Greater Greater Washington

Pedestrians


Prince George's worst in Maryland for pedestrian safety

Prince George's County is the most dangerous in Maryland for pedestrians and cyclists, a report found, mostly on state-managed roads. The county needs a more data-driven, focused strategy to make its streets safe.

The report comes from the county's Department of Public Works and Transportation, the Maryland State Highway Administration, and other safety and planning agencies. It contains lots of data, but perhaps the most effective part is a set of images of the kinds of conditions people face trying to walk in the county:


Photos from the report.

Prince George's leads the State of Maryland in pedestrian deaths per 100,000 residents:


Graphs from the report.

Pedestrian fatalities per 100,000 residents is not always a great metric, because it depends greatly on how many people walk. DC's fatality rate per 100,000 is higher than for the state of Maryland, but the average person in DC walks a lot more than the average Marylander. Virginia is just low because it's less urban than Maryland, not because its pedestrian safety practices are better. (But what's wrong with Delaware‽)

That doesn't mean Prince George's isn't really dangerous, though. Montgomery County also has higher rates of walking than surrounding counties, yet its pedestrian fatality rate is pretty low. A 2008 CSG report, which normalized pedestrian crash rates using Census data about how many people walk or ride the bus to work, rated Prince George's almost twice as dangerous as Montgomery, over 4 times as dangerous as DC, and slightly better than Fairfax County.

When there is a crash, a traffic safety group audits the area, but only long afterward, once the police investigation is done. Few of these audits turn into any work orders for changes.

Can the county do better? The report says it can. Montgomery did:

Montgomery created a Pedestrian Safety Initiative which used crash data identify dangerous areas and target fixes to those spots. The report also recommends Prince George's do the same. In addition, they need a pedestrian and bicycle safety coordinator and advisory group to coordinate between many agencies and departments with a role in the planning, funding, and managing safety fixes and programs.

The county and state also can coordinate better, the report says, since 41% of pedestrian collisions and 77% of pedestrian fatalities happen on the state-managed roads, though those are only 12% of the total roads. That's surely because the state roads have more and faster-moving traffic, yet in many communities they form barriers between neighborhoods and separate residents from nearby stores or other facilities.

David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He loves the area which is, in many ways, greater than those others, and wants to see it become even greater. 

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I'm a little curious as to why the people in the first two pictures (the blind man and the man in the striped jacket) are walking in the road when there is a sidewalk/crosswalk just a few feet away?

by Scoot on Jan 3, 2013 12:50 pm • linkreport

Montgomery created a Pedestrian Safety Initiative which used crash data identify dangerous areas and target fixes to those spots.

Few of the recommendations in these reports, and especially few of the recommendations that might inconvenience drivers, have been implemented. Montgomery does have a program of building fences to stop people from crossing the street.

by Ben Ross on Jan 3, 2013 12:54 pm • linkreport

@Scoot, the guy in the striped jacket is crossing the street (at a very poorly marked/badly needing re-striping crosswalk) and the blind man is walking down a road that doesn't have sidewalks on either side. Click the photos to enlarge.

by jag on Jan 3, 2013 1:08 pm • linkreport

I wonder how the "worst" of PG changes once you get into higher income areas. I'm not sure where Edmonston Road is but the others are in low-moderate income areas which also happen to be where the majority of the high-incidence areas are located.

by HogWash on Jan 3, 2013 1:23 pm • linkreport

@HogWash:
Edmonston Road used to be SR 201 before Kenilworth Avenue replaced it in the 1960s. It is not continuous (it skips around from being directly replaced in some parts by Kenilworth and from other interruptions, like the 201/495 interchange in Greenbelt).

It runs from the Bladensburg area out to Laurel. The section north of Cherrywood Lane is still both 201 and Edmonston Road.

by Matt Johnson on Jan 3, 2013 1:26 pm • linkreport

The two bar graphs show pedestrian fatality rates that differ by about an order of magnitude. What's going on? For example, according to the graph on the left, average pedestrian fatalities per 100K in Maryland is about 1.7. According to the graph on the right, even in Howard county, which has the lowest level of fatalities, the level was at 4 per 100K.

by renegade09 on Jan 3, 2013 1:26 pm • linkreport

@renegade

looks the second one is cumulative fatalaties for 2006-2012, not an annual number.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jan 3, 2013 1:33 pm • linkreport

@renegade - the left graph is for one year, the right graph for six.

by Ben Ross on Jan 3, 2013 1:33 pm • linkreport

@jag, I actually did enlarge the photos (they are enlarged in the original report which I also read). In the first photo, the crosswalk, while it could use re-striping, is clearly visible. Granted, it is silly that the sidewalk ends in the middle of the road. But while we don't really know his precise route, it looks to me he just chose to jay-walk.

In the second photo, it looks like you can actually see both sidewalks (one at the top of the embankment at the right of the photo and the other at the left of the photo near the electrical poles and what seems like a bus stop). I don't really know this area, so it would be nice if the report would have posted the addresses or blocks proximal to where some of these photos so third parties could more easily take a look.

by Scoot on Jan 3, 2013 1:38 pm • linkreport

Could the DE number be affected by the sheer number of vehicles traveling through the state when compared to the actual state population?

by Eitan on Jan 3, 2013 1:39 pm • linkreport

@everybody
yeah, you're all right, it's cumulative.

by renegade09 on Jan 3, 2013 1:41 pm • linkreport

@Scoot

In the picture with the blind person, it looks like there is a sidewalk on the other side of the road, at least down the road. On the side he is walking on there is a parking lot on that embankment.

In the other picture, perhaps he chose to cross there because the sidewalk dumps out onto the road there? You can see it just to his left.

by MLD on Jan 3, 2013 1:47 pm • linkreport

@renegade

The normalized data throws out the subtle variations between urban and rural landscapes.

Since this data is measured by the whole state, rural areas are going to throw the metric off quite bit (as Alpert explained for why Virginia is so low). I imagine places like Fairfax may sustain higher incidents than what is reported. In Maryland, outside of the Baltimore-Washington urban core, many counties are very sparsely dependent on walkability hence, it's expected that lower incidents outside the urban core bring Maryland's overall fatality down. (Though I would expect it to be higher than indicated in the graph.)

If there's a discrepancy, I feel like it may be in the way they counted the county data. The graph uses the range between 2006-2012. I can't tell if it's averaged or accumulated (the later wouldn't make sense to use in this comparison since the National data set is only measured for one year).

To explain Deleware, keep in mind it's population is about 900,000. This roughly is on par with the populations of Prince Georges and Montgomery counties alone. Delaware has many urban-like walkable communities, especially along it's beaches so when given that perspective the 2.5 number isn't so bad. When you compare PG and MoCo to the state, Delaware is suddenly looking even better.

by Another Andrew on Jan 3, 2013 1:49 pm • linkreport

@MLD

It does not look like a parking lot at the top of the embankment. Can you post the coordinates of the exact location?

by Scoot on Jan 3, 2013 2:01 pm • linkreport

@Matt, oh thanks! I never would've known that!

Scott wrt to the first photo, I used to live near that intersection. The picture does the argument about pedestrian friendliness more a disservice than the actual "lack" of friendliness there. In fact, it's weird that they chose that location because the crosswalk allows people to travel east/west on Marlboro. Essentially, as you cross east from the LP gas station, you cross the entrance to an apartment community (may still be Fox Club) whose entrance/exit is on both sides of a grassy median, then you end up in the parking lot of Popeyes Chicken. Not sure why they chose this location to photograph as problematic.

by HogWash on Jan 3, 2013 2:24 pm • linkreport

It appears to be here:
http://goo.gl/maps/h2j1K

by MLD on Jan 3, 2013 2:25 pm • linkreport

I found the google map. What they've done w/this photo is take a pic of a man crossing at the area designated for cars traveling south on Brooks Drive to Malboro Pike. It's actually a red light there and a couple of bunny hops over is where the crosswalk is.

Hopefully this explains it:


View Larger Map

by HogWash on Jan 3, 2013 2:32 pm • linkreport

Geesh! And I just realized that I also lived near the Penn Ave/Donnell drive photo. It is true that there are no sidewalks along that stretch...but there also isn't a reason why the motorized chair person should be riding in the road either. But this too is a low-income area.

by HogWash on Jan 3, 2013 2:37 pm • linkreport

@MLD, thanks. Are the people behind the report suggesting that it would be more pedestrian friendly had the blind man had the option of using a sidewalk across from where the current one is?

by HogWash on Jan 3, 2013 2:41 pm • linkreport

WRT, to the person in the scooter.

There may be a sidewalk adjacent but if its anything like when I lived in fairfax it's probably very poor quality and sometimes in an effort to create a nature trail that bypasses the road what you get is incredibly steep grades and pavement that is basically forgotten about.

by drumz on Jan 3, 2013 2:42 pm • linkreport

So what about Charles, Anne Arundel or Baltimore Counties most of the places within those counties are no where near as walkable as PG County is.

by kk on Jan 3, 2013 2:45 pm • linkreport

@DRumz, nah it's really not a sidewalk there. Only what you see on the photo. It's across Penn Ave from Forestville Mall and Target.


View Larger Map

by HogWash on Jan 3, 2013 2:53 pm • linkreport

It is true that there are no sidewalks along that stretch...but there also isn't a reason why the motorized chair person should be riding in the road either.

I would assume the reason is because he wants to get from point A to point B along Pennsylvania Ave and doesn't want to have to go a mile out of his way to get there. If pedestrian connections suck, people will still want to get places, but they will have to make dangerous choices to do so.

Are the people behind the report suggesting that it would be more pedestrian friendly had the blind man had the option of using a sidewalk across from where the current one is?

There's no specific suggestion, but it would be nice if since there is a bus stop on that side of the road ( there could be a crosswalk connecting it to... anything. Otherwise, blind guy's choices are walk along the road or try to cross the street there at an intersection without even a stop sign to slow traffic down.

Hell, go another 1000 feet down Edmonston and there aren't any sidewalks at all!

by MLD on Jan 3, 2013 3:00 pm • linkreport

If pedestrian connections suck, people will still want to get places, but they will have to make dangerous choices to do so.

Although there is no sidewalk, there is a much larger (side of the road) area across the street...hardly anywhere near having to travel a mile outside of the way. Pedestrians make dangerous choices all the time even when there are better and safer options.

The article about the MoCo teacher/principle and the man whose child was killed as they attempted to cross at a median are two such examples.

by HogWash on Jan 3, 2013 3:17 pm • linkreport

That people make dumb decisions doesn't justify having an unsafe network.

KK,
I'd wager that the more rural counties have a lot less pedestrians so less incidents as well.

by drumz on Jan 3, 2013 3:23 pm • linkreport

Although there is no sidewalk, there is a much larger (side of the road) area across the street...hardly anywhere near having to travel a mile outside of the way.

Not sure what you mean. The side he is on has a shoulder and he was probably in the shoulder until it disappeared to make room for the turn lane he's in in the picture. There is no paved space that is not part of the road along there for someone to walk or scoot. The nearest parallel streets are about 1/3 of a mile away, so I misspoke - you'd only have to go 2/3 of a mile out of your way to go from point A to B along PA Ave there to avoid being in the road. I'm not even sure if that alternate route would have a sidewalk.

Pedestrians make dangerous choices all the time even when there are better and safer options.

We went over in a previous thread how there were plenty of safety tradeoffs in both those situations. It's not an excuse for not building pedestrian facilities in places that have none.

by MLD on Jan 3, 2013 3:30 pm • linkreport

That people make dumb decisions doesn't justify having an unsafe network.

People making dumb decisions doesn't necessarily justify having a safe network either. If you're going to try to convince people to support better ped infrastructure, then at least show photos of rational actors working within a broken system, not people choosing to jaywalk despite having a clearly marked crosswalk or sidewalk 15 feet away. These photos may even deter people from supporting ped infrastructure as they show peds who choose not to use the existing infrastructure set up for them in the first place.

Ironically, in the Street View HogWash posted, the photos show a man bicycling against traffic (a pretty dumb decision any way you justify it). In DC I see people riding against traffic (often in one-way bike lanes) all the time even though there is a perfectly good route with the flow of traffic and/or a protected bike lane a block away. I've even done it myself occasionally.

@MLD

Thank you for posting the map of where the photo of the blind pedestrian was taken. As everyone can see, there is a fairly well-maintained sidewalk along the road.

by Scoot on Jan 3, 2013 3:56 pm • linkreport

Are you suggesting the blind guy knew there was a sidewalk across the street -- because what, he saw it?

by Tina on Jan 3, 2013 4:03 pm • linkreport

Are you suggesting the blind guy knew there was a sidewalk across the street -- because what, he saw it?

I don't know if he knew there was a sidewalk across the street. It's probable that he did if he were resident of the immediate area where the photo was taken, but I suppose anything is possible (neither the report nor this blog post go into any significant detail about how to alert blind pedestrians to the presence of sidewalks).

I'd be interested to know if the photographer alerted the man to the sidewalk.

by Scoot on Jan 3, 2013 4:12 pm • linkreport

It's not an excuse for not building pedestrian facilities in places that have none.

Scoot makes my point when he says, "If you're going to try to convince people to support better ped infrastructure, then at least show photos of rational actors working within a broken system, not people choosing to jaywalk despite having a clearly marked crosswalk or sidewalk 15 feet away.

I've already stated that there are no sidewalks along that route. In fact, the sidewalk ends near the McD's at Walters Lane and turns into the shoulder (side of the road = brain freeze). But of the photos listed here the most compelling case to be made about PG's pedestrian unfriendliness is this one w/the motorized vehicle. Shoulders yes. Sidewalks no.

Are you suggesting the blind guy knew there was a sidewalk across the street -- because what, he saw it?

I'm know it's sorta crass, but considering what you say here, would it have mattered if the blind man had a sidewalk on both sides of the street since he might not have been able to tell the difference between it and walking in the street?

by HogWash on Jan 3, 2013 4:43 pm • linkreport

I'm guessing his visual impairment was not 100% blindness.

by HogWash on Jan 3, 2013 4:44 pm • linkreport

Wait! Is the blind guy on a cell phone?

by HogWash on Jan 3, 2013 4:48 pm • linkreport

Should we really focus on a photo when the data already points out its more dangerous to be a pedestrian in PG than elsewhere. Either it's the infrastructure or PG residents are somehow less skillful at walking. Which seems likelier?

by Drumz on Jan 3, 2013 5:17 pm • linkreport

@Drumz, yes, we need safe routes to everywhere in PG Co.

by Tina on Jan 3, 2013 5:27 pm • linkreport

Drumz, you're asking should we focus on photos accompanying an article set to prove how poor the pedestrian access is in PGCO?

I agree, there does need to be safe routes. It's not improper to question the use of photos which don't prove the point.

by HogWash on Jan 3, 2013 5:41 pm • linkreport

But it's the opposite. People are searching for and assuming things about a picture. An then declaring the data null and void. Especially when it's only one photo out of four that may not best represent what's going on but still doesn't disprove anything in the data. So there may have been a sidewalk at that spot, so what? I have to deal with irregular sidewalks and I live in Arlington which is supposedly the walkers paradise.

by Drumz on Jan 3, 2013 6:13 pm • linkreport

Are you suggesting that it's not rather normal for us to have discussions about photos? We do it all the time. People are assuming things about a picture whether they believe that it clearly shows poor planning or not.

I don't see people (may have to go back) declaring the data null and void. There are actually 2 of the 4 that don't best represent the data which everyone naturally would assume are the most egregious examples the people behind the study could find. This is a public document and if the effort really is to get people to rally around the poor pedestrian access, it makes sense and is entirely appropriate to want the supporting documentation to reflect the results.

These photos do not..and that has nothing to do w/the actual results of the study you believe people are declaring null and void.

It's kinda like the gentrification article. Sure, GGW and the author of the story wanted to touch on the different face of gentrification. However, the actual article doesn't reflect that either. It's ok to talk about it. Just make sure that there is supporting documentation.

BTW, the station north of Grovesnor is White Flint. Why is that incorrect?

by HogWash on Jan 3, 2013 7:17 pm • linkreport

Because in the majority of instanes where it's reported that a pedestrian is hit people constantly try to figure out what the pedestrian did wrong and when that very back an forth continues in one way or another regarding a story that points out that being a pedestrian can be really dangerous in certain counties then it behoove a is to figure how to make things safer than continue to try and find 100% fault in the pedestrian.

It's not the article that's missing the point.

by Drumz on Jan 3, 2013 7:31 pm • linkreport

Nor you Hogwash, necessarily

by Drumz on Jan 3, 2013 7:32 pm • linkreport

One of the things that piss me off about the DC metro area is the lack of sidewalks (or inadequate sidewalk widths)in some neighborhoods. This can be a hazard to pedestrians.

by jacksom on Jan 4, 2013 12:11 pm • linkreport

Maybe the blind guy is a jogger, they never use sidewalks anyway.

by Mike on Jan 7, 2013 8:00 am • linkreport

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