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They fenced it a couple of years ago and did block it then. I make a point of crossing to the southeast side of the bridge when I'm on the D.C. side so I don't have to deal with it.

Of course, the first thing they need to do is to enforce the 40 (35?) mph speed limit along this stretch. What's the average speed, I wonder? 60? 65?

I don't think it's a very safe crossing. It should either be made safe or fenced off - and if it's the latter, they should put signs on the DC end of the bridge directing people to the crossing on the south side.

I think this crossing gets a lot more use because the work on Ohio drive took away (i.e., planted grass on) a section of the bike path that took southbound riders under the Memorial Bridge to connect to the south side of the bridge.

This crossing and the one at the traffic circle are very dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists. The cars are going at high speed with bad sight lines.

pathetic. NPS is run by cowardly imbeciles.

Man, I got the heebie-jeebies just looking at a picture of that crossing.

Yes, this crossing is made even more dangerous by the combination of an incline and gravelly dirt. Very skiddy.

Fencing it off doesn't seem to be a real option because people just tear down the fencing. But I don't think there's any way to make this really safe--paving and marking it would help, but the traffic is just too fast here, and there's a bit of a curve and a tunnel to add to the mix. I think a better option would be to improve access to the south approach to the MVT (and put in some crossing flashers there so that this doesn't happen again: http://www.arlnow.com/2011/04/20/jogger-hit-by-truck-on-gw-parkway-dies/ ). It's incredibly difficult to get around the circle from the north side, and getting to the south side of the bridge on the D.C. side is no picnic either--the most efficient way seems to be to ride up toward the north side and carry your bike down the Watergate steps, then loop around the narrow trail.

I gave up on using the Memorial Bridge for the most part some time ago--nowadays I ride down Ohio and cross the 14th Street Bridge instead. This also had the benefit of bypassing the Humpback Bridge before they fixed it. But this route is useless to people who want to ride up to Rosslyn on the MVT. Maybe they're better off crossing Key Bridge in the meantime (lousy access here also). In the long run, we really should have a flyover ramp down to the MVT on both the north and south sides of the Memorial Bridge, and the trail under the bridge itself should be widened. Not holding my breath...

let's remember that accident occured when a car stopped suddenly to let people cross at the walk, and caused a pileup and then an out of control pickup. Flashing lights might not help.

Ticketing people who use this would be start.

I agree that a better interconnection needs to be built, however. Using this one, however, is very risky.

One other shortcoming of the DC side of this mess is that there are no signs directing pedestrians and cyclists to the south side of the bridge. NPS could do a whole lot better here.

Ticketing people who use this would be start.

And there we have it: can't put a crosswalk there because everyone's doing 30 mph over the posted speed limit. So ticket the people who cross here.

How about putting a crosswalk here, and a speed camera, and giving folks $500 tickets for +5mph over, $1000 tickets for failure to yield, and jail time for "reckless driving" if you're caught going +15 mph over?

This crossing pretty much sums up the pathology that is American driver culture in a nutshell. Folks are driving like assholes, they're killing people, so we should crack down on the people being killed.

Trying to legislate where a design problem exists is ultimately futile. Ticketing cyclists is pointless--there are no really good alternatives to this crossing--and ticketing drivers is pointless where this is along a long undisturbed stretch of road. Either way, you'll generate a lot of tickets, and people will still do dangerous and illegal things.

The only answer is a design one.


I agree. There are all sorts of traffic calming measures we could implement here. I was speaking to the near-universal rule that "pedestrians have an obligation to get the f*ck out of the way".

This isn't the B/W Parkway.

What about the automatic cameras, such as on Connecticut Ave. in Chevy Chase? Posted signs about possible ticketing might be a deterrent.

The dirt path on the north side of the bridge is an almost exact mirror image of the paved path on the south side of the bridge (here's an aerial image in Google Maps). If the official paved path is safe enough for the powers that be at NPS, I don't see why the crossing at the dirt path (or a slightly modified alignment) would be any less safe. Of course both crossings could and should be made safer, but I don't see how one is worse than the other in current conditions.

but I don't see how one is worse than the other in current conditions

I mean other than the fact that the north path is not paved.

I see several points of difference. First, the one on the south side is on level ground, with good sight lines. Second, drivers approaching that crossing are entering an area where lanes merge and exit, creating a necessity for slower speeds and for greater caution.

You can partially replicate the latter, but not the former. Bikes will speed up on the approach. And cars will tend to treat a flashing light as creating the need to be more vigilant, but not to go slower.

charlie: flashing lights would help in exactly that situation--the pickup truck driver might have seen fast yellow flashers on both sides of the road.

NeilB: there's a huge difference in visibility between the north side path and the south side path. Cars approaching the north side path on Washington Boulevard are coming around a significant bend in the road and through a tunnel. They only have a clear line of sight on the crossing for maybe 150 feet, and no one is going to want to stop for crossers in that short a time for fear of getting rear-ended.

Similarly, crossers can't see cars coming, and can't predict when someone is going to come through that tunnel at 60 mph.

It's a dangerous crossing. People risk it only because every alternative is extremely inconvenient and/or similarly dangerous, especially if you're coming from the north side of the bridge on the D.C. side, and want to travel north on the Virginia side.

This is what that approach looks like to a driver:


And note also that the MVT under the bridge is so narrow that people have to alternate, which means people going north don't want to cross on the south side even if it would otherwise be convenient. The whole thing is a major PITA.

@ antibozo; again, I doubt that pickup driver would have noticed. It was a classic pileup, and the pickup was the second or third car.

I'd say the average speed in that area is more like 45 MPH. Not even sure what the speed limit is -- 40?

The north crossing, as others have noted, is almost as equally dangerous. However, drivers do have a lot more visibility -- and people crossing can see the cars as well.

charlie, I think you're 100% wrong in this case. I'm not sure you're even understanding what happened. The first two cars stopped to allow Dubin to cross, and the pickup didn't notice they had stopped until too late, and swerved to avoid rear-ending the cars. Even if the pickup truck still had to make a sudden stop, pedestrian crossing lights would have alerted him to stay on pavement when he swerved, or to go ahead and rear-end the car in front of him, instead of driving up onto the pedestrian path as he did.

In addition, flashers at those crossings would help calm speeds in the whole area.

I'd say the average speed in that area is more like 45 MPH. Not even sure what the speed limit is -- 40?

What does it say about me that I want to buy a radar gun, sit out there, and just do a little guerrilla traffic study?

I definitely need to get a life.

Still, I'd buy you a bottle of lagavulin if it were less than 50. It would be an airline bottle, but nevertheless...

While this is only a sample of one, it indicates that at least one person thought it was reasonable to drive 76 mph in a 40 mph zone, on the GW Parkway in Alexandria.


It may not tell us anything about average speeds, but it does confirm that there are some crazy drivers out there.

@ antibozo; so, an out of control pickup truck driver is going to pay attention to flashing lights and rear-end the car in the front of him -- rather than swerving into the people waiting on the side of the road? I find that doubtful.

That being said, I'd fully agree the southern (legal) crossing is a mess, and an accident waiting to happen. It just happened in a way that I didn't predict.

@Oboe; I've done worse for lagavulin. A lot worse. I'd still say less than 50. You've got a sudden road narrowing under the bridge, and then some confusing merges. I'm sure, as Michael H said, that people blow through that, but in my experience the average speed is not that fast.

Agree with Michael H. There are some really crazy drivers out there.

A few months ago I took a taxi into work on a Sunday morning around 2am.

I think I remember closing my eyes and hoping death was painless the moment the taxi driver busted past 65 MPH going up Mass Ave. And we were STILL getting passed by other cars.

Any drunks stumbling out from the bars would not have had a chance.

rumor has it that the NPS has hired a Transportation Scholar to study the MVT trail. Unlike mrs safety's insults, I think positive information and ideas can help NPS solve this very complicated crossing dilema. btw, posted speed is 40 mph. I will not be surprised if the NPS monitors this blog regularly.

If they are looking for recommendations, then I'd say that they should widen the MVT, especially the northern half.

They also need to redesign the multiple trail crossings and intersections on Columbia Island, particularly the intersections on the trails on the south side of Arlington Memorial Bridge. Some bike/pedestrian bridges in that area, to separate bike traffic away from the grade crossings, would be welcome.

This would be a good spot to build a tunnel or bridge for the cyclists to avoid the crossing entirely.

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