Friday, May 27, 2011

A Pedestrian Plans his Weekend

Being a pedestrian requires planning. Coping as a walker in a car-world isn't easy. There is no hopping in the car and dashing off to the store to pick-up a few things. On the contrary, I try to do most of the shopping for the week at once - on Saturday morning. This involves pushing one-hundred pounds of groceries back from sSfeway in a cart.

Now that it is Friday afternoon, and the sidewalks around my home look like this, How am I going to get the groceries home tomorrow morning? Both passages to my home are blocked - one by a missing sidewalk panel, and the other by exposed cables and a pile if sand.

Planning ahead - I guess I will take a rake out there and smooth out the pile so that I can cross at the crosswalk. otherwise, I suppose I will have to cross mid-block in front of my home.

Either way, I have to change my routine.

I watched yesterday as a crew of men worked on theses panels. They were moving very slowly, and did not complete there work. Now that it has become evident that the work will not be completed by this Memorial Day weekend, the neighborhood will have to deal with this obstruction for another five days, at least.

The timing couldn't be worse. The planning couldn't be slacker.This is another example of outrageous insensitivity and shows a lack of concern for public safety. Way to go PEPCO.

Some of the work was completed, but a lot is still left to do. Some poles remain, some panels still have asphalt. Some panels still have sink holes.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


The last of the old utility poles that lined Sligo Avenue from Ritchie to Chicago are gone. They were removed this morning. Only these piles of sand and these protruding cables mark the spots.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Pole Dancing

Here are photos I took on Friday of the utility poles on Sligo Avenue - near Chicago Avenue. It has been almost 18 months since my utility pole adventure began, and the pedestrians of the neighborhood are still suffering. It is no wonder why people avoid trying to make a stand.


This bus is running a red-light while taking a left turn on to Georgia Avenue from Wayne Ave. A dozen pedestrians had to put on the brakes for this bus. The photo is blurry for the same reasons this is dangerous - it was dusk and the bus was travelling fast.

How did I get this shot? I always have my camera ready at this intersection. Something risky almost always happens when I go through here. A friend of mine was struck and disabled here. Even with new pedestrian infrastructure in place, this intersection is one of the riskiest in the area. Busses - and drivers who pull stunts like this - are a major contributing factor.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


This evening my son and I walked to downtown Silver Spring and ate at Sushi Gin on FentonSt. On the way back we came across this truck, parked and unloading at the 7-11 on the corner of Fenton and Sligo. This is already a dangerous location, mostly because the stretscaping encourages passengers from the Greyhound terminal across Fenton to cross mid-block through heavy traffic. Access to the crosswalk is completly cut-off.

We got around the truck by walking to the store entrance, but I am certain most people would just step into the street to get by. DANGEROUS.

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I wonder if a police officer would notice this and do something about it without a call from me.

Eastbound & down

Last night I attended the final East Silver Spring Citizens' Association meeting of the 2010-11 season. If you know me, then you know that I would rather have dental surgery that attend another ESSCA meeting, but it had to be done.

I have a low opinion of ESSCA, although I do admit that this organization has done a great service to the community over the years. They have protected the neighborhood from thoughtless development with dogged determination. The problem is that the organization is aging, with no real plan or program for the future in evidence. What makes the organization so powerful in protecting the community makes it weak in communicating with it. ESSCA has become a very insular organization that protects the status quo as fiercely as it defends against over-sized buildings. For example; Bob has been president since the year I graduated from high school. Things change slowyt at ESSCA, to say the least.

The reason I attended last night's meeting was to see Kurshead Bilgrami - or KB - present revised plans for sidewalk improvements on Sligo Avenue. I planned to spend the rest of my time listening, not talking. This, on its face, is a ridiculous plan. However, it worked this time - mostly because there was almost no one at this meeting. Maybe ten, if you count the guests.

Here are the revised plans.

KB explained each plan in detail and took questions. The group seemed to be happy with the changes he had made since the last meeting, which mostly dealt with bicycle issues. A breif discussion, and the plans seemed to be approved.

KB noted that a fire hydrant will be moved out of the way in one location. I pointed out that there are at least four other hydrant on the street that cause obstructions and do not comply with ADA. I asked if they could look into doing all of them at once. What is the point of moving one out of the way if there is another one on the next block? The answer? The usual - it's expensive.

Residents who use Ritchie Avenue expressed concerns about the lack of sidewalks on most of that street. A neighbor was hit by a car on Ritchie near the intersection with Sligo last week. It was night and she was travelling beside her blind father when she was struck. The driver did not remain on the scene. She suffered a sprain and other injuries.
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I know this intersection well. Walked by it on the way home.

KB said he would look into remedies, including adjusting the parking.

There was a brief discussion about the practice of needing 100% support from all property owners to build a new sidewalk. One holdout on this street is preventing improvements for pedestrian safety. Is there a way to override this antiquated practice? At what point does public safety trump a property owner's wishes? Why is there a right-of-way, after all?

Given that Silver Spring has dozens of streets like Ritchie Avenue - with no sidewalks on one or both sides - this should be an important issue to resolve. If you live on a street with no sidewalks, you should think about that. Is your right to maintain a more bucolic atmosphere more important than access for the disabled? The elderly? The young?

I left the meeting happy that the presentation had been well-received, but a little depressed at the sad state of the East Silver Spring Citizens' Association. Six people voted to return the Executive Board back to their positions for another year - even though many of them weren't there. The last time I had been to such a meeting was in 2005, when I ran against Bob for President. 78 People voted that night, and I lost by 2-1.

Back then the voting was done poorly, and the animosity I felt from the grey-haired and entrenched members of the audience put me off ESSCA for good. I paid dues and went to a couple of meetings since then, but I have usually found them to be more of an obstruction than a help. Still, I think the organization plays an important role in our relationship with the County, and it makes me sad to see things so slack and poorly managed.

DelegateTom Hucker finished-off the meeting with a report on events during the recent legislative session in Annapolis.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Over the River

On Saturday night my wife and I took what has become a familiar journey across the Patomac to see live music at The State Theater. We have been to this excellent establishment a dozen or more times over the last few years, and we were excited about see The Infamous Stringdusters for the first time.

The trip to Falls Church is a long one - even for experienced pedestrians like us. It involves walking to the Silver Spring Metro, getting of at Metro Center and connecting to the Orange (NOT Blue) line to Vienna, and taking that to East Falls Church Metro. From there you walk over to Washington Boulevard, and up a long hill to The State. No bathrooms, the entire way. You really must plan this one.

Or, you could spend about fifty dollars and take a taxi. Either way, you have to get back, too. Hopeully, the show is worth the time, effort, and money. Fortunately, this time it was. I thought this cover of The Police song "walking on the Moon" was appropriate to post here.

Since we are so practiced at this journey, we have figured out how to make it bearable, if not comfortable. This sometimes includes straying at the Econolodge up on 66, or a rest stop for dinner at Clare and Don's Beach Shack. It always included walking past this location, often late at night.

On this dark night we came acrtoss this piece of equipment completely blocking the sidewal along Washington Blvd, near the north exit onto Rt. 66. We had to walk in the street to get by. This sin't the first time we have been confronted with the very same thing in other places in the neighborhood.

Someone hasn't read the memo!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Forgotten, but not gone

On Saturday evening I walked over to 1200 East-West Highway to meet with and talk to a Greater-Greater Washington Blog writer about the conditions at that intersection. Even though the intersection had been blocked for years, there was some hope that SHA would make some needed improvements to make the area more safe until the construction project was complete. There was also some hope that SHA would nudge the owner of the property to get the work finished sooner. After a meeting last December, we were told that temporary measures would be taken to prevent pedestrians from being confused by ambiguous signs and directions.

As usual, some promises were lept and some were only partially kept.

It has now been six months since the little flurry of attention on this location, and pedestrian access has not been restored. What's more, the situation is every bit as dangerous as when we last visited - sans snow. Exactly what pedestrians are meant to do here is not clear. It is especially confusing for a person with low or no vision.The only thing that is obvious is that people are still crossing where they should not be crossing - and that things here are risky.

This location has been in a similar state for more than three years. Despite numerous complaints and meetings, thins have not really improved at all.The facilities for pedestrians and people with disabilities are slack - almost as if they were not important.


Saturday, May 7, 2011


I took these photos this afternoon as my wife and I headed to downtown Silver Spring. This is the stretch of sidewalk adjacent to the Silver Spring Library/Purple Line station, along Bonifant St. I was surprised and gratified to see the situation cleared-up and the pedestrian ROW restored. Much safer and encourages good behavior - like crossing at the intersection. I can't believe that it was too much work to make this happen, so I can only surmise that this situation was caused by a lack of awareness. OK, so now you know, right?

So often these complaint-based remedies substitute for a real plan. Project managers must keep in mind the impacts of the project on the ROW. It must be reviewed regularly, and adjustments must be made for different phases of construction. The location of this particular project speaks to a new model - one that prizes pedestrians and people who get around without their own motor vehicle. The process of building this civic landmark should also speak to the importance that we are placing on people who do not drive - either by choice or because they have no choice. No matter who is walking there, it should be by design, not by accident.

PS. My wife says don't even try to walk here in heels. The asphalt is very soft.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Leading the Way

On Friday evening I went with my wife and son to Thai Duram restaurant on Bonifant St. As mentioned before, the restaurant is next to the construction site for the Silver Spring Library and Purple Line station. The sidewalk along Bonfiant has been closed for a while now, and apparently the impacts this my have on pedestrians have been long-forgotten - if they were ever truly considered at all.

How do I know? Well, I took these photos on the way home - and they show several free parking spaces without parking meters. If the County knew that people were parking here, they would certainly put-up meters, right?

So, a major County project is now a prime candidate for Top Offender in Downtown Silver Spring. And the project has really only just begun. It is dangerous, slack, and shows a profound lack of understanding about pedestrians, urban construction, and safety. It is such a ham-handed approach that I find it literally offensive.

I watched as a few people walked in the street here. Some getting out of the cars they just parked there, others were pedestrians using thier usual route to get where they were going. It was dusk , so the lighting was distracting. Lots of car lights, but the sun was still setting in the west. Lots of Friday evening traffic - both pedestrians and vehicles. A bustling Downtown as the skies cleared and the weekend began.

Narrow passages at certain points that put you very close to cars turing on to Bonifant from Fenton. You could walk for a short stretch on the sidewalk, but both ends were bloced so that you had to walk in the street to get out. SCARY.

I sent word of this to people, but no one responded and things are still the same. Any suggestions? Is this something I can call in to 311?

What a great example Montgomery County is setting here. Total neglect of an issue they claim to care so much about. We can accommodate parked cars, but pedestrians have to deal with it however they can. How long? Another week? How about a month? Six? More?

We have room to let cars park here for free, but not for temporary pedestrian facilities.Oh, wear brightly-colored clothing .