Where do we need better places to bike in MoCo?

Woodglen Drive Protected Bike Lane image from Montgomery Planning

If you could make one improvement for better bicycling in Montgomery County, what would it be?

Would you add a new trail along a major highway or create a protected bike lane to your local grocery store? Would you connect Metro to nearby neighborhoods or stitch together a web of protected bike lanes in the county’s dense urban centers?

In June, the Montgomery Planning Department is hosting meetings to get your feedback on the draft network maps for the updated Bicycle Master Plan. This is your chance to share your ideas on needed bicycle connections and help shape the future bicycle network. At five meetings around the county, staff will present their vision for a quality, low-stress network that will get tens of thousands of residents where they need to go safely and conveniently by bicycle. Though pieces of the network have been released, this is the first time we get to see the future bike network in its entirety.

Come look at the maps and let staff know what you like and what is missing.

Each meeting will run from 4 pm – 8:30 pm, consisting of an open house from 4 – 7 pm and a presentation and Q&A from 7:15 – 8:30 pm.

Meeting 1
Tuesday, June 6 | 4 pm – 8:30 pm
Planning Department Headquarters
8787 Georgia Avenue, Silver Spring
RSVP
Meeting 2
Thursday, June 8 | 4 pm – 8:30 pm
Bethesda Regional Services Center
4805 Edgemoor Lane, Bethesda
RSVP
Meeting 3
Monday, June 12 | 4 pm – 8:30 pm
Olney Library
3500 Olney Laytonsville Rd, Olney
RSVP
Meeting 4
Wednesday, June 14 | 4 pm – 8:30 pm
UpCounty Regional Services Center
12900 Middlebrook Road, Germantown
RSVP
Meeting 5
Thursday, June 22 | 4 pm – 8:30 pm
Marilyn J. Praisner Library
14910 Old Columbia Pike, Burtonsville
RSVP

That Was Fast! A New, Safer Trail Crossing in Bethesda!

Great news for riders, walkers, and all users of the Capital Crescent Trail! Crews began work on Thursday (Jan 5) on major safety improvements to the Capital Crescent Trail crossing at Little Falls Parkway in Bethesda. Using flex posts, lane striping, and new signage, Little Falls Parkway is reduced to one travel lane in each direction, down from two, west of Hillandale Rd. Soon, signs will be in place to reduce the speed limit from 35mph to 25mph. These changes, made with relatively inexpensive materials, will dramatically reduce the chances of crashes, fatalities, and serious injuries at this busy trail intersection.


After these changes were announced, WABA circulated a petition to area residents and trail users offering an opportunity to thank county staff and elected leaders for taking quick action to prevent future crashes. As of Friday, January 6, 291 area residents signed on with enthusiastic support for the change.

Michael Riley, Director of Parks, Montgomery Parks
Casey Anderson, Chair, Montgomery County Planning Board

Thank you for taking fast and decisive action to make the Capital Crescent Trail at Little Falls Parkway safe for everyone. You and your staff deserve enormous credit for your quick work to prevent future crashes at this intersection with this road diet and speed reduction.

291 Signatures (Click here to see the petition responses)

We applaud the county leaders and staff involved in this decision. Their action recognizes that this intersection’s design creates a crash hazard that puts vulnerable road users and drivers at unnecessary risk. The solution puts the focus on what factors contribute to crashes (multi-lane crossing, visibility, speed) rather than who deserves the most blame. We hope that this case serves as a catalyst for safety upgrades to similar intersections across the county.

Click here to read more about the changes.

Want to show your gratitude? Sign onto the above petition here.

More Detail on Silver Spring’s Second & Wayne Avenue Bike Lanes

Guest post by David Cranor

Sometime in 2018, the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) hopes to build a protected bike lane on Second and Wayne Avenues in downtown Silver Spring. This road diet would create the county’s 5th protected bike lane.

This project will follow the Spring Street/Cedar Street Separated Bike Lanes project (the county’s 4th protected bike lane), which is being constructed in Spring 2017. It will connect to, and extend, those lanes west – where they will connect to the future Capital Crescent Trail.  On the east side, it will connect to the Silver Spring Green Trail.

Because the road has different widths in different locations, the design differs from section to section. From Spring to Fenwick, there will be conventional 5′ wide bike lanes. From Fenwick to Colesville Road there will be one-way, 6′ wide separated bike lanes on each side, with a 6′ wide buffer.

From Colesville Road to Georgia Avenue it will have a 2-way, 8′ wide separated bikeway on the north side of the street. This will be accomplished by moving the curb in and taking advantage of an old bus bay.

The most unusual, and likely most controversial, part is the so-called “Colesville Transition,” where eastbound cyclists will turn across the avenue to the north side to join the two-way bikeway.

Other intersections will be redesigned too. Designs use two-stage queue box pavement markings, colored paint, and floating bus stops.

And at Spring and Second there will be a protected intersection.

The final design should be done this upcoming summer, with the 3-4 month project starting in late 2017 or early 2018. A .pdf with the full current design can be found here.

David Cranor is the Chair of the DC Bicycle Advisory Council and writes about bicycling in the area at The Washcycle

Submit comments to improve the design

  • Door Zone Bike Lanes: plans include a block where people on bikes will have to ride in a narrow painted lane between moving traffic and high turnover parking spaces. While some bicyclists may be accustomed to standard bike lanes, they are far more stressful for inexperienced or young riders and more dangerous due to illegal parking and the high potential for getting “doored.” A network is only as good as it’s weakest link.
  • Narrow Lanes: the protected lanes will also be quite narrow in some places, making it difficult to pass a slower bicyclist or just fit through with a wider format bicycle. Driving lanes should be squeezed to their minimums (10 or 11 feet) to expand the bike lanes in these areas.

This project is sorely needed in downtown Silver Spring, yet even one block of dangerous design makes the whole network less useful. There is still plenty of time to improve these shortcomings, but we need your help to show that there is demand for these changes. Public comments will be accepted until December 21st.

Click here to submit comments to improve the design

Montgomery County is Fixing the Capital Crescent Trail Crossing of Little Falls Parkway

On October 17, Ned Gaylin was hit and killed crossing Little Falls Parkway while out for a morning ride on the Capital Crescent Trail. This past  Wednesday, Montgomery Parks announced that it is taking swift action to dramatically reduce the risk of fatal crashes at this busy trail intersection.

Anyone who has walked or ridden the Capital Crescent Trail into Bethesda knows the Little Falls Parkway crossing. It is one of only two at-grade road crossings between Bethesda and Georgetown. After a sharp turn, the trail emerges from woods to an unsignalized crosswalk across four lanes of traffic. Signs remind drivers to be on the lookout for trail users and trail users to use caution before entering the crosswalk. However, the road is designed as a highway with two wide lanes in each direction and a 35 mile per hour speed limit.

As built, this intersection is a recipe for disaster. In September 2016, 87,000 walkers, joggers, and bicyclists passed through this intersection. A safe crossing requires every player to be fully attentive, know their responsibilities, and carry them out without mistake. A person walking or biking must approach the crosswalk with caution. She must be sure not to enter the crosswalk in the immediate path of an oncoming car. Four lanes of drivers must see her, must recognize their responsibility to yield, then slow down and come to a stop.

Now consider what actually happens on our roadways at any given time: add a litany of distractions and competing motivations. Drivers, facing wide lanes, a high speed limit and an attention grabbing green light down the road do not want to slow down. Bicyclists don’t want to lose their momentum and start again from a dead stop. Pedestrians do not want to wait for a break in traffic. Everyone is in a hurry. In practice, most people do the right thing, but we need a road designed to minimize conflicts and reduce the risk of harm, acknowledging that not all humans behave perfectly at all times.

Road diet plans from Montgomery Parks. Purple lines indicate new striping. Purple circles indicate flex posts.

A Fix is on the Way

Wednesday night, Montgomery Parks, which maintains Little Falls Parkway and the Capital Crescent Trail, announced new changes to Little Falls Parkway which will simplify crossing interactions and dramatically reduce the chance of crashes that could cause a fatal or serious injury. A road diet on Little Falls will reduce the parkway to one lane in each direction between Hillandale Road and Fairfax Rd. The speed limit will be lowered from 35 mph to 25 mph in the same area. Signage, flex posts, and pavement markings will give drivers ample warning for this new configuration and speed reduction.

Thank County Leaders For Taking Action

Each of these changes will make Little Falls Parkway safer for drivers and trail users. The road diet will remove the outside travel lanes, which shortens the crossing distance and makes trail users more visible as they approach the crosswalk. Drivers will approach the intersection more slowly, which shortens the distance a car travels before coming to stop after the driver hits the brakes.

Going to one lane also prevents the cause of many fatal crashes on multilane roads, in which one driver yields and comes to a stop, but the driver in an adjacent lane does not stop because the crossing person is obscured behind the stopped car. Under Maryland law, drivers must stop at an unsignalized crosswalk if a vehicle in an adjacent lane is already stopped for a pedestrian, but in practice, many drivers don’t do so. This is a chronic problem on Little Falls Parkway. Going from two lanes to one lane will eliminate the problem entirely.

If a crash does happen, it will be at a lower speed, and that means fewer and less severe injuries to pedestrians and bicyclists. Studies show that when a driver traveling at 40 mph hits a person it will result in a fatality 90% of the time, but just 10% of the time at 20 mph. Speed kills, and road design has an enormous impact on speeding. By changing the speed limit and narrowing the road, drivers are more likely to comply.

Some will object to these changes, raising concerns about increased traffic and delay on the parkway. However, road diets like the one proposed often accommodate as many vehicles as the wider road they replace by creating a separated space for turning vehicles and eliminating weaving. Moreover, this will keep people from getting hurt, which ought to be the priority. Empirical research shows that road diets reduce overall crashes, including car on car crashes by 29%. Elevating safety over speed is just the right thing to do. At a time when Montgomery County is working to increase safe transportation options and creating a Vision Zero action plan to eliminate all traffic fatalities, we cannot turn a blind eye to safety for the sake of a few seconds of delay.

For the full details, see the plans here.

Rapid Implementation Saves Lives

Starting later this month, Montgomery Parks will implement these changes using relatively cheap materials like lane striping, flex posts and signage. New York City took a similar approach, using paint, planters, and flex posts to test traffic calming, sidewalk widening, pedestrian refuges, and intersection changes. Many of these inexpensive installations are now cast in concrete after a pilot phase. County staff are studying a permanent fix on Little Falls, but planning could easily take years and millions of dollars to install a signal, re-route the trail to another intersection or redesign the road. In the meantime, this fix will immediately make the crossing safe for millions of trail users each year.

Help Us Thank Montgomery Parks for Swift Action

When tragedy strikes, excuses are never in short supply and decisive action to change the status quo is often met with opposition. Montgomery Parks and the Planning Board deserve enormous credit for their quick work to prevent future crashes on the Capital Crescent Trail. Please sign our petition to thank the department staff and Montgomery County leaders for their action.

Thank County Leaders For Taking Action

Matthew Henson Trail Crossing at Viers Mill Road is Still Deadly

On Sunday July 17th, Oscar Mauricio Gutierrez Osorio, 31 of Silver Spring, was killed crossing Viers Mill Road in Silver Spring where the Matthew Henson Trail crosses a high speed Maryland State Highway, according to the Washington Post. The exact details of the deadly crash involving Mr. Osorio are not public, but the trail crossing is a known safety hazard. This is the same location where Frank Towers, 19 was killed in December 2016,  just days after receiving a new bike for Christmas.

Trail users must cross 7 lanes of traffic where drivers regularly exceed the 45 mph speed limit. For reference, a person walking or biking struck by a driver at 40 mph or greater has an 80 percent chance of dying. At this trail location, there is no traffic light requiring drivers to stop for people walking and biking across the road. Compounding the problem, the trail crosses Viers Mill Road at the bottom of a hill with poor sight lines.

After the death of Frank Towers, the Maryland State Highway Administration “improved” the trail crossing with overhead flashing yellow lights which must be activated by trail users. The crosswalk beg button provides visual and audio cues that the yellow lights are active which was a deficiency of the previous design. This was a flawed approach from the beginning, as yellow lights only require drivers to exercise caution, but not to stop. Any design that requires less than a full stop will continue to cause safety issues. WABA pleaded with engineers to design and constructed a traffic light or HAWK signal which would require drivers to come to a full stop. The request was denied, now with deadly consequences.

Montgomery County is committed to Vision Zero. This is the principle that we must design our streets so that no person (bicyclist, pedestrian or driver) will be killed while using them. This requires that policy makers and traffic engineers be ultimately accountable for design decisions made in our transportation system. People make mistakes when they use our streets, but streets should be designed to be so safe that those mistakes aren’t deadly.

Following Sunday’s crash, WABA reached out to local and state elected representatives, and transportation officials requesting action. On Thursday, July 21st, the entire Montgomery County Council sent a letter to Maryland Governor Hogan, Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn and Maryland State Highway Administrator Greg Johnson requesting immediate prioritization of trail crossing improvements. The letter calls out the current dangerous conditions and the need for immediate action.

Fixing the Matthew Henson Trail crossing at Viers Mill Road is just the beginning. This needs to happen now to prevent future injuries and death at this location. But there are dozens of other trail crossings in the Montgomery and Prince George’s County that need attention too. We need the leadership of the Maryland State Highway Administration to work with localities to protect vulnerable road users by focusing on critical street and trail crossings. This means prioritizing the life and safety of people walking and biking over the convenience of people driving.

No one should die walking or biking across the street.

July 29th, 2016 Update: The delegation from Maryland’s 19th District sent a letter to Maryland State Highway Administrator Greg Johnson requesting immediate corrective action at the Matthew Henson Trail crossing of Veirs Mill Road.  A special thank you Senator Manno (D-19th) for organizing this action on this important community safety issue.

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.