You are not alone. Federal standards define a “normal” walking speed as 4 feet per second. But New York City, through its Age-Friendly Cities Initiative, has determined that older individuals often cross the street at 3 feet per second. This is supported by research that even the new federal guideline of 3.5 feet per second is often not adequate for about 15% of the population (Federal Highway Administration Best Practices Design Guide-8.6 crossing times).
Gail Kohn, who leads the District’s Age-Friendly Cities Initiative, recently told DC’s Pedestrian Advisory Committee that DC’s own fact-finding process found many residents 55 years and older have experienced not having enough time to cross the street.
The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) is rolling out its Signal Optimization Project, headed by Wasim Raja, head of traffic signalization. Many traffic signals in the District are still based on the old 4 feet per second timing. At the same time, the city is booming, with more pedestrians, cyclists and drivers. And therefore there are more conflicts at intersections. Traffic signal timing changes can help get slower pedestrians (both young and old) cross the street safely, reduce conflicts between pedestrians and motorists at busy intersections, and decrease congestion.
As part of this project, DDOT is doing traffic counts and evaluating how our intersections work. It’s looking at the number of conflicts among all the users, and will be making traffic light timing changes accordingly. We will be getting more time to cross the street, especially at busy intersections, and lights will be better synchronized.
This study will inform DDOT where more leading pedestrian intervals will do the most good. What these do is give pedestrians a walk signal before drivers heading in the same direction get a green light. Pedestrians get up to three seconds to get out into the crosswalk before vehicles have a chance to turn. Leading pedestrian intervals are already installed at about 100 intersections including some in our own neighborhood on Connecticut Avenue. Most of these have been requested by the community.
If you need more time to cross the street, call 311 or go to 311 online. You will be given a service request number – keep it in a safe place for follow-up. Also, please leave let us know if you have made such a request, and the result.