Planning Pedestrian Infrastructure By the Hospital Bed


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The saga of the Trolley Trail crossing at Paint Branch Parkway continues. The Diamondback reports that in a City Council meeting earlier this month, local officials intend to install “speed-monitoring” cameras at the wildly dangerous crossing. This is just one more step in an attempt to make the crossing safer after several years of complaints to the County’s Department of Public Works and Transportation. As we reported in June 2007, County Councilman Eric Olson spearheaded an effort that eventually led to the implementation of various safety measures at the crossing that included signage, rumble strips,  a pedestrian “refuge” in the middle of the road, and a pedestrian activated signal. Unfortunately (we imply no fault of local officials), the effort led to a meager 4 foot wide pedestrian refuge in the median of the 35-mph thoroughfare and a flashing yellow light, which as a Washcycle commenter (Me) complained by August of 2007, was a “big disappointment and a big waste of money.” Try holding a bike on that pedestrian refuge and keeping your life. It should be at least 6 feet, if not 8.

The fundamental problem is that we’ve introduced an unfamiliar pedestrian element into what is, for all intents and purposes, a high speed thoroughfare. This new “element”, which was installed sometime in 2008, brings a false sense of security to pedestrians/bicyclists and only marginally increases safety at the crossing. Drivers are not use to pedestrian activated mid-block crossings in this region and yellow flashing lights are interpreted as “caution” or “yield” and not “stop” to most drivers. The latter point explains why you often see drivers zooming by school buses with yellow lights blaring just before bus stop signs are unfurled. Is it any surprise that we’ve seen three serious accidents here in just over a year?

We think the county/city need to hire a traffic engineer to analyze options for the crossing, rather than councilmembers introducing more stop-gap measures. It would be far more productive to punch Rhode Island Ave through the adjacent sound barrier and create a real T-intersection with a traffic light. That would create a safe Trolley Trail Crossing and go a long way towards correcting the labyrinth of a street network in Old Town CP and alleviating traffic on Route 1. With the gap in the Trolley Trail  between Paint Branch Pkwy and Calvert Rd to be closed next Spring, now would be a great time to concoct such an intersection. Alas, that would take a small miracle of local politics! The least we can do is make improvements to Paint Branch Parkway that make it more appropriate to its lower speed urban future as the doorstep to East Campus (narrow the lanes).

6 thoughts on “Planning Pedestrian Infrastructure By the Hospital Bed”

  1. We all know that Red means stop, Green means Go, and Yellow means go faster.

    I think it should at least be a pedestrian activated flashing red light. That should be a fairly simple change.

  2. You are 100% correct. A full intersection is what is needed – to resolve the stupid problem of having to drive out to US Route l when going from Old Town/Calvert Hills to Paint Branch Parkway and to resolve a very unsafe pedestrian crossing. If there is no full T intersection with a signal, then all the pedestrian improvements should just be removed – all they do is give the pedestrians a perception of a level of safety in crossing when in fact there is none. However, the “no cut through traffic in my backyard” residents of Old Town and Calvert Hills will never allow the T intersection. If the Council has any guts, they will ignore these people and get a T intersection to relieve congestion on US Route l, provide reasonable road access to the residents and protect the pedestrians and trail users. Seems too logical to me for it ever to become a reality.

  3. Aren’t there plans to FINALLY re-connect Old Town CP with the Paint Branch Parkway area when (if?)the new East Campus development happens? I remember as a kid being able to get to CP airport by just driving down Calvert Road and crossing the railroad tracks…

  4. Last I heard, the plan is to connect east campus with the Old Town street network and Paint Branch Parkway, but put bollards in the street to prevent traffic flow between the redevelopment and the existing neighborhood. I find it hard to believe that there are any permanent residents remaining on the sections of street that could face increased traffic flow. Since the neighborhood is dominated by rental units, who actually opposes such a street opening?

  5. I live in Riverdale and ride my bike to campus nearly every day year round. Sometimes I take the NE Branch trail and other times I go via River Rd and Paint Branch Parkway.

    I would never even consider using this crossing as intended.

    If I had to cross there, I don’t think I’d even press the button; I’d rather take my chances with no lights going. At least then I don’t have to wait for the one car who slows down to 15MPH but doesn’t actually stop to get through the intersection setting me up to get slammed by the next one doing 50.

    My observation of the times that I’ve seen people activate the lights is that it’s counterproductive. Very few people stop, those that do are forced to wait for a very long time for a counterpart in the other lane to stop.

    A level crossing with a yellow flashing light in a place where people can get up to speed on a four lane highway is fantastically stupid in terms of how drivers actually behave.

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