Why Can’t We Make Them Stop?

[BACKGROUND: The Northeast Vienna Citizens Association asked all candidates ten questions as part of the Candidate Forum on April 21st. Below is a narrative version my response to this question.]

This may be a question for the police. I never see bike riders stop when crossing Church Street on the bike path. What can be done? Also too many motorist do not stop at stop signs all over Town. With more density and cars, is it time to consider “stop sign cameras”?   If not, what pro-active measures would you recommend besides police patrols, since they cannot be everywhere?

Traffic safety is made of four legs of a stool:

  • Education
  • Enforcement
  • Engineering
  • Emergency response

Safety is a community and collaborative effort, so for all the items mentioned below assume that baseline of facilitation and consensus building.

For bicyclists, education of young riders is available through programs offered by the Vienna Police, elementary schools, bicycle shops and bicycle organizations like Washington Area Bicyclists Association.  Adult riders education is primarily through the last two groups.  Much of this already occurring but it is always helpful to increase collaboration. (Note that all drivers need to on-going education and reinforcement as well)

Police enforcement should be part of comprehensive plan focusing on safety and where the highest risks exist whether with bicyclists, pedestrians or drivers. Where there are significant conflict points like the W&OD / Church Street crossing, I would expect that would be of high importance.

Stop sign cameras are not currently allowed in Virginia (at least in my review).  The state does explicitly allow “traffic light signal violation monitoring systems” aka red light cameras (§ 15.2-968.1. Code of Virginia) but this is only for signalized intersections.

Engineering covers such a wide range of topics it could be several posts by itself, so I will just hit some highlights where Town staff can be creative but still be within accepted engineering practice:

  • Different sign and pavement marking treatments on trails approaching intersections. This can be applied really any intersection.
  • Roadway design features as part of our traffic calming program such as road narrowing, raise intersections, etc. have been demonstrated being effective in making streets safer

One other item I want to mention, is the Streets subsection of updated Comprehensive Plan that I drafted on behalf of the Transportation Committee of the Planning Commission.  This subsection introduces the concept of connecting street design to adjacent land uses. (I will post more on the Comprehensive Plan separately.)  This is important and different because it defines streets based on the use people make of them rather than simply a place for traffic.

In closing, I should mention the last item, emergency response.  When, in the unfortunate case a crash occurs, the time for emergency medical services to be on scene to provide treatment and move any injured people to hospitals for advanced treatment is of paramount important in survivability.

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