Greater Greater Washington

Pedestrians


Montgomery police blame victims for pedestrian deaths

After three pedestrians died in three weeks in Montgomery Countyone walking on the sidewalk, and the other two in crosswalks where they had the legal right of waycounty police could only blame the victims.


Truck ignores pedestrian in a Montgomery County crosswalk. Photo by the author.

"The only thing that I see that could be newsworthy is advice to pedestrians to make sure that they have or wear reflective clothing or items when they walk at night to increase their visibility," Captain Thomas Didone told the Patch. Didone is director of the county police department's traffic division.

As far as can be determined, all three victims were obeying the rules of the road when they died. Georgina Afful-Assare was hit while walking on the sidewalk near Briggs Chaney Road. The other two were killed while crossing major highways at intersections where unmarked (but legal) crosswalks connect bus stops to apartment complexes. Neither had any other reasonable way to get across the road.

Frank Sedwick was crossing Georgia Avenue at Heathfield Drive in Aspen Hill. The nearest traffic signal is 1,500 feet away at Connecticut Avenue, and there is no marked crosswalk or signal on the high-speed turn ramp that pedestrians must cross to reach it. According to a blog commenter, Mr. Sedwick had a prosthetic leg.

Charles Aboagye was crossing US 29 at Oak Leaf Drive. He was standing in the median and tripped. Here, the marked crosswalk is 785 feet away. To reach that crosswalk, one must walk within inches of cars and trucks speeding along what drivers perceive as a limited-access highway. The risk of tripping and falling during a long trudge down the sidewalk is far greater than in the median, where the law (universally ignored) indeed requires drivers to stop and let you pass.

Engineering fixes are needed for safer crossings at Heathfield and Oak Leaf Drives. Road design policies must change, and even then rebuilding will take time. In the meantime, the roads we have now must be made safer to walk on. That will only happen when the police stop blaming the victims and insist that drivers stop at all crosswalks, both marked and unmarked.

Other cities are teaching this. Minneapolis suburbs have launched campaigns to ticket drivers who fail to yield.

In California's Ventura County, an area more suburban than Montgomery, police gave drivers this reminder after a car that stopped for a pedestrian was rear-ended: "Pay attention while driving near crosswalks and actively look for pedestrians crossing the street. Additionally, pay attention for other cars on the roadway that might be slowing or stopping for pedestrians."

Telling those on foot to dress like hunters in the woods will not make streets more walkable. Nor will it prevent the deaths of people who are walking on the sidewalk or standing in a median strip. Lives will be saved when drivers obey the law by stopping for pedestrians in crosswalks. Montgomery County police must change their attitudes and issue tickets to those who fail to yield.

Ben Ross was president of the Action Committee for Transit for 15 years. His new book about the politics of urbanism and transit, Dead End: Suburban Sprawl and the Rebirth of American Urbanism, is published by Oxford University Press. 

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I completely agree. That intersection at 29 & Oak Leaf Drive and other intersections both north and south of New Hampshire Ave are heavily crossed, especially by teenagers. It's very hazardous as it is right now, even with the crosswalks.

by dc denizen on Feb 22, 2013 10:45 am • linkreport

Everyone wants pedestrians, drivers and other vehicle occupants to be safe at all times. Baiting and making exaggerated claims don't help discussions to make environments more safe for everyone. The police are not systematically against pedestrians. Likewise, the police did not blame the pedestrians in that quote or anything in the associated articles.

by selxic on Feb 22, 2013 11:01 am • linkreport

Saying you should be wearing reflective clothes, even if you're walking on a sidewalk which means that for a car to hit you it has to run off the road and over the curb to hit you isn't putting the blame on the pedestrian?

And the only newsworthy thing to say is to wear bright clothes? The fact that people are being killed because drivers can't control their car or even know the law isn't newsworthy?

Yeah I'm going to put this on the police.

by drumz on Feb 22, 2013 11:15 am • linkreport

Drivers are not required to stop at unprotected crosswalks, unless they see a ped in it, and if its night and the ped is not wearing something bright, they may not see till its too late. OTOH if they were going more slowly, theyd have a greater chance to stop in time anyway, and the consequences of a hit would be less.

As a ped, if you are crossing an unprotected (by stop sign or signal) crosswalk at night, and you arent wearing something bright, you ought to forget about the fact that you have ROW, since it won't do you much good.

OTOH LE needs to do a better job of enforcing speed limits on suburn roads.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 22, 2013 11:21 am • linkreport

Reminds me of the Bowie Blade-News article from this mornings links: "Prince George’s police officers took to the streets to educate residents on pedestrian safety and began an enforcement program."
"We’re ramping up our presence on our streets and highways to not only inform residents of the pedestrian rules of the roads, but to also enforce those rules."

by thump on Feb 22, 2013 11:25 am • linkreport

I work and live in DT Silver Spring, I walk to work, walk home for lunch, walk back to work, walk back home and on some days walk back out to eat or shop. At least once per day (1 out of 4 walks, assuming I don't go back out later), I have a close call with a driver who is being impatient and ignoring the rules of the road. Most drivers treat the far edge of the crosswalk as their 'stop bar' at a signal, when their stop bar is really about 5 feet behind them. The number of drivers that disobey the 'no turn on red' signs adds up to at least 3-5 per day that I see alone, I'd guess hundreds a day just at the Intersection of Spring St and 2nd avenue in a given day. The drivers see their light to turn right turn green at the same time my walk light turns on at 16th st and EW highway and they assume they get to go before the pedestrians do. I've had numerous shouting matches with cars over this, and i've had to complain twice to WMATA and Ride-On that their buses cut me off.

I'm off my soap box now. All this said, I think a big part of the problem is most of Montgomery County is still suburban, and people have this expectation in the suburbs that roads are built for cars. Even though Silver Spring sits on the DC line, it sits on a suburban portion of the DC line, making Silver Spring (and Bethesda, Rockville ect) just a few blocks of urbanity the cars want to race through to get to the free and clear suburban highway on either side. You can tell who is driving around that also lives in down-county as they are always nicer to pedestrians, probably because they are one sometimes too. The people who work in DC and live in up-county who express through the downcounty CBD's every day are a real danger. Having the police not enforce the rules of the road only encourages the bad behavior. It's as if the police put priority on keeping traffic from backing up when push comes to shove. I'm certainly sure the State engineers think that way when they design the roads in down county. They know these are depended upon commuter routes, and won't do anything to reduce the commuter experience.

by Gull on Feb 22, 2013 11:25 am • linkreport

Prior to living in Bethesda, I lived in Norfolk, VA and Toronto, Ont. In those cities, pedestrians are regarded with some respect.

Montgomery county drivers rival those I encountered in Moscow for complete disregard for pedestrians. It doesn't need to be this way. The driving culture here needs to change.

by Capt. Hilts on Feb 22, 2013 11:26 am • linkreport

The tripping thing sounds like an actual accident doesnt it? I don't see how hitting someone ON the sidewalk is anything but negligent though. While I agree that a car has the legal obligation to stop for you, I still don't walk in front of a car until it is clear to me that it sees me, especially late at night. The real issue is that the lack of pedestrian accessibility on the part of the county is bordering on complicit in these deaths.

by Alan B. on Feb 22, 2013 11:27 am • linkreport

Gull, I was at a workshop at MWCOG the other day and someone from MDSHA basically said that a lot of his colleagues view state highways as avenues to get as many vehicles through the area as possible. Sadly it's no surprise that they are completely uninterested in pedestrians.

by Alan B. on Feb 22, 2013 11:31 am • linkreport

Despite the callousness of Captain Didone's response, I think his solution will in fact save lives. But instead of blaming it on the victims, this is a problem that calls out for collective action.

Here's what I would propose:

1. The county would purchase a quantity of light-weight, durable, reflective vests. This vests ideally would be nothing more two thin sheets of plastic with ties that can be rolled up and tucked into a pocket.

2. The county would make these vest widely available at a nominal cost. For example, every bus could carry a supply of vest that the driver would sell for $1 each. When a passenger is de-boarding at night, the driver would ask if they have a vest and offer one for sale. The vests could further be offered a police stations, schools, community centers, senior care facilities, health care facilities, etc.

3. If the vests don't do the job, the program could be upgraded to offer pedestrian "blinky lights", similar to the blinky lights used by bicyclists.

While this won't alleviate the county of providing safe sidewalks and crossings, it would probably save lives at a nominal cost. There once was a day when children getting off school buses would get run over by car drivers and even by the bus itself. We figured out how to solve that problem. There's no reason we shouldn't be able to solve this one, too.

by Alan on Feb 22, 2013 11:31 am • linkreport

As far as can be determined, all three victims were obeying the rules of the road when they died. Georgina Afful-Assare was hit while walking on the sidewalk near Briggs Chaney Road.

Incorrect. She was struck by an (apparently) out-of-control vehicle while walking on the sidewalk on Broad Birch Drive near Orchard Center, several miles south of Briggs Chaney Road.

Apparently she lived on or near Briggs Chaney Road.

by C. P. Zilliacus on Feb 22, 2013 11:31 am • linkreport

@Alan:

Problem #1: Roads are designed and operated for people in cars.
Problem #2: Drivers don't obey the law.
Solution: Provide low-cost reflective vests and blinky lights to pedestrians.

?

by Miriam on Feb 22, 2013 11:42 am • linkreport

Obviously if someone is killed while engaging in "fringe" behavior then it's something they did wrong--doesn't matter if it's tottering around on their feet like some kind of penguin, or riding a bike around in the middle of the street. That's not normal behavior. You wouldn't go ice-climbing without a helmet and crampons, so don't go wading around in suburbia's traffic sewers without day-glo orange from head to toe.

Meanwhile, if you're in a car like a Real American, no expense should be spared in providing infrastructure that guards you from injury.

by oboe on Feb 22, 2013 11:43 am • linkreport

@Gull

I know exactly the experience you are talking about. I used to work at Georgia & Cameron and commuted up there to the bus depot from DC. Crossing those major arterial roads (Georgia, East-West, 16th Street, Wayne & 2nd Ave, and Colesville) can be really hazardous. And you're exactly right, they pull into the crosswalk on a right-on-red and then just stare left the whole time until they have a clearing to turn right. They completely cut you off forcing you to walk around the car in front or in back, taking a chance they'll hit you. Or, you can wave at them that you're there, or tap on the hood...compound this with the length of the light for the crosswalk. A healthy adult can barely make it across in time before the red blinking light.

It's completely disrespectful of the people who have to live and work there. Either they need to put in ped bridges or tunnels, or figure out a way for the drivers to come to complete stop way before the crosswalks.

by dc denizen on Feb 22, 2013 11:46 am • linkreport

I find it really disheartening that the county police department's director of the traffic division didn't think that this was a good time to remind drivers to obey the speed limits, or that this was a tragic reminder to people that when they are behind the wheel, mistakes can kill.

by jmarcusse on Feb 22, 2013 11:49 am • linkreport

@Alan

Here's what I would propose: drivers drive at a sufficiently slow speed near marked and unmarked crosswalks so that they have enough time to see and yield to pedestrians who are not wearing reflective vests.

by Falls Church on Feb 22, 2013 11:54 am • linkreport

I was hit by a car last week while crossing in a marked crosswalk, with the green light and walk signal (about 30 seconds left on the timer). I was wearing an orange jacket and carrying an umbrella. The driver got out of his car and, in lieu of apologizing, exclaimed "I DIDN'T SEE YOU!!! I DIDN'T SEE YOU!!!" repeatedly. Um... I could only have been more visible if I'd been wearing a strobe light. Thankfully, no harm besides some soreness (almost jumped out of the way and got only a glancing blow).

If a driver isn't looking for pedestrians where they're supposed to be, it doesn't matter what the pedestrian is wearing. When people are getting hit in crosswalks and on sidewalks it's a driver awareness and competence issue. That said, I think AWITC has a good measured response above about pedestrian responsibility.

by CapHill on Feb 22, 2013 11:55 am • linkreport

I find it really disheartening that the county police department's director of the traffic division didn't think that this was a good time to remind drivers to obey the speed limits, or that this was a tragic reminder to people that when they are behind the wheel, mistakes can kill.

Bingo.

The officer could have said any number of things about what the various participants could have done. He chose to single out only the class the victim belonged to AND note that this was the ONLY THING he could think of to tell people!

by MLD on Feb 22, 2013 11:58 am • linkreport

"Here's what I would propose: drivers drive at a sufficiently slow speed near marked and unmarked crosswalks so that they have enough time to see and yield to pedestrians who are not wearing reflective vests."

35MPH on well lit arterials instead of 45MPH (plus the usual 5MPH over the limit buffer) and 25MPH on less lit suburban 2 lane through roads?

Good luck getting any suburban county to pass that. I don't see it happening in Fairfax.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 22, 2013 12:03 pm • linkreport

@CapHill

You can only imagine how much worse that problem is in the suburbs. I often walk along Leesburg Pike (VA's version of Rockville Pike for you Marylanders) and invariably there are people making a right on red who only are looking for cars coming from the left. Once there are no cars coming, they will actually start their turn without even turning their head to look straight (much less look to the right). I've taken to knocking on their car to let them know I'm about to cross in front of them, which usually startles them but they give a nod of appreciation too.

by Falls Church on Feb 22, 2013 12:04 pm • linkreport

35MPH on well lit arterials instead of 45MPH (plus the usual 5MPH over the limit buffer) and 25MPH on less lit suburban 2 lane through roads?

Good luck getting any suburban county to pass that. I don't see it happening in Fairfax.

You don't need to change the speed limit or any laws. The existing laws already tell drivers that they must drive in a manner that allows them yield when they are supposed to. If you have to slow down when you come to a crosswalk in order to give yourself enough time to potentially yield, then that's simply what you have to do under existing law.

Changing the speed limit would actually provide a false sense of security because it implies that the only thing you need to worry about is staying under the limit. What drivers need to do is modulate their driving based on road conditions -- such as coming around a blind corner or a dark crosswalk, etc.

by Falls Church on Feb 22, 2013 12:10 pm • linkreport

Don't we encourage cyclists to have reflective gear on their bikes? Not sure why the same suggestion shouldn't apply for pedestrians..whether they actually do it or not.

The article mentions that Didone sent the quote mentioned here in an e-mail. Did Whitney Teal cut and past what she considered egregious or did Didone really submit a two-sentence e-mail?

by HogWash on Feb 22, 2013 12:12 pm • linkreport

Going to support my Town, Takoma Park, here. The many crosswalks for pedestrians, calmed streets, and stop signs and lights on Carroll, Flower, Piney Branch, University are really, really beneficial for this problem. I walk very often in this area and locals in Takoma Park are very courteous to pedestrians --- because the roads encourage them to be. The US 29 and NH ave corridors are not pedestrian friendly at all. Every time I drive them I am wary and friendly to pedestrians, but most are not. The right turn on green into a white walking signal is a huge issue (I get honked at for waiting for peds), as @Gull mentioned.

However, I don't know how you improve the White Oak area. Apartment buildings with hundreds and hundreds of people, thousands of feet from where they want to walk... and most of those feet are lanes of 40-55mph roads. Ugh.

by Nick on Feb 22, 2013 12:14 pm • linkreport

Hearing this from MoCo police doesn't surprise me at all, since I walk down Sligo Ave. in front of the SS police station every day.

There's a painted crosswalk half a block from the police station. It's directly under a streetlight, and has a reflective sign on each side saying that state law dictates that drivers must yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk--then an arrow pointing at the crosswalk.

I have had multiple close calls with police officers flying down this road, where the speed limit is 30, and refusing to yield to someone in the crosswalk. RideOn drivers also refuse to yield. And this is on what should be a slow-moving residential street--see comments above for how bad it is at the big intersections in DTSS. But if police officers and county bus drivers can't be bothered to obey the clearly stated law here, why should we expect anyone else to?

by Gray on Feb 22, 2013 12:17 pm • linkreport

Don't we encourage cyclists to have reflective gear on their bikes? Not sure why the same suggestion shouldn't apply for pedestrians..whether they actually do it or not.

Because its blaming the victim.

by drumz on Feb 22, 2013 12:17 pm • linkreport

Moreover, how is reflective clothing supposed to protect you against someone incapable of controlling their vehicle?

by drumz on Feb 22, 2013 12:18 pm • linkreport

HogWash,
I'm not wearing a blaze orange suit to work everyday, and I wouldn't suggest that drivers need to paint their cars a dayglo color and festoon them with strobe lights, like that would make any difference.

by spookiness on Feb 22, 2013 12:25 pm • linkreport

Besides the large residential towers at NH Ave in White Oak, there's also a large Orthodox Jewish community along 29 near where that guy was hit. On Saturdays they are walking along 29, children, strollers, entire families. That should also tell MoCo that they need better pedestrian protection, including more crosswalks, wider sidewalks (the portion between the Trader Joe's and University is awfully narrow) complete with bollards, and bulb-outs to keep drivers from speeding.

by dc denizen on Feb 22, 2013 12:26 pm • linkreport

Why are the police allowed to get away with this nonsense? Do you think the spokesmen would be still in any position of authority if he had said rape victims should not have been out at night? I am writing to the council, and encourage others to do the same.

Pedestrians are only required to do what is reasonable. Being drunk and walking down the beltway is not reasonable. Trying to cross at a legal crosswalk, or walking down the sidewalk, is reasonable, even without flashing lights.

by SJE on Feb 22, 2013 12:27 pm • linkreport

As to the bike comment: there are plenty of cases where cyclists ARE wearing bright colors, helmets, lights etc, and get hit, and the MoCo police seem to blame the cyclist. Its just lazy policing.

by SJE on Feb 22, 2013 12:29 pm • linkreport

@FC

Where I live there are crosswalks, but few pedestriains using them. Nobody slows below the speed limit for them UNLESS they see a pedestrian in them (IF then). I don't see that behavior changing, or FFX county police enforcing slowing down at unused crosswalks. If they did the pressure would mount to unstripe the crosswalks. If the police enforced unmarket crosswalks that way, there would be full scale rebellion.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 22, 2013 12:30 pm • linkreport

I think it's the complete abdication of all reponsibility by drivers that sticks in people's craw. There was a recent post on a Capitol Hill mailing list where a mother asked for stepped up enforcement at the corner of 7th and Maryland NE--an intersection that's particularly dangerous because there's no signal, and entitled Maryland commuters treat it as an extension of US-50.

One of the responses came from a driver who argued that drivers can't really be blamed because when a car stops for a pedestrian, it's difficult to see around that car, even if you're going slow, even if you're driving 25 mph!

Because, you know, there's different speeds: there's "in a hurry", there's "normal speed", then there's "really slow", and then finally, there's "the speed limit" which is the theoretical lowest limit. Kinda like zero Kelvin.

by oboe on Feb 22, 2013 12:32 pm • linkreport

Maybe blinking lights at the crossings would also help save lives. The basic idea is that when a pedestrian wants to cross, they press a button at the intersection that triggers the lights. The lights flash to let drivers know that a pedestrian is crossing. After a predetermined time, the lights would turn off. This system would be somewhat similar to a railroad crossing. It could be installed at all intersections near a bus stop.

by Alan on Feb 22, 2013 12:32 pm • linkreport

Montgomery County does issue tickets. I don't think you have all of the facts and that quote is taken completely out of context.

by Sara on Feb 22, 2013 12:33 pm • linkreport

I mean are we talking about

A. what the policeman should have said

B. What pedestrians should do for their own safety

C. How traffic enforcement should change

A. Sure he should have ALSO said that cars need to stay within limits, look for peds in crosswalks, etc. It was not a good comment by the cop

B. Nonetheless, I drive, bike and walk defensively - I assume the other guys is going to do something wrong. In the case of crossing a street at a Xwalk without stop sign or signal protection, that goes triple - they mostly ALL will go at speed till they see a ped. I can protect myself, or I can die to make a point.

C. While theres a lot that can be done for the more heavily used crossings, in places where there are few peds, I dont think there is any LE or infrastructure solution that is politicall feasible.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 22, 2013 12:34 pm • linkreport

"The basic idea is that when a pedestrian wants to cross, they press a button at the intersection that triggers the lights. "

yeah, this is the best idea, but only if the counties will pay for it.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 22, 2013 12:35 pm • linkreport

@Sara: What facts do you believe are missing here?

by Gray on Feb 22, 2013 12:38 pm • linkreport

I'm not wearing a blaze orange suit to work everyday, and I wouldn't suggest that drivers need to paint their cars a dayglo color and festoon them with strobe lights, like that would make any difference.

Uhmm, I'm not particularly concerned about what you suggest for drivers nor what clothes you wear to work. I'm specifically talking about reasonable advice...which is what the Captain did. It's not a mandate..it's a suggestion. And know what seems to know whether he only made a 2-sentence public comment or whether the quote was cherry-picked. If so, then shame on us for being consistently ridiculous.

by HogWash on Feb 22, 2013 12:42 pm • linkreport

@AWalkerInTheCity,

You make a good point. The reason things are the way they are in the suburbs is because there is overwhelming public pressure to make them that way. And even the urbanizing areas of MD and VA are unlikely to become a whole lot more pedestrian friendly, simply because politicians in county and statewide office are accountable to the anti-pedestrian majority.

It's also one of the reasons I'm more confident in DC's ability to continue to transform itself. It's voters are more politically homogenous, and the more pedestrian-friendly it becomes, the less likely car-centric folks are going to want to live here.

by oboe on Feb 22, 2013 12:44 pm • linkreport

@AWalkerInTheCity
I can protect myself, or I can die to make a point.

I honestly agree with most of the stuff you've said here but this is just the same blame-the-victim crap. Nobody's walking into an intersection with the intention of getting hit. People already walk defensively and try to avoid getting hit.

These places are all way over-designed, and especially at night when there's no traffic people are driving way too fast to be able to stop for someone crossing the road. Just look at that first intersection mentioned - one direction has a big hill crest, there's no way somebody driving 45+MPH down that road is going to see anybody crossing the road, and there's no way an old or disabled person is going to be able to get out of the way in time. If only he'd walked more defensively or walked out of his way for 15-20 minutes to reach the nearest signalized crosswalk!

by MLD on Feb 22, 2013 12:45 pm • linkreport

ah, oboe.

Of course I am talking about a 35MPH two lane road in fairfax, where there there are probably less than a dozen peds crossing in a 24 hour period. If that.

Arlington and City of Alexandria are another world, already. And even Fairfax will pay more attention at places where there are actually lots of pedestrians. Though they tend to favor infrastructure (nice ribbon cuttings, and it can increase property values just by looking nice - see Mosaic district) over enforcement.

A problem it is. A bar to change, not as much as you might like to think.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 22, 2013 12:49 pm • linkreport

@HogWash: To answer your original question, bikers need headlights and taillights because they are traveling in the road with cars. Pedestrians, on the other hand, should not need flashing lights when crossing at legal crosswalks, where it is the responsibility of the driver to (a) have headlights that allow her to see obstacles, and (b) be driving slowly and attentatively enough that she can avoid hitting obstacles.

by Gray on Feb 22, 2013 12:50 pm • linkreport

Sara - In the last 9 months of FY2011, the most recent data I've seen, the Montgomery police pedestrian safety initiative stopped 2609 pedestrians and 127 drivers.

by Ben Ross on Feb 22, 2013 12:50 pm • linkreport

You can tell who is driving around that also lives in down-county as they are always nicer to pedestrians, probably because they are one sometimes too.

Yup...most of the time anyway.

It's as if the police put priority on keeping traffic from backing up when push comes to shove. I'm certainly sure the State engineers think that way when they design the roads in down county.

Yes, and yes!

I was at a workshop at MWCOG the other day and someone from MDSHA basically said that a lot of his colleagues view state highways as avenues to get as many vehicles through the area as possible.

At the Mt. Rainier city council meeting on Tuesday a parking study was presented by a consultant who asked if we had approached the SHA regarding safer ways for pedestrians to cross Rt.1/RI Ave (there is a huge imbalance of parking from one side to the other). I think every council member laughed uncomfortably at the same time b/c yes, we have indeed been pressing the SHA for over 10 years to do something about the speedway that is Rt. 1 (especially off-peak). It's like crickets chirping when you contact them and they seem to have no desire to do anything about the disproportionate amount of deaths and injuries that happen on the roads they control.
I think the SHA and the Dept. of Transportation both should be scrapped entirely in favor of a Dept. of Transportation AND Land Use. Honestly though...the SHA is completely tone deaf on anything other than the movement of motor vehicles.

by thump on Feb 22, 2013 12:53 pm • linkreport

@oboe

Are DC voters politically homogeneous? For all of the griping about Maryland drivers I hear about, there are suburban sections of the city from the Palisades to Shepherd Park to Hillcrest whose residents (and community leaders and often elected representatives) carry the same mindset and approach to pedestrians. In Silver Spring, the biggest complaints about parking and traffic are now coming from people who live in Shepherd Park.

I agree that people who want to live a car-light or car-free lifestyle will self-select into certain neighborhoods, but there are an increasing number of those places in Montgomery County and throughout the region. Maybe we're a little behind DC, but there's still a constituency for it and our elected officials are starting to pay attention. The Planning Department is there already. We'll see in 2014 whether the next County Executive and future Councilmembers will push to ensure our Department of Transportation and Police Department follow as well.

by dan reed! on Feb 22, 2013 12:55 pm • linkreport

"Nobody's walking into an intersection with the intention of getting hit. People already walk defensively and try to avoid getting hit."

I am referring specifically to the reflective vest idea. While not the best thing for the cop to have focused on, it seems like a good idea to me as a suburban ped.

As for old and disabled people, the crossings Im thinking of in Fairfax are basically off limits to them. If you can't hussle through the gaps in traffic, you are either going to wait 30 minutes to cross, or cross in ways that I find to scary. Thats not good. Its not going to change, unless there are a lot more pedestrians. Given the densities, the unwalkablity of the commercial area nearby (which is supposed to change, but theres no money) and the usual mode share, there are never going to be many pedestrians there.

Id say pushing the county to hand out free vests is a strategy more likely to save lives in such places than pushing it to change speed limits or LE strategies - while I disagreed with Oboe above, he is closer to the reality than some of the other comments here.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 22, 2013 12:57 pm • linkreport

@AWITC
Nobody slows below the speed limit for them UNLESS they see a pedestrian in them (IF then).

First off, the single most important thing is that drivers actually look for peds in these intersections. That solves 90% of the problem because if you actually look hard enough to potentially see a ped (especially one not wearing reflective clothing), you will automatically slow down. The more "data" you give your brain to process, the slower you will move.

I don't a change to the law is necessary or a change in enforcement practical. What needs to change is driver awareness of peds so they get in the habit of looking for peds. I know this is possible because I used to be pretty oblivious to peds a while ago. Over time, after enough experiences of being surprised at seeing peds in crosswalks, I've learned to look out for them. I feel pretty confident that I would see a ped in most normal situations (even if they're not wearing reflective clothing) and I'd describe myself as a more aggressive driver than average (but I know when to slow down and be more cautious).

by Falls Church on Feb 22, 2013 1:04 pm • linkreport

@AWITC-If I could zero in on this small comment you made where there there are probably less than a dozen peds crossing in a 24 hour period. If that.

It strikes me as a bit of a chicken/egg problem. I get that many/most? suburban locations will not have a large pedestrian presence even if there is fantastic pedestrian infrastructure. However, one thing we've experienced, in Mt. Rainier at least and I'm sure it's exactly the same in other close-in MD "streetcar" burbs, is despite our desire to implement a more walkable core, the SHA doesn't see the need b/c they say there aren't enough peds to justify improvements. Our argument continues to be "Well...there are no peds b/c it sucks to walk! If you'd do something, or allow us to do something, that makes walking safer and more enjoyable, more people would walk."
Again though, the SHA is tone-deaf on anything other than the motoring public.

by thump on Feb 22, 2013 1:05 pm • linkreport

Should have closed those italics...sorry.

by thump on Feb 22, 2013 1:06 pm • linkreport

Thump

Im referring to a place in annandale, in one of the residential areas off the main drag. Its a mix of townhomes, conventional SFHs and McMansions, many on lots of 1/2 acre or more.

The commercial core of the nabe could be redeveloped as higher density mixed use - there is already a form based code in effect. Its held back both by the market preference for places closer to Tysons, to rail transit, or to the core - but also by its infrastructure. The county has a plan for rebuilding Little River Turnpike as a complete street (while also accommodating motor traffic) but there is no money allocated. AFAIK VDOT is on board. But its up to the County to prioritize the expenditure.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 22, 2013 1:16 pm • linkreport

If drivers aren't paying attention it doesn't matter what a pedestrian or bicyclist is wearing.

I have the experience regularly bicycling where i AM dressed like a hunter in the woods AND i have strobe lights flashing- day and night- and I see the driver at the cross street look in my direction and yet still pull out in front of me causing a near miss. I have often puzzled over this: How could they look right at me and not see me? I'm dressed like a neon sign headed at you and you didn't see me? How? Why?

Then i heard this story about perception: If you aren't looking for it, you don't see it even when its blatantly obvious. Drivers need education education education to LOOK with a Capital L for non-motorized road users, and to SEE with a Capital S.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2013/02/11/171409656/why-even-radiologists-can-miss-a-gorilla-hiding-in-plain-sight

by Tina on Feb 22, 2013 1:18 pm • linkreport

and oh yeah, I think Mt Ranier has better walkability bones than Annandale. Mt Ranier is a street car suburb, with one very nasty arterial through it. Annandale is a complete hodge podge of essentially rural roads with a 1950s suburb squeezed in around them.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 22, 2013 1:19 pm • linkreport

Are DC voters politically homogeneous?

Certainly not. But they're growing more so daily. And it's clear that in DC we've already hit a tipping point. The folks who live in auto-dependent neighborhoods in DC is small in comparison to those that don't. In ten years that percentage will be miniscule.

I think it's amazing what Silver Spring has accomplished over the last couple of decades, and I think it's too close to DC proper for the larger political entity to screw things up. I'm less optimistic for places like Tysons and downstate VA interests.

by oboe on Feb 22, 2013 1:20 pm • linkreport

Pedestrians, on the other hand, should not need flashing lights when crossing at legal crosswalks

Not sure what you're arguing here. Did someone suggest they wear flashing lights or did you just pick that up in the hyperbole-hour we've been having in here? No, I don't see a problem w/providing pedestrian guidance. Outside of, "well, he didn't say anything about cars," I don't get what's wrong w/the suggestion.

by HogWash on Feb 22, 2013 1:24 pm • linkreport

Tina: It's like those great London "look out for cyclists" PSAs:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ubNF9QNEQLA
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ahg6qcgoay4

by David Alpert on Feb 22, 2013 1:28 pm • linkreport

"should not need flashing lights"

I shouldnt need to be particularly careful about my electronic devices when Im on the metro. The world is not as it should be. I learned that a long time ago.

Tina - Im pretty sure all bike fora, etc recommend "be seen" lights despite them not being 100% effective for all drivers. As with all solutions, its a matter of improving outcomes at the margin.

Oboe- I think you are right that DC is well ahead of the suburbs on these issues - I mean just contrast your council with our legislature on biking legislation - its like night and day. OTOH while richmond has thrown some monkey wrenches into Tysons, Tysons has some powerful momentum, and the County has a lot riding on it. They may neglect Rte 1, Annandale, and the peds in more outlying places, but Tysons WILL end up transformed, if not exactly like Eckington, say.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 22, 2013 1:31 pm • linkreport

@AWITC-you seem uncharacteristically defensive about the idea that drivers could improve their vigilance; that these crashes could be prevented with some change in drivers' behavior regarding what they are paying attention to when they drive. If i'm invisible, like the gorilla, b/c drivers are looking ONLY for cars, thats a problem w/ driver behavior. See @Falls Churchs comments above. See the link to the study and to the London PSA'a @David Alpert provided.

by Tina on Feb 22, 2013 1:46 pm • linkreport

@HogWash:

Not sure what you're arguing here. Did someone suggest they wear flashing lights or did you just pick that up in the hyperbole-hour we've been having in here?

Well, your original question was:
Don't we encourage cyclists to have reflective gear on their bikes? Not sure why the same suggestion shouldn't apply for pedestrians..whether they actually do it or not.

We then had a discussion involving reflective gear and flashing lights. So what part is confusing you?

by Gray on Feb 22, 2013 1:55 pm • linkreport

@Tina, I think you might be reading too much into AWITC's post. I don't think he/she's being defensive at all. Is it possible that you've formed this opinion because he's not beating up on drivers...which is inconsistent w/how we normally talk about this issues?

by HogWash on Feb 22, 2013 1:55 pm • linkreport

Tina

Id love to see drivers (by the way Hog, many around here are miserable) improve their behavior. They havent so far though. Id support an educational campaign - though I bet even that won't help that much.

remember our discussions of the helmet law - the cyclists are safer when there are MORE of them, because drivers become aware of cyclists less through educational campaigns, than by seeing lots of cyclists. I think the same holds true with pedestrians. drivers dont expect to see peds in places like the back roads of FFX because mostly, they don't exist.

Meanwhile I need to take action to protect my own life. If that means wearing an orange vest, so be it.

The bikers motto is be visible - by clothing, by lights, by numbers, by position in the road. Why, when it comes to peds, do we want to leave it to education?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 22, 2013 2:03 pm • linkreport

Hog

"Is it possible that you've formed this opinion because he's not beating up on drivers...which is inconsistent w/how we normally talk about this issues? "

have you missed my references to drivers speeding? That I want to protect myself does not mean I excuse poor behavior by motorists.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 22, 2013 2:05 pm • linkreport

@AWITC The bikers motto is be visible - by clothing, by lights, by numbers, by position in the road. Why, when it comes to peds, do we want to leave it to education?

My comment re: education included "all non-motorized road users". Its not enough to be seen, by some motorists WHO LOOK RIGHT AT ME, to wear high viz and have blinking powerful lights day AND night. Its not enough for people walking either. At some point I reach the limit of what i can do to protect myself and I rely on motorists to be aware - to SEE me, that is to LOOK for me so they CAN see me. My point is, we have evidence that people don't see something blatantly obvious in front of their lyin' eyes if they haven't told their brain to look for it. I can't tell a drivers' brain what to look for. A driver must do that him/herself. I depend on drivers doing that. I don't care what the circumstances are. Being vigilant by definition means not being complacent and lazy.

by Tina on Feb 22, 2013 2:27 pm • linkreport

tina

I don't disagree that drivers should be more aware. And that actions to be more visible will not ensure 100% safety. But I see an action that I have control over, and I don't see why its a bad idea.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 22, 2013 2:35 pm • linkreport

The same officer also wrote
Any time that three pedestrians lose their life in a short period of time is something that we take seriously
in his e-mail to Whitney Teal. Are we to assume the police department doesn't take it seriously if it isn't a short period of time or that they don't take pedestrian life seriously at all? Do they only care about accidents that occur with pedestrians at night? We don't know the full text or context of the e-mail (although it's a strange read when it's described as "told" and "wrote" in the same article). Of course the first step to pedestrian safety is for pedestrians to act safely. As I've stated in past comment sections especially after articles by Ben Ross and towards a couple commenters like Tina, we should not get caught up in the "blame game." However, that does not mean pedestrians are never at fault or don't contribute to accidents nor does it mean drivers are never at fault. There are some areas that can be improved for all modes of travel whether by automobile, bicycle or by foot. What has happened has already happened. It is important to look at contributing factors and then examine if there are reasonable actions that can be done to prevent those accidents in the future.

by selxic on Feb 22, 2013 2:37 pm • linkreport

My first question is what is the advantage of unmarked crosswalks? Shouldn't they all be clearly marked for everyone's mutual ease of recognition?

Secondly, obviously drivers should always proceed with caution, whether with regard to other vehicles or pedestrians or deer. But even with headlights blazing, in dark stretches of road it can sometimes be tricky to pick out pedestrians from a distance unless they're already in the center of the road. There should be proper lighting at all crosswalks.

by Chris on Feb 22, 2013 2:39 pm • linkreport

A lot of folks here seem quick to blame the driver for the pedestrian death at Oak Leaf Drive. Consider this: I've driven through that stretch of 29 at least a hundred times, and I had absolutely no idea that there is a "crosswalk." I'm a pretty contentious person, but I simply did not know due to the fact that this "crosswalk" is, as many have noted, unmarked. Is a driver who commutes from Columbia to DC really expected to stare at the curb while driving down 29 just in case there is a point at which a sidewalk turns into an unmarked crosswalk? Instead of blaming the victim or the driver, maybe they could buy a couple gallons of white paint and a sign and mark the crosswalk.

by David on Feb 22, 2013 2:41 pm • linkreport

..I would add, that all that i do while biking to make myself visible is indeed a part of the education process of motorists. "See Me! See Me! I'm Here! I'm Here!"

Its not enough. The system we have is failing to educate drivers to Look for non-motorized road users, and to See them, and to be vigilant about the possibility of their presence and to always accept the responsibility of being the guardian, that is, as the one one who gives the right of way to the other more vulnerable person.

by Tina on Feb 22, 2013 2:43 pm • linkreport

@Selxic -did i blame anyone? I pointed out evidence of human nature and the nature of perception and how that contributes to the crashes, and offered solutions for it-education. How is that "blaming", which is nonconstructive and facile?

by Tina on Feb 22, 2013 2:47 pm • linkreport

But I see an action that I have control over, and I don't see why its a bad idea.

I agree. its not a bad idea. Buts there are limits to its power. And there are other ideas that are "not bad" over which individuals do not have control. They include: better education, and some paint and some lights (at the cross walks). All contribute to preventing crashes.

by Tina on Feb 22, 2013 2:55 pm • linkreport

@ CapHill:"I DIDN'T SEE YOU!!! I DIDN'T SEE YOU!!!"

My standard response to that: "Then you weren't looking".

by Jasper on Feb 22, 2013 3:02 pm • linkreport

In all the comments about how Ffx county won't implement some of these pedestrian safety ideas, I don't see one glaringly essential piece of information. For the vast majority of roads, Fairfax does not own them - VDOT does. Things like median strips, crosswalks, lit crosswalks, etc. all need to 1) Be paid for and 2) Be approved by VDOT. I've worked as a civic assoc. president for six years in SE fairfax, and believe me, getting VDOT to put pedestrian needs front and center is pulling teeth. I have found the folks at Ffx DOT and my district supervisor to be much more supportive of these efforts. They aren't the hold up, at least in my neck of the woods.

by Chris S on Feb 22, 2013 3:06 pm • linkreport

I live in Silver Spring and work pretty far north and agree that drivers are fairly reckless, ESPECIALLY with right turns into crosswalks. At the same time, I probably have to deal with 1-2 peds a day that either:

1. Cross against a solid red hand when I have a green going straight up Colesville.

2. Cross at some random place that isn't a marked or unmarked crosswalk. This becomes a problem when they cross a 6 lane rd. even though they don't have the visibility to guarantee ~30s of clear roads(I'm looking at you 16th St. between E-W and Georgia).

3. Cross against a solid red hand when I have a protected green left turn arrow. There's a reason you have to wait ten seconds to left the left turners through. Instead, the green arrow ends, peds get the right of way, and nobody gets through the left turn. Rinse, wash, repeat, and watch the traffic back up (Colesville-EW is really bad for this).

What they need to do is build a high speed road to connect the beltway directly with 16th at the DC border or something like that. The county's just trying to have it both ways by having arterials that also serve a huge number of peds in residential areas. Maybe a tunnel of some sort. Some ped bridges around the metro stop would be nice too. And a pony!

by Jim on Feb 22, 2013 3:14 pm • linkreport

have you missed my references to drivers speeding? That I want to protect myself does not mean I excuse poor behavior by motorists.

Well no. I did see it. I'm talking about how Tina vs. I interpreted what you wrote. She seems to think you're excusing drivers, I didn't. But if you feel as if you really were going in on drivers, then ok.

by HogWash on Feb 22, 2013 3:19 pm • linkreport

I was hoping that CM Nancy Floreen would say that pedestrians need to wear helmets.

by JimT on Feb 22, 2013 3:22 pm • linkreport

Selxic, Tina,

I'd comment that most times when we have a car/pedestrian (or bike) collision everyone tries to figure out who's at fault. Most places they're trying to find a way to absolve the driver but on here its the opposite. Anyway, it often leads to tortured scenarios based on information that no one has but can only assume.

Now, we cover a lot of stories here and like Selxic says, sometimes its the driver's fault and sometimes the pedestrian's. However, on balance, that seems to indicate to me that there is a general safety problem and the best way to fix that is to improve the education and increase the liability of drivers (because they pose the greater risk)while designing streets that default to protecting vulnerable users better. We already have the means to figure out who's at fault. Let's reduce the rate.

Now, what does this have to do with the Police Spokesman's response? Everything, it's one thing to say you care about pedestrian safety its another to say in the preceding sentences that the burden of safety (and the only thing to learn from this) lies moreso in a pedestrian wearing bright clothing rather than operating you car within the bounds of the law. That shows a failure to think systemically (or at least express yourself that way) and rather default to figuring out who's to blame.

by drumz on Feb 22, 2013 3:24 pm • linkreport

Are we to assume the police department doesn't take it seriously if it isn't a short period of time or that they don't take pedestrian life seriously at all?

If you follow the dialogue here, YES that is the assumption. And NO, no one cares if he said anything else.

by HogWash on Feb 22, 2013 3:26 pm • linkreport

JimT

Helmets with helmet lights would work best, eh?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 22, 2013 3:30 pm • linkreport

That shows a failure to think systemically (or at least express yourself that way) and rather default to figuring out who's to blame.

Did you receive the e-mail? I'm just trying to understand how you can be make such a value judgement against an entire police dep't if you don't have reasonable evidence to back it up.

by HogWash on Feb 22, 2013 3:30 pm • linkreport

It's what he's quoted as saying. In the story.

"The only thing that I see that could be newsworthy is advice to pedestrians to make sure that they have or wear reflective clothing or items when they walk at night to increase their visibility," Captain Thomas Didone told the Patch.

So the only thing worth talking about is how we should wear bright clothes if we don't want to be killed while walking.

This man leads traffic enforcement for a county of almost 1M people.

by drumz on Feb 22, 2013 3:32 pm • linkreport

Good point JimT! In the same vein, all people living in rough neighborhoods should be wearing bullet proof vests, or its only their own fault if they get shot.

by SJE on Feb 22, 2013 3:33 pm • linkreport

Capt Didone's comment should also be put in contest of his "pedestrian safety" initiative that stopped about 10x as many pedestrians as drivers, apparently not because the peds were more blame-worthy, but because its a lot easier to stop a ped than someone zooming along in a car. Again, it suggests MoCo sees ped-car interactions through the lens of getting pedestrians out of the way of drivers.

by SJE on Feb 22, 2013 3:38 pm • linkreport

So the only thing worth talking about is how we should wear bright clothes if we don't want to be killed while walking.

I'm not sure. But it would be nice to understand the context...especially considering how we don't like the practice of "lifting quotes" to make a point. Well, ok, we don't ALWAYS like it.

by HogWash on Feb 22, 2013 3:49 pm • linkreport

My first question is what is the advantage of unmarked crosswalks?

To a pedestrian, nothing.
To the state, $$$.

by thump on Feb 22, 2013 3:53 pm • linkreport

Jim, do you really think the introduction of a "a high speed road to connect the beltway directly with 16th at the DC border or something like that" would encourage drivers to drive more slowly elsewhere?

by Capt. Hilts on Feb 22, 2013 3:55 pm • linkreport

I don't see how there is some explanation that would change the meaning of what he said.

by Drumz on Feb 22, 2013 4:19 pm • linkreport

I see a repeating meme on this site that implies there is a war between cars and pedestrians, or cars and bicycles. Stop hating on drivers and cars!! Pedestrians have an obligation to themselves and their fellow citizens to be careful. It's foolish to start blindly crossing the street, assuming that approaching drivers see you....especially if it's dark and your clothing does not help. I almost hit a bicyclist one night this week. I was waiting for a light to turn on to Mass Ave, and he was waiting for same light to cross the Ave. I actually did see him pull up to the intersection. Then, a bus came down the street behind me, facing me. The light changed, the bus came at me and I at the bus, both of us making left turns. So, we both turned...in front of each other.

Because of the bus headlights in my face, I could no longer see the cyclist, whom I had forgotten about probably 30 seconds earlier. It was only when I turned and was about to pass through the crosswalk that I could see the bicyclist in the crosswalk. I did stop im time, but probably not before startling the biker. It wasn't my fault though -- bicyclist wore black jacket, riding dark bicycle, and no light.

Those saying that cars are recklessly charging into the intersection are ignoring one thing -- they usually have the light, which is usually pretty short, for making turns (exception for those making right on red). The problem is the timing of the lights that do not have a separate period for pedestrians to enter the crosswalk before cars get their green light. That's where the problem lies.

My guess is most European countries do time their lights to favor pedestrians -- with a brief period in which only pedestrians are allowed to proceed. That would make all the difference here. Real walk light buttons that would give pedestrians an EXCLUSIVE right-of-way.

by Fischy (Ed F.) on Feb 22, 2013 4:23 pm • linkreport

Tina,
1. I never said you did.
2. Please re-read my comments.

by selxic on Feb 22, 2013 4:28 pm • linkreport

@Capt. Hilts

Not by itself, but I think you could combine a real arterial road with some lane reductions in Silver Spring proper to get the desired effect.

Personally, I'd like to see Colesville be reduced to 4 lanes with a BRT lane (along with 16th st in DC) each way and no parking anytime. Also, similarly redo 16th St above EW Hwy as well so it's not a 6 lane speedway.

The main point is that it's an uphill battle to try to emphasize ped safety when the trouble spots are designed to be suburban access roads. I don't think you can make those roads ped friendly without making the speed limits 25 mph because there's just too much going on on Colesville and the visibility on much of 16th is awful due to terrain. However, you'll never get those limits because those are the main ways into town from the north. Hence, the need for a new road.

I also get that it's probably not possible due to land issues and general inertia. But I think a complete redo of the MD-DC border at 16th combined with some sort of new high speed road would allow Silver Spring to become more of a neighborhood as opposed to just an area people are forced to drive through to get to DC. Then you can tweak limits as needed to maximize safety for local peds with much less effect on the commute and pushback from county reps.

by Jim on Feb 22, 2013 4:32 pm • linkreport

I don't hate cars I hate the constant assertion that "I didn't see you!" Is an adequate defense when you hit someone. That's not a problem with traffic lights or approaching headlights.

by Drumz on Feb 22, 2013 4:32 pm • linkreport

I also don't hate cars, and own two myself. I hate that I, and my family (including three children) cannot get around without fear of being killed by someone in a motor vehicle.

Expenditures on motor vehicle transport greatly outweighs all others combined. That is not so bad, given that there are a lot of drivers. What is inexcusable is law and policy gives very little protection to the most vulnerable users (peds, cyclists, scooters etc). As a resident of downcounty MoCo, I also object to my MoCo tax dollars going overwhelmingly to motorized vehicles, which benefits upper MoCo residents who zoom through my area from DC, while MoCo resists improving ped and bike safety for downcounty residents.

by SJE on Feb 22, 2013 4:45 pm • linkreport

Fischy: your comment illustrates everything that is wrong about drivers blaming others. You think that it was HIS fault because he was not wearing lights.

The cyclist was in the crosswalk, and crossing with the light. In that situation YOU have an obligation to watch for him. If you could not see because of the bus's lights, stop, and wait until its safe.

I advocate that bikers should have been wearing bright colors and have a light. I also understand that accidents happen. But to immediately blame him, when you are at fault, underscores the problem we are talking about, as amply illustrated by Capt. Didione's inadvertant honesty.

by SJE on Feb 22, 2013 4:55 pm • linkreport

Pedestrians have an obligation to themselves and their fellow citizens to be careful. It's foolish to start blindly crossing the street, assuming that approaching drivers see you....

Does anyone actually think that there's a non-trivial portion of the walking public that "blindly crosses the street" and never takes any care? If area drivers exhibited 1/100th of the amount of care that pedestrians and cyclists do we'd probably eliminate road deaths. But they very often don't for one simple reason: they don't have to. They know if they run some pedestrian down while texting or trying to unwrap their Big Mac, the local police chief will simply issue a press release saying that pedestrians should look both ways and try to be visible.

And the fact that you really, really want to "make the light" doesn't magically transfer right-of-way from pedestrians to you. If you have to miss the light and wait another light cycle, that's what you're legally obligated to do.

by oboe on Feb 22, 2013 5:10 pm • linkreport

Because of the bus headlights in my face, I could no longer see the cyclist,

This right here. You "couldn't see" what you were turning into, but you just went ahead anyway? Why? Because subconsciously you know that there probably won't be anyone there, and even if there is, there are no consequences if anything happens! There could have been any number of things over there, a bicyclist, an old lady, somebody jogging with their dog. Just because you saw or didn't see them before doesn't mean you can just blindly drive wherever. But yeah, definitely the bicyclist's fault because he was wearing black.

If area drivers exhibited 1/100th of the amount of care that pedestrians and cyclists do we'd probably eliminate road deaths.

No kidding.

by MLD on Feb 22, 2013 5:29 pm • linkreport

I suppose there is a "war". Group A kills and injures group B, and group A not only gets away with it, but blames group B, and has the power of the police backing group A. Tribal identity matters more than the actions. We have seen this in pre-civil rights South, and in all sorts of ethnic conflicts. Now B is asking to be treated equally under the law, and A feels aggrieved: all these uppity B's, challenging how its supposed to be.

by SJE on Feb 22, 2013 5:44 pm • linkreport

I didn't read all the comments yet, but, while light-colored clothes, reflective items, and other suggestions to increase your visibility are GOOD ideas, they're certainly not a cure-all. My winter coat is tan. I chose that color deliberately. For non-dress occasions in warmer weather, still needing a jacket, I wear a BRIGHT BLUE (nearly neon) fleece coat. I admit that my spring/fall dress coat is black, so I'm not perfect, I guess. I can't do anything about the fact that my dog is all black, but I do have a reflective harness and collar on him, reflective striping on his leash, as well as one of these on the clip of his leash: http://www.petsmart.com/product/index.jsp?productId=2753697 I also carry one of those dog tags on my keys, and carry them in my hand with it on at night. My purse umbrella is lavender and has a reflective strip around the edge of it. My "home" umbrella is one of those obnoxious rainbow-colored golf umbrellas.

Yet, I still have had my fair share of close calls. One of the most telling happened last winter. I came to a 4-way-stop intersection, purse umbrella in one hand and keys with flashing bob in the other, in my tan winter coat. The street lights are pretty good at this particular intersection. A car stopped just as I made it to the curb, I started across the street. I got to the MIDDLE of the car, when the driver hit the gas and bumped me. It seems that he apparently spotted me before the impact, and was already on the brakes, since between my quick jump away from his bumper and his slowing down it didn't really hurt. He was a nice enough older man (but not *so* old that one could blame eyesight or reflexes or something), and apologized and asked me if I was okay. But, he also gave the standard "I just didn't see you there." I glanced down at my coat and keyring and up at my umbrella and just said "really?" Good driving would dictate that you take a SPLIT second to look at the curbs for pedestrians (in a neighborhood where lots of people walk only a few blocks from a metro) and DEFINITELY check DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF YOU before proceeding through the intersection.

But people don't. Part of that is that driver's education is sorely lacking in general, and bikes and pedestrians are barely covered, if at all. Part of it is simply mentality and rhetoric. Headlines rarely read "inattentive driver strikes pedestrian in crosswalk" or "driver hits pedestrian crossing at intersection." Instead, we say "pedestrian struck while crossing {street}" or, worse, put the excuses right in the headline "pedestrian struck while crossing at unmarked intersection" or whatnot. Pedestrian struck by what? Oh, right, wouldn't want to blame the person piloting what *my* driver's ed instructor referred to as a "two-ton bullet" (my driver's ed was also not that good, but that line did have some impact...good on that instructor that I still remember it approaching 20 years later).

Okay, falling into the street sounds like a truly unfortunate incident, but had the drivers been looking for people crossing AT AN INTERSECTION (and/or crosswalk), then, even if he fell, they might have already slowed down or prepared to stop to the point that the impact would have, at least, been less likely to be fatal. As a klutzy person, when crossing streets where I've got a marked, legal crosswalk that involves a median and no stop signs, this worries me greatly. Lots of people don't stop (I cross an intersection like this at least twice a day), so, if I trip, I should expect to die? Or maybe drivers should be trained and berated into "looking both ways" for pedestrians crossing the street where they are LEGALLY allowed to, and slapped with hefty fines for not doing so and yielding. It really is a matter of life and death, and if the fines are high enough, the driver is likely to contest, so "mitigating circumstances" like poor lighting and a lack of reflective/visible clothing can be taken into consideration before the fine and/or other penalties are finalized.

by Ms. D on Feb 22, 2013 7:35 pm • linkreport

dc denizen, I rapped (about as hard as you'd knock on a door) on the hood of a car downtown a couple months ago...he was looking to make a right on red and kept scooting forward, not looking for pedestrians AT ALL (at rush hour, of course). He actually jumped out and got in my face about how I needed to give him my insurance information to "repair the damage to his car." Of course I laughed in his face and brushed past him, but that was quite the sense of entitlement on display. While I've tapped on my share of cars in similar circumstances, and this was the first time something like that happened, it didn't surprise me much...

by Ms. D on Feb 22, 2013 7:42 pm • linkreport

On 16th Street in the letter cross streets, you can always tell the Maryland commuters headed home in the evenings without having to look at their tags. They almost invariably fail to stop at the uncontrolled (but still marked) x-walks at Corcoran, Church, Riggs, etc.

It wouldn't be so bad if they just left that attitude home.

by Arrgh Street on Feb 22, 2013 8:47 pm • linkreport

Almost got hit this evening crossing South Capitol at M. In this case, I had the walk signal, and cars turning from eastbound M Street onto southbound S. Capitol had a red light. As usual, a driver decided the red light didn't apply to him, slammed on the breaks when he finally saw me, and proceed to yell at me to get out of the way. Beyond the fact that he flat out did not stop at a red light (an ongoing problem at this particular turn), I was a riot of colors today. Blue & white hat, grey coat, red mittens, pink scarf, bright blue stockings. Yet somehow I'm at fault for getting in his way, because as a driver, he is more important than a lowly pedestrian like me, walk signals and traffic lights be damned.

by Birdie on Feb 23, 2013 12:50 am • linkreport

I have been a driver in this area for 3 decades and my observations are that both drivers and pedestrians are rather careless on these roads. I have seen pedestrians cross roads by quickly entering the crosswalk and then lingering there seemingly unaware of cars on the road. I have seen cars speeding in areas with high-pedestrian traffic seemingly unaware of the pedestrians. Both pedestrians and drivers are guilty of carelessness and impatience.

Humans in dense population areas are bound to be impatient, it's just who we are. Overburdening drivers with more traffic laws or harassing them with picayune enforcement practices will only create more frustrations. The same goes for pedestrians; requiring peds to wear special clothing and expecting them to be well behaved and patient in inclement weather just isn't reasonable.

I think the best solution is to consider special traffic designs. We should consider designs such as over/under road walkways, re-routing ped traffic and car traffic so that they don't intersect frequently, providing special ped and bike "highways" in high pedestrian areas, etc...

My point is that we shouldn't expect humans to stop behaving the way they behave, but rather make the roads and walkways safer in ways that don't endanger or further frustrate everyone.

by Nabu on Feb 23, 2013 8:29 am • linkreport

Hi Nabu. People do behave as they do, but driver behavior is a learned pattern. In driver's ed, we are taught to stop and look as appropriate. What happens to those lessons? Is the driver's ed lacking?

Laws... we have acquired a plethora of statutes partially to handle the aftermath of an incident. Hence, the "dooring" bill in Virginia: a common sense statute needed to address liability. Common sense (and situational awareness) addresses many of the driver-pedestrian-cyclist interactions.

Drivers are in large steel boxes; peds and cyclists, not so. Drivers have protection from the elements; peds and cyclists, not so. Drivers require zero exertion to move forward and stop; peds and cyclist, not so. Is it not incumbent on the driver to make allowances for this asymmetry?

All that said, I see peds in Crystal City all the time (and I do mean ALL the time) walking against lights, frequently absorbed in whatever personal electronics device they're carrying.

by Arrgh Street on Feb 23, 2013 8:53 am • linkreport

"Telling those on foot to dress like hunters in the woods will not make streets more walkable."
----

Perhaps not.

but a little common sense and self-preservation is in order. you don't go out at night and cross the street in the middle of the block while wearing black.

Heck, they told us pretty the same thing when I was in the 2nd grade.

by ceefer66 on Feb 23, 2013 9:06 am • linkreport

@Selxic As I've stated in past comment sections especially after articles by Ben Ross and towards a couple commenters like Tina, we should not get caught up in the "blame game."

by Tina on Feb 23, 2013 10:53 am • linkreport

Ceefer66,

Common sense would also dictate that you don't expect to be hit by a car while walking on the sidewalk. But yes let's continue to focus on what victims are wearing that's always a winning strategy.

by Drumz on Feb 23, 2013 11:38 am • linkreport

The 'I didn't see you' arugment is utter crap. It is not your job to be seen. It is the job of a traffic participant to see.

I get the 'I didn't see you' quite often. I am 6'8" and generally ride a bright red CaBi with flashing lights on the front and the back. If you didn't see me, you were not looking - most likely because you were looking at your phone, changing the radio station, or putting on make-up. It is your job as a traffic participant to look and not hit things. It's pretty basic actually - if only for self-preservation. Traffic participation is not a game of frogger. While I understand you don't care about my life, I do assume you care about the big dent I will make in your hood if you hit me. I will make one. After the fact if I have to.

All these excuses are nothing else than a refusal to be responsible for one's own actions.

by Jasper on Feb 23, 2013 11:42 am • linkreport

@Drumz,

Yes, but ceefer66 makes a very astute point, which is that while we can ask pedestrians to change their behavior, it's fruitless to try to change driver behavior or hold them accountable in any meaningful sense whatsoever. Drivers are essentially a blind and undirectable force of nature.

You can't stop lightning from striking, but you *can* teach people not to dance in electrical storms while holding an umbrella.

by oboe on Feb 23, 2013 11:53 am • linkreport

Yes, Tina, you quoted my post. I won't call you characteristically defensive, but just as with the police officer who never actually attributed blame to the pedestrians, context is important. I never said you blamed anyone in this section. There's no need to derail this over semantics. I'm trying to keep this simple. Of course the tone of this article and headline don't do much for some who want to discuss safety.

by selxic on Feb 23, 2013 11:59 am • linkreport

When Governor O'Malley was Mayor of Baltimore, the police department conducted a sting on drivers who were failing to yield to peds in marked crosswalks in the inner harbor. Of course, the politics there were much clearer: the peds in that area were big money makers for the city. Nevertheless, you could make a the same case for stronger enforcement in all the densely populated areas of MD with lots of pedestrians. With O'Malley trying to get a name for himself, perhaps this is another issue he could run with. Besides, there is no point investing in transit if the last mile on foot is too dangerous.

by SJE on Feb 23, 2013 5:44 pm • linkreport

@CapHill
I'm sure you were just happy that you were not hurt (and so am I). I wish, though, that a police report were filed. After all, a fender bender at that same location without injury would have required one.
The driver absolutely should have been cited for failure to yield. If we just let the drivers drive away with an apology for being negligent, then it will take a lot longer to change the culture.

by Steve O on Feb 23, 2013 10:02 pm • linkreport

Steve O: that assumes that the driver would stay and that the police would care. I doubt it. We need video recordings of these incidents, and a change in policy so that the police and courts will take these these seriously. Recall that drivers doing U-turns across Penn Ave bike lanes had injured several riders, and violated the clear signs, but the DMV interpreted the "no U-turns" signs as if they were not there.

by SJE on Feb 23, 2013 10:42 pm • linkreport

"but yeah, definitely the bicyclist's fault because he was wearing black"

There were a couple of sarcastic comments along these lines that totally missed the point -- because they're stuck in this "blame the driver" mindset....still thinking that there's a war and that drivers are the bad guys.

Roads and motor vehicles serve an extremely important purpose, moving millions of people in this area each day. I'm not dissing cyclists-- I'm a long-time rider, though I do it just for recreation on the weekends -- and, I'm often a pedestrian, too. But, if as a cyclist or a pedestrian, you don't understand the disparity here, you're missing the essential piece.

With respect to pedestrians, they are in a better position to see what's coming. There are folks here insisting that cars need to be prepared to stop for pedestrians on Route 29 between Silver Spring and Columbia. Yes, there are lights, but you might as well be telling drivers on the beltway to be prepared to stop for pedestrians. It's a fast-moving highway. If a pedestrian moves into the intersection, when traffic has the green light, there is no chance for the car. As a driver, you have too much to do with 3 or four lanes of fast-moving traffic to make sure you don't hit the other cars. If you're scanning the sidewalks looking for people, you're going to plow into another car. If see someone in the intersection ahead of you, it's already probably too late, because you cannot safely stop in time. All you have to rely on to avoid chaos are the painted lanes and the traffic signals.

I did not say it was the cyclists fault that we had a close call when I was blinded by lights of oncoming traffic. I was quite clear -- the problem is the timing of the lights. Pedestrians and cyclists waiting to cross through a crosswalk should not be waiting for the same signal change that drivers waiting to turn there are. There ought to be an interval for crossers, and a separate interval for turners. The problem isn't that someone is wearing unreflective clothing or that drivers are reckless. The problem is with traffic control systems that put them on collision courses.

by Fischy (Ed F.) on Feb 24, 2013 9:54 am • linkreport

Here's an example from the other side -- A few years back, I was arriving in a German city to see a World Cup match. I got out of then train station and headed to my hotel with bag in tow. I came ot a big intersection -- more than just two roads coming together (I think it might even have been a circle). Anyway, I wasn't entirely sure where I was headed and when I go to the far side, I suddenly reconsidered, and started to to go back into the crosswalk. Somebody put out a hand and stopped me, fractions of a second before a streetcar came flying past and sent me flying through the intersection. I didn't even know there were streetcars in this city (I'd only been there a couple of minutes), but that doesn't excuse my stupidity and carelessness. It certainly wouldn't have been the streetcar operator's fault. To say the driver's argument "I didn't see you" argument is crap is to not understand what drivers have to do to navigate safely. Wile drivers are legally supposed to stop for pedestrians in a crosswalk that doesn't mean that drivers will be able to do so. I grew up in New York. I'm pretty well experienced and trained to anticipate sudden pedestrians. If you go through certain parts of the city, you wonder what the heck they're thinking -- it seems that some folks are deliberately walking out in front of oncoming traffic almost as a statement of power or challenge from the powerless. So, I'm pretty good about trying to be alert for "sudden" pedestrians -- but even I recognize that there are plenty of situations a driver goes through every day where it would be virtually impossible to see or avoid a pedestrian trying to occupy the same space at the same time. The answer is to create system where that doesn't happen

by Fischy (Ed F.) on Feb 24, 2013 10:17 am • linkreport

So since cars are harder to stop they shouldn't be expected to be driven carefully with that in mind?

Plus the problem with "I didn't see you" isn't that fact that it happens, it's the fact that its some sort of charm that immediately causes police to stop investigating anything because its obviously true that nothing more could have been done. It's a rock solid defense in today's world.

by Drumz on Feb 24, 2013 11:43 am • linkreport

The cops can't change the laws. When they say that car owners should use the club, or that bikers should usea lock, that's not blaming the victim.

by Brag on Feb 24, 2013 11:56 am • linkreport

Yeah but when they reccomend anti theft they are showing they care about the victims. Saying that being hit is inevitable if your wearing dark clothing ( while on a sidewalk!) isn't really showing concern for what's going on.

by Drumz on Feb 24, 2013 12:34 pm • linkreport

Saying that being hit is inevitable if you're wearing dark clothing ( while on a sidewalk!)
Where was this said?

by selxic on Feb 24, 2013 12:41 pm • linkreport

"driven carefully" -- there's the rub. A driver's first obligation is to the other drivers about him/her. Obey and be aware of signals, stay in the lane, be aware of lane-changers, anticipate issues, don't brake unless necessary. If, in all that, you have the time -- and the necessary sight-line and the opportunity to see a pedestrian moving into the crosswalk, that's a bonus.

This discussion seems totally divorced from any factual, circumstantial basis. Hitting someone on a sidewalk? That's not justifiable -- cars should never be on a sidewalk. Ergo, if the cops aren't blaming the driver, then that's not what happened. The facts are being mischaracterized here. Also, if someone is crossing a fast-moving highway and trips, how are we blaming the driver that either didn't see someone laying in the road, or didn't have enough time to stop and couldn't swerve either?

Are there situations where drivers are at fault? Of course. Are there situations when pedestrians are at fault? The answer to that is also "of course."

by Fischy (Ed F.) on Feb 24, 2013 12:52 pm • linkreport

The only newsworthy advice is to wear reflective clothing. Again this is from the head of traffic enforcement of Maryland's largest county.

I don't know what else to infer from that except that the police expect you to Get hit and really don't expect to do anything about it.

by Drumz on Feb 24, 2013 12:53 pm • linkreport

Except again, there is never really investigation to figure out who's at fault. And drivers first responsibility is to operate their vehicle safely no matter the circumstance.

Finally, this is a problem bigger than just these few circumstances. This happens (and is covered here) all the time. It's a cop out to say sometimes no one is at fault because ultimately its the jurisdictions And their subsequent police who simply don't care based on the years of evidence of them not really caring.

by Drumz on Feb 24, 2013 1:27 pm • linkreport

At least you're now acknowledging the statement is an excerpt, Drumz...

by selxic on Feb 24, 2013 1:29 pm • linkreport

And answer what possibly could have been said to alter the meaning of that excerpt.

I can't really think of one except "haha j/k we have a public safety crisis on our hands!"

by Drumz on Feb 24, 2013 1:33 pm • linkreport

I just bought a set of bike lights - the rear light hooks to clothing and I may just wear it for walking around here. Meanwhile I will continue to lobby for better crosswalk protection, speed limit enforcement, etc.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 24, 2013 2:01 pm • linkreport

@ Fischy:A driver's first obligation is to the other drivers about him/her.

I'm gonna call crap on that.

A driver's first obligation is safety for herself (but that's kinda the first obligation of life in general). And then to other traffic participants. There is no, none, zero, nada reason to favor drivers over non-drivers. Pedestrians, bikers, children, bus riders, they're all participating in traffic. Drivers are not a special class that deserves more protection in traffic than others. In fact, they already have considerable extra protection from that steel box they're in.

by Jasper on Feb 24, 2013 5:05 pm • linkreport

@Fischy: A driver's first obligation is to the other driversroad users about him/her.

ALL road users. Not just the road users who are driving cars.

by Miriam on Feb 24, 2013 8:29 pm • linkreport

A driver's first obligation is to the other drivers about him/her. Obey and be aware of signals, stay in the lane, be aware of lane-changers, anticipate issues, don't brake unless necessary. If, in all that, you have the time -- and the necessary sight-line and the opportunity to see a pedestrian moving into the crosswalk, that's a bonus.

Ugh. Completely wrong, irresponsible, and a pitch-perfect description of the beliefs of about 95% of American drivers.

by oboe on Feb 24, 2013 10:23 pm • linkreport

A driver's obligation is not to injure others. Given that running into pedestrian or cyclist is more likely to kill them than scraping a car, a driver should have heightened obligations to non-vehicles. The laws in some EU countries are like that, and even pre 1960s US law worked that way, by punishing according to injury.

by SJE on Feb 25, 2013 11:30 am • linkreport

@Selxic-I'm trying to keep this simple. Of course the tone of this article and headline don't do much for some who want to discuss safety.

So respond to my comments referring to the study on perception and how its related to this topic. Do you agree or disagree?

by Tina on Feb 25, 2013 12:30 pm • linkreport

It would be great if everyone had the skills of F1 drivers and never hit anything (not even a curb), but that is unfortunately not the case. As some have suggested, traffic patterns should be designed to minimize potential conflict between drivers and other drivers, cyclists, pedestrians, etc.

by Chris on Feb 25, 2013 3:24 pm • linkreport

@ Chris:It would be great if everyone had the skills of F1 drivers and never hit anything

Good thing you mention F1 drivers. Daytona has once again shown that NASCAR drivers can hit things pretty well.

by Jasper on Feb 25, 2013 4:22 pm • linkreport

Oh come on...you don't need the skills of an F1 driver when you're (supposed to be) going under 50 MPH in ALL of these situations, often FAR below that (hitting someone from a dead stop, as some of us have experienced, anyone?). Of course, F1 drivers aren't messing with the radio, chatting with someone on the phone, or eating a big mac while flying around the track, so we *could* learn something from them...

by Ms. D on Feb 25, 2013 7:52 pm • linkreport

Ordinary people driving in an ordinary manner have car accidents every day at speeds well under 50 MPH. I expect that even some of the people in this thread have (and I have been hit at a dead stop when someone sideswiped me at an intersection). We're only human after all (other than that Google Adbot).

So, better to design roads that are safer for pedestrians and drivers, than cross your fingers that drivers are never going to make a mistake.

by Chris on Feb 25, 2013 8:13 pm • linkreport

I don't think any of us are opposed to better design, and it's often promoted here. But the idea that "ordinary" drivers will regularly smash into things in their path unless they have the skill of an "F1" driver is hyperbole, at best.

Or maybe I'm just so awesome that I should be an F1 driver, since I have only had ONE minor accident in the last 14 years (yes, these days I don't drive much, but that stretches back to my very early 20's, and a not-insubstantial chunk of that time was spent driving 15-20K miles per year in an area wedded to cars). The other driver and I were backing out in opposite directions from either side of a gargantuan SUV and kissed bumpers. No damage or anything. And I've NEVER hit a pedestrian or cyclist. I did tick one cyclist off several years ago when I slightly moved the nose of my car so that I could *see* down the bike lane in my mirror, before crossing it to make a right turn, in stopped traffic. While I didn't enter the lane until he had passed, he obviously thought I was going to and yelled at me. I suppose I am "only human" after all. Sure, accidents happen, but they're far more frequent than they should be, largely because people aren't paying attention, are breaking the law, or aren't applying best practices (following at a safe distance, taking weather conditions into consideration, looking further ahead than just the car 2' from their front bumper, etc.).

by Ms. D on Feb 25, 2013 8:38 pm • linkreport

Thank you Ms. D for being a considerate driver!

by SJE on Feb 26, 2013 1:16 pm • linkreport

I drive like I want everyone else to, whether I'm a pedestrian, cyclist, or other driver in their presence. When I owned a car, I *also* drove like I had $18K plus BIG insurance premiums sunk in a steel box riding on it, which, of course, I *did* (now I *just* have the potential for my Zipcar membership to be revoked, which would cost me dearly because I don't think I could live totally car-free). I just don't get why that's so hard for people to understand. If nothing else, don't you want to protect your property and prosperity? Hitting a cyclist or pedestrian will, at least, leave a nasty dent, if not potentially drain every last penny of finances you have, if you acted irresponsibly. Things (weather, mechanical failure, etc.) happen and accidents *will* happen, but those things account for only a small proportion of the accidents we see now.

by Ms. D on Feb 27, 2013 12:13 am • linkreport

it's not just the pedestrians fault, but they should take steps to reduce their risk like by wearing reflective vests or belts. they are cheap, easy to carry and probably should be required by law at night.

by will on Feb 27, 2013 10:43 am • linkreport

it's not just the pedestrians fault, but they should take steps to reduce their risk like by wearing reflective vests or belts. they are cheap, easy to carry and probably should be required by law at night.

Its only risky because of the cars. Moreover, that's all well and good to be careful and such but the issue is the fact that the Police don't seem to care to investigate these collisions beyond just saying that we should be careful.

by drumz on Feb 27, 2013 11:05 am • linkreport

No driver wants to be in an accident with a pedestrian, car, deer or lamppost. I think it is misleading to suggest that drivers don't care. There are of course a few idiots, drunks, and incompetents out there, but most drivers are reasonably careful and competent for the reasons you listed.

Nevertheless, some accidents will happen. It is simply an unfortunate matter of probability. With so many vehicles in motion in the DC area, sooner or later they are going to collide, even if the average driver always behaves responsibly. In some cases it is the result of awkward and dangerous traffic patterns.

by Chris on Feb 27, 2013 11:05 am • linkreport

everyone has a responsibility to reduce the risk of accidents - cars and peds alike. for their part, a simple change would be to require peds to wear reflective vests or reflective belts at night just like cars need head and tail lights. these are so light and cheap there's no reason not to wear them.

by will on Feb 27, 2013 11:26 am • linkreport

everyone has a responsibility to reduce the risk of accidents

Sure but surely those who have the greater opportunity to cause real harm (drivers) should bear most of that responsibility.

by drumz on Feb 27, 2013 11:48 am • linkreport

surely those who have the greater opportunity to cause real harm (drivers) should bear most of that responsibility

i completely agree, but do you agree that it's not too much to require pedestrians to wear a simple safety device to be more visible? members of the military are required to wear reflective belts at night, and even during the day when running.

by will on Feb 27, 2013 12:26 pm • linkreport

@will, are you going to require people at high risk of melanoma to wear sunscreen while walking during the day? Out law high heels b/c of the damage they do to backs, hips, knees and feet in addition to the elevated risk of tripping they introduce?

Its one thing for individuals to all they can to protect themselves, but a law to require certain clothing while walking? Doesn't it seem easier and less intrusive to just change the way we educate drivers -after all we DO require passing a test to legally drive -and to design roads better as @Chris has commented?

by Tina on Feb 27, 2013 12:42 pm • linkreport

are you going to require people at high risk of melanoma to wear sunscreen while walking during the day? Out law high heels b/c of the damage they do to backs, hips, knees and feet in addition to the elevated risk of tripping they introduce?

accidents involve at least two parties and affect cars and drivers as well as peds. as was said above, no driver WANTS to hit a ped. if we're sharing the road, yeah i think everyone should be required to be visible - cars, bikes AND pedestrians. you can wear whatever clothes you want, just pull on a reflective safety vest or belt over that. no big deal. like i said, in the military it's long been a ticketable offense not to wear a reflective belt.

by will on Feb 27, 2013 12:51 pm • linkreport

cyclists are required by law to have be seen lights at night. OTOH a cyclist who lacks such lights, can always walk their bike home, or lock it up and walk home.

What if I am out at night with no vehicle and have no reflective belt handy. Am I required to stay where I am until morning? Call a cab? Ask the police to drive me home, or to come and deliver me a reflective belt?

I don't think requiring such things of pedestrians would be constitutional - you can't require specific things for people to leave their house.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 27, 2013 12:57 pm • linkreport

I agree, no one wants to get in a crash (mostly. There are enough documented cases of drivers intentionally running into bikers that its not a universal statement). I agree its easy for someone to make him/herself as visible as s/he can. i disagree strongly that a dress code for walking should be legislated, mandated by law.

Please see the links I provided above to studies on perception. i think some education and road design would do a lot to prevent crashes.

I believe very much that drivers should take the high road and always defer to the more vulnerable road user - even when that person is doing some dumb shit-, because we value human life. I do not think its an onerous educational message.

by Tina on Feb 27, 2013 1:03 pm • linkreport

What if I am out at night with no vehicle and have no reflective belt handy. Am I required to stay where I am until morning? Call a cab? Ask the police to drive me home, or to come and deliver me a reflective belt?

once it became established that you had to wear one it would become a habit to either wear it whenever you were outdoors (which is the standard on most bases now and safer anyways) so you are automatically visible at dusk or just keep one in your pocket, which is what some do. get fined a couple of times and the habit sinks in. remember when pulling on a seatbelt wasn't automatic?

i'm not saying this is all that's needed, but it's a necessary part of the solution.

by will on Feb 27, 2013 1:16 pm • linkreport

@will if we're sharing the road, yeah i think everyone should be required to be visible - cars, bikes AND pedestrians. you can wear whatever clothes you want, just pull on a reflective safety vest or belt over that. no big deal.

If we're sharing the road, I think everyone should be required to be licensed, too. Cars, bikes, AND pedestrians. No big deal.

(Note: I don't actually think this.)

by Miriam on Feb 27, 2013 1:20 pm • linkreport

I don't think requiring such things of pedestrians would be constitutional - you can't require specific things for people to leave their house.

@AWalkerInTheCity - see what happens if you leave your house with no pants.

by will on Feb 27, 2013 1:20 pm • linkreport

will

some people are out not intending to be out after dark. And others may not have intended to walk but find it necessary.

Seatbelts are automatically available, because they are built into cars. And driving in general is a "privilege" - someone who can't or won't wear a seatbelt is still able to walk. Walking on a public thoroughfare is a basic liberty right. And unlike members of the military, who have forfeited certain rights on enlistment, civilians have not.

I am sure this would not be approved by the courts.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 27, 2013 1:22 pm • linkreport

"@AWalkerInTheCity - see what happens if you leave your house with no pants."

wearing clothes in public is standard practice in the western world for since prehistoric times (and even naturists wear clothes in inclement weather).

This is totally different. And its something you want to impose basically so drivers do not feel guilty when the accidentally hit a jaywalking ped.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 27, 2013 1:24 pm • linkreport

Yeah, there is no chance that "people must wear reflective items while walking" would pass any sort of constitutionality test.

see what happens if you leave your house with no pants.

You mean naked? There's something called "compelling public interest" that lets that happen. This does not pass the "compelling public interest" test.

by MLD on Feb 27, 2013 1:27 pm • linkreport

ok @will. i'm not saying wearing reflective gear won't work to prevent crashes. I'm saying in our society it's very unlikely to pass a law like that. I think its more productive to look for solutions that can be adopted, such as changing road design and LOS paradigms and inserting certain elements into driver training/exams that are already required.

by Tina on Feb 27, 2013 1:29 pm • linkreport

in addition to our own military, Finland also requires all peds to wear reflective items by law. (and for a cool online demo on why check out http://www.liikenneturva.fi/www/fi/animaatiot/heijastin/en.html)

whether or not you think it should be a law, i think we all agree that it's a sensible step that peds should take to reduce the risk of accidents and that it should be promoted as ONE part of the solution.

by will on Feb 27, 2013 1:33 pm • linkreport

will

you will note by examining all comments, that I said far up that I think wearing bright clothing is a good idea for pedestrian crossing at unprotected crosswalks at night.

Some folks seemed to fear that discussing that would lead to a slippery slope toward using that as an alternative to other policy solutions. Your support for mandating it, and for mandating it for all pedestrians (without regard to whether they are crossing at unprotected intersections) makes me think they may be right, and that I may have been wrong for expressing support for it.

The first thing we do as policy should not be something that will make walking less convenient (and which has the potential for making walking more dangerous by leading to less walking, and thus impact any safety in numbers effect)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 27, 2013 1:38 pm • linkreport

You mean naked? There's something called "compelling public interest" that lets that happen. This does not pass the "compelling public interest" test.

and @MLD i think public road safety is more of a compelling public interest than just not liking to see naked people on the street. no?

anyway, law or no law, reflective gear should be promoted, just like other safety gear.

by will on Feb 27, 2013 1:39 pm • linkreport

@Tina

"I believe very much that drivers should take the high road and always defer to the more vulnerable road user - even when that person is doing some dumb shit-, because we value human life. I do not think its an onerous educational message."

Er, OK but... are you suggesting that it should be OK for pedestrians to behave in wantonly dangerous behavior? They are not children after all (most of them anyway). They should behave as responsibly as drivers.

@will

"i completely agree, but do you agree that it's not too much to require pedestrians to wear a simple safety device to be more visible?"

Isn't this a bit ridiculous? Walking is not an extreme sport. No protective gear should be required.

by Chris on Feb 27, 2013 1:42 pm • linkreport

"In 1982 a law went into effect in the traffic code (42§) that reads “pedestrians traveling unlit roads after dark other than sidewalks or bicycle paths must generally wear an appropriate reflector.” No penalty was imposed for failure to comply.

The Nordic countries established universal standards for pedestrian reflectors in the 1980s. In the ‘90s the European Union countries began to adopt standards for PPE (personal protective equipment) such as helmets and other devices. The PPE Directive included standards for high-visibility warning clothing and for pedestrian reflectors (EN 13356 Visibility Accessories for Non-professional Use). On January 1, 2003, 42§ was modified to read “pedestrians traveling roads after dark must generally wear an appropriate reflector.” Now it includes lit as well as unlit areas, because street lighting is usually weak. There is still no penalty for non-compliance."

so, it applies to walking in the road but not on sidewalks - not clear how it applies at crosswalks.

And there is no penalty. So much for the fines you mentioned.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 27, 2013 1:43 pm • linkreport

" i think public road safety is more of a compelling public interest than just not liking to see naked people on the street. no?"

this does not measurably contribute to safety other than that of the wearer.

If it net contributes. In the USA it could well discourage walking. AFAICT walking is similar to biking in this regard - when more people do it, more drivers become aware, and it becomes SAFER. Plus when more people do it, there is more public effort to improve facilities. Maybe its different in Finland - here I think it would make walking less safe.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 27, 2013 1:45 pm • linkreport

@ Chris: Er, OK but... are you suggesting that it should be OK for pedestrians to behave in wantonly dangerous behavior? They are not children after all (most of them anyway). They should behave as responsibly as drivers.

If only there were a such a thing as a branch of civil engineering that used engineering techniques to mitigate the effects of dangerous behavior on roads and streets.

by Miriam on Feb 27, 2013 1:49 pm • linkreport

@Chris-I'm saying people make mistakes and bad decisions and being killed for doing something stupid while walking should not be an accepted outcome. Our current cultural attitude is that people who make mistakes while walking and are killed get what they deserve. No they don't. What they deserve is deference from people driving cars. Why? Because we value human life.

by Tina on Feb 27, 2013 1:51 pm • linkreport

..and what @Miriam said.

by Tina on Feb 27, 2013 1:56 pm • linkreport

It also bears mentioning that European countries, and Nordic countries especially, have a lot less daylight than the US.

by MLD on Feb 27, 2013 2:03 pm • linkreport

Chris-I'm saying people make mistakes and bad decisions and being killed for doing something stupid while walking should not be an accepted outcome.

Hunh? I would change that to "expected" rather than "accepted" outcome. Bad things should be the expected outcome of bad decision-making.

by HogWash on Feb 27, 2013 2:14 pm • linkreport

"Bad things should be the expected outcome of bad decision-making."

so if someone walks across the street oblivious, staring at their Iphone, and they make it across safely, because drivers were driving slowly, or looking out for them, or because their was a traffic light that sensed their presence and gave them ROW, you would be unhappy, since they SHOULD be killed?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 27, 2013 2:20 pm • linkreport

i completely agree, but do you agree that it's not too much to require pedestrians to wear a simple safety device to be more visible? members of the military are required to wear reflective belts at night, and even during the day when running.

It is too much. We live in a country where the vast majority of jurisdictions show through their explicit policies that they don't care about pedestrian safety. This is reflected in how our roads are designed and the at best apathetic and at worst hostile concern that local police departments show when they are tasked with figuring out what happened in a collision.

If driving is so dangerous to pedestrians that its seen as a good idea to mandate reflective clothing then that shows me that driving is apparently too dangerous for most people to handle.

So instead, lets start with simple things like actually putting some legal responsibility on drivers who hit people even if they feel as if they couldn't avoid it. Then lets make sure the police are motivated to investigate collisions and figure out who is at fault rather than just saying "wear bright clothing", finally lets look at redesigning our roadways to ensure that pedestrians have safe facilities to use.

Then maybe we can talk about reflective clothing and decide that we'd rather not and go back to improving the other things I mentioned further.

by drumz on Feb 27, 2013 2:23 pm • linkreport

Hunh? I would change that to "expected" rather than "accepted" outcome. Bad things should be the expected outcome of bad decision-making.

Right now the bad decisions also seem to include,

A. Walking on the sidewalk at night
B. Crossing the street in a crosswalk
C. Walking to get somewhere where there isn't a sidewalk
D. Wearing the clothing you have on.

And people complain if they see me as a pedestrian jaywalk or roll through a stop sign on a bike. What motivation do I have to follow the law if I know the law isn't going to help protect me?

by drumz on Feb 27, 2013 2:27 pm • linkreport

@Tina-

"I'm saying people make mistakes and bad decisions and being killed for doing something stupid while walking should not be an accepted outcome. Our current cultural attitude is that people who make mistakes while walking and are killed get what they deserve. No they don't. What they deserve is deference from people driving cars. Why? Because we value human life."

Er, so does it follow then it is not acceptable for drivers who make mistakes and bad decisions to be killed? They are human life too. Apart from some taxi drivers. :)

by Chris on Feb 27, 2013 2:29 pm • linkreport

@Chris- yes drivers make mistakes and get into crashes. At 35MPH those drivers are very likely to survive those crashes-grater than 80% likelihood of survival, more like 95% survival at the speed. A person walking or on a bike who is struck by a motor vehicle going 35MPH has about a 20% chance of survival.

by Tina on Feb 27, 2013 2:40 pm • linkreport

you would be unhappy, since they SHOULD be killed?

If that's what you got from my statement then ok. Guess there's no serious point in clarifying anything since how you chose to interpret what I just said travels well outside of reason.

What motivation do I have to follow the law if I know the law isn't going to help protect me?

That just means you simply sidestep the law and travel at your own risk...

by HogWash on Feb 27, 2013 2:43 pm • linkreport

so does it follow then it is not acceptable for drivers who make mistakes and bad decisions to be killed? They are human life too.

which is why we have signs indicating the road is curving, that the bridge may freeze, lights and gates at RR crossings, signs indicating 'one way', DUI laws, and seat-belt laws, speed limits, guardrails, stop signs, traffic lights, and airbags, and child seats, and window washing fluid, and anti-lock brakes, and 4-wheel drive, and brake lights, and rear cameras for baking up, and blind spot notifiers, and side mirrors, and rear-view mirrors, and speedometers, and gas gauges, and tire inflation warnings, etc.

There is a lot that goes into preventing driver injury for when they make mistakes.

Is it too much to ask for a little driver education to look out for more vulnerable road users and to be their guardians b/c if you hit them the chances of their survival is low?

by Tina on Feb 27, 2013 2:50 pm • linkreport

@Tina - Pedestrians sometimes have to cross streets where the average speed of traffic may be 50 mph or higher.

I fully agree it is unacceptable for drivers to do something irresponsible and strike pedestrians. But I do not agree (with what you seem to be suggesting) that it is OK for pedestrians to do something irresponsible and cause drivers swerving to avoid them to end up in the hospital (or worse). Let's have mutual respect for each other's well-being.

by Chris on Feb 27, 2013 2:54 pm • linkreport

And what @drumz said. I expanded the discussion to include outcomes that are far more sever then the infraction. Thats for the future. Back to where we are currently, which is drivers who are not held responsible for breaking laws we already have that are intended to protect the most vulnerable.

by Tina on Feb 27, 2013 2:55 pm • linkreport

@Chris, one of the deaths in the subject of this blog post tripped. he didn't do something irresponsible. he made a mistake and the outcome was his death.

by Tina on Feb 27, 2013 2:59 pm • linkreport

that it is OK for pedestrians to do something irresponsible and cause drivers swerving to avoid them to end up in the hospital (or worse)

The problem is that most pedestrians are being responsible. In the three examples of the original story you have three victims pretty much doing what was expected of them. We all have stories of people darting out in front of us sure, but when a lot of these stories get reported you'll notice that is not really who is being hit. The people being hit are the ones for whom the excuse "I didn't see you" is enough of a justification to walk away with only some body damage to your car (no pun intended). I and many others think that the standard needs to be higher first.

by drumz on Feb 27, 2013 3:03 pm • linkreport

@Chris-I don't know what you're contesting me about. You don't think drivers should be careful around more vulnerable road users? Thats all I'm saying. Its sounds simplistic but the prevailing attitude is that drivers don't need to be careful.

by Tina on Feb 27, 2013 3:03 pm • linkreport

...and again what @drumz said.

by Tina on Feb 27, 2013 3:04 pm • linkreport

The problem is that most pedestrians are being responsible.

As are most drivers. It just becomes easy to negatively characterize "the opposition" in such discussions.

by HogWash on Feb 27, 2013 3:16 pm • linkreport

The problem is that most pedestrians are being responsible.... As are most drivers.

This is the crux of it. I, and many others, do not consider it responsible behavior when a driver strikes a person walking in a cross walk and says "I didn't see him". But, as this blog post illustrates, "I didn't see him" is enough for a driver to get away with killing someone who walks across a street legally. Our culture has very low expectations of drivers. the threshold of "responsible" for when we are driving is very very low. Much lower than what is expected of people who walk.

by Tina on Feb 27, 2013 3:23 pm • linkreport

As are most drivers. It just becomes easy to negatively characterize "the opposition" in such discussions.

They are, I think there is an argument for them to be more responsible since A. they're capable of doing a lot of damage with little personal risk B. there really isn't any incentive to drive safer.

Again, most of the risk of being a pedestrian comes from cars. You can say I'm negatively characterizing all you want but that doesn't change the actual facts of whats happening.

by drumz on Feb 27, 2013 3:25 pm • linkreport

@Chris: This is a post about real actual pedestrians who died because they were hit by cars. Four pedestrians have died in Montgomery County in four weeks. Three of the pedestrians were in crosswalks. One was on the sidewalk. Why do you think that hypothetical situations in which drivers get injured while trying to avoid hitting "pedestrians [doing] something irresponsible" are at all relevant to this post?

by Miriam on Feb 27, 2013 3:27 pm • linkreport

I am merely saying that it is incumbent upon all road users (regardless of the means of movement) to act in a responsible manner. Irresponsible behavior by any party greatly increases the probability of an accident and should be strongly discouraged.

by Chris on Feb 27, 2013 3:29 pm • linkreport

And when someone in a car hits someone in a crosswalk they should take responsibility and not expect to say "I didn't see you" and expect the police to close the investigation then and there. Which is what usually happens.

by drumz on Feb 27, 2013 3:34 pm • linkreport

there really isn't any incentive to drive safer.

do you guys really think 99.999% of drivers just don't care about hitting peds? of course they do. even if they don't suffer physical injury or get in legal trouble because of it, there must be huge emotional baggage with striking another human being!

yes, drivers could be more careful (as could peds as i've suggested above) but the fact is sometimes peds are just hard to see until its too late even when they are obeying all laws.

saying peds should wear reflective vests is NOT saying it's their FAULT when they're hit. it's just saying they could do something small to reduce the risk in a big way.

by will on Feb 27, 2013 3:38 pm • linkreport

@Chris: Irresponsible behavior by any party greatly increases the probability of an accident and should be strongly discouraged

Again, how is this relevant? Has somebody been encouraging irresponsible behavior on the part of pedestrians?

by Miriam on Feb 27, 2013 3:40 pm • linkreport

I, and many others, do not consider it responsible behavior when a driver strikes a person walking in a cross walk and says "I didn't see him"

I believe most people agree w/this.

They are, I think there is an argument for them to be more responsible since A. they're capable of doing a lot of damage with little personal risk B. there really isn't any incentive to drive safer.

I agree, there is that argument. I disagree that there isn't any incentive to drive safer.

by HogWash on Feb 27, 2013 3:44 pm • linkreport

do you guys really think 99.999% of drivers just don't care about hitting peds?

I think people care but the threat of emotional baggage isn't enough to deter behavior. Most people don't think they should drive drunk but if you could get away with easier then more people would do it.

by drumz on Feb 27, 2013 3:47 pm • linkreport

So what are the incentives? And how are they applied today?

by drumz on Feb 27, 2013 3:53 pm • linkreport

"but the fact is sometimes peds are just hard to see until its too late even when they are obeying all laws"

I think this may be the crux of the disagreement. I think many here believe that if speed limits were appropriately set, and drivers A. obeyed them, B slowed down appropriately at crosswalks C. were focused enough on looking out for peds at crosswalks then no law abiding pedestrian would be hit in a crosswalk.

This may come down to what we consider a reasonable speed limit, and reasonable expectations to slow down at crosswalks.

The place where this personally concerns me most is one where the posted limit is 35MPH, where most drivers exceed that limit by about 10 MPH, and where few slow down for the crosswalk until they actually see a pedestrian entering it. I believe that those three circumstances, taken together, render the location hostile to pedestrians.

Maybe 50 MPH roads are required in rural areas. We are discussing suburbs, I think, where arterials are never posted faster than 45, and where 45 MPH roads usually have crossings protected by traffic lights.

Im not sure there should EVER be a fatality to a law obedient ped, if drivers are being fully responsible, in such a place.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 27, 2013 3:56 pm • linkreport

no, most people driving do not think to themselves "if I kill someone my life will be irrevocably changed forever in the negative". I think drivers should think this to themselves. There should be a question like that on driver exams. This is part of the better education I keep talking about.

Our current system (education, cultural norm, road design, etc.) does a disservice to drivers who do not want to kill people. We can do a better job of helping drivers avoid such a terrible circumstance.

by Tina on Feb 27, 2013 3:59 pm • linkreport

@AWITC -I agree.

by Tina on Feb 27, 2013 4:02 pm • linkreport

There are certainly some incentives to drive safer - in places where you're more likely to get into an accident, or more likely to hit someone, people do drive safer than they otherwise would.

That said, is that as safe as we would like? I don't think so. The reality is that drivers engage in tons of unsafe, risky behavior because they perceive that it gets them where they're going faster. And most of the time that behavior doesn't result in hurting anyone - either because there are no pedestrians around, or it's a close call, or pedestrians are watching out for themselves, etc. The problem comes when we as a culture just accept that unsafe behavior, and then when something goes wrong, we write it off as "just an accident."

by MLD on Feb 27, 2013 4:03 pm • linkreport

Er, surely everyone here has driven, right? Then you know that of course the typical driver (criminals and jerks aside) does not want to have any kind of accident, much less cause any kind of injury.

Putting this obvious point aside, I propose that red light cycles be extended by several seconds at all busy pedestrian intersections in accordance with their size and amount of car/foot traffic. This would accomplish 3 things:
1) Pedestrians would have more time to comfortably walk across crosswalks
2) Vehicles would have more time to comfortably make turns without rushing and competing with pedestrians in crosswalks
3) The overall pace of road traffic would be substantially slowed, prompting more people to abandon driving for Metro and bicycles

Everybody wins.

by Chris on Feb 27, 2013 4:40 pm • linkreport

"Er, surely everyone here has driven, right? Then you know that of course the typical driver (criminals and jerks aside) does not want to have any kind of accident, much less cause any kind of injury. "

I drive. When I try to drive 35 MPH on a 35 MPH posted road, slowing down below that where I think appropriate, I get a line of tailgaters.

They may not WANT to cause injury, but they DO want to drive in ways that are illegal and risk injury. This is common behavior.

"Putting this obvious point aside, I propose that red light cycles be extended by several seconds at all busy pedestrian intersections in accordance with their size and amount of car/foot traffic. "

Basing it on current foot traffic, in places where there is little because its unsafe to walk, is kind of a chicken and egg thing.

Anyway, I am more worried about the hundreds of crosswalks which are marked but have no traffic signals, stop signs, or even yield to pedestrian signs.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 27, 2013 4:53 pm • linkreport

But that's a war on cars!

/sarcasm

by Drumz on Feb 27, 2013 4:53 pm • linkreport

Er, surely everyone here has driven, right? Then you know that of course the typical driver (criminals and jerks aside) does not want to have any kind of accident, much less cause any kind of injury.

True. I don't think anybody's arguing against that notion. But if you really took it to the extreme, how come everyone doesn't drive around at 10MPH so they absolutely have no chance of hitting anyone? The fact that people don't WANT to have an accident doesn't mean they don't take risks.

I your proposal I assume you're talking about increasing periods when cars can't enter intersections but pedestrians can? Yes I think that is a good idea. But as you can guess these things often don't happen because of #3, drivers don't like that it will (or they perceive that it will) slow them down.

by MLD on Feb 27, 2013 5:00 pm • linkreport

the typical driver (criminals and jerks aside) does not want to have any kind of accident, much less cause any kind of injury.

True. However as @MLD, @drumz & @AWITC already pointed out there is a disconnect between what you say drivers don't want (a crash) and the normal way of behaving while driving. I don't understand your resistance to the idea that with better information and enforcement (education, knowledge that they WILL be held accountable, and other modifiable signals of whats expected) overall "normal" driving could be improved to prevent crashes.

See @Falls Church's comments Feb 22, 11:54 and 1:04, and at this study on perception.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2013/02/11/171409656/why-even-radiologists-can-miss-a-gorilla-hiding-in-plain-sight

I don't understand the resistance to better education so other drivers can get to Falls Church's level of awareness and driving behavior that reflects that awareness.

by Tina on Feb 27, 2013 5:20 pm • linkreport

If most drivers are driving safely and courteously, who are all these people complaining about red light and speed cameras?

by Capt. Hilts on Feb 27, 2013 6:05 pm • linkreport

I of course agree that drivers should be taught to operate their vehicles safely and respect everyone on the road, including of course pedestrians. And of course they should be held responsible if their reckless behavior causes a collision with a pedestrian. Although I believe that we are all taught such things in driver's ed class.

But just single-mindedly demonizing drivers only gets you so far. I would like to hear a more evenhanded approach to making pedestrians safer. It would be great to hear more support for things like better street lighting, traffic signals and signage, modifying speed limits, reducing traffic congestion, revising traffic patterns and light cycles - all things that could help greatly to reduce the odds of car/pedestrian collisions.

by Chris on Feb 27, 2013 7:14 pm • linkreport

We are all in favor of that as well. I'm not demonizing, I'm saying the incentives aren't there to actually drive safer.

Meanwhile suggest those thing at a MDOT (or any DOT) and see how people concerned about drivers rights respond.

by Drumz on Feb 27, 2013 7:45 pm • linkreport

Okay, will, I'm going to give you the "girl" perspective. Forgive me for a minute for being a bit shallow. Sometimes, I leave my house in the evening looking like a lady. That generally involves a dress and a VERY small purse. It occasionally, depending on the season, involves a dress coat. I purchased the most generous clutch I could find, and it holds only my keys, cell phone, lipstick, and my "dress wallet" (it's just a thin piece of leather with some slots in it for credit cards and cash...I can generally stuff a credit card, debit card, smart trip, and $50 in there, and nothing else). I actually own one dress with pockets, since that was a trend for a second, but they're pretty small and useless...just "for show" as one might say, enough to hook your thumbs in and not much else. None of my other dresses have pockets. My dress coat has no pockets. Pockets add bulk, and that's ALWAYS off-trend for ladies to look bigger around the waist/hips. So where do you suggest that I store this "safety vest" I need to wear to walk somewhere? And what *is* the threshold for needing a safety vest? If I need to cross the street after getting out of a cab to get to my destination, do I need to don a safety vest to do so? If we decide to hit multiple locations on our outing, do I need to throw on some bright orange over my dress to walk a few blocks? Do I need it if I'm not crossing the street (going somewhere within the same block on the same side)? Beyond this, what if I forget it? Am I not allowed to go home from work if it's dark when I'm done? Do I have to hail a cab without crossing the street and pay 10X as much to get home from work? Won't getting close enough to the street without my safety gear to hail a cab violate the "rules?"

Cars have headlights, built right in, and they are REALLY GOOD at helping you see things. You'd be surprised at my animal-finding abilities, on totally unlit roads, with just headlights. Ohio taught me something, since those deer will really mess you up. And those animals even camouflage with their environment. I've lost a little rubber off the tires jamming on the brakes for a deer popping out in front of me, but never lost control or anything else. It's NOT too much to ask that drivers LOOK OUT using their headlights and the plentiful streetlights in well-populated areas, for people who might be legally crossing the street, WITHOUT those people being decked out in day-glo.

by Ms. D on Feb 27, 2013 11:48 pm • linkreport

@Ms. D, yeah safety vests are always the best option but in your situation you should consider a reflective belt. that's what the wife uses when a vest is too hard to carry.

by will on Feb 28, 2013 10:27 am • linkreport

@Chris, here are the first 11 comments in which road and/or cross walk design, pedestrian access, and speed limits are mentioned: Feb 22, 10;45, 11:21, 11:25, 11:27, 11:31, 11:46, 11:49, 11:58, 12:03, 12:04, 12:12.

There are many more. Maybe you didn't read all the comments. You are definitely not the only one who thinks road design is a major modifiable risk factor for crashes. I mentioned road design in 8 separate comments. No one is disagreeing with you that the road design paradigm is important.

What @drumz and @MLD and others, and in fact this blog post have stated is that the social norm attitude about driving is a major obstacle to getting the road design changes you support. Why do we need those changes if there is no problem? The road design changes you espouse are 'designed' to change the way people drive, b/c people respond to their built environment. If there's not a current problem with the social norm of driving, then why would need to redesign roads?

by Tina on Feb 28, 2013 11:05 am • linkreport

Encouraging pedestrians to were reflective (or at least brighter than black) clothing when walking around at night as an additional way for them to protect themselves is NOT blaming the victim. Visibility at night is a problem this type of clothing helps.

Yes in the case of someone on the sidewalk getting hit this makes no sense in that particular case, people on sidewalks generally do have to cross at least one street to go somewhere and unless that is a stop sign a car is not obligated to stop just because - unless there is someone there THAT THEY CAN SEE.

by ET on Feb 28, 2013 12:36 pm • linkreport

@ET: car is not obligated to stop just because - unless there is someone there THAT THEY CAN SEE

Here is the relevant Maryland law about pedestrians in crosswalks. I am not a lawyer. Where is the part in the law about drivers only being obligated to stop for pedestrians they can see?

§ 21-502. Pedestrians' right-of-way in crosswalks

(a) In general. --
- (2) The driver of a vehicle shall come to a stop when a pedestrian crossing the roadway in a crosswalk is:
-- (i) On the half of the roadway on which the vehicle is traveling; or
-- (ii) Approaching from an adjacent lane on the other half of the roadway.
(b) Duty of pedestrian. -- A pedestrian may not suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impossible for the driver to yield.
(c) Passing of vehicle stopped for pedestrian prohibited. -- If, at a marked crosswalk or at an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection, a vehicle is stopped to let a pedestrian cross the roadway, the driver of any other vehicle approaching from the rear may not overtake and pass the stopped vehicle.

by Miriam on Feb 28, 2013 12:53 pm • linkreport

and what about all the times during the day that drivers violate these laws? Why didn't drivers in daylight stop?

by Tina on Feb 28, 2013 1:05 pm • linkreport

it doesn't matter what the law is, a ped who can't be seen is not going to be protected by it or by the most careful driver. that's why safety officials promote reflective and hi-vis gear and want peds to use it!

the speed limit on most military bases is 20 mph or less and it is STRICTLY enforced. STILL, reflective belts are required and that too is strictly enforced. why? because cars can't avoid what they can't see. there's just no getting around that. drivers can't get superhuman sight but peds CAN easily become much more visible.

by will on Feb 28, 2013 1:09 pm • linkreport

@Tina not all collisions are because the ped isn't visible but some are and most of those could be avoided by peds just doing their part and wearing simple safety gear that's readily and cheaply available. strap on a reflective belt first and then you got a LOT more support to blame the driver if you're ever hit.

by will on Feb 28, 2013 1:14 pm • linkreport

@will, so why don't drivers stop during the day? Why aren't the laws respected in daylight? You are claiming its a simple matter of nighttime visibility.

Next time you drive during the day pay attention to how many drivers pass with out even slowing down a cross walk where someone is waiting to get across. its obvious what the intention of the person waiting is. Its obvious why s/he does not want to enter the roadway before any driver indicated s/he will slow down and stop. Why do drivers behave this way if its only about visibility?

Why do i get told with a frequency making it more than a rare occurrence that "I didn't see you" during the day when i AM wearing high vis gear and I DO have a strobe light on?

by Tina on Feb 28, 2013 1:19 pm • linkreport

Ben Ross is gonna break GGW with this thread just like Susan Boyle almost broke Youtube.

by Capt. Hilts on Feb 28, 2013 1:33 pm • linkreport

Encouraging pedestrians to were reflective (or at least brighter than black) clothing when walking around at night as an additional way for them to protect themselves is NOT blaming the victim.

It is when its coming from the head of traffic enforcement of Montgomery county.

by drumz on Feb 28, 2013 1:36 pm • linkreport

@will

the speed limit on most military bases is 20 mph or less and it is STRICTLY enforced. STILL, reflective belts are required and that too is strictly enforced.

And yet, we're not talking about lowering speed limits here, we're talking about pushing all the onus on the pedestrian. In fact, an effort to pass a 20 mph speed limit in DC was shot down after strong lobbying efforts by the AAA and others.

I wonder why that is?

by oboe on Feb 28, 2013 1:43 pm • linkreport

@Tina it's a combination of factors for sure, including some drivers not obeying the law or being careless. i've never meant to suggest otherwise. but the fact that ped collisions are most common during dusk, dawn and nighttime suggests that visibility is ONE factor as well.

by will on Feb 28, 2013 1:44 pm • linkreport

@oboe yeah, maybe the speed limits should be lowered. i don't disagree with that. cars might have to drive slower AND peds might have to accept wearing some reflective gear. seems fair to me.

by will on Feb 28, 2013 1:51 pm • linkreport

@will where's the data that most people are hit at dusk?

I challenge you that its only "some" drivers who disrespect laws designed for pedestrian safety such as stopping at cross walks when someone is waiting to cross. Its the great majority of drivers. Everyone reading this sees this everyday. Its the norm. And not just in suburban MD and VA. Drive up 13th St NW during the day and see how many and how often drivers stop at all the marked cross walks where people are waiting to cross.

by Tina on Feb 28, 2013 1:54 pm • linkreport

The problem with that is that it assumes pedestrians and cars pose equal risk to each other. They obviously don't.

Mandating reflective clothing may work great on an army base where you have a lot of people running for drills/exercise in the roadway and you have a pervailing interest in making sure everyone can stay in fighting shape (which would be hampered by getting run over) but I fail to see how that is a reasonable standard for society at large. Especially when you consider that most of the danger to pedestrians comes from drivers engaging in risky behavior and streets that are hostile to pedestrians.

So no, it's not reasonable even if its argued as being low impact. Just because something may be a good idea in a certain setting doesn't mean its prudent for the government to mandate it nor to assume that such a mandate is the best course of action.

by drumz on Feb 28, 2013 1:58 pm • linkreport

It's my observation that drivers tend to drive faster at night than in the day, despite the greater hazard to pedestrians and critters.

by Capt. Hilts on Feb 28, 2013 1:58 pm • linkreport

@drumz reflective belts used to be required just for physical training exercises like you described but are now required no matter what you're doing outdoors on base. you will seriously get a ticket for walking across a parking lot without a belt on and won't be granted access to dining halls if you show up without one. lots of bases even require them during daylight hours as well, but most places only require them during hours of darkness or reduced visibility.

did it suck in the beginning? yeah, but we all get used to wearing them just like we get used to wearing other sucky things like seatbelts, helmets and condoms and we're safer because of them.

do i think they should be required for civilians too? yes. but even if you don't, encouraging peds to wear reflective, hi-vis gear is a responsible thing to do, it's not blaming the victim.

by will on Feb 28, 2013 2:41 pm • linkreport

Do you want to encourage or mandate? There is a difference. We just had a lot of discussion about whether its in the gov't interest to mandate bike helmet usage. The data was counter intuitive but suggested that to encourage a lower accident rate for cyclists the gov't was better off not mandating helmet usage.

Now is there the before after data on collisions on military bases or other jurisdictions that have a similar law? I'd be interested to see it. Until I'll simply settle for the police and local governments ensuring that the laws we already have on the books are being followed.

by drumz on Feb 28, 2013 3:14 pm • linkreport

will

If it was less convenient to walk on military bases, would more people drive instead?

Thats a real consideration in civilian life.

And at least so far, condoms are not required by law. Neither is sunblock. And in most jurisdictions bike helmets are not, and in some motorcycle helmets are not.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 28, 2013 3:17 pm • linkreport

Manne why do ya'll continue to engage with @Will about this ridiculous idea of requiring pedestrians to wear reflective vests at night.

Before we get there all speed limits where pedestrians are present should be lowered significantly (by 10 to 20mph at least), a comprehensive speed camera program should be implemented on all said roads (with large penalties for any speeding, set at going 1mph over the limit) and hitting/killing pedestrians (if found to be the fault of the motorist) should result in lengthy criminal penalties analogous to assault/murder charges. If/when we enact all of these, and if we still have a problem of motorists killing pedestrians, then we can look at requiring reflective vests for pedestrians.

by H Street LL on Feb 28, 2013 3:27 pm • linkreport

It helps people who may be reading to realize that what seems reasonable (requiring safety vests or what not) may not be (the various arguments against it).

by drumz on Feb 28, 2013 3:34 pm • linkreport

I guess. I think what I proposed are much more reasonable incremental steps.

Anyways, I would rather see you, @ AWITC and @kk use ya'll substantial talents on writing some more meaningful articles on here. Same with @HogWash, although I think he is trolling (or trying to draw his inner-Milloy) half the time. (And I got plenty love for Courtland Milloy - did we ever figure out if he posts here?). Seriously, all ya'll have great ideas/writing skills. Let's get it.

by H Street LL on Feb 28, 2013 3:51 pm • linkreport

whether or not you support the idea of a hi-vis law for peds (and it could be vests, belts, armbands, etc.) the MD official was only ENCOURAGING wearing reflective clothing.

me, i think that encouragement is far more reasonable than @H Street LL's "one mile over the speed limit" comprehensive camera program on any road with peds.

by will on Feb 28, 2013 3:51 pm • linkreport

H Street, I actually was thinking about it. I do like the commenting because I like going off the cuff about things plus it helps me really hone down to what I believe. But I do appreciate the motivation.

Will,

But its more than that. The official is literally in charge of how Maryland's largest county enforces its traffic laws and the only germane point he could add to the fact that 3 (with a 4th a few days later) people were killed while following the law is that they should have been more visible (while we actually don't know what they were wearing). He was doing more than encouraging, he was basically saying pedestrian safety is something completely on the pedestrian and what do you expect him to do? Direct his officers to cite drivers making pedestrians lives more risky?

by drumz on Feb 28, 2013 4:00 pm • linkreport

@drumz i think the burden falls on both sides so, yeah, i guess i agree that the right response is to say that drivers must slow down, watch out for peds, and obey all traffic laws AND that pedestrians should wear reflective safety gear while walking at night to help drivers see them earlier. neither action should be diminished.

by will on Feb 28, 2013 4:11 pm • linkreport

But that isn't what happens. People talk about both sides behaving responsibly but it's rare to get anything resembling an investigation and taking the driver at their word. Even when a driver is found at fault the consequences aren't very steep. A fine, usually.

by Drumz on Feb 28, 2013 4:27 pm • linkreport

@will,

me, i think that encouragement is far more reasonable than @H Street LL's "one mile over the speed limit" comprehensive camera program on any road with peds.

I'm curious what the justification for this is. I can never understand why it's a complete non-starter to just post the legal speed limit and enforce it rather than post a "fake" speed limit, then enforce the fake limit +10 mph.

In an urban area with any pedestrian traffic whatsoever, you are recklessly endangering others by driving more than 20 mph. The fact that DC cannot post a speed limit lower than 25 is ridiculous. That DC cannot enforce a speed limit lower than 35 is criminal.

by oboe on Feb 28, 2013 4:43 pm • linkreport

will, [Deleted for violating the comment policy.] My standard winter coat is tan (visible), my umbrellas are obnoxiously bright and/or reflective (very visible), and both my dog and I wear flashing red strobes starting at dusk and continuing any time we're out after dark (highly visible). Yet, I've almost been plowed over by inattentive drivers, coming from a dead stop in the story I related. I'm pretty sure I could carry a flashing neon sign across the street and STILL have some drivers "not see me."

Yet, I can spot a deer on the edge of the road by the reflection of its eyes from 50' or more away. Why? Because I'm paying attention. My post that people shouldn't be indiscriminately slamming into things when driving got some attention as suggesting that people *intentionally* wreck. That's not what I meant at all. What I meant was that people *negligently* wreck into things they should have been able to avoid, with some frequency. "I was hit at a standstill" is an indictment of the other driver. Why did they hit a stationary object, outside of VERY bad weather or mechanical failure? THEY screwed up, badly. I won't sugar-coat it, because I wouldn't *do* it. It isn't an "accident" if you slam into something you could have avoided, if only you were paying attention and behaving appropriately. I "accidentally" trip over my dog when he zigs left in front of me while walking down the hallway. I don't "accidentally" hit someone crossing in front of my stopped car at a stop sign at a well-lit intersection with marked crosswalks because I didn't bother to look up before hitting the gas. I would be *negligent* in that case.

Very few people leave their home in a car with the intention of getting into a wreck (only the suicidal and homicidal), but LOTS of people drive like it doesn't matter. They change the radio station while approaching a busy intersection, take a call in heavy traffic (even WITH a headset or speaker, this is distracting), speed, follow too closely, and don't adjust their driving for weather, light, traffic, or road use (including areas thick with pedestrians and bikers) conditions, or otherwise don't pay attention. All of this is accepted as "typical" behavior from drivers, yet we've got people here and in official positions saying the problem would be "solved" if only pedestrians did...something. NO. I have just as much right to cross the street as you do to drive on it. Cars come equipped with headlights, seatbelts, airbags, and even back-up cameras. Streets come equipped with speed limits, signs, markings, and street lights. If I can do lots of things right (wear visible clothing, carry reflective items, cross at marked and controlled intersections, and be wary of cars) and STILL be hit or nearly hit on a regular basis, the problem does not lie with me, nor with the thousands of other pedestrians who experience this on a daily basis. If even a traffic control officer can BARELY stop an illegally turning car from nearly hitting me (happened more than once, reflective vest, whistle, nearly throwing themselves in front of the car, and all), then it's clear where the problem lies. Clearly, their right to make an illegal turn at high speed and against the warnings of a law enforcement officer trumps my right to simply walk across the street...

by Ms. D on Feb 28, 2013 10:07 pm • linkreport

Most people don't think they should drive drunk but if you could get away with easier then more people would do it.

It's worse than that. You see a *lot* of people driving around texting. Even though it's been proven that a texting driver is more dangerous than a drunk driver. They do it even though they understand the danger they pose. And they do it because they figure the chances of them killing someone "just this one time" is very small. And that's true. But there are a lot of drivers on the roads.

So it's extremely unlikely that any given driver is going to kill someone. But it happens. And when it happens the driver will of course be very upset. They never meant to hurt anyone. And police won't bother checking the cell phone records.

by oboe on Mar 1, 2013 10:53 am • linkreport

No one questions that peds can do things to make themselves safer, but it bugs me that the onus is put on the pedestrians when the drivers are almost always breaking the law, and are the ones operating the dangerous machine that they have to have a license for.

by SJE on Mar 1, 2013 4:24 pm • linkreport

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