Cynthia Cotte Griffiths on Everyone Is Responsible for Street Safety

Pedestrian and cyclist safety is going in the wrong direction. Maryland is one of 25 states to experience year-over-year increases in accidents and pedestrian deaths increased 25% in the last year.

Montgomery County and Rockville both adopted Vision Zero initiatives and Maryland followed last year. However, the devil is in the details. This means that even though all of our jurisdictions have agreed to work toward zero driver, pedestrian, and cyclist deaths, the actual action items and implementation will take more time and effort to complete than realized.

Montgomery County adopted a Vision Zero traffic safety initiative in February 2016 to eliminate pedestrian fatalities by 2030. A two-year action plan was implemented in November 2017 and half of the 41 items outlined are behind schedule or haven’t started, and a separate 10-year action plan hasn’t been touched.

Meanwhile, Rockville city staff have been working with the Rockville Traffic and Transportation Commission and other interested bodies to formulate the city’s action plan that is basically modeled after the County’s plan. Rockville was built as a suburb with car-oriented major thoroughfares designed to move traffic. As our city has grown to include more walkable neighborhoods, we must redesign to actually make the streets safe for walking and biking. This is called creating “complete streets.”

This decorative fence in the median keeps pedestrians from jay-walking on busy Park Road.

Vision Zero primarily makes sure our streets are engineered to be safe so that even if you make a mistake while driving, walking, or biking, you don’t die from that mistake. An example is the black fence on Park Road by the Rockville Metro station that prevents people from jay-walking across the street. Vehicles making left turns are the most deadly. An action as simple as adding rubber bumps along center lines forces vehicles to slow down because they have to make a sharper left turn. Installing flashing yellow lights when vehicles are permitted to make a left turn on green has also proved effective.

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