In recent years, when Mindy Badin of the Olney area drives to events to promote pedestrian and bicyclist safety efforts, she said she’s often noticed people tailgating behind her, to quickly pass her to get to their destinations.
Badin’s son, Brett, 32, was killed January 2020 while crossing Rockville Pike near Wootton Parkway en route to dinner with friends at IHOP. Since then, Mindy has attended multiple county events to call on greater efforts to increase safety measures for pedestrians and cyclists.
Badin said multiple times—including along Md. 108 near Olney, which used to part of her commute to work—the tailgating and aggressive driving has been an issue.
“How ironic is that, that as I’m driving to an event to make the streets safer, that people are tailgating me,” Badin said. “And that people are speeding and passing me, it’s crazy.”
Badin attended a Monday news briefing led by County Council President Evan Glass (D-At-large), who was set to introduce legislation Tuesday aimed at making county roads and school zones safer for pedestrians and bicyclists safer. Last year, there were 19 deaths and 541 pedestrians and cycles were injured on roadways countywide.
Glass said the bill does four major things:
- Requires the county’s Department of Transportation on install “no turn on red” signs at intersections in urban areas and town centers across the county.
- Requires the Department of Transportation to install leading pedestrian intervals at intersections in downtown areas and town centers. Those devices allow pedestrians an extra three to seven seconds to enter the crosswalk, in order to establish a more visible presence for motorists who may be turning left or right.
- Requires the county executive’s office to submit an annual report on automated enforcement, including recommendations on adding more automated enforcement cameras at red traffic lights, stop signs and adding more speed monitoring devices. The report would set a timeline for when the devices should be installed.
- Creates an traffic infrastructure review process within school zones or on school property, whenever a collision occurs on a county road, and involves a student going to or from school. The review would look at potential deficiencies in traffic control and engineering, and must be completed by the county’s Department of Transportation within six months of crash causing an injury or death.
Local officials said Monday that while county leaders remain committed to reducing traffic fatalities and injuries throughout the county, much more work remains. In 2022, 19 non-motorists died countywide—Glass read aloud each of their names during the news briefing, followed by a moment of silence.
According to county data, 10 non-motorists were killed in 2021, 19 were killed in 2020, and 15 were killed in 2019.
Glass said two specific components of the bill—involving the installation of “no turn on red” signs and leading pedestrian intervals—were included because more than half of all serious incidents involving pedestrians and cyclists occurred at intersections. According to a council staff report for the legislation, 64% of pedestrian-involved crashes occurred at intersections since 2015. For bicyclists, it was 74% of incidents.
When asked about the current political will in getting the infrastructure installed to make streets safer, Glass said: “Change is hard, and we see that throughout the county with the creation of bike lanes, road diets and sidewalks. But the status quo is killing people. We have to find alternatives and new methods of keeping people safe.”
Some advocates for road and bicycle safety have continued to press Glass and other public officials to install infrastructure changes much faster than what is currently being done.
“We have to do more across the board, and that’s what this legislation is intending to do,” Glass said when asked whether the speed of projects was fast enough [how slow are these projects being rolled out?], noting that millions of dollars from the federal government will help fund future projects.
Melissa Regan, co-chair of Safe Routes to School, a countywide PTA focusing on road safety issues, was one of Monday’s speakers. She said one of the most important aspects of Glass’ legislation is it changes the lens of how serious crashes are investigated in school zones.
Instead of looking at whether a crime was committed, the traffic infrastructure review process would look at the actual engineering of the area, Regan said. It’s an “important birds-eye view” of the school and how safe it is for students, and whether crashes occurred because of poor infrastructure.
During Monday’s news briefing, Regan said eight students were hit on or near school property in January—including two at Wheaton High School.
Regan said she wished infrastructure improvements were happening at a quicker rate, and that county Department of Transportation officials would push harder to do so. Glass’ bill is a start, but so much more needs to occur, Regan said.
“At this point, we’re at step one,” Regan said. “Maybe step one-and-a-half.”
Badin said there has been movement in some areas in recent years—at first, motorists would complain about new speed cameras popping up countywide. But once motorists got used to seeing them, and seeing how they slowed traffic down, they started changing their mind, she added.
County officials are working hard to implement those changes and others to make streets safer. But the general public also needs to be made aware about the issue, she said.
“I hate to say it, but a lot of people don’t want to see a problem until it happens to them,” Badin said.