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What's your experience walking on Connecticut Avenue?

Residents along Connecticut Avenue from Woodley Park to Chevy Chase DC have created the Connecticut Avenue Pedestrian Action project to improve pedestrian safety along this important street.

Portion of CAPA's map.

Connecticut Avenue is the main street for many neighborhoods along its length, and a major commuter route from Maryland. Its wide cross-section and reversible lanes accommodate heavy traffic during rush periods, but also lead drivers to speed off-peak.

Local officials and residents have long grappled with pedestrian safety. Many pedestrian crashes happen there, especially in problem spots like the intersection with Nebraska Avenue which has more than its share of pedestrians killed and injured.

CAPA has raised funding for an audit of pedestrian safety by Toole Design. To help collect data, they would like people who walk in the area to take a brief survey and identify trouble spots on the interactive map.

What has your experience been along Connecticut Avenue? How do you suggest DC improve this key road?

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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One major problem with both Connecticut and Wisconsin Aves is that there are crosswalks across 6 lanes of 35 mph traffic with nothing more than a couple of white lines and a yellow sign. It's dangerous for pedestrians and difficult for drivers (I spend a lot of time as both).

Even if you're not speeding, stopping in time for pedestrians becomes a real exercise in attention and diligence, particularly after dark. And even if you do stop, most pedestrians are understandably afraid to cross because there are still cars whizzing by on 5 other lanes.

I wish these crossings were at least given more visual prominence by having zebra stripes rather than just two parallel lines.

by dand on Mar 30, 2010 11:20 am • linkreport

It's been a long time since I lived on Connecticut, and it also the one place I got a jay-walking ticket in DC.

I'll confess to speeding. Part of the reason is the light timing -- it feels like you need to go faster to make the greens.

Better crosswalks might help -- I think they have been improved in the last ten years. The ones by the zoo are silly large.

Having working "push to walk" buttons that are a bit more intelligent would be nice too. Have them work during non-rush hour times (when light timing isn't so key) to let pedestrians get a walk signal and light. I know as a resident during off hours it was easier to cross outside the crosswalks and not with lights rather than wait for the light.

Much as it pains me to say it, a well placed speed camera could do a lot to slow traffic down.

Is Connecticut Ave really so dangerous? Or do a lot of people live there? And how nice would a streetcar be?

by charlie on Mar 30, 2010 11:42 am • linkreport

I've lived on CT Ave for quite some time and I have frankly, seen it all.

The "grab a flag and run into the street" pedestrian experiment south of Chevy Chase was a epic failure, mostly because people would simply jump into the street regardless of time, without looking and stride across the street thinking that little flag acted as an impenetrable shield against 2 tons of metal. The fact that they did it right between two signalized intersections a block in either direction was even dumber. If pedestrians can't or won't walk a block to a signalized intersection to ensure their own safety, and simply run out into a street with 6 lanes of rush hour traffic while dragging their kid behind them, gabbing on the phone (which I see weekly on CT), then they deserve the trip to the hospital.

A couple times a week during evening rush, I see people trying to dart across Connecticut against the light. Yeah, is it inconvenient to walk a whole block, maybe even two to a signalized intersection? C'mon now. No new pedestrian light, flag, system is going to stop those idiots from themselves. The only time they will stop is when they unfortunately end up as a hood ornament.

There isn't a problem with pedestrian safety as long as pedestrians keep to the countless signalized crosswalks between Woodley and Chevy Chase, and drivers stay off the sidewalks. Its when pedestrians think that they are entitled to cross anywhere at any time that we have a problem. For both people and cars to peacefully coexist on the road, both sides have to realize that each have R-O-W "half" the time, and to respectfully acknowledge that and wait their turn.

It costs $40K per typical 4 way intersection just for the pedestrian signals. Why bother spending astronomical sums of money to ensure a safe and orderly "transfer of R-O-W" from cars to people, if people won't use them?

by nookie on Mar 30, 2010 11:57 am • linkreport

Too many signals are pointed in the wrong direction, and they go for days or weeks before anyone fixes them. Apparently you can just move them with your hand? This really has a lot of potential to be dangerous -- there must be a way to prevent people from doing this. At Connecticut and Ordway right now, for instance, one traffic light is pointed straight into the Sam's Park & Shop lot.

by David S. on Mar 30, 2010 12:00 pm • linkreport

The main problem with pedestrian safety on Connecticut Avenue that I've witnessed is jaywalking.

I commute on Connecticut every day - I used to drive south to VA on it, and now I drive north to Montgomery County on it.

I had a near miss with a pedestrian once in Cleveland Park - it was dark and raining and a man in a black coat crossed in the middle of the block, emerging from between two parked cars. Luckily, I was able to stop.

People do speed and the road is wide, but the pedestrians who are crossing in the middle of the blocks need to take responsibility, too. Where this is worst is in Cleveland Park, Van Ness and Chevy Chase.

by Grace on Mar 30, 2010 12:09 pm • linkreport

On Connecticut Avenue at Woodley Park you will see hundreds of vehicles speeding and running red lights any morning. Seriously, stand outside Woodley Park metro and watch the crosswalk: every light cycle features at least a couple of guys sneaking through orange/red lights. Vehicles accelerate between red lights as if they're in a drag race. But the only enforcement I've seen by MPD is when they periodically ticket jaywalkers.

by renegade09 on Mar 30, 2010 12:12 pm • linkreport

If pedestrians can't or won't walk a block to a signalized intersection to ensure their own safety, and simply run out into a street with 6 lanes of rush hour traffic while dragging their kid behind them, gabbing on the phone (which I see weekly on CT), then they deserve the trip to the hospital.

Nookie, this comment is reprehensible. The crosswalks are signed and marked. It is the law for drivers to stop for pedestrians crossing, and it is not the solely the responsibility of the pedestrian to drive at the speed limit and pay attention to one's surroundings.

In an area that sees as much foot traffic as Chevy Chase, there should not be such log distances between stoplights. Instead, the area has four highly marked crossings. There should be no confusion as to whether pedestrians have a right to periodically crossing the street in that area. I used to think the flags were silly, but they do dramatically increase the visibility of pedestrians, and most people do obey them.

by Neil Flanagan on Mar 30, 2010 12:14 pm • linkreport

Anyway, the point of this survey is to help a traffic group study the patterns and problems of the street objectively.

by Neil Flanagan on Mar 30, 2010 12:17 pm • linkreport

A small suggestion that's less pet peeve and more a source of amusement everytime I'm out there... fix the bus shelters so they don't read "Connecticutt" anymore :)

by Bossi on Mar 30, 2010 12:30 pm • linkreport

@Neil and nookie

Yes, crosswalks should be more frequent in some of these areas. But pedestrians crossing the street have a duty to use the crosswalks and should be responsible in that regard. I'm sorry, but if cars randomly drove on sidewalks, this would not even be an argument. However, when the reverse happens and people meander into the street without even looking it's suddenly a big deal.

Clearly, having more crosswalks would cut down on jaywalking. But the lack of crosswalks right now does not justify jaywalking when it is possible to go just a block over and safely cross the street.

by Teo on Mar 30, 2010 12:33 pm • linkreport

I'm not talking about jaywalking. I'm talking about respecting crosswalks that already exist but seem to peeve motorists.

by Neil Flanagan on Mar 30, 2010 12:42 pm • linkreport

If cars randomly drove on sidewalks, this would not even be an argument. However, when the reverse happens and people meander into the street without even looking it's suddenly a big deal.

Clueless post of the Day. Congrats!

While we're fantasizing, though, I think that they should install more of those little orange flags you find in Chevy Chase, DC. Only we should modify them to include a 2-3 pound lead weight in the handle. Then modify the DC code to permit pedestrians to defend their right-of-way at unsignalized intersections by tossing them through the windshields of autos whose drivers refuse to yield the ROW.

Jesus, it never ceases to amaze me what fucking bullies a certain subset of drivers can be.

by oboe on Mar 30, 2010 12:49 pm • linkreport

The crosswalks across CT and Wisconsin without traffic lights (I;'m thinking in particular of Wisconsin by Idaho - where a pedestrian was struck and killed by a police car) are literally death traps.

As a driver, it can be very difficult to see someone in that crosswalk until you're literally right in front of them.

As a pedestrian, using that legal crosswalk saves having to walk a ways to the nearest light to cross the street.

I don't know what the solution is since you can't have a streetlight at every intersection, otherwise you'll cause a traffic jam and simply send cars off onto residential sidestreets. Yet you also can't have legal crosswalks that can pose a significant danger to pedestrians.

Generally I dislike speed cameras b/c they're nothing more than revenue generators and, once people know where they are, they just hit the brakes in front of them and then resume their normal speed. But one way to slow down traffic on the long stretches of CT and Wisc avenues would be to have a series of speed cameras set up along those long stretches. This wouldn't prevent pedestrians from getting hit, but could slow down the speed of cars.

And at intersections like Calvert and CT or Wisconsin and Nebraska, you need both red light cameras as well as lights that stop traffic in all directions and allow pedestrians to cross. That seems like the easiest solution.

by Fritz on Mar 30, 2010 12:50 pm • linkreport

For what it is worth, there are still orange flags at the intersection of Northampton and Connecticut.

by Andrew on Mar 30, 2010 1:12 pm • linkreport

How should DC improve this key road?

How about getting some police officers to do their jobs and enforce traffic laws?

Every afternoon I walk down Connecticut through Forest Hills. Every day I see the bulk of traffic blasting along above 45 miles per hour, with at least a dozen motorists chatting on mobile phones.

The District can't even be bothered to pick this low-hanging fruit by ticketing law-breakers; it certainly doesn't care to protect pedestrians along this stretch.

by CP on Mar 30, 2010 1:12 pm • linkreport

A couple of things come to mind. One, find some way to address people running red lights at Calvert and Connecticut, particularly the right turn lane to go north up Connecticut. Seems like 1/3 of the drivers run the red, 1/3 obey and 1/3 stop at the red but stop paying attention and sit there through the green arrow.

Also, improve the traffic lights at 24th and Connecticut, particularly for the southbound Conn. Ave traffic. I think there's a visibility issue there that causes a lot of cars to run the red without realizing it. There are two sets of marked stop lines (one before you can turn right on 24th, and one right after). Seems like the light is not quite as visible from the second line, so drives may assume they've cleared the light, and can keep going, even after pedestrians start crossing on the walk signal, when traffic gets backed up.

by Mike on Mar 30, 2010 1:18 pm • linkreport

Amen Mike. The light at Conn and 24th is pretty bad. Ends up with the traffic from 24th honking at the Conn traffic, so they try to inch up further through the pedestrians using the crosswalk. It could be easily solved by having a light that you can see from the second white line.

Otherwise, Conn is pretty good up until Chevy Chase, where it just seems too wide open.

by Brian S. on Mar 30, 2010 1:58 pm • linkreport

Veezy Terr. over by UDC where the H2 & N8 turn off of Connecticut Ave is a bad intersection the lights are two short and western side has traffic coming in all directions.

One problem is the crosswalks many intersections only have one cross walk whereas most streets have 2 crosswalk on each of the 4 corners.

Some crosswalks and some lights are two short/long.

by kk on Mar 30, 2010 2:56 pm • linkreport

What about a DuPont Circle underpass solution fro some portions of CT Avenue, such as at the DC-MD line?

by Douglas A. Willinger on Mar 30, 2010 3:56 pm • linkreport

@kk -- There are crosswalks on all four sides of every intersection; some of them just aren't marked. By statute, peds have right of way at crosswalks regardless of whether they are marked. The real problem is that DDOT sometimes designs intersections so that the unmarked crosswalks are too dangerous to use -- they're exceeding their statutory authority when they do that.

by Eileen on Mar 30, 2010 4:00 pm • linkreport

as Eileen says where there's a street intersection there's a legal crossing for people on foot, but too often it's too dangerous to use that crossing, i.e. Newark @ Conn. Av. Drivers often think people who do claim their right are "jay walking" (see Grace's comment above) They're not.

by Bianchi on Mar 30, 2010 4:21 pm • linkreport

I used to spend a lot of time walking on Connecticut and, frankly, there are worse places to walk. K Street comes to mind, with its traffic islands and lights that street synchronized against walking (I ST is much better). The Connecticut/Calvert intersection is terrible for all parties concerned. The flag thing in Chevy Chase was silly and didn't work. Many of the problems are at complex intersections where streets don't really cross Connecticut directly--I'm thinking the the areas near Calvert-Woodley liquors and Pier 1. I am a longtime J-walker, but have sense enough to do it when the traffic won't kill me. I don't think more lights or crosswalks will change that very much.

by Rich on Mar 30, 2010 6:47 pm • linkreport

I was actually talking about people crossing in the middle of a block, not at a street corner/crossing. Like people who jump into the street at Van Ness where the metro escalators are rather than walking the 15 feet south to get to the cross walk at Veazey.

Or the people who cross in Cleveland Park in the middle of the block, emerging between parked cars and jumping into traffic.

What I don't get is people who stand waiting for their opportunity to cross in the middle of a block, when they could walk 15 feet to a crosswalk or signaled intersection and cross safely.

That being said, drivers are pretty crappy on Connecticut, too. I saw a driver scream at a crossing guard near Albemarle the other morning. She was letting kids across the street and some jerk was screaming at her.

by Grace on Mar 30, 2010 10:32 pm • linkreport

I've lived on Connecticut Ave for about a year now a few blocks above the Van Ness metro. This flag stuff is a bit of a mystery to me, but I would never, never cross at a crosswalk that does not have a light during rush hour. I've seen several accidents just walking home every day, and one woman get hit by a car (she was lucky, and seemed to get up without a problem).

I've found that the hardest street to cross around there is Nebraska Ave around Chesapeake Street by Ft. Reno. The light NEVER changes, and I always have to cross during a traffic lull. It drives me crazy.

by R on Mar 31, 2010 9:19 am • linkreport

To clarify my earlier post: the woman who was hit by a car was crossing at a cross walk, but one that was not at a light.

by R on Mar 31, 2010 10:59 am • linkreport

Wish this addressed Connecticut south of Woodley. There are several intersections where you literally cannot cross the entire width of Connecticut Avenue without sprinting -- or jaywalking.

Ex. 1: Crossing Connecticut at T. The light is such that if you're on the west side of Connecticut trying to cross, you get stuck in the median because the pedestrian crosswalk light turns off before you cross the eastern lanes. And who wants to stand in a median on Connecticut with cars barreling down the road at 45 mph?

Ex. 2. the crosswalk at 18th St (going from the west side to the east side). There you don't even get a raised median. If you obeyed the rules and stopped crossing when the light changed, you'd be stuck in the middle of the road with a theoretical median made up of only yellow lines. Yeah, I feel safe.

by lou on Mar 31, 2010 11:25 am • linkreport

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