vote in Congress so the NPS doesn’t give a damn about her?

      Taxation without representation.

      • Mike Hunt

        ‘Taxation without representation’ So who exactly holds a gun to the resident’s heads and forces them to live there? Yeah, I thought so.

        • drax

          Wow, so it’s okay for certain places in America to have no democracy because they could just move! Let’s put the entire state of Virginia under federal control too – that would be fine, because you can just move to another state! Brilliant logic!

          • Mike Hunt

            wow – what a red herring. Didn’t think that the concept of freedom was beyond your grasp. They are free to choose to live there if they want, knowing that there has *never* been any representation in that area. Right or wrong, it has always been that way. Likewise, the Commonwealth of Virginia has always had representation, which is one of the reasons why I *chose* to live here rather than the district when I moved here 30 years ago.
            If having a vote and a voice in the USG is that much of a priority, then maybe they should elect someone who is 100% dedicated to make that happen no matter what they might have to give up. Which is more important – representation or gun control?

  • brian

    there will be more car accidents now with the tighter merger restrictions.

    there should be NO cross at ST1 – that needs blocked off.

    You are coming out from under neath a bridge and making a left, and to have to stop for someone crossing – is going to be very dangerous, as no one from behind will see you.


    anyways – the new green gates for july 4 provide enough invisibility for joggers/cyclists that when they stick their heads thru they’ll get a scare.

  • Jack

    Who were the idiot designers who designed a bicycle trail/walkway to go over a major thruway in the DC area? Oh yeah, right, we are talking about the DC area here.

    • Jack

      I should add that I got into a fender bender here recently that could have been a lot worse. Some motorist stopped suddenly on a rainy day for a pedestrian to cross the GW parkway on this trail. It could have been a lot worse as I was able to swerve enough to make the impact just a fender bender. There needs to be a better solution here such as an actual traffic light, or not allowing trails to directly cross the parkway by building elevated bike trails over the parkway.

      • CW

        How dare they allow those trails to cross the traffic lanes? How dare “some motorist” obey the law and yield for a pedestrian? The nerve!

        Sounds to me like you should just be lucky that you didn’t hit the ped while “swerving” and end up with a vehicular manslaughter charge. How about not riding the ass of the guy in front of you next time?

  • Adam Hoffman

    It is great that adjustments are being made on the GW parkway to make it safer for vehicles, pedestrians and joggers. I’ve heard that the area was confusing before. One of the accidents there (between the last 2 years) involved a jogger who I knew. There’s an article titled “Jogger Hit by Truck on GW Parkway dies.” That came out in April 2011. Two posts in the article say that sad outcome shouldn’t have happened. At least one other post came from someone who hoped a good thing could come out of it, which was to make the area safer. I’m glad to know it’s happening. Another post stated the intersection was not designed so well. I’m so sad for the driver of the truck who hit the jogger, and the jogger’s mother. I feel that tragedy has stricken me beyond my repairs because I don’t know when I’ll totally forget it. It could be years. The jogger was still alive when brought to the hospital, but didn’t make it out. They couldn’t save her there. These adjustments should have been made sooner.


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