Give Neighborhoods a Brake

Give Neighborhoods a Brake

David Chen planted six signs along Oaklyn Drive to protect the hundreds of youth and their families playing at Avenel Park and at the Avenel Swim Club on Oaklyn Drive.

Hundreds of pedestrian signs were planted along roadways or held by citizens at troublesome intersections throughout Montgomery County, Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C. last Sunday, June 9, to urge motorists to drive with care and pedestrians to walk with caution.

"I think we can do a better job keeping neighborhoods safe. The extra two minutes saved by driving fast is no big deal at the end of the day. This is a gentle reminder to people to please be careful," said Pamela Cole, who organized her neighborhood's participation in front of Avenel Park.

Cole was joined by David Chen and his wife Jodi Chen — nine moths pregnant and armed with pedestrian signs — who all set up three chairs on the side of Oaklyn Drive to urge pedestrians to slow down.

"There are so many children, so many people exercising, so many mothers walking their babies in strollers on this road," said Cole. "There have been 11 accidents on [Oaklyn Drive] in 14 months."

Cole said the paving of Oaklyn Drive — already a wide street — for the Kemper Open makes it an easy road for motorists to speed on.

TRAFFIC CRASHES remain the No. 1 cause of death and serious injury among Americans ages one to 35. There have been more pedestrian fatalities in Montgomery County than there have been homicides during the last five years; 14 pedestrians were killed in Montgomery County in 2001.

However, not all drivers want to hear the message about pedestrian and traffic safety.

Danny Harris, a resident of Cabin John, was one of eight people to stand at the intersection of MacArthur Boulevard and Persimmon Tree Road, a notorious spot, to alert motorists of the Safe Neighborhood Day message.

"One person said to us, 'This is a distraction.' I wish I had said, 'At least it got your attention,'" said Harris. "Another driver backfired his pickup truck and we've had kids up here in a jeep, zigzagging across the road with no seat belts, waving their arms."

But Gabrielle Herderschee-Hunter who joined Harris and seven other of her neighbors at Persimmon Tree and MacArthur also had quite a few people roll down their windows to applaud their efforts, which included a hand-painted original sign by Kate Patch on a music stand, urging drivers to turn corners carefully.

"Thank you guys, thank you," said three people from one family, as they turned from Persimmon Tree Road onto MacArthur Boulevard.

NINE-YEAR-OLD Samir Nsouli held the power to save lives with the sign he held above his head each and every time a car past the intersection of Holly Leaf Lane and Persimmon Tree Road in Avenel.

"It's dangerous to have people drive fast. We bike a lot on this road. There's a hill over there… sometimes when you go over there and are riding a bike, some people drive fast and you can get hit," said Samir, who joined his mother Susan Nsouli, brother Ameed, 9, and sister Suad, 15, from noon to 2 p.m.

"I THINK EVERYONE has a habit of ignoring the speed. With children on bikes, it's important to reemphasize concerns we have for pedestrian safety," said Marc Fleisher, who organized his own neighborhood group to participate at the bottom of the hill by Holly Leaf Lane.

Fleisher said the Avenel Community Association management helped facilitate the involvement of the individual neighborhoods in Avenel.

"My children are already driving, its good to reemphasize this for them. Especially on Sunday, this is a huge biking conduit. Both bikers and drivers can use reminders," said Fleisher.

Susan Nsouri recommended that the county put a sign up to let motorists know an intersection is awaiting right after the crest of the hill before Holly Leaf Lane.

"Something to slow them down… it's a really dangerous curve," said Nsouri. "While we were sitting here, someone was turning left and went and then had to stop."

Fleisher said he's considered speed humps, but added, "it's terrible when your neighborhood has to adjust to the driving behavior of commuters outside of it."

THE NUMBER OF elementary, middle and high school students who stand waiting for the bus along the bike path on MacArthur was one additional reason for neighbors to stand at the intersection of Persimmon Tree and MacArthur Boulevard.

"We are focusing on this area because the school buses can't get down these three streets," said Henderschee-Hunter. "A little while ago, there was a truck that took down the No Outlet sign. Cars also don't realize this is a bike path."

Henderschee-Hunter's neighborhood is already active in advocating safety measures.

Measures to improve the safety of youth and all bikers, walkers and drivers in the neighborhood could include a sign that says, "Welcome to Cabin John: Please Drive Safely," a pedestrian crossing at Persimmon and MacArthur, a bus shelter to protect children on the bike path at the intersection and better markers between the road and bikeway to ensure that cars on MacArthur stay in their lanes and not on a bike path.

"It's really changed, there are lots of cars and traffic, children sometimes don't think. We have to help protect them," said Virginia Payne, who has lived in the neighborhood for 55 years.

"We get scared to even walk down here," said Usha Abramovitz, who was with her husband Mark and sons Noah and Rafael.

"I was up there as a patrol. People go very fast," said Toby Biu, 10, who held signs with his mother Mary Ann Biu and sister Phoebe, 7. "I'd like to see speed bumps to force people to go slower and be more careful. You never know when a kid might cross the street or if there is a pet running down the road."