Dear Dr. Gridlock:
As a daily commuter on 10th Street NW, I am very concerned about pedestrian safety between Ford's Theatre and "The House Where Lincoln Died." These historic places are located immediately across from one another about mid-block. Nearly every morning, I see brakes slammed on or frantic parents grabbing the back of a child's shirt as visitors dart into the middle of 10th Street going from one landmark to another.
The problem is that visitors cannot see the oncoming traffic from beyond the tour buses illegally parked (and often double-parked) on 10th Street. Commuters, on the other hand, are weaving their way between the tour buses on the right, cars waiting for a parking garage on the left, and trucks supplying the Hard Rock Cafe. There is little room to maneuver when pedestrians bolt into the street.
I suggest that a simple barrier or sign be placed in front of the house so pedestrians realize that they should cross at the crosswalks. Something must be done before we have another tragedy at Ford's Theatre. DONNA K. THIEL Washington
Thanks for what seems like a sensible warning. This is a particular problem, with two popular tourist attractions across the street from each other at mid-block. Many people choose to cross directly from one to the other. Earle Kittleman, spokesman for the National Park Service, said he will ask Park Service guides at both locations to end their tours with a warning about dangers to pedestrians.
Kittleman added that the Park Service also will look into your suggestion about a barrier or signs. Meanwhile, would it be possible for commuters who use the 500 block of 10th Street NW to consider another route?
Confusion on Little Falls Parkway
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
When is the appropriate governmental body going to do something about Little Falls Parkway in Bethesda?
Traveling south from River Road to Massachusetts Avenue, two lanes merge into one lane; yet, because no sign exists to signal drivers of the narrowing roadway, confusion, frustration and anger usually develop. Exactly why is there no "merge left" or "merge right" sign to let people know that eventually someone will have to yield to someone else?
The left lane has the right of way, because it is the through lane, and the right lane merges into it, according to an official with oversight of this road, J.L. Jalali, of the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission. He thought it would be a good idea to put up "Lane Ends" and "Merge Left" signs by the right-hand lane, and said he would look into obtaining approval to do so.
Blocking Unwanted Calls, Mail
A few weeks ago, Dr. Gridlock, in an acknowledged digression to treat another form of stress, asked how to reduce unsolicited telephone calls and mail.
Reader Theodore J. Cohen, of Alexandria, sends along some helpful information, which he received from the office of Rep. Stan Parris (R-Va.) and the Federal Communications Commission.
The Direct Marketing Association Inc., a trade association for national mail order and telemarketing firms, offers a consumer service to remove yourself from the lists of national telemarketers and mail order firms. These firms would rather spend their money elsewhere if they know you don't want to be bothered.
If you want off a calling list, or a mailing list, write the Telephone Preference Service, or the Mail Preference Service, Direct Marketing Association Inc., 11 W. 42nd St., New York, N.Y. 10163-3861.
Include your name, telephone number and full address, including Zip code. The change takes three to four months to take effect, and should cover about 80 percent of all the national soliciting firms (the service does not cover local solicitations).
Support for Motorists Lobby
Dr. Gridlock recently asked what readers thought of the need for a new organization, something called, perhaps, "Motorists United," that would bring concerns of the motorists at large to the attention of public officials, and would press for action and accountability. In addition to dozens of letters of support, nearly 2,000 of you called the Post-Haste information line. The results: 1,660 said they would pay $10 a year to support the formation of such an organization; 289 said they would not.
Of the supporters, many said they would gladly pay more than that amount and would volunteer their time. "It's about time that someone began speaking up on behalf of the hapless and hopeless motorist," said the Powell family, of Germantown.
The Post-Haste system, which lets folks call a machine at The Post and record votes, was also set up to take additional comments from the first 50 callers. Only one expressed reservations about the group: "The last thing we need is another organization to coddle people with autos; what we really need is an organization to promote public transportation."
Of course, such a new organization could do that too, and should. Whatever it takes to help people get around.
The 85 percent approval, along with numerous volunteers, is encouraging; the 15 percent who objected is troubling, and suggests more of their concerns -- whatever they might be -- need to be factored into the formation of any such group.
Several people who left comments were troubled that the American Automobile Association is not playing this role; still others wondered if AAA already was doing this and whether a new group was necessary.
Dr. Gridlock is a member of AAA. It can be seen as a useful organization that provides towing help and travel information, among other services. It also lobbies legislatures on various topics, many of them related to automobile safety.
What it does not seem to do in any way visible to the doctor is to press for action on almost any of the concerns you express through thousands of pieces of mail to this column, such as confusing road signs, illegal parking, intersection blocking, lack of synchronized signals, red light running, uncoordinated road construction, poor condition of streets, roads that need widening or left turn lanes and arrows, the need for more public transit, and specific problems at many, many intersections.
A new group could unite the voices of frustrated motorists now stuck in traffic into a group that might have some political punch.
There seems to be a core of volunteers already. Who might lead such a group? A couple of thoughts come to mind:
An experienced public affairs officer for a major local transportation agency. Someone who regularly deals with the public, and knows many transportation officials around the area. Someone who understands how a major transportation agency works, and who understands politicians.
Someone from the grass roots. One such grass-roots organization that comes to mind is Mothers Against Drunk Driving. This group, from what the doctor observes, came together out of emotion to lobby for a common good. Its members have made a difference, and they have done so without the goals of the group seeming to be dominated by anyone's ego. We are more aware of the group's mission than we are of the people behind it.
In coming weeks, Dr. Gridlock may float a few names of people who write in and are interested in leading such a group, so that others might contact them if they want to.
No More Funeral Processions
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
There is no need for funeral processions. They are so annoying. Long lines of cars refusing to let others change lanes or make necessary direction variations cause traffic congestion and road hazards. Let's get this antiquated practice of follow-the-leader buried along with the dearly departed.
Dr. Gridlock appears in Metro 2 each Friday to explore what makes it difficult to get around on roads. We'll try to find out why bad situations exist and what is being done about them. You can suggest topics by writing (please don't phone) to DR. GRIDLOCK, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. Please include your full name, address, and day and evening phone numbers.