Friday, October 17, 2014

sharrows tell drivers to share the road with cyclists, except when that road is a state highway

Sharrows are great for streets where there isn't room for a traditional bike lane. But sometimes, they're used as a way to avoid putting in a bike lane, which is bad for bicyclists and drivers alike.
New sharrows on Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring. Photo by Paul Meyer.
Last week, sharrows appeared on Georgia Avenue between Sligo and Wayne avenues in downtown Silver Spring. It's one of eighteen state highways in Maryland where cyclists are allowed to ride in the right lane, and the sharrows let drivers know to look out for them.

Reader Paul Meyer tweeted this photo of the lane markings and wrote, "Sharrows on Georgia Avenue in downtown Silver Spring?!? A start."

Sharrows are a start for Montgomery County, which has embraced bicycling without always committing to the infrastructure needed to support it, like bike lanes. The county has had Capital Bikeshare for just over a year, including in downtown Silver Spring, but due to a lack of safe places to bike, it's gotten off to a slow start.

Georgia Avenue is a big, wide street, with six lanes of traffic, turn lanes, and parking lanes. Though the signed speed limit is 30 mph, the lanes are wide, which encourages speeding. This is the kind of street that only the hardiest cyclists would ride on, and sharrows won't change that. Cyclists will continue riding on the sidewalks where they feel safer, but they're already barely wide enough to accommodate pedestrians in some areas.

Sharrows are ideal for streets that are too narrow for a bike lane. Because of the amount and speed of traffic on Georgia, cyclists need their own space. This street would be a good candidate for bike lanes with a buffer or even cycletracks, where a physical buffer would give cyclists additional separation from vehicle traffic, which benefits drivers too.

Obviously, that would require taking lanes from cars, and in the case of cycle tracks, redesigning or even removing parking spaces. County and state transportation officials have traditionally been reluctant to do that, most recently with Old Georgetown Road in White Flint. And so sharrows are sometimes used as a substitute for a bike lane where the political will to build one isn't there.

Bike Lanes come to Illinois Avenue NW in Petworth
Sharrows are great for narrow streets like Illinois Avenue in Petworth. Photo by Wayan Vota on Flickr.

But if there's any community that should have the will to give cyclists a place on its streets, it should be downtown Silver Spring, where a majority of residents walk, bike, or take transit to work. Nearly a third of all households don't even have cars, and 40% of its public parking spaces are usually vacant.

The new sharrows on Georgia Avenue tell drivers to pay attention to cyclists. But as long as Georgia remains a big, fast street that prioritizes driving over everything else, drivers won't have many cyclists to watch for.

Monday, October 6, 2014

how the department of liquor control is like the public library

Say what you will about Montgomery County's liquor laws, but one benefit is that you can search the inventory of available beverages at all 30 locations in the county via their website. You can see all of the products available in the county, and what each Department of Liquor Control store has in stock.
I was thinking about making an old fashioned. Screenshots from my computer.
After a few minutes of clicking around, I realized that the interface felt really familiar. So I visited the Montgomery County Public Library's site, where you can also see what books are available, and which libraries have them.
I always have to read the book before seeing the movie.
I was struck by how similar their websites are. It's cool that Montgomery County makes it as easy to find and locate booze as they do books. On the other hand, it would be nice if there were more than 30 places to buy bourbon in a county of one million people. (Especially because, according to the DLC website, the downtown Silver Spring branch doesn't have the one I'm looking for.)

I wouldn't recommend consuming these two things together.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

montgomery county wants to turn this dying strip mall into the next mosaic district

Over the past few years, retail developer Edens has transformed a gritty wholesale market and a suburban multiplex into trendy retail destinations. Their next redevelopment project, a dying strip mall in Burtonsville, might be a little more challenging.

'We're Still Here'
One of the few remaining businesses at Burtonsville Crossing. Photo by the author.

Burtonsville Crossing, on Route 29 in eastern Montgomery County, has been hemorrhaging tenants since a highway bypass was built behind it in 2006 and is now 70% vacant. This week, Edens, which has owned the strip mall since 2003, signed an agreement with the county to explore ways to redevelop it and a six-acre park-and-ride lot behind it.

Montgomery County seems to expect big things from the developer. Their press release states that Edens is "known locally for the popular epicurean mecca Union Market" in Northeast DC, and describes "conceptual plans" for restaurants, retail, housing, and a movie theatre, which sounds like the Mosaic District, a mixed-use development Edens is building next to the Dunn Loring-Merrifield Metro station in Fairfax County.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

family dinner at zpizza (sponsored post)

If you follow Just Up The Pike on Facebook or Twitter (and you should!), you've probably heard me talk about my favorite restaurants in Silver Spring, places like Urban Butcher and Denizens Brewing Company. But I haven't spent a lot of time at zpizza on Ellsworth Drive, which at 10 years (has it been that long?) in downtown Silver Spring is practically an institution compared to some of these newer places.

Started in California in 1986, zpizza (it is spelled lowercase) considers itself the first "chef-inspired pizza chain." It has locations in 15 states and the District of Columbia, as well as South Korea, Vietnam, and the United Arab Emirates. The other week, I was invited to participate in a press dinner to try out some of their new menu items.

Why did I do it? Well, four weeks ago I moved out of the group house I was living in Park Hills, which our landlord put up for sale, and moved back in with my parents while waiting to move into my new home, which is a topic for another post. Zpizza offered to deliver pizza for 8 to my parents' house, and not being a great cook, I was eager to contribute to family dinner, especially given my family's predilection for Little Caesars.

When the pizzas arrived, I was a little shocked at how much we got: