A chance to improve trail rules in Maryland
The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) is updating its Park Rules and Regulations. This is good, and there are some good changes being proposed. We need your help making sure the rules are updated to match the way people actually use the vast trail network that these rules govern. Specifically, we need to ensure that the update recognizes that these trails are an important part of our region’s transportation network. You can read the whole discussion draft, and a set of policy alternatives, On the M-NCPPC website, but here are the pertinent changes that need your support:
Policy Alternative 3: Open all paved surface trails to transient bicycle traffic 24/7 and clarify that bicycles are permitted on Parkways 24/7.Why we support it: Currently most Maryland park trails close at dark, which means that using them for commuting to a 9-5 job is technically not allowed during fall and winter. At a commission meeting on Thursday, a compromise was proposed that would close trails from midnight to 5am. While this is an improvement, we don’t think it goes far enough for a couple of reasons:
- Equity: curtailing hours like this excludes people working nights and early mornings—nurses, restaurant staff, folks in the construction and service industries—from a safe and convenient part of the transportation network. Trails are often the safest option for traveling by bike in Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties and, like roads, they should be available at all times.
- Metro: WMATA has proposed permanently ending late night service. If trail access is curtailed after midnight, Without Metro or trail access, driving becomes the only transportation option between midnight and 5am. This puts more sleepy drivers on the road and restricts employment opportunities for folks who can’t afford a car..
Policy Alternative 4: Eliminate the across-the-board absolute speed limit for bicycling on Park Property.Why we support it: Bicyclists are already required to ride at a speed that is reasonable and prudent for existing conditions or in some cases a posted speed limit. Since bicycles are rarely equipped with speedometers (and not required to be), imposing additional limits is not likely to deter reckless bicycling.
Policy Alternative 6: Allow electric bicycles, as defined in the Maryland Transportation Article, to be regulated on Park Property in the same way as traditional bicycles.Why we support it: This change updates the rules to allow electric-assist bikes, which are an important part of making transportational bicycling and family biking an option for more people. Click here to send an email to the commission supporting these changes. Public comments are due by August 1st.
This is where things get a little complicated.
Policy Alternative 5 [which appears to be mistakenly listed as the first of two #6’s in the document]: attempts to clarify the obligations of bicycle riders to yield at trail intersections and implement signage and other traffic control devices.This rule is a mess, and to be honest, we don’t have a good solution for the problem that fits within the scope of these rules revisions.
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