Montgomery County Council approves Pedestrian Master Plan
October 10, 2023
Councilmembers unanimously approve Montgomery Planning’s paradigm-shifting recommendations for safer, more comfortable, and more equitable pedestrian conditions across Montgomery County
WHEATON, Md. – The Montgomery County Council voted October 10 to approve Montgomery County’s first Pedestrian Master Plan, a visionary, data-driven, and equity-focused approach to systemically improve the pedestrian experience in the county. Following four years of research, analysis, and community collaboration, the Montgomery County Planning Department, part of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), developed the plan that makes recommendations addressing policies, practices, laws, and regulations to support making walking or rolling with a mobility device safe, accessible, and attractive for travel countywide.
Today’s vote follows the County Council’s July 25 public hearing, two September Council committee work sessions, and one October full Council work session on the plan. The Montgomery County Planning Board, also part of The M-NCPPC, transmitted the Planning Board draft of the plan to the County Council May 25 after its own public hearing and livestreamed work sessions earlier in 2023.
“The Pedestrian Master Plan’s recommendations are in line with national and international best practices that, when implemented in future development projects and government policymaking and infrastructure investments, will create a Montgomery County where walking and rolling are more convenient and comfortable,” said Montgomery Planning Board Chair Artie Harris. “This plan provides specific guidance on how the county can accelerate its shift to more walkable communities that provide safer and easier access to jobs, public transit, amenities, services, and schools without relying on vehicles.”
“I am very proud of the extensive research and data collection centering on transportation equity and equitable community engagement that Montgomery Planning put into this groundbreaking plan,” said Acting Planning Director Tanya Stern. “It will serve as a regional and national model for transforming auto-centric communities into ones where walking and rolling is an attractive and safe way to travel for residents. It reflects our staff’s interdisciplinary expertise and its dedication to helping pave a new and innovative path forward in prioritizing pedestrian safety on our roads while achieving racial equity and social justice, mitigating climate change, and improving economic mobility for all.”
“Montgomery Planning data show only 7.5% of weekday trips in the county take place on foot or while using a mobility device, even though 20% of all trips are shorter than a mile,” said project lead Eli Glazier. “This plan is an opportunity to not only change our approach but change our culture so that walking or rolling are viable, practical choices for more people to get around. The full implementation of this plan will take years, but Montgomery Planning is encouraged that the county is already taking action with its 2023 Safe Streets Act legislation that incorporates many of the plan’s recommended actions: giving pedestrians head starts at crosswalks, prohibiting right turns at red lights at busy intersections in downtown and town center areas, and an increased emphasis on automated traffic enforcement.”
More About the Pedestrian Master Plan
Pedestrian comfort while walking or rolling (with a mobility device) in the county can vary greatly depending on where you are. Some roads and intersections are safer and more accessible than others. To encourage more walking and to ensure a less stressful traveling experience, Montgomery Planning initiated the Pedestrian Master Plan to address the issues pedestrians face in Montgomery County.
After work began on the plan in fall 2019, Montgomery Planning held numerous in-person and virtual community engagement events and activities, designed and distributed a survey to 60,000 households, and collected and analyzed five years of commute and crash data to have a deeper understanding of the issues important to pedestrians of all backgrounds, ages, and types of mobility. The department also partnered with Montgomery County Public Schools to conduct a survey about student travel to and from school that was completed by over 70,000 students, and the department conducted a Pedestrian Level of Comfort (PLOC) analysis that captured how comfortable it is to walk or roll in different conditions in Montgomery County.
In 2023, the Montgomery Planning Board and the Montgomery County Council each held public hearings and received written comments from community members and conducted livestreamed work sessions on the plan.
The Pedestrian Master Plan provides detailed, actionable recommendations to improve the pedestrian experience. The plan’s vision is supported by four goals:
- Increase walking rates and pedestrian satisfaction.
- Create a comfortable, connected, convenient pedestrian network.
- Enhance pedestrian safety.
- Build an equitable and just pedestrian network.
For examples on how the plan seeks to improve the pedestrian experience in Montgomery County, check out Montgomery Planning’s Pedestrian Master Plan YouTube playlist.
Highlights of Pedestrian Master Plan Recommendations
- Build more places to get to on foot or by personal mobility device (in other words, connectivity).
- Provide public seating, restrooms, and other pedestrian amenities in urban areas and along boulevards.
- Make the walk to school safer and more direct.
- Increase the number of crossing locations staffed with crossing guards.
- Identify specific walking routes for each school that allow students living within a certain distance of their school to safely use sidewalks, pathways, and crossings.
- Fund programming to encourage “walking school buses” — groups of students walking to and from school with the guidance of adults.
- Build and repair more sidewalks and do so at a faster pace.
- Increase percentage of sidewalks shaded by trees.
- Audit major county and state roadways seasonally for vegetation overgrowth and erosion that reduces the effective width of sidewalks, restricts sidewalk accessibility, and limits visibility.
- Work to eliminate the need to press a button to cross the street.
- Install more direct, accessible, and highly visible crosswalks (ladder-style, like most of Washington, DC)
- Give pedestrians more time/head start to cross the street.
- Consider requiring a transportation knowledge test as part of the driver’s license renewal process.
- Consider creating a new class of commercial driver’s license required to operate vehicles that make it difficult to see pedestrians.
- Add more locations for speed cameras and similar devices in the county.
- Enforce ‘No Turn on Red’ using automated enforcement devices.
- The plan advances the transition from the former Road Code area type classifications (Urban, Suburban, Rural) to the Complete Streets Design Guide (CSDG) area type classifications (Downtown, Town Center, Suburban, Industrial, Country) to ensure that pedestrian-friendly streets are provided as roadways are reconstructed in the years ahead.
- The plan identifies certain informal pedestrian paths to make them permanent to shorten pedestrian trips.
- The plan indicates where pathways shared by pedestrians and bicyclists (sidepaths) should be built along roadways in the rural parts of the county, in line with guidance in the CSDG.