Representatives of the county’s police department and Department of Transportation and other partners will brief the County Council on Tuesday on Vision Zero, aims to eliminate serious and fatal crashes for motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians by 2030.
The council will review various data and other initiatives aimed at increasing bicycle and pedestrian safety countywide in light of data that shows incidents have increased as traffic levels resume with the waning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to data provided by the county police department, a total of 14 vehicle occupants and four pedestrians died in fatal crashes from Jan. 1 to Aug. 31, 2021. In 2022, those statistics increased to 18 vehicle occupants, seven pedestrians and three bicyclists for the same time period.
During Monday’s news briefing, council President Gabe Albornoz said all options are on the table regarding solutions and actions to implementing Vision Zero.
“The practical reality is that we are back at pre-pandemic levels in terms of car traffic in our region,” Albornoz said. “And we have to make sure that we take … every step necessary to help mitigate some of that traffic, and help ensure that pedestrians and bikes receive a higher priority than they have in the past.”
When it comes to improving traffic safety, Montgomery County had been faring well compared to other local jurisdictions prior to the pandemic. According to state and police data, the county had the third lowest crash rate, at 0.47 per each 100 million vehicle miles traveled, from 2015 to 2019. Only Howard County and Fairfax County/City had lower rates.
Albornoz said each local government needs to work collaboratively to figure out what mitigation efforts are working — but he said narrowing roads and getting drivers to slow down should be part of that response.
Specifically, he cited a decrease in serious crashes along Connecticut Avenue between Chevy Chase and Chevy Chase circle, which is on the Maryland-Washington, D.C., border. Since the lanes have been narrowed, less accidents have occurred, despite how busy that corridor is, Albornoz said.
“There are pros and cons to every action that we take on this issue,” he said. “I think that studies have shown the pros outweigh the cons in terms of the narrowing of lanes.”