Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"neighborhood greenways" could eliminate need for library bridge

Many people who support the proposed Silver Spring Library bridge (which guest blogger Alex Hutchinson wrote about last week) say it's necessary for families with children who, they say, absolutely must drive and park at the library. Do they have to drive to the library, or is it that road conditions make it so unattractive to walk or bike there?

Portland's Bike Boulevards Become Neighborhood Greenways from Streetfilms on Vimeo.

In Portland, the city's working on a new network of "neighborhood greenways, or streets in residential areas where intense traffic calming makes it not only safe but fun to walk or bike. Looking at parents riding with their kids in the video, I thought: This looks like Silver Spring. Not only that, but measures like this could get families biking to the new library safely and comfortably.

Streets in and around downtown Silver Spring are congested. It's a given that there are often too many cars to fit the existing road network, and that's even after we've converted many of our main streets, like Georgia Avenue, Colesville Road and 16th Street, to major through-routes, adding lanes, taking away on-street parking and slimming down sidewalks. Until someone suggests eliminating sidewalks altogether, or running a highway through downtown Silver Spring (which, mind you, actually did happen in the 1960's), there is a limit to how many more cars we can accommodate here.

Thus, making it easier to drive and park at the library via a new elevated bridge is probably a bad idea in the long term, because it will only bring more cars to downtown Silver Spring. The solution is to make it easier to get around in other ways. Nowhere does it say that a mom and two kids have to have a car to visit the library, or that they're somehow unable to cross a street if it's made safe to do so. (Seriously, do we want families living in Woodside or East Silver Spring, within a mile of downtown, feeling like they have to drive there?) And if we can create environments where they can get around safely without a car, they will. That means a better downtown for everyone - no matter how they travel.


Chad said...

Wow, that really does look like Silver Spring.

Patrick said...

What a sad state of affairs we are in -- particularly Montgomery County -- where people feel they have to drive, that there is no other way to get around. That walking is unsafe for children.

We really have impoverished our built environment over the past 60 years. Those of us who oppose(d) the bridge want to fix the actual problem -- our built environment and our traffic problem -- rather than merely addressing the symptom and bypassing real change.

Neighborhood greenways is a great idea. Downtown Silver Spring should be a great place for people of all ages to walk and enjoy. There are thousands of people within walking distance of this new library (and many, many more if you count walking from the metro, buses and the future purple line)).

Let's make Downtown Silver Spring a haven for walking.

~Patrick Thornton

Unknown said...

Well as someone who as a child biked from Takoma Park to Silver Spring to get my comics fix at Geppi's comic store in the 80s ( now Alliance comics I believe). I don't see much improvement in the infrastructure for bike parking throughout downtown Silver Spring.

Also as the parent of a small child ( < 2 years old) I would imagine most parents don't really want to lug a stroller, diaper bag, lunch bag all on their bicycles every day...but having said that, I don't see why a bridge is needed when there is a normal streetlight and walk sign at that intersection.

If people can walk from the parking lots to the Majestic movie theater and shops I don't see why they wouldn't be able to cross a street.


Patrick said...

It's just so sad that we don't have this kind of vision at the higher levels in Montgomery County, particularly with our elected officials. I think the biggest issue is that Montgomery is still a largely suburban county. Suburbanites don't understand urban areas, and they often propose things and put rules in place that they think will attract people, but actually hurt a community.

The idea that making it easier for people to drive in an area will attract people is pure folly. The most popular places in the world are the hardest to drive in and park. People are actively repelled from car-centric areas.

All the stupid pocket parks in Silver Spring are a great example of bad leadership from people who don't get urban areas. That space would have been much better used to increase density. I almost never see anyone using these parks. Valuable land has been wasted, and residents haven't been given meaningful public space.

We also see this with the priority that driving is giving in the urban areas of Montgomery County. Why doesn't East-West have wider sidewalks, bike lanes and more parallel parking? The road is almost never at maximum capacity with cars, and yet the county has decided that it would be better to give the road excess capacity, rather than consider the needs of other uses.

Why is there so little mixed use in Silver Spring? Suburbanites think that rigid zoning is a good thing, and indeed in a car-centric world maybe it is the best, but in a dense, walkable urban area, mixed use is light years beyond rigid zoning for residential, business, shopping and other strict uses. Mixed use increases safety (by getting more people walking and creating less places with little foot traffic), helps spread out businesses and shopping, causing less congestion and doesn't require big investments in road and parking infrastructure.

What do we need to do to get our elected officials and planners to understand the reality on the ground and the needs and wants of its citizens?

~Patrick Thornton

jag2923 said...

Agree that mixed use is the way to go and thankfully there are a few projects in Silver Spring moving forward that understand this. e.g.

The fact that Elsworth isn't permanently closed to thru-traffic is absolutely insane (though I think that's the sh*tty Peterson Cos. fault). And streets that will be crunched by the Purple Line, e.g. Bonifant between GA and Fenton should also be closed to thru-traffic. Can you imagine a world with expanded sidewalks, room for outdoor seating for Kefa Cafe and actual standing room/benches outside Quarry House?? That small move would transform that block entirely and attract more foot traffic to Fenton Village in general.

Patrick said...


I saw that project, and it seems to be a good start. Although I don't get why there isn't more retail, especially on the first floor of the apartment building. I'm also not sure of the need for another hotel, but we shall see. With Walter Reed closing, the need for more hotel space may not be there, although, perhaps, more people are staying in DTSS these days when they visit DC.

Fenton Village has so much potential, especially as a welcoming place for pedestrians. I hope all new development is mixed use in this year (and hopefully we can do away with stupid pocket parks). If Fenton got some townhouses or condos above mixed use, I'd strongly consider moving over there.

~Patrick Thornton

jag2923 said...

Agreed. Fenton Village has amazing potential, but some shop owners are REALLY holding the area back by making their stores look like they belong in a ghetto (I'm looking at you Bombay Gaylord - how much does a can of paint cost??!).

The County also has screwed the area over, especially the side streets. Thayer Ave. has the slimmest of sidewalks, and then there are dozens of parking meters making it even less usable. It's beyond absurd. There's a massive public lot connected to Thayer Ave, so either get rid of 1 side of the street parking and make the sidewalks usable or, at the very least, get rid of the meters and put in a 21st century parking machine.

hockeypunk said...

Dan, thanks for keeping up the blog. Also big thanks for linking to the trip within the beltway site. I've sprent countless hours (while at work supposed to be doing something else) looking at and georeferencing the different plans. I find it fascinating to see what could have been, especially if the Metro was never considered. I don't think we'd be much better off than we are now.

Anonymous said...

...but some shop owners are REALLY holding the area back by making their stores look like they belong in a ghetto..."

A few business facts: - Small businesses work on very slim margins. - Rents have not been stabilized in the area. Rising rents, competition from chains, and the channeling of people into revitalized portions of downtown, have added pressure on businesses like Bombay G. They're making a business decision not to upgrade their fa├žades and signage. Chill, and have a mango lassi. Or better yet, grab a paint brush...

Woody Brosnan said...

Woody wrote,

I just love reading all these pie in the sky ideas that seem to suggest we could simply eradicate all the mistakes of the last century in Silver Spring, like eliminating the trolley lines, and start over.

Downtown Silver Spring is not just for the people who live within a mile of Ellsworth. Businesses could not survive with so few customers unless you want to eliminate the building restrictions and make SS look like Manhattan.

The premise of the latest posting seems to be that we should discourage people from going to the new library because that would just bring more traffic. Then why build it all? I thought that if you spend millions of taxpayer dollars on a new facility that you might want to make it easy for people to use that facility, but apparently that is not the case.

Patrick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Patrick said...


I don't know how you possibly got that by not building an expensive skybridge that was someone saying no one should drive. Are people who drive that lazy that they can't even bother to walk to an elevator or around a city block? My word.

And the best businesses districts in the area -- downtown DC and Rosslyn -- are very difficult to drive in. I've worked in both. Guess how most people get into work? Gasp! Public transportation. And guess what Silver Spring is loaded with? Public transportation!

I work in Rosslyn, and I, and most people, don't drive here. There is far less traffic in this area than Downtown Silver Spring and yet many, many more businesses and workers.

Sorry to burst your factless bubble. But, here goes: POP!

The facts will still remain that the most popular places on Earth are the least hospitable to driving. That's not a coincidence.

~Patrick Thornton

jag2923 said...


You don't know what you're talking about - Bombay Gaylord doesn't own the facade. It's the company that owns the building that is choosing to not spend a dime on it. Bombay Gaylord spent quite a bit of $$ on their interior reno a year or two back, so that's obviously not the issue. Thanks for another useless post by you, though.

Anonymous said...

"What a sad state of affairs we are in -- particularly Montgomery County -- where people feel they have to drive, that there is no other way to get around."

Really want to know Patrick? Entitlement. Prius drivers in East Silver Spring (my neighborhood count is off the charts) think that because they've shelled out some money to reduce emissions that they're now holier than thou and are on a crusade to save the driving everywhere.

Anonymous said...


EIther you're calling out Bombay G for looking like a slum or you're not. Can't have it both ways sport. Makes no diff who owns what, the reasoning remains germane. You should direct your hostilities towards city planners. Local business malaise, while partly due to market forces, is being prolonged by Montgomery County’s lack of action, and planning on the part of government leaders who have made questionable assumptions. You probably voted for most of them...and drive a Prius.

jag2923 said...

Pablo, what are you even talking about? I'm blaming the owners of the building for not putting a dime of rent back into the building in god knows how many years - I've made that clear, "sport." MoCo has already gone out of it's way in creating a loan program for facade work in Fenton Village so I have no idea what part of your ass you're reaching into to blame "Montgomery County’s lack of action" or "government officials." No, I don't drive a prius. Way to have another post without a single correct fact! Cool!

Anonymous said...

I'm impressed that you can't make a sentence without referring to my ass - which is spectacular. FACT: A poor and decrepit physical infrastructure, extremely low
amounts of foot traffic coupled with high retail rents, inadequate zoning, and government leaders
who are generally indifferent to Small Business problems, contribute to SS losing its signature small businesses and SS failing to attract redevelopment that is consistent with the goals outlined in the sector plan.
Cast your blame on MOCO and not the business owner...and get an enema, put on some Allman Bros.

Patrick said...

I agree that the skybridge is an unnecessary frill if there is decent elevator service and an reasonably safe midblock street crossing to the library (probably with a pedestrian light and raised road section). Besides, having clients enter and exit several flights up permanently raises the operating/staffing costs of the library for security/book loss and checkout.

That said, the vast majority of people who use downtown Silver Spring will never be able to drive there. I live in Colesville, and am a 45 minute trip away on a bus that shows up only every half hour--or a 3 mile ride to a $9 metrorail trip with parking. Not going to happen.

Unless we decide to bulldoze it all and start over, we're stuck with the majority of people driving to the majority of places.


Woody Brosnan said...

woody brosnan wrote:

It has already been determined that there is no safe midway crossing across Wayne because the cars turning off Fenton do not have time to see people in the crosswalk. Don't forget you have to account for the entrance and exit for the parking garage.

As for the elevators, I invite you to take that route with a disabled friend in a wheelchairs. The turns are quite narrow, as is the door. Then you have an incline up to the corner. So let's not suggest it as easy for everyone as the bridge.

Douglas Andrew Willinger said...

Why is there no link to A Trip Within The Beltway in any of your link lists?

Robert said...

Suggesting that greenways would eliminate the need for the library bridge is simply silly. Greenways won't help the disabled get to the library. Greenways won't help the young parent with toddlers in tow get the the library. Greenways won't help library users with big bags full of books get to the library. All those people drive to the library. The simple fact is that most library users will drive to the new library, just as the do now with the current library.

The whole idea of putting the new library in the middle of downtown was to bring more people there. If you don't want more people coming to downtown, then make getting there less attractive and don't build the bridge. They will go to other library's instead. Yes, there will be fewer cars in downtown Silver Spring, but there will be fewer people there too. Is that what the bridge opponents really want?

Dan Reed said...


When you moved here in the 1970s, there was no Metro in Silver Spring. People bought houses here because it was a suburban area and they could drive easily.

Things are different now. People move here today because they can walk/bike/take transit here, and we should make it easier for them to do so. Lots of people also drive into downtown Silver Spring, and we've given them lots of parking garages, a few skybridges so they don't have to touch the ground, and nice, wide streets for speeding, and we've got the congestion to show for it.

Some people can't walk that far. Some people are too lazy. For everyone else, neighborhood greenways could make it safer or easier to take other modes of transportation to the library, thus reducing the need to drive there. Robert, since you apparently drive downtown, wouldn't you want fewer drivers around, freeing up space for you?

jag2923 said...

Haha, ate at bombay gaylord tonight...low and behold, their facade (well, not the 2nd story...) was freshly painted! Apparently, I should complain about things more often.