Approximately 7,000 pedestrians are killed each year in the United States. Another 150,000 pedestrian are injured. In addition, 17 percent of all highway fatalities are pedestrians, and in larger cities this can be close to 50 percent. Children and seniors are at the highest risk. These sobering statistics were compiled by the U.S. Department of Transportation for 1988.
Unfortunately, the State of Maryland, according to DOT statistics, has a high pedestrian fatality rate. In 1988, Maryland had 146 pedestrian fatalities or 3.16 per 100,000 people. Even more startling was Maryland's pedestrian fatalities for those older than 65 -- 5.42 per 100,000 people. Compare this to Minnesota -- a state with a similar size population -- which had 70 pedestrian fatalities or 1.63 per 100,000 people.
Many national organizations are beginning to take the pedestrian safety issue seriously. The National Association for the Education of Young People and the Bicycle Federation of America have undertaken programs to address this issue. The National Safety Council and Federal Highway Administration have developed and published pedestrian safety guides for use by local communities.
Now what does all of this have to do with Rockville? A lot. During the past 10 years the metro area has seen a 150 percent growth in the number of autos, and Rockville is no exception. Our residents' concerns about pedestrian safety are expressed in just about every forum involving the mayor and council. Children and senior citizens top the list of concerns.
Let me cite a few examples. During numerous public hearings last year on rezoning Rockville Pike, pedestrian safety was a critical concern, particularly for the senior residents of the Congressional Towers Apartments. Pedestrian and bicycle safety was a key component of the neighborhood plan developed by the West End Civic Association last winter. Crossing Rockville Pike safely was a major concern to residents. And more recently, New Mark Commons residents pressed city, county and state officials to make traffic improvements at Falls Road and Maryland Avenue prior to the opening of Julius West Intermediate School.
The mayor and council can do much to improve pedestrian safety. Passing legislation to design and construct of pedestrian facilities into streets would be a first step. Second, inform residents about the dangers in using local roads and the actions they can take to reduce the possibility of accidents. Third, aggressively enforce traffic laws. To accomplish all of these things, the mayor and council will need a strong ordinance that will spell out the goals and actions required to make greater pedestrian safety a reality.
Aristotle said: "People gather in cities to live. People stay in cities to live the good life." Unfortunately, too many residents feel that the good life in Rockville is under assault by the torrents of traffic coming in and through the city every day. The blatant disregard of pedestrians and bicyclists needs to stop.
JAMES F. COYLE Rockville City Council Member Rockville