Arlington, VA

(Updated at 1:10 p.m.) The “How’s My Driving” cycling safety app is planning an event in Arlington tomorrow to collect data on bike lane violations.

App co-creator Mark Sussman told ARLnow that a team of about 40 people are gearing up to hit streets in Crystal City, Ballston, and Rosslyn on Thursday to count the number of times vehicles block bike lanes. The volunteers will track the bike lane violations on S. Crystal Drive, Fairfax Drive, and N. Lynn Street by reporting blockages through the app, which will share the data through a live dashboard.

“Crystal Drive and Lynn Street are just consistently blocked,” said Sussman. “The problem is that we don’t understand the size and the scope of the problem.”

Video recently posted to Twitter shows multiple stopped vehicles blocking the Crystal Drive bike lane. An Arlington County Police tweet from this summer showed a similar violation on Crystal Drive leading to a traffic ticket.

Sussman and his partner and co-creator Daniel Schep, a software engineer, are hoping data collected by volunteers tomorrow during the morning and evening rush hours and lunchtime can help fix that.

Currently, only app users in the District can report violations through the app and see how many other violations the driver has racked up on that vehicle — courtesy of a bot that fetches the DMV data. But Susan and Schep have been eyeing expansion into Arlington for months as the app gained popularity and people began reporting violations across the Potomac, too.

The pair say they’re hoping Thursday acts as a demonstration of what kind of real-time data officials could have access to if they contract with “How’s My Driving” in the future.

Volunteers are also out collecting bike lane blockage data today in Pittsburgh. Previously, people helped with a data collection day in D.C. which yielded 700 violations, and another one for bus lane blockages that tracked 300 violations.

“When you get that amount of data, patterns really start to emerge. You can use that data in aggregate both for enforcement purpose and transportation planning,” said Sussman.

However the app creator emphasized that these data collection days are not designed for enforcement purposes, and act as more of a proof of concept.

“No one is getting citations. No one is reporting to authorities,” said Sussman. “The data is only reported in aggregate in a presentation to the county. It would never be used to call out for specific vehicles.” 

“The overall effort is not to shame or expose particular violators,” he added. 

Photo by Sal Ferro

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Arlington is a hard-charging town, home to the headquarters of the world’s most powerful military and the second headquarters of one of the world’s most valuable companies.

Sometimes, however, the Type A-ness that helps make Arlington Arlington produces negative side effects. A prime example one might cite? More-impatient-than-average drivers.

That was on display this morning (Thursday) as Arlington County Police conducted another high-visibility pedestrian enforcement campaign near the FDIC offices in Virginia Square.

Video posted by ACPD shows an undercover police officer, wearing a brightly-colored t-shirt, walking across Fairfax Drive at N. Kansas Street in a crosswalk as two vehicles approach. Neither stop nor appear to slow down, narrowly missing the officer, who then signals for each to be pulled over and cited.

The law, however, requires drivers to yield to pedestrians in such cases.

In all, 25 summonses for Failure to Yield to a Pedestrian in the Crosswalk were issued this morning during the enforcement action, police said.

“Remember that the streets don’t belong to any one of us, they belong to all of us,” police said in a tweet shortly after the campaign concluded. “Share our roadways with all travelers by being a PAL: Predictable | Alert | Lawful.”

Screenshot via ACPD

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Morning Notes

New Lyon Park Neighborhood Plan Approved — “The Arlington County Board today accepted the first update to historic Lyon Park’s Neighborhood Conservation plan since 1973. The update, spearheaded by the Lyon Park Citizens Association, seeks to address increased non-resident traffic and other challenges through 19 recommendations for improvements.” [Arlington County]

ACPD Traffic Enforcement in Crystal City — “Motor Officers conducted high visibility traffic enforcement along Crystal Drive today to curb illegal practices including stopping/parking in the bike and travel lanes. Increase roadway safety [by] being a PAL — Predictable | Alert | Lawful.” [Twitter]

How to Beat the Heat in Arlington — With a scorching weekend of dangerous heat ahead, and an Excessive Heat Watch issued, Arlington County is reminding residents of some ways they can keep cool, stay informed and help at-risk individuals. [Arlington County]

Metro Waterfall, Explained — Metro has an explanation of why a waterfall developed in the ceiling of the Virginia Square Metro station and inside a passing train during the Flash Flood Emergency last week. [DCist]

Grants for African-American Heritage Projects — “Two Arlington-based organizations are among 25 non-profits statewide that will share more than $140,000 in new grant funding from Virginia Humanities” for projects exploring local African-American heritage and history [InsideNova]

Beyer on Trump Impeachment Vote — “I strongly support an impeachment inquiry into the conduct of President Trump. I voted to table H. Res. 489 because it would effectively prevent the House from conducting such an inquiry… It would initiate an impeachment trial in the Senate solely to consider whether the President should be removed from office for his recent racist tweets.” [Twitter, Blue Virginia]

Dueling APS Letters to the Editor — On one hand, Arlington Public Schools should stick to funding only the basics, like providing textbooks and pencils, according to one letter to the editor published in the Sun Gazette. On the other hand, APS should have a comprehensive approach to sustainability, including recycling and excess cafeteria waste, according to another letter to the editor writer. [InsideNova, InsideNova]

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(Updated at 4:05 p.m.) The co-creator of the popular car violation tracking app “How’s My Driving?” is eyeing an expansion across the Potomac.

Mark Sussman is the data scientist behind the app, along with his partner and co-creator Daniel Schep, a software engineer. Sussman told ARLnow today that he’s considering expanding the service from D.C. to Arlington because of the demand he’s seen over the past few months.

“It’s almost been an aggressive demand from some Arlington folks,” he said, laughing. “We obviously have folks who live in Arlington and work in D.C. and have been wanting to use it.”

Sussman and Schep built a Twitter bot last July that lets Twitter users tweet problems like vehicles parked in bike lanes or blocking sidewalks. If a user tweets a moving or parking violation at the bot with the vehicle’s license plate number, the bot fetches data from the D.C. DMV on how many outstanding citations or violations the driver has racked up on that vehicle.

The developers later announced they’d be beta-testing a smartphone app version of the service. Since then Sussman says about 1,200 people have volunteered to test it. The app automatically tweets the citation information that results from people’s reports to D.C. parking enforcement authorities in an effort to encourage enforcement.

Several Arlingtonians have joined the beta-testing group, despite the fact that “How’s My Driving?” isn’t yet connected to any Arlington database that could show the number of violations.

This summer, Sussman said he and Schep are planning to start talking to authorities in Arlington about whether the app can help with traffic enforcement in the county, and whether they can integrate it with the current record-keeping systems for citations. Parking citations are publicly available with license plate numbers in Arlington. But unlike D.C., Arlington app users need a citation number in order to look up moving violations, such as speeding.

The record amount for the most outstanding fines accrued by a single vehicle in D.C. flagged by the bot so far is $36,594. The majority of the fines for the Virginia-registered vehicle were from speeding violations.

“If that information was provided to officers on the front end instead of having them have to look it up, then they’d be much more likely to do the right thing,” said Sussman. “While it may seem like a benign to some [to report] standing in a bike lane, it’s a proxy for more dangerous behavior.”

So far, users have reported 74 parking and moving violations in Arlington, with the majority clustered in Clarendon and around Reagan National Airport.

The locations made sense to Sussman. “A third of these violations are for bike lane violations,” he said. “These are notoriously abused bike lanes.”

Due to a dedicated community of pedestrians and cyclists who report violations spotted around town, the bot has exploded in popularity since starting last year. “Currently, we’ve had a little over 7,000 submissions that represent over $2 million in the District of Columbia,” Sussman said, of the total fines reported.

In the future, Sussman said he and Schep are considering doing away with the Twitter bot altogether to avoid gaining a reputation as “vigilante social media shamers” and focus more on integration with government systems, to help with their main goal of improving enforcement.

Twitter users would, of course, still be able to tweet about what they find out from the app on their own.

“We just don’t want it to be the main vehicle that people use for enforcement,” he said.

Image via Marc Sussman/Twitter

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Keep an eye on the meter if you’re parking on the street in Arlington today — some changes to county meters just took effect.

You’ll now need to feed the meter from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, a two-hour extension of the old meter timeframe.

Prices are also jumping up a bit. Rates at meters set aside for short-term parking, or any parking less than four hours, is going up a quarter to $1.75 per hour. Any parking for more than four hours will now run you $1.50 per hour, up from $1.25.

Parking ticket fines will also rise a bit, jumping from $35 to $40 per offense.

The County Board signed off on these changes as part of its budget for fiscal year 2019, which meant they officially took effect yesterday (July 1), even though meters don’t run on Sundays.

In all, the county hopes to raise an additional $4 million each year through these changes, in order to help offset some of the financial pressure Arlington is feeling at the moment. County staff also envision these tweaks bringing the county a bit more in line with the higher parking prices of neighboring jurisdictions, as well as increasing parking turnover in high-demand corridors.

This change marks the first increase in Arlington’s parking meter fees since 2015.

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Morning Notes

Arlington Woman Killed in Freak Accident — Anne Viviani, an Arlington resident and world class triathlete, was killed when the car she was a passenger in struck a deer on I-85 in South Carolina Monday morning. Viviani, 68, was pronounced dead at the scene. [Greenville News]

Arlington Man Killed in Fiery Crash — A 32-year-old Arlington man, Antwuan Barnes, was killed early Sunday in Martinsburg, W. Va. Police say the driver of a car in which he was passenger tried to take a turn too fast and slid into a tree, shearing the vehicle in two and causing it to burst into flames. [Martinsburg Journal, MetroNews]

Fairlington Condo Association Rolls Out Trash Cans — The Fairlington Villages condo association has rolled out dozens of large black trash bins for residents to deposit their garbage. The move follows a series of raccoon attacks in north Fairlington and is intended to discourage the nocturnal critters from taking up residence. Following the roll out, the association suspended its raccoon trapping campaign. [Fairlington Villages]

Crystal City Building Wraps, Explained — Washington Post columnist John Kelly has an explanation for why property owner JBG Smith commissioned a series of four colorful building wraps to spruce up some of its older office buildings in Crystal City. Not mentioned in the article: that the neighborhood is a top contender for Amazon’s HQ2. [Washington Post]

Thousands Ticketed for Driving Slow in Left Lane — “Thousands of people have been fined since Virginia implemented a law setting penalties for driving too slowly in the left lane of a highway… from July 1, 2017, through April 3, more than 16,000 people were cited under various portions of the law.” [NBC Washington]

Late Night Hot Pot — Chinese hot pot restaurant Mala Tang has extended its hours until 2 a.m. Thursday through Sunday, according to a press release.

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Morning Notes

Window washers on an office building in Clarendon

County Wary of Lifetime Dog Licenses — Virginia may soon have a new law that allows localities to issue lifetime dog licenses. However, Arlington officials say that the current 1-3 year dog licenses help remind residents to keep their rabies vaccinations up to date. [InsideNova]

Road Paving Season Begins in a Month — Arlington’s road paving season starts at the beginning of April and runs through October. Pre-paving concrete repairs have already begun. Residents whose streets are set to be paved this year can expect to receive notification letters from the county. [Arlington County]

Wait Times Improved at DMV — After a month of renovation work, the Virginia Dept. of Motor Vehicles office on S. Four Mile Run Drive reopened in January. Local and state officials held a ribbon-cutting for the renovated DMV location, which features “a new efficient countertop and workstation design to maximize customer flow and efficiency,” thus reducing wait times. [Facebook]

Native Plant Recommendations — Arlington County naturalist Alonso Abugattas has shared a list of his “favorite native plants for attracting and supporting wildlife.” [Mid-Atlantic Gardener]

Nearby: D.C. Issues Record Number of Tickets — The District of Columbia issued 2,760,482 traffic citations last year, an all-time high totalling $300 million in fines. That includes 1.1 million photo-enforced tickets, a 70 percent increase compared to a year prior. [WTOP]

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NHSTA pedestrian safety enforcement diagram for law enforcement

(Updated at 2 p.m.) The Arlington County Police Department is continuing to conduct traffic enforcement details around the county — and is finding no shortage of drivers who don’t stop for pedestrians.

Last week police issued 21 traffic tickets in just one hour on Washington Blvd in Virginia Square, near where a teen girl was struck by the driver of an SUV in December.

The operation utilizes an undercover officer who crosses the street in a crosswalk.

“Using traffic data, drivers in this 30 MPH zone were given 150 feet to see the pedestrian and stop their vehicle,” the department explained in an Instagram post. “Our pedestrian always waits for a safe break in traffic and never enters in disregard of approaching vehicles.”

The enforcement detail was similar to a pair in the fall, along Columbia Pike and Lee Highway, that resulted in 35 citations.

“The pedestrian safety enforcement campaign is one piece of our overall effort of ensuring the safety of pedestrians, cyclists and motorists and maintaining the safe and orderly flow of traffic in Arlington County,” ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage tells ARLnow.com

Through this high visibility enforcement, the goal is compliance with failure to yield even when police are not present,” she continued. “No matter how you commute, there are ways we can all be street smart while sharing our roadways.”

Savage said ACPD’s Special Operations Section is conducting two details per month, one during the day and one during the evening.

The enforcement campaign started to ramp up in early 2016 after the police department saw Montgomery County, Md. police successfully implement a similar strategy, which was created by the National Highway Safety Transportation Administration.

Expect more enforcement in 2017, according to Savage.

“Additional officers are being trained and it is anticipated that the number of details each month will increase,” she said.

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Police pedestrian enforcement on Columbia Pike (photo courtesy ACPD)

The Arlington County Police Department issued 20 citations and made one arrest during its pedestrian safety enforcement detail on Columbia Pike this morning.

The enforcement was conducted on the Pike at S. Oakland Street from about 10 a.m. to noon.

According to ACPD, 17 drivers “were stopped and issued a summons for failure to yield to the pedestrian,” while two were issued citations for not wearing a seatbelt and another was cited for not having a driver’s license.

One person stopped by officers was wanted for failing to appear in court for not having a driver’s license. That person was taken into custody, said ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage.

The department conducted a similar enforcement detail last week on Lee Highway at N. Edison Street and issued 15 citations for failure to yield, Savage said.

Via Twitter:

Photo (top) courtesy ACPD

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Morning Notes

Traffic and buildings in Clarendon

VDOT Awards I-66 Contracts — VDOT has awarded $61.3 million in contracts to build tolling infrastructure on I-66 inside the Beltway. “The work is expected to begin by late summer with all construction completed no later than mid October 2017.” [WTOP]

Stop Arm Camera Enforcement Resuming — After having to pause enforcement and seek a legislative fix in order to issue tickets to violators, Arlington’s school bus stop arm enforcement program will resume July 1. Drivers who drive by a stop sign on a school bus will face an automatic $250 fine. [Arlington County, Arlington Public Schools]

Clinton Opening Arlington Office — Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign is reportedly opening a new office at 6035 Wilson Blvd, in the Dominion Hills shopping center. That’s the same shopping center in which American Nazi Party leader George Lincoln Rockwell was shot and killed in 1967. [Patch]

Local Latino Leaders Talk Trump — At a press conference on Columbia Pike yesterday, former County Board member Walter Tejada said presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump may regret his rhetoric on immigration come November. “In a tight election, the Latino community can decide who wins,” Tejada said. “To Mr. Trump, we want to declare a message that hate will not win.” [Washington Post]

Hernick Calls on Trump to Tone Down Muslim Remarks — Republican congressional candidate Charles Hernick, who’s challenging incumbent Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), wants Donald Trump to tone down his “divisive rhetoric” on Muslims, saying it “won’t help us unite with peace-loving Muslims against our common enemy.” He continued: “We need to stand together against hatred, violence and terrorism.” [InsideNova]

Local Startup Expanding — Fast-growing Arlington-based startup ByteCubed, a government tech consulting firm, is expanding with a new office in Crystal City for its now 150 employees. [Technical.ly DC]

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New decals on police cars remind drivers, pedestrians and cyclists to be Predictable, Alert, Lawful, or PAL (photo via Arlington County)

(Updated at 1:40 p.m.) This week, the Arlington County Police Department is holding its annual Spring Pedestrian & Bicycle Safety Awareness campaign.

This morning and for part of the day Thursday, police will be conducting targeted, high-visibility traffic safety enforcement and public education in Clarendon and Crystal City.

https://twitter.com/ArlingtonVaPD/status/724949089247477760

But is that enough to truly improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists in Arlington? In just the past week alone, two young people have been struck and seriously injured — while crossing in marked crosswalks along the pedestrian-heavy Rosslyn-Ballston corridor.

In both instances, nearby residents complained that drivers were chronically ignoring crossing pedestrians, driving too fast and driving while distracted — and that police enforcement is virtually non-existent.

Those two incidents aside, local drivers will tell you that pedestrians in Arlington make a habit of darting out into the road mid-block and crossing against traffic lights, often oblivious to oncoming traffic.

So what should be done about this, to improve safety for all? Should the Arlington County Police Department issue more tickets to drivers and pedestrians in an effort to curb serious accidents and bad behavior on both sides?

(Note: this poll and discussion concerns drivers and pedestrians only. Say what you want about cyclists — and the drivers who sometimes cut them off — but the most pressing issue here is about what to do specifically about pedestrian and vehicle conflicts.)

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