The next phase of the Western Workaround

The next phase of the construction of the Western Workaround along Old Georgetown Road between Grand Park Avenue and Executive Boulevard has begun, or will begin any minute now (depending on when you’re reading this post.)

Please see the illustrations below to see how this project will temporarily affect drivers and pedestrians and how you’ll get around the work zone. (Click the image for a higher-res PDF.)

MD 187 Needs Analysis from SHA

Maryland Dept. of Transportation and the State Highway Administration recently completed a comprehensive Needs Analysis for MD 187 (Old Georgetown Road) between McKinley Street in Bethesda, and Tilden Lane/Nicholson Lane in White Flint. This document outlines a long-term vision for the corridor by identifying strategies to address pedestrian and bicycle network deficiencies, enhance multi-modal safety and improve travel conditions along the corridor.

You can read the entire report here.

The study divides the corridor into seven segments and considers options for each segment to address pedestrian and bicycle deficiencies; enhance multi-modal safety; and improve travel conditions. Some of the analysis for each segment is general (e.g., paint zebra stripes at crossings) and some are more specific (e.g., eliminate particular right turns on red). The recommendations are also divided into near-term, mid-term, and long-term plans.

How asphalt art can protect vulnerable road users

From Greater Greater Washington

This article was first published in Streetsblog.

Turns out, paint can be protection, at least when it’s done right.

Installing asphalt art on roads and intersection can cut crashes between motorists and other road users by a staggering 50%, a new study finds — and the experts behind it say it’s time for policymakers to treat this life-saving traffic-safety treatment as more than just a frill.

In a new report from Bloomberg Philanthropies, researchers analyzed crash rates and driver behavior before and after traffic-calming art projects were added to the 17 US roads and intersections for which the best possible data and imagery was available. Those projects included colorful crosswalks and curb-extending murals that visually shorten a pedestrian’s crossing distance, among other innovative designs — and notably, most of them didn’t incorporate any other hard-infrastructure improvements at the time they were painted.

Not only did the projects slash crashes involving vulnerable road users in half, they also lessened injury-causing crashes by an average of 37%, and cut overall crashes by 17%, too. Drivers even yielded to pedestrians in colorful crosswalks 27% more often, even though many intersections featured high-visibility paint before.

Those stats might seem surprising, given how rare asphalt art is in US cities — and the fact that the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices proposes banning it because of dubious safety concerns.

Many city transportation leaders, however, have touted the benefits of treating the street as a canvas for years, even if those benefits weren’t quantified until now.

Read the rest of the article here

Key Findings from the Pedestrian Master Plan Existing Conditions Report

The Montgomery County Planning Department, presented the Pedestrian Master Plan Existing Conditions Report to the Montgomery County Planning Board last week. The Pedestrian Master Plan is a multi-year planning effort using a data-driven and equitable approach to make the pedestrian experience in Montgomery County comfortable, direct, and safe.

Key findings from the report are:

  1. Montgomery County residents make 7.5% of their weekly trips on foot or using a mobility device, while only 2.2% of commute trips take place solely on foot.
  2. 16% of students arrive and 18% of students depart from elementary schools on foot. This percentage decreases in middle school (11%/16%) and high school (8%/12%).
  3. Montgomery County residents with a disability are less satisfied with the pedestrian environment than residents without a reported disability (43% vs. 53%). This disparity is most pronounced along the county’s transit corridors (33% vs. 52%) and in the exurban/rural parts of the county (36% vs. 47%). In urban area, pedestrians with and without disabilities have a similar level of satisfaction (59% vs. 60%).
  4. There are over 2,000 miles of sidewalks in the county, but there are prominent gaps in the sidewalk network along some of the busiest streets in urban areas and along transit corridors, particularly along major highways and arterials.
  5. Many sidewalks along wide, high-speed streets in urban areas and along transit corridors are located directly adjacent to the curb and lack separation from traffic.In fact, nearly half of sidewalks along major highways and 20% of sidewalks on arterial streets lack a buffer between the sidewalk and the street.
  6. Crossings in Montgomery County are generally less comfortable than sidewalks and other pathways. 58% of pathways score as comfortable in the county’s Pedestrian Level of Comfort analysis, while 55% of crossing locations countywide are either uncomfortable or undesirable.
  7. Montgomery County pedestrians are more likely to be killed or severely injured than motor vehicle occupants. While pedestrians in Montgomery County are only involved in 4% of the total crashes, they account for 27% of crashes that result in severe or fatal injury.
  8. While only 14% of the county’s roadway miles are located in Equity Focus Areas (EFAs), 40% of pedestrian crashes and 44% of pedestrian crashes resulting in severe or fatal injury are located in EFAs.
  9. A disproportionate share of severe and fatal pedestrian crashes occurs on relatively few roads, largely in urban areas. 55% of severe and fatal pedestrian crashes countywide occur on the 6% of roads in urban areas that are controlled major highways, major highways, arterials, and business streets.

Pedestrian Deaths Spike in U.S. as Reckless Driving Surges

Fatalities are climbing to record levels two years into the pandemic. Authorities cite drivers’ anxiety levels, larger vehicles and fraying social norms.

Because the Pike District/White Flint area is striving to be as walkable as possible, I though this article would be of interest.

From the NY Times

Going into the pandemic, some traffic specialists were optimistic that pedestrian deaths would decline. After all, millions of motorists were slashing their driving time and hewing to social distancing measures.

The opposite happened.

Empty roads allowed some to drive much faster than before. Some police chiefs eased enforcement, wary of face-to-face contact. For reasons that psychologists and transit safety experts are just beginning to explain, drivers also seemed to get angrier.

Dr. David Spiegel, director of Stanford Medical School’s Center on Stress and Health, said many drivers were grappling with what he calls “salience saturation.”

“We’re so saturated with fears about the virus and what it’s going to do,” Dr. Spiegel said. “People feel that they get a pass on other threats.”

Dr. Spiegel said another factor was “social disengagement,” which deprives people of social contact, a major source of pleasure, support and comfort. Combine that loss with overloading our capacity to gauge risks, Dr. Spiegel said, and people are not paying as much attention to driving safely.

“If they do, they don’t care about it that much,” Dr. Spiegel said. “There’s the feeling that the rules are suspended and all bets are off.”

Crashes killed more than 6,700 pedestrians in 2020, up about 5 percent from the estimated 6,412 the year before, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.

Based on another commonly used road safety metric — vehicle miles traveled — the group projected that the pedestrian fatality rate spiked about 21 percent in 2020 as deaths climbed sharply even though people drove much less that year, the largest ever year-over-year increase. And preliminary data from 2021 indicates yet another increase in the number of pedestrian deaths.

While other developed countries have made strides in reducing pedestrian deaths over the last several years, the pandemic has intensified several trends that have pushed the United States in the other direction. Crashes killing pedestrians climbed 46 percent over the last decade, compared with a 5 percent increase for all other crashes, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.

Read the rest of the article at https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/14/us/pedestrian-deaths-pandemic.html

State Bills to Make our Roads Safer

In 2020, although there were fewer cars on the road due to Covid-19 restrictions, pedestrian and cyclist deaths continued to climb. Last year alone, 130 Marylanders lost their lives while attempting to cross our streets and there were an additional 3,022 pedestrian-involved crashes which caused injury or property damage.

First up we have HOUSE BILL 254, the Safe Access for All (SAFE) Roads Act of 2022 https://mgaleg.maryland.gov/mgawebsite/Legislation/Details/hb0254?ys=2022RS,.

This bill addresses the disconnect between MDOT response and the goals of the Vision Zero law stems from a lack of detailed plans to address the problem and insufficient dedicated resources.

The SAFE Roads Act

  1. necessitates pedestrian and bicyclist safety countermeasures be incorporated into new, preservation, and maintenance construction projects;
  2. requires SHA conduct a thorough crash analysis of all roadways to identify high-risk intersections and corridors with serious pedestrian and bicycle injuries and fatalities by July, 2023;
  3. using this crash analysis, requires SHA to identify gaps in safe infrastructure and engineering improvements, and develop a budget estimate and timeline to implement these improvements;
  4. provides dedicated funding of nearly $170 million in FY24 with a 10% increase each subsequent year to be included in the MD state budget for fiscal years 2024-2028 to be used specifically by the SHA to address and improve the safety of Maryland’s roads for pedestrians and bicyclists, including ADA and bicycle retrofits, sidewalk program, traffic management and safety/spot improvements;
  5. identifies pedestrian and bicyclist project planning, implementation, and program management function as a SHA budget line to expedite vulnerable road user safety engineering improvements.

Nest we have the HB0254:  State Highway Administration – Pedestrian and Bicyclist Fatalities – Infrastructure Review (Vision Zero Implementation Act of 2022) https://mgaleg.maryland.gov/mgawebsite/Legislation/Details/hb0254?ys=2022RS

HB0254 perfectly complements Delegate Charkoudian’s SAFE Roads Act; while the SAFE Roads Act requires a systemwide assessment to identify the most dangerous intersections and corridors using the most recent 5 years of crash data, as well as identify and implement corrective engineering countermeasures for these dangerous roadways, HB0254 requires a crash analysis of individual future fatal crashes and targeted engineering countermeasures to address specific gaps at the crash location. 

HB0254 requires SHA to:

  1. Assess each individual fatal pedestrian and bicyclist fatality occurring on SHA roadways within 6 months after the crash;
  2. Identify engineering countermeasures consistent with Safe System approach; 
  3. Consider the countermeasures that are appropriate for the highway context (e.g., urban, rural, modes of travel)
  4. Publicly post the assessment to SHA web site

To advocate for these bills, please send an email supporting HB254 and HB0254 to the following people:

Senator William C. Smith, Jr.D20Montgomery Countywill.smith@senate.state.md.usJPR Chair
Senator Jeff WaldstreicherD18Montgomery Countyjeff.waldstreicher@senate.state.md.usJPR Vice Chair
Senator Susan C. LeeD16Montgomery Countysusan.lee@senate.state.md.usJPR Member
Delegate BarveD17Montgomery Countykumar.barve@house.state.md.usT&E Chair
Delegate David Fraser-HidalgoD15Montgomery Countydavid.fraser.hidalgo@house.state.md.usT&E Member (MV&T-Chair)
Delegate Sara LoveD16Montgomery Countysara.love@house.state.md.usT&E Member (MV&T)
Delegate CharkoudianD20Montgomery CountyLorig.Charkoudian@house.state.md.usSAFE Roads bill sponsor

M-NCPPC Walk Audit Toolkit Training

The Pedestrian Master Plan team will host a virtual training to share the draft Pedestrian Audit Toolkit. During the training, participants will learn how to use the toolkit to lead pedestrian audits in The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission Gants to help make the County more pedestrian-friendly. Here’s a way you can help that effort. Sign up to learn how to conduct a pedestrian audit of your community. http://ow.ly/l9BR50G6kAQ

What is a Walk Audit?
Walk Audits are used to identify barriers to walking and bicycling. Neighbors walk the streets together and note what makes the streets feel comfortable for walking and what is missing. Walk Audits assess
street infrastructure and conditions, documenting barriers, positive features, activities, and perceptions of the walking environment.

The results from a Walk Audit can be used to advocate for safer streets for all. Share the results with decision makers and the agency who is responsible for managing a particular roadway. The results
can also help build community support to build a grassroots campaign to slow down traffic or attract media attention.

To organize a Walk Audit in your community, there are three phases: 1) Prep and Promote 2) Walk and Coverage and 3) Recap and Analyze.

Learn more about a Walk Audit at http://montgomeryplanning.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Walk-Audit-Toolkit-1.0.pdf.

Pike District Connector Launch Week – Volunteers Needed

Wednesday September 15, 2021 to Saturday September 18, 2021

Join the Planning Department, MCDOT, and Better Block as they sling paint, swing hammers, and get some dirt under their fingernails installing signage along the Pike District Connector, create ground murals under the guidance of local artists, and build a pollinator garden with plants, art, and seating in Wall Park. All tools will be provided. Please bring sunscreen and a water bottle and wear clothing that you don’t mind getting painted or dirty. All ages and skill levels welcome!

Visit https://montgomeryplanning.org/events/pike-district-connector-launch-week/ to learn more.