Wednesday, March 24, 2010

One E Down

Yesterday Montgomery County held a Street Smart campaign event on Sligo Avenue, about a block from my home. The event consisted of some remarks from local officials (led by Ike Leggett) and a demonstration of how speed effects the distance needed to stop and the force to which a pedestrian would be subjected in a crash. A light truck traveled west on Sligo, slamming on the brakes at a pre-determined point to avoid “Bobby,” a pretend-pedestrian. The truck made three runs - each time upping the speed by a few MPG.

There were a lot of cameras and reporters, and the event was very photogenic. I checked local media that afternoon and evening, but I only caught one piece – on ABC7 - and the same piece on News8. Obama was signing the Health Insurance Bill during the event. I am interested to know how much time the event garnered on local stations. How do COG and local governments determine if Street Smart is actually working? They have been doing similar events for years now, and we still have just as many injuries and deaths as ever.

It is good to see the County taking pride in planning and installing good pedestrian infrastructure. I assume that Sligo was chosen for the event for a number of reasons – one of which must have been the beautiful new pedestrian refuge island at Sligo and Chicago.

Over the years I have heard the term, “The Three E’s” used to outline a comprehensive approach to pedestrian safety. These, of course, are Education, Engineering, and Enforcement. I am usually a big fan of things that come in 3s. There is balance in 3. Plus, 3 things are usually easy to remember. Unfortunately, if you remove one of three, things go wrong almost immediately. In this case, two legs of the pedestrian-safety tripod are a lot shorter than the one the stands for Education.

Education is the easiest thing to do. Education is photogenic and interactive. It plays well on camera and politicians feel at ease telling people what to do or how to act. Don’t misunderstand – I find great value in these Street Smart events. Some really valuable information gets out there in this way. I think politicians and other public officials should try to make people aware of dangerous situations. I thought the event yesterday was great.

But --- these events don’t make it easier for me to get from my home to Metro. They don’t fix the broken infrastructure that people with disabilities struggle with every day in Montgomery County. Running over dummies doesn’t clear the sidewalks of snow that lingers weeks after the roads are back to normal. I tried to talk with a reporter yesterday – about pedestrian infrastructure. I got the BIG BLOW-OFF. No, there would be no interfering with this highly-orchestrated event. Needless to say, Ike breezed by me on his way to the podium, and sneaked-out during the demonstration. Except for some curious passers-by and Karen Roper, the crowd was mostly public officials or press.

I had two other conversations of note yesterday. The first was with Peter Moe, who I have known since 2004. At that time he was with the National Center for Bicycling and walking in Bethesda. I was surprised to find that he now works for MDSHA – in the traffic safety office. I was also surprised to hear that he knew nothing of the poles on Sligoa Avenue, or the complaint I files with FHWA on March 1st, or anything about my situation. I explained it to him as best I could with all of the distractions going on around us. Basically, I explained what I have already recorded on this blog. I gave him my email address and the URL for this blog. Perhaps Peter is my “in” with MDSHA? Finally, I told him that I am very frustrated with MDSHA, and that I hoped he could do something to imrove the situation.

The second conversation was with Hohn Wetmore, who produce “Perils for Pedestrians.” He was there taking video of the event. He travels around the world taking video and interviewing people about walking and dangerous pedestrian infrastructure. He interviewed me back in 2001, during WSD.I also told John about the “Pole situation,” but again, there were distractions. He did talk briefly about similar utility poles/ROW issues in other places in the Country.

One “E” done well and fully. Now, how about the other two “Es?” And what about the “two Ps” and the “L” That would be POLICY, PROCEEDURE, and LEGISLATION. Good job. Now let’s keep on going!

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