Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Civil Rights

Last Friday I spent a little over an hour with a Reporter from the Washington Post. No, I didn’t rob a bank – he ran across this blog, and I am happy about that. I ran through the liturgy with him, and he asked some very insightful questions. It was a little like batting practice for a while, and then he asked, “Do you consider yourself a civil rights activist?” The first thought that ran through my head was, “I’m a white guy from North Carolina. Is he serious?” See, sometimes I forget that I am blind. I like that, actually.

Honestly, I had never really thought about it before. Civil rights activist? ME? Of course. So I finally answered him – “I guess I am.”
People are amazing and capable of so many wonderful things. In a diverse place like Silver Spring, people come in many colors, shapes, languages, and life situations. In a County where that is valued and celebrated, ALL people must be provided for equally. The public spaces – including the ROW – must be accessible at all points, at all times, for everyone. To resist doing this stands against principles we all hold close to our hearts.

Moreover, Montgomery County and Maryland should strive to be one of the best places for pedestrians in the world. Isn’t that part of what we say we believe? Our government should understand completely how important pedestrians are to the well-being of a community. Our leaders should fulfill the promise of Smart Growth and demand that walkable communities be built and connected so that people can choose to walk instead of drive. This should be done as part of an overall effort to reduce the consumption of petroleum products. It should be done as part of the economic development of our urban areas. It should be done around schools and transit and County property. It should be done with enthusiasm and priority, and it should be done NOW.

I understand that this is a process. It is not possible to fix all of these impediments in one fell swoop. It will take time and should be done systematically. Montgomery County needs to move from reactive to proactive. Seek-out problems and formulate solutions. Look for information from Users. Treat pedestrians like they are IMPORTANT- not just because I am one , but because I am not alone.

I am speaking for a lot of people who may not be able or inclined to speak for themselves. My situation is unique as well. It has landed me here – stooped over the keyboard, writing about cracks in the pavement. Just remember that the real issue is not the concrete, it is about the people. People like me, who don’t drive. People who moved here because they don’t drive. That sizeable portion of our residents who need to walk. I want to see them celebrated, not ignored. I want pedestrians to be valued BEFORE they get hit. I want them counted while they are still up, not after the police report has been filed.

The problem of pedestrian deaths and injuries will never get better as long as Montgomery County and MDSHA refuse to become proactive and approach our ROWs with a new attitude. Pedestrian safety is a function of accessibility. Focusing solely on safety without planning accessible pedestrian infrastructure is a fool’s errand. Only responding to complaints without considering proactive solutions is nothing more than neglect. Our communities deserve better, and a County Government that touts Smart Growth should deliver! Everyone deserves to be able to walk in their own community without fear. Only when everyone feels safe and comfortable walking into Downtown Silver Spring will we be able to claim success in bringing this town back from near-desolation. Until then, I guess I’m a civil rights activist.


  1. MUCH destruction on brand new bus stop outside Fractured prune on Fenton - think someone finally figured out it is inacccessible? what a waste of our tax $s - they are jackhammering away like crazy

  2. The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) was a Civil Rights law, and is enforced by the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice.

    So you are a Civil Rights activist.