A number of you wrote in after our recent
column on "slug lines." It certainly is a popular
way to get to work. Not surprisingly, many of you said that
it's a good thing that the government isn't officially
involved (other than in setting aside lots for slugs to park).
While many think it's just about the neatest thing since
the fax machine, a number also have some reservations about
putting themselves into someone else's hands.
Molly of Montclair writes: "I stopped slugging almost
four years ago because it seemed like the drivers were getting
more and more reckless. One man in particular made the
"A co-worker and I were picked up at a slug line near
Potomac Mills mall by a man who looked and sounded fine. But
he turned into a different person on the highway - speeding,
cutting in front of other cars and swearing at the other
drivers - all the time listening to one of those `soothing
jazz' radio stations.
"It was so bad by the time we got onto Interstate 395
that we asked him to slow down. He did for a little while and
then started going crazy again when somebody changed lanes in
front of us.
"Fortunately, we got to work in one piece. But my
co-worker and I agreed to start a real car pool.
"My only advice for your readers is to be careful
because you never know who you're getting a ride with."
Ron of Woodbridge writes: "I really enjoy slugging,
although I've only been doing it for two years. I've met some
really nice people and heard some interesting stories. The
only thing I would suggest is people do a better job of
cleaning their cars before they pick up passengers.
"A couple of weeks ago I got into a car heading toward
L'Enfant Plaza. The ride went all right until I got out and
realized that I had been sitting on a broken ink pen and the
back of my pants was covered in blue ink.
"Of course, I realized this too late to say something
to the driver, but he's probably now wondering why the front
seat of his Topaz is covered in ink."
One of things we are very concerned about is pedestrian
safety. This isn't an issue about which only environmental
activists are concerned. It's an issue that affects all of us.
After all, during some part of every day, we're all
Think about it: How far do you walk from your car to the
office? How far from the train or bus? Do you walk to the deli
for lunch or cross the street to get a $5 cup of coffee? Most
of us do at least once or twice a day. And that's why we
should pay attention to issues that affect pedestrians.
For the first time in many years, the Washington, D.C.,
government has put together a report of all the collisions
involving pedestrians and bicyclists in the city. They studied
the period from 1997 through 1999 and found some interesting
In an average year, there are 1,650 collisions involving
pedestrians. This represents about 4 percent of all traffic
collisions that occur in the city. As a result of those
collisions, 16 pedestrians will die in an average year.
The thing that surprised me in the report was that the
number of bicyclists involved in collisions wasn't higher. The
report says there was an average of 260 collisions involving
bike riders in a typical year, with an average of one death.
Given the increasing number of bicycle couriers flying
through the streets in the city, I thought those numbers would
The report says the intersection with the most collisions
for bicycles is Connecticut and L streets Northwest (a lot of
couriers here). The worst intersection for pedestrians is
Benning Road and Minnesota Avenue Northeast.
Last year, I did a series of reports called "Mean
Streets," in which I attempted to get a handle on what
was being done to make our streets safer to walk. I talked to
a number of people working to address the issue at the local
and state level.
On the other side of the Potomac River, Montgomery County,
Md., has put together a blue-ribbon panel to make
recommendations to the county executive, who will then try to
cobble the monies together to act on the recommendations.
There is a real need because much of Montgomery County was
built for cars and not for walking.
What they're finding in Montgomery County is that the
cultural differences of an increasing Asian and Hispanic
population are making the task more difficult. Many of these
people come from towns and cities where you can walk to
everything. That's not the case in most of the neighborhoods
I also found that Arlington was far ahead of everyone else
in taking an active role. They're using new technologies and
some old, common-sense methods to make walking safer. Because
many of their neighborhoods are older, they had to do a fair
amount of retrofitting to make it work.
What do you think ought to be done to make our streets
safer to walk? Have you had any bad, or good, experiences
while walking in the region? Have you seen any ideas here or
in other locations that work well? Let's share them with all
of our readers.
Steve Eldridge is a veteran traffic reporter in
Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. For more Sprawl &
Crawl, tune in daily to WTOP-FM 107.7, WTOP-AM 820 or 1500.
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