Residents speak out on pedestrian dangers -- Gazette.Net


Lowered speed limits, new sidewalks and freshly painted crosswalks have helped decrease the number of traffic accidents involving pedestrian deaths in Montgomery County since 2009.

But some county residents say local roads are still too dangerous for people to cross.

At a meeting Saturday at the Germantown Library, more than 40 residents discussed roads they think are unsafe to cross and how the county could improve them for pedestrians. The meeting was sponsored by the Action Committee for Transit, a nonproft transportation advocacy group.

Areas discussed included a crosswalk on Muddy Branch Road near Suffield Drive; a crosswalk on Stringtown Road near Clarksburg Elementary School; and the intersection of Germantown Road and Wisteria Drive, where a 15-year-old girl was killed in October after being struck by a car.

County public safety officials at the meeting said they are working on improving roads throughout the county by putting in crosswalks with lights and fixing curbs to force motorists to slow down, but the work can’t be done immediately.

“Montgomery County is not engineered to be pedestrian friendly. It takes time to re-engineer, and all that re-engineering costs thousands or millions of dollars,” Montgomery County Police Chief J. Thomas Manger said. “We’ve made a commitment to make the roads safer, but it’s going to take time.”

Since 2009, the number of traffic accidents involving pedestrians hit by cars has decreased by 12 percent. The number of accidents that involved pedestrian deaths dropped from 19 in 2009 to six last year.

Jeff Dunckel, pedestrian safety coordinator for the Montgomery County Department of Transportation, said the decreases came from road improvements the county has made as part of a pedestrian safety initiative created in 2007.

As part of the initiative, the county has made road improvements — such as adding lights at crosswalks to let motorists know when people are crossing — in areas where there have been more pedestrian-related accidents, Dunckel said.

Most of the improvements made so far are south of Rockville; the county plans to start making similar improvements in the northern part of the county soon, Dunckel said.

He said residents should identify which roads they think are unsafe, so the county can study to see what improvements could be made. But not all issues will be resolved right away, and the county could reject possible improvements in some cases, such as at a crosswalk on Stringtown Road, Dunckel said.

Edward Rothblum has been asking the county to put in a crosswalk on Stringtown Road near Clarksburg Elementary since October. His request has been denied multiple times.

The Clarksburg resident uses an unofficial, unmarked crosswalk to walk his daughter to school daily and said the county should paint lines on the road, so traffic will stop for people who cross there.

On Oct. 22, however, he received a letter that said installing a crosswalk would provide a false sense of security for the people who used it. Traffic would be required to stop for pedestrians, but motorists likely would not see them.

Residents at the meeting talked about a similar issue on Muddy Branch Road near Suffield Drive, where lines have been painted for a crosswalk, but traffic rarely stops for people trying to cross.

Francis Heilig, who lives near the crosswalk, said one of her neighbors died while crossing there in November and she is frequently scared to have her two daughters cross that street.

“The speed limit’s 45 mph, and it’s hard to stop without causing an accident,” Heilig said.

Dunckel said residents should report road safety issues by calling 311 and writing down the case number, so they can check on changes the county plans to make, he added.