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Montgomery Planning Pedestrian Improvements

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett announced this morning that intensive efforts will begin this fall to improve safety at one of the county's most dangerous stretches of road.

University-Piney Leggett.jpg County Executive Leggett announces safety program. (Thomson)

This was the first of what will become an string of announcements over the next eight days about Montgomery's efforts to improve pedestrian safety.

Leggett made this first announcement at a parking lot in Silver Spring that's alongside the first target for attention: the section of Piney Branch Road between Flower avenue and the Montgomery/Prince George's line. With 22 pedestrian collisions from 2005 through 2007, this area had the highest concentration of pedestrian collisions in Montgomery County.

University-Piney Leggett.jpg A long way to cross University Boulevard at Piney Branch. (Thomson)

It includes the intersection of University Boulevard and Piney Branch, two wide commuter routes with plenty of driveways, businesses, apartment buildings, bus stops -- many of the elements that put autos and walkers into dangerous proximity.

Traffic moves fast through this very busy area. There's plenty of turning traffic. Drivers and pedestrians really have to keep their eyes open. And the pedestrians aren't always giving themselves the best chance. I saw two women who could have walked just about 20 feet to the relative safety of a crosswalk choose instead to take a shortcut through six lanes of traffic.

The county has designed this section of Piney Branch as a "High Incidence Area." Using a strategy that sounds similar to what the District is doing with its high priority safety corridors, the county government will apply the three E's -- engineering, education and enforcement -- to improve safety in the zone. The state government will help, particularly at the University-Piney Branch intersection.

The county and the state will select a team of experts to develop safety measures appropriate for Piney Branch, while county police target both motorists and pedestrians who behave unsafely.

The engineering improvements could include new countdown signals, sidewalk improvements, better lighting, new signs and pavement markings, bump-outs and refuge islands. Some of that would look similar to what the county did on upper Connecticut Avenue last year and on Arcola Avenue this summer.

By Robert Thomson  |  September 2, 2008; 12:27 PM ET
Categories:  Safety  
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If they are too lazy to go to an actual crosswalk, just run those b1tches over.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 2, 2008 4:11 PM | Report abuse

This is my neighborhood. It's an immigrant neighborhood. This means lots of variables affecting traffic: for example, many, many small stores (e.g., 7 grocery stores just in the 4-block area east of the Piney Branch/Flower intersection); really low vehicle-ownership-to-resident ratio; immigrants from the same town/region of origin spread widely among the many apartment complexes. All of these combine to create pedestrian density that is atypical for the 'burbs. Throw in major commuting arteries, stupid bus scheduling, stupid traffic-signal engineering, and pedestrians only being accommodated (per usual) as afterthoughts (5-second interval every 2 minutes to cross Piney Branch? WTF?!), and you get pedestrians doing stupid things because if they do them "right" it takes 10 minutes to get across the street to the grocery store, or the bank, or the laundromat, or to catch the sh*tty condition Ride-On busses that never keep a predictable schedule (and so are either empty or S.R.O.).

In addition, it seems that pedestrians in this area tend to assume drivers will be more yielding to pedestrians than is the case. I infer that this would be because of different driver/pedestrian habits in the various countries of origin, but I don't know that's why.

Posted by: DrB | September 3, 2008 9:58 AM | Report abuse

When you build roads for cars and cars alone, you get dangerous conditions for everyone and everything else.

University Blvd. was built in a different era when that section was less densely populated. It was also built in a different era, before we as a society began to relearn how to build for people and places rather than just cars.

Without an overhaul of that road, nothing will change. There needs to be fewer lanes. If we can't muster the political will for that, then at least narrow the lanes that are there. Use the extra space to widen the sidewalks and medians. That will make it so that pedestrians only have to cross three narrower lanes at a clip. The drivers will perceive danger from the narrow lanes and drive slower and more cautiously.

Long term, there needs to be more places to cross that make sense. Long term, all those old out of date strip malls from the 1960's should be broken up and redeveloped with a street grid at the human scale. (obviously, we're talking long term due to the time horizons in the commercial landowners' business models)

Long term, University Blvd. should be turned into something that resembles Connecticut Ave. NW, north of Rock Creek park: a vibrant urban boulevard. Currently, the area it runs through functions that way both socially and economically. Sadly, it's saddled with a failed plan/experiment from a bygone, idealistic and misguided era in infrastructure building.

Posted by: Cavan | September 4, 2008 9:17 AM | Report abuse

I demand horse lanes!

Posted by: Progress | September 4, 2008 2:22 PM | Report abuse

I have never seen a driver in that area pay any more attention to a pedestrian in a crosswalk than to a pedestrian not in a crosswalk. Why should a pedestrian go out of their way to enter a crosswalk when crossing in a crosswalk is not the slightest bit safer than crossing outside the crosswalk?

Posted by: tt | September 5, 2008 12:03 AM | Report abuse

I have never seen a cyclist obey traffic laws. Why should I not run them all over?

Posted by: Anonymous | September 5, 2008 1:15 PM | Report abuse

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