My normal commute between work near Union Station and home in Dupont Circle is 35 minutes, doorknob to doorknob. Tuesday night, that commute came to a grinding halt just 2 blocks from my office.
As I crossed the street at 2nd and F Streets NE, an SUV pulled up to the 4-way stop. The SUV stopped at the stop sign, and I began to cross the street in the crosswalk. As I was just in front of the SUV, the driver, who’d looked down to his phone while stopped (it looked like he was texting), pulled forward full speed into a left turn, hitting me.
In the split second I had as the vehicle began to move before it hit me, I screamed and tried to jump back, but I was directly in front of the SUV, and it hit me squarely in the right leg, rolling over my right foot.
As I screamed, the driver finally looked up, saw me, and yelled “sorry!” out of his open window before continuing on his way. I was stunned.
It had all taken less than 15 seconds.
Waiting for the police
Once I got safely onto the sidewalk, I stopped, and the security guard at the nearby SEC parking garage stopped to ask me if I was okay and comment on the craziness of what had just happened. While I was in one piece, I was pretty banged up and definitely very shaken, and reached into my pocket for my cell phone to call 911.
It felt odd to me to call 911 when nothing was on fire and nobody was bleeding or in imminent danger, but as the security guard pointed out, I’d just been involved in a hit-and-run traffic collision.
Nonetheless, I gave the 911 operator my first name (they did not ask for my last name) and location, explained what happened, declined an ambulance, and was told that the next available unit would be on their way to me shortly. I hung up as a good samaritan came up to ask me if I was okay, and another security guard ushered me into the Securities and Exchange Commission building lobby to wait.
Once I was settled inside on a bench, I called my significant other, Kian, to let him know that I’d be late getting home, and he insisted on coming from Dupont to meet me and help me get home once I was done with the police.
Once I hung up with Kian, building security suggested I call 911 again — they were very concerned no officer had responded yet. Kian arrived (via Metro) 25 minutes after I called him, but still no MPD officer had arrived.
The security guards in the building took down my information to let their supervisor know what was going on, and told me that there was a security camera on the corner of the building that might have had an angle to catch the whole thing on tape. They’d be happy to work with MPD to provide the tape.
10 minutes or so after Kian arrived (thanks to Twitter and call logs on our cell phones, I have the timing recorded), we called 911 for a third time. It had been an hour since my first call. They seemed to have no record of our earlier calls, but assured us that this was a priority and that a unit would arrive soon.
80 minutes after the collision, Capitol Police arrived on the scene. The responding officer explained that they’d heard it come in over the radio, and decided to respond. The Capitol Police officer took my full report, spoke to the security guard who’d been an eyewitness, and explained to me that Capitol Police would now have officers canvassing the area on the lookout for the vehicle, but since it had been over an hour, that it probably wasn’t in the area any longer.
20 minutes after Capitol Police arrived, and as they’re nearly finished writing the report, an MPD unit arrived, explaining that they’d been dispatched from the other side of the city, because of something going on downtown occupying all of the units in the area. The officer asked me to explain what had happened yet again, even though they ended up letting Capitol Police file the report.
About 30 minutes after the accident, waiting for MPD, I logged into Twitter on my phone. Many, many people on Twitter expressed their sympathy and kind thoughts (thank you!). As the discussion progressed, several people expressed frustration with that very intersection:
I’ve definitely noticed on my daily commute lots of drivers blowing through the intersection with a rolling stop, or occasionally no stop at all.
A serious reminder
I’m sore and bruised from the collision, but otherwise I am okay. I’m incredibly grateful for that, and for all of the kind people around me who helped me after the accident, like the good Samaritan and the building security at the SEC.
But as a smart growth and complete streets advocate by day, this experience was a serious reminder that our work for more walkable, bikeable, livable streets for everyone in our communities is far from complete. Even in a place like DC that does so many things right when it comes to transportation and planning, there’s more work to do, even at the most basic level.
It’s easy to get wound up in rhetoric about “us vs. them”, the “war on cars”, and so many other issues that we write and read about every day here. We’ve all been guilty of this from time to time. But when we step back, can’t we all agree that cars, bicycles, and most especially, pedestrians, should all have a safe place on our streets? Washington is a great place to live, but we still have a long way to go to make it greater.
Let’s do it for the kids in the daycare down the street from this intersection. For our elderly neighbors who can’t get around as well anymore. For our children biking to school. From driver to cyclist to pedestrian, everyone benefits from a street that’s safe and welcoming for all users.