As part of the Walking College, one of my assignments this week was to interview pedestrians in my community to find out why they are walking, what they like about walking, and what makes walking difficult in that particular location.
I decided to walk along a stretch of Georgia Avenue in Montgomery County, Maryland, just south of Aspen Hill Road. I drive along here on a regular basis, and I frequently see pedestrians crossing the street mid-block, which is not safe given the 45 mph speed limit.
As I started on my walk, I felt uncomfortable for three reasons. First, it felt unsafe to walk so close to the cars. As they whizzed by I could feel the wind whip up. Second, I had an unfounded fear that I was somehow physically vulnerable to crime, as if someone would decide to snatch my purse at any moment (this fear dissipated as soon as I started walking). Third, I was petrified of randomly accosting other pedestrians to interview them; it seemed so awkward.
I decided to walk towards a sheltered bus stop (Georgia Ave & Hewitt Ave stop), and interview people there as they waited for their bus to arrive. To my relief, this approach worked. I ended up interviewing three women who were waiting at the bus stop (I’ll call them Lady 1, Lady 2, and Lady 3). Here is what the three ladies shared with me related to walking:
- Lady 1 (~60 years old): We don’t have a lot of pedestrian crossings. Maybe we need an overhead bridge, so we can cross and not disturb the traffic. The other day I saw a bus nearly hit a girl who was at the crosswalk [pointing to the crosswalk in front of the bus stop].
- Lady 2 (~30 years old): Where Janet Road intersects with Georgia Avenue [a few blocks south of here], there’s a crosswalk but no traffic light. It’s very dangerous. I have to wait until the car stops. There needs to be a traffic light installed there. In general, it feels safe to walk on Georgia; there are a lot of buses here. I like walking to the shopping center, gas station, and grocery store; they’re all within walking distance. It feels safer to walk here than in DC [from a crime perspective]. At the crosswalk in front of this bus stop, there needs to be a sign to tell cars to slow down.
- Lady 3 (~75 years old): Walking is good exercise. They need to add more time for pedestrians to cross the street [currently the pedestrian countdown signal is set for 30 seconds]. The crosswalk by this bus stop [pictured below] needs to be made into more of a crosswalk.
As Lady 3 was talking, the bus arrived. As she lined up to get on the bus, Lady 3 said she was surprised that she had found things to say. She choked up a bit and gave me a hug before stepping into the bus.