It’s difficult to measure something that’s not there. But we thought we’d give it a shot.
Last spring, DDOT revealed that its studies of unsignalized Connecticut Avenue pedestrian crossings did not find enough foot traffic at Chesapeake Street to warrant a HAWK light, which is a traffic signal that can be activated by people waiting to cross. One resident who attended the public meeting suggested the results were low because the count last year was just a few days before a popular playground on Chesapeake east of Connecticut closed for renovation. So DDOT agreed to try again this summer.
Traffic studies at unsignalized pedestrian crossings have their limitations. They measure how many people try to cross, not how many consider a crossing too risky due to vehicle speed and volume.
That’s why we decided to ask what no DDOT pedestrian count can: Would more people cross Connecticut Avenue at Chesapeake Street, NW, if there was a signal to control traffic? Here are the results of our survey.
The answer, by the way, is yes.
The sample, we must report, is small. Just 91 people took our survey. Less than a quarter (21) reported using the crossing on a daily basis. One-third (30) cross here about once a week, and eight cross monthly.
The most striking result: Even those who brave the crossing say there are times when even they do not dare. Every single one of the 21 who cross at Chesapeake daily indicate they avoid the crossing at times because it’s too dangerous. There’s also significant overlap between the weekly and monthly users and those who avoid the crossing.
As it is, 70 of the survey takers say they avoid crossing at Chesapeake only because it is too dangerous. And 56 respondents say they would use the crossing more with a signal there.
Why do people want a signal at Chesapeake? In most cases, it’s the most direct way to get to where they need to go. The most popular destinations among crosswalk users and would-be users were the Forest Hills Playground and the bus stops on both sides of Connecticut.
Here, detouring to a crossing with a signal is not an insignificant undertaking for those on foot, and DDOT recognizes that in this case. From a technical standpoint, Chesapeake qualifies for a signal. The distance between the lights at Brandywine and Davenport is nearly 1,000 feet, the largest gap between signals in the study area stretching from Appleton Street to Legation Street. The same DDOT study does call for HAWK signals at the Ellicott and Legation intersections.
We’ve shared the full results of the survey with DDOT’s pedestrian coordinator, George Branyan. Stay tuned.