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


  1. Mr. Smith,
    I just read an article about you in the Post and decided to check out your blog. Thank you so much for the work you are doing. I just moved here from CA and find it really difficult to walk anywhere because of the lack of sidewalks. It is so important to have safe walking areas.

  2. So glad to find your blog! It is terribly difficult to maneuver around our neighborhood (Downtown SS) with my non-ambulatory four-year old daughter, who has CP. So many people block their sidewalks inadvertently or deliberately through refuse and home improvement projects. Hope to be a regular reader and contributor.

  3. Mr. Smith,

    I just read the same article. So far as the difficulty with your computer, and you may already know of it, but there is a screen reading software application named JAWS that might be helpful with editing your postings. It is not cheap but I just thought I should mention it.

  4. Thank you for the encouragement. I hope that you will join me in demanding new policies and procedures to make all of our public places accessible to everyone. Not soon, NOW.

    I use Zoom Text, which also reads. I have tried JAWS and think it is great. Because I do have some sight, I choose to use it as much as I can. Part of the way I got into this was my habit of taking photos of things so that I could look at them in closer detail at home. Photos on this big screen are much easier to see - sometimes even easier than actually being there.

    I use a 12 MP camera so that I can zooom into a photo farther and maintain clarity.

    No technology is going to solve all of my problems. That's true for everyone. Some things just take sacrifice and hard work, and there's no substitute for that.

    As I have said, my biggest problem is vanity. I look pretty silly using my computer. I don't like doing anything on the computer when people are around. The fact that there is a photo of it in the Post has turned out to be a little more weird than I figured. I guess sometimes you have to put yourself out there.

    So, if you are reading this and remaining silent, wake-up. While people are paying a little attention to this, you should speak out. Do it here, or contact you elected officials. Emails, call, or write. Do it now. Don't wait, and don't let them wait any longer. PUSH

  5. William,
    The county is broke. While your pet project is important to you, the county doesn't have the money to fully staff Fire Station 1 in downtown Silver Spring, Truck 1 lost its staffing in Early July 2010. The ambulance at Station 19 (next to Sniders Groceries) lost its half day staffing a year ago. Firefighters and police officers are being furloughed this year. Why the WP made you a story is unreal, you must have a friend at the editor's desk. Good luck trying to get new sidewalks.

  6. Mr. Smith,

    though I live in Baltimore County, I read your blog with interest. There is not much that can be done about construction sites to make them more accessible to anyone until the project is finished. However, the poor design of existing sidewalks and other places that are supposed to be accessible to pedestrian traffic is an issue to which I can relate. I am visually impaired, and the one area near both my home and office that I pretty much avoid is a round-about in Towson. There is a small portion of the round-about that I can safely use, but I avoid trying to cross the street at the remaining sections that have pedestrian paths which I think are entirely too dangerous to use.

    I was also going to tell you about JAWS, but I see that someone beat me to it. There is also another screen reader called Window Eyes. Additionally, there are three or four other screen reading programs, but I am not familiar with them. I use JAWS. Like you, I have some vision. I use a mixture of JAWS and my vision when on the computer, but the benefit of JAWS is that it allows me to preserve the vision I have.

    I also wanted to mention that I am a guide dog user, know quite a few guide dog users, and know as many, if not more blind and visually impaired people who use a cane. I know you mentioned that you are reluctant to use either, and using either is not going to change the environment. But using either would make moving about in that environment safer. While you still have to know your surroundings, the dog would guide you around obstacles, and a cane would enable you to locate and explore obstacles in order to determine the best way to get around them. Don't let vanity interfere with a need to be as safe as is possible. Also, using either a guide dog or cane does not decrease independence--it increases it. I am currently working with my fifth guide dog, and my dogs have enabled me to travel through my days in undergraduate school, graduate school, my job as a social worker with the state of Maryland, etc. I have travelled on trains and planes to various cities in the U.S. with my guide dog, and I always got where I needed to go.

    Finally, I am currently the President of the Central Maryland Council of the Blind. My chapter covers the Baltimore Metro area, though I have some members from a few surrounding counties. My chapter is an affiliate of the American Council of the Blind of Maryland, which is in turn, a state affiliate of a national organization called the American Council of the Blind. This is a nationwide group that not only works on the issues which concern you, but ACB advocates for better job and educational opportunities for people who are blind and visually impaired, better access to technology, etc. The organization has a number of special-interest affiliates. Some include a group for blind teachers, blind students, guide dog users, human service employees, people with low vision, people with diabetes, etc. You are specifically geographically located close to the National Capitol Area Chapter (NCAC, an affiliate of the American Council of the Blind. One of the members is Charles (Charlie) Crawford, and I think he is the chapter president. If you think you would like to learn more about the American Council of the Blind and might be interested in joining the chapter, he has given me permission to share his email address. Mr. Crawford, his wife, and a number of other members of NCAC happen to reside in Silver Spring, so they, too, may be well aware of the many challenges you have faced as you walk about your community.

    Mr. Crawford's email address is

    Continue the good fight for the community, but I also hope that you will consider striving for greater and safer independence for yourself with either a cane or guide dog. Neither can provide 100 percent safety, but either would provide more safety and independence than you are probably experiencing now.

    Vanessa Lowery

  7. I've been at this for twelve years - during times when the County and State had LOS of money. Things aren't bad because there isn't enough money, they are bad because of people like you.

    As you say, everyone thinks that their issue is important. At least I don't go around comparing my issue to others, and trying to make mine sound more important. Fact is, people are different, and have varied interests and issues. Get over it. We can't all be YOU. Good luck finding a new attitude, jerk.

    I am a big supporter of the brave people who protect us - Firefighters and Police Officers. If I had control of the budget, I would spend all of the money on the Fire and Resuce, and police budgets before I spent a dime on sidewalks. TRUTH. Does that mean that my issue isn't important? Of course not.

  8. Vanessa, Thank you. I really appreciate this information. I have worked with Charlie before - on the 2004 Congress of Pedestrian Advocates. I have not spoken to him in years. i'm looking forward to taking your advice and contacting him.

    Right now I see a cane or dog primarily a s a ignal to drivers that I can't see too well. To me, that is the safety feature of these now. I have enough sight to make my way around obstacles, though trips are a different matter.

    I know it is coming. I am preparing for it. Forgive me if I hang-on to the impression I give to others that I am doing A-OK. The confidence that I portray is my cane right now. When that stops working I will switch to something else.

  9. Mr. Smith,

    Believe me, drivers are pretty clueless when it comes to blind individuals who use guide dogs or canes. I view using the cane or dog as a means to travel safely because of the folks who have been allowed to drive. Sadly, many drivers ignore teh rules related to pedestrian traffic, so while I am not guaranteed that I won't be hit, I at least stand a slightly better chance of surviving because of my dog avoiding a driver who has decided to turn in front of me even though it is my turn to go. However, you have to make the decision as to when you may start using either a cane or dog. Just don't wait to the point that you are really pushing teh limits of safety.

    Charlie, whom I have known for years, mentioned that he thought he recognized your name. Please do contact him. He will be delighted to hear from you, and he and his chapter members will most likely jump on teh band wagon with you regarding your concerns. I also hope that you seize the opportunity to check out the NCAC chapter and learn more about the American Council of the Blind. You may not choose to join, and that is fine. But regardless, the ACB and in particular NCAC, will invest efforts in furthering your efforts.


    P.S. You can also email me at Our chapter has pushed for more audible pedestrian signals in the Baltimore area. We also closely watch our paratransit system. I do not use the paratransit system as I can use a bus, but for those who do need to use it, I and my chapter try to make sure that the program is operating as sufficiently as is possible.

  10. Mr. Smith,

    I'm having some trouble getting my pst to go through, but here goes again.

    I view using a guide dog or a cane in a different way than you. I never assume that drivers will take note of the presence of the dog or cane and realize that a blind person is probably part of the package. Most Drivers are just interested in getting from Point A to Point B. So, as a guide dog user, I view the dog as a means to travel safely, including avoiding vehicles that turn in front of my path. I still have no full guarantee that I won't get hit, but at least the amrgin of safety is increased because of the dog. But I also realize that you must make a choice about when you are ready to consider a dog or cane. Just don't push the envelope until things become too dangerous for you to rely on your vision.

    Charlie mentioned that he thought he recognized your name. He looks forward to you contacting him again, and even if you do not decide to join his ACB affiliate, you can be assured that he and his chapter members will still be interested in furthering your efforts.

    If you have questions about guide dogs, you can ask either me, Charlie, or his wife (also a guide dog user). My email address is

    Vanessa, who does not with to be anonymour, but that may be the only way I can get this post to appear.

  11. Mr. Smith...I really appreciate your efforts. The Forest Glen Metro station has lots of sidewealk issues so that peds are always in the road and not on the narrow sidewalks. Do you know if Metro can do more that the county in terms of getting it right? I found that the engineers that lay out the walkways don't go to the site and watch how people walk around. Then they wonder why people won't use public transportation. I understand money is tight, but building your list so when work can be done it is done with more thought is wonderful. Let me know if you need help. I'm not very digitally talented, but I could take pictures for you of the Forest Glen station and other nieghborhoods.

  12. Someone told me about this article this morning and as they described your story, I pictured the exact spot where you were photographed on Sligo Avenue across from the police station where a small space has been left for pedestrians to squeeze past the old and new utility poles. I walk a lot in East Silver Spring and constantly wish for safety improvements. I can't wait to read more of your blog. Great work! Thanks a million!

  13. Thanks you, Please do take photos. Send them to me and I will try to get them up. I have been there too. I had some video that Adam from that neighborhood posted on my old web site.

    A few years ago I helped to get Safe Routes to School started in Maryland. The idea was to assess and improve sidewalks around schools so thyat kids and parents could choose to walk or ride bikes.

    Good pedestrian infrastructure is essential around schools and transit - mostly because you can expect more pedestrians there.s. Only makes sense, right? Instead, walking and bicycling routes to these locations are usually interrupted by broken infrastructure, old, inadequate infrastructure, or no infrastructure at all.

    Does it really cost less to cut corners and provide the bare minimum for pedestrians? Ask the more than 400 people who are struck by automobiles in Montgomery County every year.

    Montgomery County has jakced=up and poured new concrete on Sligo three times in the last two years, and the way is still blocked. I am not asking for more money, I am asking for a better plan. Does a new approach cost more? Maybe, but the we need a better return on our investment, whatever we spend.