Pedestrian Safety Initiative

Montgomery County, Maryland
Source: Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (PBIC)


Pedestrian safety had been a concern in Montgomery County since 2000, when the number of pedestrian fatalities in the county was escalating and exceeding the number of homicides. County Executive Ike Leggett believed, “Every resident deserves a truly walkable community where pedestrians can safely cross the street.”


Randolph Road median treatment before and after photos.

Montgomery County makes up part of the Washington, District of Columbia metropolitan area and has nearly one million residents. Because pedestrian fatalities were viewed as preventable deaths, a Blue Ribbon Panel was assembled to study the issue and make recommendations that would render the roads safe for all users. In 2002, the Blue Ribbon Panel identified 54 recommendations to reduce pedestrian collisions and fatalities. The county proceeded to implement these recommendations.

However, the problem of pedestrian collisions and fatalities persisted. As of 2007, there were still an average 430 pedestrian collisions and 14 fatalities each year in Montgomery County. What was needed was a strategic plan that would lay out measurable strategies, timeframes, and budgets - - a blueprint for action that would use a data-driven approach to target resources where they would have the greatest effect improving safety.


Rippling Brook Drive across Matthew Henson Trail, before and after.

In December 2007, County Executive Ike Leggett created the Pedestrian Safety Initiative. The Initiative outlined an approach to pedestrian and traffic safety that focused on three essential components: education, engineering, and enforcement. The Initiative significantly enhanced the County’s investment in educating motorists and pedestrians, keeping enforcement efforts visible and intensive, and aggressively applying the most innovative and pedestrian-friendly road engineering designs. Seven strategies, five of which involved engineering improvements, were identified as a method to reduce collisions. The strategies relating to engineering are as follows:

Strategy 1: Target pedestrian safety improvements in High Incidence Areas (HIAs)

As of December 2012, ten HIAs have been identified, with work beginning on two or three areas a year since 2008. The first step following designation of an area as an HIA is conducting a pedestrian safety audit to determine the short-term and long-term improvements needed to increase safety. Short-term improvements are made relatively quickly following the audits. Long-term improvements are usually multi-year efforts, some of which are still in progress. Because of the effectiveness of the HIA approach, the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) has adopted an audit process based on the County’s model.

Collisions in HIAs are down 45 percent. Most of the roads in designated HIAs are State roads, and SHA has been an active partner in the HIA improvement process. Between fiscal years 2009 and 2013, $2.2 million has been invested in HIA-related analyses and planned or completed improvements.

An example of traffic calming measures.

Strategy 2: Assess and improve the pedestrian network and connectivity needs

For fiscal years 2010, 2011 and 2012, the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) constructed 16 miles of new sidewalk segments and 173 new ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) projects, investing nearly $8.6 million.

Under the bus stop improvement project, MCDOT assessed conditions at 5,400 bus stops for accessibility and pedestrian safety. About two-thirds of the bus stops were found to need improvements, with 2,500 completed so far. In fiscal years 2010, 2011 and 2012 nearly 7.6 miles of sidewalks were added around bus stops and 62,100 square feet of new bus stop pads were installed, investing $4.2 million.

Strategy 3: Identify and implement corridor and intersection modifications and traffic calming treatments

MCDOT has completed nearly 80 traffic calming projects throughout the County that have decreased pedestrian collisions in those areas by 35 percent.

Through the Safe Routes to Schools program, 208 County schools have been assessed and nearly 90 outreach and education meetings have been held for the school community through fiscal year 2012. The program has reduced collisions by 72 percent within a quarter mile of designated schools.

Strategy 4: Upgrade pedestrian signals

By the end of this fiscal year 2013, 52 percent of the pedestrian signals in the County will be retimed to provide more time to crossing pedestrians at a cost of $587,000. Also launched in fiscal year 2013 was the County’s effort to upgrade pedestrian signals for the sight-impaired.

Strategy 5: Assess and enhance street lighting

Lighting improvements are an important part of HIA upgrades. Following the pedestrian safety audit, malfunctioning streetlights are repaired and any additional lights needed to enhance illumination are added to existing electric utility poles.

In addition to the HIAs, major lighting projects have been installed along MD Route 124 (Airpark to Fieldcrest), MD Route 355, and Montrose Parkway and Wisteria Drive. Investments in these three areas totaled about $2 million.


Major improvements have occurred in the five years since the initiative began. Some of the Initiative’s achievements include:

  • Reducing pedestrian fatalities from a high of 19 fatalities in 2008 to 11 in 2011 and six in 2012.
  • Reducing pedestrian collisions 12 percent since 2009.
  • Reducing the most severe collisions that incapacitate or kill pedestrians 21 percent since 2009.
  • Reducing collisions 35 percent in areas where traffic calming measures have been installed.
  • Reducing collisions by 45 percent in HIAs, locations with the highest concentrations of collisions.
  • Reducing collisions by 72 percent within a quarter mile of schools targeted for engineering, education, and enforcement activities under the Safe Routes to Schools program.


Jeff Dunckel
Montgomery County Pedestrian Safety Coordinator
Montgomery County, MD

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