Jan 102015
 

Statement by MoBike (Montgomery Bicycle Advocates) on cycle tracks:

Cycle tracks, sometimes called separated or protected bike lanes, are one of the most promising new bike facility types to be implemented in the U.S. in recent years. Because cycle tracks physically separate cyclists from car traffic, they appeal to the “interested but concerned” category of bicyclists who would ride their bikes more if they felt safer doing so. The societal benefits of getting more people using their bikes for transportation, as well as the prospect of fewer deaths and injuries, make it worthwhile to provide cycle tracks in many contexts.  However, they are not completely without drawbacks, as noted below, so their suitability should be determined on a street-by-street basis.  To summarize, MoBike enthusiastically endorses cycle tracks as a facility type to be used where warranted.

One-way cycle track on one-way L St NW, D.C.

The distinguishing feature of cycle tracks is the physical barrier they place between bicyclists and car traffic, whether it’s a vertical barrier such as flexible posts or parked cars or a simple difference in grade provided by a curb. The barrier gives many riders the perception that they are safer than they would be in conventional bike lanes or standard vehicle lanes.  This perception is often reality, since the configuration prevents or deters drivers from encroaching into the cyclist’s area and usually increases the distance between cars and bikes. Even experienced bicyclists may think twice before using conventional bike lanes on fast, busy roads, so cycle tracks can make these roads more comfortable for all types of riders. Cycle tracks can also make it possible to ride in both directions along a one-way street.

Cycle track between the curb and sidewalk with painted crossing in Cambridge, Mass.

Cycle tracks are often superior to shared use paths running closely alongside a road. They generally do a better job alerting drivers that they’re crossing a bike facility, by virtue of positioning or special intersection treatments such as green paint and warning signs. A one-way cycle track allows bike travel in one direction only and is located on the same side of the street as vehicle lanes carrying traffic in the same direction. Shared use paths, on the other hand, allow cyclists to ride in either direction on one side of the street, a riskier configuration because cyclists riding against the flow of adjacent car traffic can catch drivers by surprise at intersections. Because cycle tracks are dedicated bike facilities, conflicts between pedestrians and bicyclists may be less common than in shared use paths, so they’re often a better choice than paths in urban areas where pedestrian volumes are higher. Cycle tracks are more flexible than paths in that they can be implemented either between the curbs or on the sidewalk side of the curb.

Left turn from one-way cycle track in San Fransisco

Like any bicycle facility type, however, cycle tracks have weaknesses as well as strengths. Their biggest weakness may be that riding in them often takes more time and is more awkward than riding in conventional bike lanes or travel lanes. Executing certain turns from a cycle track can be a time-consuming process, requiring riders to cross an additional street or wait at an additional red light. The barrier that keeps cars at bay may also prevent cyclists from shifting from the cycle track into the travel lanes, a maneuver used when preparing for a left turn or avoiding an obstruction. And while pedestrian conflicts are less frequent in cycle tracks than on shared use paths, walkers do wander into cycle tracks, undermining their utility. Some pedestrians don’t even realize they are standing or walking in a bike facility. Cycle tracks placed between parallel parking and the curb are especially prone to pedestrian conflicts as people load or unload their cars or walk to the curb. Cyclists have to ride slowly to anticipate such conflicts where they’re likely to occur.

Cycle tracks may require more space than conventional bike lanes, depending on the street configuration.  However, it may be possible to place the cycle track on the sidewalk side of the curb where it doesn’t compete for space between the curbs as a conventional bike lane would.

Two-way cycle track on two-way 15st St NW in D.C.

Two-way cycle tracks along two-way streets have some additional drawbacks. Generally speaking, these facilities are less safe than one-way cycle tracks because, like roadside paths, they put cyclists traveling in two directions on one side of the street (except when the cycle track is in the middle of the street).  This results in half the cyclists riding against the flow of adjacent car traffic, surprising drivers accustomed to looking in certain directions for vehicles. Intersections involving two-way cycle tracks are more complex than those involving one-way cycle tracks and may require special accommodations to guide cyclists through the intersection and minimize conflicts.  Sometimes dedicated bike signals are warranted.  Where a two-way cycle track begins or ends, cyclists heading in one direction must cross the street to continue, requiring similar measures. If due accommodations aren’t provided at intersections or transition points, cyclists are forced to improvise, possibly making the facility less safe than conventional bike lanes.  Also, two-way cycle tracks can reduce access to one side of the street if the rider must make a U-turn and double back on the side without the cycle track to reach his or her destination.

Two-way cycle track on two-way street in Seattle with dedicated bike signal (click for Google street view).  The driver is disobeying the red arrow signal.

Cyclists who choose not to ride in a cycle track may face hostility from drivers who wonder why cyclists can’t use the obvious facility provided specifically for them. Cycle track signs, bollards and paint send the message that cyclists are supposed to stay in their own area. But often the very space that would allow drivers and cyclists to share the road without conflict has been eliminated to create room for the cycle tracks. Riding in the road allows cyclists to take advantage of design features and protocols that have evolved over a century to facilitate efficient, orderly movement of vehicles – things like through-lanes, turn lanes, and well-understood rules of right-of-way.  Cycle tracks can undermine this option.

Shared use paths may be more suitable than cycle tracks in some contexts, such as to fill gaps in hiker-biker trails that children and other inexperienced riders are likely to use.  Cycle tracks often require riders to interact with car traffic, obey novel pavement markings, improvise at intersections, be wary of parked cars, and generally be alert and keep moving, whereas paths are more tolerant of mistakes and casual stops.

Providing both a shared use path and conventional bike lanes – a so-called dual facility – can be a good alternative to cycle tracks on some streets.  Experienced cyclists who would benefit from a faster facility may use the bike lanes while riders who prefer greater separation from car traffic may use the shared use path.

Two-way cycle track on one-way Penn Ave in Pittsburgh

Ultimately the decision of whether to provide a cycle track instead of another facility type requires an evaluation of whether the benefits relating to comfort, overall safety, and increased bike use are outweighed by the cost to cyclists in terms of travel time and intersection safety. Cycle tracks do not fully protect bicyclists at intersections, a common site of bicycle crashes, and some designs actually increase the risk at intersections, whereas riding in the roadway puts cyclists where drivers approaching an intersection already look for vehicles – in the road. However, perception of safety may be almost as important as reality. Increasing the level of bike use makes cycling safer on all roads, not just roads with bike accommodations, since there is indeed safety in numbers. So on roads where traffic is fast and busy, cycle tracks may be the better solution. On a minor street where traffic is tame, cycle tracks might not offer enough benefit to justify the drawbacks. The facility decision may depend on who is likely to use the street – inexperienced riders or people who bike every day. Increased comfort may encourage cycling among some users, while extra travel time may discourage it among others. On some streets, adding cycle tracks might not be possible without creating terribly awkward intersections or putting cyclists too close to opening car doors. Bad cycle tracks are worse than no cycle tracks, and there are other facility types in the tool kit. In addition, external factors like impact to pedestrians must be considered.

Finally, whenever cycle tracks are installed in the county, DOT and other stakeholders should conduct a “lessons learned” analysis to see what worked and what didn’t and make recommendations accordingly.

So to reiterate… MoBike enthusiastically endorses cycle tracks as a facility type to be used where warranted.

MoBike (Montgomery Bicycle Advocates)
January 10, 2015

Nov 302014
 

The Montgomery County Council just passed Bill 33-13 entitled Urban Road Standards and Pedestrian Safety Improvements. The bill makes modest changes to the county’s road design standards to make our streets better and safer places for bicyclists and pedestrians.  It does this primarily by calling for measures to reduce motor vehicle speeds.  County road standards are codified in laws and regulations known collectively as the Road Code. The enacted bill updates relevant portions of the Road Code, either by changing the law directly or directing the County Executive to modify relevant regulations.

Here’s the executive summary of the bill’s stipulations.

  • Through lanes and turn lanes on urban roads must be no wider than 10′ unless next to parking or a curb in which case they must be no wider than 11′
  • Parking lanes on urban roads must be no wider than 8′
  • Curb radii on urban roads must be no greater than 15′ with some exceptions
  • Target speed on urban roads must be no greater than 25 mph
  • 6′ wide pedestrian refuges must be provided at every intersection on all divided 6-lane roads
  • All roads must include “complete streets” features to promote safe use by all travel modes, and all roads must serve bicyclists without exception
  • Two new bikeway types are defined – segregated bike lane (cycle track) and buffered bike lane
  • Road Code language is made more inclusive of non-car modes
  • Various corrections and clean-ups made to Road Code language
  • Note: Many of the provisions may be overridden by the County Executive, County Council, and/or Planning Board for safety or other reasons

State roads are not affected by the standards.

Kudos go to Councilmember Hans Riemer and Councilmember Roger Berliner who sponsored the bill! They worked closely with stakeholders to craft it.

Stipulations of the passed bill are as follows.

Width requirements for urban streets

The bill specifies new requirements for urban roads, i.e. roads in one of the county’s designated urban areas. (All areas of the county are designated as urban, suburban or rural, and roadway standards vary accordingly). These requirements may be overridden by the county executive if he finds that public safety would be impacted. These requirements apply whenever an urban road is constructed or reconstructed. A simple resurfacing or restriping project would not have to follow them, but the requirements would still carry significant weight in that case.

  • Each through travel or turning lane on an urban road must be no wider than 10 feet, except that a single travel lane adjacent to a parking lane must be no wider than 11 feet and a through travel or turning lane abutting an outside curb must be no wider than 11 feet, including the gutter pan.

This means that a lane next to a bike lane would have to be 10 feet wide. Previously the standards called for 14′ curb lanes on some streets, ostensibly to accommodate bicycling among other needs. But 14′ was not adequate for safe bicycling (as cyclists noted when the original standards were adopted).

  • Each parking lane on an urban road must be no wider than 8 feet, including the gutter pan.

Note that 7′ parking lanes already appear throughout the county and are wide enough to accommodate most passenger vehicles.   So 8′ is certainly not a hardship.

  • The curb radius at the corner of each intersection of two urban roads must not exceed 15 feet except where there is only one receiving lane [or] a curb extension is located…”

Bikeway definitions

Significantly, the bill adds two new bikeway types to the definitions in the law – separated bike lane (cycle track) and buffered bike lane – to reflect the latest advances in bicycle accommodations:

  • “Separated bike lane, also known as a protected bike lane or cycle track: a bikeway that is physically separated from motor vehicles and pedestrian facilities.  The separation may be vertical, such as a curb; horizontal, such as a landscape panel or parking lane; or a combination.  A separated bike lane may be in a one-way or two-way configuration.
  • “Buffered bike lane: a bikeway separated from a motor vehicle travel lane with an area of striped pavement.

These definitions aren’t very robust compared to some existing definitions in the code.  For example, the type “bike lane” remains carefully defined as “a portion of a roadway designated by striping, signing, or pavement markings for the preferential or exclusive use of bicycles, and on which through-travel by motor vehicles is not allowed.”  The overarching term “bikeway” is still defined as “any area expressly intended for bicycle travel“.  But it now encompasses five types: shared use path, shared use roadway, bike lane, separated bike lane, and buffered bike lane.  Separated bike lane and buffered bike lane are not meant to be subtypes of bike lane.

Also, the bill updates the definition of shared use path, now saying that it’s “a paved path that is typically 10 feet wide but can vary between 8 feet and 14 feet wide, designated for bicyclists and pedestrians, that is separated from motorized traffic by a curb, barrier, or landscape panel“.  Before the law said it may be 8′-12′ wide (nothing about  10′).

The bill adds the definition of sidewalk, defining it as “a pedestrian walkway that fronts a road.”  (Per the county code, bikes are still permitted on sidewalks except where prohibited by local jurisdictions, e.g. Gaithersburg, Kensington).

Bikeway mandates

Existing county law states that “Bikeways and walkways must be constructed when any County road is constructed, reconstructed, or relocated“. The law previously listed exceptions to this, namely if the facility were determined by the Council or Planning Board to be less safe, not feasible or too expensive for the expected level of use. Bill 33-13 eliminates these exceptions, replacing them with a few limited exceptions that only apply to walkways.

The bill also adds this language to the law: “Each transportation project must incorporate complete streets infrastructure sufficient to promote safe and convenient travel along and across the right-of-way for all users.”  Be aware that “promote” does not mean “ensure”.

Complete Streets Definitions

The bill adds these two definitions:

  • Complete streets: streets that are planned, designed, and constructed to enable safe access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and transit riders of all ages and abilities, commercial vehicles, freight haulers, and emergency service vehicles.
  • Complete streets infrastructure: any design feature that contributes to a safe, convenient and comfortable travel experience, which may include such features as…

The latter definition goes on to list every feature you could think of that benefits non-motorists, including several traffic calming devices. For bikes the list includes shared use paths, bike lanes, separated bike lanes, bike stations, bike storage facilities, and bicycle parking facilities.  The bill also calls for consideration of new technologies including bike sharing, etc.

Target Speed

The bill requires that the “target speed” for all urban roads be no higher than 25 mph (previously the law allowed for target speeds of 30, 35, 40 or even higher depending on road type). Target speed is defined as the intended maximum safe speed for motor vehicles given the surrounding land use and desired use by each travel mode, with an emphasis on making it a safe thoroughfare for pedestrians and bicyclists.  Target speed dictates design features like lane widths, curb radii, curb extensions, banking in turns, etc.  “Design speed” is the resulting safe maximum speed that’s actually achieved using these features, which if everything is done right should match the target speed.

Pedestrian refuge requirement

The following requirement for a pedestrian refuge island applies to any road in the county not designated as rustic or exceptional rustic.*

  • Every pedestrian refuge must be at least 6′ wide. A pedestrian refuge must be provided at each intersection on a divided highway with 6 or more through travel lanes.

This is the bill’s most detrimental aspect, adopted over bicyclists’ objections. The provision appears to prohibit median width reduction even if it would free up space for bike lanes or wider sidewalks at locations where pedestrians are unlikely to cross.  Our concern is that the provision does not allow for case-by-case judgement.

*Note: Rustic and exceptional rustic are official road designations applied to quaint old roads to keep them looking like quaint old roads, formally exempting them from usual safety standards.  MoBike defines rustic (or exceptional rustic) as scenic (or very scenic) roads that are terrifying to ride on wherever traffic volumes have been allowed to exceed anything ever intended for quaint old roads, i.e. everywhere in Potomac.  See Glen Road.

Curb Extensions Not Required

The initial bill required a curb extension at the end of every permanent parking lane except where a right-turn lane is designated, but that provision was scrapped. There was also talk of a provision mandating that curb extensions be designed to allow cyclists to pass around, over or through them, but that didn’t appear in the final bill either.

Missed Opportunity – Business District Streets

Unfortunately the bill does not modify the existing standards for so-called Business District Streets.  This was needed because the current Business District Street standard lacks any provision for bike lanes. The county can and does create business district streets with bike lanes, but only as a “modified” design, a custom configuration. Without bike lanes in the standard, planners and engineers may overlook the option of adding bike lanes or fail to recognize their importance on these streets, which are often the most useful streets for bicyclists.

Miscellaneous updates

The bill adds some rosy language to make the law more inclusive of non-car modes.  It makes various corrections or clarifications to existing law.

 Posted by at 12:56 pm on Nov 30, 2014  Comments Off on Safer road standards adopted by the county
Nov 112014
 

Montgomery County is putting considerable effort into signing new bike routes in the county.  They’ve signed four continuous road routes so far: Tuckerman-Plyers Mill-Dennis AveBethesda/Fernwood RdGeorgia Ave Corridor, and Rt 29 Corridor.  More are yet to come!

Question:  Which of the following four destination formats do you like best for county signs?  The county has used all of these formats lately.  They vary in the number of destinations per panel, total width, text flow and use of the word “miles”.  Overlook the fact that one is a hiker-biker trail sign and one lacks a big arrow.  Image scale is adjusted so you can compare sizes.

Four destination formats (images are scaled to allow size comparison)

To start off with, the county defines a base sign configuration consisting of two panels indicating route type and route direction respectively.  The route direction is shown by a big arrow (a double-headed arrow if you’re coming upon the route):

No destinations given

Destination Format 1

Below is what I call “destination format 1”, which puts all the destinations on one panel.  It’s fairly compact.  These are used on the older Tuckerman/Plyers Mill/Dennis Ave route.  For example:

Format 1 with three destinations

The following example adds a mile marker, making it clear that we’re on a defined route, not just a bike-friendly road.

Format 1 with two destinations and mile marker

The “format 1” sign assembly consists of a

  • Bike Route panel
  • “Big arrow” panel with an arrow pointing in one or two directions
  • Single destination panel, with an arrow and mileage for each destination
  • Optionally a mile marker (sometimes on the big arrow panel, sometimes on a separate panel).
  • Optional panels that may say “Start”, “End” “Use sidewalk”, etc.

There’s some room for creativity with this format.  The contractor can adjust the text flow to widen or narrow the panels or combine panels to make things more compact.

But format 1 was deemed to be wasteful. For example, why waste space with the word “miles”?

Destination Format 2

So a new destination format that I call “format 2” was adopted for newer bike routes.  The main difference is that each destination is on its own panel.  The destination panels are wider and matched in width.  Because the panels are matched in width, some will be wider than necessary and the more panels there are the wider the panels will tend to get.  It’s nice that destinations can easily be added or removed if errors are found or the route is extended.

Format 2 with two destinations

With four destinations, format 2 gets really big

I’m not sure I’d want this in my front yard

This post has 10 panels! It starts very low to the ground.

What we didn’t anticipate was that the newer sign assemblies would be so much bigger.   They’re so big that I’ve started recommending fewer destinations on each sign.  If the county adds mile marker numbers or someday route numbers they’ll get even bigger.

I also find format 2 to be, well, ugly.  The signs look “sterile” to me, like they’re cells in a spreadsheet.  I wouldn’t want to see them on a rustic road.

Destination Format 3

It is possible to have smaller destination panels that are still modular, which is how format 3 does it.  It’s sort of hybrid between formats 1 and 2.  Text can be wrapped to optimize panel width and keep them all the same width (though I don’t see why they’d have to be the same width). Including the word “miles” seems to make it a little easier to flow the text as desired (you can have “7 miles” on a line by itself but not “7”).

Format 3 has small yet modular destination panels

Destination Format 4

Finally, format 4 is a hybrid format where the destination panel is broken into multiple sections rather than panels.  This sign was used near Battery Lane in Bethesda:

Format 4 has multiple destinations sectioned off on one panel

What do you think? I’d like new signs to use the older format (format 1) or maybe one of the hybrid formats (3 or 4).  I’d also like the consultant drafting the signs to be flexible with text flow to minimize panel size.

Nov 042014
 

Wouldn’t it be great to air a public service announcement saying why cyclists don’t stay right all the time?  After all, this blog can’t reach everyone.  How’s this?

[Sound of driving]
MAN: Hey, there’s a bicyclist.  Why is he riding so far to the left?  Shouldn’t he move over?
WOMAN: Not if he wants to be safe.  There are a lot of cars parked along the street.  Cyclists should always stay well away from parked cars because a driver might suddenly open his door.
MAN: Even if there’s a bike lane?
WOMAN: You bet.  A cyclist might also leave the bike lane to avoid leaves or broken glass or potholes or to get ready to turn left.
MAN: I get it.  Look, there’s another bicyclist up ahead.  There’s no parking but she’s in the middle of my lane.
WOMAN: That’s because the lane is too narrow for cars to pass her in the same lane.  If she rides all the way to the right, some drivers will think they can pass in the same lane and they’ll come way too close to her or even hit her.  But if she rides in the middle of the lane, drivers won’t pass until they can move over, and everyone is safer.
[pause with more sound of driving]
WOMAN: And one more thing Mike.  Drivers must always keep at least three feet to the left of cyclists when passing.  That’s the law.
MAN: Wow.  There’s so much I didn’t know.  I’ll definitely keep an eye out for cyclists in my lane now.

It should be broken up into a couple shorter PSAs, but you get the idea.  Here are some more topics:  Why aren’t cyclists using the bike path?  What are those funny bike markings with arrows in the middle of the road?

Car doors are not your friend

Nov 012014
 

Woodglen Drive in North Bethesda now features Montgomery County’s first cycle track.  The county Department of Transportation deserves kudos for its willingness to support this type of facility.  The implementation is not without its shortcomings, but growing pains are to be expected as the county begins implementing cycle tracks, also known as protected bike lanes.  Moreover, the cycle track is not 100% complete (it will be by the end of November hopefully).  The primary problems seem to be intersection design and the proximity of parking to the cycle track, creating the potential for cyclists to collide with suddenly opened car doors.  Moving forward, there are steps the county can take to improve this facility and to create better cycle tracks in the future.  It would be good for the county to adopt some application criteria, design guidelines, and a process for implementing protected bike lanes.

Here’s a great drive-by video taken by Monte Fisher.  Note that the signs and street markings aren’t fully complete yet.

Click to play video (it’s a bit slow to load)

WABA is urging the county to provide a cycle track on Arlington Road in Bethesda as well, in conjunction with a road diet to eliminate a travel lane.  This would improve north-south options for cyclists, calm traffic, and help separate pedestrians from car traffic.  WABA could use your help on this campaign!  For information visit WABA’s People First on Arlington Road page.

Woodglen Drive context and history…

The Bethesda Trolley Trail currently runs from downtown Bethesda to the White Flint Metro station, including the entire length of Woodglen Drive.  The original Woodglen design called for bike lanes in the roadway and a shared use path on the west side, creating a “dual bikeway” (on-road + off-road) as called for by the White Flint Sector Plan.  The path would serve as the trail.  However, the bike lanes would’ve come too close to parked cars on the west side, so after much discussion that plan was modified to provide a northbound bike lane on the east side but sharrows on the west side.  Sharrows were considered suitable since the street is relatively calm and cars can cheat into the two-way center turn lane to pass cyclists (as they did before without major difficulty).  There would be a facility for everyone.  However, this plan fell apart when the adjacent neighborhood objected to having 5′ or 6′ wide pinch points in the path to avoid trees and utility poles – poles which could not be removed without prohibitively increasing the cost.  So DOT came up with the two-way cycle track as an alternative solution, ostensibly to serve all types of riders.  Now the cycle track is complete except for some pavement markings and signs.

A few concerns

Probably the biggest concern with the Woodglen cycle track is that half of it is in the “door zone” of parked cars.  Protected bike lanes are supposed to protect cyclists, so they’re not doing their job if cyclists are safer in the street. Intersections are a concern as well.  The transition to two-way bike flow at the north end (at Nicholson Lane) is very awkward, even dangerous, as it’s currently configured.  The transition to the trail across Edson Lane is problematic as well.  Access to side streets on the opposite side of Woodglen is awkward and requires crossing the entire street.  It’s important that cyclists be able to avoid these problems by riding in the roadway without harassment.  Painting sharrows in the roadway could go a long way towards accomplishing that, although DOT believes this would create confusion.

If you haven’t already, go see the cycle tracks for yourself!  It’s great to see the county taking bicycling seriously.  Please use the comment section to express what you like or don’t like about the Woodglen solution.  I’m looking for comments to pass on to the county.

Jack Cochrane, MoBike

Feb 242014
 

Five County Council members have signed on to a letter by Roger Berliner asking for a cost estimate of clearing snow on the Capital Crescent Trail, with an eye towards covering it in the county operating budget this year.  This is something cyclists have been requesting for years, but the requests (like bikes in the snow) never got much traction.   The letter is directed to county DOT and the Parks Department, though the latter department owns the trail.

Also, Councilmember Hans Riemer has asked DOT to draft a plan for better snow removal from sidewalks.  Forcing pedestrians to walk in the street because plows have dumped snow onto sidewalks is unacceptable.  A local pedestrian was killed in recent years doing this.  If they can’t find a place to put snow, close a lane of the street.

Feb 202014
 

The draft 2014 Rockville Bikeway Master Plan is ready for public comment!  For details, visit the plan update site or directly view the draft plan and map at these links:

You can comment on the plan in person at a public hearing to be held on Wed. April 9th at 7 pm in the Mayor and Council Chambers, City Hall, 111 Maryland Avenue, Rockville, MD, 20850.  You can sign up to speak by calling 240-314-8200.   Individual speakers get 3 minutes; those representing organizations get 5 minutes.  Or you may provide written comments via email, via this form, or via regular mail (to bike coordinator Kevin Belanger, 111 Maryland Avenue, Rockville, MD 20850).  Planners will formally present the plan to the Planning Commission on March 12 at 7 pm in the Mayor and Council Chambers at City Hall.

The current official version of the plan was last created in 2004.  The city has a strong record on supporting bicycling and most of the recommendations in the 2004 plan were implemented.  It has an effective bike advisory committee (RBAC) on which anyone is welcome to participate.  Among the city’s accomplishments:

  • 34 miles of dedicated bikeways, including the Millennium Trail, portions of the Rock Creek Trail, a dedicated trail bridge over I-270, abundant sidepaths, bike lanes and now sharrows.
  • Mobile and printable bikeway maps.
  • Capital BikeShare stations in and around the city
  • Designated bike routes in the city, marked with color-coded signs

General information about bicycling in Rockville can be found on the city’s bikeway page.

 Posted by at 9:23 am on Feb 20, 2014  Comments Off on Rockville Bikeway Plan available for public comment
Feb 082014
 

The Maryland Department of Transportation just issued its new Twenty-Year Maryland Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan.  According to MDOT:

The Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan establishes a 20-year vision to support cycling and walking as modes of transportation in Maryland. The Plan provides guidance and investment strategies to support cycling and walking, both on-road and off-road, as part of Maryland’s multimodal transportation network.

It’s not the kind of plan that stipulates which streets will get bike lanes and where paths will be built.  Instead the plan describes the current state of affairs, identifies objectives, lays out strategies and discusses implementation.  It presents a lot of useful facts as well.

The plan was released January 15, 2014.

 Posted by at 3:19 am on Feb 8, 2014  Comments Off on Maryland’s New Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan
Feb 072014
 

On January 15th, County Executive Ike Leggett released his recommended 2015 Capital Budget and 2015-2020 Capital Improvements Program (CIP), aka the 2015-2020 Capital Budget.  It identifies capital project funding over the six year period starting with Fiscal year 2015 (which begins July 1, 2014).   The first two years of the budget, 2015 and 2016, are the ones to watch.  The other four years are “out-years” which represent intentions or best guesses but may change significantly.  The capital budget is re-crafted every two years.  It is amended during the other years or any other time as needed.  “Capital” projects essentially involve building, creating or designing things – as opposed to operating and maintaining things which is the purview of the Operating Budget.

Helpful hints

Most bike and pedestrian projects are identified under Transportation in the capital budget.

However, parkland trails usually appear under M-NCPPC in the budget (on the M-NCPPC page, note that some projects are listed only on the CIP230 form).

Each capital project has its own Project Description Form (confusingly abbreviated PDF) describing the project and its funding profile year by year.   These forms are very useful.

Facility Planning is a useful budget item to examine.  The Facility Planning-Transportation PDF (see the last page) identifies projects that the county plans to study in coming years.  Facility Planning is the phase of studying and doing preliminary engineering (up to 30% design) on a project before it’s allowed to move on to the next step with dedicated funding of its own.  Road, transit, and bikeway projects undergoing Facility Planning are grouped together for budget purposes under Facility Planning-Transportation.  The PDF for Facility Planning-Transportation gives insight into the future of bike projects in the county.

The Projects

The following dedicated bikeway projects are identified in the budget (not counting projects only scheduled for Facility Planning, or road projects with significant bike components):

  • Bikeway Program – Minor Projects.  This county program covers selected small projects up to about $500K each.  It was previously called the Annual Bikeway Program.  The program is flexible and allows individual projects to be approved fairly quickly by DOT working with bicyclists.  The fund may also be used to study larger projects.   Funded at approx. $500K year, it will receive an additional $500K in 2015 from the state’s Maryland Bikeways Program.
  • Bethesda Bike/Pedestrian Facillities.  Remaining work consists of upgrading the Capital Crescent Trail non-tunnel route through downtown Bethesda for about $1 million.
  • Capital Crescent Trail.  Completion of the CCT as a hard surface trail from Bethesda to downtown Silver Spring in conjunction with Purple Line construction.
  • Falls Road East Side Hiker/Biker Path.  A path along 4 miles of Falls Road in Potomac.  No money is allocated because it’s so expensive it will likely never be built (though a sidewalk may someday be built on the west side).  Likely cost of $15-20 million.
  • Frederick Road Bike Path.  A $7.2 million, 2.5 mile long shared use path along Rt. 355 in Clarksburg.
  • MacArthur Blvd. Bike Improvements.  An almost completed $8.7 million project improving a 2.6 mile path and widening a shoulder along MacArthur Blvd.  This project is the first segment of three to be improved (the next segment is in Facility Planning).
  • Metropolitan Branch Trail.  Extension of the Met Branch Trail over Georgia Ave. and into the Silver Spring Transit Center by 2018.  Funding estimated at $12 million
  • Needwood Road Bike Path.  Construction mainly of a 1.7 mile path along Needwood Road linking the ICC Trail to Lake Needwood.  Cost is $4.2 million, but much of this will be covered by the state’s Maryland Bikeways Program.
  • Seven Locks Bikeway & Safety Improvements.  This 3.3 mile new path & shoulder upgrade is prohibitively expensive at $27 million and no funding is allocated.
  • Silver Spring Green Trail.  Extension of this sidepath east of downtown Silver Spring in conjunction with Purple Line construction.
  • North Branch Trail.  The Executive’s budget provides no funding for this important M-NCPPC trail.  The park trail would extend the Lake Frank Trail northward across MD 115 and the ICC Trail until it reaches Olney.  In all, 2.2 miles of trail for $4.3 million by 2018 if funded.
  • Trails: Hard Surface Design and Construction.  M-NCPPC work on miscellaneous new hard surface trails, approximately $300K per year.
  • Hard Surface Trail Renovation. M-NCPPC trail renovation work, up to $800K per year.

The most critical concern is lack of any funding for the North Branch Trail (see map and PDF) in the Executive’s recommended budget.  M-NCPPC requested funding to complete the trail by 2018.  In fact the trail is already in the design phase.  The Executive cited “affordability” as the reason not to continue funding the trail.  It’s up to the County Council to make sure the trail is funded in the final budget.  Stay tuned.

Thanks to Jon Morrison for the original Share the Budget sign!
 Posted by at 3:35 am on Feb 7, 2014  Comments Off on Share the Budget with Bikes!
Jan 272014
 

Good news…  An arrangement to fund and build the Fishers Lane Trail, which will connect Fishers Lane to the Rock Creek Trail near Rockville, has been approved by the Montgomery County Planning Board. Fishers Lane (the road) in turn connects to Twinbrook Metro and is relatively bikeable (in the roadway).  While ultimate construction of the trail depends on funding that has not been allocated, the major issues that jeopardized the trail appear to have been largely resolved.  The superb web page created by Monte Fisher (no relation) covers the trail project and its recent history.

The main issues facing the trail were:

  • The originally intended alignment became impossible due to a new plan to put Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) on the shoulder of Veirs Mill Road
  • Resolving that problem by moving the trail off the Veirs Mill Road shoulder would greatly increase the project cost.

Under the new arrangement, the developer JBG and the Parks Department have agreed to build the trail away from Veirs Mill Road.  While JBG was originally required to fund the entire trail as a condition of developing NIAID, now it’s only required to pay $900K and the Parks Department will cover the rest, though it may take some time for Parks funding to be available.  The Planning Board just approved this arrangement.  Everyone benefits.

The new alignment of the segment parallel to Veirs Mill Road will be located on parkland owned by MNCPPC.  This poses some technical challenges, but the Parks Dept. believes these can be resolved.  Also approved by the Planning Board is a minor change to the trail route south of Veirs Mill Road so the trail can cross Rock Creek on a bridge perpendicular to the stream rather than at an angle, reducing cost.

The original alignment is shown as the pinkish-purple line below (crossed out where canceled) and the new alignment will follow the red line (subject to some small changes since this map was drawn):

Revised trail alignment

Unfortunately, the BRT plan precludes construction of a segment of the Veirs Mill Road sidewalk, shown in yellow, which would have been a vital connection for pedestrians and bicyclists.

For more about this trail, see Monte’s page.

 Posted by at 9:09 am on Jan 27, 2014  Comments Off on Fishers Lane Trail Arrangement Approved