The County’s departments of Transportation and Police met today for the eighth time with CountyStat and Chief Administrative Officer Tim Firestine for an update on the progress of Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett’s Pedestrian Safety Initiative. Data indicate that pedestrian collisions and the severity of collisions are trending downward, especially where engineering, enforcement or education strategies have been implemented. The Initiative was released in December 2007.
One of the biggest successes of the Initiative has been the Safe Routes to School program where engineering improvements bolstered by education and enforcement actions at more than 50 schools have significantly reduced pedestrian collisions. Collisions dropped about 78 percent when comparing collision statistics from three years before the improvements with the time period after the improvements.
One of the key strategies of the Pedestrian Safety Initiative is to target engineering, education and enforcement activities on County roadways with the highest number of pedestrian collisions, or the High Incidence Areas (HIAs). Most of these areas are along State roads, so the County and the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) are working as partners to improve pedestrian safety.
Since the first HIA safety audit was conducted on Piney Branch Road in 2008, HIA collisions as a percent of total pedestrian collisions in the County have decreased from 10 percent to four percent in 2010. HIA safety audits identify ways to improve pedestrian safety along a specific road corridor. A total of eight HIAs have been audited; portions of Piney Branch Road, Wisconsin Avenue, Georgia Avenue, Rockville Pike, Four Corners, Reedie Drive, Randolph Road and Connecticut Avenue.
Improving pedestrian safety in HIAs takes time and continues incrementally. At the CountyStat meeting, Department of Transportation (MCDOT) Director Art Holmes stressed that the pedestrian projects recommended through the audit process cannot all be implemented at once. The range, cost and coordination required to implement the HIA engineering improvements means that they are being completed in stages over several years. This staged process also allows the County to leverage state projects, such as resurfacing, to more cost effectively complete needed changes.
At the meeting, Montgomery County Police Chief J. Thomas Manger discussed how his department is entering the next phase in enforcement of pedestrian safety laws. The new team-based, zero tolerance strategy will place a greater emphasis on issuing citations to both drivers and pedestrians.
MCDOT also described its traffic calming efforts that are reducing speeding on residential roads by more than five miles per hour. Speed is directly linked to collisions and injury severity, so slowing traffic to the posted speed limits through treatments such as pedestrian refuge islands, bump-outs and curb extensions, chokers, enhanced signage and markings, speed humps and edgelines can significantly improve outcomes for collision victims.
During fiscal year 2011, the County constructed a total of 10.6 miles of new sidewalks along with curb ramps to meet Federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements. This also includes 2.5 miles of new bus stop-related sidewalks with improvement of 258 bus stops. Staff also reported that the timing on one-third of the County’s traffic signals have been upgraded to allow pedestrians to cross roads at 3.5 feet per second instead of the previous standard of four feet per second, providing pedestrians more time to cross the road at traffic signals.
CountyStat conducts periodic reviews of the components of the Pedestrian Safety Initiative that have played a critical and valuable role in the program. By reviewing data, the County works to assure that effective strategies are being employed to improve pedestrian safety. These reviews provide vital information on how to most efficiently target resources to reduce the number of pedestrian collisions in the County.
The full CountyStat presentation is available on the County’s website at www.montgomerycountymd.gov/countystat. For more information, contact CountyStat Manager Chris Cihlar at 240-777-2627 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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