Montgomery County Endorses Vision Zero

vision zero campaign banner

The Montgomery County Council has introduced a resolution in support of Vision Zero.  Members of the Council held a press conference on January 19th to announce their support for the program, which is aimed at ending traffic-related deaths and serious injuries.

On Monday, February 1st, the Coalition for Smarter Growth, Action Committee for Transit and WABA sent the Montgomery County Council a letter in support (Letter in PDF) of Vision Zero. The letter also calls on the Council to set a target date for zero traffic-deaths. A target year for achieving Vision Zero is necessary to keep up the pressure and urgency this issue deserves.

Mayor Bowser in Washington, DC committed to achieving Vision Zero by 2024 last year. In December 2015, the mayor’s administration released an ambitious two-year action plan for Vision Zero. Montgomery County will begin the planning process shortly, with a final plan release for later this year.

For Vision Zero to work, public investments in traffic engineering, enforcement and education must be aligned with a data-driven approach to meeting its goal. Everyone deserves to travel freely by car, foot, transit and bike without the risk of being killed.

2015 was an especially tragic year for road users in Montgomery County. Frank Towers died on his new bike crossing Veirs Mill Road on the Matthew Henson Trail. In Bethesda, Tim Holden was struck and killed by a driver while on his morning ride. And, Montgomery County Police Officer Noah Leotta was killed by drunk driver during a traffic stop. In total, over 80 people died in traffic crashes on County streets in 2015. Each person leaves behind a grieving family and a devastated community. We can stop traffic violence.

Thank you to the Montgomery County Council for their leadership on traffic safety issue and WABA is committed to being an engaged partner in addressing this critical community issue.

 

 

Montgomery County Getting Serious About Bike Networks

Watch out DC, watch out Arlington! Montgomery County is making big plans to become a national leader in low stress bike networks. With committed political leadership, ambitious goals, and effective collaboration between planners, engineers, and developers Montgomery County is poised to catch up quickly!

Big Plans Are Afoot

In Spring of 2015, Montgomery County Planning Department kicked off a rewrite of the county’s Bicycle Master Plan. Master Plans are long term, usually 20+ year, planning priority documents that lay out a vision for what a future place should be along with guidelines and rules to get there. Since 2005, bike lane and trail development has followed the Countywide Bikeways Functional Master Plan which complements plans for roads, transit, communities, and urban centers. As advocates, we pay close attention to master plans because they are an effective tool for long term change in our communities. They are also a strong indicator of a community’s priorities.

Montgomery County is refreshing its Bike Master Plan 10 years early to reflect new trends, apply new standards, and set the county on an aggressive path towards a low stress network that more residents can use and enjoy. Protected bike lanes (also called separated bike lanes or cycletracks), bicycle signalization, secure bike parking and protected intersections were rare in 2005 and few people biked in the region. That is no longer the case. Leaning heavily on stress mapping research, planning staff are taking a data driven approach to map street stress levels and explore ways to link and create low stress networks. The plan is ambitious, inclusive, and an laudable leap in transportation planning for the County. Numerous opportunities for input are coming in 2016 including this interactive map.

Early Results

Since countywide plans take time, planning staff have prioritized smaller plans for at least two areas to coincide with other planning and development efforts. White Flint and the Life Sciences Center in Shady Grove are both on the cusp of dramatic change lead by development. Late last year, the proposed street and trail networks for these areas were released. As a statement of how Montgomery County will prioritize travel by bicycle, these plans are nothing short of revolutionary. Imagine if every single street in your neighborhood was comfortable to ride on, even major roads. This is how we get more people on bikes!

Proposed network from Montgomery Planning

Proposed network from Montgomery Planning

Proposed Life Sciences network from Montgomery Planning

Proposed Life Sciences network from Montgomery Planning

Each new development and street repave will more or less conform to this plan. And with so many developments in the pipeline for White Flint, the plan comes at a good time.

Lines We Can Bike On

Of course, drawing lines on a map is the easier task. Building out the network takes time, funding, and political vision. It also requires the effort of a different agency. In November 2014, Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) completed its first 0.3 mile protected bike lane in North Bethesda.

Woodglen Drive Protected Bike Lane image from Montgomery Planning

Woodglen Drive Protected Bike Lane image from Montgomery Planning

In 2016, MCDOT is moving ahead with a few pieces of this network. At an Advisory Committee meeting for White Flint, MCDOT showed plans for an initial 0.5 mile curb protected bike lane on Nebel Street from Randolph St. to Marinelli Rd. Construction is anticipated to begin in July. Also on the list is a short protected bike lane on a newly connected Hoya Street (formerly Towne Road) south of Montrose Parkway.

Nebel Street protected bike lane image from MCDOT

Nebel Street protected bike lane image from MCDOT

To learn more about the ongoing Bike Master Plan process, visit the project page and sign up for the newsletter. Read the full proposed White Flint and Life Sciences Center plans. Get involved in WABA’s advocacy in the county by attending our Action Committee meeting on January 25 at 7pm at the Silver Spring Civic Center.

Capital Crescent Trail to be extended

photo by Erica Flock

photo by Erica Flock

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R) recently announced the Purple Line light rail project in suburban Maryland will move forward, ending months of deliberation. As part of this rail project, the popular Capital Crescent Trail will be extended from its current endpoint in Bethesda to downtown Silver Spring.

Completion of the Capital Crescent Trail from Bethesda to Silver Spring is a major WABA advocacy priority. These two economic centers of Montgomery County are only 4.5 miles apart, but lack a direct and low-stress bike connection. The trail will be completely separated from motor vehicle traffic, even at intersections. This will require a number of new bridges and a tunnel. When complete, you’ll be able to ride your bike from Bethesda to Silver Spring in about 20 minutes at a comfortable pace.

Montgomery County is responsible for the cost of the trail project, about $55 million.  The County has budgeted funding for the trail in the last five Capital Improvement Program (CIP) budgets. The County is committed to completing the trail with the Purple Line.

Governor Hogan’s approval of the Purple Line project is contingent on reducing Maryland’s  state contribution from about $700 million to $168 million. This reduction would come from a mix of sources. The Maryland Transit Administration is looking at changes to the overall project to reduce the cost. The Governor is asking Montgomery and Prince George’s County to increase their contribution. And finally, the Governor will ask the private teams bidding on the project to increase their capital contribution. The details of this arrangement were not announced.

Though Montgomery County will be looking to find additional funding for their contribution to the Purple Line, we expect their commitment to completing the Capital Crescent Trail from Bethesda to Silver Spring will be honored and the trail funding will remain in place.

You can read our analysis of the Purple Line / Capital Crescent Trail project here.

(Some) Met Branch Trail construction this year in Silver Spring

Metropolitan Branch Trail Silver Spring

The Met Branch Trail along the Red Line near Montgomery College in Silver Spring. Photo credit: Dan Reed

The Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) will begin construction on the first section of the Met Branch Trail (MBT) in downtown Silver Spring this year. County Councilmembers asked MCDOT to build any sections of trail ready to go during the March budget work session.

New details emerged about the MBT phasing at the Transportation and Environment Committee (T&E) budget work session on April 20th  (you can watch the full discussion online here at 38:10). The construction of two buildings near Progress Place interfere with the trail construction between the Silver Spring Transit Center and B&O Train Station. Rather than wait until 2018/19 when the new buildings are complete to begin design and construction, MCDOT is willing to construct sections of trail now. Where possible, the MBT will be wider than the 10 foot minimum trail width and the trail will be fully lit at night.

The Met Branch Trail, when finished, will be a 8 mile trail from downtown Silver Spring to Union Station. Roughly 50 percent of the total trail is complete. About 1 mile of the MBT is in Montgomery County. The City of Takoma Park section is complete. The remaining unbuilt trail section is about .6 miles long. See our MBT priority page for further breakdown on trail progress and recent information.

See the full breakdown of trail sections and their anticipated construction schedule below.

The full MBT in Silver Spring will not be complete until 2019/2020. But, the community will see some progress this year and every year until it’s complete. Thank you to the Montgomery County Department of Transportation. We appreciate their willingness, responsiveness and flexibility to adjust the construction schedule. Trail projects are hard and take time to build. Showing some progress, even small pieces, are important to keep the public engaged and excited. Thank you to Councilmembers Berliner, Hucker and Floreen who serve on the T&E Committee for their continued committment of growing bicycling in Montgomery County.

WABA’s advocacy is supported by your membership dollars. Join or donate to WABA today.

Updates on Important Bike Funding Debate in Montgomery County

We wanted to share some details about a quiet advocacy victory that happened this week:

Last month, funding for bike infrastructure in Montgomery County looked bleak. County Executive Ike Leggett had sent his proposed budget amendments to the County Council, including major cuts and delays to the entire bikeways program—most significantly, the Met Branch and Capital Crescent Trails.

Two weeks ago, WABA sent a letter to the Montgomery County Council asking that the bikeways budget not be cut or delayed.

Just this past Monday, the next part of the process began. The Transportation & Environment (T&E) Committee held their budget work session. The T&E Committee’s role is to assess the budget amendments proposed by Executive Leggett and to pass a final budget later this spring. Overall, the committee supported the funding of bike projects. The committee is comprised of Councilmembers Berliner, Floreen, and Hucker, all of whom were present. Additionally, Councilmember Riemer (not on the committee) attended the hearing in support. Many Councilmembers asked the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) to keep moving bike projects forward, despite various challenges. You can watch the full discussion on the Montgomery County Council website here.

Here are some of the highlights.

Met Branch Trail in Silver Spring


The Metropolitan Branch Trail project is being considered in two phases. Phase one is the trail from west of Georgia Ave. to the Silver Spring Transit Center. while phase two is the trail segment east from Georgia Ave. to Montgomery County College. The T&E Committee recommended restoring the original project timeline, not the proposed delay. Phase one cannot start until two buildings are constructed. Without the delay, the anticipated completion of the trail would be 2019.

During the discussion, MCDOT showed plans for the trail around the historic B&O Station. As currently planned, the trail will not go under the trail station canopy. It will curve around the north and east side of the station. Councilmember Floreen voiced many concerns with this plan (Around 43:00 in the video). She clearly wants the trail to follow the master plan alignment which is the straightest path through the property, underneath the canopy. She thinks curvy trail around the entire property is a lose-lose scenario for trail users and for Maryland Preservation Inc. (owners of train station).

The Committee also asked the trail to be built at a width of 11-12 feet with a two-foot shoulder where possible. It was clarified that the trail will have lighting. The Committee wants MCDOT to show how to make some progress on phase two as well. After much discussion, the Committee asked MCDOT to come back to the committee with revised plans for phasing, budget and timeline later this spring. Councilmembers were clearly frustrated with the lack of progress on the trail.

Seven Locks Road, MacArthur Blvd, Falls Road, Bicycle-Pedestrian Priority Areas, etc.

County Executive Leggett’s proposed budget recommended delaying all of these important bike projects. However, the T&E Committee recommended restoring all the funding to all of them. Councilmember Hans Riemer–who championed the Bicycle-Pedestrian Priority Areas (BPPA) last year–was astonished that the program was proposed to be cut after just one year. MCDOT presented progress made so far on the BPPA program, much of which has been planning work. Implementation of bike and pedestrian safety improvements are scheduled to begin soon, if the Committee’s recommendations are accepted and the program is not cut.

Capital Crescent Trail – At-Grade Trail at Wisconsin Ave. in Bethesda

The general consensus at the hearing was to pause the development of the at-grade trail and crossing at Wisconsin Ave. in Bethesda. Without a firm date for Purple Line construction, development of the at-grade trail is less pressing. As it stands, the trail tunnel will remain open to trail traffic until construction of the Purple Line starts.

Thank you to everyone who reached out to Council. We will be meeting with both Councilmember Berliner and MCDOT Director Al Roshdieh in the coming weeks. We will share our thoughts with him on these budget amendment among other issues.

It’s time for the entire region to adopt Vision Zero

IMG_4544

The ghost bike placed in Gaithersburg in memory of Andrew Malizio.

Last week was a grim one on the roads in the Maryland suburbs. A driver killed Andrew Gerard Malizio, on Route 28 in Gaithersburg while making a left turn. Less than two days prior, a driver killed a cyclist in Lanham, then left the scene. These deaths are tragic, and they are unacceptable.

Vision Zero, developed in Sweden and recently adopted in New York City, is a robust set of changes to transportation policy, road design, and law enforcement designed to eliminate traffic fatalities. It is based on the principle that no one should die on our roads. Period.

The District’s mayor-elect, Muriel Bowser, has endorsed bringing the Vision Zero Initiative to DC. We support this proposal and look forward to working with the District to ensure that it is implemented well. Today we sent  a letter to the Executives of Montgomery and Prince George’s counties challenging them to bring the same commitment to their own jurisdictions. Here’s the letter:

County Executives Baker & Leggett:

I write to you both because last weekend, each of your counties saw the death of a person bicycling on its streets. While the details of the circumstances of these crashes are unknown, we know that each death is a tragedy.

As WABA awaits more details in the hope that we can offer assistance to the victims’ family and friends—we also hope to learn from these tragedies ways to prevent them from happening in the future.

You may be aware that several progressive jurisdictions across the country, including New York City, have adopted “Vision Zero” commitments to work to eliminate traffic deaths and major injuries within a set period of time. Locally, Mayor-Elect Bowser has embraced such a commitment for District of Columbia.

In the wake of these tragic deaths, I ask each of you to consider your county’s commitment to Vision Zero, and to the principle that every human life is valuable and should be protected in our policy decisions, in our transportation designs, and in our enforcement priorities.

As an organization representing thousands of bicyclists in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties, WABA is committed to advocating for safe streets for all people who bike. We will continue to work in your counties to promote infrastructure, enforcement, and education programming that keep people safe.

I challenge you to truly commit to operating your government in a way that values the life of every individual on the roadways and aligns its priorities ensure human safety over vehicular speed.
I challenge you to adopt a Vision Zero approach to protecting the lives of all people—whether driving, biking, walking, or otherwise using the county’s roadways.

Every life matters. This weekend serves as a sad reminder that our public policy choices do not yet fully reflect that principle.

WABA, and I, look forward to partnering with you to do the work to eliminate roadway deaths in Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties.
Sincerely,

Shane Farthing
Executive Director

In the next year, we’ll be talking more about Vision Zero. Stay tuned.

Montgomery County Passes New Road Code

IMG_0367

Under the new road code, we should be seeing many more protected bike lanes in Montgomery County, like this one on Woodglen Rd

Tuesday was a big step forward for people who walk and bike in Montgomery County’s urban areas!  The Montgomery County Council unanimously passed Bill 33-13 which redefines urban road standards and promises to make the county’s streets more inviting to bicyclists and pedestrians with slower vehicle speeds, better bicycle infrastructure, and pedestrian accommodations.  With a new emphasis on creating complete streets, especially in urban areas, this bill is an important step forward for the county.

The bill sets new standards that limit vehicle travel lanes to 10 feet and establish a maximum target speed of 25 mph in urban areas.  Narrowing lanes and lowering speeds will help create streets that are more welcoming to all modes of travel on increasingly busy urban street.  And to further accommodate vulnerable road users, new definitions and improved requirements for protected bike lanes, shared use paths, and sidewalks will ensure that road engineers are building facilities that accommodate, if not encourage, walking and biking.  The bill also includes new standards that decrease turning radii at intersections, meaning lower vehicle speeds at crosswalks and shorter crossing distances for pedestrians.  You can read the full text of the bill here.

In january, WABA testified (read) in support of the bill and today we applaud the council for taking these important steps for safer and more accessible streets.  We thank councilmembers Berliner and Riemer for sponsoring the bill and all those who contacted their councilmembers in support.  Though the road code changes are limited to county roads, this is a needed step  for the region and a bold example for other jurisdictions to follow.