Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Traffic, Conservation, Foxes and more...

Traffic Legislation at the State Level

Six of us crossing Glebe Road after dinner one summer evening had to wait for a van making a left from Pershing Drive. As we stepped with the light into Glebe, the van turned left in front of two lanes of oncoming traffic and into our lanes on Glebe. A police car sat in line behind him on Pershing. At the time, the Pershing and Glebe intersection held a large sign stating that failing to yield to pedestrians is a $100 to $500 fine.

I still don’t know why the officer didn’t stop him. Maybe he or she was off-duty. Maybe somehow the officer didn’t see it. (If you read my Nov. 12 post, you can imagine how I reacted.)

Or it could be that the officer thought the van had yielded to us. After all, we didn’t get hit.

The county board is supporting a region-wide push at the state legislature this January to institute a law so motorists would have to stop, not yield, to pedestrians in crosswalks. The current law that allows for a fine of up to $500 at about 100 intersections in Arlington was created under special permission from the state legislature near the end of the last decade, said Charles Denney, the bicycle and pedestrian program manager for the county.

The county’s Pat Carroll told me the police feel it’s unclear what the motorist must do with the current language—how slow is a yield?

“Drivers do know what ‘stop’ means,” she said. Ms. Carroll is the state legislative liaison for the county.

A bill addressing this made it through the state senate last year, but failed in a house committee, she said.

“We’re hopeful” regarding its passage this year, she said adding it would be hard. She blamed the Republican-controlled House of Delegates for part of the problem, especially delegates in more rural locales.

“They’re just not as sympathetic to us as we’d like them to be,” she said.

But what does “stop” really mean? Ms. Carroll said it depends on how the law is written.

How long must a car be stopped before it can go through a crosswalk? Once the pedestrian is out of the car’s lane? Out of the road completely? If the road has a median, must the driver stop even if the person is on the other side of the median? And who has the right-of-way to enter the crosswalk first? In my case, the van had been stopped before slamming the accelerator to get by us; would that count?

It all comes back down to enforcement. Make sure the police know what’s illegal and then tell them to make sure to ticket for that. I’m not sure changing the language to “stop” instead of “yield” does that.

The law must say something akin to: No driver may be in a crosswalk if pedestrians are in it.

I like that because it’s clear to see that and make a judgement: either the car is in the crosswalk or it’s not. Either people are in the crosswalk or they’re not. I this sets-up its own set of problems, but telling a driver simply to “stop” to me isn’t enough, especially if it can’t or won’t be enforced.

The Buckingham Conservation Plan Passes…

An email from Pat Hope had some good news for Buckinghamsters, so I thought I’d include it here. –Steve.

BCCA Members - On Monday evening, I presented our Neighborhood Conservation Plan (NCP) before the Arlington Planning Commission.

Members of the commission were very concerned about the lack of attention paid to Buckingham over the years and insisted - rather than waiting for funding through the normal neighborhood conservation bond process (which is on the ballot every two years and can take even longer for your project to be complete) - that our recommendations be made conditions when developers in the Buckingham area seek Site Plan Review.

In addition, accessibility issues, such as sidewalks and curb cuts, also gained particular attention and the commission recommended the county move to fund these projects immediately. Lubber Run also raised concerned but this will likely need a bond for which I think we would have the support of the commission for 2008.

At the end of discussion, the Planning Commission congratulated BCCA and approved our NCP on a unanimous vote. The final step will be to go before the Arlington County Board for final acceptance (tentatively scheduled for Dec. 12).

Next, I promised to follow-up with a BCCA giving initiative for the holidays. As many of you are aware, the Lubber Run Community Center has a terrific after-school program that sees many Buckingham youngsters, of which most are low-income children and teens.

Every year, the Center has a holiday party where Santa Claus pays a visit and delivers a toy to each child in the program from their "wish list." This year's holiday party will be on Friday, Dec. 22 at 6:00 p.m.

I recommend that the BCCA sponsor this program by collecting money to purchase toys and gift certificates for the Lubber Run after-school program.

So please consider donating to fulfill the "wish list" of Buckingham children in the Lubber Run program. If you're interested in donating ($10, $25, $50, or more) please contact me via email or phone (703) 528-8956.

We'll have to pick a date to go purchase the items so please let me know if you're interested in joining me.

Happy Holidays,



More About Arlington

“About Arlington” column appears in the Connection again this week.

I know you can pick up a copy at Murky Coffee in Clarendon and Bob and Edith’s diner (the original store) on Columbia Pike—I’m sure there are other places in the county where you can snag one.

simply call 703-917-6465, and they’ll set-up a free subscription for you (if you live in Arlington).

My column was complimented…I think. Scott McCaffrey over at the
Sun Gazette mentioned my debut as a Connection Columnist. It’s nice to know he’s still reading.

More Odd Neighbors

Hide your chickens!

In the
comments section of the last post, Miles wrote that his roommate and he have both spotted a FOX near Quincy Street and Glebe Road. We are the urban forest, no doubt.

Dept. of Irony…

From the Arlington Connection Nov. 22:

The Connection covered the county report that said teens had fewer feelings of suicide and other anti-social behavior but that their drug use was up a little. The story produced this unfortunate juxtaposition at the bottom of page 3:

“The prevalence of casual drug use among

See Teens Happier, page 4”

I’ll bet they are.

The worst pedestrian crosswalk I've seen in Arlington is one I have to cross twice a day -- the one at Wilson & Oakland. There aren't any lights on the wide, flat straightaway on Wilson from Quincy to Monroe, so drivers gun it up to at least 40. There's a crosswalk there, but even if people are halfway across the road, drivers will still blow past them without even slowing down, never mind "yielding". I've written to the Arlington Police about it, but I just got a half-hearted response that they did some crosswalk enforcement there back in April. It's certainly not having any lingering effect.

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