It was not yet 7 a.m., but the scene was far from tranquil on Woodland Way in the Canterbury Woods section of Annandale yesterday.
Horns honked, motorists shouted and the traffic backed up bumper-to-bumper for half a mile on the usually quiet residential street. Angry and alarmed by the volume of cars cutting through their neighborhood to avoid construction on nearby Braddock Road, residents handed out letters of protest as motorists came to the stop sign at the corner of Woodland Way and Queen Elizabeth Boulevard.
"Please pay attention to the posted speed limit," the letter said, "be courteous to drivers attempting to merge with traffic from side streets and driveways, and be alert and courteous to pedestrians."
Canterbury Woods Civic Association member Denni Johnson said the volume of traffic, which Fairfax County police last week estimated at just over 1,000 cars per hour, is "extremely dangerous."
"We can't even get out of our own driveways," said Johnson. Her husband, Bob Johnson, said the group's goal is to make commuters "either take another route or drive courteously. Remember, this is a neighborhood. We're not making them do anything they don't have to do anyway -- stop at the stop sign and keep to the speed limit."
Motorists, however, saw the residents' protest differently. "This is a through street," said one man in a green Ford sedan. "You ought to be able to go through it. We pay taxes to use these streets."
Other motorists were more blunt. "You people are crazy," one said. Another honked at Annandale District Supervisor Audrey Moore, who was passing out letters alongside the residents, and then got out of his white compact car and yelled "Get out of my way!" A woman in a red Mustang muttered, "You people have got a lot of nerve."
Police were called in by the association to supervise the demonstration. "Personally, I don't condone what they're doing," said one officer on duty. "Can you imagine what would happen if every neighborhood (that has commuter traffic running through it) did this?"
Moore admitted that "This is not a politically good move," but contended that "It's the only responsible thing I could do."
As if to make her point, a man in a blue convertible just then shouted, "Thanks for holding up traffic, Mrs. Moore." A few minutes later, however, another passerby offered encouragement. "Keep up the good work. I'm with you."
Denni Johnson said that commuters' reaction to the letter "ranged from cooperation to verbal abuse. They seem to be either really friendly or really nasty." Most drivers smiled and accepted the letter, although some rolled up their windows as residents approached.
Construction on the widening of Braddock Road, begun a month ago, will continue for another 18 months, Fairfax police said. Police said they are not able to patrol all neighborhoods on a daily basis for traffic violations.
As the demonstration was winding down about 8 a.m., one officer summed up his thoughts: "If you ask me, this won't solve anything. They need to go through political channels."