Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Safe Avenues for Everyone

That's the name of a safety campaign to be conducted by the Reston police during June 12-25.
In an effort to raise awareness of the rules and regulations governing trail use, Reston officers will work to educate bicyclists, pedestrians and motorists both on and near the trail.

Target areas for the campaign include the Sunset Hills Road and Wiehle Avenue where the W&OD trail crosses Wiehle Ave. The other location will be pedestrian crossing spots in and around the Reston Town Center, especially the Bluemont Way crosswalk.

The campaign involves officers traveling on bicycles, cars, motorcycles as well as a marked all terrain vehicle to traverse the W&OD trail. Officers will be closely monitoring the trail and nearby crosswalks and will distribute safety literature to all those that pass by.
From the last sentence, it appears the safety campaign is targeting trail users; I doubt officers will be distributing the safety literature to all motorists who pass by. While we welcome any attempts to make conditions safer for bicyclists and pedestrians, and Reston police have gotten better about ticketing motorists, all too often these campaigns have targeted cyclists running stop signs or pedestrians crossing outside of crosswalks. At the Wiehle Ave/Sunset Hills/W&OD Trail intersection, nearby motorists who regularly run the red lights at Wiehle Ave and Sunset Hills Rd when turning right on red are ignored. Many cyclists have been hit by motorists turning right on red there ("right hook"), and yet the problem continues unabated.

We all need to obey traffic signals, so be on the lookout for police issuing tickets along the W&OD Trail in Reston.

The photo above is accompanies the police news release on the safety campaign. Note the father riding without a helmet, and the mother and son who appear to be riding on the wrong side of a two-way bike trail.

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In the past focused campaigns I have been happy to see an officer at the Whiehle crossing talking to the motorists who insist on ignoring the "Do not block crosswalk" signs and stop right in the middle of the crossing. The safest time to cross is when the cross traffic is stopped at the red lights but this is difficult to do when the crosswalk is blocked by cars.
What about cars that enter the crosswalk when pedestrians are present? Is that a violiation under VA Law? Cars rarely stop for me when I walk across the crosswalk, even if I'm 3/4 the way across and was there before then approached me.
When are we going to get some enforcement at Hunter Mill Rd.? IMO, that's the most dangerous intersection in the area.
It is interesting that the picture the police are showing shoes two people riding on the wrong side of the trail and the father not wearing a helmet. While wearing a helmet might be arguable, riding on the wrong side of the trail should not be.
According to VA code 46.2-924, "The driver of any vehicle on a highway shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian crossing such highway: 1. At any clearly marked crosswalk, whether at mid-block or at the end of any block;" Bicyclists are considered pedestrians when in a crosswalk.

Note that the code doesn't say "stop." There have been several attempts to change the wording from "yield" to "stop" but they have failed each time, although the measure gets closer to passage each year.

The code also states: "No pedestrian shall enter or cross an intersection in disregard of approaching traffic." If motorists have time to stop, then they should yield.

Regarding Hunter Mill Road, I've found that motorists are much better at stopping for trail users than in the past. I usually have little problem when I approach that intersection. I stop, then gradually move toward the crosswalk. Within a very short time motorists will stop. My mantra is "one lane at a time." Once the motorist has stopped in the first lane I enter and then negotiate with the next lane. This is especially true other, four lane roads where one motorist will stop and others in the adjacent lane might not stop.

What annoys me the most is when a cyclist stops at a crosswalk, a motorist yields, which is the legal behavior, and the cyclist will wave the motorist on. They are in effect teaching motorists to ignore pedestrians and cyclists int he crosswalk. We've been trying to get motorists to stop for bicyclists for years and now that they are finally stopping, we should be encouraging that behavior.

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