Alexandria bans ‘right on red’ in corridor with ‘history of pedestrian crashes’

Changes are coming to a busy corridor in Alexandria, Virginia, that leaders said has a history of crashes involving pedestrians.

Earlier this week, the city’s Traffic and Parking Board recommended Alexandria move forward with a plan to install “No Turn on Red” signs at several intersections along North Saint Asaph Street. The city’s transportation director has approved the change, according to Alex Carroll, Alexandria’s Complete Streets program manager.

The changes, Carroll said, are part of the city’s broader efforts to improve pedestrian safety, with the goal of eliminating deadly and severe crashes by 2028. Nearly one-third of fatal and severe crashes in Alexandria are pedestrian crashes, she said.

“When we talk about Vision Zero and improving safety, we’re often looking at how to make things safer for pedestrians, because it makes things safer for them,” Carroll told WTOP. “But then, by doing so, it also makes things safer for other roadway users as well.”

The “No Turn on Red” signage is coming to intersections where drivers can turn onto North Saint Asaph Street from Pendleton Street, Wythe Street, Madison Street and Montgomery Street, according to city documents.

In addition to the new turning rule, the city will also introduce “leading pedestrian intervals,” Carroll said. Those, she said, give pedestrians a head start with the walk signal, at a time in which everyone else at the intersection has a red light.

“They can get a head start into the intersection,” Carroll said. “They can establish themselves. They can be more visible to drivers.”

The adjustments come after a resident raised concerns about safety in the area, Carroll said. The area is walkable, with a Trader Joe’s and Harris Teeter nearby, and is also surrounded by residential neighborhoods, she said.

After looking into the concerns, the city found “that there had been a history of pedestrian crashes all along Saint Asaph Street,” Carroll said.

Between 2017 and 2023, four pedestrians had been injured on the road, but city documents say no pedestrian industry history is available for the period between 2018 and 2021.

Adlai Hardin, who lives nearby and submitted a public comment in favor of the changes, said his wife “has had a couple of close calls with people going real fast around the corner, and she’s not the only one.”

“We’ve heard neighbors complain about the same thing,” Hardin said.

The changes, Hardin said, are “a good start.”

Five of the eight comments the city received supported the changes.

One opponent wrote the policies would “inconvenience people all day every day, while providing no benefit whatsoever.”

But taking steps such as giving pedestrians a head start and changing intersection patterns can quickly produce positive results, Carroll said.

“We can see a very quick return on our investment there, by improving safety within a relatively short amount of time,” Carroll said.

Implementing the signs is low cost and part of the city’s general operating budget, Carroll said. To evaluate whether such changes are effective, Carroll said best practice is to look at a minimum of three years of data, if possible.

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Scott Gelman

Scott Gelman is a digital editor and writer for WTOP. A South Florida native, Scott graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019. During his time in College Park, he worked for The Diamondback, the school’s student newspaper.

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