Can Annandale Become a Walkable Community?

Not without re-education:  Pedestrians & Bicyclists must take equal responsibility for their own safety.


Last October, a 55 year-old male pedestrian died after he was struck by a Ford pick-up truck on Columbia Pike.  The police determined that the man was in the middle of the westbound lanes, having crossed only part of Columbia Pike near the Fire House.  Neither alcohol nor speed were factors, however the pedestrian was NOT in a crosswalk, but mid-block where most motorists would not be looking for pedestrians.  So often, individuals crossing mid-block simply dart out, misjudging their pace compared to an approaching auto.  No matter how quickly the motorist brakes, a collision is inevitable.  Pedestrians MUST take responsibility for their own safety if they plan to share motorways with automobiles.  As in this instance, a traumatized motorist and relatives of the deceased, will have to live with this memory forever, knowing they could not have changed the outcome caused solely by the pedestrian’s impulsive behavior. 

Now that Fairfax County has deemed that bike lanes are essential to Annandale’s most frequently used roadways, Pedalist must also take responsibility for their behavior.  The bike and motor lanes crisscross at each intersection appearing as a crazed maze, leaving little doubt accidents are going to happen.  Bicyclists must watch for the auto turn signals ahead of them while slowing to allow cars to take right turns. Remember that if a bike is present, the motorist will not be able to see a bike if in the car’s blind spot.  Just like pedestrians, bicyclists should remember that cars can not stop as quickly as a bike.  If you are in a shared lane, keep this in mind or you may cause a car to hit you from behind.  Pedestrians and bicyclists have just as much responsibility to use good judgement as do the motorists.  

At this point in the year, entrenched in winter darkness, there are even more hours for pedestrians and motorists to potentially collide. Everyone needs to be especially vigilant.  For pedestrians, the rules your mother taught you should ring in your ears. 

Lesson 1:

¨ Look both ways before crossing a street

¨ Cross at a corner, IN the crosswalk

¨ Do not cross in the middle of the street

¨ Don’t try to outrun a car.  If you aren’t sure you can safely make it across the street, WAIT.

¨ Don’t expect that motorists can see you.  Wear a fluorescent armband, and/or carry a flashing light...esp. if you are wearing dark clothing

¨ Take responsibility for your own safety

Lesson 2: Center Islands can provide safety.
Pedestrian crossing islands (or refuge areas)—also known as center islands are raised islands placed on a street at intersections or midblock locations to separate crossing pedestrians from motor vehicles, according to the Federal Highway Administration.  An Annandale example is at the intersection of Little River Turnpike and Hummer Road-Heritage Drive.  Individuals crossing Little River should shelter on the center island after crossing half the street.  Wait until the traffic light has completed the current cycle, and turns again in your favor.  Few could run fast enough to safely traverse the entire width of Little River in one cycle.


There are several types of medians and pedestrian crossing islands, and if designed and applied appropriately, they improve the safety benefits to both pedestrians and vehicles in the following ways:

  • They may reduce pedestrian crashes by 46% and motor vehicle crashes by up to 39%.
  • They may decrease delays by greater than 30% for motorists.
  • They allow pedestrians a safe place to stop at the mid-point of the roadway before crossing the remaining distance.
  • They enhance the visibility of pedestrian crossings, particularly at unsignalized crossing points.
  • They can reduce the speed of vehicles approaching pedestrian crossings.
  • They provide space for supplemental signage on multi-lane roadways.
  • According to VDOT and the FHA, mid-block locations account for more than 70% of pedestrian fatalities. This is where vehicle travel speeds are higher, contributing to the larger injury & fatalities seen at this location. More than 80% of pedestrians die when hit by vehicles traveling at 40 mph or faster, while less than 10 percent die when hit at 20 mph or less. Installing such raised refuge areas on approaches to multi-lane intersections has been especially effective. Medians are a particularly important pedestrian safety countermeasure in areas where pedestrians access a transit stop. Providing raised medians or pedestrian refuge areas at marked crosswalks has demonstrated a 46% reduction in pedestrian crashes. At unmarked crosswalk locations, medians have demonstrated a 39% reduction in pedestrian crashes.

    Most importantly:

    1.  Be vigilant.
    2.  Wear white at night & a fluorescent armband, and/or carry a flashing light.
    3.  Don’t try to outrun or outride a car.
    4.  Use the crosswalks!

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