Protecting pedestrians

Speeding: Re-engineering suburban roads would counter deadly tendency of a hurried society.

October 03, 1999

MOTORISTS speeding through quiet residential neighborhoods have become one of the major annoyances of modern life.

It's the reason Howard County planners want developers to design narrower roads, why residents in Eldersburg are demanding "traffic-calming" speed bumps near their homes and why Baltimoreans are petitioning to have streets made one-way or blocked entirely.

This is a quality-of-life issue, but it is also more serious than that.

Being a pedestrian in Maryland has become perilous.

Last year, 93 pedestrians were killed on the state's roads, averaging one death nearly every four days.

For the first seven months of this year, vehicles killed 65 pedestrians, which averages out to one fatality every three and a half days. (Forty deaths had occurred over the same span last year.)

Most of the victims are children who dart out between parked cars or elderly walkers who cannot cross quickly enough ahead of on-coming traffic, according to a Maryland State Police analysis.

Racing through residential neighborhoods only compounds the problem.

Suburban road design -- wide roads with sweeping corners -- also helps turn residential streets into raceways.

To compensate for street design that accommodates speed, communities are demanding "traffic-calming" devices such as speed bumps and even street closures. They are palliatives at best. More permanent solutions include median strips in wide roads and more angular corners.

As long as people insist speeding, residential streets should be designed to discourage them.

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