Harriet Scott’s children have long since graduated from Langley High School but she remains concerned about the dangers posed to students who walk and jog along the bike path on Georgetown Pike. She became so alarmed at the lack of caution markers on a stretch of the busy commuter road that she started a one-woman campaign to force the local government into action.
At issue is the loss of several yellow-and-black caution signs that are placed next to the road to warn drivers to be careful on the tight curves along Georgetown Pike. Between Mackall and Douglas Drive, just blocks from Langley High School, a few signs were knocked down about six months ago and have not been replaced.
“School is about ready to open. Those wonderful athletes from Langley High School will be running beside Georgetown Pike after school. The runners run in pairs, or even three abreast. As you can see, there is no room for error. At the same time countless teenage drivers will be leaving school in their SUVs and automobiles and drive along Georgetown Pike. Through no fault of their own, they are inexperienced. Gravel has also washed across the road from Pine Hill Road, making the edges of the road unstable. Signs need to be replaced,” said Scott.
Knowing that past Dranesville District Supervisor Stuart Mendelsohn had erected the warning markers shortly before leaving office, Scott turned to new supervisor Joan DuBois for help.
“We’ve already sent it off to two places,” said Rosemary Ryan at DuBois' office. Within days of getting a letter and photographs of the problem, the staff at DuBois’ office acted to get the repairs made. “We will get it back up.” DuBois has requested that the Merrifield maintenance department of the Virginia Department of Transportation look into replacing the markers and also that the officials dealing with trails in the county become involved.
RYAN AGREES that the trail is precariously close to Georgetown Pike and poses a hazard even with the signs erected. “Technically, the problem is that if we were going to build it today, it would not be so close to the road,” said Ryan.
The section of the trail in question is just a few feet from the asphalt road. A resident has erected a wooden fence on their property that parallels Georgetown Pike. That leaves a pedestrian with no where to go if a car were to careen off the road. The loose gravel, washed into the street from heavy rains, creates an additional hazardous condition for walkers and drivers alike.
Lucinda Weber often walks her dog along the trail on her way into the quiet neighborhoods that dot the area and says it can be a terrifying experience. “Cars come roaring down the road and you are just a few feet away. If you come up on someone else you have to turn [sideways] to let them go. It can get pretty scary sometimes. I do see kids running and hold my breath,” said Weber.
“My 80-year-old neighbor walks almost every day and she won’t go that way anymore,” said Scott. Her neighbors have been cheering her on in her actions to get the markers put back up. “I just took it on myself to do this. I’ve talked to the neighbors and they say ‘good for you,’” said Scott.
“I’d feel bad if something happened to someone and I hadn’t done anything. Teenagers just don’t think. They think they are immortal,” said Scott.
“I just hope it can be done before school starts and then hopefully someone will look into doing something to make it safer in the future,” said Scott.
Ryan said it is likely to take several weeks before new markers can be put up but that DuBois' office will monitor the progress and ensure care is taken with it.