Walking in DC: not for the faint of heart.

Wayan Vota

Pedestrians wait to cross in D.C.

One of my favorite things about the city is how easy it is to live here without a car; unfortunately, the constant tension and worry caused by bad behavior from drivers, walkers and bicyclists mean that while it may be possible, it often is not pleasant. Greater Greater Washington has a sobering, somewhat depressing post up about how dangerous it is to be a pedestrian in D.C.

Sharon, a pedestrian who lives in Cleveland Park, recorded her negative experiences with drivers for a week. You can read her log, here. This was her conclusion:

It really does seem that once I strap on my backpack and hit the streets, I become either invisible or a target. Must we double or triple fines for moving violations and use the funds to hire a sufficient number of police to actually enforce the traffic laws? I’m definitely not your classic “law and order” person but that’s the only answer I’ve come up with, since right now drivers clearly think the risks of suffering any consequences for driving recklessly are minimal.

And, finally, while I’m on my soapbox, one last request to all you drivers: Please come to a stop when I have the right of way and am walking in a crosswalk. Rolling, coasting, or inching your way past me is just plain intimidating, and makes me feel like you’re trying to see just how close you can come to scraping my kneecaps without actually doing so.

I don’t bike (yet), but I do walk every day and I drive about twice a week. Being behind the wheel of a powerful car influences how I approach the city when I walk; I make sure I’m not dashing across the street when there’s one second left on the “Walk” signal and that if it’s 10 pm, I’m not dressed in head-to-toe black and jaywalking. Conversely, walking through crosswalks and almost getting hit by SUVs with out-of-state plates (which are being piloted by inattentive drivers who flip me off) has made me obstinately protective of pedestrians who are tentatively inching their way across a signal-free intersection. It’s dangerous out there. I wish there was more enforcement of existing laws, especially about cell phone use behind the wheel. It’s not worth taking someone’s life, but I see someone with a mobile glued to their ear, babbling away, every hour that I’m outside. Ugh. Enough.

  • gues

    Put it this way, the woman who ran over and killed a person while drunk in Adams Morgan got involuntary manslaughter which will involve a minimal penalty. DC is generally quite relaxed in all its laws and law enforcement, which is not much of a problem in many of the nicer neighborhoods but for the two thirds of us who live in nastier parts of town its a life and death situation. Its never been a legislative priority of course, and no city leaders live in bad parts of town and very few need to walk anywhere, so I doubt it will change anytime within the next decade. Now you see why so many people live in MD or VA.