The power of 10mph to save lives

Driving speed has a dramatic effect on the driver’s “cone of vision,” according to an interesting article on streets.mn. As you can see in the above drawing, you can see remarkably more detail when you drive at 20 mph rather than 30 mph. At 30 mph, nearly all the people on the sidewalk simply aren’t seen by the driver.  When drivers say after a close call with a pedestrian or bicyclist, “I didn’t see them!” they are telling the truth.

And then there’s lethality. If a car drives 40 mph and hits a person, he has an 85% chance of dying. Cut that speed in half and you cut the death rate to just 5%. LethalityDo we want the Pike District to be as safe as possible for teens walking to the yogurt store after school and officer workers walking to happy hours after a long day? Do we want bicyclists commuting to work and families riding  their bikes to the farmers market to be as safe as possible? Then we must figure out how to set speeds that both move traffic and more important, ensure the safety of Pike District walkers and riders.

Bike Share Programs Have Had Millions of Rides but No Fatalities

It was recently found that there still has not been a single fatality of a cyclist using bike-share across the 36 bike share programs in the United States. There has been an estimate of over 23 million rides across the bike-share programs in the U.S., which is a great thing to hear.

One reason that cyclists using bike-share bikes are less likely to get injured, or even worse, is because of the bikes themselves. The bikes are heavy and have wide tires that make it much harder for riders to travel fast. Also, some bikes come with lights already installed, making it easier for others to see these cyclists when they are riding. Some people, however, criticize these bike-share programs because they do not require riders to wear helmets.

Also, there is the idea that as biking becomes more popular among individuals for means of both transportation and leisure, drivers will get more used to bikers and will be more willing to share the road with them. As we have discussed in the past, the popularity around biking can even help give reason for more biking infrastructures that will ultimately encourage more safe biking.

We hope that The Capital Bikeshare program will continue to be prevalent in the county, especially in the White Flint sector. We also want riders to continue to feel safe riding their bikes in this area, especially with the biking infrastructure improvements coming to the sector.

Draft Minutes of FoWF’s Feb. 24th Board Meeting

** The following are draft minutes of the meeting held on February 24, 2014, of the Board of Directors of Friends of White Flint.  These minutes will remain in draft form until approved at the next Board meeting.  In the meantime, please email suggested edits to Info@WhiteFlint.org **

**Updated on 3/17/14 at 4:46pm with edits**

 

Draft Minutes of the February 24, 2014 FoWF Board of Directors Meeting

Minutes

2014 Board of Directors Meeting

February 24, 2014, 6:30pm

The Forum Condominium

 

The Friends of White Flint (FoWF) Board Meeting was called to order at 6:37pm at the Forum Condominium in North Bethesda. The agenda was prepared by Lindsay Hoffman. Present were Directors David Frieshtat, Todd Lewers, Howard Feldman, Chad Salganik, and Suzanne Hudson. Also present were approximately fifty members and guests. Not present were Directors Evan Goldman, James Schaeffer, Ken Hurdle, Francine Waters, Greg Trimmer, Bill Hard, and Barnaby Zall. A quorum was not present.

 

Approval of Minutes from September 19, 2013 Board Meeting.
A quorum was not present at this meeting. The draft minutes of the September 19, 2013 meeting could not be approved. There were only 6 board members present.

Treasurer’s Report
No treasurer’s report was available. We will a written report into the minutes.

Friends of White Flint Update from Lindsay
**FoWF Website: FoWF launched its new website at the beginning of 2013 and there have been over 10,000 unique visitors since our September meeting alone.  The problem for White Flint right now is that there is no online location with a cohesive picture of what is happening in White Flint. Chad Salganik is building an interactive development map of the White Flint district. Users will be able to click on a development area and learn more information about the site. It will also include the route of the Bus Rapid Transit and road projects. The plan is to launch the website in 2 weeks. FoWF will continue to make the sure the information is up to date. Also, FoWF has hopes to make a directory of information things that available in the area.

**Membership: Right now, FoWF has 8 property owners/developers, 10 businesses, 5 civic or community associations members. 127 individual residents joined in the past year. FoWF will continue to spread the word and engage with people.

**Events: On March 10th, FoWF will be sponsoring a White Flint Showcase and Happy Hour at Paladar Latin Kitchen and Rum Bar. This event will include displays of development projects from the various developers, remarks from County Councilmembers Roger Berliner and Hans Riemer, small appetizers, and a cash bar. This event gives FoWF a chance to provide more people with information about what is happening in the area.  These councilmembers are involved with what we are trying to accomplish here in White Flint so it is important to hear their messages.

**Mission: The mission of FoWF is twofold. FoWF advocates for successful implementation of White Flint Sector Plan. We hold the state government, local government, and private property owners accountable. FoWF educates and engages the community to make sure they know what is going on and why.

Issues on the Forefront
**FoWF is an advocate at every political level, but especially very active at the county level. The County Executive puts together a 6-year budget plan for the Capital Improvement Programs (CIP) every 2 years. The CIP was sent to County Council on January 15th, 2014, and worksessions are ongoing to look at each recommendation. There are many White Flint projects in the mix, some of them are only at their beginning stage. These projects include but are not limited to 355- Rockville Pike, District West, District East, Fire Station, and the Western Workaround. It is important for members to let the County Executive and County Council know that White Flint related projects are important by emailing.

**Urban Road Code Update: County Bill 33-13, introduced by Councilmember Berliner, will update the urban road code to incorporate the “Complete Streets” model.  This bill will provide updates to the code that has not been updated since 2007. Currently, the County Council has convened a multi-disciplinary workgroup to figure out the most productive details. The hope is that this summer, the bill will be passed.

**BRT: The Bus Rapid Transit system will have a route down Route 355 from Bethesda all the way up to Clarksburg. This is very exciting for White Flint district because it will provide infrastructure for residents to get around the county, without a car. BRT will be a full service transit network.  The County Council has approved a map of routes for the system.  Next, the county will convene a workgroup for each of these routes to determine exactly which treatment will be appropriate for each.

**Next Board Meeting: The FoWF Board of Directors is divided among the 3 groups of stakeholders that make up the organization. The board is made up of 4 residents/civic associations individuals, 4 business individuals, and 4 property business owners. The next board meeting will take place in May. The board will have 3 rotating seats that will be up at the next board meeting. More information about these positions will be announced in the next couple of months.

County Executive’s White Flint Implementation Coordinator Report
** CIP budget process: A Special Tax District was set up for the White Flint district, which will provide the county with money to pay for new infrastructure, especially roads. Although the taxing district is not bringing in the expected revenue at this time, the County Executive proposes forward-funding many CIP projects from the general fund, which would be reimbursed later.

**Western Workaround: The Western Workaround project is very important for the White Flint district. It will straighten out Executive Boulevard. The hope was that all the private property surrounding the intersection of Executive Boulevard and Old Georgetown Road would be dedicated to the county. But, the county is still working to acquire all of the required property to move this project forward.

** New White Flint Projects in CIP: The first is the relocation of the fire station to Chapman Avenue and Randolph Road. Along with the fire station, a mixed-use development is proposed with senior housing, a police sub-station, and community meeting rooms. The county is starting to acquire the land now. The other project is a new parking garage behind the North Bethesda Conference Center. The new road design with the Western Workaround will take away parking for the conference center so the county wants to create a structured parking site. The county completed a feasibility study for the garage. Eventually, the site will be mixed-use. The parking will come first and the mixed use elements of the building will come second. The plan is to design the garage/mixed-use building this summer.

** North Bethesda Community Recreational Center: The recreation center will co-locate with the Shriver Aquatic Center. This will create a much larger center component for the White Flint district. Currently, this project is in the very early planning stages.

**Chapman Avenue project: The project has been constructed in phases. The county has acquired the properties to complete the project, extending the road north to Randolph. This summer the buildings on the properties involved will be demolished. However, it will take at least a year to move all the utilities. The plan is to start construction the winter of 2014 or spring 2015.

**The County Executive is also looking at Nebel Street to create more traffic calming elements and possibly bike lanes. They hope to accommodate both pedestrians and bikers more in this area.

Lindsay discussed the need to create a street grid to make White Flint walkable. Currently, residents are limited in their road choices.  It is important to integrate new streets and to diffuse traffic onto side streets creating more options besides Rockville Pike. The Western workaround project is the most exciting project in relation to the street grid. This new design will straighten out the rectangle around Executive Boulevard, where Gables Residential will create a mixed use space and build a garage for Shriver Aquatic Center. The giant parking lot near the Aquatic Center will be pulled up, allowing Wall Park to become active green space. None of that can happen until the roads are straightened. Dee discussed that the Western Workaround will require land acquisition that was not originally part of plan.

Property Owner and Developer Updates
**Vanessa Rodriguez, Federal Realty: Pike and Rose is well underway. The project construction is on time. The first phase of shops and restaurants is on schedule to open this fall. FRIT opened the first leasing opportunity on March 1st.  There are 174 units available in the PerSei Building. They are offering tours of 2 models of the PerSei apartments currently.  In addition, La Madeleine will open again in White Flint in Pike & Rose during their phase 1 this fall.

**Brian Downie, Saul Centers: They filed their application for development last year and received their first round of responses. A public hearing was expected on April 17th.  The plan they designed now has a few minor changes that focus mostly on the new road network. The plans were presented to every single community organization in the White Flint District. Saul Centers, who owns Metro Pike Plaza and property on the east side of the Pike, wants to consolidate a curb at the intersection of Woodglen Avenue and Rockville Pike along with a few other changes.

**John Malone, Gables Residential: Gables’ project hinges on the Western Workaround.  The sketch plan was approved in April.  Gables will be building the garage that will accommodate both their property and visitors to Wall Park/Shriver Aquatic Center.  The public piece of that project, however, is not yet funded.

Issues for Discussion
**White Flint Post Office: The White Flint Post Office location has changed again. The lease the post office has with White Flint Mall expires this spring. They recently identified a location on Nicholson between Nebel Street and Parklawn Avenue. The USPS is working on negotiating with the Mall to get a lease extension because their timeline has been disrupted by the change.  A up-side of the change is that the post office will remain in the 20895 zip code.

**Second Entrance to the White Flint Metro:  There is a second entrance to Metro in the master plan, but it is not funded.

**Businesses Need in White Flint: FoWF has received many emails about bringing a bookstore to the area. Many people want this type of space that is not available in the area.

**Children’s Museum: A children’s museum is incubating in Montgomery County.  KID Museum will be geared specifically toward elementary and middle school students and will give children opportunities to develop skills needed to thrive in the 21st century, including but not limited to STEM and cultural competency.  The museum has been in the works for some time now and is looking for brick and mortar space in a variety of locations- White Flint, Twinbrook, and White Oak. The museum will include a Global kitchen, Kids Corps, outdoor garden, maker playground- media, electronics, wood. A prototype of the museum will launch in a space in the Davis Library very soon. The goal is to transition in next 2 years to a permanent space.

Items from the Floor
**Urban Road Code: A community member asked about the Urban Road Code update. He mentioned that the last update in 2007 had issues with AAA. Lindsay discussed that many things have changed since 2007. There have been spikes in pedestrian accidents, especially in urban districts.

**Woodglen Avenue: Chad Salagnik asked about the cycle track around Woodglen Avenue. Dee Metz said that the west side of Woodglen has a 2 lane for cyclists. The county wants to make sure the sidewalks are 8 ft. but utilities and posts prevent that from happening. They are looking into this issue.

**Nebel Street: Howard Feldman asked how to best to accommodate bikes and traffic calming on Nebel Street. He suggested perhaps the county should change the configuration of street lanes to include space for bike lanes and wider sidewalks.

**Executive Boulevard: A community member asked about traffic calming on Executive Boulevard.  Dee discussed that with the Western Workaround projects, people will naturally slow down. The design for the new street grid will also allow for narrowing of the street lanes, which will calm traffic.

**Safety: Another community member asked about a plan to make it safer to walk in White Flint. She feels like she is risking her life every time she walks from Metro to her apartment. She hopes that there is a plan to make the street lanes smaller and the sidewalks bigger. In addition, another community member mentioned issues with snow removal and the ability to walk around White Flint. Lindsay mentioned that the County Council is having a hearing about snow removal and pathways but the date has not been assigned yet. We need to remind people, especially business and landowners, that they need to clear the snow within 48 hours of snowfall. David Freishtat discussed that Bethesda Urban Partnership does snow removal on corners and curbs. The White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee could include this in their task. White Flint does not have an Urban Partnership yet.  When White Flint has their own urban partnership, we hope they will do this, too. Lindsay discussed members’ ability to share issues such as pedestrian safety spots where they feel unsafe for practical reasons, crosswalks, paint, and lighting with FoWF.

Subcommittees
** Members and board members broke up into the 4 subcommittees listed below to begin their conversations. FoWF has created more opportunities for members get more actively engaged. FoWF is implementing 4 subcommittees for members to join. Members will have a chance to exchange ideas over email and perhaps opportunities to get together.

  • Events: Opportunities to help design events to network and build stronger community connections by involving FoWF and businesses.
  • Membership: Opportunities to create better strategies to engage as many people
  • Transit: Opportunities to advocate for road and transit projects and make sure they are going as planned.
  • Branding and marketing: Opportunities to help other groups in White Flint focus on a cohesive name or brand.

No motion to adjourn meeting. Meeting adjourned at 8:15pm.

 

If We Design for Walkability, Will You Actually Walk?

The new street and sidewalk grid that is coming to the White Flint district will bring many positive features to our area. The grid is designed around the beneficial walkability elements that we hope to encourage residents to follow throughout the region. These development projects and road projects use various walkability strategies that work for many areas across the world but the success of the new White Flint district really comes down to the question of whether people will actually walk or bike around the new projects, sidewalks, and bike lanes being built.

Steve Snell focused on this issue in his recent blog post. Snell discussed three main elements of walkability of which many city planners or community developers focus on. The first is the “physical access and infrastructure” of roads, streets, and sidewalks. We want narrow enough streets and wide enough sidewalks in order to feel comfortable and safe enough to walk and bike around our neighborhoods. The second element is places and things to attend, such as restaurants, goods and services, grocery stores, bookstores, and public spaces. The third element is “proximity.” In order for people to want to walk somewhere, these goods and services must be in close proximity, often about 10 minutes is the limit  people to want to walk. These are all important elements for walkability but there are other things that are often overlooked, according to Snell.

These elements include the physical appearance of where one is walking. If an area is walkable in its physical infrastructure, it may not be walkable in its appearance or appear unsafe. Or, perhaps, driving is too expensive especially as gas prices continue to rise. Or, do the residents have a disposition to walk and explore? Snell poses that city planners must truly understand why residents are walking in their cities and neighborhoods when they are planning to develop new urban designs. It is also important to understand if residents will actually walk, once the infrastructure is there.

With the help of Friends of White Flint, our White Flint Sector Plan incorporated the wants and needs of the residents, community members, and businesses. The Plan then reflects how each of these individuals are oriented towards walkability. The Plan indicates the need for the White Flint area to have a more connected street grid that promotes walkability because we know now that our residents, community members, and businesses are oriented towards walking.

“Road Diets” in NYC

As Mayor Bill De Blasio begins his role as Mayor of New York City, people are now examining all the changes the last mayor, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, brought to the city.

Bloomberg and his staff succeeding in changing the built environment of New York City to better the safety and well-being of its residents. His team, including former Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, were able to change the infrastructure of many roads and streets around the city to help pedestrians and bikers feel welcomed in their city. These changes, often called “road diets”, “shaved off excess space,” providing pedestrian-friendly spaces to once unsafe, car-centric streets. Branden Klayko provided before and after pictures of 25 areas throughout the city that show these road diets and pedestrian plazas.

Check out these amazing before and after pictures! The changes shown in these pictures are truly aspiring for us here in White Flint.

 

Can Bike Signals Make Biking Safer?

We have been focusing a lot of attention on the safety of pedestrians and bikers. Another element that could help the safety of Montgomery County residents are bike signals or boxes, similar to walk signals. Bike boxes were just recognized by American engineers to be included in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), according to Angie Schmitt. These bike signals are used like walk signals, to “reduce conflicts between people on bikes and turning drivers, give cyclists a head start at intersections, or create a separate phase entirely for bicycle traffic.” Before these signals were approved and recognized by the MUTCD, any neighborhood or community wanting to install them had to conduct engineering studies to test if the signals would make a difference. These studies became so expensive that it often hindered communities from trying. Since the signals are approved by the MUTCD, the studies are no longer necessary.

signal-1

Source: Bike Portland

Is this something we want in White Flint? Do you think bike signals will make biking safer? Will it help attract more bikers to the area if they know there are extra safety precautions in place?

Share your thoughts!

White Flint Implementation Committee January Meeting Next Week

The January 2014 White Flint Sector Plan Implementation Advisory Committee meeting will take place on Monday, January 13, 2014, 7 p.m., at Wall Local Park/ Shriver Aquatic Center. The White Flint Sector Plan Advisory Committee is made up of property owners, residents and interest groups that have interest in the redevelopment of the Sector Plan area, as well as representatives from the Executive Branch.

The agenda for this meeting includes updates on development activity happening right now, Executive Blvd and Woodglen Drive. An update from the White Flint Downtown Committee will be provided as well. Importantly, the BRT video created by the Communities for Transit, a non-profit organization in Silver Spring, MD, will also be discussed. As more of the Sector Plan begins to be implemented, the Committee also wants to highlight the important connections between the built environment and our health.

Stay tuned for updates after the meeting on Monday.

Is Bicycling in the United States More Dangerous?

Bicycling is an excellent form of transportation used by many in countries across the world. Ensuring the safety of bicyclists is an important issue, especially as bicycling becomes more popular. Matt Phillips, from The Quartz identified a report completed by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) that shows that the safety of bicyclists varies immensely across countries. Americans are most likely to be killed compared to the other 33 country members of the OECD.

Below is a chart that shows bicycling travel per inhabitant per year and the number of cyclists killed per kilometer.

quartz screen-shot-2013-12-20-at-1-42-10-pm

Source: The Quartz; OECD report

Some of the statistics included in The Quartz article from the report include:

  • “An overwhelming majority of fatal bicycle crashes occur in dry or clear atmospheric conditions – 94% in the USA and 87% in Europe.”
  • “In the United States, most fatal bicycle-vehicle collisions involved a passenger car or light truck  (Sports Utility Vehicle) though 10% of fatal bicycle collisions involved a large truck.”
  • “In the United States, 36% of all fatal bicycle crashes for the period 2005-2011 occurred in junctions with another 4% in driveways (commercial and private) most likely caused by entering or exiting motor vehicles.”

Source: The Quartz; OECD report;

Designing streets and sidewalks to be more bicycle-friendly will cut down on the bicycling fatalities faced by many Americans. According to the state of Maryland, “Bicyclists fare best when they act like and are treated as drivers of vehicles.” It is also Maryland law that “bicycles are vehicles, and bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as drivers of motor vehicles.” It is important for bicyclists to ensure their own safety by following traffic laws but we can do our part by advocating for roads and sidewalks that are bicycle-friendly. We hope the presence of bicyclists will continue to grow in the White Flint area but we must make sure our bicyclists are safe. Check out this page for more information bicycling in Maryland.

For more statistics, read the full article from The Quartz here.

 

How Do Pedestrians Walk in a Car-Centric City?

In many cities throughout the United States, it is common to see people jaywalk across streets without facing any penalties. In one city, however, the authorities are now taking notice of this illegal act. The police are cracking down on jaywalking in Los Angeles. It seems that the police may be hindering the hopes of making L.A. a pedestrian-friendly city. The police are penalizing pedestrians by issuing expensive tickets to them when they jaywalk across streets. One individual cited by the New York Times article walked across a street seconds after the crossing signal flashed the “Don’t Walk” symbol and was given a $197 ticket, the common cost of ticket for jaywalking in L.A. People in New York and Chicago are known for jaywalking across streets when the “Don’t Walk” sign appears. People in these cities know no police officers are standing on the other side of the sidewalk waiting to give them tickets.  So why are police taking notice in L.A. then?

L.A. is a city designed around wide streets, and aggressive motorists zipping around corners, cutting in and out of lanes and sneaking past red lights.” L.A. was not built for walking originally. Though like many U.S. cities now, the urban design of L.A. is changing. Many more people are using bicycles to get around and L.A. is updating and expanding its subway and bus system, trying to encourage people to use alternative forms of transportation besides the car. The L.A. police have stated that the crackdown on pedestrians “is a matter of public safety and traffic flow” as drivers are just trying to drive through the city without having to fear for pedestrians crossing at intersections at all times. Adam Nagourney cited that there have been many accidents involving cars and pedestrians, which is a huge reason why the police are focused on this issue. Of course, it is important to maintain public safety in city so people feel comfortable visiting and exploring the city. But are there other ways to ensure public safety in our cities?

Pedestrian safety has been on our minds, as well, after a year with several incidents.  But, is penalizing pedestrians the right way to proceed?  In L.A. the police’s crackdown on pedestrians is definitely a way to discourage walking in the city. If L.A. is trying to become a more pedestrian-friendly city, then the police’s actions are clearly not evidence of the city’s declared changing attitudes toward walkability. The urban design planned for the White Flint area in the White Flint Sector Plan encourages walking, biking, and mass transit as means for transportation. When these behaviors are encouraged, people are more inclined to follow them.

Read the full New York Times article here.  And, stay tuned to our blog for information on how Montgomery County is moving forward to make our roads more pedestrian friendly.

Five ways to design for safer streets

Earlier this month, NYC’s Department of Transportation released a major report, “Making Safer Streets” which outlines the various ways the department has re-imagined and redesigned their streets. The results include:

  • 30% decline in fatalities since 2001
  • 29% decline in people killed or severely injured since 2001
  • 1,000 NYC lives have been saved by the decrease in traffic fatalities since 2001—including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists, drivers, and passengers

The overarching aspect of safer streets is “[creating] the opportunity for drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists to move through the street network simply and easily, minimizing the unexpected, the confusing, and the potential for surprises.” More specifically, here are the five basic principles highlighted in the report:

  1. Make the street easy to use by accommodating desire lines and minimizing the complexity of driving, walking, and biking, thus reducing crash risk by providing a direct, simple way to move through the street network.
  2. Create safety in numbers, which makes vulnerable street users such as pedestrians and cyclists more visible. The same design principle, applied to arterial streets when traffic is light, reduces the opportunity for excessive speeds.
  3. Make the invisible visible by putting users where they can see each other.
  4. Choose quality over quantity so that roadway and intersection geometries serve the first three design principles.
  5. Look beyond the (immediate) problem by expanding the focus area if solutions at a particular location can’t be addressed in isolation.

White Flint may not be New York, but it certainly has its share of dangerous traffic. Safer streets are a must in order to realize the vision of a sustainable and walkable community! Check out StreetsBlog’s post on the report for another perspective.