Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Photos from the Side

I always find this location - on Grove St., outside of the 3rd District Police Station - amusing.

New and old utility poles along the south side of Sligo Avenue.

Work crew dismantling an old utility pole.


Accessible Pedestrian Signals and Ramp locations marked-out on the corners of Georgia Avenue and Wayne Avenue.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

One Risk Too Many

In January I posted about a construction site on Fenton Street, between City place and 8630 Fenton. The project owner completely took the sidewalk mid-block, and all there is to warn pedestrians is tis little orange sign - which is drowned-out by all of the other signs at the location. So - people are basically ignoring the sign and walking in the street here. I know that the site has restricted access, and that the project owner needs to block the sidewalk. The problem is that nothing is done to separate pedestrians from traffic in the street. Multiply this incident by the hundreds of other similar locations across the County and you can understand how this procedure encourages pedestrians to take risks. IF you don't take risk, you can't get anywhere.This is Education in a bad way.

The vehicles parked here force pedestrians even further into the street. I have ponted this out - and months later the County Department of Permitting Services is still allowing hundreds of pedestrians to put themselves at risk each day. THOUSANDS since January.Comnined with the APS and Ramp improvements at the corner, this area is a nightmare for pedestrians. Notice the kids in the arms of the people who just walked in the street to get paste this location...

Anf another thing - the tree boxes along Fenton St. and other streets in Downtown Silver Spring that have not been fitted with grates are still there - busting ankles and tripping-up disabled people. If we just ignore them, will they go away???

I am proud of a lot of the things County government accomplishes, but the practice of treating pedestrians as second-class citizens must end. Despite the best intentions of MCDOT and MDSHA, they perpetuate the problem when they fail to consider how their actions - or blind-eye-turning - reinforces the very behavior they hope to end. Pedestrians and motorist alike will continue to take risks - if that's what you force them to do. As long as "Right-Of-Way" applies only to cars, the pedestrian death toll in Montgomery County will never go down. Pedestrians are an afterthought in most projects, even today. Left to fend for ourselves - with no air-bags or safety belts.

Pedestrian access is a matter of transportation equity. The truth is, Maryland and Montgomery County spend little money on pedestrian planning. The majority of money spent in ROWs goes toward making things clear for motor vehicles. Comparatively=speaking, almost nothing is spent on pedestrian infrastructure. In Montgomery County your access to the ROW is based on your ability to own and/or operate a motor vehicle. Government cares more about people in motor vehicles than they do for pedestrians.

Many pedestrians aren't just out for a walk. They are living their lives. Going to work. Taking their children to the Doctor's office. Shopping for the week's groceries. They walk because they can't drive. Because they don't have the money, or they have a disability. Some are too young - on their way to school. These pedestrians are walking to bus stops or Metro. They are on their way to the movies, or to shop Downtown. Ignored and forgotten by government, some of them return to their cars - preferring to pay with a credit card rather than with their lives. But for others, there is no car to hop into. For them, the only option is to hope that THIS risk won't be one risk too many.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Wish List

1. The State of Maryland needs Complete Streets legislation in 2011. This legislation would require any project in any ROW to consider all modes of transportation, including pedestrians and cyclists. All ROW projects would include plans for pedestrians, cyclists, transit users, and people with disabilities (among others). In cases where pedestrian and cyclist access is not permitted (I-495, for example) transportation agencies have good reason to focus solely on vehicle traffic. MDSHA and other agencies and public utilities would submit an annual repost to the General Assembly that details efforts to comply.

2. A group that is not affiliated with any government entity to advocate for pedestrians in Silver Spring. Current government efforts are valuable, but government-led committees are subject to political pressure. An independent voice is needed to petitioning the County and State for better pedestrian infrastructure and policies.

3. Montgomery County and MDSHA engage existing technology to measure pedestrian traffic in key areas. Focus on improving access based on this information. Find existing pedestrian routes and enhance these areas first. Create desired routes by planning for them. Systematically assess and plan to improve pedestrian access in Silver Spring.

4. Montgomery County deputizes a Corps of reliable volunteer pedestrian ROW reporters. Set-up a system that utilizes Smart Phones, GPS, and the internet to build a map of problem areas. Use technology to make reporting easier.

5. End MCDOT and MDSHA’s reactive approach to pedestrian infrastructure improvements. Get out in front of the problem. Engage the public in the solution. Exchange “Complaints” for “Reports.” Exchange “High-incidence Areas” for “High Pedestrian Traffic Areas,” or “Pedestrian Thoroughfares.” Include safety as part of accessibility - don’t focus exclusively on safety. Adopt the principle that “there is safety in numbers,” then try to get the numbers UP. The current process is abusive to pedestrians in more ways than one.It makes the job of fixing a problem much more difficult than it should be.

6. Train work crews and Plow Operators to avoid needlessly putting pedestrians at risk with unnecessary practices. A little thought can prevent a lot of trouble. MCDOT and MDSHA should review their procedures and train their employees to avoid dangerous practices. Work crews need to be aware of the impact their descisions have on pedestrians, especially in urban areas like Silver Spring.

7. A 50% reduction in pedestrian incidents in Montgomery County by 2012. Really, I want 100%, but let's be realistic here.

8. Tax Credit for living in Montgomery County without an automobile.

9. For Phase One of the Metropolitan Branch Trail in Montgomery County to have an easy and fast ride through the approval and funding process.

10. Comment from readers.

Friday, April 2, 2010


Today I went with the kids to The Greek Place restaurant on Geogia Avenue, between Bonifant and Wayne. On the way back we came across this obstruction in front of the old Silver Spring Volunteer Fire Station at Silver Spring Avenue. The Station is being converted into a restaurant, and the project has moved steadily into the ROW, making it more and more difficult for pedestrians to find a safe passage. In fact, it is impossible to get by the location without walking in Georgia Avenue. This location is blocked many times when I come this way.

So, who is responsible for this location - MDSHA or Montgomery County? Is this a ROW issue, or a permitting issue? In the past this question has been knocked like a tennis ball from one bureaucracy to the other. Meanwhile, how many pedestrians are forced to walk in the street to get by here? NROW