Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity
Share Stories  |  Traffic  |  Columns  |  Q&A     |  Get Gridlock:    Twitter |    Facebook  |     RSS   |  phone Alerts

An Appeal to Pedestrians

Pedestrians, cars and buses attempt to share the same space during afternoon rush at Silver Spring Station. (Thomson)

Downtown Silver Spring was transformed on Monday in ways that several years of commercial construction had not accomplished.

And it's worrisome: The closing of the old bus and taxi hub has pushed pedestrians onto the most heavily used commuter streets during rush hours. The crossing guards and Montgomery County police tried bravely on Monday to protect pedestrians from their own suicidal behavior, but it was like herding cats.

The pedestrians funneling up Wayne Avenue while talking on cell phones or plugged into iPods just hate to break their momentum, even for the few seconds it would take to get a green light or a wave forward from one of the police officers or guards.

Pedestrians, save yourselves. Life is worth living. The stock market will come back. Let the crossing guards do their job and protect you from drivers who also hate to break their momentum. (The only difference between you and the drivers is that they've got heavy metal on their side.)

Crossing guards hold back a sea of traffic. (Thomson)

And police, write some tickets. I know it can lead to some traffic congestion and take officers away from other traffic-control duties. But pedestrians and drivers clearly need a little extra inducement to keep them from endangering themselves and others. On Monday, the officers and guards were the King Canutes of traffic enforcement.

They were making a tremendous effort over many hours, morning and afternoon, but the numbers are heavily against them. Sure, many people were dazed and confused by the relocation of the bus stops and the taxi stand, and some were annoyed that they now have to walk farther from the Metro station entrance to the bus stops and parking garages. But even after people get used to that, the numbers won't go away: There will still be too many people funneled into too little walking space too close to traffic.

Crossing guard helps pedestrians with directions. (Thomson)

Some other observations:

-- Pedestrians, watch for turning traffic, even when the crossing guard or officer is waving you forward. Some drivers either don't see the crossing monitors or are defying them.

-- The Metro station side of Wayne Avenue has been narrowed by the placement of new bus shelters on the sidewalk. There's a lot more room to walk on the other side of Wayne, the side by the Discovery building.

-- Drivers and pedestrians should avoid Wayne, or get away from it as quickly as possible. There's much less congestion on the other nearby streets.

-- Police and planners should keep an eye on the walkway between Wayne Avenue and the chain link fence that now blocks the old bus hub. Make sure it doesn't become an ad hoc Kiss & Ride drop off point, which will endanger other drivers as well as pedestrians.

By Robert Thomson  |  September 30, 2008; 7:35 AM ET
Categories:  Commuting , Metro , Safety , transit  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Metro Announces Oct. Weekend Schedule
Next: D.C. License Laws Change Today


I'm thankful I don't live around that area and have to deal with that, though I will be going through this whole Tysons thing above ground beginning, well a few weeks ago.

The problem here that Dr. Gridlock has touched upon is the police force's unwillingness to do its basic job, protect and serve.

Write the tickets. If you have 1,000 people doing something illegal and you can get only 10 of them, that's 10 more than you had before. Probably 5 of them will respond favorably and not do it again, so that leaves 995 people on the wrong side. Get 10 more there, and the number keeps falling. It takes time and persistence but the police forces of the area show no want to do that, except the Virginia State Police.

I've seen the VSP on congested ramps on the Beltway and Dulles Toll Road. They're looking for people who have let their registration lapse or inspection expire. Every day, for three months last year, they were out there. Every day, fewer and fewer cars were getting pulled over. Persistence was the key here.

More enforcement needs to be done on both pedestrians and drivers. Signal when changing lanes (how is this not a law in Maryland), stop at stop signs and don't wander into traffic without looking both ways. Too many people walk around with the idea that "It's their fault if they hit me." Not if you're doing something illegal to get hit.

We have rules to keep us safe, not to side-step to make us feel like daredevils. I would say that all need to use common sense, but schools stopped teaching that when they became more interested in the test scores and not the kids themselves.

Posted by: Jarrod | September 30, 2008 8:49 AM | Report abuse

There are far too many people living in this area.

Posted by: Willis | September 30, 2008 9:03 AM | Report abuse

"The only difference between you and the drivers is that they've got heavy metal on their side."

If that's true, then why are you appealing only to pedestrians? Shouldn't this be an appeal to everyone?

Posted by: Washpost4 | September 30, 2008 9:06 AM | Report abuse

If it's a real problem in one location, how hard is it to stop? Put a couple extra cops there with ticket books. If anyone jaywalks give 'em a ticket. Even DC figured out how to do that . . .

Posted by: ah | September 30, 2008 9:48 AM | Report abuse

When I was growing up, we were taught to look both ways before crossing the street. I'm amazed at how cavlier pedestrians are who just walk into the intersection without a glance to the left or right with the expectation (and hope) that a car isn't in their path. Pedestrians in parking lots are similarly daring when they choose to walk behind a vehicle that is in the process of backing out of a parking space, rather than waiting, what two seconds? Pedestrians have to take responsibility for their actions.

Posted by: luvtogarden | September 30, 2008 9:51 AM | Report abuse

I split my time about evenly between 1) walking/taking transit and 2) driving. I think it's ridiculous to blame pedestrians for whatever chaos is going on in Silver Spring (I haven't been there to see it yet).

Pedestrians deserve all the encouragement we can give them as they get around without using gasoline or polluting the air. Traditional engineering standards that prioritize moving cars, giving pedestrians tiny windows of crossing time separated by long waits, are going to have to change as more people get out of their cars and walk. In the meantime, the last thing we need to do is harass pedestrians or treat them as an annoyance to drivers by ticketing them for jaywalking.

Posted by: csdiego | September 30, 2008 10:08 AM | Report abuse

I work at the building at the corner of Georgia and Wayne across Wayne from the Discovery building. I park in the Wayne Ave. garage on the other side of Georgia.

Yesterday, I could not count the Metrobuses and cars that rolled gleefully through the intersection - and the crosswalk - while the WALK sign was on. I finally had to step into the intersection and put my hand up to make somebody, anybody stop. I'm sure not going to attempt that with a Metrobus, yet they are by far the worst offenders.

And when I come out of the garage, I always yield to pedestrians when I turn onto Georgia Ave. north.

I agree: MontCo police, here are some gratuitous tickets for you to write.

Posted by: Cygnus | September 30, 2008 10:18 AM | Report abuse

Truer words were never spoken "The problem here that Dr. Gridlock has touched upon is the police force's unwillingness to do its basic job, protect and serve."

Posted by: CapHillResident | September 30, 2008 10:27 AM | Report abuse

Since when did the police become afraid to issue traffic citations? Oh wait, they're under orders to move traffic as quickly as possible. Except that isn't what happens when the rules of the road are ignored by all users. People get lax, don't pay attention, and just plain do whatever they feel like. Crashes, congestion, and road rage are the results.

Laws are meaningless unless they are enforced. Seattle is one of the safest cities in the country for pedestrians, and among its pedestrians, bikers, and drivers, compliance with the rules of the road is far better than any other place I've visited. Cars don't creep into the crosswalks. Pedestrians don't jaywalk. Bikers don't run red lights. Why? Because the Seattle PD is an equal opportunity ticket writer.

Please, please, please let the cops (not just cameras) do traffic enforcement!

Posted by: nonmotorized | September 30, 2008 10:29 AM | Report abuse

It's a mess.
The lights on Wayne are set up to keep traffic flowing - i.e. there are longer than normal wait times for the lights to change - they are not set up to handle the additional pedestrian traffic.
Making it more difficult just to get to the buses or metro is NOT an inducement to get people to take public transportation.

Posted by: JK | September 30, 2008 11:24 AM | Report abuse

MPD doesn't write traffic/pedestrian tickets. I don't know what it is that they do, but I know that's not it.

Posted by: Simple Answer | September 30, 2008 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Downtown DC is also a pain as a driver and a pedestrian. So many people walk against the light, not in crosswalks and just don't pay attention. I don't know how many times while driving under the speed limit with a green light some idiot walks right into the street without looking. And then the jerk looks at me like I've done something wrong. I've seen drivers behave badly too but perhaps I've seen more egregious pedestrian behavior and peds will lose against a car every time.

Posted by: commentator3 | September 30, 2008 7:42 PM | Report abuse

Silver Spring station and Wayne Avenue traffic was bad enough before. Now there's pedestrians crossing Wayne, buses taking up lanes and drivers cutting onto Wayne and through to Georgia? Someone - correction many people - will die. It's inevitable.

Why not just shut down Wayne between Ramsey and Georgia to only buses? Place barriers to limit the road to 2 lanes and huge signs. Any cars that try to get past will be easy marks for ticketing.

Posted by: Ricky | September 30, 2008 11:58 PM | Report abuse

The center point of the problem is the intersection of Wayne and Colesville, which is designed ENTIRELY for cars and not for pedestrians. It's huge and makes pedestrians wait an interminable amount of time for three or four cars to clear the intersection.

The added factor is the removal of all pedestrian arteries to go east of the station up Colesville other than the one on Colesville - there used to be three paths from the Metro station to other destinations, and now there's one, and it's narrower than it used to be.

I support ticketing heedless jaywalkers...but I don't think you can have pedestrian safety without actually designing the traffic signals, sidewalks, and other infrastructure to support the safe and timely movement of pedestrians. Silver Spring has some improvements, but they're not there yet. Pedestrians should not be asked to bear the entire brunt of this construction. Some sacrifices in traffic flow need to be made to ensure that everyone who traverses the area can do so safely.

Posted by: Lindemann | October 1, 2008 6:20 AM | Report abuse

Yeah...Im pretty much predicting a pedestrian accident with all the changes...

Posted by: Metro Man | October 1, 2008 8:48 AM | Report abuse

Wipe them out, all of them

Posted by: DM | October 1, 2008 5:50 PM | Report abuse

I agree with DM. All drivers should be forcibly removed from the roads.

Posted by: Lindemann | October 1, 2008 7:09 PM | Report abuse

My question -- when a Metrobus runs a red light, who pays the ticket? The driver or Metro?

The red-light running that I see from Metrobuses is absolutely absurd.

Posted by: stuckman | October 2, 2008 11:58 PM | Report abuse

WHy don't the police ticket pedestrians that cross in the middle of road on rt.1 just north of Belvoir? Or do they just want the publicity by slowing down drivers obeying the limit.

Posted by: chris brown | October 5, 2008 8:34 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company