Heads Up on the Sidewalk!

Heads Up on the Sidewalk!

Even despite our best efforts at advocacy and watchdoggingness (that’s a word, right?), we periodically find that things are not exactly happening according to plan.  By “plan” I mean, the White Flint Sector Plan — that 90+ page document approved by our County’s Council and Planning Department and overwhelmingly supported by the community — which is guiding the suburban retrofit we’ve been working toward.  The first sentence of the Plan reads,

This Sector Plan vision establishes 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.

Lovely, right?  So, it’s frustrating when we come across new little installations that fly in the face of this vision.  Take, for example, Old Georgetown Road in front of Pike and Rose.  I was there this weekend to glance around the first restaurant to open on the property, Del Frisco’s Grille, when I couldn’t help but notice a few things about the sidewalk.  You know, the one we’re supposed to use to “walk to work, shops and transit.”

First – can we acknowledge how awesome it is to see the transformation we’ve been working toward for over seven years?  To actually see the the corner of Old Georgetown Road and Grand Park Avenue is pretty exciting!


But, say you’re walking downhill (west) on Old Georgetown Road – away from the Pike.  Maybe you’re moving a little faster because you’re biking on the sidewalk, a little too unnerved to challenge the traffic by riding in a travel lane.   You will notice quite an improvement from our previous sidewalk.  A great buffer separates pedestrians from traffic – I felt pretty safe standing there with my little kid.


I walked a little farther down the sidewalk and thought my eyes were playing a trick on me.  Was something in the middle of the sidewalk (and, no, I don’t mean the orange piece of construction equipment taking a break)?  Do you see it?



It’s such a skinny little thing that I asked my helper (that’s Charlie, everybody) to help me highlight the scary obstacle SITTING IN THE CENTER OF THE  SIDEWALK!  See it now?  (You can click to zoom in on any of these photos, by the way).



You kind of have to be right on top of it to see it and, depending on your circumstances, that might be too late!


This skinny pole, again, IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SIDEWALK, was installed by Pepco, we’re told.  It attaches to the utility pole to your left for, I don’t know, stability?  That seems important but, really, Pepco?  This was the best solution you could come up with?  Someone is going to get hurt with this obstacle in the middle of the sidewalk.  I repeat:  SOMEONE IS GOING TO GET HURT WITH THIS OBSTACLE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SIDEWALK.


When we turned around to return to our car (yes, we drove there), something else jumped out at me.  Can someone explain why the “walk sign” is sitting in the middle of the sidewalk?


According to our County DOT and State Highway Administration, this location is necessary so those in wheelchairs can reach the walk request button.  Again, surely we could have found a better solution here because, if one of those persons in a wheelchair wishes to turn left at that corner, they’re going to experience a significant pinch point.

While we wish these were the only spots where infrastructure is falling short, we expect there will be others.  Get your voices ready!  

If you’d like to speak out on these issue, either comment here or on social media or email your concerns to Darcy Buckley in the county’s White Flint Implementation Coordination office at darcy.buckley@montgomerycountymd.gov. Although they don’t control Pepco, that office is the best place to coordinate an improvement to these two situations.



Lindsay Hoffman



Delegate Al Carr

Good catch, Lindsay. I have reported this poorly anchored guy wire to Pepco. Will let you know what I hear back.

    Allyson Price

    I think the unfortunate thing about the walk sign is that they expect someone to press the bottom for the “walk” symbol to be activated. I think a true sign of pedestrian unfriendly intersections is when you actually have to hit the button or it will continue to say “Don’t Walk” even when car traffic is moving parallel to the pedestrian.

    In downtown DC you NEVER have to hit a button, all traffic light and pedestrian lights change signals automatically. this is less confusing because it assumes there are pedestrians present versus the version you are showing above which is assuming pedestrians aren’t present so it won’t give the option to cross unless a button is pushed. so sad . . .

      Lindsay Hoffman

      Fascinating perspective, Allyson. Thanks for sharing it. Seems like we definitely have our work cut out for us in this – it’s just disappointing that we’re still having the same arguments about valuing all road users (and not just cars).

Ben Ross

These devices are called “beg buttons” because they make you beg for permission to cross the street. Their only purpose is to make it harder to cross the street for the convenience of drivers. They are rarely maintained with the same care as traffic lights, so pedestrians learn after a while that pushing the button is not guaranteed to give you a walk signal and often don’t bother to push the button. Then if a pedestrian is hit by a driver, the pedestrian can be blamed for so-called jaywalking.

Lindsay Hoffman

Thank you for your comments on this piece! The comments on this website are moderated and we do not allow them to be posted anonymously. Part of having a productive conversation is taking ownership of our opinions! If someone wishes to post anonymously, they may email me at Lindsay.Hoffman@whiteflint.org. Thank you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *