Thursday, September 30, 2010

Arlington Goes Crosswalk Happy

Maybe Remy (of "Arlington Rap" fame) should do a rap on Arlington's penchant for putting crosswalks every 10 feet.

Really, the County has gone crazy with crosswalks. We're all in favor of well-marked pedestrian crossings, especially at intersections controlled by traffic lights or stop signs. In those cases, the walks discourage drivers from creeping into the pedestrian crossing, while the traffic signals let everyone know when they can walk--or not.

But Arlington has added quite a few crosswalks in fairly busy roads where these is no intersection. The County is also fond of signs reminding drivers that "state law" requires yielding the right of way to a pedestrian in a marked crosswalk.

We sometimes wonder about that state law. If Arlington marks a crosswalk on I-395, does everyone have to stop? Could be a less expensive way to derail HOT lanes than the County's silly lawsuit.

In any event, some of the crosswalks the County has laid out are downright dangerous, and could get a pedestrian killed. The worst is one on Wilson Blvd., at the Gold's Gym in Ballston. This crosswalk is not at an intersection; it's across a four lane road; it's at a curve in the road; and it's in a part of the road that demands extreme concentration from drivers on the other cars--there are parking lanes and a lot of people turning here with no turn lane. Some places were not meant for pedestrians to cross, and this is one of them.

Then there's the silly crosswalks. At the Powhatan skateboard park on upper Wilson Blvd., there are three crosswalks controlled by traffic signals, including one traffic signal solely for pedestrians. Yet, that didn't stop the County from adding a fourth crosswalk between these, with no traffic signal. As if skateboarders are going to use a crosswalk!!
Another problem is road markings that look like crosswalks, but aren't. Arlington loves "traffic calming" speed humps, but paints them with white markings to alert drivers. Some of those markings look a little like crosswalks, but they aren't. We have seen pedestrians standing at these, scratching their heads, wondering if they should blandly walk out into traffic with that "state law" protecting them like some kind of fake force field.
Pedestrian safety is important, but giving pedestrians a false sense of security with badly placed crosswalks, or faux crosswalks, only increases the danger. Fortunately for pedestrians, Arlington has engineered most of its roads so you can't really get over 25-30 mph, even if you wanted to.

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