Updates to the County’s Pedestrian Master Plan

(The plan isn’t pedestrian but it is all about pedestrians.)

Pedestrian Shortcut Map

For the past several months, the Planning Department has promoted a Pedestrian Shortcut Map on their project website. This map is an effort to understand the shortcuts that pedestrians take that aren’t sidewalks or trails. To date, they have received over 500 contributions from community members identifying lines where they walk through the grass, dirt, or gravel to get where they’re going as quickly as possible. This map is still open for your contributions.

The project team will review the submissions and eventually include a list of master-planned pedestrian connections as part of the Pedestrian Master Plan. Master-planning these shortcut connections will make it easier to upgrade them to more formal sidewalks or trails through private development or the public capital improvement program process.

Pedestrian Preferences Survey in the Field

One important part of the data collection phase of the Pedestrian Master Plan is improving our understanding of how often and for what reasons people are walking and rolling in Montgomery County. While the Census provides information on how people commute to work and traffic counts conducted as part of development projects collect pedestrian data at specific locations, we do not have a comprehensive understanding of the extent of pedestrian travel in the County.

At the end of this month, postcards will go out to thousands of households in the county directing recipients to complete a survey about their pedestrian travel habits. This statistically valid survey will provide insights into how people in different parts of the county get around on foot and using mobility devices. Questions focus on how often and for what purposes people are walking and what changes would encourage them to walk more, so the project team can make sure plan recommendations are tailored to increase the number of people walking.

Tell the Planning Department about your favorite Pike District cut-throughs.

Do you use a cut-through to get to your destination faster? If so, the Planning Board wants to hear about it. Use their new online pedestrian shortcut map to tell them! Your feedback will help them make recommendations for the Pedestrian Master Plan. We know there are lots of them in the White Flint area.

The map is part of the county’s first Pedestrian Master Plan aimed at making walking and rolling safer, more comfortable, convenient and accessible for pedestrians of all ages and abilities in all parts of the county. It is also an effort to understand what informal pedestrian connections – apparent in trodden grass, dirt or gravel on public or private property – exist in Montgomery County.

The Pedestrian Master Plan marches forward

The Montgomery County Planning Department recently presented to the Planning Board an update on the Pedestrian Master Plan, including a summary of initial efforts to educate the community about the plan and inform the board of the community members chosen for the plan’s Pedestrian Advisory Group. The Pedestrian Master Plan is a comprehensive project to improve pedestrian safety and comfort across Montgomery County.

You can read the entire Staff Report here, but here are a few highights:

State Highways: Meeting attendees are generally aware that there are jurisdictional issues pertaining to the roads in the county and have made the connection between state highways and unsafe pedestrian conditions. Many people asked how the PMP will handle these state roads and what can be done about them.

Utility Obstructions: The role of utility companies in creating and maintaining obstructions in sidewalks came up frequently, as did businesses – particularly café seating – encroaching into pedestrian spaces.

Funding: Funding for sidewalks and other pedestrian infrastructure was identified as a major issue. Attendees were very supportive of the plan and its ambitions but were concerned that there would not be sufficient funding provided to make progress.

Maintenance: Maintenance of existing pedestrian infrastructure and missing pedestrian infrastructure were both decried. Snow and vegetation removal were seen as problematic. In many places, with the responsibility for maintenance incumbent on adjacent property owners, pedestrian ways are maintained in a piecemeal fashion or not as all, while roads are maintained and cleared by the county and state.

Sidewalk Gaps: There were also several comments in meetings and through correspondence about missing pedestrian facilities generally and how gaps in the pedestrian network limit access to schools, parks, and other amenities.

Traffic Laws: Several meeting attendees expressed confusion about the rules of the road, specifically related to when people driving are supposed to yield to people using crosswalks. Others, aware of the rules, advised that roadway signage doesn’t improve drivers yielding to pedestrians.

Engineering: Others focused on the role traffic signals and intersection design play in pedestrian safety and comfort. Some recommended the plan look at how there often is not enough time allocated for people to safely cross the street. Attendees were concerned about intersections designed to minimize driver inconvenience at the expense of pedestrian travel time and safety – particularly those locations where crossing a street actually means crossing three streets due to missing curb ramps, pedestrian signals and crosswalks. People recommended more pedestrian scramble intersections, grade-separated pedestrian crossings, prohibiting Right Turns on Red, adding Leading Pedestrian Intervals at busy intersections and addressing pedestrian/left-turning vehicle conflicts. There was skepticism about the efficacy of flashing yellow lights for pedestrian crossings and concerns about construction closing sidewalks.

Lighting: Meeting attendees considered the lack of pedestrian-scale and intersection lighting to be both a personal safety issue and a traffic safety one.

Electric Scooters: Electric scooters were discussed at nearly every meeting. Concerns abounded about sharing pedestrian spaces with silent, fast-moving vehicles not yet governed by well-respected norms for courteous use and public storage.

Transit Access: Pedestrian transit access was front of mind for many people, particularly ensuring that pedestrian infrastructure exists to allow people to safely access Purple Line stations before it begins service. Other people called out bus stops that were either so small that people waiting for the bus blocked the sidewalk or bus stops that had been relocated to midblock locations to improve vehicle throughput at the expense of pedestrian safety and convenience.

Accessible Design: Compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and creating an accessible public realm were issues regularly raised by meeting attendees.

Education/Enforcement: Education and enforcement were also frequently mentioned. Specifically, public safety announcements about stopping for pedestrians in the crosswalk was mentioned. Speeding enforcement and pedestrian education were also seen as important, as was trucks and other vehicles blocking sidewalks and crossings.

Shade: Both at meetings and through written feedback, attendees voiced concerns about lack of tree canopy along sidewalks in the face of more frequent extreme heat events.

Pedestrian master plan community meeting and #WalkingHere

The Montgomery County Planning Department will hold a community meeting on Wednesday, October 16, 7-9 pm, to kick off the development of the county’s first Pedestrian Master Plan, an effort to make walking in Montgomery County safer, more comfortable, convenient and direct. 
The meeting will be at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center, 4805 Edgemoor Lane, 2nd floor, Bethesda. 

This meeting will be a great opportunity to learn more about the plan and to provide important input on issues that planners should research and make recommendations about. Your comments and suggestions will help make the plan better and Montgomery County a more pedestrian-friendly place.

If you can’t make the Bethesda meeting, there are others throughout the county. All meetings will cover the same material, so feel free to attend the most convenient one for your schedule.
October 10 from 7 to 8:15 p.m. at the Olney Library (3500 Olney Laytonsville Road, Olney, MD). RSVP for October 10.
October 14 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the East County Community Recreation Center (3310 Gateshead Manor Way, Silver Spring, MD). RSVP for October 14
October 16 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center (4805 Edgemoor Lane, Bethesda, MD). RSVP for October 16.
October 21 from 7 to 8:30 at the Montgomery County Planning Department (8787 Georgia Avenue, Silver Spring, MD). RSVP for October 21.
November 6, 2019 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Upcounty Regional Services Center (12900 Middlebrook Road, Germantown, MD). RSVP for November 6.
November 13, 2019 from 6:45 to 8:15 p.m. at the Wheaton Regional Library (11701 Georgia Avenue, Wheaton, MD). RSVP for November 13.

And here’s something everyone can do! Planners need to know what walking in Montgomery County is like for residents. They can’t walk a mile in your shoes, so they’re asking you to show them what it’s like for you to be #WalkingHere.

Post pictures and videos of your Montgomery County walk story using #WalkingHere on social media or email montgomeryplanning.org/walkinghere.

Explain why you walk or don’t walk and where. For specific locations, focus your photo(s) or video on an aspect of your walk by sharing what’s enjoyable about your walk, what makes it hard to walk in a particular place, or what would improve your walking experience.

Let the Planning Department where walking is hard in the Pike District/White Flint area by posting pics ad using the hashtag #WalkingHere.