Thursday, July 21, 2016

Council Asks for Safety Improvements at Veirs Mill Road and Turkey Branch Parkway

Following the second fatal accident in less than a year at the intersection of Veirs Mill Road and Turkey Branch Parkway, the Council has asked Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, State Secretary of the Department of Transportation Peter Rahn and Administrator of the Maryland Highway Administration Gregory Johnson to take “more aggressive action to resolve the serious safety deficiencies at this intersection.”

Within the past week, a bicyclist was fatally injured on the road, which is near the crossing of the Matthew Henson Trail. After another bicyclist was killed near the same area in December, County Councilmember Nancy Navarro asked the State for improved safety measures at the intersection. The State Highway Administration responded by installing flashing yellow lights to make drivers aware that pedestrians and bicyclists may be in the area.

In the letter that went to the State official this week, the Council wrote: “While we appreciate the effort, we believe the flashers are insufficient to address the problem since they require motorists to slow down and exercise caution but not to stop. Drivers continue to exceed the 40-mph speed limit even when the light signal is activated. At these speeds, a collision with a pedestrian or bicyclist is almost certainly fatal.

“In the wake of this latest tragedy, we urge you to take more aggressive action to resolve the serious safety deficiencies at this intersection.”

The complete text of the letters written by the County Council on July 20 and by Councilmember Navarro on Jan. 6:

July 20, 2016

The Honorable Larry Hogan, Governor 
100 State Circle 
Annapolis, Maryland  21401

Pete K. Rahn, Secretary 
Maryland Department of Transportation 
7201 Corporate Center Drive 
Hanover, Maryland  21076

Mr. Gregory C. Johnson, Administrator
State Highway Administration 
707 North Calvert Street Baltimore, Maryland  21202

Dear Governor Hogan, Secretary Rahn and Administrator Johnson:

            Once again, we are mourning the loss of a young man who was struck and killed on Veirs Mill Road (MD 586) at the Matthew Henson Trail crossing. Less than a year ago, another bicyclist lost his life at the same intersection. With downhill approaches in both directions and high traffic volumes on Veirs Mill Road and the Matthew Henson Trail, there is no question this intersection remains a pedestrian and cyclist hazard.

            After the fatal collision in December, Councilmember Nancy Navarro wrote the attached letter asking you to expedite the process for implementing measures to improve pedestrian and bicycle safety at this intersection. Since then, the State Highway Administration has taken steps to address the safety concerns and has installed flashing yellow lights. While we appreciate the effort, we believe the flashers are insufficient to address the problem since they require motorists to slow down and exercise caution but not to stop. Drivers continue to exceed the 40-mph speed limit even when the light signal is activated. At these speeds, a collision with a pedestrian or bicyclist is almost certainly fatal.

            In the wake of this latest tragedy, we urge you to take more aggressive action to resolve the serious safety deficiencies at this intersection. We ask you to investigate the feasibility of a pedestrian-actuated traffic control device and structural improvements that may make this area safer for pedestrians and bicyclists. We understand from your correspondence with Councilmember Hans Riemer in March that an earlier study determined that the pedestrian volumes did not satisfy the warrants for a pedestrian-activated signal, but we encourage you to take another look in light of the ongoing hazard.

            On a separate topic that is also critical for bicycle safety, a loophole in the Maryland law must be fixed. In 2010 the State legislature amended § 21-1103 of the Maryland Code to allow cyclists to ride their bikes in crosswalks. While this was a strong step forward, the law that protects pedestrians on the crosswalks (§ 21 – 502) needs to be amended to include wheelchairs, electric personal assisted mobility device and bicycles. It has been reported that a judge dismissed charges against the driver who struck and killed the 19-year-old at the same intersection because he was riding his bike, not walking it, and thus was not protected by the law. We will be working with our Delegation to amend this law to safeguard all legal users of a crosswalk in our state, and we ask for your support in that endeavor.

            Montgomery County shares the Maryland Department of Transportation’s commitment to moving the State toward zero deaths on our roadways. There is no way to prevent people from making mistakes on our roads, but these mistakes need not be deadly. The crossing at Veirs Mill Road/Turkey Branch Parkway and the Matthew Henson Trail is undeniably dangerous, and we thank you for prioritizing improvements there.

Nancy Floreen                   Roger Berliner                   Marc Elrich   
Council President               Council Vice President       Councilmember

Tom Hucker                      Sidney Katz                       George Leventhal
Councilmember                  Councilmember                  Councilmember

Nancy Navarro                   Craig Rice                         Hans Riemer
Councilmember                  Councilmember                  Councilmember


cc: Isiah Leggett, Montgomery County Executive
      Al Roshdieh, Director, Montgomery County Department of Transportation
      Montgomery County Delegation

Nancy Navarro Councilmember, District 4

January 6, 2016

Larry Hogan, Governor 
100 State Circle
Annapolis, Maryland 21401

Pete K. Rahn, Maryland Secretary of Transportation 
7201 Corporate Center Drive 
Hanover, Maryland 21076

Gregory C. Johnson, State Highway Administrator
707 North Calvert Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21202

Dear Governor Hogan, Secretary Rahn, and Administrator Johnson:

On Monday, December 28, a 19-year-old man named Frank Towers was struck by an SUV and killed while riding home from work on his bicycle at the intersection of Veirs Mill Rd. (MD 586) and Turkey Branch Parkway. As you know, the area around this intersection has been a pedestrian and cyclist hazard for some time. Two people were killed within a mile of this intersection by cars last year. 

While I am aware the Montgomery County Police Department (MCPD) and State Highway Administration (SHA) are currently reviewing this incident, I am urging your administration to take prompt action to increase pedestrian and bicycle safety at the intersection of Veirs Mill Rd. (MD 586) and Turkey Branch Parkway, as well as undertake a comprehensive review of all intersections along Veirs Mill Road (MD 586).

According to the Washington Post, SHA “has an active project underway to add additional flashers at this location…to address the occurrence of rear-end crashes…” While I am pleased some thought has already gone into making this intersection safer for vehicular traffic, I am concerned there is not enough emphasis on pedestrian and bicycle safety. As SHA continues to review traffic calming strategies for this area, I hope you will prioritize the need to reduce the number of accidents involving pedestrians and bicycles. I implore SHA to expedite its process in light of this most recent tragedy by taking swift action to resolve these serious safety deficiencies.  

In 2015, Montgomery County experienced more than a dozen pedestrian and bicycle fatalities. The vast majority of these incidents occurred along State Roads. I look forward to working with your administration, the County’s Department of Transportation and Police Department to reduce the number of these incidents to zero in 2016.


Nancy Navarro Councilmember, District 4

CC:      Isiah Legget, Montgomery County Executive
            Thomas Manger, Montgomery County Police Chief
            Al Roshdieh, Acting Director, Montgomery County Department of Transportation
            Nancy Floreen, Montgomery County Council President
            Roger Berliner, Chair, Transportation, Energy, & Environment Committee
            Roger Manno, Senator (District 19)
            Richard Madaleno, Jr., Senator (District 18)
            Bonnie Cullison, Delegate (District 19)
            Ben Kramer, Delegate (District 19)
            Marice Morales, Delegate (District 19)             
            Al Carr, Delegate (District 18)
            Ana Sol Gutierrez, Delegate (District 18)
            Jeff Waldstreicher, Delegate (District 18)


tomow said...

Frank Tower's (Killed December 28th) worked In my Families business.....he had only Been in Maryland 7 months but was thriving loving his new life working with kids! I gave him the "Bike" for Christmas 3 days before! he was super excited to ride it to work the 1st time! and he was Killed that night by a speeding driver who saw cars stopped or stopping yet he hit and Killed Frank! The Accident report blamed both.....Imagine that Frank's dead and can't defend himself! And recently this driver went to court and the Charges were Dropped! Killed a 19 year old man and didn't even have to pay a fine! WOW just wow all of this was on TV and in the Press a Police Captain begged the State to do something and something was done and it was a waste of time and money, as 1 week after the man who hit Frank was exonerated another young man was Killed! In the same place! I have written to every council member and the County Executive nsd receid nnswerfrom anyone! Not one! So after the 2nd young man was Killed a couple weeks ago and we got the press involved again and low and behold the next day I heard on the radio that the County Council was going to write a letter! Imagine that? I saw the Washington Post article last Saturday and find it very interesting that the State appears to blame it on the Bicyclists! Unbelievable! How many more have to DIE before you all get something done? kids still ask where Frank is at work and we can't tell them because Parents don't want us to!

SloopJohnB99 said...

Chances are the bicyclist rode his bike across the crosswalk without looking or yielding right of way to vehicles.
If he had walked his bicycle across the intersection and crosswalk he likely would not have been hit but who knows? He might have even looked to see if it was safe to cross rather than blithely riding across the intersection.
If this is blaming the victim, so be it. There are some things that have to be left up to freedom loving individuals rather than putting the onus on the State to protect idiots.

Gene Grunby said...

There is no doubt that installing traffic control equipment is essential, but it is never sufficient. We need to implement practices that emotionally influence drivers to actually BE cautious and alert to conditions dangerous to others. For instance, I am especially attentive when I see flowers, a cross or a plaque at the side of a road that designates that a death has occurred at this location; I would hope that almost anyone would have visceral responses to such a marker. Couldn't we formalize the occurrences of these deaths by posting an official sign (such as one produced and updated by our local government)? The sign could convey how many people have died at a particular location over the last 12 months and the date of the most recent death. If just one driver in a tailgating caravan of cars reduced speed, for example, all the following cars would be forced to slow down by necessity and could read and understand the reason for this respectful action. Slowing down works for Safe Speed zones; why not for protecting lives? Let's be creative and help our government protect ourselves and our loved ones!

tomow said...

As a matter of fact there a 2 Ghost Bikes at the location....And one of them was run over and crushed.....because of people that don't have time or want or need to slow down.....
so SloopJohnB99 you believe that it is OK to Kill someone riding their Bike? And walk away Scot free? You sound like a real smart guy! Congratulations you are part of the problem!

Anonymous said...

most drivers don't care, that's what it boils down to. Everyone In this area is always in a hurry and think they are the most important people on the road. Driving too fast and not knowing or caring that it's a state law that you must stop for pedestrian at crosswalk.

Sloopjohn is completely wrong. You can't just ride across that intersection, the way the crossing is built u have to get off your bike at the median, no way 19 year old just blindly rode into traffic.

State and county such assess huge fines for not stopping at crosswalk for pedestrians, this is only way drivers will start obeying. I used to live right by there, there was maybe a few weeks when there was active enforcement, hope they pick it up again. That said, even up county in less congested area where I live now some jerks still don't obey law, even for a mom with stroller at crosswalk.

Certainly M.D. and MoCk can and should do m√łtes to protect bikers and pedestrians at this intersection and many others. It's a shame that people trying to help the Earth end up having to risk their lives in the process.

Drivers need to remember, you own a car, not the road. That cyclist is someone's kid or parent, slow down , obey laws and save a life.