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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
The Eagle

Ward Circle accidents raise concerns about area’s safety

Multiple accidents have occurred in and around Ward Circle over the past year, including a shuttle bus crash and a hit-and-run.

Most recently, on Feb. 11, two female students were victims of a hit-and-run while crossing Massachusetts Avenue near the Katzen Arts Center, The Eagle previously reported. One of the victims was taken to a hospital in an ambulance.

On Oct. 2, an AU shuttle bus collided with a car outside of Katzen and Nebraska Hall, The Eagle previously reported.

Students on the shuttle at the time only suffered minor injuries such as cuts and scrapes from broken glass.

Metropolitan Police Department determined that the accident was caused by the driver of the car who failed to yield and conducted an improper turn.

Another AU student was also a victim of a hit-and-run incident last year.

While riding his bike to AU on the morning of Feb. 14, 2012, Chase Hambley, a junior in the Kogod School of Business, was struck by a car when biking across the crosswalk on the east side of Ward Circle. As Hambley approached the crosswalk on Massachusetts Avenue, he said he saw the car slowing down to let him cross, but as he did so, the car sped up and hit him.

Hambley was then taken to Student Health Center, where he was prescribed medicine to combat potential internal bleeding. He later received compensation of $450 after filing a police report using the driver’s license number that a witness had written down.

Circle’s safety assessed

As part of the 2011 AU Campus Plan, Gorove/Slade Associates, Inc., which provides professional traffic and transportation planning, measured the accident rate of intersections surrounding AU, using information collected from 2005 to 2007, according to AU spokesperson Maralee Csellar.

An accident rate of 1.0 or higher would indicate that the intersection required further examination involving traffic problems. Ward Circle was given a rating of 0.00.

Ward Circle is not considered a traffic problem because it has only had one pedestrian accident in the past several years, according to Csellar.

“None of the study area intersections has a high accident rate that requires further study,” Csellar said in the email.

The University has started a campaign to educate AU community members about safe usage of roadways, according to Csellar. Public Safety officers have started handing out brochures at designated crosswalks.

The brochures, created by Metropolitan Washington Council of Government’s Street Smart program, give tips about how vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists can be safe while on the road.

“The university would like to improve the safety of pedestrians and their interaction with vehicular traffic within the area surrounding American University. We are an urban campus in a metropolitan city. Steps away from our campus are major traffic roadways,” Csellar said in the email.

The D.C. Department of Transportation could not be reached for comment in time for publication.

ANC Commissioner received complaints about Ward Circle

“It’s a real problem,” Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Rory Slatko said.

Ward Circle falls under Slatko’s jurisdiction. He and past ANCs have received numerous complaints regarding the circle, he said.

Slatko, a sophomore in the School of International Service, represents about 2,000 D.C. residents in the AU area. Most of them are AU students living in Anderson, Centennial, Hughes, Leonard, McDowell and Nebraska halls.

While Slatko said he does not receive a lot of complaints from students, he receives quite a few from community members living in private homes surrounding Ward Circle and AU.

Public Safety takes issue with area’s design

Daniel Nichols, executive director of safety programs at AU, said in a town hall meeting on Oct. 25 that Ward Circle was problematic.

“I’ve never seen a traffic circle like Ward,” Nichols, said.

Nichols also said at the meeting that AU, DDOT and the ANC were rethinking Ward Circle.

“It’s a silly circle,” Nichols said. “Whoever designed it must have been drunk.”

Staff Writer Zach C. Cohen contributed to the article.

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