Saturday, December 27, 2014

1,000 feet to cross the street

Lanark Way is the main street of South Four Corners.  It's the only way to enter the neighborhood from Route 29 by car, foot, or bike (without crossing private property), and the it intersects with almost every other street in the neighborhood before ending at Renfrew Road..  On the northbound side of Colesville Road, adjacent to the Blair High School parking lot, there is a bus stop called "Colesville Road and Lanark Way" to serve transit riders from South Four Corners.  The stop can be requested by customers on the Z2, Z6, or Z8 Metrobus routes and the 21 and 22 Ride On routes, all of which originate at the Silver Spring Metro Station.

The northbound bus stop at Colesville Road and Lanark Way.  Photo by the author.

The problem with this bus stop is, despite it's name and location, the fact that it is over 1,000 feet from Lanark Way.  How?  That is the distance that South Four Corners bus riders must walk to legally cross Colesville Road before they even enter their neighborhood.

The red line drawn on this aerial image shows the route that citizens living in South Four Corners must walk to legally cross Colesville Road after getting off the bus from Silver Spring.  Image from Google Earth.

Obviously this is a a major inconvenience, and the lack of a crosswalk serves to discourage almost anyone living in the nearby homes from using the frequent bus service on Colesville Road.  This problem would seem to be easily solvable by installing a marked crosswalk at this location, as called for in the 1996 Four Corners Master Plan.  However, instead of putting a marked crosswalk at this intersection, the State Highway Administration decided to install one of the most absurd signs ever.

"No Ped Crossing--Use Crosswalk"  Photo by the author. 
As bus riders disembark and attempt to cross the road to enter their neighborhood, they are met with this sign reading "NO PED CROSSING--USE CROSSWALK" with an arrow pointing north to the marked crosswalk at Colesville Road and University Boulevard.  What this sign does not say, however, is that this trip will require a 1,000 foot detour.  The sign also does not state that this detour will add at least four and a half minutes to your journey.

Pedestrians must walk 120 yards (the length of a football filed and both end zones) before they reach the intersection ,where they must walk 40 yards across the road, before doubling back another 120 yards on the opposite sidewalk to reach Lanark Way.  Photo by the author.

I tried out this detour by timing my walk from the bus stop to the intersection of Lanark Way on the opposite side of the road.  Walking at a brisk pace, it took me four minutes and eleven seconds to cross the road using the SHA's method (up to University and then back down to Lanark).  In contrast, it took me less than a minute to cross the road by simply waiting for a gap in traffic and crossing directly from the bus stop to Lanark Way (1/10th of the distance).  This second method may sound like jaywalking, but I was in the crosswalk the whole time--the legally existent unmarked crosswalk, that is.  

According the Maryland state laws, crosswalks legally exist at every intersection between two or more public roads in the state, regardless of whether the crosswalk is marked or not.  This means that it is perfectly legal for a pedestrian to cross Colesville Road at Lanark Way, despite the presence of the "NO PED CROSSING" sign.  In fact, I'm not sure if it is even legal for the SHA to place such a regulatory sign (one prohibiting pedestrian crossings) at a legal crosswalk (a place where pedestrians are allowed to cross the street).  I'm no lawyer, but if there is one reading this, it's an interesting topic to look into.

The top sign offers good advice for those walking along a busy road.  The bottom sign tells you to keep walking, since the nearest marked crossing is still a few hundred feet away.  Photo by the author.    

I'm well aware that crossing Colesville Road (a highway which is eight lanes wide at this location) is no picnic.  However, there is clearly demand for a pedestrian crossing at this spot, which is why the legally questionable "NO PED CROSSING" sign was installed here several years after the 1990's intersection reconfiguration.  If people are already crossing the road here, the SHA should not attempt to ban the practice by installing absurd signage.  Instead, the SHA should be making every effort to accommodate those crossing Colesville Road at Lanark Way.   Discouraging bus ridership by making customers walk 1,000 feet just to enter their neighborhood is unacceptable.  These transit riders, the students of Blair, and the residents of South Four Corners all deserve a proper pedestrian crossing here.   

I will conclude with this quote from page 44 of the approved and adopted 1996 Four Corners Master Plan:

"While bus service is readily available, residents are discouraged from taking it due to the difficulty of crossing Colesville Road.  Improved pedestrian access to bus stops across Colesville Road from Four Corners neighborhoods would enable more residents to use transit.  A pedestrian crossing at Lanark Way is critical to ensuring safe pedestrian access to Blair High School"  



  1. Good article. You really demonstrate the inconvenience of walking from the bus stop (on the Blair HS side of Colesville), up to the traffic light, crossing Colesville, and walking back to the neighborhood when you describe the journey in terms of the length of a football field.

    And timing your walk also adds to the picture (plus you are a young man, and probably walk a whole lot faster than I do!).

    I'm all for cars slowing down and drivers keeping an eye out for pedestrians. Roads shouldn't be "barriers", for use only by cars.

  2. I agree with Tina that roads shouldn't be barriers. Another example of this type of inconvenience is the southbound bus stop on Colesville Road/Route 29 at Crestmoor Drive near Woodmoor. There doesn't seem to be a "legal way" to get there. To access the stop from Woodmoor side of Colesville Road, one literally has to run to the median and then cross traffic again, which is very dangerous as it's an downhill/uphill and cars fly. There is also no sidewalk on that portion of 29, so you wait for the bus in a little carve-out, which I know from personal experience is hard for the bus drivers to see and can result in buses passing people by. Colesville road really seems like a highway there and is extremely dangerous for pedestrians to cross w/o a light or crosswalk. I've also seen two deer killed there in the past half year. I personally would like to see the built environment designed to dissuade car use and encourage bicycles/pedestrians/rapid transit, or at the very least, slow traffic down.