Silver Spring Celebrates its First Protected Bike Lane

On Saturday, October 14, more than 70 bike advocates and neighbors gathered with county officials in Woodside Urban Park to celebrate the completion of Silver Spring’s first protected bike lanes on Spring Street and Cedar Street. After schmoozing with stakeholders and excited conversations, councilmembers Roger Berliner, Tom Hucker and Hans Riemer, Montgomery County Department of Transportation Director Al Roshdieh, Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson and WABA Board Member Peter Gray spoke about the event’s significance and enjoyed many well-deserved rounds of applause. After cutting the ribbon on the new lanes, we all embarked on the maiden voyage, joyfully riding the length of the protected bike lanes and returning along Wayne Ave and Second Ave, the future home of Silver Spring’s 2nd protected bike lane.

Events like this capture advocacy at its finest. Government officials experienced firsthand the passion of their constituents and the delight, and new connections, such projects generate.  About 55 bicyclists safely and comfortably traveled along a main Silver Spring corridor, showcasing the potential for smart road design to promote safe and active transportation for all age groups. Along the way, curious residents inquired about the event, and a few stray cyclists joined the ride!  Thank you to all who made this event possible.  We look forward to working with you as we harness this positive energy and momentum for a more bikeable, walkable and livable Silver Spring!

This post comes from Zachary Weinstein, a leading member of WABA’s Action Committee for Montgomery County and a resident of Silver Spring. To get involved, sign our petition to support our campaign to Create the Silver Spring Circle for a more bikeable Silver Spring, come to our next meeting (4th Monday of the month, 7pm at the Silver Spring Civic Center) and join the Bike Silver Spring Facebook group.

Washington Boulevard Needs More Than Sharrows

Proposed bike lanes on Washington Blvd between East Falls Church and Westover

Earlier this month, Arlington County staff showed off plans for proposed bike lanes on Washington Boulevard between Mckinley Rd and Sycamore St in Westover.  The new lanes could provide a much needed link in the bicycle network, allowing more people to bike between the East Falls Church Metro and the shops, restaurants, school and community center in Westover.

This project is a win in almost every way. It will reduce chronic speeding by narrowing very wide travel lanes, yet keep drivers moving by adding in a left turn lane. Pedestrians can enjoy more visible road crossings, a large buffer from moving traffic, and slower speeds. And bicyclists will see a mix of standard and buffered bicycle lanes which complete an uninterrupted two mile bikeway on Washington Blvd. Since the project is funded by the Virginia Department of Transportation’s road maintenance program, costs are minimal to the County.

But there are some vocal opponents to the plan. To make space for these improvements, on-street parking would be removed from in front of 21 of the 72 homes on Washington Blvd. While the majority of these homes have private driveways and numerous side streets to choose from, some residents are calling for staff to scrap the bike lanes wherever they impact parking. A parking utilization study showed more than 60 of the 136 street parking spaces unused, even at the busiest times of the week.

Parking utilization and proposed impacts Washington Blvd

The project staff need to hear loud and clear that we value continuous, safe places to bike far more than abundant street parking. Please send a message to the project manager supporting the project, and rejecting any effort to water it down to save unneeded parking.

Submit Comments

Email your comments to David Goodman dgoodman@arlingtonva.us by Friday 3/17 at 5pm. Not sure where to start? Here’s a sample email:

I support adding bike lanes on Washington Blvd in Westover. These lanes will provide a much needed link in the bicycle network, allowing more people like me to bike between the East Falls Church Metro and the wonderful shops, restaurants, schools and community centers in Westover. I would be more likely to bike in this area if there were bike lanes.

When people like me have an option to bike, there will be fewer cars on the road, which will make our streets safer for everyone. It will also free up space on the roads and parking spots for those who choose to drive. Bike lanes, not sharrows, on Washington Blvd will make this neighborhood easier and safer for everyone to get around.

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Plan for Florida Ave is Better, But Plenty of Room For Improvement

Rendering of a protected bike lane on Florida Ave NE (Source DDOT)

On Tuesday evening, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT), showed its 30% design plans for the Florida Avenue NE Multimodal Transportation Project at a crowded public meeting. Compared to the recommendations released last year, DDOT has made strong improvements to safely accommodate people who bike, including a new two-way protected bikeway between 2nd St and West Virginia Ave. However, the plan still leaves many challenging conflict points and safety issues unresolved, particularly east of West Virginia Ave.

DDOT is accepting comments on the project website through March 15. We encourage anyone who lives, works, or travels through this corridor to review the plans and leave comments and suggestions for how the plans could be improved to make Florida Ave a safe corridor for all road users.

A Protected Bike Lane on Florida Ave

Two-way protected bike lane on Florida Ave NE with “floating bus stop”

DDOT proposes a two-way protected bike lane on the south side of Florida Ave from 3rd St. to 9th St. This lane would be 8-10 foot wide and separated from car traffic by a 1-2 foot concrete curb. The design includes dashed green paint across conflict areas like driveways and bike lane markings through some intersections for added visibility. At cross-streets, left turn arrows will limit turning conflicts between turning drivers and bicyclists traveling straight and two stage turn boxes will help bicyclists queue to cross Florida Ave. At bus stops, the plans call for “floating bus stops” which run the bike lane behind the bus stop, allowing busses to take on passengers without blocking the bike lane. Compared to the standard 5 foot painted bike lanes proposed last year, these designs offer a relatively low-stress option for riding a bicycle on the west end of Florida Ave.

The protected bike lane, while a big improvement, does has some unsolved issues. On the west end, between 2nd and 3rd St, it transitions to a wide shared sidewalk, where bicyclists will mix with pedestrians walking and bus riders exiting the bus. At West Virginia Ave, where a left turn lane reduces available width, the protected bike lane will again transition onto a shared sidewalk, also at a bus stop, where pedestrian and bicyclist conflicts are inevitable. These are unacceptable compromises.

Design mixes pedestrians and bicyclists on narrow sidewalk at West Virginia Ave

Addressing these safety compromises is straightforward but requires DDOT to prioritize vulnerable road users. On the western end of the project, DDOT should reduce the road to 4 lanes of traffic and maintain the protected bike lane underneath the railroad bridge. At the eastern end, the design should eliminate the left turn lane onto West Virginia which would create enough space for the protected bike lane. Both of these design changes would demonstrate a commitment to the safety of people walking and biking over the convenience and speed of driving.

Shared Lanes on the Eastern End

Minimal changes to Florida Ave between West Virginia Ave and H St.

Between West Virginia Ave and H St. NE, DDOT plans to bump out curbs at cross-streets and widen sidewalks where they are too narrow, add trees and streetlights, and install new traffic signals at some intersections. But don’t expect any improvements for safe biking. At West Virginia, westbound bicyclists are encouraged to go north to Morse or south to G or I. And while that will work for some, many people on bikes will stay on Florida, so it really ought to be safe too.

DDOT’s plans make minimal changes to the roadway, which will remain two lanes (10’ and 13’)  in each direction with off-peak parking. DDOT says this configuration is required to move high peak traffic volumes while still accommodating the community’s parking needs. Unfortunately, the plan’s wide travel lanes are likely to encourage illegal and deadly speeding, rather than decrease it. And the extra-wide curb lane may make more trouble for bicyclists than a narrower one would. That extra road width could be used to widen the sidewalks or create median refuge islands for people crossing.

Review the Plans and Weigh In

If you live, work, play or travel in the Florida Ave NE corridor, head to the project website to review the presentation materials and comment using the comment form. The project team needs to hear what aspects of the design work and constructive feedback on needed improvements. Specific and detailed comments are always most helpful. The comment period closes March 15.

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