Thursday, April 24, 2008

university, new hampshire rank among region's most dangerous roads

WHAT'S UP THE PIKE: Freed slave's descendants explore homestead site in ICC path near Route 29; B'ville townhouses go green; former Council hopefuls say they'll be back in 2010.

A family attempts to cross Route 29 near Stewart Lane in White Oak. Montgomery County ranked among the region's most-dangerous places for pedestrians in a new study.

If you ever find yourself on foot in Montgomery County, you might want to think twice before stepping out into the crosswalk: a new study (warning! PDF file) from the Coalition for Smarter Growth revealed that we're the region's fourth most-dangerous municipality for pedestrians. The Coalition, which advocates compact, pedestrian-friendly development, analyzed pedestrian fatalities over past decades and ranked MoCo behind Fairfax County, Prince George's County and Prince William County in its "Pedestrian Danger Index."

While Route 29 has had only one recorded pedestrian fatality in the past six years, other local roads were less fortunate. Unsurprisingly, Rockville Pike was the county's most treacherous corridor, while the intersection of New Hampshire Avenue and University Boulevard in Takoma Park - on the Montgomery/Prince George's county line - was considered to be especially dangerous as well.

Further east, the section of University Boulevard in Prince George's County was found to be the deadliest stretch of road in the Washington area, defined as the two suburban Maryland counties, four Northern Virginia counties, the District and the city of Alexandria. That portion of University passes through commercial centers in Langley Park, College Park and Greenbelt all with large pedestrian and transit-riding populations.

The study cites Montgomery County's Pedestrian Safety Plan as an example of what local governments can do to lower the occurrence of pedestrian-related collisions. Despite some of the plan's early successes - such as the installation of speed cameras in residential neighborhoods and school zones, or the construction of a sidewalk a along Route 29 in Burnt Mills - many improvements throughout the County were threatened by proposed budget cuts earlier this year.

For more about pedestrian safety, check out and, of course, the saga of the Lindes, a Downtown Silver Spring couple fighting for safer streets.


Sligo said...

Almost all pedestrian deaths are the fault of the pedestrians themselves. People are too lazy/impatient to walk 20 yards to the nearest crosswalk and just cross wherever they happen to be. Now, there's nothing wrong with this if you can clearly see there are no cars approaching, but these idiots walk out into the street while you are speeding toward them and assume that you A. see them clearly and B. will not deviate from your present course and speed.

I almost killed a guy on Wayne Ave the other day who walked out in the middle of the street in front of me while wearing dark clothes at night. If I had switched lanes (which I intended to do), he would have been over my hood. We're both lucky I saw him at the last second.

Personally, I think drivers in these cases should be able to sue the families of the "victims" for emotional damages if the person was blatantly jaywalking when they struck them.

You can install speed cameras, but that just gets the county more revenue, nothing else. What they need is constant enforcement of jaywalking with harsh penalties if you don't pay the fine.

retgroclk said...

You have brought up a very good point Sligo.

How many times have we read of a pedestrian stepping off a curb and getting hit by a car.

How close was this car when the pedestrian was stepping off the curb.

The pedestrians with dark clothes-- the intersection of 16th St and East/West Hwy. is the worst.

Many a times I haveseen "shadows" runing across the street late at night in oncoming traffic-- pedestrians dressed in dark clothes and too lazy to use crosswalk or wait for the light.

Anonymous said...

Let's hope we get one of our community's true elected leaders to step-up and run for the county council seat that Praisner will vacate in 2 years. Ineffective elected officials like Nancy Navarro, who no more cares about her current constituents as evidenced by the repeated posts about her unresponsive behavior, must be retired for good. Don't worry Valerie Ervin, Donna Edwards, Jamie Raskin and the other "important" people who Navarro fawns over all the will continue to get your phone calls and emails returned. However, if you are unfortunate enough to be one of Navarro's constituents and you have a school matter that you need help with...sorry, you're out of luck. Don't even bother contacting Navarro because she just doesn't care. She'll be too busy planning her run for the council again.

Anonymous said...

Complaining about "pedestrians with dark clothes" - So you're required to wear bright orange to walk in Montgomery County. Because it's always open season on pedestrians here.

retgroclk said...

A pedestrian may not be required to wear orange when crossing streets at night- but perhaps the County can have mandatory IQ and commone sense to anyone who decides to move to the county.
After all commonsense dictates that one does not walk in front of moving cars and expect the cars to stop on a dime.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree. I am really afriad that some day I'm going to hit someone on University or Colesville at night, running across the street wearing a dark sweatshirt with a hood and dark pants -- this has the effect of making people virtually invisible. The thing that bugs me the most is parents making their kids "run for it" -- in addition to putting those kids at risk, they are teaching them the same dumb habits.

Thomas Hardman said...

Speaking from Aspen Hill, I have to report that the problem is really one of local culture, of suburban disconnection from the concept of pedestrians and autos co-existing in the same space.

I've seen this attitude time and time again. It's perfectly expressed in a conversation I have heard repeatedly, which more or less goes as follows.

A: Did you see that guy, he almost walked in front of us! Darn near hit him!

B: Why didn't you swerve or decelerate?

A: What does he think he's doing, just walking in front of me like that?

Somehow, people seem to have got the idea that going where they intend to be and getting there when they want to get there is more important than public safety.

These same people will brake aggressively or drive in evasive maneuvers if another vehicle seems to be on a collision course. Yet if a pedestrian seems about to walk off of the curb in front of them, they just keep driving, and then have the conversation mentioned above.

I see it in parking lots, as well. It's as if the pedestrians aren't worthy of consideration.

I was in a park here yesterday, hanging out in the overflow lot, reading the Post, and these two ol' gals were standing around maybe 20 feet away, discussing posture in running or some such. We were pretty much at the back end of the overflow lot when the main lot filled up. Newly arriving cars began to fill up the lot from the other end.

One guy drove up in a van, pretty erratically, started to swing wide to pull into the slot where the ol' gals were standing, and in swinging wide, aimed his vehicle straight at me. At this point in time, he actually turned back from messing with his dog in the back of the van to see what was in front of him and saw me dodging out of the way, also saw the ol' gals and decided to just swoop past me and park badly across two slots in the corner of the lot. He got out and walked off without so much as a "howdy" and walked on off down the trail.

Right after this, some idiot with Virginia tags drove up with his stereo blasting, and whipped into the slot just beyond where the ol' gals were standing practicing their posture (or whatever) and just parks his car with the stereo still blasting. I was thinking something rather less polite than "how inconsiderate" and then noticed he was blasting "jesus rock" on the stereo. That right there sure cured my daily irony deficiency. He'd pulled up close enough so that one of the ol' gals could have reached out and pinched him on the ear without having to take a step.

Equally bizarre, the ol' gals went on doing what they were doing without hardly batting an eyelash. It's as if these folks existed in two totally different spaces.

It's that sort of failure to perceive each other that results in pedestrian fatalities. Each party seems to think that the other party has enough sense to not do something stupid, but you just can't do that. Danger is danger and you have to remain mindful of it, and neither place yourself in danger nor place others in danger, and you cannot assume that the other party is playing by the same rule.

Call me paranoid, but as a general rule, mostly I don't get hit by cars and have yet to run over anyone.

Anonymous said...

Part of the problem is that the county will not put in pedestrian crosswalks or any markers to encourage pedestrians to cross at signals and crosswalks. There aren't any in many communities. Signals are timed for cars, not pedestrians. And, the county (this means you if you are a resident) will not spend the money to educate drivers to stop at existing crosswalks. You can see this daily at schools where kids are crossing. Many times there are no crosswalks and the drivers speed down the street. Kids still have to cross the street to get to the school, so it is a disaster waiting to happen.

The county agency will tell you that the crosswalks give pedestrians a 'false sense of security.' So, our government's policy (again, this means YOU) and conclusion is, the less crosswalks the better, and the less pedestrians the better, b/c then there are less accidents. For the county, the ideal scenario is no pedestrians. That way there will be no accidents. This policy has to change before the no. of pedestrian deaths goes down. No one in our American culture is going to walk yards and yards to a crosswalk when drivers won't stop anyway.

retgroclk said...

Yet in places where there are crosswalks, many pedestrians would STILL rather cross in the middle of the road, than walk a few yards to the crosswalk.

I agree it is a cultural thing- but these people have got to adjust to this culture and quick.
A few years ago a woman and her child were steping of a curb and got ran over by a street sweeper.

As slow as these vehicles move, you have to wonder what this woman was thinking.

An IQ test, a common sense test, and a quick adaption to our culture would improve things greatly.

Thomas Hardman said...

Part of this is psychology.

If you are at a store in the middle of the string of stores in a typical suburban strip mall, and you want to get to a store in the middle of the strip mall across the highway, it's a pain in the butt to walk to the end of the strip mall to a traffic signal, wait for the signal assist, cross, and then walk back to the middle of the strip mall.

One solution for this would be to have less of a dependence on strip malls, and offer more mixed-use zoning where you can get most of what you might want in a store on the same block. The current Master Plan and zoning system is overly dependent on fairly long-haul transportation modes, and pedestrians are, in fact, something of an afterthought.