Last night, Friends of White Flint Board Member Howard Feldman testified before the County Council’s Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment (T&E) Committee in support of the Urban Road Code Amendments proposed by Councilmembers Roger Berliner and Hans Riemer, who both sit on the committee. Thanks to the input of many of our members, our testimony supported the global concepts of Complete Streets and valuing all users, without purporting to be the experts on exact measurements for appropriate lane widths, etc.
We were pleased to join a wide range of advocates including the Commission on People with Disabilities, Sierra Club, Action Committee for Transit, White Flint Partnership, Montgomery County Young Democrats, Washington Area Bicycle Association, Lerner Enterprises, Coalition for Smarter Growth and Federal Realty, as well as individual citizens, in supporting the legislation. Many who testified also offered suggestions for improvement.
Even Arthur Holmes, Director of Montgomery County’s Department of Transportation, testified that his agency endorses the goals of reducing speeds, improving pedestrian mobility and implementing the Complete Streets model. He did, though, share many of the concerns we have also discussed – specifically the mobility of emergency and commercial vehicles and whether a blanket approach is the right one.
We thought Evan Goldman of Federal Realty, also a member of the Friends of White Flint Board of Directors, put it well when describing the places we most like to visit. People choose walkable, vibrant cities for their travel, so we need to create that place here. Offering roads that invite pedestrians is smart policy for residents and businesses alike.
Emailed testimony is still accepted for another week, or so. Please email your support of the Bill to County.Council@montgomerycountymd.gov and copy Councilmember Berliner at Councilmember.Berliner@montgomerycountymd.gov.
Below is the testimony from Friends of White Flint on Bill 33-13:
Testimony of Friends of White Flint
January 23, 2014
Public Hearing on Bill 33-13, Streets and Roads – Urban Road Code Standards and Pedestrian Safety Improvements
Good evening, Councilmembers. My name is Howard Feldman and I am presenting this testimony on behalf of Friends of White Flint, a community non-profit organization that has been working on the White Flint Sector Plan since 2007. I own a small business within the White Flint Sector and am a business representative on the Friends’ Board of Directors.
Friends of White Flint promotes a sustainable, walkable and engaging White Flint. Our membership includes hundreds of community members including residents, civic and condominium associations, businesses and property owners and we seek consensus to achieve positive solutions. As we enter our seventh year, we continue our trend of holding hundreds of public meetings and speaking with thousands of residents to find common ground and community support for the Plan in place today.
The vision of our award-winning White Flint Sector Plan is to “establish policies for transforming an auto-oriented suburban development pattern into an urban center of residences and businesses where people walk to work, shops and transit.” The plan goes on to say that, “… the pedestrian experience in most of White Flint is barely tolerable.” Today, the Council is presented with an option to improve that pedestrian experience.
The term “Complete Streets” has been ubiquitous in our work. This is a concept that calls for our roads and streets to value all users, not just the ones driving cars. After all, it’s not the car that needs to get to work. It’s the person. Giving people more safe options to get around is a primary goal of the White Flint Sector Plan and we believe this legislation moves our county in the right direction.
This is not only a social and economic issue; it’s also a public health issue. The American Public Health Association has addressed the Complete Streets movement after determining that 11.4% of all transportation-related fatalities in 2009 were pedestrians struck and killed by motor vehicles. They determined that less than 1% of pedestrians ages 72 and older are able to walk at the speeds required to cross most intersections safely. Motor vehicle collisions are the leading cause of death among children ages 3 to 14 and, in 19% of these fatalities, the children involved were pedestrians.
These road code amendments are necessary to improve the pedestrian experience in our county’s urban areas. Doing things like narrowing travel lanes and limiting speeds will naturally slow traffic. Implementing changes in curb radii and adding pedestrian refuges will allow walkers to cross the street more comfortably. These are important changes to roads that have valued only cars for too long.
We understand that these proposals are not without controversy but, rather than viewing these concerns as barriers, why not view them as opportunities for creative solutions? Urban areas around the world have made the changes contemplated by this legislation and instead of scrapping the potential for progress, these jurisdictions have found ways to make them work. If we’re designing our urban areas for the future, we need to be bold and brave and willing to tackle these challenges without throwing up our hands at the first wrinkle.
Car has long been king in our county’s urban areas. But, just as we are introducing a new mix of uses in these places, we must prepare for a new mix of users. That means giving people options to safely walk around.
We applaud Councilmembers Berliner and Riemer for their foresight in proposing these amendments and ask that the rest of the Council support this vision of investing in our future. In order for White Flint to reach its potential, it must have the most forward-thinking infrastructure possible and this is an important step.