Montgomery County has a new Bike Plan and it’s a big deal!

Last week, the Montgomery County Council voted unanimously to adopt a new Bicycle Master Plan for the County. This vote is the culmination of more than three years of intensive analysis, public engagement, and advocacy. By adopting this plan, the Council endorsed a dramatic shift in the County’s goals and approach to growing bicycling, committing MoCo to a convenient, inclusive, and low-stress bicycling future!

While its broad strokes are similar to bicycle plans from neighboring cities and counties, the new Montgomery County Bicycle Master Plan is in a league of its own due to its analytical rigor, its commitment to promoting bicycling for people of all ages and skill levels, and its ambitious countywide vision. The plan aims to make bicycling a convenient, safe and popular option in every community, a strong complement to transit, and a joyful part of everyday life.

To achieve its goals, the plan is packed with network maps of new bicycle infrastructure, new bicycle-friendly policies and programs, and so much more. Here are some of the highlights. It calls for:

  • an impressive, 1,000+ mile, low-stress bicycle network of new protected bike lanes, trails, and quiet neighborhood streets, which will comfortably connect bicyclists of all ages and abilities to the places they need to go;
  • new low-stress bikeways concentrated around urban areas, transit stops, schools, libraries, and county services so that a bicycle is the first choice for short trips;
  • a network of high-capacity “Breezeways” between major destinations that allows people on bikes to cross longer distances with fewer delays, where all users – including slower moving bicyclists and pedestrians – can safely and comfortably travel together;
  • new design guidelines for high quality, safe, and accessible protected bike lanes, trails and intersections;
  • new programs and staff positions to build out the network, support people who bike and encourage more people to give it a try;
  • abundant and secure, long-term bicycle parking facilities near Metro, Purple Line, Bus Rapid Transit, and MARC stations;
  • and rigorous metrics to evaluate the county’s progress in carrying out the plan.

Data under the hood

Woven throughout the plan is a deep, research-backed understanding of what keeps people from biking. More than 50% of people are interested in biking for transportation and recreation but don’t because they are concerned about their safety. So, the plan puts a focus on creating interconnected, low-stress bicycling networks that appeal to everyone, not just the people biking today.

Top: A stress map of downtown Bethesda (low-stress in blue, higher stress in yellow, orange and red). Bottom: Recommended improvements for a low-stress downtown Bethesda (trails green, separated bikeways orange, bike lanes blue, shared streets red).

Months of painstaking analysis of bicycle level of stress showed that the majority of streets and neighborhoods in Montgomery County are already perfect for bicycling. But major roads, urban areas, and short stress points severely limit the reach of people who have no interest in the stresses of biking in car traffic. Adding protected bike lanes, trails, and other bikeways to those stressful roads unlocks new areas in the map of bikeable destinations. And with impressive analytical tools in hand, we know which changes to road design will create the biggest gains for safe, convenient, and low-stress bicycling connections.

Thanks to all who made this possible

Drafting, debating, and polishing this plan took incredible effort and dedication from county planning staff, residents and elected officials over the past three years. Hundreds of neighborhood advocates showed up to share their ideas and dreams at dozens of public meetings, workshops, rides, and hearings and submitted thousands of comments online. An advisory group of twenty volunteers stayed deeply involved at every stage through monthly meetings. The Planning Board and County Council weighed public input through months of detailed discussions.

Through it all, planning staff were persistent in defending the high standards and bold vision residents asked for.

Thank you to everyone who put their time, thoughts and effort into bringing the Montgomery County Bicycle Master Plan to a star finish!

What’s next?

Adopting the plan is a momentous milestone. Now the work begins to implement its vision. Some of the plan’s recommendations can get started immediately: creating an interagency implementation task force, updating policies, and refocusing existing work. But the majority of the big changes called for will require a significant expansion in funding for planning, engineering, and construction, new staff and resources over the next twenty years. Most improvements will be made by the Montgomery County Department of Transportation though routine road resurfacing or more substantial rebuilding projects. Others will be made in partnership with State agencies or private developers.

Just as important as the funding, transforming colored lines on a map into new, great places to bike will take persistent involvement from advocates, buy-in from county staff, and leadership from county elected officials. But with every step, more places will be just a convenient bike ride away, and bicycling will slowly become a perfectly normal way to get around and an inseparable part of daily life in Montgomery County.

Learn more

You can learn see the final draft of the Bicycle Master Plan here (will be updated soon with the final revisions), review the County Council’s final changes here, and see the complete network in this interactive map.

One final push for MoCo’s Bike Plan

July 11 Update: The record will remain open until August 24th for comments on the Bicycle Master Plan. The Council’s Transportation & Environment Committee will review the plan and comments in depth at a worksession on September 17.

Montgomery County is one step away from adopting the most innovative and rigorous bicycle master plan in the country. But we need you to help us push it over the line!

On Tuesday, July 10, the County Council will hold the final hearing on the plan. And based on what they hear, the Council will make final changes and vote to adopt it. This plan will guide the next 25 years of bicycle planning and construction in Montgomery County, so this is a pivotal moment for biking in the county.

Take Action

With your help, we can show our Councilmembers that the Bicycle Master Plan sets the bold vision that Montgomery County needs for a bikeable, healthy, accessible, and sustainable future.

That vision is as ambitious as it is thorough. It lays out:

  • an extensive, 1,000 mile, low-stress bicycle network of new protected bike lanes, trails, and quiet neighborhood streets, which will comfortably connect bicyclists of all ages and abilities to the places they need to go;
  • a network of high-capacity “breezeways” between activity centers that allows people on bikes to travel with fewer delays, where all users – including slower moving bicyclists and pedestrians – can safely and comfortably coexist.
  • new design standards for safe and accessible protected bike lanes, trails and intersections;
  • new programs to build out the network, support people who bike and encourage more people to give it a try;
  • Abundant and secure, long-term bicycle parking facilities near Metro and MARC stations;
  • And rigorous metrics to evaluate the county’s progress in carrying out the plan.

The plan represents more than two years of tireless work analyzing data, researching best practices from around the world, and thorough community input at dozens of public workshops and stakeholder meetings. It is the gold standard of data-driven and community-involved planning and will guide Montgomery County to being a world-class community for bicycling.

Here’s how you can help:

Email the Council:

Click here to send your councilmembers an email asking that they support the plan without major changes. The plan was created through more than two years of rigorous data analysis and exhaustive community input. It is the gold standard of data-driven and community-involved planning and will guide Montgomery County to being a world-class community for bicycling.Together, we can push it over the finish line.

Take Action

Share your story at Tuesday’s Hearing:

Sending a letter is a quick way of showing your support, but showing up in person shows that you mean it. Hearings are the perfect place to tell your bicycling story. Will you join us at the hearing to speak up for this visionary plan?

Bike Master Plan Council Hearing
Tuesday, July 10 at 7:30 pm
Council Office Building (Third-floor hearing room)
100 Maryland Ave., Rockville, MD, 20850

Sign up to testify by July 10 at 10 am and reply to let us know that you will be there. If possible, email a written copy of your testimony in advance of the hearing by email to County.Council@montgomerycountymd.gov.

Read the full plan here and the proposed network here.

Where do we need better places to bike in MoCo?

Woodglen Drive Protected Bike Lane image from Montgomery Planning

If you could make one improvement for better bicycling in Montgomery County, what would it be?

Would you add a new trail along a major highway or create a protected bike lane to your local grocery store? Would you connect Metro to nearby neighborhoods or stitch together a web of protected bike lanes in the county’s dense urban centers?

In June, the Montgomery Planning Department is hosting meetings to get your feedback on the draft network maps for the updated Bicycle Master Plan. This is your chance to share your ideas on needed bicycle connections and help shape the future bicycle network. At five meetings around the county, staff will present their vision for a quality, low-stress network that will get tens of thousands of residents where they need to go safely and conveniently by bicycle. Though pieces of the network have been released, this is the first time we get to see the future bike network in its entirety.

Come look at the maps and let staff know what you like and what is missing.

Each meeting will run from 4 pm – 8:30 pm, consisting of an open house from 4 – 7 pm and a presentation and Q&A from 7:15 – 8:30 pm.

Meeting 1
Tuesday, June 6 | 4 pm – 8:30 pm
Planning Department Headquarters
8787 Georgia Avenue, Silver Spring
RSVP
Meeting 2
Thursday, June 8 | 4 pm – 8:30 pm
Bethesda Regional Services Center
4805 Edgemoor Lane, Bethesda
RSVP
Meeting 3
Monday, June 12 | 4 pm – 8:30 pm
Olney Library
3500 Olney Laytonsville Rd, Olney
RSVP
Meeting 4
Wednesday, June 14 | 4 pm – 8:30 pm
UpCounty Regional Services Center
12900 Middlebrook Road, Germantown
RSVP
Meeting 5
Thursday, June 22 | 4 pm – 8:30 pm
Marilyn J. Praisner Library
14910 Old Columbia Pike, Burtonsville
RSVP

Montgomery County Getting Serious About Bike Networks

Watch out DC, watch out Arlington! Montgomery County is making big plans to become a national leader in low stress bike networks. With committed political leadership, ambitious goals, and effective collaboration between planners, engineers, and developers Montgomery County is poised to catch up quickly!

Big Plans Are Afoot

In Spring of 2015, Montgomery County Planning Department kicked off a rewrite of the county’s Bicycle Master Plan. Master Plans are long term, usually 20+ year, planning priority documents that lay out a vision for what a future place should be along with guidelines and rules to get there. Since 2005, bike lane and trail development has followed the Countywide Bikeways Functional Master Plan which complements plans for roads, transit, communities, and urban centers. As advocates, we pay close attention to master plans because they are an effective tool for long term change in our communities. They are also a strong indicator of a community’s priorities.

Montgomery County is refreshing its Bike Master Plan 10 years early to reflect new trends, apply new standards, and set the county on an aggressive path towards a low stress network that more residents can use and enjoy. Protected bike lanes (also called separated bike lanes or cycletracks), bicycle signalization, secure bike parking and protected intersections were rare in 2005 and few people biked in the region. That is no longer the case. Leaning heavily on stress mapping research, planning staff are taking a data driven approach to map street stress levels and explore ways to link and create low stress networks. The plan is ambitious, inclusive, and an laudable leap in transportation planning for the County. Numerous opportunities for input are coming in 2016 including this interactive map.

Early Results

Since countywide plans take time, planning staff have prioritized smaller plans for at least two areas to coincide with other planning and development efforts. White Flint and the Life Sciences Center in Shady Grove are both on the cusp of dramatic change lead by development. Late last year, the proposed street and trail networks for these areas were released. As a statement of how Montgomery County will prioritize travel by bicycle, these plans are nothing short of revolutionary. Imagine if every single street in your neighborhood was comfortable to ride on, even major roads. This is how we get more people on bikes!

Proposed network from Montgomery Planning

Proposed network from Montgomery Planning

Proposed Life Sciences network from Montgomery Planning

Proposed Life Sciences network from Montgomery Planning

Each new development and street repave will more or less conform to this plan. And with so many developments in the pipeline for White Flint, the plan comes at a good time.

Lines We Can Bike On

Of course, drawing lines on a map is the easier task. Building out the network takes time, funding, and political vision. It also requires the effort of a different agency. In November 2014, Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) completed its first 0.3 mile protected bike lane in North Bethesda.

Woodglen Drive Protected Bike Lane image from Montgomery Planning

Woodglen Drive Protected Bike Lane image from Montgomery Planning

In 2016, MCDOT is moving ahead with a few pieces of this network. At an Advisory Committee meeting for White Flint, MCDOT showed plans for an initial 0.5 mile curb protected bike lane on Nebel Street from Randolph St. to Marinelli Rd. Construction is anticipated to begin in July. Also on the list is a short protected bike lane on a newly connected Hoya Street (formerly Towne Road) south of Montrose Parkway.

Nebel Street protected bike lane image from MCDOT

Nebel Street protected bike lane image from MCDOT

To learn more about the ongoing Bike Master Plan process, visit the project page and sign up for the newsletter. Read the full proposed White Flint and Life Sciences Center plans. Get involved in WABA’s advocacy in the county by attending our Action Committee meeting on January 25 at 7pm at the Silver Spring Civic Center.