The last several months have been very busy as the Council navigates complex issues surrounding pedestrian safety in our neighborhoods.
Unfortunately, we have had an increase of pedestrian crashes. For example, on Georgia Avenue, there have been three pedestrians deaths and a major accident where a driver hit and injured four high school students who were waiting for their school bus to arrive. I recently wrote about these issues and what we can do to address our state highway challenges.
To bring the State Highway Administration (SHA) and the County’s Department of Transportation (MCDOT) together to implement solutions, the Council recently wrote Governor Larry Hogan.
SHA administrator Greg Slater responded quickly and met with us. Together, we were able to outline several steps that we could take to address pedestrian collisions, including reducing speed limits, reducing the width of travel lanes to 10 feet and installing flashing beacons in dimly lit intersections. SHA also plans to improve the crosswalks at several intersections along Georgia Avenue, including the intersection with Heathfield Road and the intersection with May Street, which are both in Aspen Hill.
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.
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.
Our efforts to expand bike transit in Montgomery County are being noticed. We have programs coming in Rockville and Shady Grove and hopefully we will install them in Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Silver Spring and Takoma Park, in 2012. Keep your fingers crossed! Run video…
Today’s Transportation Committee hearing focused on several issues that I want to see us move quickly to address. First was pedestrian safety. As a county we must move to promote walkability so that there are meaningful alternatives to driving everywhere and clogging the roads. The County Executive has implemented an effective pedestrian safety initiative that appears to have had a strong positive effect by reducing pedestrian crashes.
A big portion of that discussion focused on walkability and school safety. I was interested to learn that the county reviews data and makes improvements for a quarter mile “walk shed” for our schools, but the actual walk shed for that school could be a half mile, three quarters of a mile, and so on. I plan to discuss this issue more with our transportation officials and see if there are any changes that we need to make.
Finally, an invigorating discussion on bikesharing. The county has pursued federal grants for several years to build a bikesharing system, as DC and NoVa have done with great success. The revelation in the meeting for me was viewing the bikesharing operation as an additional transit system that we can put in place. Already since its founding just over a year ago, the capital bikesharing program has generated more than one million trips.
Committee Chair Berliner pushed very hard, noting that our relative lack of a bikeshare transit system is embarrassing to the county and needs to be resolved. I asked the County DOT for us to be the first jurisdiction in the state to apply for a new bikesharing program that the state government is going to fund on an 80-20 split. As our DOT pointed out, we will need to figure out where the resources come from on our end, as these are very tight budget times.