Monday, January 31, 2011

Five Days Later

Last Wednesday we had a rather large snow/ice event that left about 9 inches of heavy frozen stuff. Linbs came down and thousands were without electricity for a day or three. The roads were a mess and vehicle traffic was snarled. Pedestrians were walkig in the streets everywhere because the sidewalks were impassible.

As usual, it took a couple of days to recover from the wintry blast, but the roads were clear and the lights back on by Sunday. Pedestrians, however, are still walking in the streets. If you drive everywhere you may think that the worst is over. In fact, vehicle speeds - that were reduced to handle the inclement weather - are now back to normal. Unfortunately for pedestrians, the storm is still being felt.

I walked to downtown Silver Spring this afternoon for lunch with my wife. I took these photos on the way there an back.

Let's begin with the sink hole in front of my home. Every since December, 2009 pedestrinas on Sligo Avenue have had to deal with the dangers caused by this extended and botched attempt to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Montgomery County DOT has filled these holes more than twice, but it is clear that the situation will only be permanently resolved when the old poles are finally all gone and concrete is poured in these panels.

As we continue along Sligo Avenue you notice that, while most neighbors are thoughful and clear the ice and snow off of the sidewalks adjacent to their property, some do not. Vacant homes or homes where the occupants are out of town don't get done. The path is covered with snow that has been stomped into slippery ice. Five days after the snow and no concrete in sight.
This photo shows the crosswalk at the 3rd District Police Station. The sidewalks are clear, but access to the ramp is blocked with plowed snow. This encourages pedestrians to spend more time in the road as they maneuver to an open spot, several feet beyond the crosswalk on either side.
Continuing westward on Sligo we come to a real problem area. The two homes on either side of Woodbury have sidewalks adjacent to their property on two sides - Along Woodbury to their front, and along Sligo on the side. These property owners shovel the sidewalks in front of their homes, but obviously feel no compulsion to do the long stretches along Sligo. The sidewalk here is always blocked during significant snow. 125 feet of blocked sidewalk.

Clear sidewalks in front - but they stop short.

This glacier-like mass of ice will be here for weeks.

This property owner had his driveway plowed. The snow was deposited in a 3ft high berg over the sidewalk.

In front of this office building, a utility pole support wire and ice-crushed landscaping create a very narrow passage.

Most of the curbcuts on Fenton street are at least partially blocked by plowed snow. Some curbcuts have been adequately cleared, and others remain completely blocked. The four photographs above represent the conditions of curbcuts along Fenton Street. Some curbcuts have been cleared but the crosswalk is still blocked by plowed snow. Fenton Street is not accessible to people with wheelchairs or walkers, and dangerous to people with impaired vision

In front of the Greyhound station on Fenton Street. Plowed snow reduces the passage to mere inches.

This is the bus stop on Sligo Ave near Fenton. Completely blocked by snow. Rides have to wait in a nearby driveway.

The bus stop at Sligo Ave and Chicago Ave. The sidewalk has been cleared, but the crosswalk has not.

The crosswalk/ pedestrian refuge, and Sligo Ave and Chicago. The refuge is still covered in snow, as is the curb ramp on the far side.

Your power is back, cable TV and internet access are back, the roads are clear, and things are pretty much back to normal, right? Wrong. If you are a pedestrian, disabled, young, old, or simply trying to catch the bus it is definitely NOT over for you. Pedestrians are usually the last group of people to recover from a major ice storm. Let's hope we can fully recover before we get hit again. Imagine how treacherous things will be when these conditions are concealed beneath a fresh blanket of snow?

Monday, January 24, 2011

PEPCO Doesn't Care

I've read stories where Cowboys in the Old West would shoot prairie dogs - or ground squirrels - because these rodents dig holes that are sometimes difficult to see and almost perfectly designed to break a horse's leg if stepped into. It is not the prarie dogs' fault. They don't mean to do it. It is in their nature and they can't change. Instead, they were driven away from places where Men wanted to ride in safety - even if no one had ever heard of a horse falling into a hole and breaking it's leg.

The metaphorical prairie dog in this situation is PEPCO. Of course I don't believe that PEPCO is intentionally doing things to put me and others like me in danger, but they are. Of course I don't believe that PEPCO is intentionally dampening the idea that you can walk in this neighborhood, or any other neighborhood in their huge service area - but yet again, they are doing just that.

PEPCO provides an essential service - one that makes this type of complaint possible. PEPCO has a good record - overall. But there is a problem here, and they seem reluctant to do anything about it. A system that creates dangerous situations and perpetuates the denial of access to the right-of-way to thousand of citizens is wrong.

PEPCO, through their lack of understanding and expertise - effectively dug these holes. They
don't care about people with disabilities. They don't care if I fall into a hole and break my leg, and - more importantly - they don't care if I decide to give-up because it is too difficult to overcome their indifference. They don't care if I decide to become a recluse - a shut-it - another disabled person sitting at home.

I have lived in my home for almost fourteen years. Yesterday I had to cross mid-block to get my groceries home because these holes are back. Sligo Avenue has never been accessible in all that time. If I am such a great advocate, then how can this be true? If I fail at being heard, then what chance does anyone else have? I have taken A LOT of action, and things are just about the same as they have always been. Inaccessible for thousand of people. People who are not able to drive, for one reason or another. Large-scale discrimination.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Sink Holes

On January 4 I called MCDOT to report that there were sinkk-holes in the ground where old utility poles were removed the week before. The next evening a crew came down Sligo Avenue and temporarily patched the sidewalk panels that were missing with asphalt. This was a big improvement, but only temporarily - as evidence by the reappearance of the sink-holes.

As the air warms today, the asphalt and the ground beneath soften. The dark asphalt, combined with the fact that some of these temporary fixes are still intact, make these re-emerging holes particularly difficult to see at night and especially dangerous.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Crosswalk vs. Parking

This location used to be Blair Mill Rd., but is now a strange hybrid driveway/cut-through that connects E-W Highway to Georgia Avenue and the Condo garage. Pedestrians like myself pass through here rather than waling a short block further to the intersection of Georgia and E-W Highway.

Cars park along the side of this drive, and visibility is very limited at this crosswalk. Vehicles are usually parked either partially or completely blocking the crosswalk - on one or both sides.

I was nearly struck here by a car speeding into the garage from Georgia Avenue.

View Montgomery Sideways in a larger map
It appears to be marked as a crosswalk, but is often disregarded. I have called about this, but no one seems to know how to deal with this now that it is not part of Blair Mill Rd.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Tiger Pit

My wife and I went out for New Year's Eve. We walked over to Blair Plaza for dinner at Oriental East. We lived in Blair Plaza Apartments (just across the parking lot) for three years when the kids were both toddlers. I took the kids for lunch at Oriental East most Wednesdays for a year or more. Going back is nostalgic. It reminds us of good times and is a place for a subdued celebration - a not-too-extravagant treat.

All we have to do is walk there.

We walk at a good clip. When people visit - people who normally drive everywhere they go - they usually have some trouble keeping pace.My Mother complained that we were moving too fast for her last time that she visited, and we were constantly putting on the brakes so that she could stay with us. Pedestrians can be very similar to drivers when they "zone out." Walking has a rhythm, left, right, left. This repetition can produce a kind of trance that allows the Walker's mind to wander - not thinking about each and every step, but getting into the rhythm.

A sytem that requires the pedestrian to think about each and every step is not a system at all.

As we made our way down the street I stopped to take these photos.

They show an almost perfectly designed trap.

The street light is mounted on the pole on the opposite side of the hole in the ground. The hole is located by design where you expect people to walk. In other words; the pole was removed in order to make this place accessible to feet. The shadow of the pole from the light falls directly onto the hole. It sounds like some sort of sick nursery rhyme;

"The Shadow from the pole falls on the hole..."

I am OK because I know they are there. Another cruel design in this trap is that not all of the poles have been removed. so between weaving and hopping, there isn't much chance for rhythm. The University of Maryland football team could train their running backs by having them run down the south side of Sligo Avenue. The sidewalks here are like an obstacle course, but more menacing. The only thing missing from these holes are the sharpened spikes smeared with feces. Barbed wire might be a nice touch.

Oh, and just to be sure it works, lets leave them there for a week. Just to be sure.

And then people wonder why pedestrians are always ignoring the rules and walking in the street. If you really want to know the answer to that question, park your car for a week and try to get where you're going on foot.