Pedestrian safety is an important issue in any city. In Washington DC, a lot of people use public transportation, which requires them to walk to a subway station or a bus stop. Some people (and I was once one of them) even walk to work. Ensuring that crosswalks are well marked, traffic signals for pedestrians are working, and automobiles yield to pedestrians is very important. According to some sources, DC has the highest pedestrian fatality rate in the country. Regardless of whether or not that statistic is true, too many pedestrians are killed/injured each year in DC.
Last year an alarming number of pedestrians were killed by a Metro Bus. Two of the women killed were crossing (in a crosswalk with the right-of-way) Pennsylvania Ave at rush hour when a Metro Bus plowed into them. Obviously the press has been all over these events and Metro claims that safety is the primary concern of all of their bus drivers. The events that I witnessed yesterday cause me to think otherwise...
Yesterday afternoon around 3:30pm I was walking through Dupont Circle. It was sleeting and the roads were wet and a little slippery. I waited for the pedestrian crosswalk light at the intersection of Connecticut Ave and Dupont Circle to indicate that it was safe for me to cross. When the light changed, I stepped off the curb and started to cross the street. About halfway across the street I heard a horn beeping AT ME. I look to my right (towards traffic heading north on Connecticut Ave) and sure enough a Metro bus driver was honking at me and gesturing that I get out of the crosswalk (READ: out of his way). I nodded to the crosswalk sign, which indicated that I had 42 seconds remaining to cross the street. As soon as I was clear of the bus, the driver took off and made an illegal right-hand turn on red onto Dupont Circle. I could feel the breeze of the bus speeding past me before I reached the curb.
Needless to say I was appalled. First of all, a bus making an illegal turn on a snowy afternoon in one of the most walked areas of the city is an accident waiting to happen. Second, how dare the bus driver honk at me. No matter what, as the pedestrian, I have the right of way. He HAS to yield to me; it is the law.
So today I wrote a VERY NASTY (and highly detailed) letter to Metro - it was a 42 bus heading north #2822. (This is the second time in a year that I've written...last year I wrote to complain of a bus driver who was listening to his iPod and talking on his cell phone while driving.) When I wrote Metro last year, I received a response indicating that disciplinary action was taken. This time around, I have told Metro that I would like a formal apology from the bus driver as well as the company. That way I will know that Metro actually talked to the bus driver about the incident.
Whether or not I get what I want is to be determined. However, I feel much better having written my complaint. I also am thinking that the Mayor's office and City Council need to know. I may send formal letters there, too. It may seem petty to some people, but the safety of walkers all over this city cannot be taken for granted. Bus drivers shouldn't just be punished/fired after someone has died. They should be accountable for abiding by every law and making every trip a safe one for people on the bus and those walking down the sidewalk.