Friday, December 14, 2012

bikeshare needs more bike lanes to work in MoCo

Second Avenue Bike Lane
What bike lanes could look like on Second Avenue. (Here's some more renderings of potential bike lanes in Silver Spring.)

Capital Bikeshare will expand into Montgomery County next year, but bicycling advocates say the infrastructure isn't ready for it. If the county's serious about making bikeshare work, they need to make bicycling safe and comfortable before the first bikes are out.

This week, the Washington Area Bicyclist Association and MoBike recommended that almost 20 miles of bike paths should be built inside the Beltway before bikeshare opens.

Bicycling has become more popular as a form of transportation in Montgomery County in recent years, but there are very few bike lanes, and the county's wide, busy roads deter all except the most fearless cyclists. As a result, bikeshare users might be tempted to ride on the sidewalk, which could be dangerous for pedestrians.

View proposed bike lanes in a larger map

In this report, the two groups suggest a network of bike lanes in Silver Spring, Takoma Park, Bethesda and Friendship Heights. They proposed having dedicated bike lanes on major roads like Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring and business district streets like Arlington Road in Bethesda.

Streets that were too narrow or too congested for bike lanes, like Elm Street in Bethesda, would get sharrows, which help drivers and cyclists share the road. They also recommended the completion of major regional trails, like the Metropolitan Branch Trail, which currently stops half a mile short of its proposed terminal at the Silver Spring Metro station.

The proposed lanes make a lot of sense, focusing on compact downcounty neighborhoods where everything's already within biking distance. I've written before that more on-street bike routes can make bicycling more practical as a form of transportation by bringing riders to shops, jobs and other activities. And bikes take up a lot less space than cars, meaning we can fit more bicyclists on a congested street than we can drivers.

Some of the proposed routes, like Georgia Avenue and Colesville Road, may face resistance from the Montgomery County Department of Transportation and the State Highway Administration, which have been reluctant to take away space from cars. But WABA and MoBike weren't the first to propose bike lanes for them: earlier this year, County Councilmember Nancy Floreen asked that the state paint lanes on several major roads that they're scheduled to repave anyway next year.

Creating a countywide bicycling network will take a lot of time and planning, but there are things we can do to improve the biking experience sooner rather than later. As more people take up bicycling, they may find that they don't have safe places to ride. As a result, Capital Bikeshare could help build a constituency for bike lanes that doesn't exist now.

Capital Bikeshare is ready to expand into Montgomery County. The question is whether our streets will be ready for Capital Bikeshare.


Robert said...

You mentioned that the county and state may be reluctant to take away lanes on Georgia Avenue and Colesville Road for use as bike lanes. They already took away lanes on Georgia and Colesville for parking. Why not remove the parking meters and use the curb lanes for bike lanes instead of parking?

Also, the county painted ridiculous and dangerous lane markings on Spring Street between Georgia and Second Avenue which are designed to widen the median and force car traffic right next to parked cars -- an invitation for disaster if somebody opens the door of a parked car. Why not repaint the stripes to add bike lanes along the curbs and move the parking out a few feet and still have adequate space for a travel lane by the median?

Dan Reed said...


I totally agree about Spring Street. MCDOT restriped Spring Street with the intention of slowing cars down on a street that carries less traffic than it was built for. They definitely could've used that extra space for bike lanes.

Dan Reed said...

Whoops! I accidentally deleted this comment from Unknown while trying to delete some spam:

2nd avenue is classified as a residential street. Put the bike lanes on the major roads. I agree about parking on Colesville road.

The striping on Spring Street has resolved a situation where cars turning right off of 16th street were barreling were not yielding to cars turning left off 16th street even when the left turning cars had an arrow. This should help, not hurt bike riders.