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I think I spoke to this motorcyclist at the scene.

Sounds like yet another case of one lane of traffic stopping but the other continuing without seeing someone. I never cross there without a gap in traffic. No more crossing in front of stopped cars for me. Thanks, but keep moving.

My solution, which will of course never ever happen, is to narrow that area to one lane to slow traffic and make crossing safer.

I hate to say this but the fact that a pedestrian was involved rather than a cyclist might make it more likely that NPS will get off their arses and do something about these crossings. People on foot tend to get a bit more sympathy. A good place to start would be some basic signage that alerts drivers to the crossings and asks them to slow down or *gasp* dare I say "yield" to people in the crosswalk.

I'm going to see if we can get some DC recreational trails money dedicated to this. Ideally we'd build an underpass.

aaa - Interestingly it's the drivers that yield that cause the problems at these crossings, which led the NPS to ticket drivers who stopped for people to cross (I'm not sure they do this anymore as ticketing drivers doesn't really help this issue in my opnion). WABA had a recent meeting with NPS and these intersections came up. Apparently NPS is looking into it.

Part of the issue is that drivers are increasingly disconnected from what is happening outside and around their motor vehicles.

I'm especially alarmed at the "safety" and informational displays that are common on new vehicles today. Does a driver really need to be staring at a screen inside the car detailing traffic jams ahead rather than keeping their eyes on the road?

A couple weeks ago I was riding on the Matthew Henson trail (that uses a hawk signal to stop traffic?) so one could cross Veirs Mill Road. I pressed the button, and waited while 3 or 4 cars in the right lane came to a complete stop. As I started to cross I observed another car come over the hill about 200 hundred yards away.

Rather than proceed I waited in front of the stopped cars in the right lane. Sure enough the other car sped past myself standing in the cross walk and the 4 stopped cars without ever even slowing down.

This was in broad daylight. The driver would have had 8 - 10 seconds to see me and 4 cars in the road all stopped, to see that he had a red light(?) and was required to stop.

P.S. - Their is a pole with a button that trail users are instructed to push to cross. But I couldn't tell what motorists saw when I did so. Nonetheless when I pushed the button the first 4 cars are immediately slowed and stopped.

Interestingly it's the drivers that yield that cause the problems at these crossings

Couldn't agree more. In fact, the situation is very similar to the Capitol Crescent Trail near Bethesda. I can't count the number of times I've been on my bike, riding 25-30 mph, and nearly rear-ended someone because they slowed down to accommodate the slow-moving pedestrian traffic.

The solution is to keep up your speed, and ring your bell letting the pedestrians know to "GTFOOMW".

When cyclists slow, all it does is endanger everyone as pedestrians are encouraged to walk, talk, and not pay attention, and cyclists slowing down just make it more likely that the cyclists who don't slow down will plow into someone.

It's much better if we all behave with consistency, and act as though the pedestrians aren't there.

Agree 100% with Oboe. Drivers who yield are not the problem.

Would a bike/ped overpass be a better solution than an underpass? I don't know about engineering costs but it seems that an overpass would be less expensive. Or maybe that's incorrect. Certainly a bike/ped overpass doesn't have to be as hardy as an automobile bridge.

I also like the overpass better for safety reasons.

If anything like this is built, there would need to be grade-separated crossings for both the GW Parkway and the Washington Blvd. ramp. Both of those crossings are dangerous.

Underpass/Overpass? Well, a traffic signal would cost a lot less and probably wouldn't take 10 years to build.

An underpass may be more expensive, but getting an overpass on NPS land might be tough. It would change the view from the parkway and that might be a killer.

Also, for trail users it's less convenient. The change in grade would be greater (probably 18 feet or so up instead of 10 feet down).

Why is an overpass safer?

Why is an overpass safer?

Perhaps because sometimes creeps hide and wait in underpasses in order rob people.

overpass == safer because you can see pervs on the overpass

wrt the comment about the perspective of drivers re cycling:

NPS having no idea what to do. I'd start by enforcing the 25 mph speed limit. But they won't.


Why do you hate freedom?

If we're talking about shelling out money for underpasses, why not dig out for the cars to go under? It might even cost less to build, and also less to maintain both road and trail that way, no?

And as far as where the funding comes from, something's just not quite right having Trails money spent because drivers can't seem to figure out how to safely operate their vehicles.

I agree with "I forgot" that a stop light should be the inexpensive solution, though it's been my experience that many drivers disregard a crosswalk only light. In fact, since people seem to not be trusted to stop for lights, perhaps railroad crossing barriers should be installed. I say this half joking, but it's kind of funny that it might take that.

I'm not married to the idea of a bike underpass. If the car underpass is cheaper - so be it. Or if an overpass is doable - I'm fine with that. Let's just say that I favor grade separation and that I suspect that after a study were completed that a trail underpass would turn out to be the option that scores highest. But frankly, I don't care about the option chosen.

Trails money would probably be needed for the study, but other might would be needed for the work.

Do I sound cynical if I say that I think a stop light will never happen because NPS/drivers won't allow it?

@ oboe 25-30 mph on the CCT? You have the confidence of someone with limbs if titanium.

Sorry Oboe I didn't mean to solicit a rant from you. Some clarification of my comment that 'Interestingly it's the drivers that yield that cause the problems at these crossings', is needed.
Reading here on Washcycle of the many many accidents/near misses that occur at these crossings they almost always result from a vehicle that stops to wait for a trail user to cross the road, which either causes a rear end further up the line or a vehicle swerves and as happened recently actually ran over the top of someone who hadn't even stepped into the cross walk.
The NPS seems to think it's a problem as they started to give out tickets to yielding vehicle drivers.
I don’t agree with this approach as it doesn’t get the message to all the drivers, and is it even the right message?
Tim Kelly from WABA recently met with NPS and posted this to the WABA forum noting that safety at these crossings is being looked at by NPS.
(the link wouldn't post to the forum here but it's a post by Tim Kelly on 08/30/11 on WABA forum

The accidents are occurring due to the faulty design of the intersection that leaves too many people uncertain of the rules to follow. So when vehicle driver’s yield and other road users aren’t paying attention and/or driving too fast and/or too close accidents occur.
As we all know the intersections need to be changed to make them safer by removing the yield problem altogether (underpass) or provide the message to the entire line of vehicles that they must slow or stop for someone to cross (lights).

One wonders if the driver who hit the pedestrian were cited for reckless driving under Virginia Code
§ 46.2-852 (Reckless driving; general rule), or 46.2-858, (Passing at a railroad grade crossing and certain intersections), or not at all. By causing injury, the driver certainly seemed to be driving "in a manner so as to endanger the life, limb, or property of any person."

If the driver were not cited, then maybe this would be a wakeup call to revise 46.2-858 to clearer language that everyone can understand.

There is no doubt that 46.2-858 is not the most understandable as it is presently written. There are multiple clauses in too little text. Below is a much clearer and longer draft revision of that same legislation, although, please note, it did not pass. This draft version would have made it absolutely obvious that drivers are expected to handle their vehicles extremely safely around pedestrians, if they didn't know that already from .

The source of this draft is:

308 § 46.2-858. Passing at a railroad grade crossing and certain intersections.
309 A person shall be guilty of reckless driving who overtakes or passes any other vehicle proceeding in
310 the same direction at any railroad grade crossing or at any intersection of highways unless such vehicles
311 are being operated on a highway having two or more designated lanes of roadway for each direction of
312 travel or unless such intersection is designated and marked as a passing zone or on a designated
313 one-way street or highway, or while pedestrians are passing or about to pass in front of either of such
314 vehicles, unless permitted so to do by a traffic light or law-enforcement officer.
315 When approaching from the rear in the same or an adjacent lane, a person shall be guilty of
316 reckless driving who overtakes or passes any other vehicle at any highway intersection while pedestrians
317 are passing or about to pass in front of either of such vehicles, or any other vehicle stopped in a
318 roadway at a marked crosswalk or at any stop line in advance of a crosswalk without having
319 determined that it is safe to proceed.

My take is that the meanings of the current version of the law and this expanded draft version of the law are similar and that the relevant pedestrian-related portion of the current 46.2-858 code is: "A person shall be guilty of reckless driving who overtakes or passes any other vehicle proceeding in the same direction . . . while pedestrians are passing or about to pass in front of either of such vehicles, unless permitted so to do by a traffic light or law-enforcement officer." Others have said that interpretation is not supported, and we have all seen drivers blow past others stopped for pedestrians. I just wish it were clearer and enforced.

i cross that intersection & do not cross even if cars are stopping for me. i thank them & wave them on. i've also driven through that intersection & it's incredibly difficult to make that right turn due to the short space availavble to merge (crossing multiple lanes of already merging traffic). so you're forced to keep checking mirrors/blind spots/etc. & then the traffic stops in front of you to let someone cross. IF you go around them, you don't see what they've stopped for. with tourists/out of town drivers/crappy signage from the park service/etc., it's just a tough intersection to navigate at ANY speed. so when i'm on my bike: no, thank you, you go right ahead, i'll wait until it's clear for me to cross...

@Brendan: The speed limit is posted at 40 mph. I'm not saying it is appropriate, but them's the facts.

Forget the railroad crossing gates, what's needed is some of those anti-tank rising bollards. Maybe a midnight acquisition from an over-endowed area just across the river? Wire it in with a HAWK, and "you snooze, you loose".

The accidents are occurring due to the faulty design of the intersection that leaves too many people uncertain of the rules to follow. So when vehicle driver’s yield and other road users aren’t paying attention and/or driving too fast and/or too close accidents occur.

Heck, I hope it didn't come across as a rant--I'm agreeing with you. The giant yellow diamond-shaped signs that say "Yield To Pedestrians", and the crosswalk markings are clearly ambiguous. The uniform code, and the VA traffic laws that stipulate a driver must always stop for a pedestrian at a crosswalk seem incredibly confusing and counter-productive.

I was just pointing out that the situation is analogous to a multi-use path where bicycles and pedestrians share space. It's all well and good to say that cyclists should pass with caution, but like drivers, obviously that's not going to happen. And when I'm riding my bicycle at full speed through a crowd of pedestrians, it's not me on the bicycle who's going to bear the brunt of the collision.

Perhaps it's time for the NPS to start ticketing cyclists who slow down for pedestrians, and pedestrians who don't hug the right hand side of the trail.

After all, it's pedestrians who have the most to lose, so they should be responsible for keeping themselves safe.

Is this the crossing in question? I cannot imagine how anyone thinks a driver can figure out what's supposed to happen here. It's just a mish-mash of nonsense signage.

@John: I don't disagree with your thoughts about § 46.2-852 of the Virginia Code. But this crossing is actually not in Virginia--it's on the D.C. side of Boundary Channel.

I think some people are confusing the GW Parkway crossing with the Washington Blvd. ramp crossing nearby. Both are dangerous crossings. Ideally both should have grade-separated intersections.

Moving the trail would provide a minor benefit, at least at the Washington Blvd. crossing. (

Among the many problems is that it's almost impossible for a cyclist or pedestrian to tell if a car is continuing onto Memorial Bridge or turning onto the ramp to go under and past the bridge. The trail intersection is so close to where the two car lanes diverge. You can sit there and watch each car but you can't tell if they are turning or not, until the very last moment.

During much of the day, the road is so busy that there aren't any gaps in the car traffic. So a cyclist or runner has to guess that a car won't be turning onto the right lane before scurrying across the crosswalk. It's only at night that there's relatively little car traffic.

As a result, I try to avoid that part of the trail, including the GW Parkway crossing too. If I'm riding during the day, I take the 14th St. Bridge trail (coming up from the south, then over to DC). In the evening or at night, I sometimes take the Memorial Bridge path. (Mostly because the little spiders like to build big webs across the 14th St. Bridge trail at night. Nearly everytime I ride there at night, I get a big mouthful of spider web.)

I should add that if the Washington Blvd. crossing were moved about 100 ft. to the north, then it would be moderately safer. At that spot, cyclists and pedestrians would be better able to tell if a car is heading in their direction or staying in the left lane.

Shifting the route of the trail would be relatively easy to do. It would be less expensive than building an underpass or overpass. And it would have a neutral effect on the aesthetics of the park and the parkway. It would simply be replacing that section of the trail with another bike trail a little further up.

This could be done relatively quickly, once NPS approved the project.

If this crossing could be improved at relatively little cost, then an over or underpass at the GW Parkway crossing would be more likely (since there would only be a need for one such structure, not two).

Just a comment on the underpass/overpass thing:

You could build an overpass (bridge) for the cars or the bicycles (more likely a bike one would be cheaper, so...)

Either way, it would need to be a bridge, not a tunnel that went down under the grade level. That would be too easily flooded, I would imagine. Ugly and crime-prone too.

I think there's no way in heck there's money for an overpass there. Rerouting or a light or some other cheaper and easier method is what would happen.


Yeah, that one.

Isn't there a way to avoid this intersection? If not, overpasses are far cheaper than underpasses (you have to support the moving weight of vehicles versus the moving weight of people).

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