DDOT's pedestrian safety improvements forget the part that protects pedestrians
After an SUV driver struck and killed a pedestrian at the "Death Star" intersection of 15th, W, Florida and New Hampshire at 10:30 am on May 30, DDOT Director Gabe Klein released a draft plan of safety improvements for this dangerous crossroads. By not closing the dangerous "slip lane" from 15th Street to W Street and Florida Avenue, the draft proposal did not improve the intersection as much as it should have. However, the plan included bike lanes and reduced lane widths, both steps in the right direction.
But between the draft plan released by Director Klein and the on-the-ground changes in place now, a few things got lost in translation. Most noticeably, DDOT didn't install the quick curbs, intended to reduce the turning radius at the intersection and reduce the distance pedestrians must cross. Without these temporary physical barriers, some drivers will continue make high-speed, wide turns and needlessly endanger people in crosswalks.
It's unclear whether the quick curb was axed from the plan within DDOT before the intersection improvements were approved for implementation, or if DDOT still hasn't gotten around to installing this crucial addition to the intersection, but they did put barriers into the triangular striped area south of the intersection, which isn't the part in need of traffic calming.
The original plan (below) calls for quick curbs at both ends of the crosswalk along the south side of W, and around the small island in the middle. DDOT painted stripes, but didn't install barriers. The photo, taken looking south from Florida Ave, shows how cars commonly drive in the striped area.
If the draft proposal didn't go far enough, the plan as implemented barely goes anywhere at all. While striping adjustments were necessary, simple lines of paint are not enough to significantly improve safety at this dangerous intersection in the short-term. This adjustment was supposed to be a temporary fix so that DDOT can observe the intersection for six months before hiring a consultant for a complete redesign. If DDOT eliminated the quick curb from this plan, the outlook is dim for a more meaningful permanent redesign down the road.
Someone died here. It's time for bold steps to fix this intersection, which residents have been complaining about for a long time. DDOT should use its quick curbs to make significant changes, then see how well they work, instead of watering down and already-mild concept and leaving a dangerous intersection virtually unchanged.
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