Friday, July 30, 2010

Georgia Avenue Pedestrian Road Safety Audit

I n March, 2009 I participated in a Road Safety Audit of Georgia Avenue. I spent 6 hours over two days with a team of people made of representatives from MCDOT, SHA, MC Police, Mel Tull, and neighborhood residents. This group was led by consultants hired by Montgomery County - as part of their HIA ( High Incidence Area) program. We walked Georgia from Sligo to Spring several times, taking note of conditions, talking about possible solutions, and discussing perspectives. I was their blind person, mostly.

MCDOT did the right thing here. This could be considered a proactive approach - even as part of a reactive program.They sent people who could participate at a high level. SHA sent a note-taker. She was a very nice person, but she had only been with SHA for 6 months, and couldn't really add anything to the discussion. She certainly did not know enough to answer questions about how SHA would see things. There was a feeling in the room ( which I believe was openly expressed) that this wasn't a priority for SHA.

Sgt Harmon was there from MC Police, and he was a great contributor.

About a year ago I started asking to see the report from the RSA. I took some calls, and reminding people that we spent two days working on the project, It wasn't cheap, so where is the report? It took a while, but I got the draft report a few weeks later. I asked if the team could get together once more to discuss the report, and I made a few suggestions about how to amend the document -- and that was the last I heard ofrom anyone. The repost has still not been released as a finished document.

That report provided a snapshot of the conditions on Georgia Avenue. Now that we have waited over a year, conditions have changed. Still, I think the 115-page report should be released so that the community can look it over. The result were interesting.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Odds & Ends

Georgia Avenue, near Pacci's Restaurant.

A street light knocked over on the corner of Sligo X Fenton - aceoss from the Greyhound Terminal. These lights have been struck at least four times since Fenton was redesigned.

Outside the Greyhound Terminal at Sligo X Fenton. It's been parked here for about a week.

"P" is for Purple

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about the new Silver Spring Library and the proposed "pedestrian" bridge connecting it to the Wayne Avenue (once known as the Doug Duncan) Parking Garage. The post was up for a brief time before I took it down later that day. I thought it would go unnoticed, but someone commented, wondering where it had gone. I answered that I had taken it down because I wanted to work on it and would post it again later.
I lied. Well - sort of.
I took the post down because I was afraid of criticizing the Purple Line.
The Purple Line has become a Sacred Cow to Silver Spring “Hippie-crits.” Even though the transit line is nowhere close to being built, the need for a light rail station in the same location has drastically altered the design of the new Library, moving the main entrance to the third-floor. Now - of course - you're going to need a bridge to fix this crazy design! All brought to you courtesy of the Purple Line.
I didn’t participate in the planning process or public comment. I wanted to, but I just didn’t have the time. I know a lot of caring people did, and they did their best to do a good job. I assumed it would be done right, and that is a mistake I make too often.

Instead, we now have a train station with a Library in it, not the other way around. Oh, BTW, there’s no train in sight. The debate about the pedestrian bridge is a proxy discussion. The real discussion should have been - are we going to accommodate people here, or are we going to accommodate the Purple Line? To me, it is clear that the Purple Line won this contest.

If people had won, the entrance to the Library would be on street level. There would be no need for a bridge. Instead, the new Library will turn its back to the community in favor of the parking garage. If the county builds the bridge it will be saying, in effect “We would prefer it if you would drive here.” Even though the new site will have a light rail station, the current design runs contrary to Smart Growth principles. It would be unfortunate to construct a public building so unfriendly to pedestrians.

Just because you walk over it doesn’t mean it’s a pedestrian bridge. The fact that it is connected to a parking garage at one end means it is intended to service drivers, not pedestrians. P is not for Pedestrian in this case.

Disabled people have varying degrees of mobility, and to assume we all need to be driven to the Library is both condescending and unrealistic. This is not Smart Growth. People are willing to spend almost $2 Billion on a train, but don’t care about the community’s ability to walk there. Why don’t they advocate for sidewalks on their own streets? Maybe it’s because taking five feet of yard might leave them with no where to put their “Purple Line, Greener Future” signs.
Silver Spring needs good sidewalks. We also need public buildings at street level where the doors open up to the entire community, not just those who park in the right place. Pedestrians should not have to enter the parking deck to get to the front entrance. Pedestrians should not be relegated to “back door status” either. Montgomery County should think beyond cars for a change, and design a Public Library that places equal emphasis on pedestrian access. I am afraid that the cavalier attitude of some Purple People scares away people who have legitimate concerns. As a consequence, decisions are made that cause unforeseen problems. Overbearing support for the Purple Line will ruin it.

“Purple Thinking” clouds the decision-making process in so many matters these days. I want a Purple Line, but I want one that works for everyone. Not connecting it to good sidewalks will keep the project from reaching its potential. If those rabid supporters really want a viable light rail line, they will subject the project to rigorous testing and honest appraisal of potential consequences. Facing the challenge of creating a useful transit line means asking the hard questions and being open to hearing the answers. Instead, everyone is expected to fall into line and support the train, regardless of the impacts. The majority of the compromises to accommodate the Purple Line will be carried by pedestrians, AGAIN. Big Stakeholders like Discovery get what they want without debate, while pedestrians are left to deal with the consequences. Who is looking-out for us?

Sunday, July 25, 2010


Last week I signed-up for Google Ads, mostly because I wanted to track the number of visists to this blog. I have no hope or desire of actuially making any money at it - in fact, I made 1 cent last week!

Unfortunately, I soon discovered that allowing ads on the blog inclues having car ads, which I generally loathe. Not because I hate cars, mind you. I just don't enjoy participating - even in this small way - to the glut of ads that LIE about how great cars are, and how important it is to be able to "Zoom-Zoom."

Rather than bemoan this situation, I have decided to respnod by posting MORE CAR ADS. What is shown below are some of the most offensive car ads I could find in a few minutes. Enjoy, and remember --- cars are tools, and to embrace a car as a symbol of who you are is shallow and vain. Cars can provide independence, but they don't make you truly free. You are Dependant on gas, roads, police, insurance, auto-repair shops, taxes, tags, a driver's license, etc.

Hardly a life free from dependence on others.

Car companies spend $BILLIONS on commercials each year trying to connect with consumers. Over the years that have built a customer base that depends on speed and the illusion of speed in a new car. They cater to the worst possible behavior in their customers. They values speed, cornering, and sleek lines . Make no mistake, it is a fast car world out there. Y'all be careful! Do we really need "Autobahn for All?"

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Georgia Ave X Wayne Avenue. Northbound.

South side of Sligo Avenue, near Fenton.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

"Thanks for Not Hitting Me"

Last weekend I broke one of my own rules, and almost paid for it. I was walking south along the east side of Georgia Avenue, approaching Silver Spring Avenue. A car was stopped at the light – pulled-up almost in to Georgia Avenue. I had the walk signal, the driver was facing a No Turn on Red sign. His rear tire was in front of the stop stripe.

Normally, when faced with this situation, I try to walk in front of the vehicle so that the driver can see me. Because this wasn’t really possible, I should have stopped there and waited for the car to finally get the green light and move out of the crosswalk, but I was bringing home food and didn’t want to wait through another cycle. I took out my camera and took this photo.

I decided to go behing the vehicle in the crosswalk. Big mistake.

As I emerged from behind the car, I came face –to-face with a large black SUV taking a right turn off of Georgia Avenue at a good clip.
With both hit the brakes immediately and it wasn’t really that close. However, if either one of us had not been paying attention, I would probably have ended-up on her hood. I waited for a second or two, and it became obvious that she was going to wait for me – so I crossed the rest of the way. She floored it, and yelled out the window as she sped by, “ You’re Welcome!” It sounded a little as if she didn’t really mean it.
I was concentrating on getting out of her way, not expressing gratitude. When I made it to the curb safely I turned to reply, but she was gone. I waved and said to no one there, “Thanks for not hitting me.”

The camera was at my side, not in my face, and was set to take photos automatically. I wasn’t really paying attention to it at all. Either way, it was my mistake. The only thing the SUV driver did (apart from owning an SUV) was drive too fast, and be a little facetious.

The real trouble-maker was the driver of the car stopped in the crosswalk at a red light where NTOR is in effect. There is no legal reason to be pulled-up at this intersection. NONE. Disregarding this law isn’t harmless. It creates conditions that put people at risk. It is much more than a nuisance. Most accidents are the result of a combination of bad choices, risky behavior, poor planning, and denial. All three of the people involved in this incident are responsible. We just got lucky this time. I guess an insincere “You’re Welcome” is better than a sincere “I’m Sorry.”

Monday, July 12, 2010

Complete the Streets!

Montgomery County residents should be able to count on free access to the Right-of-way, wherever there is one. ROW projects should always include design elements to make the ROW accessible to the elderly, the young, people with disabilities, and those who don’t own or operate a motor vehicle. ROWs should be maintained for everyone, not just those in motor vehicles.

Over the years I have become acquainted with Complete Streets, which is legislation that requires DOTs to consider pedestrians, cyclists, transit users and others when planning transportation projects. The Montgomery County Council should enact such legislation, as should the Maryland General Assembly. Both the State and County Departments of Transportation need this direction from Legislators, because they will not embark on this journey of their own accord. Legislators will need to find the motivation to drag these DOTs into the 21st Century.

Other jurisdictions have done just that. If Maryland really is the progressive State we like to imagine she is, then Complete Streets will be on the agenda during this campaign season, and during the next legislative sessions of the County Council and General Assembly. Our streets are not equipped for pedestrians, and the problems are getting worse, not better. Despite their media efforts to make you think otherwise, Montgomery County and Maryland are NOT living-up to their obligations to transit users, and pedestrians. I am afraid things will stay the same unless something is done to change the overall approach to non=motorized users of our ROW.
Please contact your Councilmember and State Delegates and Senator and ask them to introduce and support Complete Streets.
Who will take this important civil rights legislation on???

Complete Streets in USA Today, 2007

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Again, With the Big Trucks

Twice again, I find myself walking in Georgia Avenue in front of the Aamco auto shop because people park their vehicles completely over the sidewalk. The new Firehouse restaurant should want people to feel welcome walking to their establishment, don’t you think? Instead, they will politely park your car for you, or you can shimmy between the UBTs (Unnecessarily Big Trucks) to get there without driving. I wouldn’t expect Firefighters to have to walk to a fire, but I think the owners of this restaurant should expect people to walk to the Firehouse. Why not do what you can to make that possible, convenient, and safe for everyone?

I think the owners of these properties have an bligation to keep the ROW in front clear for pedestrians. Is there a law against parking on the sidewalk, and how do I get it enforced???

Pedestrian SOL

Friday, July 9, 2010

Mr McGoo Goes Grocery Shopping

On the way home with the week’s groceries, I have to negotiate my own street with a series of moves that must appear very comical to passersby. At the location of each or the pairs of utility poles from Fenton to Chicago, the surrounding panels have been temporarily patched with asphalt. I can only assume that this will be the case until the communications lines have been moved to the new poles, and the old poles have been removed.

In the meantime – more than seven months now, I have to do my little dance to get through. I think it looks a little like the Tango, but that is probably just wishful thinking on my part.

The moves go like this; First, I turn the cart backwards so that I can drag it over the soft asphalt without stricking the wheels and dumping out the groceries. After that, I tip and turn the cart to the forward position so that I can steer to the next patch and repeat the process – seven times. I can maneuver these locations OK because I am strong and practiced at it. I know how to handle the obstruction and get over it safely. I cope – not with my own disability, but with the poor infrastructure and the disinterest of others.Should these locations be better treated to prevent me from looking silly? Of Course not. There are thousands out there who, like me, walk for a living. Many of them aren’t as strong as I am. Many of them don’t have the voice that I have. How do they cope?

Complete the streets!