We have all seen it: the dreaded stopped vehicle on Wilson Boulevard with their flashing hazard lights.
Why the hazards? Does the driver have a flat tire? Engine problem? Medical issue? Hopefully not the latter of the issues, but I do not believe the cars that stop have a mechanical-related issue either. My thinking is that the cars that stop in a traffic lane along Wilson Blvd, or worse, in the bike lane, are simply creating their own temporary parking lot on a major roadway. And that is a huge problem.
Many moons ago I worked for a juice shop on Wilson Boulevard in Courthouse and we had a loyal customer for about six months who would always come to the store at the same time, always order the same thing, and always take the order to-go. Now, nothing about that is strange except for the fact that she would never leave her car. This individual never stepped foot inside the store. And because she wanted her order “fresh”, she would never call ahead. Her visits would consist of her driving up and ‘parking’ in the left lane of Wilson Blvd, throwing on the flashers, calling the store, and waiting for 5-10 minutes while me or another awkward high school kid would whip up an all natural smoothie along with a 1-oz shot of wheatgrass.
That was over 10 years ago. Cars stopping along Wilson Boulevard (or Clarendon Blvd, or Fairfax Dr, etc…) is not a new trend. Unfortunately, it has become acceptable. With the rise of inexperienced Uber drivers, the consistent low quality of cab drivers in Arlington, and let’s face it, an area that has some of the worst drivers in the nation (Forbes ranked Washington DC as the 3rd worst city for drivers in 2014. Alexandria came in 8th), it is almost a given that you will encounter at least one vehicle idling with its flashers on in a traffic lane along a boulevard during rush hour.
To be clear, the only acceptable reason to be stopped with flashers on in a traffic lane is when you are waiting for a parking spot. That happens occasionally and is unavoidable. But what is not unavoidable is stopping traffic while you wait for your friend to come out of his or her apartment. Or taking up two traffic lanes while you move over to the bike lane to let a few people out of your car while you have the green light.
For an issue that is plaguing Clarendon (and Ballston and Rosslyn, to a lesser extent), the solution is so easy: just pull around the corner. Side streets are easy to navigate, have less traffic, and have a higher chance of pulling into a parking spot or area off the roadway that you can idle that will not be blocking traffic.
As the area becomes more dense (Clarendon is adding 600 new apartments, Virginia Square is adding 270, and Rosslyn is adding 250 among others), we need stricter enforcement on idling cars sitting in traffic lanes in Arlington. As a pedestrian, driver, and cyclist in Clarendon, the roads are becoming more treacherous to navigate with oblivious drivers clogging up the roadway.
Transportation is a major issue in Arlington and we need to make sure that we are setting a standard of what is acceptable in our County. Until then, I am going to lay on the horn when I am behind you until you figure out how to obey simple traffic laws.