Our priorities on Old Georgetown Road in Bethesda

Streets that don’t kill people are more important than streets that move cars quickly. Period.

Since 2019, two teenagers (Jacob Cassell and Enzo Alvarenga) have died biking on the sidewalks of MD-187/Old Georgetown Road. This fall, residents, advocates (including WABA), the victims’ families, state and county lawmakers called on SHA to make immediate changes to make MD-187 safe for people who walk and bike. In response, the Maryland State Highway Administration announced a road diet, traffic calming, and protected bike lane plan for 3.1 miles of Old Georgetown Rd. 

These changes were first identified and studied in SHA’s MD187 Corridor Needs Analysis completed in January 2022. That analysis showed a pattern of crashes and a disproportionate share of injuries to people walking and biking. The study recommended curbside protected bike lanes, narrowing driving lanes, reducing speed limits, and improving pedestrian crossings.

This fall SHA hosted a public meeting to present the plan, collected feedback, and installed the “quick-build” project alongside a scheduled repaving project. The implementation, while not perfect, provides a safer buffer for people walking and biking along these 3.1 miles and will help avoid preventable harm. While this is a dramatic change for all road users, and upsetting to some, we should focus on how the lanes can be improved and made safer.  Therefore we support efforts to refine the design to smooth out disruptive impacts to drivers and to improve the bikeway transitions and intersection design for a more continuous and intuitive experience for people walking and biking. 

We know that change is hard and not always as smooth as we’d like. As we have seen again and again, the immediate backlash and disruption from a change in road design often subsides as everyone gets used to the new patterns. We hope that drivers will allow some time for things to settle and time for neighbors to consider their new options for getting around safely.

The majority of Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties’ serious injury and fatal pedestrian and bicycle crashes take place on Maryland State Highways. Changing this unacceptable reality and achieving the State’s goal of zero traffic fatalities requires SHA to get serious about redesigning its many outdated highways. SHA needs to build expertise in designing for people who bike and walk. This project is an opportunity for SHA to learn by improving what’s on the ground.

To show your support or share comments with SHA use our action page here.