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Maryland Avenue will get safer, but must someone always get hurt before temporary fixes can happen?

After a driver hit a DC librarian on a dangerous stretch of Maryland Avenue NE, DC will install temporary barriers to expand sidewalks at the corners:

"Bulb-outs," which narrow streets at the corners so that pedestrians don't have to cross as far, are a proven way to reduce pedestrian crashes and generally slow down traffic. Drivers then can't take the turns at as high a speed, so they have more time to see people waiting to cross.

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) will temporarily create these bulb-outs at the corner of Maryland Avenue and D and 7th streets, NE with plastic bollards, which are quick and cheap to use. According to a post on DDOT Dish, in the fall the plastic at Maryland Avenue will give way to large planters and brick-colored pavement.

The agency put in temporary plastic curbs at the corner where 15th, W, Florida and New Hampshire NW come together. As in this case, that change happened right after a crash—a fatal one in May, 2009. There is a permanent design for that intersection, but permanent projects can take many years.

In the meantime, temporary changes can keep an intersection safe. Plus, they give everyone a chance to see how a potential change works. Right now, DDOT only sets up temporary measures after someone gets killed or almost killed. DC could make streets safer now by using temporary curbs more often and earlier in the design process.

David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. 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 two children in Dupont Circle. 


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I agree. The people in this neighborhood have been saying for years the road is dangerous and there have been other crashes. There's no reason to wait for a terrible tragedy to act. Act instead to prevent a terrible tragedy.

by Tina on Jun 13, 2014 12:41 pm • linkreport

Reminds me of back this winter when people were sending in pictures of "Sneckdowns" and the debates afterwards about how we can't just put stuff in and see what happens.

Maybe if we did do that a little more we wouldn't need to wait until someone gets hit.

by drumz on Jun 13, 2014 12:46 pm • linkreport

I've not seen much discussion regarding the use of raised crosswalks, but I see that it is included in this proposal. I remember seeing them used extensively when I lived in Sweden, but I don't think I've seen any in DC. Are they simply too expensive to install and maintain? Is there too much pushback from motorists and/or delivery companies? I would personally feel safer crossing a raised crosswalk than using a HAWK signal. Most people who live in DC can likely come up with a list of unsignalized pedestrian crossings that would benefit from being raised. So why are they not more common?

by Atlas on Jun 13, 2014 12:54 pm • linkreport

Finally! 7th St is especially terrifying -- if you're on foot or bike, you can never be sure that a car won't just go for broke and try to zip across Maryland. Sure, it's not a legal auto crossing, but that doesn't stop some people.

by Tom Veil on Jun 13, 2014 12:58 pm • linkreport

drumz, the sneckdowns method would have shown exactly the opposite of what you want to see- in this case, it would have shown that those portions of road ARE fairly well used. the sneckdowns thing would have (in theory, there are a lot of conditions that make it an unreliable method) shown areas of the road that aren't used, demonstrating areas where bollards and whatnot could be added with no effect on traffic.

In this case, the problem is that these portions of road are heavily used. The current configuration allows cars to make faster turns and go faster on the road, which is quite dangerous to pedestrians. Dramatically affecting traffic is the goal here.

by Zeus on Jun 13, 2014 1:01 pm • linkreport

@Atlas: There's at least one raised sidewalk crossing East Capitol NE from 12th to Lincoln Park.

by DC Transit Nerd on Jun 13, 2014 1:01 pm • linkreport

Atlas, even when you cross them at safe speeds, raised crosswalks are pretty hard on cars. It may just be that DC wants to use methods that don't kill people's suspensions, with all those associated repair costs. Which, I might add, hit the poor, who are driving lower quality and older vehicles, much harder. If you can use different methods that don't damage cars to achieve the same ends, that's preferable.

I should probably make some crack about potholes having the same effect and DC not caring about those, but I can't think of a good way to phrase it. Ah well.

by Zeus on Jun 13, 2014 1:06 pm • linkreport


I don't see it as having different effects. Both the sneckdown and the bollards here can show how much space that was given to cars that can be given back to pedestrians without actually removing a lane. It might still affect traffic through-put (but it might not either).

It's hard to determine scale from the picture but it looks like up to half the crosswalk is shortened on D street which removes up to half the potential conflict.

by drumz on Jun 13, 2014 1:08 pm • linkreport

These measures are great and very welcome. Crossing Maryland Avenue at 9th, 10th, and 7th are all super dangerous for pedestrians. Unfortunately, most of the concrete plans identified in the Maryland Avenue Pedestrian Safety Project including the road diet, separate turn lanes, bike lanes are delayed (maybe forever). Speeding cars are a really big issue on this stretch.

You can check out what could have/should have been here...

by HMan on Jun 13, 2014 1:15 pm • linkreport

A raised section might be tough on buses and trucks too.

by BTA on Jun 13, 2014 1:21 pm • linkreport

Not getting seriously hurt or killed > alleged suspension damage to vehicles (which I would imagine wouldn't even happen if people were driving an appropriate speed).

by h st ll on Jun 13, 2014 1:28 pm • linkreport

Montgomery County uses raised crosswalks in several locations, including near schools and along bus routes -

There is no reason to not put on Maryland. When I am with my daughter in a stroller, I only cross at 8th or walk to Stanton Park cue to the crappiness of the intersections elsewhere.

by Pete on Jun 13, 2014 1:36 pm • linkreport

Ditto h st ll. Life and limb are much more important than any car's suspension, regardless of its owner's income. If you are worried about your suspension, slow down going over raised crosswalks. (The joys of being car-free -- no suspension repairs, oil changes, new tires, timing belts, insurance payments, worrying about strange sounds...and, more money in your savings account every month! Oh yeah, add smugness. It's also pretty fun.)

Plus, the implied assumption that some large percentage car owners are all poor (and pedestrians are all rich?) is an interesting one given the cost of owning and maintaining a car.

And, if we are really worried about the poor, I would argue that making car ownership a requirement for participation in our economy and our society is the transportation public policy that is most cruel to the poor.

by rg on Jun 13, 2014 2:04 pm • linkreport

We have a raised sidewalk down here in SW on 4th St just north of M St, by the safeway and Waterfront metro. The stretch is a mess in general, but the raised sidewalk seems to work pretty well.

If you're paying attention while driving, you won't have any car problem with a raised sidewalk. If you're not paying attention, well... that's your fault. I'm in favor of strategic potholes too though, so what do I know.

by wd on Jun 13, 2014 2:37 pm • linkreport

I lived at 10th and Maryland for 4 years, walking and biking (about 50-50) through here on the way to the hill for work. This experience makes me feel justified in saying: "It's not a dangerous stretch of Maryland." Sure, the suggested improvements seem like good ideas, but the crossing with Constitution Ave is MUCH worse. Trying to cross Ga Ave in much of Petworth is worse too.

Doubtless I'll be attacked for disagreeing, but I believe the onus is on the author to show that something is dangerous, not just assert it. The plural of anecdote is not data.

by AnonJohn on Jun 13, 2014 3:05 pm • linkreport

When I first heard about the tragedy that befell the librarian at this spot, I was taken aback by the "so NOW we get infrastructure changes" attitude. Yes, infrastructure is a problem, but hello -- no one is FORCING those motorists to be speeding and not paying attention! Where is the E of enforcement? There are enough police in and around DC that some selective enforcement against motorists might be in order. The cars do not drive themselves!

by BikingMom on Jun 13, 2014 3:17 pm • linkreport

Nobody's forcing people to speed and not paying attention, but enforcement will only catch some people and will only be effective as long as someone is stationed in exactly that spot. If you change the infrastructure so that it makes drivers pay attention and not speed then that's a permanent change.

by MLD on Jun 13, 2014 3:28 pm • linkreport

A LOT of those intersections on Maryland NE between Massachusetts and starburst plaza could use those. Would love to see DDOT be more proactive with that.

Another oddball one is where 7th, Rhode Island, R, and Marion all converge near Shaw library. Its right near a Metro, so I guess the solution has been to just make every street face a lot of red lights, but a street redesign with some extra crosswalks and different light phasings would be very helpful.

Not only are the cars on Rhode Island whipping past pretty fast, but there's tons of jaywalking, particularly folks who are going to/from the Metro from the east...

by Vinnie on Jun 13, 2014 3:29 pm • linkreport

AnonJohn - The data from the pedestrian safety study showed that approximately 50% of the vehicles are exceeding the 25 mph speed limit (some very significantly). If I remember correctly, at some points in the early morning a significant number of drivers are going at least 40 mph (yikes). That is more than enough for me. Not to mentioned I've been nearly killed a thousand times by speeding cars in the 8 years I've lived at 9th and MD. Just try crossing 7th and MD at rush hours with a stroller - its frightening.

by HMan on Jun 13, 2014 3:49 pm • linkreport

I think I've already made my feelings quite clear how disappointed I am in how long this has taken...

@Atlas, there are raised crosswalks around Lincoln Park on East Capitol: on both sides where 12th St intersects, as well as at Kentucky and Tennessee. But I agree, we need more.

by dcmike on Jun 13, 2014 4:40 pm • linkreport

Is this the intersection near Kenny's Smokehouse?

by Capt. Hilts on Jun 14, 2014 12:55 pm • linkreport

I'm with @AnonJohn; having lived for 6 years in the 1300 block of Maryland Ave NE, the 1000 block of F NE, and the 700 block of G NE, i agree that many cars go too fast down Maryland Ave.

I did not have a car in my years there, and i walked or took transit everywhere. I found that even at rush hour, it was not hard to cross the street if one were paying attention. Crossing Maryland does sometimes require waiting on the median to finish crossing, but it's far from impossible or horridly dangerous. I'm not convinced that huge changes need be made to inhibit motorists, though bulb-outs are reasonable at various places, like 7th, D, and Maryland.

Usually, the speeding cars are inbound in morning rush and outbound in evening rush, and paying attention to traffic at unsignalized crossings does wonders for self-preservation. So does quasi-random mid-block crossings when there are gaps in traffic.

by dcseain on Jun 14, 2014 1:41 pm • linkreport

As someone who sometimes drives along Maryland Avenue to commute it looks like the area in question is a far more useful location for a speed camera than some underpass on the SW Freeway.

After all, speed cameras are about "safety", aren't they?

Just saying...

by August4 on Jun 14, 2014 2:06 pm • linkreport

@ rg

And when Metro buses need more maintenance/replacement parts thanks to raised crosswalks and pass along the cost to riders will you be OK with that?

[Deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by August4 on Jun 15, 2014 2:12 pm • linkreport

Captain Obvious says, "Slow down over speed humps. Keeps everyone safe. Prevents vehicle damage."


by DaveG on Jun 16, 2014 8:32 am • linkreport

Finally! I live right near this intersection and am always stunned by the many drivers who do not stop for pedestrians crossing the road. Often they simply shift lanes and zoom past the person using the crosswalk. More often than not, the license plates read "Maryland."

The occasional disguised speed camera car has done little to deter speeding on Maryland Ave as well. It is always parked at the same location(intersection of 12th, F, & Maryland) and apart from other vehicles so it stands out like a sore thumb. They need to install permanent speed cameras at each intersection.

Getting a bikeshare bike from the Maryland and D St station can be hairy as well - Maryland is not the safest street to cross with a bike. A contraflow bike lane on D would be a welcome addition. Put sharrows in the main lane and convert the existing bike lane to a contraflow lane. This would improve access to Union Station without having to ride past Stanton Park and the heavier traffic of Maryland Ave.

by Brendan on Jun 16, 2014 10:00 am • linkreport

Captain Obvious says, "Slow down over speed humps. Keeps everyone safe. Prevents vehicle damage."

No, it doesn't. Even at safe speeds, speed humps damage cars.

And yes, people's lives are more important than car suspensions- but the simple point is that there are ways to slow traffic and prevent those accidents without damaging cars. Like the proposed bulb outs and similar measures. Damaging people's suspensions is a harm. If you can solve the problem without harming people in that manner, you should do it. And we can.

by Zeus on Jun 16, 2014 11:21 am • linkreport

One of the key changes here that no one has commented on is that the crosswalks are also being moved out of the middle of the intetrsection. I go through this intersection regularly on D street. It's nerve wracking. Drivers can't see fast approaching traffic on Maryland due to the oblique angle, and 7th street traffic often shoots out from a blind spot. Worst, though, is you cross four walkways in the intersection just to go straight across (look it up on Google Maps). One is a 6 lane wide crosswalk on the west side of 7th street right across the middle of the intersection. Even for a careful driver (me), it's really hard to track all the different inputs. Forget bulb outs and raised crosswalks, this intersection needs a traffic light.

by Cap Hill on Jun 16, 2014 11:29 am • linkreport

Plus, the implied assumption that some large percentage car owners are all poor (and pedestrians are all rich?) is an interesting one given the cost of owning and maintaining a car.

And, if we are really worried about the poor, I would argue that making car ownership a requirement for participation in our economy and our society is the transportation public policy that is most cruel to the poor.

Simple fact of life in DC- the poor are much less able to afford to live in places with good access to transit. The cheap rents are not in buildings anywhere close to metro. These days, poverty is not concentrated in urban cores, it's in suburbs and transit poor areas. So the alternative is either a car, or 2 buses and a metro each way. A car doesn't cost as much as you think it does- you can get a junker for about $1000 at any lot on Georgia Avenue, and gas, while expensive, is cheaper than taking the metro every day. The real cost with driving is when you have to pay for parking, but that's not entirely relevant everywhere in DC.

The idea that poor people are overwhelmingly taking transit is outdated. Poverty has shifted out of the city core, and with that trend, transit use has decreased.

And sure, making car ownership mandatory is indeed tough on the poor. But the answer to that is not making it harder to own cars, the answer to that is a housing policy that makes significant amounts of affordable housing available near Metro. If you want a 1BR right near metro in a decent area, that's what, $1800 a month? If you want a 1BR in a poorer area far removed from transit, it's $800 a month. You can easily buy a crappy car with the difference. Car ownership is a lot cheaper than living near the metro.

I'm in favor of dramatically expanding the transit network and affordable housing. But until those things can happen, we need to work with the realities that do exist. And that means a recognition that transit in this city does not serve the poor particularly well.

by Zeus on Jun 16, 2014 11:39 am • linkreport

"The idea that poor people are overwhelmingly taking transit is outdated. Poverty has shifted out of the city core, and with that trend, transit use has decreased."

The users of local bus services in the suburbs are overwhelmingly poor. There is also significant use of bikes for transportation by the poor, at least in NoVa. Transit may not be associated with the poor in this region as much as it once was, but the notion that most carfree people are affluent and most auto using people are not is, I believe, incorrect.

Also making possible more affordable housing near transit means making it possible to walk further, safely, to transit.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 16, 2014 11:45 am • linkreport

@Zeus - Then maybe, just maybe, what you consider to be a "safe" speed over a speed hump may just be a bit too fast of a speed to safely cross over a speed hump. Just a thought. A "safe" speed does not always equate to how fast you want to go. And yes, I include car damage within my definition of safety here, as a too-fast speed over a speed hump can also injure people riding in that vehicle.

by DaveG on Jun 16, 2014 11:50 am • linkreport

I used to live right near there. I don't understand why all the plans involve strange changes to the road and not the simple addition of street lights. Most of the intersections with Maryland around here have street lights. Seems like a simple fix to me.

by Brian White on Jun 21, 2014 7:41 am • linkreport

Brian White agreed

by asffa on Jun 21, 2014 11:02 am • linkreport

I was delighted when I saw this being done this week. This was supposed to be done two years ago -- just don't understand DDOT being slow on this.

Nevertheless, this morning --I was at the corner watching drivers' traffic behaviors. Unfortunately, drivers driving on 7th Street southbound; they made a right turn, then stupid and dangerous u-turn 10 yard down the road (right in front of DDOT crew who are trying to finish up the works). Saw these stupid/dangerous u-turn TWICE -- the drivers attempted u-turn, they didn't make a fully u-turn, they back up (blocking west bound traffic on Maryland Ave) before making full u-turn. There was no "No U-turn" signage -- hopefully DDOT will set one up today.

Few thoughts -- hope DDOT is reading this:

Some of new created pedestrian safety zones -- GREAT but they could be confusion. I understand they will "colored" the pedestrian safety zones -- that's good; I suggested we add stripes (white reflection) because at night, no drivers will be able to see the "colored" pedestrian safety zones. This stripe also will give a "message" to anyone NOT to park on the new pedestrian safety zones.

I'm concern about the temporary cones near bus stop -- most of the Metrobus drivers doesn't have the skills to navigate driving in and out of bus stop spaces (or bays).

Would a one or two of new created pedestrian safety zones become Capital Bikeshare station area? The bikeshare station we have on D Street (next to Maryland) is best candidate to move -- and restore one or two parking spaces that was taken away. Again as I stated above, drivers will avoid parking or stopping at new created pedestrian safety zones.

Is there a chance DDOT will install traffic light at the intersection for east bound driver on D Street NE? I am NOT convinced this will avoid any accidents as in the past.

Note: If a traffic light is possible, please use the latest technology -- if a car showed up on D Street; let the system check if they could change the traffic light to green. I'm sick of many of obsolete traffic system in DC -- I often have to wait 3 or 4 minutes in middle of night and no one is driving!!! I know this is a separate subject (if this been covered in GGW, please direct us to pages - Thanks!).

by Dave on Jul 12, 2014 10:45 am • linkreport

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