A woman was struck by a car as she crossed Old Mount Vernon Highway April 18. According to Capt. Mike Kline, commander of the Mount Vernon District Station,
a car making a left turn, struck the woman as she was crossing the crosswalk near the Mount Vernon Estates. The woman was transported to the hospital with non life-threatening injuries and released.
Kline believes education and enforcement will reduce pedestrian accidents and initiated a crackdown on Route One that took place at the end of March. Drivers and pedestrians were cited and warned in a week-long enforcement project.
To illustrate that Route One is not the only vulnerable area, officers patrolled the Huntington Metro area during the first two weeks of April and gave tickets to 14 drivers and wrote three warnings for drivers not yielding to the right of way. Police also issued tickets to eight pedestrians and warned 44 pedestrians for jaywalking. According to Kline, officers also distributed 167 informational brochures about safe crossings.
HOWEVER, ROBERT BRUBAKER, director of Metroped Inc., is not convinced ticketing will make the difference. He believes that road signs and crosswalk locations need to be redesigned to ensure pedestrian safety. He is an active member of the Safe Cross Campaign, a pedestrian advocacy program located in Fairfax County, created to “provide assistance to citizens who need help petitioning their legislators for improvements to roads that are unsafe for pedestrians and bicyclists to walk along, to ride on, and to cross.”
Brubaker shared his thoughts on the current situation: “During the Safe Crossing Campaign (SC) we made a major effort to publicize the design improvements that we learned were needed to allow pedestrians to more safely cross Richmond Highway."
“A top SC recommendation was the need for medians or other mid-road safe refuge. Capt. Shawn Barrett, an earlier Mt. Vernon District commander, spoke at one of our SC meetings. He told us that at a posted speed of 45 mph, cars were not required to yield to pedestrians in those crosswalks without traffic lights. He had also found that, counter to his expectations, most of the pedestrians deaths were happening on the 4-lane section of the highway rather then the wider 6 lane section. He reasonably concluded pedestrians were using the concrete median [which only exists at 6-lane sections] as a safe refuge for crossing.”
BRUBAKER SAID that Barrett’s conclusions were confirmed by the people who came to the meetings. Many of them described how, at intersections, cars would cut them off even though they were in a crosswalk. They said a concrete median, away from an intersection to avoid turning traffic, was a preferred crossing point.
“Mike Farrell, with Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG), provided a Federal Highway Administration report [FHWA-RD-01-075] that further validated what the Police Commander and our members were saying,” said Brubaker.
“Unless well designed; crosswalks are not necessarily the safest place to cross. Since then we've also had the MWCOG-supported 'Walkable Community Workshop' that further
supported the need for more pedestrian safety infrastructure. Since the start of the SC campaign some years ago, little has changed. Based on the FHWA-RD-01-075 recommendation, I doubt one could find even a dozen safe crosswalks in the 8-mile stretch of Richmond Highway between Ft. Belvoir and the Beltway."