NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

Promote Roadway Safety

Drivers, Pedestrians, Cyclists Urged to Practice Caution

A wide intersection. One pedestrian is using the crosswalk and another is not.
A crosswalk on the Bethesda campus. One pedestrian is taking advantage of the safety stripes and one is not.

As the weather warms and as summer sets in, pedestrian traffic around campus tends to increase. Motorists, cyclists and pedestrians all have a role to play in ensuring everyone’s safety on the road. This is especially true during early-morning and late-evening hours.

Last year, Maryland saw 599 roadway fatalities, including 168 pedestrians and cyclists, according to information at Just this year on NIH’s Bethesda campus, two pedestrians have been struck by vehicles and several near misses occurred in crosswalks. 

Many of these incidents were avoidable. It requires all of us to adopt basic safety measures. The number of vehicles on the roads is increasing and pedestrian traffic is growing, as more NIH’ers return to campus. Practicing caution has never been more critical.

For nearly a year now, the Roadway Safety Working Group with members from across NIH, has been dedicated to this cause. They’ve made investments in infrastructure to create safer environments.

Over the winter, NIH Police conducted site visits to key intersections across campus to examine roadway behaviors and identify areas of concern, including the pedestrian crossing at the South Drive entrance on Old Georgetown Road, identified by staff as an issue.

A crosswalk that guides pedestrians across a complicated intersection.
A crosswalk on the Bethesda campus.

In coordination with the Office of Research Facilities (ORF), the group initiated a massive repainting and repair of sidewalks and crosswalks to increase visibility. Nearby hedges and other foliage have been trimmed so motorists can identify pedestrians from greater distances. Campus shuttle passengers may have noticed an audio reminder as they disembark to be mindful of their surroundings and watch for oncoming traffic.

In addition to these situational prompts, NIH Police have also begun greater enforcement of the 25 mph speed limit.

Other initiatives are upcoming. A contract has just been acquired to refurbish the Bethesda campus’s Mid-Block Crosswalk Light System, which features a series of flashing lights to alert drivers to a crossing pedestrian.

The working group is also planning a grassroots education campaign to boost vigilance for everyone who enters campus. Moreover, they are working to incorporate roadway safety information into onboarding for all NIH staff. 

We all play a role in making our campus a safer place to navigate, and your experience is essential to making that a reality. Are there key areas or intersections that need greater attention? What tactics would ease your experience on NIH roadways?

Staff are encouraged to report issues and share their experience via the Safety Talk Back reporting tool at It only takes a minute to complete and can make a real difference in how we keep our NIH community safe.

A square bar code
Use this QR code to go directly to the Safety Talk Back web page.

However, enhancements in campus infrastructure are not enough. In addition to reporting areas of concern, practicing good roadway safety behavior among motorists, cyclists and pedestrians is critical. Much of this risk mitigation can seem like second nature, but it can be easy to grow complacent and lose vigilance.

Drivers are reminded to uphold safety standards. This includes adhering to speed limits (25 mph across campus, 5 mph in all parking garages), yielding to pedestrians at crosswalks and refraining from distracted or impaired driving.

The Bethesda campus hosts researchers and patients from around the globe; some may be unfamiliar with American traffic patterns. Use caution and discernment.

Similarly, cyclists should obey all posted signage and yield the right-of-way to pedestrians in crosswalks. Adherence to campus speed limits is also relevant for cyclists—some of our hills can vault cyclists to exceed 25 mph.

Those riding bikes and e-bikes on campus should also practice distraction-free navigation to be fully attuned to their environment.

Increasing cyclist visibility can also make the difference for a safe commute. The NIH Fire Department distributes high-visibility safety reflective sashes that can be worn around your body or wrapped around a backpack to help during low-light times for cyclists and pedestrians. To receive a reflective sash, email Fire Chief Stephen Teagarden at

Pedestrians play an equally vital role in maintaining safety on the streets. Small actions like sticking to designated crosswalks, obeying traffic signals and increasing visibility can have a big impact. Practicing situational awareness is also key—never assume flashing lights at a crosswalk will have a desired effect for oncoming vehicles. Put away phones and turn off headphones/earbuds and other distractions when crossing the street. Such actions can also dramatically lower accidents on NIH roadways.

Fostering a culture of safety requires ongoing public awareness and education. By nurturing a collective commitment to responsible road behavior, communities can significantly reduce the incidence of accidents.

As roadways continue to evolve, a combination of education, enforcement and infrastructure improvements can create environments where accidents are minimized and lives are preserved. Ultimately, practicing caution and mutual respect on the roads will pave the way for a safer and more enjoyable campus for all.  

The NIH Record

The NIH Record, founded in 1949, is the biweekly newsletter for employees of the National Institutes of Health.

Published 25 times each year, it comes out on payday Fridays.

Assistant Editor: Eric Bock (link sends e-mail)

Staff Writer: Amber Snyder (link sends e-mail)