Early in September, WABA, Action Committee for Transit, Coalition For Smarter Growth, Forest Estates Community Association, Montgomery County Pedestrian Bicycle Traffic Safety Advisory Committee, and Sierra Club in Montgomery County all sent a letter to Montgomery County Department of Transportation Director Chris Conklin. The letter urges MCDOT to designate more low-speed, low-traffic streets for walking and biking on county roads by expanding its Shared Streets program to more neighborhoods.
Like Washington, DC and many other major cities, Montgomery County has modified some streets into temporary “neighborhood greenways” which welcome walking and biking while limiting vehicles to local traffic only during the public health emergency. Temporary neighborhood greenways have been created on Grove St in downtown Silver Spring, Holdridge Ave in Glenmont, and Windham Ln in Wheaton to provide more space for physical distancing, outdoor activity and getting around. While not perfect, we believe these are a useful and rapidly implementable tool for improving transportation and recreation options. You can learn more about them and see a map on MCDOT’s Shared Streets website.
Combined with the existing bicycle and trail network and weekend closures of parkways, these temporary neighborhood greenways help safely connect more people with more places. We hope that MCDOT will examine our suggestions closely and implement the proposed Shared Streets segments all over the County to help people get to work, connect to trails, do errands, and stay active.
We propose about 13 miles (map) of county roads as candidates for temporary neighborhood greenways. They are:
- College View Drive from Huggins to Norris (Wheaton – Parallel to Veirs Mill Road) (.7 mi)
- Windham Ln from Georgia Ave to Douglas to McComas Ave to St. Paul Ave (Wheaton to Kensington) (1.2 mi)
- Grandview Ave from Blue Ridge to Randolph (Wheaton to Glenmont) (1.0 mi)
- Woodland Drive from Spring Street to Highland Drive, to Crosby to Sligo Creek Trail (Silver Spring to Montgomery Hills) (1.1 mi)
- Ellsworth Drive from Cedar to Bennington to Sligo Creek Trail (DTSS to Sligo Creek) (.9 mi)
- Osage Street from Carroll Avenue to Tahona Drive to 12th Avenue to New
- Hampshire Avenue (Takoma Park) (.5 mi)
- Sudbury Road from Plymouth Street to E. Franklin Ave (Long Branch) (.6 mi) and Domer Avenue from Flower Ave to Barron Street (.3 mi)
- West Virginia Avenue from Lynbrook Drive to Wisconsin Avenue (East Bethesda) (.4 mi) and Pearl Street/Maryland Avenue from Sleaford to Jones Bridge (.7 mi) and Cheltenham Drive from Maryland Ave to Wisconsin Ave (.3 mi)
- Brandermill Drive from Middlebrook Road to Oxbridge Drive (Germantown) (.8 mi)
- Spartan Road from MD-97 to Old Baltimore Road (Olney) (1.2 mi)
- Amherst Ave from Dennis Avenue to Arcola Avenue (Wheaton) (1.4 mi)
- Lewis Avenue from Halpine Road to First St. (Rockville Pike) (1.3 mi)
- Kara Lane from E Randolph Road to Autumn Drive, Autumn Drive from Kara Lane to Eldrid Drive, Eldrid Drive from Autumn Drive to New Hampshire Avenue (Colesville) (1.0 mi)
If you like our proposals and want to see more Shared Streets across the county, email MCDOT.SharedStreets@montgomerycountymd.gov, Director Conklin (email@example.com) and the County Council (County.Council@MontgomeryCountyMD.gov) to show your support.
You can read the full letter here.
In July 2019, a bicyclist and a pedestrian died in crashes in Montgomery County. Jacob Cassell was biking on the sidewalk on Old Georgetown Road on his way to the YMCA and fell into the road while trying to avoid an obstacle on the sidewalk. Unable to stop in time, a driver fatally struck him in the road. Jennifer DeMauro was walking on the Bethesda Trolley Trail and was hit and killed by a driver who failed to stop at the uncontrolled crosswalk of the Trolley Trail and Tuckerman Lane. Both deaths could have been prevented.
In response WABA, Action Committee for Transit and Potomac Peddlers, and over 100 community members, friends, and neighbors came together for a memorial and rally on August 17. The group squeezed onto narrow sidewalks and spilled into yards and driveways to share memories and talk through the heartache. Some State and County officials attended. Hundreds signed a petition and sent emails calling for concrete action to prevent future deaths and serious injuries on these corridors. Though it will never be enough, we are glad to report that both agencies responded and are making needed changes.
Changes to Old Georgetown Road
The State Highway Administration, which controls all State Highways like Old Georgetown Road (MDA-187), held a community walk-through and did a traffic study. In February 2020, MDOT announced its decision to put Old Georgetown Road on a road diet between Johnson Ave. and I-495. After planned repaving this spring, SHA will narrow the car travel lanes, remove one lane in each direction and add a “dedicated bike lane with a 5 foot buffer” between the bike lane and car traffic on MD-187. This change will help reduce speeding and give walkers a substantial buffer from fast traffic. And while far from low-stress, the dedicated, buffered bike lanes will offer more confident bicyclists a far safer option for biking on Old Georgetown Road. Read the full press release here.
A New Crossing at Tuckerman
At the end of 2019, Montgomery County’s Department of Transportation placed a pedestrian activated HAWK signal at the intersection of Tuckerman Lane and the Trolley Trail. People walking and biking on the trail may now stop traffic with the push of a button to safely cross Tuckerman Lane.
Both of these changes will make the corridors much safer for people getting around by biking and walking. These improvements would not have happened without advocates showing up and calling on State and County elected officials and agencies to step up.
We commend MCDOT and SHA for taking concrete steps in the wake of tragedy and in the case of SHA stepping far outside its historical comfort zone. But, these agencies need to set the bar far higher and step beyond reactionary safety improvements. Both Montgomery County and the State of Maryland are years into a commitment to completely eliminate traffic fatalities on county and state roads. Before July, there was ample evidence that Tuckerman Ln and Old Georgetown Road were unsafe. Yet despite crashes, and speeding data, and community pleas, it took tragedy to get a response. That’s a glaring failure.
We are grateful for all the community partners for their hard work and commitment to making the County’s roads safe and accessible for everyone. There is much more to do in order to reach our goal of zero traffic fatalities and serious injuries from crashes.
- Ride the lane – biking in Bethesda has never felt like this. Don’t miss it.
- Take photos and share them with us!
- Get businesses on board – help us show that protected bike lanes are great for business. The lane is open until 8pm, so stop, shop, and share your excitement about the lane.
- Register for Bike to Work Day at waba.org/biketoworkday and say hi to WABA at the pitstop!
Build a core networkA safe and low-stress bicycle network circles around and through the heart of Bethesda geting kids to school, commuters to work, and shoppers to stores. New protected bike lanes and low-stress bikeways connect the Interim Georgetown Branch Trail into downtown Bethesda and create safe crossings of Wisconsin Ave and Old Georgetown Road.
Existing network in Green. Proposed core network in Red.
- Woodmont Ave – a 2-way protected bike lane from Wisconsin Ave at Leland St to Norfolk Ave, is the pivotal backbone of the network. It will connect the Capital Crescent Trail to the Bethesda Trolley Trail via Norfolk Ave and the Interim Georgetown Branch Trail along Jones Bridge Rd and Maryland Ave. via Cheltenham Dr.
- Montgomery Ln / Ave – a 2-way protected bike lane will connect Woodmont Ave to Pearl St. and East West Highway, creating a safe crossing of Wisconsin Ave and a new bicycle link to Bethesda / Chevy Chase High School and the many stores and offices on Montgomery Ave.
- Pearl St / Maryland Ave Bikeway – bike lanes and traffic calming will create a low-stress neighborhood bikeway from Montgomery Ave to the Jones Bridge Rd.
- Norfolk Ave / Cheltenham Dr. Bikeway – bike lanes and traffic-calmed neighborhood streets from Woodmont to Pearl St. will create a new safe crossing of Wisconsin Ave and a northern link to the Interim Georgetown Branch Trail.
- Capital Crescent Trail Surface Route – a 2-way protected bike lane crossing Wisconsin Ave. from Woodmont Ave to Elm St via Bethesda Ave, Willow Ln and 47th St. This will reconnect East Bethesda and Chevy Chase residents south of the now-closed Georgetown Branch Trail and serve the important trail crossing while a new trail tunnel is designed and built.