Thursday, February 28, 2013

Another pedestrian hit by a car in Wheaton-Glenmont: This time a hit and run!

Map of collision area from
I'm shocked to read about another car-walker collision death in the Wheaton area this week.  It was again on or near Connecticut Ave, a busy main road where traffic regularly speeds.  This time, in the Aspen Hill/Glenmont area.  The victim was found on Elby Street near Connecticut Avenue

The driver shamefully left the scene and this is a hit and run.

Can we get some community outrage now?  Can we get some traffic speed enforcement on Connecticut, Georgia, University, etc?  What has to happen for cars to stop speeding through our neighborhoods and hitting people? 

As I wrote about last week, this keeps happening.  This is the fourth innocent pedestrian death in four weeks in the area that closely surrounds Wheaton. 

As reported by Patch (same link as above):
Montgomery County police are looking for a Toyota Corolla in connection with a hit-and-run that occurred in Aspen Hill Tuesday night. Police said via Twitter that the car in question is of unknown color and a model from the late 1990s to the early 2000s.  
According to a police statement, Ali appeared to have been crossing from east to west on Connecticut Avenue at Everton Street. She had crossed the northbound lanes safely but was struck by a vehicle in the southbound lanes.
Detectives are requesting that anyone with information contact the Collision Reconstruction Unit at 240.773.6620. Callers may remain anonymous.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Crosswalk Area Problematic Configurations in Wheaton: Inquiry to State and Response

Welcome readers from Just Up the Pike's Facebook page! I am happy to see this blog featured there today and called insightful. Thanks to that we've had 171 page views already today, after a maximum of 12 on any other day so far.


I have been concerned about the pedestrian crosswalk situation in Wheaton since moving here. Some intersections have the type of setup where one has to press a button for the walk signal to turn from red to white (which first requires noticing that a button press is required and making it to the button). Others lack marked crosswalks at all, have them near the intersection but not at the actual intersection, or have crosswalks that are simply disregarded by cars at busy intersections.  A lot of pedestrians cross against the signal or at unmarked spots (which can be dangerous) when intersections are designed in either of those ways.

Today I want to write about Amherst Avenue and University Avenue -- which is an intersection with press button crosswalks and obstacles obstructing one of the buttons -- and Amherst Avenue and Arcola Avenue -- an intersection with a painted crosswalk covering only one of three possible crossings.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Dangerous conditions in Montgomery County should be improved

I have been taking photos and mentally preparing posts all week, but haven't had a chance to write them up.

One thing I do want to do is join Greater Greater Washington in writing about the sad, preventable traffic deaths of three adults in our county in the past three weeks. These collisions happened near Wheaton -- one in Aspen Hill and two in White Oak. These two other communities are similar to Wheaton in many ways, with large fast roads running through them and too much traffic, but dissimilar in that Wheaton has more stores and restaurants and has a metro station.

There needs to be some public outrage about these deaths and the lack of response to them. In the Wheaton Patch story about this, the police person interviewed gave a totally inappropriate response almost blaming the victims of this crash for the accidents. I hope some motion can start in our community to show the police that they need to hold drivers responsible for creating conditions that are conducive to other life existing on the streets.

The problem is that traffic regularly travels on Georgia Avenue at completely unsafe speeds. We need some speed limit enforcement on Georgia at least from Silver Spring downtown north through Aspen Hill. Drivers should also be pulled over and cited by police for not yielding to pedestrians in crosswalks.


This topic resonates with me strongly and I was thinking of it this morning when I snapped the photo below of the landscape walking along Georgia Avenue in Wheaton. The traffic was going past very fast and the sidewalk was positioned directly alongside the road.

Society could really improve life by making it easier and more pleasant to walk.
Traffic on Georgia Ave in Wheaton at 9:15am on a weekday.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Shopping for a Spiritual Home: The Church of the Atonement

I went to the Atonement church on Sunday, February 11, for their 11:00 am service, continuing my series of church adventures in Wheaton. My overall impression is that it was friendly, with lots of contemporary music. I had never been to a church service that had a live band before. They had a group with guitars, drums, a violin, and flute at various times, a small choir, and a couple of featured singers on mics at the front.

The pastor spoke rather informally without standing behind the pulpit.  He had a lot of enthusiasm and sort of reminded me of a passionate Reverend from a movie.

They kept mentioning their "bible study" classes and "Sunday School" classes that they were offering earlier in the morning.  They did Communion the day that I was there (perhaps they do it every week) and did it in a closed manner -- asking people to refrain from joining in the ceremony unless they had been baptized.  I prefer the attitude of more liberal churches like UCC where everyone can participate in Communion.

It is a Reformed Presbyterian type church and has a lot of evening activities. Is located on Georgia Ave near the boarder of Wheaton and Forest Glen.
The Church of the Atonement on Georgia Avenue, viewed from Amherst Avenue.

Friday, February 15, 2013

How to Bike to the Wheaton Metro Station

Bicycle parking area at Wheaton metro station's east exit.
Informal bicycle parking area at Wheaton metro station's east exit.
Here are photos of the bike parking areas that I mentioned in an earlier post.

I recommend that anyone who drives to the metro (especially from a mile or less away) consider riding their bicycle there instead.  It is great for your health and happiness, for the environment, and saves you money!

To bike to the metro:

  1. First, plan your route. Googlemaps has a bicycling directions option so use that to view all of the actual bicycle routes, but don't be afraid to bike directly on side streets and sidewalks of busy roads. We are considered vehicles and can officially go anywhere a car can go except highways.  Using a Googlemaps bike map, click on the "A" on the map & drag it to your starting point.  Then click on the purple suggested route and drag the line to adjust it to other route options. 
  2. Try to avoid Georgia Avenue, since biking on it (even on the sidewalk) is loud and rather unpleasant.  Cars speed and there are a lot of pedestrians on the sidewalks.  If Georgia is your quickest route to the metro, consider the small residential roads that run parallel on each side!  These streets do things to calm (slow) car traffic and are perfect for bikes.  Amherst Ave is on the eastern side to the north and south of the metro.  The northwestern side has Grandview Ave and the southwestern side (northern Kensington) has the Mall parking lot.  All of these alternatives to Georgia are quieter and calmer.  I do bike on the sidewalks along Georgia occasionally and it is certainly do-able, just less scenic. 
  3. Get a bike and a lock (you may already have these) and just do it!  There is no need for fancy equipment or clothing.  Bike at a moderate pace, go slowly up inclines and coast joyfully down them, and just wear your normal work clothes.  I usually carry a small backpack instead of a shoulder bag since having the weight centered makes my balance more stable. 
    • If you aren't in shape, consider biking one way one day, get picked up/walk/take a bus home that night, leave the bike at the metro overnight, use the same way to get back to the metro the next morning, then bike home the second night.  Sufficient rest for your muscles will keep bike commuting fun.
    • Also, know that it gets easier as you get more experience. Pretty soon you'll be able to bike your route like it is second nature.
    • If the weather is cold wear lots of layers. In the current winter weather I wear long underwear, work clothes, winter boots, a ski jacket, warm hat, & two pairs of gloves.
    • Remember to look around as you're riding and breathe in the fresh air on the side streets. Know that you're helping the planet and keeping yourself in shape!
    • Those are all the tips I can think of.  Any questions?

Future Plans:

The next step for me may be biking all the way to work in downtown DC.  I haven't done that since moving to Wheaton.  Sometime this spring I will do it and report back.  I think the best route will be to bike on the Sligo Creek Parkway Trail to either Silver Spring downtown or Takoma Park, then catch the Metropolitan Branch Trail the rest of the way to DC.

A good time to bike all the way to work may be the annual Bike to Work Day, Friday, May 17, 2013. I plan to participate in some way, if not biking the 15 miles from home to work, then I will get off the metro at Catholic University and use Capital Bikeshare to go the rest of the way from there.

BTWD is an awesome experience of group goodwill.  I participated several years from my old tiny dwelling place in DC to work.  The event includes bike convoys downtown from many starting points around the DC area and "pit stop" events with speakers, snacks, and giveaways.  The biggest pit stop is at Freedom Plaza in DC.

With any luck an experienced bike commuter from Wheaton, Glenmont, or Kensington (or even Forest Glen) will lead a BTWD convoy downtown that I can join.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Fate of Wheaton Triangle: How to make the most of the planned new government building

Just up the Pike frequently writes about Wheaton, and a post from today is inspirational. The issue is what will happen to the large parking lot currently located in the southern section of the "Wheaton Triangle."

Map of Wheaton Triangle area from
As the blog lays out today in "can new MoCo planning HQ catalyze wheaton?"
Last month, the Park and Planning Commission made a nonbinding agreement with Montgomery County to build their new headquarters and a town square on Parking Lot 13 at the corner of Reedie Drive and Grandview Avenue, for which the County Council set aside $55 million last year. 
I totally agree with all of the suggestions in the post, adding street level shops and restaurants with outdoor seating, a display area on the ground floor that the public can see from outside and walk in to visit, and making sure the space around the new building is alive with people at all hours (having plenty of people walking around makes a place safer and better for everyone).

I hope our officials make a good use of this public space so our community can grow and prosper.
The parking lot in Wheaton Triangle from the northwest corner; the planned site of the new Park and Planning Commission headquarters building. Photo from 2/14/13.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

I bicycle commute to the Wheaton metro station

It takes about 12 minutes to bike from home to the metro or 20 minutes to walk.  I have two possible bicycle routes: one is almost totally along Georgia Ave and makes me more stressed than walking.  The other route is through a park and small neighborhood streets.  The problem is that the scenic route takes a solid 12 minutes while the busy street route can take only 7 minutes if I hit the traffic lights right and there aren't a lot of people walking on the sidewalks.  Once the Safeway construction is finished it will be even faster.

Motivation to Bike Commute
The problem is laziness.  I try to give myself messages like that above to feel good about what I'm doing.  Otherwise I mope and feel sorry for myself that I have to put out so much effort to get to work rather than just strolling to the metro stop like I did at the last place I lived.

Wheaton is a decent place in which to bicycle.  This morning I saw two other bikers on my way to work!  One on my street and another in the park.  I often bike past kids and their parents waiting for school buses on street corners and others walking to school together.  That is cute and makes me smile. 

Going through the woods is a beautiful start and end to my day that I really enjoy.  Being in nature has been shown to lower blood pressure, and I really feel some physiological benefit to being in nature.  I try to always be fully present while biking through the park, to look at all the trees and appreciate them during the few minutes I'm biking among them.  That is the best part.

Here is part of the biking and walking trail through beautiful Wheaton Regional Park. 
Biking and walking trail through beautiful Wheaton Regional Park, December 1, 2012. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Do you know who you vote with? On losing a chance to have the congressional district map fixed.

Wheaton is in Maryland's 8th Congressional District.  Our national representatives are:

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (closest offices to Wheaton are Greenbelt, Hagerstown, & DC)
Sen. Benjamin Cardin (closest offices to Wheaton are Rockville, Bowie, & DC)
Rep. Chris Van Hollen Jr. (office is in Rockville, near the historic downtown)

Here's a map of our oddly shaped, dare I say gerrymandered, district :(

How did things get this way, you ask? By people not noticing incremental changes to the district shapes.  Or by people trusting our reps to do what is best.

Ballot Question 5 in the November 2012 election that would have let Maryland voters reject the newly redistricted map and would have sent a message to our officials that we don't want gerrymandering in our election map.

Less messing around with the district's size and shapes would allow us to vote alongside our geographic neighbors who have similar concerns.

Instead, my vote in Wheaton is lumped in with a voter way up north in rural Maryland on the boarder with Pennsylvania, and in lots of other places I've never set foot.  How are our problems and concerns anywhere near the same? 

Unfortunately, 64% of voters said "yes" on Question 5, approving the new redistricting scheme.  I think this result was due to a lack of publicity about this question and its leading unclear wording on the ballot.  Here is the wording that was used:
"Question 5
Referendum Petition
Congressional Districting Plan (Ch. 1 of the 2011 Special Session)

Establishes the boundaries for the State’s eight United States Congressional Districts based on recent census figures, as required by the United States Constitution.

For the Referred Law
Against the Referred Law"
Confusing much?  Everyone likes the rule of law.  I think that's why they voted for this referendum   Yes to law and no to some unspecified alternative.

There were items on this ballot that people felt passionate about: namely gay marriage rights and President Obama's reelection   A lot of people just went to the polls to make sure their views on these key issues were heard.  Upon encountering Question 5 they would have been sorely confused if they hadn't read about it before they arrived in the voting booth. Or they have just been brainwashed that our officials will do what is best, so why not approve their district plan.

If a map of the Maryland congressional districts could have been included with the item on the ballot, people would have voted against it. Here is a nice interactive map of the districts from  The map above is a screenshot from that page.  Go ahead, scroll around and look at the amazing ways geographic space is cut up to match like-thinking people with each other.