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Safety on our streets

"I just watched two near-collisions in less than 2 minutes on the corner of Booth and Midtown" - nextdoor.com poster

Please, people, let’s be careful out there!

Kentlands’ new urbanist design includes a number of “traffic calming” features that include narrow streets, few direct routes, lots of curves, and on-street parking that creates some narrow passages that drivers should treat as chicanes or “one direction at a time” bottlenecks. The four keys to safety is not all that complicated: drivers must pay close attention to the task at hand (DRIVING!), keep their speed down, stop at stop signs and yield the right of way to pedestrians.

Close attention: few who observe the drivers in our area would argue that all of them are paying satisfactory attention. Hand held cell phones are common. So are heads bent forward looking at a small screen that certainly appears to be being used for texting. Both these forms of distracted driving are illegal. Both are dangerous because distracted drivers fail to see pedestrians and pets and stop signs; they drift into the wrong lane; there was even a recent report of a car travelling north in the southbound lanes of Tschiffely Square Road!

Please protect our children and our neighbors by putting the cell phone away when you are behind the wheel. Pull into a parking place if you need to talk and don’t have a hands-free device. There is not a single text message that is important enough to justify reading or writing it with the car in motion as a fellow in Texas learned a couple weeks ago. That is doubly true in the confined traffic areas that define Kentlands and Lakelands.

Speeding: our speed limits (25 miles per hour) are the lowest allowed by Maryland codes. They are intended to make Kentlands safe for people on foot and on bikes but, again, few would argue that those limits are rigorously obeyed. There are uncountable reports of cars traveling too fast, including in sensitive locations such as the branch of Tschiffely Square Road that is east of the Clubhouse complex … and right next to a very busy tot lot!

Photo: Tom Marchessault

Slow speeds are particularly important in the mews because of limited sight lines, unexpected obstructions from cars leaving garages, pedestrian and bicycle traffic, and — most importantly — children playing. Sadly, drivers using some mews, Kent Oaks Mews between Lake Street and Kent Oaks Way, for example, certainly appear to be going too fast for safety.

And why speed? Traveling Kentlands end-to-end is less than a mile and a half: 3.6 minutes at 25 mph, 2.25 minutes at 40. Can 1.15 minutes really be worth the risk?

Stop signs: Stop signs appear to be ignored more than obeyed. Certainly a few minutes spent at the corner of Inspiration Lane and Main Street or at the corner of Hart Road and Booth Street or at the corner of Kent Oaks Mews and Kent Oaks Way yields plenty of examples of drivers failing to stop and often even failing to slow down. The streets that cross Golden Ash Way are a particular problem because of two factors: Golden Ash Way is one of the very few straight streets with no stop signs in the Kentlands-Lakelands community, and people driving on it tend to … you guessed it! … go a bit faster than might be prudent. When drivers crossing Golden Ash Way fail to stop at the stop signs tempers flare … and accidents happen.

Bicycle riders are also responsible for stopping at stop signs! I watched a woman riding south on Booth Street narrowly avoid being hit by a car traveling west on Midtown last summer when she failed to stop at the stop sign on Booth, or even look carefully before starting to enter the intersection.

Photo: Barney Gorin

We don’t need a ghost bike at that, or any, corner in Kentlands.

Yielding for pedestrians: pedestrians in crosswalks have the right of way but are a poor match for combat with an oncoming car. The various crosswalks across Kentlands Boulevard, especially those at the traffic circles, often seem to escape drivers’ notice. Speeders who cut across the cobbled portion of the central circle are particularly dangerous. The responsibility goes both ways: pedestrians, don’t step into the intersection if a car is too close to stop easily.

Lost souls: Kentlands streets can be confusing but they are not so confusing that they require traveling in reverse or three-point-turns in the middle of a block. But see them, we do!

Perhaps most distressing is that many of these “drivers behaving badly” are our friends and neighbors; they live right here in Kentlands. Please, everyone, drive on our streets and in our mews as if someone’s life depends on it. Someone’s life DOES depend on it! Many of those lives belong to our children.

And to all the pedestrians and parents and dog walkers, when you are getting ready to enjoy the activity for which our wonderful community was designed, remember Sergeant Phil Esterhaus immortal words: “Hey! Hey! Hey! Let’s be careful out there.”

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