Stories from the NFCCA Newsletter, the “Northwood News”

Northwood News ♦ October 2022

Your Input is Needed on the Pedestrian Master Plan

By Sharon Canavan

Since 2019, the Montgomery County Planning Department has been working on a Pedestrian Master Plan and has developed a series of recommendations.  The goal is to make walking and rolling safer, more comfortable, more convenient, and more accessible for all ages and abilities.  Achieving this will require building new sidewalks, adding places to cross streets, improving lighting, and developing traffic calming solutions and strategies to make it easier and safer to get around.

The Pedestrian Level of Comfort analysis found that only 44% of street crossings are comfortable.  They must have had Four Corners in mind!  In fact, the recommendations specifically note how dangerous our area is, stating that, “As transit corridors such as Georgia Avenue, Veirs Mill Road, and University Boulevard account for 10% of fatalities and severe injuries but only 1.3% of roadway miles, more frequent protected crossings and lower targets speeds are needed on these roads to achieve Vision Zero.”  Currently, the Traffic Engineering Study process for evaluating connectivity improvements in a particular location considers low pedestrian volume, among other factors.  This needs to change, as the lack of pedestrian activity is often because of inadequate pedestrian facilities or high vehicle speeds.

Acknowledging that rail and bus rapid transit corridors pass through both urban and suburban areas, the recommendations note that target speeds and spacing for protected crossings are needed to improve pedestrian safety and shorten walking trips.  The recommendations call for developing a methodology for “identifying and prioritizing implementation of new protected crossings at mid-block or uncontrolled locations based on roadway characteristics, motor vehicle speeds and volumes, proximity to bus stops, proximity to pedestrian attractors including parks, pedestrian crash history, and other relevant criteria.”  This makes sense given the finding in the Existing Conditions Report — 16% of severe and fatal pedestrian crashes take place at uncontrolled intersections and 37% of severe and fatal pedestrian crashes take place midblock.

The recommendations also acknowledge that bus riders must cross streets either when boarding a bus or upon their return trip, so bus stops should be located near protected crossings.  This recommendation also concludes that “these standards should lead to more protected crossings being constructed.”

The Planning Department is setting its priorities this fall and working toward drafting a plan for its consideration in 2023.  You can use their Pedestrian Prioritization Tool to identify how and where you would like to prioritize pedestrian infrastructure improvements.  Your input is needed to make it easier and safer to navigate around the Four Corners area, as it will be used to inform decision making on the Pedestrian Master Plan’s recommendations and future implementation.  The online Pedestrian Prioritization Tool can be found online here.

A compilation of the Planning Department’s recommendations is available in the “Pedestrian Master Plan: Draft Design, Policy, and Programming Recommendations” (see the website here).   ■

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