Prince George’s County is the most dangerous in Maryland for pedestrians and cyclists, a report found, mostly on state-managed roads. The county needs a more data-driven, focused strategy to make its streets safe.

The report comes from the county’s Department of Public Works and Transportation, the Maryland State Highway Administration, and other safety and planning agencies. It contains lots of data, but perhaps the most effective part is a set of images of the kinds of conditions people face trying to walk in the county:


Photos from the report.


Prince George’s leads the State of Maryland in pedestrian deaths per 100,000 residents:


Graphs from the report.


Pedestrian fatalities per 100,000 residents is not always a great metric, because it depends greatly on how many people walk. DC’s fatality rate per 100,000 is higher than for the state of Maryland, but the average person in DC walks a lot more than the average Marylander. Virginia is just low because it’s less urban than Maryland, not because its pedestrian safety practices are better. (But what’s wrong with Delaware‽)

That doesn’t mean Prince George’s isn’t really dangerous, though. Montgomery County also has higher rates of walking than surrounding counties, yet its pedestrian fatality rate is pretty low. A 2008 CSG report, which normalized pedestrian crash rates using Census data about how many people walk or ride the bus to work, rated Prince George’s almost twice as dangerous as Montgomery, over 4 times as dangerous as DC, and slightly better than Fairfax County.

When there is a crash, a traffic safety group audits the area, but only long afterward, once the police investigation is done. Few of these audits turn into any work orders for changes.

Can the county do better? The report says it can. Montgomery did:


Montgomery created a Pedestrian Safety Initiative which used crash data identify dangerous areas and target fixes to those spots. The report also recommends Prince George’s do the same. In addition, they need a pedestrian and bicycle safety coordinator and advisory group to coordinate between many agencies and departments with a role in the planning, funding, and managing safety fixes and programs.

The county and state also can coordinate better, the report says, since 41% of pedestrian collisions and 77% of pedestrian fatalities happen on the state-managed roads, though those are only 12% of the total roads. That’s surely because the state roads have more and faster-moving traffic, yet in many communities they form barriers between neighborhoods and separate residents from nearby stores or other facilities.

David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle.