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Will Montgomery County’s Master Plan for Safety Work?

If you reside in or frequently visit Montgomery County, you’re probably relieved to hear that the county is finally addressing the ongoing problem of pedestrian safety through its “master plan” that helps ensure the well-being of pedestrians and cyclists in the busy Maryland suburban area. Let’s take a deeper look into the details of Montgomery County’s safety plan.

What Is the Plan?

As part of its Vision Zero plan to eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries by 2030, Montgomery County is rolling out its Pedestrian Master Plan to prioritize pedestrian infrastructure throughout the county and provide guidance on improving this infrastructure. Among the many recommendations to make this plan a reality are to:

  • Build more sidewalks faster
  • Eliminate push-button “requests” to cross streets by implementing sensors that detect pedestrians and add a phase to the signal cycle for safe crossing
  • Create direct and accessible street crossings, including using more visible “ladder” designs for crosswalks and constructing raised crossings across all driveways and at intersections between residential street types
  • Build more walkable areas
  • Provide pedestrians more time to cross the street
  • Better light pathways and crossings
  • Reduce natural barriers to walking and rolling
  • Make more restrooms available

Along with these recommendations, a significant component of the plan would be to maintain sidewalks and, as a whole, improve and protect pedestrians’ walking experience. As a summary of the plan, the county says, “The purpose of this plan is to enhance the pedestrian experience in Montgomery County. Walking should be the preferred means of travel for all trips within a short distance, and accessibility for persons with disabilities must be paramount. Walking and rolling on a mobility scooter or wheelchair should be comfortable, convenient, safe, and direct. The plan will strengthen the existing culture of walking and expand it in the years ahead.”

There is no set date for completion, but the timeline estimates that the county council should vote on the plan by early 2024.

The Tragic Reasons for the Plan

We’ve documented the far-too-frequent pedestrian accidents and fatalities on Georgia Avenue before. And we’ve also lamented the fact that, according to Zero Deaths Maryland, crash data showed that in 2019 there were 125 pedestrian deaths, 138 in 2020, 129 in 2021, and 70 to date in 2022. We’ve also noted other stats, like in 2019, approximately one out of every four people killed in a traffic accident in Maryland was a pedestrian on foot, and that 92% of pedestrian-involved crashes in Maryland that year resulted in injury or death. In Montgomery County, while pedestrians only accounted for 4% of all accidents between 2015 and 2020, they suffered 27% of severe injuries and fatalities. The statistics are even more tragic in lower-income areas, which contain only 14% of the county’s road miles but factor into 40% of all pedestrian collisions. 

Sadly, none of these tragic figures are preventing more pedestrian deaths from occurring.

In late June, a pedestrian was struck on Georgia Avenue (yet again) at Rossmoor Boulevard and pronounced dead at the scene of the accident. In early August, a pedestrian was killed by a vehicle on Virginia Avenue in the Foggy Bottom area of Northwest Washington. Another pedestrian was killed in a hit-and-run crash in June at the intersection of Silver Hill Road and Navy Day Drive in Suitland. While not all of these accidents occurred in Montgomery County, they’re all local enough to understand the county’s push to make walking safer for pedestrians. After all, approximately 11 percent of all trips in the Washington region are made on foot or by bicycle, according to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

Will the Plan Work?

It’s obviously too early to say, especially since the suggested improvements and guidelines have yet to even be approved at this stage. Between the recommendations of the plan as well as recently approved guidelines for what the county is calling Complete Streets (roadways that are designed and operated to provide safe, accessible, and healthy travel for all users of our roadway system, including pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders, and motorists), there is hope that the number of pedestrian accidents and fatalities is reduced drastically in the coming years.

Pedestrian Accident Attorneys in Montgomery County

If you are involved in a pedestrian accident, The Lapidus Law Firm is here to help you and your loved ones get through it. Call us at (202) 785-5111 or (301) 852-7500 to set up a free, no-obligation consultation. If a negligent driver caused your pedestrian accident, we will fight to hold the responsible party accountable for their actions because no one should ever have to fear for their lives when walking down the street. We are committed to making justice work for you.

Written by Larry Lapidus

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