The area around White Flint Metro station in Montgomery County, Maryland, is a sea of strip malls and parking lots. If you check out White Flint on Walkscore, it gets a respectable 86 (out of 100) rating for walkability. But that still leaves a lot to be desired. One of my pet peeves as a pedestrian in White Flint is trying to get from the sidewalk to the store. Invariably, the sidewalk ends at the parking lot entrance, and I’m left to wonder my way through the parking lot in order to get to my destination.
Case in point: White Flint Plaza is a strip mall with a supermarket, a fitness gym, a pet store, a home goods store, among other shops. There’s a sidewalk that takes me to the main parking entrance to White Flint Plaza, but then I’m on my own. At the entrance, the sidewalk suddenly stops, sending a message that drivers are the only ones welcome beyond this point.
As a pedestrian trying to walk into White Flint Plaza, I’m left with two not very pleasant options. I could walk on the road next to the cars and hope that the drivers can see me despite the blind turn.
My other option is climb a steep hill that takes me into one of the parking lots. I inevitably go with this option, as it allows me to bypass the busy main entrance, but it means I still need to be on the lookout for cars getting into and leaving their parking spaces.
Which takes me to the point of this post. Parking lots need sidewalks too. Even people who drive still need to get out of their cars to get inside the store. In Montgomery County, 22% of accidents involving pedestrians take place in parking lots, according to Montgomery County government data. Requiring parking lots to have sidewalks would go a long way to improve pedestrian safety.