Saturday, March 20, 2010

"Street Smart" Dummies

(photo from COG)

The last two weeks have been very busy on Sligo Avenue. MCDOT has ripped-up the sidewalk in front of my house and along this side of the street and installed a wider path. PEPCO contractors are moving the poles closer to the centerline, and it looks like this new configuration will be better. I am told that MCDOT and PEPCO are talking about the situation now, and I have hopes that policy is being formed and a systematic approach will be adopted.

I have heard nothing at all from MDSHA. I called their ADA Office on February 24th and left a fairly-lengthy message. I have sent notes (through Facebook) to several elected officials asking for help, to no avail. I wonder why I have not heard from them. Are they ignoring me? Do they even hear me at all? I f a persistent guy like me can’t get a response, what chance does the average pedestrian/transit user have? I have done everything I am supposed to do, and it just doesn’t work.

Next Tuesday – March 23 – The Washington Council of Governments is sponsoring a demonstration on Sligo Avenue. County Executive Leggett will be speaking, among others. Some kind of demonstration is planned. I don’t have the details. They are closing-off Sligo Avenue for a while to do something with cars and speed. I think perhaps dummies might be involved. No pun intended.

Here is the press release:

For Immediate Release
March 19, 2010 Contact: Emily Howard/Meghan Curtiss

Stopping Distances Increase Dramatically at Higher Speeds

WHAT : Demonstration showing how a pedestrian may be unharmed when a vehicle brakes at 25 mph, may sustain life-threatening injuries at 35 mph and may be killed at 40 mph.
• Law enforcement efforts to encourage safe walking, driving and cycling
• 2009 data on regional crashes and fatalities

WHY: Every eight minutes a pedestrian or cyclist is injured on our nation’s roadways.
• 101 pedestrian and cyclist-related fatalities occurred across the region in 2008
• Pedestrians and bicyclists account for one-fifth of fatalities in the Washington, D.C. region
WHO: Speakers
• C. E. Isiah Leggett, County Executive, Montgomery County
• J. Thomas Manger, Chief of Police, Montgomery County
• Kwame Brown, Chairman, Washington Council of Governments; Councilmember, DC Council
• Vernon Betkey, Chief, Maryland Highway Safety Office
• Gloria Jeff, Associate Director, District Department of Transportation
• Jeri Lee, Acting Chief of Police, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority
• David Snyder, Council Member, City of Falls Church
• Jeff Dunckel, Pedestrian Safety Coordinator, Montgomery County

*SPANISH MEDIA NOTE: A Spanish-speaking officer will be available for interviews

WHEN: Tuesday, March 23, 2010, 12:00 pm

WHERE: Intersection of Sligo Ave. and Chicago Ave., Silver Spring, MD 20910
*Site Finder: One block west of Montgomery County Police Station.

**Parking: Street parking available on Sligo Ave. between Grove St. and Chesapeake Ave., within road closure. Officers will assist with entry.

I hope that I get a chance to speak with Ike. I want to tell him that – while current efforts are admirable – a new approach is needed. Pedestrian routes need to be identified and redesigned. Urban cores like Silver Spring need to rely on and plan for excellent pedestrian infrastructure. Pedestrianism needs to be embraced as a transportation solution. Narrow and obstructed sidewalks from the car-centric 50’s need to be modernized for 21st Century reality. Take cars off of the roads the old-fashioned way ; by putting people on the sidewalks. Basically, do what you did before, but in reverse.

Finally, I want to tell him that Sligo Avenue is a logical pedestrian route to the future trailhead of the Metropolitan Branch Trail (Phase One). I want to encourage MCDOT to think about routes, and not just segments. Approach sidewalks as part of the transportation system, not simply an amenity. No where is better suited to this approach than Montgomery County. Pedestrian access (which includes safety) should be a priority, and the County's approach should be proactive.

I am trying to practice patience. It isn’t easy.

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