Jan 302012

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).

  5 Responses to “River Road Bike Path hearing Wednesday evening”

  1. I think MCDOT has been getting away with running this kind of fraud in advertising for too long. Often when they want to take credit for providing a bike path but find it is not easy too do to a minimal standard, they just provide a sidewalk instead and declare it to be a shared use bike path.

    I support sidewalks in general, and do not wish to oppose this sidewalk. But it should absolutely not be called a shared use path until they can build it at least 8-10 feet wide.

  2. How do the lifecycle costs of concrete sidewalks compare with those of asphalt sidewalks of the same width? If concrete sidewalks last 30 or more years, while asphalt sidewalks need to be repaved after only10 or 15 years, perhaps the County will instead build concrete sidewalks which better serve pedestrians, especially in the long term, yet are still bikeable.

    Keep protesting the County’s fraud of building 5′ sidepaths as “bikeways”. Eventually, this malpractice will cease.

  3. This is typical roadway width for that segment… http://g.co/maps/etzmm

  4. More project material has been posted on the DOT website. See https://cyclemoco.com/2012/01/river-road-bike-path-more-information/

  5. I testified briefly at the hearing. Most of the people testifying were residents of communities near River Road beyond the missing path segment. Their recurring themes were wanting to access nearby destinations (like Potomac Village, Potomac ES and Potomac Library) by foot or by bike and the danger of walking/biking on the existing 1′-2′ shoulder. There were some opponents, essentially the few homeowners whose property fronts onto the segment to be built. They were concerned with loss of trees, loss of privacy, strangers having access to their properties, increase in crime, and dangers to path users from cars running off the roadway. I think they realized they were badly outnumbered (there can’t be more than a dozen houses impacted). Mike Subin (former County Council member) was the hearing examiner and he freely expressed his opinion that the path is needed. DOT said it would cost $400K to build, roughly $1.7M per mile. I testified that 1) the path is important to build, 2) it must be at least 8′ wide. It’s such a short segment and yet it would complete a long continuous path, so it’s worth the cost. I didn’t express any support for widening the shoulders, which would be difficult and expensive to modify.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.