03 Oct 2018

Capitol Hill:

Where are Capitol Hill’s Worst Intersections? A First Look at Our Collected Data

Map of Terrible Capitol Hill intersections. Click to see a larger version.

Last week, I decided to ask a simple question: Which intersections scare you the most around Capitol Hill and surrounding areas?

I’m still trying to digest the results of my question. So many of you tweeted and shared tweets from your fellow neighbors: Thank you! There is a host of broken intersections around the Hill and surrounding areas– as far west as Dave Thomas Circle (New York/Florida/First Street NE), as far east as 17th Street at several points, and from Florida Avenue to M Street SE/SW. Reader Bryan Rodda kindly volunteered to make a map of the intersections that you, the readers, complained most about. You can see that map here (but we have a screenshot here as well). This map is not nearly as comprehensive as the one that was commissioned over a year ago and was cited in a Washington Post article, which you can see here, but it’s a start. (Here is another citywide crowdsourced map I came across as well.) If you want to keep sending me bad intersections, I will go ahead and add them as time allows.

By just looking at the map and the results –which, given the number of entries (74), is a very good sample size–  I drew several conclusions:

  • It’s very clear that the intersections around our parks make pedestrians and cyclists quite vulnerable. Many readers drew attention to all four corners of Lincoln Park (11th and 13th at East Capitol, Massachusetts and North Carolina Avenues), as well as the crossings at the north and south ends of 12th Street. ANC commissioner Amber Gove said that while much has been done to make these intersections safer, there remains much work to do.
  • The intersections around Stanton Park (4th and 6th Streets NE at C Street, Maryland Avenue and Massachusetts Avenue) are also terrible. Many of you complained especially bitterly about 6th and Massachusetts NE– and oh boy, do we ALL have complaints about Massachusetts Avenue as a whole– but everyone agreed that speed and red-light runners are particularly vicious at the east end of the park.
  • Bryan pointed out that, as a whole, Massachusetts Avenue is a mess. There was no other street that had as many problem intersections as Massachusetts, with the possible exception of C Street NE. From the traffic snarls around Columbus Circle to Stanton Park; continuing through the crazy intersection at 7th and Constitution; around Lincoln Park, as mentioned above; and finally, as the avenue gets ready to dead-end at DC General, at 16th and 18th Streets SE; Massachusetts Avenue engenders danger and chaos through the twin allies of low visibility and two-way stops.
  • Speaking of two-way stops, 8th and D Streets –both NE and SE– made an appearance. Other two-way intersections to chill the blood include 14th and A NE, 3rd and A NE, 3rd and Maryland NE, 10th and South Carolina SE. 13th and I SE. The top reviled two-way street? New Jersey and I Streets SE, in the Navy Yard neighborhood. From the descriptions in readers’ tweets, it sounds like this specific street crossing can no longer handle the volume of traffic going through on a daily basis and really needs a traffic light. Most other two-way intersections would benefit from being four-way stops; unfortunately, DDOT doesn’t think an intersection like 8th and D NE (where Music on the Hill is located) warrants an all-way stop, even though pedestrian traffic is heavy through that intersection
  • Bryan also pointed out that 2nd Street NE needs help. It’s congested and narrow and people tend to get run over at the intersection of 2nd and F, NE.

These are just a few conclusions. Feel free to leave us a comment on Facebook or tweet at us, letting us know your thoughts. But before I go, here are some additional thoughts on this matter.

Today marks the one-year anniversary of my tweeting continuously about the intersection at 6th and Maryland Avenue, NE. I took to Twitter for several reasons:

  1. It’s a good platform to have a (mostly) rational conversation
  2. It puts you in touch directly with government agencies and elected officials, both of whom can take a look at the history of a problem and potentially make a difference
  3. I wanted to make sure it was not just my voice. Throughout this year, I’ve had fellow residents/Twitterers join in and share their problems with this intersection. When people perceive that it’s just one person trying to impose his or her will on the population (i.e. request a red-light camera), things can get nasty*. There is safety in numbers.

While crossing at 6th Street and C is the safer option for my commuting route in particular –taking my younger child to school– for many of my neighbors, taking the northbound 6th Street cycletrack is how they take their children to Ludlow-Taylor Elementary, School Within School, J. O. Wilson Elementary and Two Rivers PCS, among other schools along that route. During rush hour, many pedestrians cross at Maryland Avenue as well, either to catch the X8 or the D6 routes to work. Regrettably, drivers moving westbound on Maryland Avenue NE routinely fail to stop at the red light, endangering traffic crossing Maryland and C Streets and 6th Street. A red-light camera would be a deterrent to this behavior and would discourage people from speeding through both 6th and 5th Streets NE.

Surely there were people who shared my concern for 6th and Maryland.

The combination of speed and blatant disregard for the rules at this intersection is not an aberration, however: It’s just one small vignette of life for a pedestrian all around Capitol Hill and the city. Maryland may get a fix soon, as part of the Maryland Avenue Project, but other intersections are not as well-studied and therefore not as lucky. So many of you shared your bad intersection stories, and I don’t want these stories to be another footnote that we revisit in a year. I am tired of seeing how the city prioritizes car flow over pedestrians’ needs. Four-way stops and, if necessary, speed tables should help control intersections where there are children. Yes, it’s a hassle to motorists, but it’s a bigger hassle to pedestrians and cyclists to get hit.

Finally, I hate that memorials and protests have become our new “normal,” but there will be a memorial for Tom Hollowell, the cyclist who was crushed and killed by a car who failed to stop on 12th and Constitution last week. The Hollowell family lost a father, a husband and a grandfather, and we all received the message that the lives of people who do not use cars to move around town are less important, somehow. Details on the memorial can be found here.

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* Believe it or not (and I know you’ll believe it), there are some people who feel very strongly about their transit needs. They can get aggressive when they feel their needs are not being met. A friend of mine found out just how aggressive people can get. It scares me to think that, among my neighbors, there could be someone who would be so upset about change that they’d want to threaten me.

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