WASHINGTON — Police in Montgomery County, Maryland, are investigating the latest in a string of fatal crashes involving pedestrians who were hit by vehicles while crossing area roadways.
At about 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, an unidentified man was struck and killed while crossing Georgia Avenue near the Glenmont Metro station. Last week, a 34-year-old man was killed while crossing Norbeck Road in Rockville. A third man was killed Aug. 11 while trying to cross Georgia Avenue at Viers Mill Road near Wheaton.
Since June, a total of six pedestrians were killed after being struck by vehicles, despite Montgomery County’s efforts to cut road fatalities in public safety education campaigns such as “Street Smart” and “Vision Zero.”
Colin Browne, communications director for the Washington Area Bicyclists Association, said Montgomery County has worked hard on trying to reduce roadway fatalities, but he said county officials face some obstacles in making changes, “because they don’t have control over a lot of the major roads in the county. They’re run by the state; they’re state highways.”
All three incidents over the last 10 days took place as the victims were trying to cross state-maintained roads: Georgia Avenue (Route 97), Norbeck Road (Route 28) and Viers Mill (Route 586) are state roads.
Browne said Montgomery County has a “fairly ambitious” plan “and a lot of great ideas,” but added that the state “doesn’t have the same commitment, doesn’t have the same set of standards in place to make pedestrian safety accommodations and generally make street designs for folks who are walking and biking.”
John Schofield, with the Maryland State Highway Administration, took issue with Browne’s characterization of the state’s approach to pedestrian and bike safety.
“There are hundreds, and I mean hundreds, of projects that are directly geared toward pedestrian and bike safety on the network,” said Schofield. He added that he bikes to work, as does Maryland State Highway Administrator Greg Slater.
Schofield said a number of those projects address the very spots where recent fatalities were recorded.
“Right there on Georgia Avenue, we’re in the middle of doing intersection improvements,” he said. “As part of these improvements, the pedestrian facilities will be upgraded to include crosswalks as well as pedestrian signals.”
Schofield said many of the improvements are tailored to help pedestrians: “That includes lighting, crosswalks, signal timing and sight distance.” Some of those changes include increasing the time allotted to pedestrians in crossing streets, he added.
“These projects are moving forward and should be in place early next year,” Schofield said.
Browne said there are cases where the state has made efforts to address pedestrian and bike safety. “There have been a few, but the state is still very much operating on the assumption that their roads are for cars and everyone else needs to squeeze in along the margins,” Browne said.
Schofield disputed that position and invited residents to take part in the statewide transportation tour, often referred to by local government officials as the Maryland “road show.”
“We are going to be going to every single county — all 23 counties — and Baltimore City, and just listen to what the elected leadership and citizens want,” Schofield said.
He invited residents to send their comments and suggestions by visiting the State Highway Administration’s website.