Let this show that email “activism” is not the most efficient way of getting something done, especially if you do it infrequently, politely, and don’t send it to enough of the right people.
It’s been nearly a year since I first contacted the District Department of Transportation requesting a stop sign at the intersection of 12th and Newton NE, one of the main pedestrian intersections in Brookland, my quiet neighborhood in Northeast DC. I thought it would be kind of easy.
On October 6, 2008, I sent the following email to a woman I’ve worked with before at DDOT:
“I am pretty sure you are not the person to ask about this, but I’m not sure where to direct this inquiry. There doesn’t seem to be an option for requesting a stop sign on the DC Government service request forms. I want to find out how to get a stop sign or stop light at 12th and Newton Sts NE. It is a really busy intersection with hundreds of people crossing the street to get to and from the Brookland metro stop and cars rarely obey the yield to pedestrians sign. It is really dangerous for children and elderly and though there is a stop light at 12th and Monroe, people drive south at probably 35-40 miles an hour to make it through the light. This morning I was almost hit while walking in the crosswalk by a woman who slammed on her brakes a few inches in front of me and then screamed at me from her window, right after she almost hit another much older woman.
Your disgruntled pedestrian friend,
Fifteen minutes later she forwarded it to Chris Delfs: “The email below is about an unsafe intersection in Ward 5. While we are currently without a Ward 5 planner – is there someone that this can get referred to?”
I didn’t hear anything back and let it move comfortably to the back of my mind where it stayed for many months, thinking somehow that I’d done my part. Without a planner for our ward, it likely moved even farther off the DDOT radar. It seems that happens a lot, according to many of my neighbors who have tried numerous times to have a stop sign installed.
On April 7, 2009 Gabe Klein was confirmed as the Director of Transportation and I sent him the previous email I’d sent to DDOT repeating my request:
“Congratulations on your confirmation!
I’m forwarding you this email because I haven’t heard anything about this stop sign request. Apparently my lovely ward 5 was without a planner back in October, and maybe still is, but we could really use a stop sign at 12th and Newton NE. It’s where people from east Brookland cross to get to the metro and cars never obey the poorly placed yield to pedestrian sign. There are stop signs all over Brookland where they are not as vital as this intersection.
Also, there are new speedbumps all over 10th st NE. Any chance we could get some bike cut-outs mandated in future installations? They are really high and a bit difficult to ride over. (Especially with that fork on my bike that’s bent, as you pointed out at the safety ride a couple of weeks ago).
I was impressed to hear back from him the next day, two days into his job.
We will look into this and get right back to you. Jeff Marootian will bird-dog the requests.
Bird-dogging, eh? Didn’t know what that was but I decided it was promising.
Three months later, in July I sent an email to the very active Brookland listserv with the reasons I thought a stop sign was necessary. I received another “thank you” from our ANC Commissioner Carolyn Steptoe, but I also received many messages from residents nodding in email agreement about the need for a stop sign. There were a lot of stories of close calls and a lot of indignation.
Several told me that that they’d tried it before and had been brushed off, some said that it was a waste of time. I was frustrated with my neighbors who told me that it was futile to try but I began looking through old postings of the Brookland listserv and found messages dating back to 2004 from residents who were agigtating for a stop sign over five years ago. No wonder people think it’s a waste of effort.
So July 28, 2009 I sent the following email to the Director Klein, the bird-dogger Marootian, the ANC Commissioner Steptoe, the Ward 5 Outreach Specialist Alice Thompson, and the Brookland listserv:
I’m following up on the email discussion about installing a stop sign at 12th and Newton NE. If there has been a traffic study, let’s verify that it says what residents can see every day and install a stop sign or stop light. If it determines that this intersection is acceptable as it is, then the method of study needs to be changed to reflect the reality.
This intersection is dangerous.
What is the turnover time for completing the assessment to the installation stage? According to Lavinia Wohlfarth, the 12th St Streetscape “plan called for raised crosswalks, and pedestrian walking signs at Newton, Monroe and Otis”.
It took the death of a pedestrian at the nightmare intersection of 15th, Florida, and W NW to get any action on those streets and that should never happen again.
Please install a stop sign or a stop light at 12th and Newton at the very least, and complete the improvements which were included in the plan to make the streets accessible for all residents.
It’s now two months since that last email. No stop signs have been installed, no bird-dogging has commenced, no response from the DC Government.
NOW is the time to fix this problem, before someone is killed.