After a car fatally struck a 77-year-old cyclist along the College Park Trolley Trail in September, some city council members are calling for the city to do more about the dangerous intersection where the trail crosses Campus Drive.
District 2 Councilman P.J. Brennan said there is no formal mechanism that slows traffic down to an acceptable speed as cars approach the intersection, which is located on the other side of Rossborough Lane and Rhode Island Avenue. The speed limit on that stretch of Campus Drive is 35 mph, and there are no speed cameras to deter speeding, he added.
“Essentially we have a really dangerous road running through the middle of our community that has really dangerous speeds for an area where people are expected to cross the road,” Brennan said.
The sun also shines toward eastbound cars at the intersection, causing drivers to pull down their visors, which might mean they aren’t able to see the stoplight and run through it as a result, Brennan said. There’s a crossing button that pedestrians and bicyclists are supposed to press before crossing the road, but they generally don’t, Brennan said based on his observations riding the trail himself.
“They will take their lives into their own hands and just cross without pressing the button,” Brennan said. He added that residents should use the button before crossing whether there is traffic approaching or not.
College Park Mayor Patrick Wojahn said the city is removing noise barrier panels near the crossing to increase visibility for cars. The city also applied for a grant from the state that would help provide designated bikeways for bicyclists to use separately on the side of the road, Wojahn said.
“The problem more is not paying attention and turning the blind turn,” he added.
Lora Rakowski, a spokeswoman for State Highway Administration, said Thursday the SHA will take over ownership of Campus Drive once Prince George’s County approves it — which could take a few weeks or months. SHA cannot comment on the engineering of the road in the meantime, but it has worked with the University of Maryland in the past with the “Walk Smart College Park” campaign that aims to educate students about the rules of walking, driving and crossing the road, according to a previous Diamondback article.
In the future, Rakowski said the SHA is looking to “expand safety methods with Walk Smart to include bicycle safety as well.” Changes such as signs and revamping the road are up to the SHA once it takes control.
“The goal is to put things out proactively; you never know how many lives you save,” SHA spokesman David Buck said Wednesday. The addition of flashing lights and signs do not always prevent accidents, he added.
Bicyclists can increase their safety by stepping off their bikes and walking alongside them when they cross an intersection, Buck said.
“We now have to work with [the SHA] on this,” Wojahn said. “We just need to be diligent about making sure they pay attention to it.”
Wojahn added he would like to see the SHA post signs to raise visibility of the Trolley Trail or create a bikeway on the stretch of Campus Drive between Route 1 and the College Park Metro Station.
But the Trolley Trail crossing on Campus Drive isn’t the only dangerous intersection in the city, said Laurie Lemieux, co-owner of Proteus Bicycles in College Park. The most dangerous, she said, is at the beginning of the Trolley Trail where Route 193 and Rhode Island Avenue intersect because there are three lanes of traffic in each direction. The Campus Drive intersection is one of the safest intersections along the Trolley Trail, despite the cars that speed there, she said.
“We need to figure out a way to slow down traffic coming up to that stoplight,” Lemieux said. “It would be really great if pedestrians and bicyclists always press the light.”
Lemieux said she takes that route a few times a week and has seen cars and even Metro buses run that pedestrian light. She expressed frustration that it’s up to the SHA to enact certain changes.
“It’s really frustrating because we don’t want to wait for someone to get hurt or killed in order to get something done,” she said.