The city of College Park is continuing to focus on addressing safety concerns along the city’s Trolley Trail following a fatal accident on the trail last month.
A 77-year old Washington man was cycling along the trail at the 4600 block of Campus Drive when a car struck him. A cyclist himself, city Mayor Patrick Wojahn said he’s sometimes nervous about his own safety while using the Trolley Trail, specifically mentioning distracted drivers.
“I’ve heard of several accidents [on Campus Drive] over the years and I know that it’s a lot of times, drivers don’t expect to see cyclists there,” Wojahn said. “There are … despite the crosswalk there … drivers [who] aren’t paying attention.”
The trail runs throughout this city, Hyattsville and Riverdale Park. Wojahn said a location that could use safety improvements is the portion of the trail north of Greenbelt Road, alongside Rhode Island Avenue.
“Our east Hollywood shopping center . . . it’s separate from the traffic, but there’s no barrier between the cars and bikes,” Wojahn said.
Although District 2 Councilman P.J. Brennan said he believes the city, Prince George’s County and the state of Maryland are doing great things in College Park “to promote a more pedestrian and bicycle-friendly community,” he added that drivers and pedestrians also have a responsibility to practice safe habits.
“Most times when I’m in that area, I see a lot of pedestrians, that look like students, that aren’t pressing the button and I don’t know why,” Brennan said. ” … They just wait for the gap in traffic.”
Brennan said the city is taking steps to work with the county and the Maryland State Highway Administration to improve the Campus Drive intersection, as well as the intersection of Greenbelt Road and Rhode Island Avenue.
In 2014, three accidents that took place at the intersection of Route 1 and Knox Road within one month, according to a Diamondback article, and after those incidents, Brennan said the city and county “kicked it up a notch” to prevent more accidents from occurring.
“[But] I don’t want us to be reactionary again,” Brennan added.
The city is working with the county to improve the Campus Drive intersection by either adjusting or removing a sound barrier, Wojahn said, which currently forces bikers to divert from the trail. However, these kinds of improvements have been in the works for at least a decade, Wojahn added.
“We’ll continue meeting with them and continue to push them on this … they always talk about walkability … but it seems that the county practice when it comes to adjusting roads doesn’t match what they say.”
And some trail users, such as Greenbelt resident Laurie Lemieux who owns the Proteus Bicycle shop on Route 1, are growing frustrated.
“You have to go around the sound barrier … it’s awkward,” Lemieux said. “I’ve talked to Mayor Wojahn, he understands … they get it, they know what needs to be done.”
The trail provides an alternate mode of transportation for many students, residents and other community members. Lemieux said she and her customers use the Trolley Trail frequently, and although there is a stoplight on the trail at the intersection of Campus Drive, the trail sometimes feels unsafe at this location and the Greenbelt intersection because of speedy and distracted drivers.
“Not everybody stops, so having a red light there, more people stop at that one … it is the best thing that we have,” Lemieux said. “[But] we need to figure out a way to engineer the road for people to slow down.”
Despite the trail’s need for improvements, Jeff Lemieux, another Greenbelt resident and a local cycling advocate, said a majority of drivers are respectful of the sidewalk, cyclists and pedestrians, but “the trouble is that one person that isn’t paying attention.”
“With highway engineers … sometimes they’ll ban you from crossing the road altogether … by removing a crosswalk,” he said. “It’s really great to have a red light there. Without it, it would be terrifying.”