Bethesda Pedestrian Safety Again Comes To Forefront

Pedestrian safety is again a hot button issue in Bethesda, where two pedestrian collisions in the span of 26 hours have police pushing familiar safety tips and transit advocates urging police to put more of the focus on dangerous drivers.

On Tuesday afternoon, after a pedestrian collision that morning in Bethesda at Wisconsin Avenue and Chelsea Lane, Montgomery County Police put out a list of driver and pedestrian safety tips that advised people to stay alert.

Bethesda resident Ben Ross, who has frequently argued for more pedestrian-friendly intersections, said police should be telling drivers to be more careful in an Action Committee for Transit press release this morning:

…All three collisions occurred where the pedestrians had the right of way.

Yet county police responded with a press release entitled “Police Remind Pedestrians To Be Careful.” Nowhere did the police tell drivers to obey the law, which requires drivers to yield to pedestrians on sidewalks and in marked and unmarked crosswalks.

The Tuesday morning incident on Wisconsin Avenue was one of three in the county in a two-hour span. The pedestrian hit in that incident suffered non-life threatening injuries, police said.

Today at around 9:37 a.m., police say 59-year-old William George Cole was struck by a car in the far right lane of southbound Old Georgetown Road near Alta Vista Road. Cole is in serious condition and is undergoing treatment.

A police spokesman said early indications are that Cole was attempting to cross Old Georgetown Road not at a crosswalk, but mid-block. The investigation is ongoing. A witness to the incident said Cole appeared to be holding a book in his hand.

Bethesda Patch first reported a Feb. 27 incident at Edgemoor Lane and Arlington Road near Bethesda Elementary School in which a car hit and dragged a stroller in the crosswalk about six feet before knocking it over. The baby in the stroller was uninjured.

On Monday, at a transportation sub-committee meeting of the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board, residents heard from administrators of the Transportation Management Districts from downtown Bethesda, Friendship Heights and North Bethesda.

One prominent issue was pedestrian safety.

Bethesda Urban Partnership (BUP) executive director David Dabney said one difficulty BUP and its Bethesda Transportation Solutions division faces is the constant digging and repatching of downtown roads and crosswalks from utility projects attached to the area’s numerous development projects.

Earlier this month, Ross pointed to the Lot 31 underground garage and apartment project at Woodmont and Bethesda Avenues of an example of the county prioritizing motorists over pedestrians.

A Department of Transportation spokeswoman responded by pointing to a 12 percent decrease in severe pedestrian collisions and a 21 percent decrease in the number of pedestrians incapacitated or killed since a county initiative kicked off in 2009.


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