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.

 

 

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.