Montgomery County is deciding how to install bike lanes on Woodglen Drive in North Bethesda (or is it South Rockville?). Woodglen is the site of part of the Bethesda Trolley Trail, which runs in fits and starts from downtown Bethesda to the Twinbrook Metro station in Rockville. The bike lanes would be in addition to the trail, not a replacement for the trail. The entire White Flint area is being rebuilt as part of the county’s ambitious effort to create an urban community centered around White Flint Metro. Bicycling is intended to be a large part of that. See some photos of the existing configuration here.
The street is 48 feet wide. The county’s initial design is as follows (from west to east):
- 5′ southbound bike lane
- 10′ southbound travel lane
- 10′ two-way center turn lane
- 10′ northbound travel lane
- 5′ northbound bike lane
- 8′ parking area
The county has done a good deed for us by having 10′ travel lanes, since county standards call for a minimum of 11′. I also appreciate their removal of parking on one side of the street to make room for the bike lanes. They did however deny our request to narrow the center turn lane to 8′ due to trucks turning into Whole Foods and other streets and driveways.
The problem with the proposed design is that the combined width of the northbound bike lane and parking area is only 13′, putting bike lane users in the “door zone” of parked cars. I follow the rule that 14′ must be provided to solve the dooring problem. For reference, Battery Lane in Bethesda provides 13′ as well, and we all know what that’s like. (Battery has a 5′ bike lane on the other side of the street, and Battery’s travel lanes are 11′ instead of 10′). The problem on Woodglen is, ironically, exacerbated by the narrow travel lanes, which will make it harder for drivers to shift left away from the bike lanes (at least they can cheat into the center lane).
So cyclists at last week’s MCBAG meeting recommended that MCDOT find a different solution on the northbound side, possibly sharrows. Sharrows have been used on Piccard St. in Rockville to establish a bike position away from parked cars. There is some evidence that cyclists ride further from parked cars when there are sharrows than when there are not, but, just as importantly, sharrows let drivers know that cyclists riding outside the door zone aren’t scofflaws, and sharrows leave cyclists the discretion to ride where they feel it’s safest, whereas cyclists must use bike lanes if they are present (with certain exceptions).
How far should sharrows be placed from parked cars? Centering the sharrows at 12′ or 13′ from the curb (maybe as little as 11.5′ if the cyclist rides on the left edge of the sharrow?) allows cyclists to ride on the sharrow and maintain the same position they would with a 14′ bike lane + parking dimension. The state’s standards call for 11′ minimum, which I say isn’t enough. Alternatively sharrows could be painted down the center of the travel lane, depending on the context.
The Bethesda Trolley Trail
The Bethesda Trolley Trail is still going to be built along Woodglen Drive, mitigating the lack of in-road accommodations (i.e. bike lanes) for less assertive cyclists. The county has applied for state funds under Maryland’s new bikeway initiative to assist with trail construction. (An interim trail technically exists on the east side of Woodglen, but the new buildings and driveways have rendered it completely unsuitable, so the trail must be built on the west side). The county is asking for $100,000 to build the estimated $160,000 trail along Woodglen, with the county paying $60,000 on its own. Much of the rest of the trail is of poor quality, but… one step at a time I guess.