Saturday, January 23, 2010

Snar'd One!

Last night, Kathleen and I went for our weekly grocery-shopping trip to Safeway. I usually enjoy these trips. We take our time and talk the whole way there and back.

It was dark – about 7:30 pm – when we started home with a cart-full of groceries. We chatted as I pushed the cart up Fenton St. As we turned to head down Sligo Avenue, we came across an obstruction – or more correctly, a person caught in an obstruction.

Kathleen went ahead to see what was going on. It is a dark area with bushes that make the passage narrow. I pushed the cart to a good stopping place and followed. What we found when we got there was…well, heart-breaking.

A homeless man stood behind a shopping cart that contained all of his possessions. He was an older African-American man, wearing a red down coat and a toboggan. The wheel of the cart containing clothing and half-full black trash bags was tangled-up in this wire.

He said to me, “I have a broken back. I can’t get this untangled. Can you help me please?”

I lifted one corner of the cart and used my foot to push the cable out of the way. The man pushed the cart down to the intersection. I walked with him back to my cart.

He told me that he had been there for a while, and that he was glad I came along. I was glad that we got there before a bus came around the corner – like the one that broke the cable in the first place.

A disabled person, forced to walk the sidewalks of my neighborhood… and even that is denied him. Neglect embodied. He thanked me and I wished him well. The rest of the walk home was silent.

If you don’t walk the sidewalks of Montgomery County often, you may not believe what is going on.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Expedited Bill 3-10

This legislation was introduced in the County Council this week. It would amend the hearing process for new sidewalk construction. In case where support for a particular new sidewalk project, the hearing process may be abbreviated. Contested projects would still go through the regular hearing process. This is a good piece of legislation that will make it possible to address pedestrian access and safety issues more quickly.

County residents who support this bill should email the Montgomery County Council.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Good Sign

Wouldn't it be nice to see these signs going up with increasing frequency in Montgomery County? As Silver Spring grows, MC needs to make certain that the infrastructure changes with the changing community. I live here because I can't drive. That should tell you something.

Transit-oriented development must include retro-fitting pedestrian infrastructure as well - and not in patchwork fashion. Pedestrian connectivity between homes, shopping, transit, and other places must be a priority. Order more of these signs - you're going to need them. It is a sign of hope, for sure...

The South side of Sligo Avnue, between Woodbury and Chicago Avenue.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

An Email to Councilmember Ervin

I sent this email to my Councilmember yesterday;

Councilmember Ervin,

This link is currently being used to craft legislation at the State level. The County Council could offer clear direction to MCDOT and other County departments on how to approach ROWs, especially in urban parts of the County. I know that MCDOT is taking some positive steps – but I also know that most of their positive steps are the result of serious pressure from people like me. I would like to see the Council do a little pushing, too. Having MCDOT and other County departments report on how they are complying with legislation like Complete Streets would really change the conversation.

I am afraid that MC is also leaving itself open to legal problems, or having complaints filed with FHWA. The violations are both serious and frequent, and MC government should know better than to let them continue. These violations include allowing public utilities to replace their infrastructure in the ROW without meeting – or even attempting to meet – ADA Guideline. Construction sites are approved that cause pedestrians to walk in the streets with traffic. Complete Street legislation would allow the County to start addressing these serious oversights.

I would like to work with County government, not take an adversarial role. I have been working on this for years now, and things don’t seem to be getting any better. In some case, they are actually getting worse. MC is still WAY BEHIND when it comes to pedestrian infrastructure and attitudes towards pedestrians in general. This is not acceptable in urban places like Silver Spring. ADA has been a law for a long time now. Don’t you think it is about time MC started complying? I run into obstructions almost every time I go out. The County is providing a service to some people, while withholding service from others. Vehicle traffic is a priority, and pedestrians are very often made to fend for themselves.

When you consider that many pedestrians are disabled, too poor, too old, or too young to drive, you can see how discriminatory this policy is. Pedestrians are treated by Montgomery County as Second-class Citizens. MCDOT does it, MCDOP does it, DHCA does it, and DPS does it too. They all provide services to some citizens based on their ownership of a vehicle and possession of a Driver’s License. It’s not fair, and it’s illegal. It is also not part of designing a healthy and prosperous Downtown.

I will keep fighting for equal treatment for pedestrians. I need some help. Please consider Complete Streets as a way the Montgomery County Council can help, too.


Willaim Smith

Friday, January 15, 2010

Obstacle Course

Last night, Will and I walked over to Oriental East Restaurant at Blair Plaza for Chinese Carry-out. I took these photos on the way.

Blair Mill Rd. This is a pile of plowed snow over the crosswalk by the entrance to Blair Plaza parking. This crosswalk is intended to get you around the construction At Blair Mill Rd. and E-W Highway. 26 Days Later! WOW. It really is like these ramps were intended to be snow-collection points. Why do the snow-plow operators aim for these?
This is already a very scary place for a pedestrian. I watched a man in a mobile chair drive through the intersection to the other side, rather than use the blocked ramp. SCARY.

A van parked in the crosswalk outside the SSIC building. The light is a reflection from the flash. No one was in the vehicle.

This is a support wire for a utility pole on Sligo, near the intersection with Fenton. The wire was obviously struck by a vehicle – probably a bus. This vehicle must be damaged. Is there any way to find out what happened from the driver? This has happened multiple times before. You can’t see it in this photo, but there is a bush here as well, and the passage is very narrow. I have nearly been taken out by bus mirrors more than once here. I keep complaining about this, but the same thing keeps happening, over and over. What is the definition of insanity?

(this photo is from 2008)
It doesn’t take a civil engineer to see that if the bus can hit a support wire on the sidewalk with enough force to snap it, then maybe it needs to be re-designed.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Bill Smith’s Walking Rules

1. Take care of your feet. Wear higher-quality, rugged shoes that are comfortable. TRY THEM ON IN THE STORE. Find shoes that you like and can depend on for many miles. Buy different shoes for different occasions, uses, weather and seasons. Don’t wear the same shoes all the time. Soak your feet.
2. Obey the law. Cross at the crosswalks when the signals say it is OK. Never assert your right to be in the road when the opponent is still moving. Laws are made to protect people, but laws are not always obeyed or enforced. A signal light can’t make a car stop – it is really only a suggestion. It’s up to you to make sure the vehicles are stopped before you enter the roadway. Even if others think it is OK to cross, you wait for the light. Never let someone else’s lack of caution encourage you to do the same. Take the long way, if you have to, but try not to walk in the street with moving traffic.
3. Be aware of “Crazy Driver Day.” On some days, crazy and belligerent drivers infect others, creating an army of Zombie-like risky drivers. Conflict and near misses everywhere you go. On Crazy Driver Day, everyone is behind. Everyone is in a hurry, and YOU ARE IN THE WAY. Drivers are frustrated, and accept the idea of risky behavior (speeding, RLR, cell phone usage, etc.) more easily. Take extra precautions and be even more deliberate on Crazy Driver Day. Stand back from the curb at the corner. Look both ways twice. TAKE YOUR TIME.
4. Think things out first. Make lists. Combine tasks into manageable trips. Take the proper equipment – gloves, cart, shopping bags, umbrella, sunglasses, cell phone, etc. Watch the weather. Go when the weather is most agreeable. Consider obstructions like ice, trucks, and holes in the ground, trash day, or construction. Map out favorite routes.
5. Report problems immediately. The only way to make the way clear is to report when you come across obstructions. Take a photo and note the address. Send a report to the County at their website. Get someone to look at the problem. Keep at it. Ask for reports, results, and policy changes. Expect your home County and State to comply with Federal guidelines. More than that – expect your Home County and State to be at the forefront of urban design and maintenance – not lagging-behind. There are many people in government who are eager to help – waiting to hear from you.
6. Support Local Business. If you can walk to a store – go there every once in a while and support them with your business. Walk places and buy things.
7. Don’t expect perfection. The Right-of-way belongs to everyone. Some people are stupid, and you just can’t avoid that reality. There are clear bare-minimum standards. Insist on those, but don’t worry about perfection.
8. Stop and smell the roses. Linger on an attractive view. Tip musicians. Put a Dollar in the box. Smile and say “Hi” as often as it seems appropriate – which isn’t very often.
9. Say “Thanks” to all Crossing Guards.
10. Always remember that speed alters perception. Regularly traveling more than 30 MPH was only invented a few years ago. Spending your life enclosed in a metal box that hurls through the trees at 75 MPH just isn’t natural. Surely America is suffering from a mass delusion brought on by speed-enduced mental strain. You just can’t expect people in that condition to be rational, can you?

I’ll add to this initial ist when I think of more.

Monday, January 4, 2010

16 Days and Counting...

16 Days after the snowfall, and these Bergs covering the crosswalks along Fenton St. aren't going anywhere.