I don’t often post about local issues here, but this is so close to home I have to say something about it.
My first reaction was, “You’re kidding me, right?” Unfortunately, these people are serious. Well, this happens to be taking place in my neighborhood, and I’m glad it is. We’ve lived in the area for almost six years. In that time, problems with Jones Bridge Road have worsened, making it real a safety concern. And it comes down to boneheaded drivers.
The biggest, and worst problem, and the one the medians are intended to address, is drivers who use the turn lane, as a driving lane during the morning and evening rush hours. I have witnessed people drive the entire length of the turn lane.
The biggest danger is, or should be, obvious. The hills along that stretch of Jones Bridge Road limit visibility both ways. People who are driving in the turn lane can’s see drivers who are using the turning lane for its intended purpose (turning into our own neighborhoods, trying to get home, or drivers who are turning onto Jones Bridge Road) until they’re nearly on top of them. By then, it’s too late to stop.
This has been the cause of most of the accidents in our neighborhood. In the past year, I’ve seen the aftermath of at least three accidents, caused by people driving in the turn lane. My son and I heard the “crunch” from one accident during breakfast, and saw the wrecked cars as he walked to school and I walked to my bus stop. Our next door neighbor was hit while turning onto our street from the turn lane, by a driver who was driving in the turn lane.
I’ve had some close calls while waiting to turn onto my street, and hoping that the person driving in the turning lane would see us and stop. Fortunately, our family hasn’t been hit my someone driving in the turn lane. Thanks to the medians, we don’t have to worry about that.
That’s the problem the medians were intended to solve. They also help with a few other problems, like drivers pass by the school buses that are stopped and have their lights flashing. There’ still a huge problem with drivers actually passing stopped school buses on out street (a $570 fine, in Montgomery County). Parents have shouted at drivers to stop, walked out into the street to stop oblivious cars, and even had a police officer stationed for a few days to ticket drivers who pass stopped school buses.
Nothing seems to work. Just this morning, I saw two cars pass a school bus that was stopped and had its lights flashing. The third one only stopped when the school bus driver honked her horn.
This a problem I’ve written about before, in a post about a man who was shot by a neighbor who was angry over his advocating for a speed hump on his street — out of concerns over speeding drivers and the safety of kids walking to and from school.
There are a number of things that kind of mystify me here. Just one of them is that this guy was “a source of controversy” for wanting not wanting people speeding through his neighborhood? From what his neighbors interviewed by the Post say, he was concerned for the safety of the children in the neighborhood, many of whom probably walked to and from the elementary school nearby.
In that sense, I see where he’s coming from. Every morning I stand at the bus stop with other parents, and I am regularly flabbergasted and infuriated by the drivers who don’t stop when they see the school bus. The street is a pretty busy one, especially in the mornings and evenings. (Like Carr’s street, this one is used as a cut-through from one heavily-trafficked roadway to another.) I and other parents have had to yell at drivers to stop. I’ve taken to crossing the street myself, right after the school bus arrives — just to force people to stop — since I have to cross the street to get catch my bus anyway.
And, as in Carr’s neighborhood, there’s a school nearby, so there’s lots of kids walking to school. The school has taken a number of steps, such as posting speed limit signs, and getting an adult crossing guard to help kids cross the busiest street, and training older kids as guards to help younger students cross the other, less busy streets. (I could go on and on about the particular road in question, and how insanely people drive on it.) Like Carr, who went through a process that took several years and required traffic engineering studies and neighborhood consent.
But what I don’t get is why people get so worked up about a something as simple as a speed hump? From the reports I’ve read, some drivers were so incensed that they took to honking their horns as they drove past Carr’s house. Patton, the alleged shooter, even blocked Carr’s access to his driveway earlier this summer, causing a confrontation that led Carr to file a complaint against Patton.
The medians also help with another problem: speeding. That stretch of Jones Bridge Road is a both a school zone and a residential area. The posted speed limit is 25 mph, but it’s normal to see people driving twice that speed. Maybe we need a camera too.
Finally, before the medians, there was no safe place for pedestrians to cross Jones Bridge Road between Manor Road and Jones Mill Road. Now, there is. I use the new crosswalk to get to my bus stop every morning, and it works. Drivers stop when they see me in th e crosswalk, just like the signs tell them to. And I don’t have to worry about a car driving in the turn lane while I’m waiting to cross.
If the traffic is slower due to the medians, so be it.
Update: Oh, right-slanted WTOP has it too, and the Tea Party types are all over it.