Good news and bad news for those of you experiencing gridlock in the Merrifield area, between Falls Church and Fairfax.

The good news is that, with recent funding, the state is going to widen Route 29 to six lanes, divided, between Merrilee Drive and the Beltway, and Gallows Road to six lanes, divided, between Route 50 and Providence Forest Drive.

The bad news is that construction is not scheduled to begin until 2010. There is no timetable for completion, but such projects usually take two to three years.

D.C.'s Cell Phone Ban

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I believe that talking on a handheld 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


Bikers Belong on Bike Path?

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I drive on Rock Creek Parkway most days, and occasionally 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.

'Our Driving Culture'

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I recently turned 18 and already see serious problems with our driving culture.

Parents continue to purchase high-riding SUVs, but they are stunned when their inexperienced children flip them over.

Bestowing a car upon a new licensee cannot be solely about privilege; it must also be about safety. Thus, my question: If children are our most valuable assets, why do we let them drive around in the oldest, most unsafe cars?

Additionally, the poor quality of many local driving programs contributes to teenagers' accidents. How many accidents could be avoided if kids knew how to safely overcome a skid, avoid a deer or stay away from unsafe vehicles?

If public driving programs continue to be inadequate, I hope that parents will send their children to private driving schools. The investment is worth it.

Alexander D'Amato


Such insight for an 18-year-old. Good for you for being so socially conscious, Alexander.

I, too, believe parents should not put their new drivers in SUVs. The larger vehicles require more skill to drive than smaller cars.

As for older vehicles, there is a thought that the big ones offer more protection in a collision. On the other hand, many of them do not have air bags and are more unreliable.

The "safe driving" schools that I'm familiar with are one-day affairs, at Car Guys in Rockville (800-800-GUYS) and BSR Inc. in Summit Point, W.Va. (304-725-6512).

Reporting Reckless Drivers

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I was recently driving my motorcycle on Route 193 (Georgetown Pike) on my way to Great Falls between the Capital Beltway and the Madeira School. I was traveling about 5 mph above the speed limit when the driver of a huge SUV pulled right up behind me and honked his horn incessantly.

Because the road is so hilly and winding, it took a minute before I could find a place to pull over, at which point the SUV had already begun to pass me, with the driver gesturing wildly and almost running me off the road.

He then got stuck behind a construction vehicle, so I caught up with him and noted the license plate.

Is there anyone with whom I can lodge a formal complaint? His behavior was exceedingly rude and dangerous. By the way, when he came to his turn, he did not bother to use a turn signal!

Paula J. Pettavino


Police generally won't respond to complaints about traffic violations unless they see them. Two exceptions are drunken-driving or reckless-driving complaints. In those cases, they will be on the lookout for certain vehicles if they have time.

It sounds like your experience is in the latter category, reckless driving. If you have a cell phone, dial #77 to report the offender. If you have to wait to get to a phone, it might be too late, but you can give it a try.

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.