Making Park Place Safer is Possible, but Won’t be Accomplished with Speed Cameras

March 24th accident at Park Place and Irving Streets, NW. Photo by Christopher Chambers.)

March 24th accident at Park Place and Irving Streets, NW. Photo by Christopher Chambers.)

A pair of accidents at the southern end of Park Place this month again underscored the need for better safety along this stretch of road. The first accident occured on the afternoon of March 16th at the corner of Park Place and Kenyon in which a vehicle sped through the red light. After the accident, the occupants fled the scene leading to a police search and snarled traffic.

A more recent accident occurred on March 24th around 9 pm. This time the accident was at Park Place and Irving with the vehicle coming to rest upside-down.

From its start at Rock Creek Church Road in the north to Kenyon Street in the south, Park Place is only nine blocks with a speed limit of 25 mph. Yet, the street runs fast. It’s constructed as a two-lane one-way southbound street with no cross streets, stop signs, or traffic lights for to slow traffic as it vehicles travel the nine blocks along the Soldiers’ Home. Vehicles entering Park Place from the north have no incentive to slow down and frequently speed well above the speed limit.

Over the years, speed cameras have been placed at various spots along the route to encourage drivers to slow down. This works for a while, resulting in the speed cameras being removed and eventually brought back at different locations. There is currently a camera located just north of Quebec Place.

Yet, until the street is redesigned, speeding traffic will continue to be not just a nuisance, but a public safety issue. It is long past time to have DDOT re-evaluate the layout of Park Place. While the easiest/cheapest solution would likely be stop signs or traffic lights, I think a better long-term solution would be to narrow the street to one lane, and in so doing add a pedestrian sidewalk along the Soldiers’ Home fence on the east and a protected bike lane between the sidewalk and a parking lane on the west. This would increase bike safety, encourage slower driving speeds, and make the stretch more pedestrian friendly. If done well, it could also enhance beauty and providing room for street trees (especially on the southern stretch of the street which currently lacks trees).

Not only would narrowing Park Place to one lane help slow traffic leading to Kenyon and Irving, once a driver arrived at the southern end of the street there would be less confusion and jockeying for lane position as the intersections become a maze of choices leading to east bound Irving, east bound Michigan, south bound 5th Street, and west bound Columbia Road.

Protected bike lane(Protected bike lane diagram from Streetsblog LA)

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17 Comments on “Making Park Place Safer is Possible, but Won’t be Accomplished with Speed Cameras”

  1. Emily Says:

    Yes! This sounds exactly right to me. I live on Park Pl and the cars speed by all day long. I’ve wondered why there isn’t a tree lawn along this stretch like there is further up, and wondered if that would help curb the speeding as well.

  2. Frank Says:

    This is the best idea I’ve seen in a while. You should really push for this. That street is far too fast and far too big for what it needs to be.

  3. Byron Says:

    This is a great idea. I also think Kenyon and Irving should both be narrowed to all-day, both side parking all the time. People treat 400-500-600 blocks as an extension of the 3 lane highway that Irving is a few blocks earlier. It’s terrible.

    • bora Says:

      very much agree with this. And the sidewalk along some of these stretches (such as near Kenyon and GA) are too narrow for the type of traffic that comes along the street.

  4. John Says:

    Terrific idea! As a resident of Park Place I’m hugely supportive of this.

  5. Park Placer Says:

    Fantastic idea! I couldn’t agree more. It is a weird and unsafe highway vibe right now. And because the speed cams don’t have lights/flashes, people often speed very aggressively down that street at night (both those accidents happened after dark, making me think it’s no coincidence).
    The plan you’ve come up with would really make it more appealing, as well. This street has become a kind of promenade for dog walkers and joggers, and the close proximity of speeding cars is just risky.

  6. neb Says:

    great idea! i think it would be better to do a protected bicycle path rather than buffered. something similar to the 15th street or 1st street paths that have bollards used to separate the bicycle lane. Is there enough room for a sidewalk on that side as well?

    the best way to slow traffic here is to reduce the lanes, and in this case it won’t affect flow that much, just make it safer.

  7. Lalo Says:

    Kent, this is an excellent idea!. I am a resident of Park Pl and I think this will for sure deal with the car speed problem and also keep the neighborhood feeling and look of our street.

  8. Zachary Says:

    Adding my voice to this chorus. I live on Park Place and I am worried about the many young children on my block getting into traffic. Additionally, wider existing sidewalks, and separate walking and bike lanes adjacent to the Soldiers Home would significantly improve the quality of life in this area.

  9. rmandle Says:

    Good call, Kent! I’d venture to guess that you’ll get support from this on the 4C side as well.

  10. B G Says:

    Definitely, Kent! Speeds are way too fast, and the road definitely doesn’t need to be this wide. Narrowing the street should improve safety and beautify the neighborhood.

  11. sandy Says:

    This is a fantastic idea (I hope it wasn’t an April Fool’s joke?).
    I love every aspect of this idea. A protected bike path, a slower street, a new sidewalk. What can we do to help make this a reality?

  12. […] bike lanes, trees, and traffic. I’ve definitely been among them by advocating for a reconfiguration for Park Place, looking for ways to add more trees to treeless blocks, and asking DDOT for a long-term plan to […]

  13. […] week’s community meeting with DDOT and my longstanding interest in improving our streets, bike lanes, sidewalks, and tree canopy, I’ve begun a deep dialogue with DDOT asking for a wide range of […]

  14. Steve Davis Says:

    I’m late to this party, but this is a tremendous idea!! There are a few things I’d tweak to the design — I think parking can and should stay on the west side of the street closer to folks’ houses, but the lane on east side should be protected by either bollards or ideally a concrete apron like the 1st Street NE lane. (Concrete would be ideal if parking stays on west side.)

    And as you say, wider sidewalks on both sides, one travel lane. There’s almost no justification for two lanes of travel on this street. Capacity is constrained by the light at Quincy and there’s probably no time of day other than 30-45 mins in the morning when more than one light cycle of traffic backs up at Irving on the south end. (And if so? So what!?) It’s a dramatically oversized street for the traffic it carries and one lane would be sufficient. There’s little reason to think that reducing it to one lane would have any significant effect on traffic.

    Most importantly, this idea recognizes that design is the primary deciding factor in speed and behavior. It’s why I hate trying to fix problematic streets with only cameras or stepped-up enforcement. The design gives us our cues for how we should travel, and a speed camera in this case is merely a band-aid on a sucking chest would.

    Fix the design, fix (most of) the problems.

    I’m in 4C a little north of here and I heartily endorse.

  15. Steve Davis Says:

    Oh, and to be clear, I was suggesting the protected lane be on the EAST side — no conflicts with right-turning drivers for the entire length!

    Though that would require some creativity for bikes switching sides at Quincy and then Irving, I suppose, but avoiding right-hooks would be huge. If the protected lane goes in with parking on the west side, you’d also lose some parking spots near intersections to improve visibility (look at 15th st design) — potentially making it tougher to get support from Park Place neighbors for that configuration.

    Kent, I hope you get this ball rolling. Happy to help out however I can.

  16. Ryan S Says:

    We do indeed active enforcement not just by cameras, but maybe also we change the camera program so that there are more mobile cameras which constantly change location and their locations are not known in advance or published on the police website.

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