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Transit and pedestrian committees highlighted the need for improved transportation infrastructure and road safety in response to a Thursday night bicyclist collision in Rockville, which left the victim with life-threatening injuries. 

“People are almost blasé about [pedestrian and bicyclist collisions],” said Marissa Valeri, chair of the Rockville Pedestrian Advocacy Committee. “And I don’t think folks think through that a critical injury is not a fatality moment [but] these are serious implications for individuals for the rest of their life.”

The Rockville Pedestrian Advocacy Committee, formed in 2019, is an officially-sanctioned city committee that aims to improve pedestrian safety and access in Rockville as well as make recommendations to the mayor, City Council and other relevant agencies to improve pedestrian experience. 

“RPAC has been very focused on the state-maintained roads in the county because that’s where we see the continued pattern of not only pedestrian collisions and fatalities, but bicycle and car collisions as well,” Valeri said.

Valeri said that RPAC observed through its data that Viers Mill and Rockville Pike are two of the most dangerous roads in terms of traffic collisions and pedestrians and bicyclists being hit. There were nine pedestrian and bicyclist collision incidents in total between the months of August and October, the RPAC observed.

A big reason for this is the infrastructure, Valeri said.

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“We’re still looking at transportation infrastructure that is focused on that 1950s and 1960s car culture. And if not, then it’s been slow to update,” she said. “The cities and counties have been slow to update to the fact that more people are walking and bicycling and [using] other modes of non-automobile transportation.”

According to the RPAC Traffic Incident Report for October 2022, the most recent month for which data is currently available, there were six pedestrian and two bicyclist traffic collision incidents in Rockville, while there were a total of 153 car-related incidents.

“So, it’s extremely frustrating and I think we continually look for ways in which to coordinate the response [to these incidents],” Valeri said. “The City of Rockville has really gotten much better, and the county has gotten much better with their Vision Zero process on working together and coordinating [road safety efforts].” 

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Vision Zero is Montgomery County’s initiative to reduce and eventually eliminate serious and fatal crashes among pedestrians, cyclists and motorists by 2030. 

predictive safety analysis report released July 2022 by the Montgomery Planning Board, found that there were over 59,000 collisions in Montgomery County between 2015 to 2019. These incidents resulted in over 1,200 severe injuries and nearly 150 fatalities.

This year, according to data by the Maryland Department of Transportation, there were 464 fatal vehicle crashes in the state, and 493 reported fatalities as of Dec.1. Pedestrian fatalities made up 113 of the 493, while bicycle and other pedalcycle fatalities made up 11.

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Officials from the Action Committee for Transit, a transit safety group, also voiced the need for increased road safety in response to the incident.

“People keep killing and getting killed on state roads in Montgomery County, in the same places, year after year after year, while the Maryland Department of Transportation does nothing to prevent further deaths,” said Miriam Schoenbaum, board member on the Action Committee for Transit.

Some initiatives Valeri suggested for increased road safety include dropping the speed limit in the state significantly for safer driving and increasing law enforcement on these limits.

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“So, the county has the resources to help with traffic enforcement to enforce these speed limits, and that’s like the immediate thing [to implement], there’s always things that can be changed, like long term. But that’s definitely a longer conversation,” she said.

Apps Bichu reports on growth and justice. She can be reached at apps.bichu@bethesdamagazine.com