Pedestrian Safety Efforts Move Along in Montgomery

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Montgomery County this month highlighted initiatives that are part of its long- term program to improve pedestrian safety. On the way to one of those announcements, County Executive Isiah Leggett said, he witnessed the aftermath of the county's latest pedestrian injury. So far this year, 13 pedestrians have been killed in Montgomery. Last year, 17 died.

In December 2007, Leggett launched the pedestrian safety initiative and pledged that Montgomery would become a "truly walkable community."

· Theory: The program, which involves $4.8 million in new spending annually, takes seven approaches to achieving that goal. The county will identify "high incidence areas" (zones with the most frequent pedestrian collisions) and give them special attention; assess the county's network of sidewalks and crossings and improve it; generally increase attention to pedestrians and bicyclists in the county's planning process; identify sites that need intersection modifications and traffic calming programs; upgrade pedestrian signals; enhance street lighting; and use both education and enforcement to improve the behavior of pedestrians and drivers.

· Practice: The set of announcements this month advances some of the engineering, education and enforcement strategies.

Besides spotlighting programs on Arcola Avenue and Piney Branch Road, Leggett announced that starting in July, he would fully fund the pedestrian safety initiative with revenue from the county's speed camera enforcement program.

The county also launched an education effort aimed at reducing pedestrian injuries and deaths among immigrants who don't speak English well, one of the groups at highest risk of injury. A safety video called "Walk Safe" will be distributed to English-as-a-second-language teachers at Montgomery College and in public schools as well as to nonprofit groups, churches and employers that provide English language instruction.

· Measures of Success: These are a few things the county says people should see. Once the improvements are made at high-incidence areas, pedestrian collisions should decline by 20 percent and average speeds should decline. There should be at least 10.5 miles of new sidewalks each year. The timing of pedestrian signals should be reviewed and updated at a rate of 250 a year. (Timing is being adjusted to accommodate slower walking speeds.)

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