Greater Greater Washington

Pedestrian "sting" finds frequent driver lawlessness

So many drivers don't yield to pedestrians that catching them is "like shooting fish in a barrel," a surprised Montgomery County police officer remarked Wednesday. The police ticketed 72 violators in 2½ hoursone every two minutesat a single crosswalk on Veirs Mill Road.


Photo by Montgomery County police.

The operation, a first for the county, was advertised as a sting. But it was not very covert. The police announced in advance that their plainclothes officers would ticket between 11 am and 3 pm while wearing brightly-colored outfits.

Capt. Thomas Didone, head of the police traffic enforcement division, explained the reasoning behind the "sting" to the Patch. "Officers would typically attempt to enforce that kind of law by driving around a high-traffic area and looking for drivers not following the rules," he said. "That's not very efficient."

Inefficiency is the least of the problems with this style of law enforcement. Police who drive all day don't understand the reality of walking on the county's roadways. When you get out of the squad car and join the thousands who cross Veirs Mill every day (it's among the county's busiest bus corridors), you suddenly learn that "it's kind of scary."

All of this raises the question: in an increasingly urbanized county, where is the cop on the beat? Downtown Bethesda throngs with people on weekend evenings, and the police sit in parked squad cars behind rolled-up windows. If they were on foot, they would have plenty to doespecially in the late evening when drivers often zoom through the emptying streets.

Foot patrols succeeded in calming downtown Silver Spring after a series of brawls in 2010. But they ended once the brawls went away.

Street fighting is hardly Montgomery County's biggest law enforcement problem. Driver violations of pedestrian rights are ubiquitous, and they do far more harm. There are as many pedestrian deaths per year in the county as homicides.

Where people walk, we need police on foot. Not just on a few not-so-secret "stings"Capt. Didone said these operations will continue only through the end of the monthand not just in response to occasional outbreaks of crime.

Police should be walking every day, in Aspen Hill and Germantown as well as Bethesda and Silver Spring, protecting the rights of pedestrians as a routine element of law enforcement. Drivers need to understand that they can be ticketed any time they break the law, not just between 11:00 and 3:00 during the month of May.

Ben Ross was president of the Action Committee for Transit for 15 years. His new book about the politics of urbanism and transit, Dead End: Suburban Sprawl and the Rebirth of American Urbanism, is published by Oxford University Press. 

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Maryland, drivers are required to stop for pedestrians in a crosswalk, not just yield.

by JimT on May 9, 2013 2:47 pm • linkreport

Thanks for the recap/update on this! Driver education classes must not cover pedestrian right-of-way anymore. Every day I have to dodge cars stopped or parked in crosswalks in DTSS. Glad to see MoCo responding!

by FixWMATA on May 9, 2013 2:52 pm • linkreport

Inefficiency is the least of the problems with this style of law enforcement. Police who drive all day don't understand the reality of walking on the county's roadways. When you get out of the squad car and join the thousands who cross Veirs Mill every day (it's among the county's busiest bus corridors), you suddenly learn that "it's kind of scary."

Exhibit A:

So many drivers don't yield to pedestrians that catching them is "like shooting fish in a barrel," a surprised Montgomery County police officer remarked Wednesday.

by oboe on May 9, 2013 2:59 pm • linkreport

Foot patrols are good but it seems like bike patrols would be more efficient since officers could cover a wider area more quickly. It would also give officers more experience in the reality of biking around and drivers might be more careful around bikers if more cops were in the mix. Bike patrols would seem to be a happy medium that leverage the advantages of being on foot and being in a car.

by Falls Church on May 9, 2013 3:00 pm • linkreport

What about the pedestrians who refuse to use crosswalks? Or are absorbed in their smart phones? Education and enforcement is needed on both sides of this life and death issue.

by Pat on May 9, 2013 3:01 pm • linkreport

Falls Church - Montgomery has bike patrols in Bethesda and Silver Spring, but the police are under orders to ride on the sidewalk rather than in the street.

by Ben Ross on May 9, 2013 3:02 pm • linkreport

As a frequent pedestrian, this comes as no surprise to me. And it does seem that focusing enforcement on the people operating potentially lethal vehicles is the best way to help reduce these problems.

by Tim on May 9, 2013 3:04 pm • linkreport

As a frequent pedestrian, this comes as no surprise to me. And it does seem that focusing enforcement on the people operating potentially lethal vehicles is the best way to help reduce these problems.

by Tim on May 9, 2013 3:04 pm • linkreport

When it comes to understanding pedestrian issues, there is no substitute for getting out of your car and seeing what the roads are really like on foot. I hope for much more such enforcement in the future.

by Ronit on May 9, 2013 3:10 pm • linkreport

Thanks for writing about this important issue. At least once a week I get the finger or get yelled at by some driver turning right onto Spring Street from southbound Colesville Road in DTSS, even though there's a sign there that clearly states drivers turning right must watch for and yield to pedestrians. Pedestrians walking south at this intersection are in particular danger, as drivers cannot see them until they are already in the crosswalk.

by Rebecca on May 9, 2013 3:13 pm • linkreport

About a month ago, MoCo was saying peds need to wear bright colors and be predictable. Now, when the police wear bright colors, are predictable, AND announce a sting in advance, they find that the drivers still run down pedestrians.

None is this is a surprise to those who, even occasionally, get out of our cars, and underscores what I and others said when MoCo was ticketing and warning pedestrians: driver misbehavior is far more prevalent and problematic.

by SJE on May 9, 2013 3:16 pm • linkreport

Yup not a surprise. I've had the same experience trying to cross roads in DC and other urban areas even. I'm glad to see that at least police are making some effort in this area!

by Alan B. on May 9, 2013 3:19 pm • linkreport

Bravo to MCPD for doing this.

by MLD on May 9, 2013 3:20 pm • linkreport

@Pat

I agree. I cringe every time I see someone crossing in the middle of a busy road, especially when there are actual crosswalks nearby. What's also mindboggling is people who can't seem to wait 30 seconds for the walk sign. I guess people just think cars will stop for them. I'm of the opinion that if I'm going to get hit, I don't want there to be any question about whose fault it was.

by Rebecca on May 9, 2013 3:23 pm • linkreport

If DC or the Park Police would do a failure-to-yield-to-pedestrian sting near the VA side of the Memorial Bridge at the crosswalks, they could pay for the police overtime in about 15 minutes.

by aaa on May 9, 2013 3:32 pm • linkreport

Ben - thanks for this important write-up.

Your idea about foot patrols is a great one that should be applied to all dense urban areas in greater Washington.

We could certainly use such patrols and pro-active enforcement in DC.

Unfortunately as the recent GGW post about the bicyclist struck downtown shows I think the consensus in DC at least is that MPD does as little as possible on these types of issues.

In Upper NW we have a sort of version of foot patrols though they call it Retail Coverage or something similar and it seems to be centered in theory at least on reducing shoplifting.

But the reality is that the officers assigned to these patrols spend most of their day joshing around with mall security cards or with their noses in their phones.

Meanwhile out on the street it is a version of chaos with illegally parked cars in most bus zones and intersections and pedestrians playing frogger every time they step off the curb.

But when you suggest to MPD some focused enforcement using these officers already in the neighborhood in the high concentration areas the excuse is that they are already assigned to something and can't otherwise do enforcement actions on ped safety or illegal parking.

Then you end up begging MPD for some concentrated pedestrian safety enforcement and you get one day a month where they send out 10 or 12 officers (this is not an exaggeration) to issue tickets for a couple of hours and then you are told it is too manpower intensive to do more than once or twice a month.

But at least Montgomery County seems to understand this is a real safety issue and is assigning some resources to it.

by TomQ on May 9, 2013 3:36 pm • linkreport

@Pat and @Rebecca -- regardless of your opinions of the wisdom of crossing outside of a marked crosswalk, the law in Maryland (where this sting is being conducted) is:

1. Every intersection is a crosswalk. If there is paint on the pavement, it's a marked crosswalk. If there is no paint on the pavement, it's an unmarked crosswalk. Drivers must stop for pedestrians at both marked and unmarked crosswalks.
2. Crossing outside of a crosswalk is legal (and pedestrians must yield to drivers) unless there is a traffic signal at both adjacent intersections.

So when you (@Pat) ask, "What about pedestrians who refuse to use crosswalks?" the answer is -- they might actually be using a crosswalk. And if they're crossing midblock, chances are that it's perfectly legal, as long as they're yielding to drivers.

by Miriam on May 9, 2013 3:37 pm • linkreport

I've seen people in my neighborhood crossing with strollers midblock on relatively busy streets. It infuriates me. I believe a lot of them are relatively uneducated immigrants. I definitely think pedestrian education campaigns are warranted and we should issues citations (tickets for repeat offense) to people that cross illegally.

by Alan B. on May 9, 2013 3:43 pm • linkreport

Thanks so much for covering this!

I work in DC at the treacherous intersection of 20th and Q, right at the Dupont Metro exit. You'd think the fact that most of the streets are one way would limit lawlessness, but no. Last week, a cluster of us who were about to cross Q with the walk sign were astounded when a driver came to a full stop for the red light, waited a beat, and then proceeded straight on red through the intersection.

by Sally M. on May 9, 2013 3:44 pm • linkreport

I constantly suggest my city does an operation like this. It literally pays for itself...and in short order. There is no excuse other than, we don't take pedestrian rights/safety seriously.

by thump on May 9, 2013 3:45 pm • linkreport

There's a cop in downtown Bethesda - the same officer for nearly 20 years - and I don't think I've ever seen him get out of his car.

It would probably help pedestrians if he got out of his car once and a while.

by Capt. Hilts on May 9, 2013 3:47 pm • linkreport

@Alan B. -- here is my suggestion. If you have not done this, then one day, go out and walk where those infuriating uneducated immigrants (IUIs) are walking. Pretend you're trying to get from [a common place the IUIs walk from] to [a common place the IUIs walk to]. See what it's like to cross using only marked crosswalks and traffic signals. Then come back and re-read your comment.

As @Ronit commented above, "When it comes to understanding pedestrian issues, there is no substitute for getting out of your car and seeing what the roads are really like on foot."

by Miriam on May 9, 2013 3:49 pm • linkreport

@Miriam What is your source on the legality of crossing mid-block? I'm not questioning your veracity, but want to know where you got this information from. Crossing mid-block is unsafe at the best of times but like human frogger during rush hour almost anywhere in the DMV.

by Pat on May 9, 2013 3:53 pm • linkreport

"Drivers need to understand that they can be ticketed any time they break the law, not just between 11:00 and 3:00 during the month of May."

Actually, no. The idea is to educate drivers so they won't break the law.

ANd yes, I do think the various billboards on ped safety would be far better if they said dont cross midblock and drivers don't stop in the crosswalk. I.e. it is setting up conditions of safety rather than the actual event. Not many people really wake up and say "lets run someone over today."

by charlie on May 9, 2013 4:00 pm • linkreport

In DC, it's legal to cross mid-block between a controlled intersection (i.e. with a traffic light) and an uncontrolled one (no light), or 2 uncontrolled ones. So for example my street intersects the numbered streets on each end without a light. That means that it's legal to cross my block anywhere, cross at the corner, or cross the numbered streets anywhere up to one block north or south of my street.

Basically, the only time it's actually unlawful to cross between intersections is if the both intersections on either side have traffic lights.

I don't know the law in Maryland offhand. Miriam or Jim or Ben or someone can say.

by David Alpert on May 9, 2013 4:00 pm • linkreport

@ Miriam: These are the issues that need to be enforced on this issue. They go for both pedestrians and drivers. Enforcement is the name of this game, but is lacking due to funding cuts. Ironic, because enforcing these issues would surely pay for the extra man power.

1. It is unlawful or legally negligent for pedestrians to
a. start crossing during WAIT signal or red light;
b. cross between intersections with signals;
c. fail to look for approaching traffic before crossing

2. Pedestrians have the right-of-way in crosswalks, both marked and unmarked (unless there is an overhead or tunnel provided for pedestrians to cross).

3. Pedestrians can cross midblock (except between intersections with signals) but must yield the right-of-way.

Source: http://www.millcreekmedia.com/sixfriends/subdir2/ped_laws.html

by Pat on May 9, 2013 4:03 pm • linkreport

Pat: half of all pedestrians struck are struck in marked crosswalks.

In some circumstances, there is a logic to crossing mid-block because it's often shorter, but you don't deal with the danger of turning traffic hitting you in the back as you cross.

by Capt. Hilts on May 9, 2013 4:04 pm • linkreport

David - It's the same in Maryland.

However, as Miriam said, if you cross mid-block you must yield to drivers (except in a marked crosswalk - then drivers yield). If you cross at an intersection that has no traffic signal (whether or not the crosswalk is marked), drivers must stop for you. If there is a traffic signal, you must obey it.

by Ben Ross on May 9, 2013 4:05 pm • linkreport

Another point about IUIs is that they are often in the company of small children or are carrying bags of items. They're looking for the shortest distance but also one that is easier to cross when you're carrying a lot and holding the hand of a young child. Many of the intersections are too big and turning traffic is a hazard. Mid-bloc is shorter and there is no turning traffic. It's not always a good idea, but often enough, there's a logic to making this choice.

by Capt. Hilts on May 9, 2013 4:08 pm • linkreport

@Pat

Since enforcement resources are limited, shouldn't they be concentrated where they be most effective? Since the human in the fast moving and heavy steel cage, equipped with an airbag for safety, can do a lot more damage than the human outside it, doesn't it make sense to focus on the former rather than the latter?

by Ronit on May 9, 2013 4:09 pm • linkreport

In Maryland:

§ 21-502. Pedestrians' right-of-way in crosswalks.

(2) The driver of a vehicle shall come to a stop when a pedestrian crossing the roadway in a crosswalk is:

(i) On the half of the roadway on which the vehicle is traveling; or

(ii) Approaching from an adjacent lane on the other half of the roadway.

(b) Duty of pedestrian.- A pedestrian may not suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impossible for the driver to yield.

(c) Passing of vehicle stopped for pedestrian prohibited.- If, at a marked crosswalk or at an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection, a vehicle is stopped to let a pedestrian cross the roadway, the driver of any other vehicle approaching from the rear may not overtake and pass the stopped vehicle.

A cross walk is defined as:

§ 21-101. Definitions.

Crosswalk “means that part of a roadway that is: (1) Within the prolongation or connection of the lateral lines of sidewalks at any place where 2 or more roadways of any type meet or join, measured from the curbs or, in the absence of curbs, from the edges of the roadway; or (2) Distinctly indicated for pedestrian crossing by lines or other markings.”

In other words, MD pedestrians have right of way in crosswalks and any intersection, but not mid-block. But drivers must comes to a stop, not yield.

by TomasBridle on May 9, 2013 4:15 pm • linkreport

@Ronit: So because its financially expedient you ignore one half of the issue? Education and enforcement are not mutually exclusive and in fact should be done in conjunction.

by Pat on May 9, 2013 4:15 pm • linkreport

@alpert and others: there are also on occasion marked crosswalks between two intersections with lights, which are also Are we seriously suggesting that jaywalking poses a threat to automobiles? That it's realistic and sane to compare crossing a street against a light to having 2 tons of steel barreling through pedestrian areas?

No, pedestrians are not a "danger." They're constantly in danger, and the sooner everyone realizes that the real problem is the cars themselves the better.

by MetroDerp on May 9, 2013 4:18 pm • linkreport

theres an extensive education campaign being aimed at peds right now (note the metro bus ads, many of which are specifically aimed at peds).

The subject of this post is a specific enforcement campaign aimed at drivers - one that specifically differs in using cops on foot, which is not only a more effective way, but also is educational for the police.

I think its a good idea, and id like to see Fairfax county do it.

by AWalkerIntheCity on May 9, 2013 4:19 pm • linkreport

I once had a conversation with a friend about cyclists in the city. His perspective as a driver makes him angry with bicyclists because 'they run red lights' and do other illegal activities. When I asked why that made him mad, he said because 'it's not fair.'

When I read people express anger at pedestrians for their behavior, crossing mid-block (legal or illegal), I can't help but hear the 'it's not fair' refrain.

If crossing mid-block was legal would the activity still be infuriating?

I think if your opinion changes with the legality of the activity then the reason it's infuriating has very little to do with whether or not it's safe and a lot more to do with what is perceived as fair.

by Owen on May 9, 2013 4:19 pm • linkreport

For those who complain about pedestrians crossing midblock: yes, it might be annoying. But its a completely different league when the situation is revesed: rather than being inconvenienced, the pedestrian is dead.

Another thing to consider is that maybe these pedestrians cross midblock BECAUSE of the situation with drivers. The drivers have already made this a free-for-all, so the peds might as well. Indeed, there is some evidence that crossing midblock is safer, because you can see the cars coming. At the corner, they can come from behind you and turn into you.

So, I agree with the point, I just think its way lower priority. I stopped for legally crossing ped today and almost got hit by the car behind me: so enforcement is not only good for peds, but for other driveres.

by SJE on May 9, 2013 4:19 pm • linkreport

@Pat, yes, education and enforcement are not mutually exclusive. However, both take time and cost money. Given that resources are limited, I would also prefer that efforts (both education and enforcement) be focused on the people who are driving two-ton machines that can kill people.

by Miriam on May 9, 2013 4:20 pm • linkreport

Chapter 10 of Maryland SHA Bicycle and Pedestrian Design Guidelines provides more detail and is interesting reading throughout - if you're into that sort of thing - to see the minimum that the state is SUPPOSED to do.

http://www.marylandroads.com/Index.aspx?PageId=25

by TomasBridle on May 9, 2013 4:24 pm • linkreport

Since enforcement resources are limited, shouldn't they be concentrated where they be most effective? Since the human in the fast moving and heavy steel cage, equipped with an airbag for safety, can do a lot more damage than the human outside it, doesn't it make sense to focus on the former rather than the latter?

Since pedestrians have the most to lose, and are therefore more motivated, clearly it makes sense to concentrate your enforcement on them. Also, pedestrians have better situational awareness than drivers, so they should be held to a higher standard of care. I know when I drive, I'm often going so fast that it's all I can do to concentrate on the bumper in front of me, much less some careless pedestrian running out into the street without even looking!

by oboe on May 9, 2013 4:24 pm • linkreport

@thump: I constantly suggest my city does an operation like this. It literally pays for itself.

Has your (PG Co) town confirmed that they get to keep the revenue generated by fines? I recall Glen Echo not wanting to station a police officer to enforce a stop sign violation, because MoCo gets the revenue while Glen Echo bears the burden.

by JimT on May 9, 2013 4:24 pm • linkreport

Miriam, I don't own a car and rarely drove. Those IUI's as you call them (unfairly implying I'm a bigot?) were crossing more more than 200 feet from a crosswalk in heavy traffic on 16th St near where I used to wait for my morning bus. Anyway they don't infuriate me personally, but I am infuriating that they are putting small children at risk like that!

by Alan B. on May 9, 2013 4:26 pm • linkreport

No, pedestrians are not a "danger." They're constantly in danger, and the sooner everyone realizes that the real problem is the cars themselves the better.

What if one thoughtlessly causes a school bus to swerve and run headlong into an oncoming kerosene delivery truck?

(Just want to get all the opposing arguments out on the table here...)

by oboe on May 9, 2013 4:27 pm • linkreport

I have a serious question, to which I honestly don't know the answer: If a pedestrian is crossing a marked crosswalk against a "don't walk" sign - i.e., after the light has changed - does he/she have the right-of-way? I see this happen occasionally (as a pedestrian, biker, and sometime driver) and it drives me nuts. I personally am patient and wait for my turn, but some others simply stroll into traffic and expect cars to screech to a halt when in 10 seconds they would have a green light and a walk signal.

Lest I be misunderstood: Three cheers for yielding enforcement! Drivers are failing to yield MUCH more than pedestrians are causing problems stepping into traffic against a signal, in my experience. But I have been wondering that for a while and thought this would be a good place to see whether anyone knew the answer.

by CapHill on May 9, 2013 4:28 pm • linkreport

@Pat

I'm of the opinion that crossing at an intersection, where a pedestrian will typically deal with four directions of traffic, is the most dangerous place you can possibly cross a roadway - as opposed to mid-block, where you merely deal with two directions of traffic (or even only one, if it's a one-way street.)

Furthermore, a culture of enforcement against pedestrians does little to promote safety but goes a long way towards entrenching pro-vehicle, anti-human sentiment. If there are no moving vehicles on the roadway when I cross, there's no threat to safety regardless of whether my crossing was legal or illegal - and if, through my actions, I am risking my own safety or the safety of others, than I can already be flagged down and cited for reckless endangerment with or without anti-pedestrian laws such as "jaywalking."

Take a look at some other places that enforce against pedestrians... such as Atlanta, or Phoenix. Do we want to be more like those places? I don't think so.

by Ryan on May 9, 2013 4:31 pm • linkreport

@oboe: What if one thoughtlessly causes a school bus to swerve and run headlong into an oncoming kerosene delivery truck?

That's why Maryland law requires drivers to stop, rather than swerve.

by JimT on May 9, 2013 4:31 pm • linkreport

Addendum: Oops, my question was answered while I was typing my comment. Please disregard, and my thanks to Pat, above.

by CapHill on May 9, 2013 4:33 pm • linkreport

@Alan B., I was quoting you.I did not mean to imply that you were a bigot.

However, my suggestion stands. Do what they do, ideally with a stroller and a bag or a small child and a bag, and walking at 2.5 feet per second.

by Miriam on May 9, 2013 4:40 pm • linkreport

I think that the MoCo police were at fault for not wearing a helmet, for not being licensed pedestrians, and for failure to pay a pedestrian fee. Drivers pay for the roads and should not have to slow down for these scofflaws who contribute nothing to the roads, and are unconcerned about their own safety.

by SJE on May 9, 2013 4:40 pm • linkreport

You're seriously suggesting that walking an extra 300 feet is less reasonable than running across a road with a stroller? I'm sorry I just don't accept that. I have carried heavy suitcases from the metro and walked home half a mile. It's not fun, but I'm not willing to risk my life over it, and I certainly don't condone risking a childs life when the alternative is perfectly reasonable. And no you did not quote me. I said I was infuriated by the action, not that the people are infuriating, it's a different thing entirely. For the record I spent over 2 years volunteering my time in the community trying to assist immigrant communities, so I actually find your subtle turn of the phrase pretty offensive.

by Alan B. on May 9, 2013 4:45 pm • linkreport

@Alan B. hose IUI's as you call them (unfairly implying I'm a bigot?) were crossing more more than 200 feet from a crosswalk in heavy traffic on 16th St near where I used to wait for my morning bus.

Where on 16th Street? Because according to the law as I understand, much of 16th Street is crossed by a lettered street (with lights), followed by an unsignaled smaller street (i.e., Corcoran or Church). Thus meaning that for most of 16th, crossing midblock is actually perfectly legal, provided you're yielding to vehicles.

by MetroDerp on May 9, 2013 4:46 pm • linkreport

Between Columbia and Fuller, usually heading to the Mexican Embassy. They are two signalized intersections. So I do not think it was legal. Even if it was legal, I don't see how a legal crossing would help if they get hit.

by Alan B. on May 9, 2013 4:48 pm • linkreport

@SJE - +1

by Tina on May 9, 2013 4:51 pm • linkreport

There are as many pedestrian deaths per year in the county as homicides.

I think that may have been true a few years ago but in 2012 there were 6 pedestrian deaths in the county and according to the data I could find, 14 homicides.

by Scoot on May 9, 2013 4:54 pm • linkreport

@scoot -is that good news or bad news?

by Tina on May 9, 2013 4:59 pm • linkreport

@JimT - If the distance between the vehicle and the pedestrian running across the street midblock is inside the normal braking distance for the speed of the vehicle, swerving is likely to provide a better chance of preventing a collision.

A popular place for midblock crossing is Friendship Heights at Mazza Gallerie. There are always people suddenly darting out from behind parked cars to play Frogger on Wisconsin. I guess that's how wealthy Chevy Chasers get their kicks.

by Chris S. on May 9, 2013 5:00 pm • linkreport

@Alan B. You're seriously suggesting that walking an extra 300 feet is less reasonable than running across a road with a stroller? I'm sorry I just don't accept that.

It doesn't really matter if you accept it. What matters is that the people who are actually doing this evidently find that walking an extra 300 feet is less reasonable than running across a road with a stroller. Why? If you went and tried it for yourself, you might discover the answer.

by Miriam on May 9, 2013 5:00 pm • linkreport

@scoot -is that good news or bad news?

It's neither good news or bad news, but if the factoid is wrong it needs correcting.

by Scoot on May 9, 2013 5:06 pm • linkreport

And I agree with Alan B, I would probably walk an extra 300 feet (about 1 minute) as well. It would probably not be an issue of what was "reasonable" but rather an issue of risk vs. reward. If I did not sense any risk from crossing midblock, then I might try it even if crossing legally meant walking an extra 50 feet, much less 300 feet.

by Scoot on May 9, 2013 5:08 pm • linkreport

@Alan B. I don't see how a legal crossing would help if they get hit.

Exactly. This is what I've been trying to say. All this talk of legality or illegality on the part of pedestrians is an entirely moot point when their opponents are multi-ton steel beasts. The pedestrian dies. The vehicle maybe gets dented. It's not a fair contest.

The behavior of the pedestrian isn't really important - what's important is that the damn car doesn't hit him.

by MetroDerp on May 9, 2013 5:08 pm • linkreport

@Miriam +1.

Parents with strollers, people with disabilities and injuries, adults holding the hands of small children - all walk, bike or get around in a completely different landscape.

Until you put yourself in their position, you will never know what they are experiencing.

by Ronit on May 9, 2013 5:13 pm • linkreport

"The behavior of the pedestrian isn't really important - what's important is that the damn car doesn't hit him."

Um... And there is no connection between the two, because...?

by Chris S. on May 9, 2013 5:32 pm • linkreport

A popular place for midblock crossing is Friendship Heights at Mazza Gallerie. There are always people...

This is evidence that a mid block striping and HAWK signal are justified.

by Tina on May 9, 2013 5:49 pm • linkreport

If people can dash across a road in heavy traffic pushing a stroller, I find it unlikely they can't calmly walk the extra 300 feet to cross safely. Why are you defending blatantly dangerous actions? All it does is make valid pedestrian campaigners seem like nutjobs to me and undermines a lot of good work.

by Alan B. on May 9, 2013 6:18 pm • linkreport

@Alan B. I am not defending blatantly dangerous actions. (Indeed, as previous commenters have pointed out, it may be safer to cross mid-block than at a crosswalk.)

I am pointing out that what seems irrational behavior to you, a young (I am assuming) able-bodied (I am assuming), male (I am assuming) person going around without small children (I am assuming), may be quite rational behavior for a person who is not young/not able-bodied/not male/going around with small children. And the only way to see it from that person's perspective is to try it that way yourself.

Or you could even just ask them why they do it.

Either alternative would, in my opinion, be better than the current situation, in which your conclusion that they're doing it wrong is based on the fact that that's not how you do it.

by Miriam on May 9, 2013 6:44 pm • linkreport

@Tina - I think a midblock crosswalk would only add to the dysfunctional nature of traffic on that block (admittedly it is a long block). There is already a lot of stopping and starting due to people waiting for parking spaces or trying to enter/exit the Chevy Chase Pavilion parking garage. A busy midblock crosswalk might cause traffic to back up into the often congested intersection with Western Ave.

by Chris S. on May 9, 2013 7:10 pm • linkreport

@Chris S: I'm not sure why you seem to be advocating swerving in the case that oboe outlined. If you were driving a school bus and there was a pedestrian in the crosswalk (the hypothetical on which you are commenting), and there was a tanker truck in the oncoming lane, would you really swerve into that truck rather than apply the breaks?

More generally, the overwhelming majority of drivers who take minor detours to avoid striking a pedestrian in a crosswalk, rather than stopping, are doing so for their own convenience--or possibly they don't know the law--not because a pedestrian darted out in front of a car.

Very few pedestrians dart out in front of automobile traffic. Far more common is the slow and steady pedestrian who maintains a course, which itself is unexpected to the typical driver who (based on experience) expects pedestrians to yield.

My own view is that bright flags on 4-ft poles or, lacking that, big bright umbrellas, are very useful equipment for crossing downtown streets, even when you have the walk signal.

by JimT on May 9, 2013 8:32 pm • linkreport

Ryan wins the thread with this critical comment. This is the heart of the matter:

Furthermore, a culture of enforcement against pedestrians does little to promote safety but goes a long way towards entrenching pro-vehicle, anti-human sentiment.

It's not just sentiment - but a general perception of how things ought to be. This is very influential on behavior, I think.

by DavidDuck on May 9, 2013 8:45 pm • linkreport

@Alan B: for the average walker, 300ft is about a minute-and-a-half (about a minute for faster walkers like myself). Given that drivers routinely speed in order to save 30 seconds, it's not a stretch to presume that pedestrians would do what they can to save time themselves. Should they do it? Probably not in most cases, but it shouldn't be a surprise.

by Froggie on May 10, 2013 1:03 am • linkreport

This whole operation is just another scam invented by a corrupt and incompetent police force to collect money from law abiding citizens. It does nothing to improve the safety of pedestrians and won't change the behavior of the drivers.

by Topsahl on May 10, 2013 1:11 am • linkreport

Topsahl writes:

"This whole operation is just another scam invented by a corrupt and incompetent police force to collect money from law abiding citizens. It does nothing to improve the safety of pedestrians and won't change the behavior of the drivers."

This is simply a breathtaking, totally red-herring comment. What are we to think except perhaps that you think drivers shouldn't have to respect the rights and safety of pedestrians and other vulnerable users on the road?

The laws are there to make things safer for everyone. The police are not in it to raise revenue (if they were they'd be demanding bribes at every traffic stop like in some countries). They are working to make things safer for everyone...thus the name they sometimes use: Dept. of Public Safety.

by Dave on May 10, 2013 6:45 am • linkreport

@oboe: and what if the flaming fuel truck continued on into a fireworks factory? This happens, I've seen it in a movie.

I think the solution is to designate pedestrian ghetto blocks, with pedestrians banned from leaving their ghetto/crossing the street.

by Mike on May 10, 2013 7:25 am • linkreport

Fantastic job of obscuring the pedestrians at the bottom of a hill with huge utility poles: http://goo.gl/maps/Ep6NT

by JayTee on May 10, 2013 8:32 am • linkreport

@oboe: Please slow down. If it's "all [you] can do to concentrate on the bumper in front of [you]," you could easily fail to yield to a pedestrian at a crosswalk. In the District, pedestrians at crosswalks that lack stop signs or traffic lights must be actually in the crosswalk to get the right of way (no one yields to a pedestrian on the sidewalk looking hopeful), and it's incumbent upon you to stop.

by Sally M. on May 10, 2013 8:59 am • linkreport

Did folks here see how a 77 year old woman was KILLED while SITTING at a BUS STOP on Viers Mill Road yesterday. An SUV jumped the curb.

This happened yesterday.

by Capt. Hilts on May 10, 2013 9:18 am • linkreport

Yep, saw this article this morning:
http://baltimore.cbslocal.com/2013/05/10/fatal-pedestrian-crash-in-wheaton/

Police say a 1996 Ford Explorer was traveling eastbound on Veirs Mill Road and at the intersection of Ferrara Avenue, the driver made a U-Turn onto westbound Veirs Mill Road.

As the vehicle was making the U-Turn, investigators believe the vehicle may have struck the westbound, right-hand curb of Veirs Mill Road.

The Explorer then crossed the three westbound lanes of Veirs Mill Road, went over the center median of the road, and then crossed three lanes of eastbound Veirs Mill Road.

The vehicle continued to travel over the eastbound, right-hand curb of the road and then traveled through a bus stop shelter where it hit Maria Lusminia Colindres, 77.

How can you be going so fast as to have this happen and attempt a u-turn?

by MLD on May 10, 2013 9:28 am • linkreport

Also, this was about a mile down the road from the place where they did pedestrian enforcement.

by MLD on May 10, 2013 9:29 am • linkreport

How can you be going so fast as to have this happen and attempt a u-turn?

I wasn't there. But I suspect the driver used too much power and put the car in a skid, and slid into the curb, to make the U-turn as fast as possible because of oncoming traffic approaching at speed. He/She tried to make the turn as fast as possible because there was only a small break in traffic, and possibly was aggravated by impatience, because he/she had sitting there a long time.

Again, this is speculation.

by goldfish on May 10, 2013 9:37 am • linkreport

@Topsahl,

Ok, got any evidence for that assertion? Or for that matter arguments for it?

by DavidDuck on May 10, 2013 10:14 am • linkreport

Police say a 1996 Ford Explorer....

I remember reading an alarmist article many years ago that argued that as dangerous as the classic SUV was at the time, the danger would go up considerably as the fleet began to age, and trickled down to less experienced and less responsible drivers. Consequently, I always give a two-decade old SUV a wide berth.

Interesting hypothesis anyway.

by oboe on May 10, 2013 10:16 am • linkreport

"This whole operation is just another scam invented by a corrupt and incompetent police force to collect money from law abiding citizens. It does nothing to improve the safety of pedestrians and won't change the behavior of the drivers."

This is simply a breathtaking, totally red-herring comment. What are we to think except perhaps that you think drivers shouldn't have to respect the rights and safety of pedestrians and other vulnerable users on the road?

Reality is somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. The police know that this enforcement raises a lot of revenue (they probably could have had the same effect on public awareness if they just stopped and warned drivers instead of actually ticketing them). And this type of enforcement won't by itself result in a sea change of pedestrian safety. But at the same time, drivers do not set out to willfully ignore the rights of pedestrians. Often it is just a matter of not knowing the law very well, not being able to envision oneself as a pedestrian, and being part of a modern American culture that does not really place a huge emphasis on pedestrian activity.

by Scoot on May 10, 2013 10:23 am • linkreport

@oboe: the '90s Explorer rollover problems was caused by bad original equipment tires. Those tires have all been replaced by now.

When they updated the model, Ford kind of overreacted and replaced the live rear axle with independent wishbone suspension. I am sure that helped.

by goldfish on May 10, 2013 10:24 am • linkreport

@goldfish,

But I suspect the driver used too much power and put the car in a skid, and slid into the curb...

From Frontline interview with SUV critic Keith Bradsher:

"A big factor holding down the number of rollover deaths in SUVs until now is that these have mostly been $35,000 luxury vehicles being bought by prosperous middle-aged families with children who don't go out much after dark, aren't drinking a lot. The problem is coming in that teenagers like SUVs more than any other age group, according to the automakers' research. ... They lack the driving skills to keep a vehicle like a sport utility on the road with all four wheels down. Then you are probably going to see more rollovers. ..."

Bottom line: Older SUVs are getting cheaper and cheaper, which makes them more affordable to young drivers (and other less experienced groups, like poorer immigrants, etc..) And older vehicles tend to have more maintenance issues.

But the two together and you get an increased incidents of people plowing into bus stops in a 20 year old SUV.

(Driver was a 56 year old woman, btw...)

by oboe on May 10, 2013 10:25 am • linkreport

@goldfish,

@oboe: the '90s Explorer rollover problems was caused by bad original equipment tires. Those tires have all been replaced by now.

Actually, the problem was mostly due to underinflated tires if I remember correctly, OEM or no. Anyway, I'm sure most of the '96 Explorers (and 2000 Navigators, etc...) I see out on the road have fresh rubber and that the operators check for correct tire pressure regularly. Heh.

by oboe on May 10, 2013 10:27 am • linkreport

Oh, one last (relatively obvious point): You can do a lot of damage with a full-sized SUV even if you don't roll it.

by oboe on May 10, 2013 10:29 am • linkreport

If you want to know how I know this, I once dated a girl (in the mid-80s) from a "survivalist" family who drove a full-sized primer gray mid-70s Suburban.

She used to fishtail the thing practically every time she took a turn from a full stop if the roads were even moist. Terrifying.

by oboe on May 10, 2013 10:37 am • linkreport

@oboe: I personally knew one of the experts involved in the investigation. Took some time, but they figured out it was from a factory that was making the tires. Mold release was contaminating the adhesion between tread and ply compounds. Tread separation occurred when the tire was overheated, which happens when the tire is underinflated. Nobody really watches their tire pressure as much as they should, but that should not condemn them to a fatal rollover.

Moral: check your tire pressure today.

by goldfish on May 10, 2013 10:38 am • linkreport

I wish DC's MPD would do more of this. The Reno Road corridor in NW should be a priority enforcement area. Lots of kids walking to school there.

by Alf on May 10, 2013 10:42 am • linkreport

@goldfish,

Sure, did not know about the OEM issue, and I'm sure that exacerbated the problem. But as these full-size SUVs age and go on the secondary, tertiary (quaternary, quinary, senary, septenary, octonary...) market, the chances they'll be bought by someone who assiduously checks tire pressure would tend to fall. And under-inflated tires also increase rollover risk for any tire...particularly aging tires on an aging vehicle.

by oboe on May 10, 2013 10:54 am • linkreport

@Topsahl, what definition of "law abiding" are you using? Because mine typically includes not breaking the law, which anyone who got a ticket here was presumably doing.

by cminus on May 10, 2013 11:25 am • linkreport

When driving a car without strict regulation, education, registration and licensure is outlawed, only outlaws will drive cars!!

by Harry R. Sohl on May 10, 2013 12:42 pm • linkreport

FWIW, we walk our kids to daycare everyday (except if it's raining hard) and have to cross a parkway here in MontCo.

A very, very large fraction of the cars don't stop unless we're in the sidewalk.

by MontCoPed on May 10, 2013 2:06 pm • linkreport

...sorry, "crosswalk" not "sidewalk".

by MontCoPed on May 10, 2013 2:07 pm • linkreport

Just to get it out there...Yes, Drivers must yield/stop for pedestrians in crosswalks not regulated by stoplights. Period.

However, am I the only one who sees this "sting" as entrapment? There is a reason this was "more efficent". The officers were not observing illegal behavior, but initiating it. I could be wrong, but it just struck me as skirting the rules.

by Jonathan Pavlik on May 10, 2013 2:24 pm • linkreport

Jonathan Pavlik, the times and locations of the "sting" were announced ahead of time and the officers were wearing reflective vests!!!

by Capt. Hilts on May 10, 2013 2:37 pm • linkreport

To entrap someone you have to entice or cause them to break the law. Walking across a crosswalk doesn't pass the test.

by MLD on May 10, 2013 2:42 pm • linkreport

That's not entrapment. Entrapment would be if the police somehow encouraged people to drive and then not stop for pedestrians and ticketed them. In this case the cops were the pedestrians and did everything to make their presence clear, and people who were already driving still broke the rules. Perhaps similiar but totally different in the necessary way from entrapment.

by Alan B. on May 10, 2013 2:44 pm • linkreport

There's a spot I often cross mid-block, and it's nice to know the law is on my side so long as I'm careful. I've done it in front of police and they never say anything, so I probably don't need that knowledge, but it's good to know if we get a newbie officer who doesn't know.

The reason I cross mid-block is because the crosswalks (one controlled, one uncontrolled) are pretty far out of my way. To ice the cake, the one that requires the least extra walking is one of the most dangerous intersections for peds in DC, and it takes FOREVER to get a walk signal (it even has a beg button, natch). I'm always super-careful when I do it, but between the light up the street (though not at the intersection immediately adjacent) and the light at the controlled intersection on the other side, there are periods where it's perfectly safe to cross, i.e., there is NO traffic and you can see far enough to know 100% that you've got time to make it.

Laws on entrapment vary somewhat, but conducting a perfectly legal activity (crossing the street) and then ticketing drivers who fail to follow the law doesn't fit the bill. That's akin to saying drunk driving checkpoints are entrapment. Or picking a street where people often speed and driving the speed limit on it, stopping anyone who passes them. ESPECIALLY since they announced the operation and location beforehand and made their presence obvious during the operation. Checking drivers to see if they're drunk or speeding or walking across a street didn't induce anyone to behave illegally, just more easily caught them when they did.

by Ms. D on May 10, 2013 8:02 pm • linkreport

I live in Silver Spring inside the Beltway. Last year, the county put in traffic calming devices on our local road (Franklin) which have gone a long way to force drivers to stop / yield to pedestrians. But Franklin is a two lane road; uncontrolled pedestrian crossings (just paint on the road and a yellow sign) on a 4-lane or 6-lane corridor like Viers Mill are insane. If the road is used as a major commuter corridor (and Veirs Mill certainly is) they should have footbridges or pedestrian signals like the ones being installed on University just west of Four Corners.

by Bink on May 11, 2013 6:46 am • linkreport

@alanb: you know, you keep talking about 300 feet. I suspect for the people involved, it's actually *600* feet, because they'd have to walk down to the crosswalk, cross, and then return to the starting point. If the target is at the corner, naturally, they'll walk to the intersection.

by lou on May 11, 2013 12:37 pm • linkreport

Bink: I agree that bridges and signals are needed on the busiest places. But lets step back: why is it that we need to spend millions on a bridge so that drivers aren't inconvenienced, or hundreds of thousands on signals just to to force drivers to behave? We can't put signals everywhere. At the end of the day, too many drivers just don't obey the law or common courtesy. If we did stings like this all the time, people would get the message.

by SJE on May 11, 2013 3:15 pm • linkreport

I don't understand why they announce the site and times of these enforcement actions. Like unannounced speed cameras, this would be much more effective if drivers were forced to assume it could happen anywhere, anytime. The fact that this would seem to violate some unspoken tenet of "fairness" tells just how far we have to go on this stuff.

by oboe on May 11, 2013 4:14 pm • linkreport

Pedestrian bridges, besides being expensive, take up lots of space and can be dangerous in their own right. Because they need to be accessible, the ramp can't be too steep, and takes lots of space to put down, which is often an impediment to through pedestrian traffic and sight-lines of drivers. Both frequently back in the old hometown and scattered here, I've heard reports of people being trapped and mugged on footbridges. It only takes a group of a couple up to no good to have one or two follow you onto the bridge and one or two up ahead to block that point...and then you're stuck. What are you going to do? Jump off the bridge? Even that's not an option on most bridges, since they have high fences or are fully enclosed. This type of attack became so common on the college campus my dad worked on that they closed all but one footbridge at night and permanently stationed a police officer on the one open. Granted, that area is MUCH more dangerous than DC, and I've heard only a handful of similar issues here, but pedestrian bridges give me the heebie-jeebies because of all those incidents when I was a youth.

by Ms. D on May 13, 2013 9:50 pm • linkreport

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