As bicyclist Isabel Ricker on Monday described the scene in which a driver “cut the corner too tight” and sent her flying, she was surrounded by police officers, local leaders, supporters and spectators.
But she was talking about that loneliest of feelings for a cyclist or a pedestrian, that moment when your vulnerable self moves out into an intersection filled with heavy metal.
“No matter how experienced you are,” she said, “you can’t eliminate the possibility of a crash.” The possibility is there every time you move out into traffic.
The people surrounding her at this event beside the Silver Spring Transit Center would like to reduce the possibility to a minimum — to zero if they have their way. As they always say, it takes the three E’s: engineering, education and enforcement.
Early spring, as the weather is warming and people are getting out more, is a good time to launch the educational side of this regional Street Smart campaign. And the transit center was a good location, since it’s a hub for pedestrians, cyclists, bus and train riders. About 13,000 people use the Metro station every weekday and the transit center provides 24 bus routes for 70,000 travelers. All this right next to Colesville Road and the other busy streets of downtown Silver Spring.
“Everyone is a pedestrian at some point in their journey,” said Robert Potts, Metro’s assistant general manager for Metrobus. That includes the thousands of drivers who pass by the pedestrians and cyclists before parking in the downtown garages before walking to their jobs or to the trains.
Seems like we all could get along better.
“People want to move into this space, Montgomery County Council member Tom Hucker, who lives nearby, said of the growth that has come to Silver Spring. “They need to learn how to share.”
I walked a few blocks up Wayne Avenue to a mid-block crossing where an undercover Montgomery County police officer was conducting an enforcement operating, walking calmly back and forth in the crosswalk as traffic approached.
Not everyone has learned to share. And some of those people got tickets.
I was watching from the sidelines with Lt. David McBain, deputy commander of the county police traffic division, and Jeff Dunckel, the county’s pedestrian safety coordinator. The undercover officer wasn’t leaping out into the traffic at the last moment. He was doing everything the way a good pedestrian should, making eye contact with approaching drivers and stepping out slowly into the well-marked crosswalk.
He also was wearing a bright yellow shirt. One thing McBain stresses is the need to be visible to traffic. He noted county statistics showing that the most dangerous time to be a pedestrian is 5 to 8 p.m. Police aren’t sure they know the whole story behind that, but one issue is declining visibility at most times of the year.
Several drivers who couldn’t resist the temptation to drive right past the officer in the crosswalk were stopped by other waiting officers and ticketed. I saw one cyclist dash past the crossing officer, but the police weren’t in a position to catch him on traffic-congested Wayne Avenue. McBain told me that at least one pedestrian had been stopped for jaywalking, despite the nearby crosswalk.
Here are some other safety tips for everyone from the Street Smart campaign.
Drivers: Look twice for people in crosswalks and yield to pedestrians and bicyclists. Yield to pedestrians and cyclists when you are turning at intersections. Allow three feet when passing cyclists. Don’t use your cell phone when driving.
Walkers: Cross at the corner and use marked crosswalks when they’re available. Look left, right and left again. Don’t text while walking, especially while crossing a street.
Bicyclists: Obey the traffic signs and traffic lights. Ride in the direction of the traffic, at least a car-door-width away from parked cars. Wear a helmet. (That’s a recommendation from Ricker on how she survived her crash.) Use lights after dark. If you’re on a trail, obey all posted sings and approach intersections with caution.
And if all else fails, remember that in 2015, 69 pedestrians and six cyclists were killed in traffic crashes.