The county is holding a public hearing on the River Road Bike Path project this Wednesday at 7 pm in the Lobby Level Auditorium of the Executive Office Building, 101 Monroe Street, Rockville.
The project calls for a 5′ wide concrete path on the north side of River Road (MD 190) for about 1200′ from Riverwood Drive to River Oaks Lane in Potomac. The cross section diagram is here. The path fills a gap between two existing path segments. The resulting full path would run from Gary Road (near Potomac Village) to Swains Lock Road (which connects to the C&O Canal, though Swains Lock Road is steep and has no path which might deter typical path users).
The path would only be 5′ wide. That’s not a bike path. That’s a sidewalk. County standards call for shared use paths to be 8′-10′ wide. If paths can be 5′ wide — then wow, suddenly most roads in the county have bike paths (except Gaithersburg with its confusing ban on sidewalk riding).
The county announcement says the public may review the project plans at the DOT building in Gaithersburg. You might want to call first, though the announcement provides no phone number. I’ve heard the plans are at the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying “Beware of the Leopard“. Online I could only find the cross section diagram, which the public announcement doesn’t mention.
Why is the path so narrow? DOT says a wider path would require buying more land and clearing more area.
There are few houses or walking destinations on River Road there, so it’s questionable whether a mere sidewalk is an effective use of county funds when so many needed sidewalks remain unbuilt (Seven Locks Road and Falls Road for example).
The best thing the county could do for bicyclists on River Road is improve the shoulders, which are too narrow and often overgrown. Most cyclists there seem to stay as close as possible to the edge of the road, which says to me that riders want to stay out of the car traffic flow and would benefit from better shoulders. In the narrower sections there’s about 13′ of pavement on each side which is very cramped (though MacArthur Blvd lanes are 11′ wide or less).