Tuesday, July 29, 2014

After a crash, a dangerous crosswalk could become safer

Where Colesville Road (Route 29) passes between Indian Spring and North Hills of Sligo, it's a six-lane divided highway, but residents need to be able to cross the street on foot to access homes and businesses.  The crosswalk at the intersection of Colesville Road and Indain Spring Drive is the most efficient way to do so, but it is not safe.  Unfortunately, Four Corners resident Joe Fox found out first hand how dangerous this crosswalk really is.

The crosswalk. All photos by the author.


Fox was crossing the road with his four-year-old daughter. Fox had just picked her up from daycare after a severe thunderstorm knocked out power. With a light rain falling, they approached this crosswalk, which has no traffic signal, to get to the bus stop on the other side of the road.
After waiting for several minutes and seeing no gap in traffic, Joe waved a book in the air to try to catch the attention of passing drivers. As one slowed to a stop, Joe stepped gingerly into the crosswalk, carrying his daughter tightly.
Fox wrote,
A large SUV (a Yukon or Suburban) in the left lane had stopped, and a small SUV following it rear-ended it with enough force that it folded its hood, and pushed the larger SUV more than 50 feet straight ahead."
If I had been crossing either the middle or left lane (I would have, at a normal walking pace after the right lane car stopped, but I waited, seeing what might happen), one or both of us would have sustained very serious injuries.
Because I had my daughter still holding on, I could not cross (again) back to the northbound lanes to see if she (the driver) was okay. I did not see her emerge from her car for the several minutes I was there. All I could do was call the MCPD and ask them to help.
This crosswalk gets frequent pedestrian traffic, as it is the only convenient way to walk between the neighborhoods of Indian Spring and North Hills of Sligo. To reach the closest signalized crossing, someone would have to walk a half mile out of the way.

The area, from Google Maps. The blue dotted line shows the route to cross the street with a detour to the nearest signalized intersection.

The bus stop which Fox was trying to reach is served by six heavily-used bus routes which travel to and from the Silver Spring Metro. The crosswalk also connects residents with community facilities and parks such as the Silver Spring YMCA, Indian Spring Recreation Center, and the popular Sligo Creek Park.
The crosswalk is a few hundred yards south of the Beltway interchange, along a stretch of Colesville Road with 40 mph speed limits. Here is a video of one attempt to cross. Note how drivers in some lanes do not stop even once I am in the roadway.



Making it even more dangerous, the road crests a hill just south of the crosswalk. That means a driver headed north coming over the hill may not see a pedestrian with enough time to stop.



A HAWK signal would make this intersection safer
This would be a good location for a HAWK signal, which stops traffic when a pedestrian asks to cross. This can let pedestrians cross safely without affecting drivers as a regular signal would.




There are pedestrian-activated signals on nearby University Boulevard and New Hampshire Avenue, so there is ample precedent for one on a six-lane highway like Colesville Road.

Those signals are less-efficient "firehouse style" signals. The below video shows one in operation. Notice how a car runs the red light 10 seconds after it turns red, and just before a grandmother and her grandchildren cross the road.


If officials agree to use a HAWK signal here, as activists are requesting, this would be the first on a Maryland state-maintained road.

Thanks to the efforts of Joe Fox and elected officials he reached out to, this dangerous crosswalk on Colesville Road may get fixed before anyone else is injured. According to local activist Jeffrey Thames, the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA), which controls this road, is currently studying the idea of a pedestrian-activated signal at this location, and expects to propose a solution within 90 days.

This was cross posted on Greater Greater Washington.

1 comment:

  1. Wow. I'm glad Joe and his daughter are ok, and I'm thankful for the activism to increase safety at that spot. Is there someone I might write to to support the effort? I would be writing as a frequent driver through that area who wants to ensure pedestrians can cross safely.

    We used to live in Arlington near a spot on Washington Blvd where there was a pedestrian activated crossing, used primarily to get to bus stops and also to access a playground on one side of the neighborhood. That stop made a huge difference for our quality of life on the smaller, less populated side of our neighborhood.

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