Brandishing a blunt message, a new pedestrian safety coalition is taking aim at an issue gaining countywide attention amid a recent spike in pedestrian injuries and fatalities.
No More Dead Pedestrians is a startup coalition advocating for continued funding, planning and implementation of the county’s Vision Zero initiative, focusing specifically on state highways in Wheaton, Glenmont and Aspen Hill. The group believes everyone, regardless of income or socioeconomic background should have access to safe walking routes, highway crossings and bus routes, according to one of the group’s organizers, Kristy Daphnis.
Vision Zero is a countywide initiative aimed at eliminating pedestrian fatalities and serious injuries by 2030.
“As fatal and severe pedestrian incidents unfolded in our community, they underscored the significant problems we have faced along our state highways—particularly for our residents who rely on walking and public transit as primary modes of transportation,” Daphnis said.
The coalition’s formation was sparked by a recent string of pedestrian crashes, some causing serious or fatal injuries, in the area, including an incident in October in which four high school students were struck by a car while walking to a school bus stop on Georgia Avenue in Aspen Hill.
The group includes civic associations—Connecticut Avenue Estates Neighborhood Association, Glenmont Forest Neighbors Civic Association, Kensington Heights Civic Association, Wheaton Hills Civic Association and Wheaton Regional Park Neighborhood Association—as well as individuals and businesses, and Daphnis said No More Dead Pedestrians intends to advocate for the “underrepresented” area that has often been overlooked in countywide pedestrian safety discussions.
“Despite including some of the highest serious/fatal pedestrian crash densities in the county, based on CountyStat data, there has not been a loud and sustained public outcry, nor have there been any grassroots organizing efforts in our community in recent years,” Daphnis said. “Any small-scale complaints, no matter how well thought out, have fallen on deaf ears or have otherwise not been effective in making change happen.”
Because it is still in the early stages of development and organization, No More Dead Pedestrians is still finalizing its draft priorities and website and growing its list of partners through outreach efforts.
Moving forward, Daphnis said No More Dead Pedestrians representatives will work closely with state delegates, the County Council and the county Planning Department to develop and implement safety measures in the county.
County Council President Hans Riemer lauded the coalition for taking initiative and playing an active role in confronting the pedestrian safety issue.
Riemer said it’s encouraging to see community involvement because whether a person is concerned about safety in general, equity, social justice or living in a desirable community, pedestrian safety is an issue that affects the entire county.
“I feel like we’re starting to gain some traction here. People are paying attention, and the No More Dead Peds group is part of the advocacy process that is getting results,” Riemer said. “People are really worked up about this because people are getting killed out in the streets, and … however you look at it, it’s affecting everyone.