What’s WABA up to in Montgomery County?

A belated Happy New Year from WABA’s Advocacy team!

We’d like to recap Montgomery County activities over the past few months and highlight a few up-coming opportunities we’re pursuing. We would love to enlist your help and also support work our members and community are doing to promote cycling and road safety in Montgomery County. 

Let’s start with a look back at 2023 Q4 and the first few weeks of this year…

Montgomery County Bike Summit

WABA held our 4th Great Montgomery County Bike Summit on October 29 in Wheaton, reviving an event held annually from 2014 to 2016. The summit opened with a challenging keynote by Councilmember Natali Fani-González, who has been a road-safety champion for her district and the whole of Montgomery County. We were grateful for the participation of state and county officials, and a great community/advocate turnout. Let’s do it again this next fall!

4th Great Montgomery County Bike Summit: Advocates Dan Langenkamp, Alison Gillespie, Kristy Daphnis, and Dan Reed (left) and Kandese Holford (MDOT), Matt Baker (SHA), and Sen. Jeff Waldstreicher (D18) (right)

WABA’s Complete State Roads safety initiative

We used the summit to launch WABA’s Complete State Roads initiative. The initiative calls for roadway reengineering and design changes that target highly dangerous Maryland state roads, via the application of “complete streets” principles – streets designed and operated to prioritize safety and mobility for pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit users in addition to motor vehicles – complemented by 2024 Maryland road-safety state legislation.

The Complete State Roads initiative provides a framework for project- and road-focused advocacy work. We have more on that work, and on 2024 state legislation, a bit later in this message.

WABA’s Complete State Roads–Montgomery County initiative targets the county’s most dangerous streets: State Roads.

2023 World Day of Remembrance

WABA helped organize local observance of the 2023 World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims on November 19. We worked with Montgomery County and DC Families for Safe Streets and assisted with the 2023 Ride for Your Life from Bethesda in to Washington DC, to memorialize the collision victims Enzo Alvarenga, a 19-year-old student at the University of Maryland; Sarah Debbink Langenkamp, 42-year-old mother and U.S. diplomat; Nijad Huseynov, a 24-year-old graduate student from Azerbaijan; and Allie Hart, a five-year old killed on her bike in a crosswalk. This was a sad but necessary observance.

World Day of Remembrance 2023

MDOT Announces Action Plan Priority Corridors

WABA staff were invited guests at the December 5, 2023 Maryland Dept. of Transportation (MDOT) ribbon-cutting for a Hyattsville segment of the Rhode Island Avenue Trolley Trail in… (OK, that was in Prince George’s County), but the program did include an MDOT briefing on plans to rework Maryland’s decade-old Complete Streets approach by Kandese Holford, who spoke at the October 29 Montgomery County Bike Summit, and a State Highway Administration (SHA) announcement of five Pedestrian Safety Action Plan (PSAP) corridors selected for priority attention. 

One of them is MD 650/New Hampshire Avenue between the Beltway and University Blvd. The SHA’s intention is to make significant progress on improvements by the summer of 2026. We’re excited!

MDOT and SHA Meetings

We’ve actually had quite a few interactions with state transportation officials. For instance, WABA staff participated in the quarterly meeting of MDOT’s Pedestrian-Bicycle Emphasis Area Team (P-BEAT) in Baltimore on December 14 – another opportunity to talk to Kandese Holford and her colleague Joseph Moges, who is now SHA Senior Safety Officer – and we met the next day, December 15, with State Highway Administrator Will Pines, Deputy Administrator Matt Baker, District 3 Engineer Derek Gunn, and his deputy Erich Florence. These relationships are important as we pursue safety improvements associated with SHA projects. 

Project Progress

One Montgomery County project where we were able to win improvements, albeit modest, in recent months was the resurfacing of MD 195/Carroll Avenue in and adjacent to Takoma Park. We were able to get the SHA to narrow the driving lanes for a short stretch and reduce the speed limit from 30 MPH to 25 MPH along a different stretch.

The SHA narrowed traffic lanes on a stretch of Carroll Avenue in Takoma Park, Maryland, in response to WABA advocacy, creating bikeable shoulders

WABA Advocacy has also been working to advance bicyclist and pedestrian safety and bike-lane and trail creation on University Blvd., Veirs Mill Road, and other routes around Montgomery County. Unfortunately the Montgomery County Council voted not to remove excess Little Falls Parkway pavement that is not needed for the two lanes of motor-vehicle traffic or for bicyclists and walkers, but we’ve had good progress on other projects, such as the Amherst Avenue Bikeway in Wheaton and the Carroll Avenue Separated Bike Lanes in the Takoma/Langley Crossroads area, all of which are MCDOT projects.

MCDOT is currently planning a dedicated lane for its Bus Rapid Transit line along US 29. WABA advocates continue to press MCDOT and SHA to create a sidepath and/or wider sidewalks at the same time. The campaign has secured a promise from SHA to engage in a parallel planning effort that will make walking and biking to BRT stations along US 29 much safer.

Budget Advocacy

Regarding bike lanes and trails, one focus of WABA’s FY25 Montgomery County budget advocacy will be restoration of $24 million of Montgomery Parks proposed by County Executive Marc Elrich for elimination from the county’s Capital Improvements Program (CIP) budget. County Council budget hearings will take place February 6 and 7; please sign up to testify or submit testimony, at https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/council/calendar.html.

We’re advocating additional design and engineering staffing, to accelerate planned bikeway projects, and for funding to clear snow and ice from bike lanes, paths, and trails. Another focus is capital-budget funding for bikeway creation on Downtown Wheaton, one of the areas we focused on in WABA’s 2022 Equitable Bikeways Investment proposal.

WABA’s Montgomery County Equitable Bikeways Proposal includes Downtown Wheaton as an investment focus area

An E-Bike Subsidy Program

Another budget-advocacy point is creation of a Montgomery County E-bike Purchase Subsidy Program.

E-bikes boost mobility, are far greener than EVs (which still represent cars and trucks on the road), and are more affordable than any type of car. We’d love for Montgomery County to allocate funds in the FY25 operating budget, even if only $100,000 or $200,000 to get a program going. 

A program would provide purchase vouchers or rebates and could be heavily income-qualified. It could cover cargo bikes and extend to small businesses in addition to residents and could even require in-county purchase. A county program could mirror the program Washington DC enacted this last fall. Here’s DC’s coverage, from a Washington Post article.

2024 Maryland State Legislation

Our in-county advocacy work is complemented by work on pro-cycling, pro-pedestrian, and pro-transit legislation. We’re blessed in Montgomery County with a wonderful, progressive state legislative delegation including the chairs of the General Assembly committee that hear transportation bills, District 16 Delegate Marc Korman, who chairs the House Environment and Transportation Committee, and Senator Will Smith, who chairs the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

We will call out a few WABA priority bills and refer you to a 2024 Maryland Bicycle-Pedestrian-Safe Roads Legislation write-up that we maintain, for a complete list. Here are seven priority bills:

1) The Great Maryland Trails Act, creating a Maryland Office of Trails and directing creation of an inventory and plan for a Maryland Trails Network and establishing a Trails Advisory Commission..

2) A bill creating a state Electric Bicycle Rebate and Voucher Program.

3) Stop as Yield legislation, which would allow cyclists to treat a Stop sign as a Yield sign, yielding to pedestrians and to vehicles that have the intersection right of way. Stop as Yield is the safest way for bicyclists to traverse intersections.A NHTSA fact sheet explains the rationale.

4) The Sarah Debbink Langenkamp Memorial Act, which “brings more substantial penalties for vehicle drivers convicted of striking cyclists and makes them consistent with those for hitting a pedestrian.” Sarah was crushed by a truck while cycling in a River Road, Bethesda bike lane in August 2022.

5) A bill establishing a Vision Zero Advisory Commission to provide more accountability from stakeholders on implementation of the state’s Vision Zero law. 

… and a local bill, that is, a state bill that would apply only in Montgomery County:

6) A bill to allow area-wide speed limit reduction without requiring an engineering and traffic investigation, noting that Montgomery County’s Complete Streets Design Guide and Pedestrian Master Plan provide the necessary analyses. 

We will be lobbying for these bills – with your help? –again, please share your interests via the form at https://forms.gle/BBph8NJjyPARc71Z8 – including at the 2024 Bike Maryland Symposium, slated for February 15 in Annapolis with a program followed by visits to state legislators. Please visit https://www.bikemaryland.org/events/2024-bike-maryland-symposium/ to register.

Stay in Touch!

Visit WABA’s action centerblog archive, and events pages to learn more about current actions and events throughout the region. Finally, if you’re not already a WABA member, PLEASE JOIN. We need your support to amplify cycling community voices and elevate safe-roads advocacy and mobility for all.

Thanks for reading!