Downtown streets like Georgia, Colesville and 16th are wide, befitting their status as state highways. But while they carry traffic from as far as Florida, they have a responsibility in the business district to prioritize local traffic. And more and more local traffic in Downtown Silver Spring means pedestrians. Barely half the people who live in below-the-Beltway Silver Spring drive to work alone. The rest either carpool, use transit, or walk and bike, and those are the people you'll see on our sidewalks.
Despite all of this, accommodations for pedestrians are rare or nonexistent. Sidewalks on many blocks, like on Colesville between Georgia and Ramsey - a major path for people going to and from the Metro - are barely wide enough for two people to pass each other. Most major intersections don't have fully striped crosswalks. At the circle where the man was killed, there are no crosswalks for 16th Street and Colesville Road. That's three lanes of traffic - even more if you count the wide turning radii at the corners - for someone to cross on foot.
Sligo suggests fences along Colesville Road, but that's a false solution. Fences are useful if you want to annoy pedestrians, but they'll still look for the closest distance between two points and cross there. Just look at how many people walk along the fences installed on New Hampshire and University in Langley Park. Similarly, you'll never see a lot of people using the skybridges over Veirs Mill Road in Wheaton or East-West Highway in Hyattsville. It's too much of a hassle to go up and down several flights of stairs just to cross a street.
The real issue is that the blocks in Downtown are very long and that jaywalking doesn't feel any less safer than crossing at the corner where there may not be a crosswalk. The answer is to create more mid-block crossings that save walkers the hassle of going all the way to the corner while also making it clear to drivers where people will cross. The crossing at Georgia and Ellsworth (above) is an excellent example. The median is raised and nicely landscaped along Georgia, providing a visual barrier to jaywalking. Then, there's a huge crosswalk with a stoplight. Even when the light is green, drivers know to anticipate a pedestrian there.
Downtown businesses are increasingly reliant on foot traffic. Just look at Ellsworth. People don't spend exorbitant amounts of money to live in or near Downtown Silver Spring because it's easy to drive, and they don't shop there because it's easy to park. Even those who do drive downtown spend most of their time there on foot, and if it's not attractive for them to walk, they won't. The biggest reason why businesses away from the revitalized area could have trouble getting customers is because people feel like they're taking their life in their hands crossing Georgia or Colesville.
The problem is that drivers need to slow down in Downtown Silver Spring, and no fence or posted speed limit will make that happen. You have to put more pedestrians on the street and make a visual statement that higher speeds are not safe. To do that, you have to give walkers confidence to cross the street.