A Protected Bike Lane Loop for Bethesda

Provided the Council supports the funding, new protected bike lanes will soon be coming to downtown Bethesda. The County has unveiled a new plan to build a “low stress” bike loop in the downtown, running to the west on Woodmont Ave, to the south on Montgomery Lane/Montgomery Avenue, to the east on Pearl St./Maryland Ave, and to the north on Cheltenham Drive.

The loop will help provide safer connections to Metro, Capital Bikeshare, the interim Georgetown Branch Trail and future Capital Crescent Trail, the Bethesda Trolley Trail, nearby neighborhoods, local businesses, and many activity centers in Bethesda.

Construction could begin as early as Spring 2019.

Protected Bike Lane Loop in Bethesda

The loop is essentially an advance and initial implementation of the plan outlined by the Council in our new vision for Downtown Bethesda. Thanks to projects such as the Silver Spring and White Flint protected bike lane networks, the County has a growing expertise in building this infrastructure and now has the know-how to move quickly from concept to implementation.

The bigger vision we have is to make our roads safe for bicyclists of all ages and all skill levels. We know that more people will choose to ride their bike for trips to work, shopping, recreation, and transit if we provide “low stress” connections to their destinations. Indeed, this message was amplified by the public through hundreds of letters to the Council and their participation at community meetings, public hearings, and our Great Montgomery Bike Summits.

The closing of the Georgetown Branch Trail for Purple Line construction, however, brought great urgency to improving the safety for bicyclists in an around Bethesda. I heard from a number of residents including Anna Irwin,Tom and Barbora Bridle, Andrew Forsyth, and others, about the urgency of acting to improve biking in Bethesda, along with some specific requests to build protected bike lanes on Woodmont Ave among other streets. In response I organized a community meeting on November 1, 2017 where, joined in sponsorship by Councilmember Berliner, we discussed bicycling in and around Bethesda. With over 100 community members in attendance, MCDOT, MNCPPC, and WABA gave presentations and led a discussion on how to improve bicycling in the downtown. MCDOT presented a concept for a Bethesda loop built upon the master plan recommendations and their work on the interim route for the Georgetown Branch Trail. The concept was well-received by the community and bicycle advocate groups.

I followed up the meeting by writing a letter (pdf) with Councilmember Berliner to the County Executive requesting that he include funding for the loop in his recommended Capital Budget. The community followed up by raising a powerful voice. A new group, the Bethesda Bike Now Coalition, organized along with WABA to push for the infrastructure. They even did an awesome video that went viral. See below.

The County Executive agreed with us and included $3 million in new funding for the loop in Bethesda. While we must press on to keep the funding in the budget here at the Council, this is a great step forward, and I salute the County Executive for moving so quickly.

The residents, employees, and visitors of Bethesda will be well-served by building this bicycle loop, and we are all are eager to see tangible benefits from the master plan process.


Montgomery County becomes first in the State to have green pavement markings on State highways

ROCKVILLE, Md., November 9, 2017 — Residents passing through downtown Silver Spring may notice green markings on the pavement inside the intersections. These markings represent a new type of bicycle infrastructure and a first in the State of Maryland.

As part of the “Silver Spring Circle’s” Spring Street protected bicycle lane project, Montgomery County is now first in the state to have support for a protected bike lane on a State highway, through the installation of high visibility green paint through the intersection crossings at Georgia Ave (MD 97) and Wayne Avenue (MD 594A). MCDOT will complete the markings at the Spring St. / Colesville Ave. (MD 29) intersection once the State Highway Administration (SHA) completes planned repaving in 2018.

The announcement follows a letter (pdf) sent in May 2016 to SHA requesting the change by Council Vice President Hans Riemer, Council President Roger Berliner, and Councilmember Tom Hucker, as well as the District 20 State Delegation, Senator Jamie Raskin and Delegates Sheila Hixson and David Moon.

Council Vice President Riemer lauded the work: “These safety markings symbolize big steps forward for bike infrastructure in Montgomery County. Green pavement markings substantially increase the visibility of bicyclists and make motorists and bicyclists more predictable to one another. While the County has been installing green pavement markings on County roads for several years, there is great value in installing these in intersections with state highways, where the conflicts are particularly acute. I am proud that Montgomery County continues to lead the state in safe bicycling infrastructure, and I look forward to seeing more examples of these throughout the County.”

Research has shown that pavement markings can have significant effects on safety. A 2008 Danish study in “Accident Analysis & Prevention” found that colored bike lanes in intersections resulted in a 10% reduction in accidents and 19% reduction in injuries. Some other benefits include discouraging illegal parking by cars, increasing motorist yielding behavior, and enhancing bicyclist comfort.


New protected bike lanes and dockless bike share come to Silver Spring

In a big win for the Silver Spring community, the County has unveiled new protected bike lanes on Spring St. and announced an agreement with MoBike to bring hundreds of dockless bike share bikes to the County. With your advocacy and the support of my Council Colleagues and the County Executive, Silver Spring is becoming one of the best and safest places in the region to jump on a bike.

Several years ago I asked the Planning Department to develop a low-stress bicycle network for Silver Spring and White Flint. At my request, the Council funded these infrastructure improvements in 2016. Last year we celebrated the second piece of the White Flint protected bike lane network, and work continues to complete the network there.

There is a lot to be happy about. Let’s make this a sign of what is to come for communities all across our great County. Biking should not just be for the brave, it needs to be an option for everyone, regardless of skill and comfort-level. More details and a video are below.

Leggett Celebrates New Protected Bike Lanes in Silver Spring; Announces Montgomery County Has Signed Agreement with Mobike to Add Dockless Bike Share in Silver Spring

October 3, 2017

ROCKVILLE, MD — Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett today announced that the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) has completed construction of the first protected bike lane in downtown Silver Spring, a Bicycle and Pedestrian Priority Area. Leggett also announced that Montgomery County has signed an operating agreement with Mobike, making the County the first suburban jurisdiction in the U.S. to adopt this dockless bike share system. Mobike is the largest bike-sharing platform in the world. This month, these dockless bikes will be available in Silver Spring via a smartphone app.

“Today, we are celebrating two important developments in making bicycle travel in Montgomery County easier, safer and more accessible,” said Leggett. “We are adding a protected bike lane to our existing Silver Spring biking infrastructure and we are initiating a bike sharing agreement for a pilot project with Mobike to enable more people to travel by bicycle. This protected bike lane and enhanced access to shared bikes can help reduce traffic collisions, improve our traffic flow, and protect our environment.”

Silver Spring is an ideal location to expand biking options. The Montgomery County Department of Transportation built the protected bike lanes as part of a plan to create a network of low-stress biking infrastructure throughout the downtown area. The next step in building this network may include protected bike lanes on Wayne Avenue and Cameron Street. The network is intended to connect residents, workers and visitors to jobs, retail, recreation, entertainment and transit.

“We know that when we make biking safer by adding protected bike lanes, more people of all skill levels, young and old, will choose to bike,” said County Council Vice President Hans Riemer. “The Spring Street Protected Bike Lane will be a tremendous asset to the community, and it is just the beginning of a fully-separated bike lane network—known as the Silver Spring Circle—in downtown Silver Spring. I requested that Planning Staff design a Protected Bike Lane Network in Silver Spring and I’d like to commend the County Executive and his administration, and my Council colleagues, for making the Silver Spring Circle a reality.”

Montgomery County’s agreement with Mobike is a pilot project to test the concept of dockless bikes in Silver Spring. MCDOT is committed to working with businesses and residential communities to ensure a successful demonstration project.

To use Mobike, individuals will be able to download the Mobike app to register and locate a nearby bike, then unlock it by scanning the QR code. Once at their destination, the bicyclist can park the bike in an approved area and lock it, making it available for the next user. These bikes are powered by unique high-tech features including smart-lock technology, non-puncture airless tires, bike status sensors and built-in GPS locators.

“Montgomery County is the model for how we wish to work with communities across the U.S.,” said Jillian Irvin, head of U.S. government affairs for Mobike. “I want to thank Ike Leggett and everyone involved with the planning process for accepting us with open arms as we strive to make cycling the most convenient, affordable, and environmentally friendly transportation option for residents and tourists alike.”

The new Spring Street protected bike lanes are five to six feet wide and stretch eight-tenths of a mile along Spring and Cedar Streets, connecting the existing Cedar Street contraflow bike lane at Wayne Avenue to signed bike routes at Second Avenue, Fairview Road and Ellsworth Drive.

A striped buffer with flexposts separates the new bike lanes from motor vehicle traffic. The buffer varies in width from two feet to eight feet. Along most of the lane, on-street parking forms a barrier between the buffer and the travel lane. Pedestrian improvements include a shortened Spring Street crossing at Woodland Drive. The project includes bike boxes and two-stage queue boxes. These boxes allow bicyclists to make left turns at multi-lane intersections from the right-side separated bike lane.

The bike lane project includes the first floating bus stops in Montgomery County, designed to reduce conflicts between motor vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians. Four floating bus stops provide a bus boarding platform on the opposite side of the bike lane from the sidewalk. This allows bicyclists to travel safely in the protected lane without buses crossing over the bike lane or stopping in the bike lane to pick up or discharge passengers. Transit riders use a crosswalk to get across the bike lane. Floating bus stops have been constructed around the world and across North America.

Construction on the protected bike lanes began in May 2017. Work included a complete resurfacing of Spring Street and Cedar Street, with roadway foundation repair, as needed. The project budget was approximately $1.4 million.

The Mobike company officially launched its service in Shanghai in April 2016 and has since expanded its presence to 180 cities globally, including the District of Columbia. The company now operates more than seven million smart bikes and supports over 25 million rides every day. As of August 2017, Mobike users have collectively cycled over 5.6 billion kilometers, equivalent to reducing CO2 emissions by more than 1.26 million tons, or taking 350,000 cars off the road for a year.

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Update on the White Flint Separated Bikeway Network

About a year ago, following on some great conversations at the Second Great MoCo Bike Summit, I asked the Planning Department to design a network of protected bike lanes in White Flint and one in Silver Spring. Thanks to strong support from Councilmember Berliner and the rest of the Council, the great work of DOT and the engagement of the advocacy community, a segment of that network in White Flint is now operational on Nebel Street. This week, I joined the County Executive, the Department of Transportation (MCDOT), and bicycle advocates to officially open the Nebel St. protected bike lane in White Flint.

With the leadership of the County Executive and my colleagues on the County Council as well as the steadfast support of the bicycle advocacy community, we are starting to make this vision a reality. Let’s keep our foot on the (bike) pedal.

Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for the Nebel St. Bike Lane

Alongside the Woodglen protected bike lane constructed in 2014—the first of its kind in a suburban county, nationwide—the Nebel St. protected bike lane will form the core of a robust network planned for White Flint. The County has near-future plans for protected bike lanes on Marinelli Rd. and Hoya/Towne St., conventional and protected bike lanes on portions of Old Georgetown Rd., and shared use paths on Executive Blvd. and Main St. Protected bike lanes are also contemplated on Nicholson Ln. and Edson Ln in the mid-term future.

When completed, the White Flint network will knit together the activity centers and residential areas with low-stress, safe connections. Please see the map below to get a rough sense of what the entire network will look like.

Current Status of White Flint Separated Bike Lane Network

Map of White Flint Separated Bike Lane Network

That these lanes will be protected, meaning there is a physical barrier between the bike lane and motorists, is incredibly important. The latest research tells us that there are many people who would like to ride their bike to work, to shop, or to exercise, but they are too fearful to do so. This sizeable group of riders, often called “interested, but concerned riders,” will ride their bike for many trips if provided a safe and efficient bike network. Biking does not have to just be for those brave enough to ride in traffic lanes, it can be an option for everyone if we build the right protective infrastructure.

Just as importantly, the protected bike lane network goes a long way in fulfilling the vision of a more bikeable, walkable, and transit-oriented community as outlined in the master plan. These improvements contribute to a Pike District with more economic activity, a cleaner environment, and a better sense of community. Transforming the Pike District is no doubt an enormous undertaking, but these improvements demonstrate the County’s resolve in making it happen.

Fortunately, the progress does not stop in White Flint. The County is concurrently planning and building a similar network in Silver Spring. The Spring St. separated bike lane will be under construction as early as this fall or as late as early next Spring. There is much, much more to come.

Making biking safer for everyone and increasing ridership has been a strong focus of mine at the County Council. That starts with building networks of protected bike lanes in White Flint, Silver Spring, Bethesda, and throughout the County.

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