The numbers of Montgomery County pedestrians involved in and killed in traffic crashes are down, but several members of the County Council think the county still needs to be more pedestrian-friendly.
Councilwoman Nancy Floreen (D-At Large) of Garrett Park said at the council’s meeting Tuesday that she’d like to see a crackdown on drivers who don’t stop for pedestrians in crosswalks, as well as a ban on turning right while waiting at a red light in urban areas.
“I really think we need to revisit how we handle all this,” Floreen said.
The average number of crashes involving pedestrians is down 7 percent and pedestrian fatalities have fallen 38 percent in the three-year period since the start of a county initiative on pedestrian safety, compared to the three years before the initiative began, according to a briefing presented to the council Tuesday.
The county had 46 such incidents in the three years before the initiative and 43 since, county pedestrian safety coordinator Jeff Dunckel said.
Pedestrian crashes classified as severe fell 21 percent, from a three-year total of 128 to 101; fatalities fell from 16 to 10; and crashes in so-called “high-incidence areas” dropped from 146 to 83.
Floreen also suggested changing the timing on crosswalks to give pedestrians more time to cross.
She said she sees many drivers in Bethesda fail to yield to pedestrians, and is sure Silver Spring and other areas have the same problem.
Police have an obligation to pedestrians to enforce the rules, Floreen said.
“Why are we calling this pedestrian safety?” she asked. “We should call it driver misbehavior.”
Capt. Thomas Didone of the Montgomery County Police Department acknowledged that some drivers are “blatantly not yielding to pedestrians.”
He said police are focusing their attention on areas that have been the site of crashes in which drivers were determined to be at fault.
Among their other enforcement efforts, police have been mounting “sting” operations in which an officer in bright clothing is posted at a crosswalk in high-incidence areas.
In May and June, police issued 83 warnings and 417 citations, including 374 for drivers and 43 to pedestrians, according to the presentation to the council. Police know they need to get people to change their behavior and yield to pedestrians, Didone said.
Councilman Roger Berliner (D-Dist. 1) of Bethesda expressed frustration with Montgomery’s “auto-centric” culture. He said he wants to create a community that respects walking and biking.
Montgomery will become more bike-friendly on Friday, when 14 of the county’s planned 51 bike-sharing stations are scheduled to open.
The rest of the stations will open in the next few weeks, said Al Roshdieh, deputy director of the county’s Department of Transportation.
When all the stations are open, there will be 30 stations scattered around the Silver Spring, Bethesda, Takoma Park and Friendship Heights areas, with 21 more in Rockville and Shady Grove, Roshdieh said.
The stations were placed in areas with either large residential populations or where there were lots of offices for people to use the bikes, he said.
Roshdieh said the plan is to have people get off Metro and bike the last mile or two to their home or office.
“It’s a new transit system,” he said.