According to results from a survey by the Montgomery County Planning Board, just over half of residents surveyed said they are satisfied with conditions as they walk around the county — be it taking their dog for a walk, running errands or waiting for a bus.
However, there are proposals to improve what planners call “the pedestrian experience” in the Maryland county.
The planning board’s Pedestrian Master Plan includes recommendations such as building and repairing sidewalks faster, doing away with the need to hit the “walk” button at crosswalks and enforcing no right turns on red lights at some intersections.
The no-right-on-red proposal is also reflected in a current bill that’s before the Montgomery County Council, the “Safer Streets Act,” which is sponsored by County Council President Evan Glass and is co-sponsored by five other councilmembers.
Eli Glazier is a transportation planner with the Planning Board and while standing alongside busy Arlington Road in Bethesda on Friday, he said, “The Pedestrian Master Plan is really an effort to take the long view, to take the opportunity to create systemic change in Montgomery County.”
Glazier explained, “It lays out all these different recommendations so in the next 10, 20, 30, 40 years, we’re creating a Montgomery County that’s much more pedestrian-friendly.”
Glazier pointed to the Pike and Rose development off of Route 355 in North Bethesda as an example of a pedestrian-friendly design.
“There are wider sidewalks, there are places to sit,” he said. “The motor vehicle lanes are narrow and the speed limits are low so it creates a really safe pedestrian experience” and a comfortable urban setting, he said.
Otoniel Cruz, who frequently uses Metro to commute to work, told WTOP that he felt the infrastructure in Bethesda made getting around on foot generally safe, but said some drivers do speed, “and they don’t see pedestrians trying to cross the road.” But overall, he said, he felt many drivers are generally respectful.
Alana Tay, who was out walking her four-month-old puppy, Indie, along Bradley Boulevard, said “I’ve almost been hit by a car on this road right here,” pointing to the intersection with Arlington Road. The close call, she said, was due to drivers trying to make the right turn even when pedestrians have the walk light. “They don’t stop at the light,” she said.
Along Bethesda’s Capital Crescent Trail intersection with Little Falls Parkway, Carl Becker said he’d like to see the county return to the “road diet” design that included flex-posts and narrowed lanes on both sides of the grassy median.
Now, with the most recent redesign, he told WTOP, “The current crossing is very similar, but even worse than the configuration we had six years ago when a recumbent bicyclist was killed here.”
Crossing the intersection to illustrate his point, Becker said the new design means cyclists, dog walkers, and other pedestrians have to check for traffic coming in opposite directions in the middle of the road, instead of being able to cross two lanes of traffic, stop in the grassy median, and continue across the remaining two lanes.
The Montgomery County Planning Board will hold a public hearing on Thursday, March 23.
Those wishing to sign up to testify can do so on the Planning Board’s website.