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Council Suggests Strategies to Improve Pedestrian Safety Along State Highways in Letter to Maryland State Highway Administration

ROCKVILLE, Md., Dec. 3, 2018— Council President Hans Riemer sent a letter on Nov. 30 to Greg Slater, administrator for the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA), to suggest a number of strategies that should be pursued to improve pedestrian safety on state roads. The letter follows up on the Nov. 13 Council meeting with SHA, the Montgomery County Police Department, the Department of Transportation and others. The following is the text from the letter, which is also attached:

On November 13 the County Council had a wide-ranging conversation with you regarding both general and specific strategies for improving traffic and pedestrian safety along State highways in Montgomery County. I want to summarize for you the general strategies we wish the State Highway Administration to pursue going forward:

  • Reduce the lane widths to 10 feet in all our urban areas (11 feet if adjacent to a parking lane or a curb), consistent with the direction in the County’s Road Construction Code. This is the standard that has been applied to County roads since the Council updated the Road Code in 2014. It was developed after significant engineering review by our Planning Board and Department of Transportation staffs; the 10-foot-width standard was deemed sufficient to accommodate trucks and buses. The state roads in urban areas should adhere to the same standard. The County has formally adopted about 25 urban areas where this standard applies (see the attached map).
  • Set the speed limit on all state roads in urban areas to 25 mph unless a different target speed is specified in a local master plan. This, too, was a provision in the 2014 Road Code update. Target speeds in our suburban areas are not specified in law, but many of our most recent master plans do set them, and they are often lower than the current posted speed limits. As we noted in our earlier letter, the speed limit on Georgia Avenue (MD 97) in Aspen Hill should be reduced from the current 45 mph posting.
  • Audit the location and access to both transit bus and school bus stops on state highways to identify where stops and crosswalks should be relocated or installed, and where improved lighting is needed.
  • Identify where the next set of full pedestrian signals and HAWK signals will be implemented, and to develop the warrants for these types of signals.
  • Incorporate officially designated Safe Routes to Schools in the prioritization for pedestrian safety improvements.
  • Reconfigure state roadways where we have identified bikeways—especially protected bike lanes in the Bicycle Master Plan we adopted on November 27.
  • Reduce the time to analyze proposed pedestrian safety improvements as well as the time to install them once a decision is made to implement them.

The above initiatives should apply to all state highways; we would like to also proceed as we have discussed to work through a set of changes for Georgia Avenue specifically.

As promised at the November 13 worksession, I am attaching a set of individual locations along State highways of immediate concern to Councilmembers. I request that your staff evaluate each of them and report back with an action plan.

We look forward to a continuing partnership with SHA in achieving the Vision Zero goal in the foreseeable future. These steps will hasten us on that path.

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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.

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Community Meeting on Bicycling in Bethesda – Nov. 1

ROCKVILLE, Md., October 25, 2017—Montgomery County Council Vice President Hans Riemer and Council President Roger Berliner, the County Planning Department, the County Department of Transportation (MCDOT), and the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) will host a community meeting on Wednesday, November 1 from 7:30 to 9 p.m. to discuss bicycling issues in and around Bethesda. The meeting will be held at the Jane E. Lawton Community Center, which is located at 4301 Willow Lane in Chevy Chase, MD 20815. RSVP Here »

County officials will update the community on alternate routes to the Georgetown Branch Trail and the latest plans for a low-stress bicycle infrastructure in and around Bethesda. Officials will be available to answer questions from the public.

The County Council recently adopted a bold new vision for Downtown Bethesda that includes many transformational changes to the area’s bicycle infrastructure. The plan supports the development of “low-stress bike networks” that are safer for bicyclists of all ages and skill levels as well as a new development mitigation policy that requires developer payments for all modes of transportation, including biking. In addition, the nearly complete Bicycle Master Plan will be making recommendations on bicycle infrastructure, routes, and parking in Bethesda.

The County also is working closely with stakeholders to identify alternate bicycle connections between Silver Spring and Bethesda in the wake of the closure of the Georgetown Branch Trail for the construction of the Purple Line. The County invites residents to learn more about these opportunities and challenges and to share their perspectives at the meeting.

“I am committed to creating the safest environment for cyclists of all ages and all skill levels,” said Council Vice President Riemer. “With the recent closure of the Capital Crescent Trail, this is an important time for a community discussion about the future of biking infrastructure in the affected areas. The changes recommended in the Bethesda Sector Plan, the Bicycle Master Plan, and the ongoing discussions about alternative routes to the Georgetown Branch Trail all are pushing the County in the right direction. But we need to get it right. That is why I am looking forward to hearing from the public, as the County considers ways to make bicycling a real option for more residents.”

Council President Berliner explained that, “When the Council passed the Downtown Bethesda Plan, we did so with the aim of creating a truly walkable and bikeable community – one that embraces a multimodal approach that encourages people to get out of their cars, reducing congestion and our carbon footprint. The closure of the Georgetown Branch Trail to allow for construction of the Purple Line and the completion of the Capital Crescent Trail has made it clear that we need the bike infrastructure recommended in the Downtown Bethesda Plan more than ever. I look forward to hearing from the County Department of Transportation, the County Planning Department, the Washington Area Bicyclist Association and the community on November 1 as to how we can make our bicycle network the best it can be.”

To RSVP for this community meeting, visit:
http://councilmemberriemer.com/bethesda-bike-meeting

To read more about the Downtown Bethesda Plan, visit:
http://councilmemberriemer.com/2017/08/a-bold-new-vision-for-bethesda.html

To see the Bicycle Master Plan, visit:
http://montgomeryplanning.org/planning/functional-planning/bicycle-master-plan/

For futher information or questions, please contact Tommy Heyboer at the Office of Council Vice President Riemer, at 240-777-7948 or Tommy.Heyboer@montgomerycountymd.gov , or Aaron Kraut in the Office of Council President Berliner, at 240-777-7962 or Aaron.Kraut@montgomerycountymd.gov .

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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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