“Gaithersburg police declare pedestrian safety is top issue along 355,” a recent Gazette headline announced. But “Gaithersburg police target people on foot who get in the way of people in cars” would have been more like it.

According to the Gazette, Gaithersburg police used a grant from the Maryland State Highway Administration to issue more than 150 warnings and 83 tickets for jaywalking, crossing against the light, and speeding, on a single stretch of MD 355 between Old Town Gaithersburg and Lakeforest Mall.  Even after this effort, “[Gaithersburg Police] Department spokesman Officer Dan Lane said pedestrian safety along Route 355 remains a concern for police…”

Photo by the author.

And well it should.  In the targeted half-mile stretch of MD 355 between Brookes and Odendhal Avenues, described in the Gazette as a “block,” there are six street intersections.  There are two lanes of traffic in either direction, with a bi-directional turning lane in the middle. 

There are seven bus stops, for the seven-day-a-week 55 and 59 Ride-On buses.  There are apartment buildings, a supermarket, fast-food and sit-down restaurants, office buildings, stores, and a shopping center.  And there is one crosswalk — at Chestnut Street, 0.4 miles south of the crosswalk at Odendhal.

Again according to the Gazette, the Gaithersburg police chose this section of MD 355 “based on complaints from the public.”  But who could the complainers have been?  Given the police department’s response — writing tickets for jaywalking — it’s unlikely they were the people forced to choose between walking nearly half a mile out of the way to cross at a crosswalk or dashing through five lanes of traffic on a state highway.  That leaves the people who see the road through a windshield and have to slow down when pedestrians try to cross in front of their cars.

So maybe the City of Gaithersburg should try again.  If they’re really concerned about pedestrian safety, perhaps they should cut back on the jaywalking tickets and instead propose a joint effort with the MD SHA to put in a few more places for people to cross safely and legally on foot. 

Photo by the author.

Yes, this might mean a slightly slower trip, for the people who use this major commuting route in cars.  But how about all of the other people who want to use the road without reorganizing their day or risking their lives?