Montgomery County continues work at improving pedestrian safety -- Gazette.Net


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It is safer to walk around Montgomery County today than it was five years ago, but County Executive Isiah Leggett said the county’s work is not done.

Data released this week by the county shows that pedestrian fatalities have dropped 21 percent and collisions 12 percent since Leggett (D) and the county council implemented a Pedestrian Safety Initiative in 2007.

Yet the county executive has set his sights on a much higher mark.

“My goal is zero deaths,” he said. “I know it’s a lofty goal, but it is what we are trying to achieve.”

Leggett said he came under fire for prioritizing the initiative during the recession when county budgets were tight.

But having a friend who lost a daughter in a pedestrian accident years ago, the issue was a personal one, he said.

Results released this week indicate that despite the criticism, the program is a success.

Pedestrian fatalities have fallen to just six so far in the current year, down from a peak 19 deaths in 2008.

In areas where traffic calming was used, pedestrian-related collisions dropped 35 percent.

In high incidence areas, collisions dropped 45 percent. Leggett noted that the analysis of the data showed about a quarter of all accidents happened in parking lots.

But the biggest change was seen around county schools.

“Look at quarter mile around schools,” Leggett said. “Those are remarkable results.”

Within a quarter-mile of county schools, pedestrian-related crashes fell by 72 percent in the five-year period.

However, Leggett warned that the county cannot rest on its laurels.

Educating those not yet reached is a priority as efforts continue to make Montgomery safer for those on foot, he said.

The ongoing initiative focuses on education, engineering and enforcement to reduce pedestrian-related crashes, injuries and fatalities.

According to county information, so far Montgomery has:

— Invested $8.6 million to build 16 miles of new sidewalk and complete 173 Americans with Disabilities Act projects.

— Invested $4.2 million to add 7.6 miles of sidewalk around bus stops and 62,100 square feet of new bus stop pads.

— Invested $2 million in major lighting projects along Md. 124, Md. 355, and Montrose Parkway and Wisteria Drive.

— Repaired malfunctioning lights and added lights to existing utility poles.

— Completed 80 traffic calming projects in areas including Sligo Avenue, Briggs Chaney Road, Prince Phillip Drive, Castle Boulevard and Tilden Lane.

— Invested $587,000 to re-time 52 percent of pedestrian signals.

— Invested $530,000 to educate those in high incidence areas.

— Met with school administrators, parents and students, and invested more than $250,000 from the state and county through the Safe Routes to Schools program.

— Held 90 outreach and education meetings for the school community.

— Adopted the “road code” standards aimed at creating safer streets for pedestrians and bicyclists, and improving stormwater management and accommodation of street trees.

— Issued more than 13 million speed camera citations and nearly 3 million red light camera citations.

— Issued nearly 3,000 citations and about 1,000 warnings to both pedestrians and motorists in high incidence areas.

— Issued more than 500 citations and 400 warnings to both pedestrians and motorists around schools.

kalexander@gazette.net