Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Every morning and afternoon, as I use the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, I see dozens of commercial vehicles -- vans, trucks, cars, etc. -- also using the parkway and ignoring the "Commercial Vehicles Prohibited" signs.

I grew up in Mississippi near a similar parkway, where commercial vehicle drivers were ticketed. Why can't the National Park Service enforce the same law up here? I always thought it was standard Park Service policy to disallow all commercial vehicles.

Is there anyone I can call? I can't take it another year!

Jonie Lehmann


The National Park Service prohibits commercial vehicles on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, which extends about 20 miles from the District line to Route 175.

Commercial vehicles are defined as trucks, station wagons, pickup trucks or other vehicles transporting valuable property for a fee or providing services to another person for profit. U.S. Park Police have written 600 citations for violations in the past four years, said Bill Line, a Park Service spokesman. He says police recognize that they can't get all the violators.

By the way, the road from Route 175 on into Baltimore becomes Maryland Route 295, and is under state jurisdiction. The state imposes no restrictions on commercial vehicles on its segment.

To complain, you can call Line at 202-619-7177. Tell him Dr. Gridlock sent you.

If this is driving you crazy, I wonder whether it makes more sense to commute on the parallel roads, Interstate 95 or Route 29?

Bikers Belong on Bike Path?

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I drive on Rock Creek Parkway most days, and on occasion I am frustrated to come across cyclists using the road instead of the adjacent bike path. Their presence is dangerous in a number of ways, such as when drivers try to pass them on the winding, two-lane portions of the parkway.

Are cyclists required to use an adjacent bike path when one is provided?

David Morgenstern


No, not in any of our jurisdictions, according to Eric Gilliland, executive director of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association.

Many bicyclists eschew the Rock Creek bike path because it is cratered and cracked from tree roots and has too many puddles when it rains, Gilliland said. Can't blame them.

You may be interested to know that the Rock Creek bike path, from P Street NW to Broad Branch Road NW, is scheduled to be rebuilt. That project, involving the city and the National Park Service, is scheduled to start in January 2007 and take six to nine months to complete, according to the District government's bicycle coordinator, Jim Sebastian. That may take more bikes off the roadways.

D.C.'s Cell Phone Ban

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I believe that talking on a hand-held cell phone while driving was outlawed in the District about a year ago.

As a frequent pedestrian and occasional driver living near Dupont Circle, I notice more, not fewer, drivers in violation.

Have the police issued any tickets or made any arrests in the months since the ban went into effect?

It seems that when I spot a particularly dangerous driver, she or he is on a cell phone almost every time.

Thank you! I really appreciate your column. It is a genuine public service.

Bill Mould


Thanks. Since the law went into effect, in July 2004, District police had issued 8,348 citations and 4,284 warnings through August 2005, according to Kevin Morison, who handles such statistics for the police.

Based on those numbers, it seems the police are responding to the problem. Maybe the word hasn't reached everyone or maybe this is a case where the police can't get them all. Do you have any suggestions?

Accessing Arena Exit

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I work at an office building in New Carrollton. Occasionally, my colleagues and I go to the Boulevard at the Capital Centre for lunch. It's new, clean and close by. We would frequent the complex even more if not for the trouble it takes to get there.

We have to either take the Capital Beltway all the way to the Central Avenue exit and circle back or take local streets through some risky neighborhoods.

Why is the Beltway's Arena Drive exit for the Boulevard at the Capital Centre always closed during the week? Using that route would allow us a much quicker trip, given that we have one hour for lunch.

Marci Weiskott

Silver Spring

It's because regular use of the Arena Drive exit would provoke the concern of highway officials, who think it is too close to its adjacent Beltway exits and thus could cause dangerous traffic, with drivers weaving to get on and off Arena Drive.

But help is on the way. Maryland has the funds to build access roads parallel to the Beltway, eliminating the concerns and enabling the Arena Drive interchange to be used full time. The date for completion is in 2009.

Towing Vehicles

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I am concerned about a very large truck carrying a lot of junk that has been parked at Fourth and C streets SW for the last couple of weeks.

It has been ticketed three times, but according to a meter attendant with whom I spoke, that is the maximum number of times it can be ticketed. The attendant also said the truck cannot be towed until a month has passed.

This is not just a meter violation, but also a violation of no-standing/parking rules during the morning rush hour (7 to 9:30 a.m.).

More important, this truck strikes me as a security threat, parked with unknown cargo next to a number of federal office buildings.

Heidi Sorensen

University Park

The city says to call the catchall complaint number, 202-727-1000. Get a tracking number for your complaint, and check back in a few weeks. If the problem remains, please contact me again.

Slow Down, Save Gas

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I don't get it! Among the havoc caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita was damage to many of the refineries and oil drilling platforms along the Gulf Coast. We were told this has disrupted our fuel supply, causing some gas stations to run dry while others had huge lines -- not to mention the huge spike in prices felt by all.

In response, I went into my socially responsible mode and changed my driving habits. I'm walking, instead of driving, to my nearby neighborhood shopping center; eliminating frivolous trips in the car; and driving more slowly, which is the real complaint I have with my fellow motorists. Is it rocket science that the faster one drives, the more gasoline they'll burn?

So why does it seem like I'm the only one trying to conserve gas by driving at, or slightly below, the posted speed limit?

Where are those drivers we see just about every night on the news complaining about the cost of filling their vehicles or the horrendous lines they had to endure, or those people who are constantly bemoaning the precarious state of the earth's environment?

Answer: They're all speeding past me in their armored personnel carriers and, in quite a few instances, doing so in a reckless and dangerous manner.

Tom Wiedemer


Perhaps $5-a-gallon gasoline will change driving habits and force a switch to alternative transportation. I've already had one inquiry on the legality of using a golf cart to run short errands on Northern Virginia roads. The carts are permitted on roads posted at 25 mph or less. Registration is not required, just a driver's license.

Based on my mail, $3-a-gallon gas is forcing a lot of people to reexamine how they get around. Some have started walking more for short trips.

Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.

Dr. Gridlock appears Thursdays in the Extra and Sundays in the Metro section. You can write to Dr. Gridlock at 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. He prefers to receive e-mail, at, or faxes, at 703-352-3908. Include your full name, town, county and day and evening telephone numbers.