MoCo Council Backs A Massive Expansion in Bike Funding for Priority Areas

Photo from CDOT

Soon, this may be a common sight in Silver Spring

On Thursday, May 26th the Montgomery County Council unanimously approved the County’s 2017 Operating Budget and six-year Capital Improvements Program (CIP). In addition to maintaining funding for a number of long term trail and bikeway priorities, the Council approved a dramatic, 150%, funding increase for the Bicycle Pedestrian Priority Area Program. Alongside the innovative methods in the Bike Master Plan rewrite, movement on long delayed trail projects like the Capital Crescent and Metropolitan Branch Trails, and December’s commitment to pursue a Vision Zero initiative  this expansion in funding is another sign that Montgomery County is getting serious about supporting and encouraging bicycling.

In 2014, the County created the Bicycle Pedestrian Priority Area (BPPA) program to direct funding and resources to areas where changes will have the greatest effect on the safety and popularity of biking and walking. Since then, some 30 BPPAs have been designated and as many projects identified. With a $1 million yearly budget spread across even a few areas, planning and implementation of these projects are progressing well, though perhaps not as fast as they could — a new sidewalk and bulb-outs here, a protected bike lane there, a few bike racks and streetlights.  That is progress, but it takes more than spot improvements to change behaviors and get more people riding bikes when neighborhood roads feel like speedways.

In March, Councilmember Hans Riemer proposed a $1.5 million per year funding increase for this program as well as concentrated attention to projects in the Silver Spring BPPA first. WABA’s action alert generated considerable support from Silver Spring residents and committed bicycle advocates around the county. Roger Berliner, Nancy Floreen, and Tom Hucker who make up the Council’s Committee on Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment (T&E) all voted in support of the plan. Considering the inherent negotiations and changes required to find agreement on a complicated budget, we are thrilled to report that the County will dedicate a total of $15 million to BPPA projects over the next six years!

With this additional funding, Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) can do more at a faster rate. In Silver Spring, where demand for safe places to bike is on the rise, more funding allows resources for careful study, planning and implementation of a connected network of protected bike lanes. Soon, construction will begin on the Spring and Cedar St protected bike lanes. Next year, expect discussion on Second Ave, Cameron St, Wayne Ave, Dixon St and Fenton Ave. And, while MCDOT builds out the Silver Spring Circle, planning can begin for needed improvements in Glenmont, Grosvenor, Wheaton and eventually the 28 other BPPAs. Instead of spot improvements, MCDOT can build entire networks.

We’d like to thank Councilmember Hans Riemer, the T&E Committee, and the County Council for leadership and commitment to expanding the role of bicycling in the county. Thanks also to everyone who wrote and called your councilmembers in support of this proposal.

Curious about what’s going on around biking in Montgomery County?

Attend the the 3rd Great MoCo Bicycle Summit on Saturday, June 18, hosted by Councilmember Hans Riemer.

What: 3rd Great MoCo Bicycle Summit
When: Saturday, June 18 10-12 pm
Where: Council Office Building, 100 Maryland Ave, Rockville

Register to attend (free)

Big Turnout for the Spring Street Project Walk

WABA’s Action Committees are working around the region pushing campaigns for better places to bike. Here is an update on the Silver Spring Circle campaign from Kate Meyer Olson, a Montgomery County advocate.

Discussing details of intersection design at Spring St. and Covesville Rd

Discussing details of intersection design at Spring St. and Covesville Rd

On a rare sunny Saturday, May 14th, WABA’s Montgomery County Action Committee hosted a walk-along tour of the planned Spring Street and Cedar Street protected bike lanes in downtown Silver Spring.  This .8 mile segment along the north side of downtown will be the first piece of the Silver Spring Circle, a network of protected bike lanes envisioned by advocates, planners and county leaders.  Matt Johnson, Project Manager with the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT), joined us to speak about the project planning process and detailed considerations needed to bring this vision to fruition.

The group grew to over 40 interested residents before we started walking. We saw a good cross section of Silver Spring, including many generations of residents and a spread of interests in the project.  With plans in hand, the group walked the route discussing the details of each intersection as we went.

Looking at plans

We talked through the details of each intersection, comparing detailed plans to what is on the ground now.

The Spring and Cedar Street protected bike lanes will run adjacent to the curb on both sides of the street, with a 1 foot buffer and plastic flexi-posts between the bike lane and car parking where the road is widest, or moving traffic where there is no parking.  Each intersection will see some changes, with those at State Routes 97 (Georgia Avenue) and 29 (Colesville Road) the trickiest to design. The bike lanes will be marked at critical mixing points with green paint on the roadway to indicate where car traffic and bike traffic will encounter each other-—primarily at mixing zones where a right turn lane merges across the bike lane, as well as at several driveways where cars will cross the lanes.  At some intersections bicyclists will have a “bike box” in front of the car stop line to allow people on bikes a more visible position at intersections.  At some intersections, a painted “2-stage turn box” will suggest a safe place for bicyclists to queue for an easier left turn using the perpendicular street’s traffic light.

Floating bus stops on proposed Spring St protected bike lanes

Floating bus stops, bike boxes, and 2 stage turn boxes planned for Spring St protected bike lanes

A feature being introduced to the County for the first time is the floating bus stop which, “floats” the bus pick up point away from the curb, allowing the cyclists an unimpeded route while the bus passengers will alight and board the bus from an island in the roadway. 

In addition to the protected bike lanes, the route will feature additional bike parking and improved crosswalks, and incorporate new timing for many of the stop lights. There will be a slight loss of parking in the last block of the route on Cedar Street before it intersects Wayne Avenue. Due to some changes to placement of curbs, 3 small trees will be removed. MCDOT plans to begin construction very soon and to complete the resurfacing of the roadway this summer, minus one block where PEPCO has impending digging.  

Councilmember Hans Riemer talks about the importance of low stress places to bike.

Councilmember Hans Riemer talks about the importance of low stress places to bike.

At the end of the walk Councilmember Hans Riemer joined us, commenting on the growing importance of safe and accessible bike networks in the county and his support for the plan in Silver Spring. The participants were favorably impressed with the vision and are looking forward to the construction beginning. As we move towards construction and a finishing date this summer, expect details about a ribbon cutting and Lane Opening Ride Along. For more information about the project, visit the MCDOT website. Learn more about the Silver Spring Circle at the campaign page. Special thanks to Matt Johnson for leading the walk and to Councilmember Riemer and his staff for their vocal support for expanding the role of bicycling in Montgomery County.

If you are interested in becoming involved with the improvements to the cycling infrastructure in downtown Silver Spring, please join us on the 4th Monday of the month when we meet at the Civic Center  at 7 pm to discuss additional advocacy goals and strategize for a more bikeable, walkable Silver Spring! More info here.

Kate Meyer Olson is the Silver Spring Circle Campaign Lead, longtime Action Committee advocate and WABA member. She lives in Silver Spring.

The MBT One Step Closer to Completion

Last night, the Met Branch Trail got one step closer to completion.

Before beginning construction on the 0.6 mile portion of the Met Branch Trail in Silver Spring, Maryland – the section across from the Montgomery College Campus on Fenton Street and King Street and along the CSXT Railroad to Ripley Street- Montgomery County was required to hold a public hearing, so area residents gathered on a misty Wednesday evening to learn more about the trail design and submit their feedback. When this segment is finished, the 1.1 mile Maryland portion of the Met Branch will be complete.

One highlight of the design is the 14-foot wide bridge that will allow trail users to cross Georgia Avenue far above the busy corridor. This above-grade crossing is an absolute necessity from a safety perspective, and Montgomery County sets the right precedent by ensuring that the bridge is an non-negotiable absolute.

One trail supporter analyzed the design as “95% Awesome.” The five percent in question? The access around the B&O Train Station. Because of concerns from the station’s owner, Maryland Preservation Inc. (MPI), the trail deviates from a direct route along the rail corridor and zig-zags on the edge of the property instead.

This zig-zag alignment seems manageable, and we thank the county for patience in working with MPI, and providing them multiple alignment options in an effort to move the project forward. From the trail user’s perspective, it’s not perfect, and certainly a straighter shot would be preferred, but the proposed alignment represents a compromise for which the county deserves a “thank you.”

We were reminded by a few supporters that this trail will transform how we interact with our surroundings. Jeff Kohn recalled a bike ride he took with his young son to Bethesda, and he reports not being able to identify a safe way to get there. “I wouldn’t try that again, I didn’t feel safe,” he said. “But once the trail is done, I’ll ride it frequently.”

Many in the room could relate to Michelle Terry’s experience of fear for her own well-being on Fenton Street, having to share the road with fast traffic and large trucks. Her front tire was clipped by a car, and while she wasn’t physically hurt, it scared her enough to keep her off her bike for a few days. And as a regular bike commuter, that means a lot. She’s awaiting the trail because it means a safer commute. “Building the trail isn’t just about recreation. It’s about public safety,” she said.

The construction bid will go out soon for Phase I, and construction is estimated to begin June 2016, with an estimated completion date of August 2016. Phase II will begin November 2017, the section west of Selim Road, which includes the bridge over Georgia Ave., will begin in November 2018 and phase completion is estimated for November 2019.

The record remains open until May 24 at 7 p.m. If you’d like to submit your comments to the record, email Gaila Lescinskiene at gaila.lescinskiene@montgomerycountymd.gov.

Create the Silver Spring Circle: A New Campaign for Montgomery County

Photo from CDOT

Improvements are Needed in Downtown Silver Spring

Downtown Silver Spring is growing. Young adults, families and older residents are attracted to the convenience of living near the places where they work and play. And with the dense mix of transit, offices, entertainment, shops and homes, it should be a paradise for walking and biking. But, it’s not. With high speed traffic and a lack of dedicated space for bikes on the busy streets in downtown Silver Spring, most residents don’t feel safe biking in the road.  Some ride on sidewalks, mixing with people on foot. But they too must contend with wide and intimidating intersections. There is a desperate need for safe and comfortable bike routes and intersections.

Today, WABA’s Action Committee for Montgomery County is pleased to announce a campaign to Create the Silver Spring Circle. Our goal is to make downtown Silver Spring a more bikeable, walkable place.

The Silver Spring Circle would convert excess road space in and around downtown Silver Spring into protected bike lanes, and place parked cars or vertical barriers between bicyclists and car traffic. Lanes on Second Ave, Wayne Ave, Spring St, Cedar St, Fenton St, Cameron St and Ellsworth Dr, along with new wayfinding and bike parking would make most destinations safe, comfortable and accessible by bike. It would also represent a first step in connecting downtown Silver Spring to the many existing bike trails already in our region. Read all about the campaign and sign our petition here.

Come to our Campaign Kickoff!

On Saturday, May 14, join the Action Committee in Silver Spring for a walk around the first arc of the Silver Spring Circle to see for yourself how protected bike lanes will make Silver Spring a more bikeable, walkable, and livable downtown. Starting at Spring and 2nd Ave, we will make our way along Spring St, stopping to discuss tricky intersections, design challenges, and innovative solutions. We cannot wait to share and discuss our vision for a connected, low-stress bike network in Silver Spring.

When: May 14 9:30 am
Where: 2nd Ave & Spring St

Click here to RSVP

Can’t attend? Sign our petition and stay in the loop.

Map of the proposed Silver Spring Circle. Click for an interactive map

Map of the proposed Silver Spring Circle. Click for an interactive map

Parts of Spring St will look something like this. Image from Streetmix

Parts of Spring St will look something like this. Image from Streetmix

Encouraging Developments

In February, Montgomery County’s Department of Transportation (MCDOT) unveiled plans to install protected bike lanes on Spring St and Cedar St in downtown Silver Spring, stretching almost one mile from Second Avenue to Wayne Avenue. In March, the Montgomery County Council’s Committee on Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment (T&E) voted unanimously to support design and construction of a complete network of protected bike lanes in Silver Spring. These are two crucial steps, but we’ll need more than encouragement to see it through.

Want help make this happen? Come to our next Action Committee Meeting (the 4th Monday of the month at 7pm at the Silver Spring Civic Center more info)

Montgomery County Council Should Back a Protected Bike Lane Network in Silver Spring

Silver Spring Network

Update: At Thursday’s T&E Committee Meeting the committee voted unanimously in support of funding a network of protected bike lanes in Silver Spring and a number of other important bike projects in the county. Thanks to all the county residents who contacted the council and special thanks to Roger Berliner, Nancy Floreen,Tom Hucker and Hans Riemer for their leadership and support for safe, popular biking in the county.


It has already been a year of promising news and big plans for biking in Montgomery County. Just on the heels of plans for protected bike lanes coming to Silver Spring by this summer, comes a chance to create a whole network of protected bike lanes over the next five years. Yesterday, Councilmember Hans Riemer introduced a proposal to substantially increase funding to the county’s Bicycle Pedestrian Priority Area (BPPA) program to speed up implementation of a Silver Spring bicycle network.

The BPPA program concentrates resources for rapid planning, design and construction of pedestrian and bicycle improvements in the places they are needed most. Of the 30 designated priority areas in the county, Silver Spring CBD, Grosvenor, Glenmont, Wheaton CBD, and Randolph/Veirs Mill are getting attention first. The program is funded through the county’s long term Capital Improvement Program (CIP) budget at $1 million per year over five years. The BPPA program is already responsible for pedestrian improvements at intersections, new bike parking, and the forthcoming and well-received Spring and Cedar St protected bike lanes.

Councilmember Riemer proposes to expand the BPPA program’s budget from $1 million to $2.5 million annually in the 2017-’22 CIP budget. This increased funding would allow for planning and construction of a full network of bikeways in Silver Spring and improvements to other priority areas by 2020. As he writes in the proposal memo, “the latest bicycle research shows that people are more likely to bicycle in lower-stress environments that provide protection from motor vehicles and separation from pedestrians. Facilities like separated bike lanes and protected intersections are crucial to strengthening the walkable, bikeable urban areas that we want for our residents.”

Few urban areas are better suited for these improvements than Silver Spring. By 2020, three major regional trails will connect into Silver Spring’s downtown core, but without improvements to the street grid, bicyclists will not have a safe route to their destination.

Read the full proposal and see the network map.

Ask Councilmembers Hucker, Floreen & Berliner to support increased BPPA funding

On Thursday March 3rd, the Council’s Committee on Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment (T&E) will discuss this proposal and decide whether or not to include this funding increase in the package of recommended budget amendments. As the three standing members of the T&E Committee, Councilmembers Roger Berliner, Nancy Floreen and Tom Hucker are already strong supporters of biking in the county, but with so many priorities in the balance, we need your help to ensure they support this proposal on Thursday.

If you live or work in Montgomery County, please email or call the members of the T&E Committee and tell them why expanding BPPA funding is important to you and essential to making Silver Spring into the walkable, bikeable place we want it to be. If you have the time, call into their offices to discuss the importance of this funding increase and what it will enable. Regardless of where you live in the county, the T&E committee represents you in these budget decisions.

T&E Committee Contact Details

Tom Hucker – councilmember.hucker@montgomerycountymd.gov 240-777-7960
Nancy Floreen – councilmember.floreen@montgomerycountymd.gov  240-777-7959
Roger Berliner – councilmember.berliner@montgomerycountymd.gov  240-777-7828

Silver Spring to Get a Protected Bike Lane in 2016

Over the past 20 years, Montgomery County has made big investments and large strides for improving bike access across the county and between its more urban areas. Off-street trails, like the Capital Crescent Trail, Sligo Creek Trail, and Millennium Trail have made long distance trips possible by bike. But, until recently, bike access and street safety have remained a low priority on roads. That is changing, with ambitious plans for low-stress networks throughout the county. In Silver Spring, bike friendly changes are coming quickly.

Proposed protected bike lane on Spring and Cedar Streets in Silver Spring

Proposed protected bike lane on Spring and Cedar Streets in Silver Spring

At a community workshop last week attended by over 70 community members, Montgomery County’s Department of Transportation (MCDOT) unveiled plans for protected bike lanes on Spring Street and Cedar Street in downtown Silver Spring. Stretching almost one mile from Second Avenue to Wayne Avenue, the lanes will sit against the curb, separated from car traffic by a painted buffer, vertical posts and parked cars. Following the short Woodglen protected bike lane installed in White Flint in 2014, this project will be the second on street bike facility in the county that puts cyclist safety and comfort first.

Proven Design Elements

The plans, available here, include many of the key elements of a truly protected bike lane. Last year, at WABA’s request, MCDOT endorsed the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) Urban Bikeway Design Guide signaling a willingness to consider new approaches to bikeway design. The plans presented reflect this new thinking.

Proposed intersection for the Spring Street protected bike lane include bike boxes, 2 stage turn markers and colored conflict areas

Intersection elements for the Spring Street protected bike lane include bike boxes, 2 stage turn markers and colored conflict areas. Image from MCDOT

Except for a few pinch points, the Spring and Cedar Street bike lanes will be fully separated from car traffic by vertical posts or parked cars. Most intersections will feature bike boxes, which place bicyclists in a visible position ahead of car traffic at red lights. Many intersections will also feature two stage turn boxes, which mark an easy alternative to left turns at signalized intersections. Furthermore, colored conflict areas will remind drivers to watch for bicyclists at driveways and intersections where bicyclists and drivers share the same space or cross paths.

Floating bus stops on proposed Spring St protected bike lanes

Floating bus stops on proposed Spring St protected bike lanes. Image from MCDOT

To eliminate the precarious situation of sharing lanes between buses and bikes, floating bus stops will give bus riders a safe place to enter and exit the bus without conflicts with bicyclists. Taken together, these designs will make for a low-stress riding environment with few conflicts with motor vehicles or pedestrians.

Design challenges

Even great projects require compromises. While MCDOT has designed a fantastic bike facility, Spring Street intersects state highways at Georgia Avenue and Colesville Road. The State Highway Administration (SHA), which controls these roads and intersections, has different roadway standards, which prohibit many of the bike specific treatments. Colored conflict zones, two stage turn boxes, and bike boxes are unlikely at these intersections.

Mixing zone and pocket bike lane

Mixing zone and pocket bike lane. Image from MCDOT

Most concerning, current plans show a transition from a protected lane to an unprotected pocket bike lane at these two intersections. This transition is required due to a high volume of right turning auto traffic. By floating the bike lane to the left of the right turn only lane, the design avoids a serious conflict between right turning drivers and bicyclists continuing straight. The downside is a mixing zone, similar to those found on L Street in downtown DC, which effectively removes separation at  exactly the point where bicyclists are most vulnerable.

The preferable solution to this challenge is taking turns. Many cities, including the District, separate high volume turning and through traffic near protected bike lanes with separate traffic signal phases for each. This approach avoids the tricky mixing zone and maintains protection up to the intersection. However, SHA’s guidelines do not allow for this particular solution at this time. Even with these compromises, the project remains a giant leap forward for bike safety and access in Silver Spring. MCDOT staff deserve a great deal of thanks for committing to such a strong plan.

Timeline and Next Steps

This project is moving forward at a fast clip. Comment will be accepted through February 19th and staff hope to move to construction by spring. The facility should open by this summer.

This project, and many Silver Spring focused changes to come, is made possible by the Bicycle Pedestrian Priority Area program, a collaborative effort between MCDOT and SHA to improve bike and pedestrian safety and access in priority areas. Silver Spring is one of 17 BPPAs in the county, but is one of the first to see such concentrated improvements. County staff made it clear that this is but one of many bike improvements in the pipeline for Silver Spring.

View project documents, including the full presentation here. Submit comments to Matt Johnston (Matt.Johnson@MontgomeryCountyMD.gov) by February 19th. WABA action committee for Montgomery County is working to bring more of these changes to Silver Spring. Click here to learn more about the committee and get involved.

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.