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Stories from the NFCCA Newsletter, the “Northwood News”

Northwood News ♦ October 2021

Vision Zero

A Plan to Make Walking, Biking Safer in County

By Sharon Canavan

In the 1990s, Sweden led the way in developing the Vision Zero concept to promote roadway safety and reduce serious or fatal traffic collisions for cars, pedestrians, and cyclists by redesigning roads, walkways, and biking trails.  In 2016, Montgomery County adopted Vision Zero and since then has been engaged in a cross-agency effort to develop and implement plans and execute strategies for reducing injuries and fatalities.

The Vision Zero Coordinator, Wade Holland, will be the speaker at the upcoming NFCCA meeting conducted via Zoom on 13 October.  His presentation will give us the opportunity to ask about who to contact with traffic and enforcement issues.  Some nearby roads are governed by the State and others by the County; this makes it confusing to find the appropriate contact to address a pedestrian or traffic safety concern.

You can find out more about Montgomery County’s Vision Zero initiatives at www.montgomerycountymd.gov/visionzero.  Recently, the Vision Zero 2030 Action Plan, which outlines the County’s projected workplan to eliminate serious and fatal crashes, was posted there.

Although the Vision Zero initiative includes many elements, a few of the initiatives are listed here:

  1. A Pedestrian Master Plan is underway and the Planning Board will consider it this fall and expects to finalize the plan by winter 2022.
  2. The Predictive Safety Analysis project will estimate the number of crashes that can occur given the existing characteristics for all roadways in the County.
  3. The Urban Navigation for Low-Vision Residents project will create updated guidelines to address safety and accessibility for people with no- and low-vision.

There have already been some pedestrian safety adjustments made in and near our community.  Speed limits were lowered on University Boulevard and Colesville Road.  An additional traffic light was placed at Lanark Way to permit transit users to cross Colesville Road safely to use the Flash bus stop near Montgomery Blair High School.  The temporary bike lanes on University Boulevard going toward Wheaton was installed as part of the Shared Streets initiative under Vision Zero.

Within the community, several residents applied under Shared Streets to close their street for a weekend to sponsor a block party (see story here).  To make drivers more conscious about coming to a full stop and prevent cars from “cutting corners,” poles were installed in the street at several intersections that are more heavily used by pedestrians (see April News, p. 11).

In theory, the NFCCA community should fall within the “15-minute living” concept envisioned by County planners working on the Thrive Montgomery 2050 plan (see December 2020 article in the Northwood News here), which envisions being able to quickly and safely walk or bike to nearby community amenities.  Numerous shops, restaurants, and public transportation stops (including Flash) are certainly nearby, but negotiating hazardous traffic conditions make walking perilous and biking untenable.  Historically, the County’s transportation decisions have favored moving heavy traffic volume through Four Corners and facilitated neighborhood cut-through traffic over preserving safety and walkability for community residents.

Walkability in our community is not an amenity so much as it is a necessity.  Statistics bear this out:  a screenshot (below) displaying collision data in the county shows a concentration of serious pedestrian injuries in the Four Corners area.


Collision data shows serious pedestrian injuries in our area.

To promote safe pedestrian access to the many commercial establishments and transit options in Four Corners, additional walk signs, crosswalks, caution signage, blinking lights, or other measures should be installed at critical points.  Recently, a discussion thread among the nfcca listserv users expressed concerns about traffic and suggested a number of potential solutions to improve safety in our community:

  1. Consider ways to reduce cut-through traffic from both University Boulevard and Colesville Road;
  2. Improve sidewalks by making them wider and smoother and increase visibility at all corners;
  3. Increase enforcement to address cars that frequently block sidewalks;
  4. Increase enforcement to slow speeding cars and make drivers stop, where required, at neighborhood intersections;
  5. Add a crosswalk, walk sign, or blinking caution light on University Boulevard going west to make crossing to Safeway, the post office, and the bus stop safer;
  6. Decrease the length of the north/south traffic light cycle at the Four Corners intersection to give pedestrians more frequent opportunities to cross safely with the walk signals;
  7. Install traffic calming measures on Caddington;
  8. Erect a stop sign on Caddington at Chiswell; and
  9. Add a walker-controlled light at Eisner to help transit users cross University to reach the bus stop safely.

The Montgomery County Vision Zero website (www.montgomerycountymd.gov/visionzero) allows anyone to request service for safety-related issues like crosswalk repainting.

These suggestions came about organically during a listserv discussion.  However, there is a useful initiative developed under Vision Zero to arm local residents with an organized way to evaluate safety concerns and identify barriers to safe walking and bicycling — the Walk Audit Toolkit.  This toolkit helps a group of volunteers to evaluate local safety issues and identify specific problems to share with decision makers in the responsible county agencies.  A copy of the toolkit can be found at montgomeryplanning.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Walk-Audit-Toolkit-1.0.pdf.

A volunteer leader can use the toolkit to organize neighbors to walk together through a defined area in the community and note what features make walking comfortable and what is missing to make safety improvements on our community’s roads and sidewalks.  A Walk Audit assesses street infrastructure and conditions, documents barriers, and can be used to advocate for positive changes by sharing the results with decision makers and the agency that is responsible for managing a particular roadway.  This is a great grassroots tool to use in a campaign to slow down traffic and make the Four Corners area safer and more livable.

Somebody has to take the first step, so I will take the lead in putting together a group of volunteers to perform a Walk Audit of the Four Corners intersection of University Boulevard and Colesville Road.  If you are interested in signing up for my walkabout, contact me at [contact details redacted].

If you have safety concerns about another area in our community, consider putting together your own group of neighbors to do a Walk Audit.   ■


   © 2021 NFCCA  [Source:  https://nfcca.org/news/nn202110a.html]