Walk, Roll, & Ride For the Old Georgetown Rd Safety Improvements

This Sunday, January 8, 2023, join WABA, Montgomery County Families for Safe Streets and the Action Committee For Transit to bike, walk or roll  in support of the Old Georgetown Road safety improvements and protected bike lanes.

After two teenagers were struck and killed while biking on Old Georgetown Road’s  narrow sidewalks –joining an already long list of life altering injuries and traffic fatalities on this busy road – the Maryland State Highway Administration repurposed the curbside traffic lane for protected bike lanes on a 3.1 mile stretch of MD-187 in Bethesda.  The lanes, while not perfect, have made the narrow, previously unbuffered sidewalks safe for all those using them, have slowed cars down to the 40mph speed limit, and created a safer space for people on bikes.

Please join WABA, MoCo Families for Safe Streets, and the Action Committee for Transit to bike or walk along these lanes to show your support and to urge MDOT SHA to keep the lanes in place and to improve them.

Meet at 10:30 am at Medical Center Metro
Or 11:00 am at Old Georgetown Rd & West Cedar Ln
Then ride the Old Georgetown bike lanes to Nicholson Ln and back!

Walking or rolling?
Meet at 11:15 am at Old Georgetown Rd & Tuckerman Ln
Then walk or roll past future Woodward HS to Edson Ln (0.8 miles) or Nicholson Ln (1.6 miles) and back!
(Parking at Timberlawn Local Park, 10800 Gloxinia Dr)

Short rally for safety at West Cedar Ln, after the ride!

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.

Support Protected Bike Lanes on Old Georgetown Road

On October 17, 2022, the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration announced a plan to install 2 miles of protected bike lanes on Old Georgetown Road (MD 187) in North Bethesda between West Cedar Lane and Nicholson Road and narrow driving lanes as part of a regular repaving project. This action is a direct response to mounting calls to redesign this dangerous corridor for bicyclist and pedestrian safety after two tragic crashes killed two young people riding their bikes on the narrow, unmaintained sidewalks. 

While not perfect, this is the right plan for immediate SHA action, which claims space for vulnerable people and creates opportunities for short-term improvement. This plan, being implemented now, still needs vocal support to ensure it sets a positive precedent for SHA action.. Use the form below to show the project team that you support the project, urge SHA leadership to take bold moves to prioritize people biking and walking here and across the County, and thank Delegate Marc Korman and County Councilmember Andrew Friedson for their work pushing for the new protected bike lanes. Read the Oct 17 press release here.

Old Georgetown Road has long been a high speed, overbuilt state highway that has solely prioritized the fast movement of cars through this corridor connecting North Bethesda and downtown Bethesda. Meanwhile, vulnerable road users who walk and bike along this road have been subject to extremely dangerous conditions. In fact, in the past three years, two teenagers have died bicycling in the corridor, using the narrow unbuffered sidewalks that usually have obstacles on them that resulted in knocking both Jacob Cassell in 2019 and Enzo Alvarenga this past Spring into the road and into collisions with oncoming high speed car traffic. Both young men died merely because they were using their bikes to get around.

The community responded strongly after both fatal crashes, organizing a ride with dozens of cyclists to do a Montgomery County Families for Safe Streets ghost bike memorial for Jacob Cassell, and by attending an SHA led walk-through of the road in September. WABA drafted a letter to MDOT SHA calling for protected bike lanes and other safer streets measures, getting other advocacy organizations to sign the letter sent to SHA in September 2022. Crucially, MD State Delegate Marc Korman and County Councilmember Andrew Friedson met frequently with SHA District 3 employees since Spring of 2022, urging SHA to make substantive changes to make Old Georgetown Road safer for everyone using the road.

On September 29, SHA convened a public meeting to announce that as part of its repaving project, they would put in protected bike lanes on a large portion of the MD-187 corridor, that will provide safe walking and biking from NIH to North Bethesda. See the full presentation here.

Rendering of Old Georgetown protected bike lanes

The plan announced on October 17th is a good start, but is just the start. Let’s thank MDOT SHA for moving forward with this plan and thank Delegate Korman and Councilmember Friedson for fighting for improvements to Old Georgetown Road.  At the same time, we should urge MDOT SHA to extend the protected bike lanes all the way to MD-410 and downtown Bethesda, while also lowering the speed limit from 35 mph to 30 mph, and providing safe crossings every .2 miles.

Map of proposed new protected bike lanes in Purple. Existing protected bike lanes in Green. Future bike lanes in Blue.