Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Kris Kross

Dig that 90’s vintage title, eh? Well, this has nothing at all to do with Mac Daddy and Daddy Mac.

Unless, of course, they happen to be “krossing” the street here in the national capitol area and have to jump. Or anywhere else for that matter.

I was wondering this morning, again, why it is I have to wait for slow ass pedestrians to amble their way akross the street with their fanny pacs and strollers and coolers and various and sundry other crap? A corollary thought: Why is it whenever I’m krossing (OK, last time I’ll do that) a street in D.C. or in Arlington or Old Towne, am I taking my life in my hands as I stare down impatient drivers with glazed eyes ready to gun their hybrids, Minis and smart cars through the intersection?

One of the biggest problems I’ve noticed when it comes to the automobile-pedestrian interface, aside from the one that occurs when metal contacts flesh, are caused by peds trying to cross the street when cars trying to turn and cars trying to turn when peds are trying to cross. Like matter and anti-matter, the two can’t exist in the same space, which we should give a fancy name like...like…the carbon-iron crumple zone or hemato-hardtop amalgam area.

Getting hit by a car sucks some major ass (trust me on this). And, unfortunately, we are graced here in the nation’s capital with potent mix to pour into the HHAA: Some of the dumbest drivers in the country, hoards of invading tourists (tourons for you locals) and an army of self-important navel-gazing locals too plugged into their iPods and Crackberries to notice the world ending around them let alone the grandmother from Nebraska bearing down on them in her Olds. And, in case I forget, our friends and neighbors who make use of their pedal-propelled two-wheelers often just add to the chaos. It’s like mixing Octol with Cyclotrimethylenetrinitramine and dipping the whole thing in trinitroglycerin for that extra special finish.

I’m constantly surprised there aren’t fatal car v. pedestrian accidents (as my friend, The Doc, and his colleagues call them in the ER) every. single. day.

So, I got to thinking, how could we make life safer for peds and less of a potential insurance nightmare for drivers? And, I’m sure I’m not the first to come up with this idea, but how about making sure the two groups never (legally) attempt to share the same space at the same time.

What’s the busiest intersection in D.C. pedestrian (touron) and car-wise? I’d have to go with one of the ones along Constitution Avenue. Say the one at 12th Street Northwest where the tunnel from I-395 spills into the city.

Wouldn’t it be easier and safer for everyone involved, to have the cars moving at one time and the pedestrians at another? Instead of having drivers trying to make turns through the people in the crushwalk, oh, I mean crosswalk, and who among us hasn’t been brushed by a bumper (or done the brushing), how about having red lights going all four ways.

And you’d have the following:

A friend of mine said, when I mentioned this idea, “But there’s no way I could make it across two streets, so I’d have to wait twice.” Well, my friend, you already have to wait twice, and with my plan you could cut your waiting time in half.
Without the fear of cars in the intersection, you could cross from one corner (A) to the opposite corner (C) without having to go to (B) along the way. In fact, during one “Walk” cycle pedestrians could, if they so choose, go from A to B, and A to D, as well as B to A, B to C, B to D, C to A, C to B, C to D, D to A, D to B, and D to C. I think I got ‘em all there.

And then, when the signs say “Don’t Walk” drivers would be free. Free to turn left or right or go straight. Or, if they’re so inclined and as a friend of mine once said, “I can’t go straight, but I can go gaily forward,” which I’ve always thought was a great comment when receiving directions.

I know it would probably take a bit of effort to sync up all the different cycles (just like my ex and her suite mates back in Chapel Hill), but I bet once it was working it’d be gooood.

So, would it work? What haven’t I thought of?


Liebchen said...

1) The crossing situation is ridiculous. I saw a pedestrian the other day actually pound on the hood of a car that got in her crosswalk.

2) I love these two lines:
- I can’t go straight, but I can go gaily forward
- I know it would probably take a bit of effort to sync up all the different cycles (just like my ex and her suite mates back in Chapel Hill)

Thanks for picking up my afternoon.

lacochran said...

I've often thought right-of-way should go to the thing that can do the most damage. Laws of nature supersede anything we can come up with.

People should just fend for themselves. Dodge and weave. Human Frogger.

Or your plan might work. At a gut level I'm wondering if it would increase commuter time...?

FoggyDew said...

Liebchen - Never done that to a car, a tour bus maybe, but not a car. It was cutting me off one day as I was riding on Independence. And you're welcome for the afternoon pick-me-up. My pleasure.

lacochran - Human Frogger? It could be something like "The Running Man" maybe?

I think it might actually improve your commute time since you'd no longer have to wait for peds when you're turning. Be interesting to computer model.

Malnurtured Snay said...

I believe that if a car parks in the crosswalk, and I, as a pedestrian, have the signal, I am therefore free to walk over their vehicle.

Because it's a crosswalk, not a crosspark.

I haven't actually put this into practice yet, but I think it'd be hilarious.

Lisa said...

Um, for some reason your diagram made me dizzy, and I don't quite understand, but I like this post. And I am terrible on both sides of this. As a driver, I completely effing hate the ambling pedestrians - I am so not an ambler, and even when I'm walking, I just want to shove them. BUT, as a now-waddly pedestrian, I give a terrible bitch look to any driver squeezing into the crosswalk.

FoggyDew said...

Snay - Just give me a head's up when you intend to implement your plan, I want to be there.

Lisa - Good thing I didn't include more arrows, it might have driven your monitor crazy. Basically, cars and pedestrians get their own shot at the road and never the twain shall meet.

Malnurtured Snay said...

Foggy -

Depending on drivers, tomorrow between 3:45 and 4p on my way from the Metro to my p/t job.

Stephen said...

What you are proposing is called a Barnes Dance, or a Pedestrian Scramble. It's a standard (though not too common) signal timing scheme. More info:



Another thing that's not as drastic but can help make things safer for pedestrians is known as a Leading Pedestrian Interval. 15th & U has this for pedestrians walking along 15th: http://www.streetsblog.org/2008/07/18/streetfilms-whats-an-lpi/

FoggyDew said...

Snay - I'll put it in my outlook.

Stephen - I knew I wasn't the first person to think of this. My question is this: Does it work?

susan said...

Diagonal crosswalks work great. Having just moved out here from a city that used them, very effectively, along the main thoroughfare, I have to say I'm a little surprised they're not employed more.

Titania said...

HEY!!! what's your problem with the the friends and neighbors who make use of their pedal-propelled two-wheelers!! Just yesterday while riding back home *three* cars tried to run me over, one of them almost did it...

FoggyDew said...

Susan - See, I knew it could work. I think if D.C., Arlington and Alexandria concentrated on the high pedestrian traffic areas it could make life so much easier.

Titania - No problem, as you well know, bikes are just another variable in the equation. Faster than pedestrians, not as fast as cars (mostly) and sometimes totally unpredictable. They (we) do make things interesting on the roads.

Sebastian said...

I think the solution is meant to be underpasses (or bridges, but they're harder to fit in). But people don't like those, because bums and miscreants hang out down there.

How about some kind of little catapult/pole-vault system to fling yourself across the menacing divide?

Love 'touron', and 'gaily forward' might be my new favourite turn of phrase...

LiLu said...

This is like a math problem! You're trying to sneak math into my life...


FoggyDew said...

Seb - I would so totally apply for the job of "Touron Catapult Operator." I think the pole vault system might hold promise too.

LiLu - Where, I ask you, where is there any math in there? I don't think I used a single number. OK, so there might be some geomotry, but that's different. I promise not to overwork your pretty little brain...too much.

Meghan said...

My comment has nothing to do with the equation and everything to do with laughing out loud (literally) with the ex and cycles sentance. Heh.