Dear Dr. Gridlock:
I'm sending you this note because I've been unable to find out whether the District of Columbia or the National Park Service is responsible for the posting of some inconsistent signs. I've contacted both, and each has referred me to the other.
As result of the P Street Bridge refurbishment project, the signs on P Street NW at the southbound entrance to the Rock Creek Parkway are inconsistent.
At the entrance, the signs say "Do Not Enter" from 3:45 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Those signs have been up for several years and reflect the correct times, because Rock Creek Parkway returns from one-way outbound to two-way traffic at 6:30.
At the intersection are new signs saying "No Left Turn" (westbound P Street) and "No Right Turn" (eastbound P Street). Both sets of those signs list the time 3:45 p.m. through 6 p.m. Those are incorrect times because Rock Creek Parkway is still northbound-only until 6:30 p.m.
I hope you can assist me in notifying the appropriate agency. The inconsistent signage creates a safety concern because motorists are using the southbound entrance onto the Rock Creek Parkway when all traffic is northbound.
Thanks for the tip. I passed it on immediately to the D.C. Department of Transportation. It usually acts promptly on matters of safety.
Disastrous Bike Path
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
I just got back into town and saw the letter complaining about bicyclists using the roadway of Rock Creek Parkway (Dr. Gridlock, Aug. 19), even though a bike path is available nearby.
I was unhappy to see your headline, "Some Roads Just Aren't for Cyclists," put forward as a statement. It could have at least been phrased as a question, to show a more open attitude.
The writer said that "It seems absolutely ridiculous (not to mention rude and a little insane) for a cyclist to use Rock Creek Parkway -- a relatively high-speed, curvy road. . . ."
I am not sure of the exact location of this incident, but the maximum speed limit is 35 mph in the park, and in many areas it is 25 mph.
I am sorry, but 35 mph does not make this a high-speed road. Unless it were Mary Poppins with her umbrella on the bike, I'd expect a cyclist on that downhill stretch to be traveling around 20 mph. It's hard to see how that could have been a big problem.
The writer suggested that "a safe path is available right next to it." I'll guess she has not looked at that path lately. Compared with the Capital Crescent and W&OD trails -- both used extensively by bike commuters -- it is a disaster.
It is way too narrow; my guess is it's less than half the recommended safe width for such trails. The pavement surface is terrible: buckled, potholed, just generally lumpy and so poorly designed that areas are often covered with mud.
I've used this trail off and on as part of my commute for years, and I certainly can understand any cyclist's choice to bail out and use the legal option of staying on the roadway. Such a decision is not rude or insane.
If the Rock Creek Trail were upgraded to meet safe specifications and properly maintained, it would be a boon to all commuters, bike and automobile, because it would give the cyclists a much better option than staying on the road.
I've said it before: Our officials need to build more bike paths and maintain them to encourage commuters to get out of their motor vehicles and onto bikes. We all benefit.
I gather there is a new emphasis by transportation departments on bicycle travel. Paths are being built alongside widened roads. However, in at least the case above, more maintenance is needed.
Laid-Back Life in Florida
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
I was a longtime resident of the Washington area, having grown up for the most part in Prince George's County in the 1960s and '70s. I returned to the area in 1985 and lived in Northern Virginia until I moved again in July.
I now live in Palm Bay, Fla., and have not regretted the move at all. There is no traffic to speak of; people are courteous and nice; customer service is very evident; and I rarely see examples of aggressive driving or road rage.
For me, all the great quality of life the D.C. area purports to have was offset by the terrible commutes, a too-fast-paced lifestyle and generally very rude, self-centered and aggressive drivers.
Having said that, it's only fair to point out the downside of living in this area. It being a beach community and the South, the lifestyle is verrrrrrry laid back.
But the D.C. area has nothing on this area when it comes to red-light running. It's fairly common here to see people blowing through lights five seconds or more after they have changed to red.
Still, I'm very pleased with my relocation.
Honestly, why do so many people there seemingly wake up angry at the world and do battle with one another on the roads?
Palm Bay, Fla.
I'm glad you found your place in the sun, Mr. Fraley. Your questions will have to be weighed by each of us when we contemplate retirement.
Avoid Abrupt Turns
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
Let me tell you of a recent incident that shows why I speed up when a person puts on his turn signal.
I was going south on Route 3 in Crofton and was in the right lane. There was a car in the left lane, its rear about equal to my driver's door.
Behind me was a tailgater. As I was passing the exit lane for Route 450 to Bowie, all of a sudden the jerk on my left decided that it was his turn and quickly signaled to turn right, doing over 50 mph.
What was I supposed to do, stop to let him in and get rear-ended by the tailgater? So I sped up past him.
My point is this, D.C. area drivers: You travel the same routes every day. You know where your exits and turnoffs are, and you know how long it takes before you get there. Instead of pretending you are Bobby Labonte passing everyone in sight, use your head and plan your move ahead of time.
Use your signal properly, because I'll bet not many other drivers can read your mind.
I haven't heard before from a driver who speeds up when another motorist puts his blinkers on. In this case, I can understand why you did it.
Drivers should get into the correct lanes for turns, but sometimes people are daydreaming and forget. It happens to all of us at one time or another, I suspect. That does not forgive a reckless turn.
Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.
Dr. Gridlock appears Sunday in the Metro section and Thursday in Extra. You can write to Dr. Gridlock at 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. He prefers to receive e-mail, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or faxes, at 703-352-3908. Include your full name, town, county and day and evening phone numbers.