Greater Greater Washington

Now those are bulb-outs

16th and U is one of DC's highest pedestrian crash intersections. As part of the U Street redesign, DDOT has significantly modified this intersection, and what an improvement!

Click to enlarge. Here's a Google satellite photo of the current intersection.

New Hampshire Avenue is a relatively low-traffic street, one way on both sides traveling away from U. But cars coming down the hill on 16th heading to New Hampshire southbound often make that slight right at very high speed, already going fast from the hill and trying to beat the light. Meanwhile, pedestrians trying to cross 16th are often in the crosswalk, never sure if they should go over to the next island or wait for the light.

To fix this problem, DDOT has designed enormous bulb-outs. The typical bulb-out is like the one on the northwest corner, extending the sidewalk out in front of the parked cars to shorten the crossing distance. These bulbous bulb-outs, on the other hand, force cars to go all the way past the main intersection before making a sharp right turn onto New Hampshire. There's no way to do that at high speed, and cars have to drive past the pedestrians before turning instead of turning through them.

The U Street design has more excellent features (and a few that could be improved). I'll post more details soon. The project is currently scheduled for construction in 2011.

This will be a tremendous improvement for one of DC's worst intersections. It shows that when the pedestrian safety folks really get their hands on a design, we can end up with something pretty amazing.

David Alpert is the founder and editor-in-chief of Greater Greater Washington. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and daughter in Dupont Circle. 

Comments

I also think the new hard-right design for turning onto New Hampshire helps clarify right-of-way confusion. In addition to drivers going too fast on 16th southbound into New Hampshire, the soft-right gives them the impression they're not really "turning" and so they don't need to yield to pedestrians. And pedestrians are simply continuing down 16th with the light, so they feel like the right of way is theirs. It's a mess, and quite scary when your back is turned on speeding cars.

by Ryan on Jun 27, 2008 12:02 pm • linkreport

The SE corner where the bus stops really needs the extra sidewalk space too. I've always felt the sidewalk there was too narrow with all the people getting on/off the bus and others trying to walk through. If I remember correctly there is a big telephone pole right in the middle of the narrow sidewalk in front of the bus stop too. I almost always end up walking into the street to get around all the obstacles on that corner. It's great to see plans like this.

by Bianchi on Jun 27, 2008 1:46 pm • linkreport

Is this redesign a done deal? This would be a great place to experiment with either a cycletrack of bicycle boulevard(http://bta4bikes.org/at_work/bikeboulevards.php) in this city.

Limit through traffic on New Hampshire Ave. on either side of U St., allow bikes to travel both directions and install special bike-only signals at the intersection. This would build out what many cyclists already do at this spot and prove to be a better linkage from the New Hampshire bike lanes to access Florida and 14th or 11th St. lanes.

by jeff on Jun 27, 2008 2:07 pm • linkreport

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