After two men worked to paint a crosswalk on a Southeast street in the wake of a couple of recent deaths and several near-misses, District officials including council members are acting with expediency to secure the safety of all pedestrians, including extending some sidewalks in Southeast.
Council member David Grosso joined fellow members Anita Bonds, Elissa Silverman, Brianne Nadeau, Mary Cheh, Brandon Todd, and Charles Allen in introducing legislation that would increase pedestrian safety at crosswalks by requiring curb extensions as part of any future District Department of Transportation (DDOT) road improvements.
“All road users, especially pedestrians, are incredibly vulnerable at intersections,” Grosso said in a news release. “Unfortunately, we are reminded of this too often with the deaths of pedestrians in crosswalks, like Monica Adams Carlson and Cora Louise Adams just a few blocks away from here on Pennsylvania Avenue.”
The councilman was referring to a December incident when bus driver Gerard James of Baltimore struck and killed Carlson, who was mayor of Skagway, Alaska, and Adams, a D.C. resident, while they were in a crosswalk at Pennsylvania Avenue and 7th Street in Northwest.
James, who was charged with involuntary manslaughter, reportedly was distracted by handling his cellphone.
Ronald Thompson and Michael Kaercher said they painted a crosswalk on 16th Street in Anacostia last week because the city’s transportation department has reacted slowly to requests there.
Thompson told a local news outlet that he put in a request to the department in October for a painted crosswalk in an area where there’s a bus stop sign, a sign warning of a blind pedestrian and cut curbs on both sides of the street.
“These kids I see, these parents, these grandparents walking their kids to school, they do not have a safe accommodation here,” Thompson told WTTG-TV (Channel 5).
He said the area also has a school zone sign with flashing lights blocked by a utility pole.
And just a few feet away, there’s another sidewalk with cut curbs and no crosswalk that also poses a risk to those walking to school.
He teamed with Kaercher, who lives in Northeast, in calling for safer streets in the District.
“If the city isn’t going to do it, and it’s something I can do — in this case, I felt like I could do it and so I did it,” Kaercher said.
The men said they got the job done in about two hours with cost for supplies totaling $150.
It was just a few blocks away that a man walking was hit and killed this month after police said a driver ran a stop sign.
The day of the crash, Thompson and other neighbors said they had been calling for a four-way stop and other safety improvements for a long time.
Less than a week after the crash, DDOT changed the intersection to a four-way stop and painted new crosswalks.
“It should not take angry, upset people, it should not take a death for us to get necessary changes to make people safe, particularly in Ward 8,” Thompson told WTTG.
Council’s Curb Extension Act of 2019 would target intersections for improvement by forcing the transportation department to extend the curbs whenever it performs road reconstruction or repaving work.
Curb extensions lengthen the curb to align with parking lanes and reduce the amount of time pedestrians spend in the crosswalk.
“Curb extensions make pedestrians safer,” Grosso said. “Pedestrians are more visible to drivers, crossing times are shortened, and vehicles are forced to slow down at intersections. As an added benefit, it also expands opportunities to beautify our streets and expand our urban tree canopy with additional greenery.”
Meeting D.C.’s “Vision Zero” goals of eliminating serious injuries and deaths on city roads means shifting the culture of the transportation department to focus on the safety of all modes of transportation, not just cars, Grosso said.
“This will never happen as long as we continually rebuild our dangerous intersections in their same unsafe configurations,” he said.