We’ve all experienced it when crossing one of the District’s 7,700 intersections (of which more than 1,678 are signalized). You are crossing the street and then bam! You look up and you’re a deer in headlights. A car has either just screeched to a stop before hitting you or grazed your coat as it has whizzed right by you. Instances like this continue to prompt the District of Columbia Government’s to work on traffic safety through measures such as the March 2015 commitment to the Vision Zero Initiative. By the year 2024, the goal of Vision Zero is that the District will reach zero fatalities and serious injuries for pedestrians, cyclist, and cars, “through more effective use of data, education, enforcement, and engineering.” Vision Zero is not the first District initiative to improve traffic fatalities and serious injuries. In 2010, the D.C. City council established the Pedestrian Advisory Council to advise the Mayor, D.C. Council, and D.C. government agencies on pedestrian safety and accessibility.
In July 2015, in bright red shirts bearing the Vision Zero logo, staffers from the District of Columbia Government Department of Transportation canvassed the city in order to ask people what traffic related issues they were facing when on foot, on a bicycle, or in a car. It’s been almost half a year since the collection of this data. The District Ninja team decided to take a look at the collected data from June 29, 2015 to November 22, 2015 in order to see what trends and patterns are emerging. For this post, we decided to focus on pedestrian related traffic issues.
American Automobile Association (AAA) recently reported that from 2009 to 2014, “more pedestrians were killed in crashes than vehicle occupants.” While the Vision Zero data provides key information such as the latitude and longitude of the reported incident, we wanted to get more specific such as seeing what neighborhood the incident occurred in. The team started to run analytics with other District open datasets to see which specific neighborhoods and streets these issues were arising in. You’ll notice that the visuals contain the official government Vision Zero logo. This is in no way endorsed by or affiliated with the District of Columbia government. This has only been done to show where the data comes from. Nonetheless, we are especially grateful to the District Government and Mayor Muriel Bowser who committed to this initiative at the outset of her term which has allowed us to publish this post. Now for the data!
While the Vision Zero open data doesn't contain neighborhood information, the District Ninja team wanted to get a better idea of what exact neighborhoods are facing the most traffic issues for pedestrians. Topping the list is Near Northeast with 141 pedestrian reported traffic issues. For those unfamiliar, Near Northeast is just east of Union Station containing popular neighborhoods like the H Street Corridor.
What caught our eye right away was that Capitol Hill (102) and Hill East (116) make up 21% of the total figures in the top 10 neighborhoods. This is especially interesting given the fact that some don't consider Hill East to be a separate neighborhood like the D.C. Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO) open dataset does. Either way, the two geographic areas are extremely close to Capitol Hill. The fact that 21% of the top neighborhood pedestrian traffic complaints stem from two small neighborhoods which practically border one another says something about this area for pedestrians in the District as a whole!
Pedestrian issues with vehicle speeding and failure to stop over the last six months
The District Ninja team wanted to see the rate at which pedestrian traffic complaints changed over the six month data collection period, specifically dealing with vehicles failure to stop for pedestrians whether it be through speeding or a red light. It becomes glaringly obvious that July contains a much greater number of issues than the rest of the months. While we can't say with certainty, we believe this is due to the fact that District officials were canvassing the city and surveying citizens in July as opposed to the other months where they relied on Vision Zero's self-reporting application.
There was some debate about this among team members. A few argued that in summer months there are more pedestrians out and about and therefore a higher number of incidents reported. Others countered that the significant discrepancy likely can't be explained by simple seasonal weather changes given that August sees lots of pedestrian traffic as well. Instead, unsurprisingly, this seems to be indicative of a common survey problem: people are lazy. When asked a question it is much more likely to get an answer then to rely on self reporting.
Top 5 D.C. streets with pedestrian traffic issues
To get a better idea of where exactly the issues are occurring, we took a look at what exact streets were seeing the most pedestrian traffic issues. The bar chart above represents the five streets with the most reported traffic incidents. Each street is also color-coded by quadrant in order to give us a better idea of what segments of these streets are seeing the most issues. For consistency, we kept the same five categories as the second visual concerning failure to stop for pedestrians and issues dealing with speeding.
17th Street comes in at first place with 66 total complaints. Depending on the quadrant, the issue reported on each street can change. For instance with speeding, 17th Street SE is far more problematic than 17th Street NW. Yet, for failing to stop for pedestrians, each quadrant virtually has the same number of issues. With the caveat that certain streets contain more mileage in certain quadrants, you notice that certain quadrants comprise either a majority or plurality of the issues on that street. For 17th street, SE makes up 47% of the total complaints for these category whereas NW makes up 39%.
As for 14th Street, the NW quadrant makes up for 74% of all reported failure to stop for pedestrian complaints. Interestingly, when it comes to red light running or speeding, in the NW, the SE, and the NE quadrants complaints are practically even in distribution.What’s especially interesting about 14th Street is that failure to stop for pedestrians had 20 reported complaints in NW alone and the next highest number of reported complaints in another category is 5 for speeding. This gives you an indication of just how predominant of an issue the failure to stop for pedestrians is on 14th Street in relation to other issues on this street as it makes up for 52% of the total incidents in these five reported categories.
Top 5 neighborhoods for failure to stop for a pedestrian
After spending some time sifting through the data, it became increasingly clear that failure to stop for pedestrians ranked among the top, if not the top pedestrian traffic issue. The visual above shows the five neighborhoods where this issue is the most prevalent in the District. Taking the first visual in this post and this one together, it becomes increasingly clear that the Capitol Hill/Hill East comprise the majority of failure to stop issues for pedestrians in the District. Hill East ranks first, containing 9 more incidents than the second neighborhood, Capitol Hill.
As discussed above, even when viewed as distinct neighborhoods, two neighborhoods in such close proximity to one another comprise 46% of the total figures for the top 5 District neighborhoods where failure to stop for a pedestrian is an issue. If treated as one neighborhood, the one neighborhood would represent 46% of the total for four neighborhoods, an even more significant figure. Whichever way you feel, we can start to see that this geographic region of the District faces it’s hard to deny that these neighborhood(s) are facing the bulk of the failure to stop for pedestrian issues in the District.
We’d like to once again thank the District Government for making this data available. It would not be possible without them doing so. Stay tuned for our next upcoming Vision Zero feature!