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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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A bold new vision for Bethesda

For decades, suburban communities like Montgomery County reaped the gains from choices made by executives to locate their companies outside of cities. But times have changed. Now, many entrepreneurs and workers want access to an urban lifestyle. Communities that cannot provide it are losing ground.

The good news: Montgomery County can compete in this new environment. Our beautiful neighborhoods and great schools and parks are still powerful assets. But we need to boost our urban areas for this new economy.

With this purpose in mind, I set to work on the Bethesda Downtown Plan, which we just completed. Here are some of the highlights:

New people, new life in Bethesda. The plan adds 4 million square feet of new development in the downtown area and raises heights for most buildings by 20%, reaching as high as 290 feet in certain locations. More people living in the downtown will mean better restaurants, retail and entertainment options for everyone — and the vibrancy that we enjoy will attract workers and companies to locate here.

A higher standard for affordable housing. Montgomery County continues to lead on affordable housing as the Bethesda Plan raises the requirement for new development to set aside 15% of all units for the county’s affordable housing program. Formerly the standard was 12.5% of units; I made the motion to raise that to 15% in Westbard and made sure it continued forward in Bethesda, another community that lacks affordable housing. With 4 million more square feet of development at a 15% MPDU mandate, the plan is aggressive on affordable housing.

Walkability and bikeability. New standards to promote walkability will mean more investment in safe crossings and bigger sidewalks. Continuing my efforts to champion bike lanes that are protected from traffic, the new Bethesda plan has a comprehensive new vision for biking. Thanks to a new development mitigation policy that requires developer payments for all modes of transportation including biking, we will have more resources to build this infrastructure.

Turning parking lots into parks. To be great, a downtown must have great parks and civic gathering spaces. Recognizing that Bethesda lacks them, I worked with the community and colleagues to champion a vision to turn existing surface parking lots into energetic urban parks. Where parking is still needed, we will have to put it underground. That’s expensive, but with a new park impact payment for new development, we also will have some of the resources needed to build them.

Transportation management. The Plan calls for aggressive use of another policy I have worked hard to advance: Transportation Demand Management. For a location like Bethesda, expanding auto capacity is not realistic or desirable, but growth in traffic can be reduced if we work aggressively with employers to promote public transportation, carpooling, walking and biking. The plan calls for the county to moving 50% of all trips to Bethesda to non-auto modes. We will soon get a concrete plan to achieve that.

Building community consensus. Thanks to careful attention to building heights and school capacity, the plan passed by the County Council had substantial community support while promoting strong policy goals. While surely not everyone is pleased, by working closely and inclusively with residents we achieved more than we could have otherwise.

Energy efficiency and great architecture. The new plan includes a groundbreaking requirement for energy efficiency in new buildings — one of the most important steps a local government can take to combat climate change. It also includes a new approach to sparking better architecture, something that has been lacking in the county generally.

I have no doubt that our progress on a new Bethesda is why Marriott’s leaders decided to move their company to one of Montgomery County’s urban centers, rather than DC or NoVA. And while there is good news to share, we have a lot of work ahead of us to build on our momentum.

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Gang activity is a growing concern

Recently, I responded to a constituent who wrote to me about the rise in gang activity. Following is my response.

Public safety is a top priority of local government. The increase in gang-related activity in the district is of great concern.

The County has a multi-departmental approach to gangs, which includes prevention, intervention, and suppression. Last week, the Public Safety Committee held a worksession focused on law enforcement’s role, which is primarily suppression. You can read additional information about the Committee worksession and suppression strategies in the committee packet.

In addition to Police, HHS, MCPS, and Recreation, among others, work more on the prevention and intervention side of the issue. These efforts include more positive programming that give kids healthier and safe alternatives to gang involvement, as well as programs, like the Street Outreach Network, that help individuals leave gangs.

I’m also including the packet for the last Joint Education/HHS/Public Safety Committee update held last summer, that touches on all these initiatives.

Finally, here’s a recent interview with Captain Paul Liquorie who is leading the centralized street gang unit. He discusses the role of law enforcement, collaboration with different county departments, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and other federal agencies to successfully prosecute criminal offenders.

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Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and Express Bus Service on US 29

I support faster, more reliable transit service on US 29, because it will provide more and better transportation options to all residents and further the County’s environmental and smart growth goals. Under that framework, I joined my Council colleagues to support $7.5 million to study and design BRT service on US 29 and to support express, limited-stop RideOn service beginning in 2018 on US 29.

You can read details of the BRT plan here (pdf), but following are some key features of the proposal:

  • BRT service will begin in 2020
  • Buses will run on the shoulder in the northern section of the corridor (from Burtonsville to Industrial Parkway) and in mixed traffic south to Silver Spring
  • Buses will run every 7.5 minutes during rush hour and every 15 minutes outside of rush hour
  • The BRT system will have off-board fare collection, transit signal priority (TSP), specially branded vehicles, and elevated stations
  • Numerous pedestrian and bicycle improvements will be constructed simultaneously

While the overall plan is a meaningful step forward and achieves impressive travel time savings, the game changer for the corridor is securing dedicated lanes where congestion is the worst, south of Industrial Parkway. At that point, riding the bus becomes a much better service for those who do not have the opportunity to own a car as well as a real alternative for people who have a car. But if the bus is stuck in traffic, many people will prefer to just drive. This is why I advocated, successfully, for a study of an exciting and potentially effective concept for dedicated lanes in the median of US 29 south of Industrial Parkway. The key to this proposal, which was initiated by county residents and transit activists, particularly Sean Emerson and Sebastian Smoot, is shrinking the regular travel lanes from 12 to 10 feet. This makes enough room to add a dedicated lane for buses without taking a lane away from cars, a potential win-win situation. This summer County and State transportation officials will prepare cost estimates for this study, and the Council plans to introduce a special appropriation this fall to fund the effort.

In order to facilitate public discussion about this option, the Council required that the County Executive submit a subsequent appropriation request, subject to public hearing, to fund right-of-way acquisition and construction. This will give residents and the CACs plenty of opportunity review and comment on many salient features of system, such as station locations and the right-of-way requirements.

Finally, I have long argued that the County should be making incremental bus reforms now while we plan for high-quality BRT service in the future. To that end, the Council added money to the FY18 budget to begin express, limited-stop RideOn bus service on US 29 in early 2018. The new bus service will run from Burtonsville to Silver Spring during the morning and evening rush hours. The Council also approved $1 million to begin express, limited-stop RideOn bus service on MD 355, from Lakeforest Mall to Medical Center Metro Station. I believe these efforts will provide much needed service quickly while we continue planning and designing a high quality BRT system.