Archives September 2014

The Community Wants Old Georgetown Road Designed Per the Sector Plan

The beauty of the White Flint Sector Plan has always been in the way the entire community has come together to embrace the work being done here.  It’s exciting that, after all this time, we’re still going strong as a community, together.  

Yesterday, we tendered a letter to the County Executive that has been joined and signed by sixteen stakeholders who have been working toward a better White Flint.  More groups are signing on each day – and they’re joining the over 350 individual community members who have already sent emails on this issue.

See the letter below:

September 29, 2014

The Honorable Isiah “Ike” Leggett
Montgomery County Executive
101 Monroe Street
Rockville, Maryland 20850

Cc: Montgomery County Council

Dear Mr. Leggett,

As property owners, residents, advocates and concerned citizens within the White Flint area and the rest of Montgomery County, we appreciate your steadfast support for our shared vision of the community’s redevelopment. That vision, as articulated in the White Flint Sector Plan, is for a vibrant, walkable, sustainable community, one that will provide economic growth in the county for decades to come. Now however, in light of strong concerns involving MCDOT’s current Western Workaround design and our community’s unified position on those concerns, we write to ask for your assistance in preserving our shared aspirations for a better White Flint.

The White Flint Sector Plan, in addition to providing a blueprint for responsible growth, also includes detailed prescriptions for the roads and other transportation investments needed in order for the larger vision to succeed. These “prerequisite” projects allow for new growth to occur without overwhelming the existing road network by creating new and attractive ways to get around, including wider sidewalks, bike lanes, rapid transit and a connected street grid to provide alternatives to Rockville Pike. This is what the community agreed to when it supported the Sector Plan, and what property owners agreed to when they agreed to the District Tax to fund those investments.

Unfortunately, this is not the vision MCDOT is implementing. After four years of consistent community support for improved bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, MCDOT’s current design for the Western Workaround includes none of the bicycle and pedestrian elements required in the Sector Plan. Not only is this approach counter to what the community supports, it effectively undermines White Flint’s ability to meet the transportation mode-share goals on which the entire plan depends.  It is also a wasteful use of the District Tax resources. Rather than implementing the Western Workaround now in accordance with the Sector Plan, MCDOT’s current design would necessitate building the project twice: first the way MCDOT has currently designed it, and then again decades later in a way that provides the mobility benefits promised to the community.   Most importantly, it sets a negative precedent for the design of future road improvements within White Flint, including Rockville Pike and the Eastern Workaround.

We find ourselves in a difficult situation.  While we all want the infrastructure built as quickly as possible, we cannot accept a design which defeats the shared vision we’ve spent years working for.  Thus we ask you, as County Executive, to once again engage with us to help implement our shared vision in the White Flint Sector Plan.  This will be one of the most important legacies of your tenure as County Executive and we find ourselves at a critical juncture that will ultimately determine the success of the plan.  As County Executive, we ask you to take the following actions:

  1. Direct MCDOT to work collaboratively with MNCPPC, property owners, residents, civic leaders and other stakeholders in the White Flint area to design the Western Workaround and all other Sector road improvements in a way that reflects the Sector Plan’s vision for a multi-modal, mixed-use White Flint.
  2. Initiate a comprehensive review of MCDOT policies for White Flint, with regard totraffic projections, trip modeling and related methods that the agency employs to determine the character of roads within White Flint. These methods should reflect the dynamic, pedestrian-oriented environment that White Flint will become, rather than perpetuate the auto-oriented status quo.
  3. Send a letter to SHA, MDOT and Governor O’Malley communicating the importance of designing and implementing infrastructure under state control in accordance with the vision of the White Flint Sector Plan. Further, we ask that you work together with the Governor’s office to develop a strategy to allow SHA and MCDOT to jointly implement transportation projects in a way that reflects the multi-modal vision of the White Flint Sector Plan.

We stand ready to work collaboratively with your office to make the vision for White Flint a reality.  Leadership from the County Executive office was crucial to the approval of the plan and is now clearly needed if the vision of this great bold plan is to be achieved.  We are truly grateful for your prioritization and dedication of funding for White Flint-related infrastructure.  We know that there were many demands on those funds, which makes it even more crucial that they are spent efficiently by building this road properly, the first time.

Please stand with your constituents and make this national model of best practices in economic development and community building a reality.  We also invite you to stand with your constituents, literally, in taking a guided walking tour along the streets and sidewalks of White Flint to better understand our concerns from the pedestrian’s perspective.

 

Respectfully,

 

Action Committee for Transit

Chevy Chase Land Co.

Coalition for Smarter Growth

Combined Properties

David Walters, Resident

Fallswood Condominium

Friends of White Flint

Georgetown Village Condominium

Greater Farmland Civic Association

Marty Abramowitz, The Sterling

Montgomery Bicycle Advocates (MoBike)

Old Georgetown Village Condominium

Old Georgetown Village Townhomes

Randolph Civic Association

The Forum Condominium

The Sierra Club of Montgomery County

The White Flint Partnership

 

 

 

 

Time For Our Leaders To Walk Across Old Georgetown Road

That smoke you see rising over White Flint isn’t from (prohibited) autumn leaf burning, it’s the flame war that has erupted over the Montgomery County Department of Transportation’s plan to plunk a “commuter thoroughfare” in the middle of the new walkable, sustainable, bikeable White Flint Sector Plan. Of course, like everything MoCo, it’s not that simple, and the flames obscure a significant trust issue that no one’s talking about.

When I last sat down with County Executive Ike Leggett on the White Flint Sector Plan, I was representing Friends of White Flint, this community-based organization including residential associations, employers, and property owners in White Flint. In the three years leading up to the adoption of the White Flint Plan in 2010, Friends of White Flint held over 200 community meetings to educate and activate the public. We knew what the community thought about the County and its planning processes. I told Mr. Leggett that the County had a trust problem: people believed that the County promised big but later changed its mind and did something else.

Mr. Leggett looked me in the eye and said “That’s a valid point. But that won’t happen this time.” And he kept his word, delivering – along with the County Council – the needed road funding over the last four years.

So why the disconnect between Leggett’s office and the County Department of Transportation? Both sides seem to be saying the same thing, but acting in different ways. And – beyond the trust question – that seems to be the real problem here.

There’s an old adage: “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” The more modern useage: confirmation bias. You tend to focus on what you’re comfortable with.

The Montgomery County Department of Transportation has a vital job: moving cars through a jurisdiction with a million people. People in Montgomery County, like people everywhere, hate traffic congestion, pollution, climate change, sprawl and all the things that come with the automobile-centered society we have built over the last fifty years. They hammer on the County Executive, Council and agencies to do something about traffic. Then they get in their cars and contribute to the problem. So MCDoT has a tough job: moving traffic in a community that wants it all.

Right now, Old Georgetown Road is a major road on the western edge of the White Flint Plan area, curving at its far northern end to dump thousands of cars a day onto Rockville Pike. People new to the area think the function of Rockville Pike is to move cars, like a pipe, as quickly as possible through White Flint. But there’s more than one way to move a big volume of traffic: you can have, as we do now, one big, really, really fast pipe, or you can have, as the White Flint Plan directs, a lot of smaller, safer, slower streets so people can get around accidents and traffic snarls.

The first way – the big pipe with fast cars and no pedestrian or bike safety features – leads to pedestrian fatalities, like last month’s death of 24-year-old Aaron Papirmeister on an eight-lane section of southbound Rockville Pike in White Flint. The second way’s like the Internet, designed with lots of pathways so no single blockage stops its traffic.

White Flint is part of the County’s official policy of improving neighborhoods so they are more walkable, safer for bikes and bicycle commuters, and less reliant on automobiles. It’s a sophisticated, non-coercive approach to traffic planning, designed to communicate with drivers about appropriate speeds, and protect fragile flesh from tons of metal and glass. We’re not going to ignore the people who live “in-between” here and there so others can speed through on their way to somewhere else, but we’re going to let everyone get where they want to go quickly and safely through careful and sophisticated traffic management. It works in lots of places, like Arlington County, where a huge increase in residents and offices hasn’t resulted in an increase in traffic. So, the White Flint Plan calls for slowing, narrowing, and sharing even the most major roads, while increasing the “street grid” by giving drivers a variety of options for moving through White Flint.

Old Georgetown Road and Rockville Pike are part of that planned transformation. White Flint is being designed – and now being built – for residents, pedestrians, bicycle users, rapid transit, and, yes, even drivers. Buildings are rising. Seven restaurants are scheduled to open in the next two months in Pike & Rose, the new planned urban center just north of the section of Old Georgetown Road we’re talking about. People are already living in Persei, the new “mixed-use” residential building on Old Georgetown Road.

And all those people expect Old Georgetown Road to be walkable, bikeable, and not a “commuter thoroughfare.” After all, it’s what the County promised, not just in evanescent discussions, but in the official White Flint Sector Plan, adopted in 2010, and now four years old.

Which makes the Montgomery County Department of Transportation’s current plan for the two east-west blocks of Old Georgetown Road just south of Pike & Rose surprising. In June 2013, MCDoT revealed its plans for that short section of road, and the words were encouraging; Bruce Johnston, MCDoT’s transportation engineering chief, told the County’s White Flint Implementation Committee: “We want to provide an environment that’s pedestrian and bicyclist friendly and will encourage people to get out of their vehicles.” But their plans didn’t actually do that; their plans included eight traffic lanes and a 40 miles per hour speed limit, much higher than where Old Georgetown Road travels through Bethesda. The White Flint Plan calls for only four traffic lanes, bike paths, wide sidewalks, and more; none of that was included.

Why? Johnston said because of “the anticipated [vehicular] traffic volume on that road.” In other words, we have to ignore the sophisticated (and proven) plans to handle “the anticipated traffic volume” in favor of making it more difficult for bikes and pedestrians.

Still, it was only a preliminary “35%” plan, and at least they were saying the right things about their intentions. But that tension between community, planners and MCDoT primed the community to watch for the same sort of evasion of the White Flint Plan in the future.

In the meantime, those two blocks were “improved” to include narrow sidewalks with wires and poles plopped directly in the middle. Not easy for pedestrians, strollers, or wheelchairs to get around. And no bike lanes. Not particularly reassuring.

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So last week, MCDoT revealed what is likely to be in its “70%” plan for the same two blocks. The result, almost exactly the same: eight traffic lanes, not four; no bike lanes; no pedestrian medians or other safety features; still the “anticipated traffic volume” as the driving force.

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Above, what we expect from MCDOT’s plan. Below, what we expected under the sector plan.

The community, which had been primed to watch for just this sort of thing, exploded. In just 24 hours, Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett’s office received hundreds of letters from residents complaining about the Old Georgetown Road planning.

The response? County assistant chief administrative officer Ramona Bell-Pearson sniffed at the residents’ complaints: “It seems like enough is never enough.” Ken Hartman, regional services director for Montgomery County, called the residents’ characterizations “disingenuous.” MCDoT said that it would build the two blocks one way now and then rebuild the road again later. County officials blamed the state of Maryland.

Which brings us back to our two ways to move traffic: one big pipe or many little, safer, slower pipes. We have learned we can’t build enough roads to handle the problem; there simply isn’t any more space to build big new roads “down-county.” So we have to maximize what we have. And we can do that, like Arlington County has, through careful and consistent management and planning. We know what to do, but we actually have to grit our teeth and do it.

And the County and state transportation agencies are slowly – ever so slowly – moving in the right direction. At a recent Friends of White Flint meeting, a representative of the Maryland State Highway Administration talked about “communication with drivers” as an important part of their current planning. That is a breakthrough; before planners would try to simply impose their wills on drivers, but now they are beginning to try to understand and work with drivers instead.

But because that change is slow and because MCDoT has as its main priority moving traffic as fast as possible – and most important because of that trust issue with unfulfilled promises – what one side sees as slow progress, the other sees as “sabotage.”

And they’re both right. Slow progress can be seen as “slow walking” something to death. Seeing interim solutions as “sabotage” can be seen by the other side as “enough is never enough.”

Issues of trust, rubbed raw by years of conflict. What we are left with is a lot of smoldering feelings, ready to erupt in flames at the least provocation.

Time for Mr. Leggett to step forward again. Let’s have another public commitment.

Ike, come down and walk across the eight lanes of Rockville Pike, or Old Georgetown Road. Make your statement right there. Make that statement clear. Montgomery County Department of Transportation should become the Department of Mobility, to reflect the new direction the County must move in. Embrace it, and the community that has asked for it. Set the tone again.

You’ll see that community vigilance can work both ways: to help you achieve your commitments (and enhance the County in the process) and to illuminate those times when County agencies aren’t quite getting your message.

Pike & Rose Announces More Openings

As we announced back in August, Del Frisco’s Grille officially opened yesterday at the Pike & Rose development!

In addition, Pike & Rose has recently announced the opening schedule for many of their other stores and restaurants.

Starting in early November 2014, the IPic movie theater will open just in time for the new “Hunger Games” movie. In addition, Sport&Health Club plans to open in December. AMP by Strathmore plans to open for private events starting in December and for public events starting in Spring 2015.

Also in November 2014, The Gap store, Francesca’s (Boutique), City Sports, Yogasa (Boutique), Mirage Nails & Waxing, Seasons Olive Oil & Vinegar Taproom and City Perch all plan to open.

And lastly in December 2014, ShopHouse, Summer House, Stella Barra Pizzeria, &pizza, Roti Mediterranean Grille, La Madeleine Country French Cafe and PR at Partners Salon and Spa all plan to open.

These shops and restaurants are part of the first phase of the Pike & Rose development, which is located at the former Mid-Pike Plaza center.

YIMBY’s

Too often in community activism, we toss around the term “NIMBY” – it stands for “not in my back yard.”  Today, I’m proud to stand among the 179* members of this community who, in twelve hours yesterday, called themselves YIMBY’s!  You sent messages to the county that you want Old Georgetown Road built properly, right in your back yards.

Friends of White Flint issued a call to action because we have worked hard toward a walkable, sustainable White Flint.  We are confident that the combination of a new street grid and the associated pedestrian and bicyclist amenities is crucial toward addressing traffic in our area.

So, let me addend yesterday’s post with a note that Friends of White Flint will be happily proven wrong on the design of Old Georgetown Road. In an email yesterday from a county official, I was told that “70% designs will be ready in October/November.”  If we’re only weeks away from reaching this threshold, then we look forward to a road design that orients this artery for the future and offers the bike/pedestrian amenities we were promised.

* we reached 200 before the day was done!

MCDOT is Sabotaging the Western Workaround

Friends, we’ve got a problem…  (stay tuned to the end of the post where you can click to take action – or you can click right here).

When the White Flint Sector Plan was adopted in 2010 after years of collaboration between residents, property owners, county officials and civic leaders, it was hailed as a triumph of responsible, sustainable development. Now, however, the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) is poised to undo years of work by pushing through a design for the western workaround that does not include any of the elements promised to the community by the Sector Plan.

This is what we’ve feared since a public meeting we told you about in this blog post last summer.  There, transportation planners shared a vision of Old Georgetown Road, between Rockville Pike and Hoya Street, that looked vastly different than what’s outlined in the sector plan.  When we voiced concern, we were told that we’d have to go to the Governor to get what we were promised.  Even Councilmember Roger Berliner weighed in with a letter to MCDOT because the design did not meet expectations.

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The area around Old Georgetown Road has changed a lot
since this Google Maps image was taken in 2012

Since then, when we’ve checked in on the subject, we’ve been assured our concerns are being considered but that design of this stretch is on the back burner while other western workaround details are dealt with. Turns out that wasn’t exactly accurate…

 

Promises Made Should be Promises Kept
Transforming White Flint into a vibrant, walkable area requires balancing new development, which brings growth and amenities, with the pressure to move traffic. Part of that solution is a multi-modal transportation network that diffuses traffic across a new street grid, known as the western workaround. The goal is to relieve traffic on Rockville Pike while providing safe and attractive ways to get around on foot, bike or transit.

Because these elements are crucial to success, the sector plan prescribes specific details including speed limits, the numbers of lanes, and the location and character of bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. For Old Georgetown Road, between Executive Boulevard and Rockville Pike, the Plan is unequivocal: it should have four lanes (two in each direction), on-street bike lanes in both directions, sidewalks and a broad shared-use path, which forms part of the Sector-wide Recreation Loop.

In spite of the clear guidance of the sector plan – passed by the County Planning Board and County Council and overwhelmingly supported by the community – MCDOT’s design has no bike lanes, no shared-use path, and it widens the road to include two turn lanes in each direction, creating a road that is, effectively, eight lanes wide.  

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You can click on this to make it larger. The top image is what MCDOT’s design will look like, the bottom is what’s called for in the sector plan. FYI – Towne Road will be the new name for Hoya Street once it’s complete.

This leaves us with an Old Georgetown Road that is even less safe for cyclists and pedestrians than it is today and with a gaping hole in one of the area’s signature planned amenities, the Recreation Loop. Even more frustrating, MCDOT has proposed redesigning Old Georgetown Road twice: once now to maximize auto traffic, and again, sometime in the future, to incorporate the elements promised in the Sector Plan, as long as conditions warrant and funding is available.  What an inefficient use of our tax dollars!

 

MCDOT’s Backwards Logic
Sadly, MCDOT’s actions are not surprising given the agency’s well documented history of prioritizing traffic flow over bicycle and pedestrian safety. The consequences of this “car is king” mentality are stark: 454 pedestrians were struck by cars in the county last year; 13 were killed. Just this summer, a pedestrian was killed while crossing the Pike down by North Bethesda Market and I frequently receive emails from Friends concerned for their safety on and along Old Georgetown Road.

In defense of their design, MCDOT argues that this is a four-lane road.  According to them, the design technically contains only two travel lanes in each direction; the additional lanes, which extend nearly the entire length of the roadway, are “merely turning lanes.”

This obfuscation may hold water for traffic engineers, but for anyone unlucky enough to bike or walk along the road, that distinction provides little comfort. Under the MCDOT proposal, a pedestrian must traverse eight lanes of traffic to get across Old Georgetown Road. For cyclists, the lack of dedicated lanes means they must take their chances staying safe among four lanes of traffic.

In reality, the effect of this design will be even more wide-reaching. By prioritizing driving over everything else, MCDOT will fulfill its own skewed vision for mobility in the county: fewer people will walk, bike or take transit.  Even if we want to, we just won’t feel safe. Instead, we’ll choose to drive for every single trip, adding to congestion and undermining the entire premise of the White Flint Sector Plan redevelopment.

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The bike infrastructure we expect under the sector plan…

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The bike infrastructure we’ll get with MCDOT’s design

Our Community is Being Ignored
Safe bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure and a Recreation Loop were key elements that helped the plan gain the support of the community. And, since the Plan’s passage, White Flint residents have consistently voiced their support for safer bike/pedestrian accommodations. For this reason, Friends of White Flint was shocked to learn that MCDOT has nearly advanced to the 70% design threshold for their version of the project, disregarding years of community involvement and input.

Not only is MCDOT’s approach an affront to the residents and stakeholders who spent years building consensus around the Sector Plan, but their defiance betrays the trust on which the White Flint Sector Plan relies and jeopardizes the entire process. The Western Workaround is the first of many planned transportation and infrastructure improvements within the White Flint Sector. If MCDOT is willing to push through a design for this project in direct defiance of the sector plan, how can the public trust they will implement the balance of the plan faithfully?

 

Tell the County: Enough is Enough
The residents and stakeholders of White Flint deserve better; now it’s time to demand it. Please join Friends of White Flint and our friends at Coalition for Smarter Growth in calling on County Executive Ike Leggett to uphold the promises made to our community and to hold his Department of Transportation accountable. Time is of the essence as this design marches forward – we must show them that we ARE paying attention,  we ARE excited about the new White Flint and we ARE expecting our county to do its part in making this place great.

Click the link below to send our county government a message and demand that they keep their promise to make White Flint a place where you don’t need to use your car for every single trip. A place where pedestrians and bicyclists have the same value as drivers. A place where we think about moving people, not just cars. You’ll find suggested language already populated but, if you can, take a moment to customize your subject line and message to maximize its impact. Thank you for your attention and advocacy!

Click Here to Take Action

** Updated 10/14/14 — the email blast that accompanied this blog post mistakenly said that the road’s design was unveiled as 70% complete.  The correct status of the project is as stated above – MCDOT is advancing to the 70% design threshold.  

 

MoCo Not on TIGER Grant List – But, What Is?

Over the course of this year, we’ve told you that Montgomery County has applied for a federal TIGER grant to support Bus Rapid Transit on MD-355 (Rockville Pike).  In a list of awardees announced last week, however, we were not included.

But – I did find the list of winners to be an incredible snapshot of where our country’s transportation infrastructure is headed.  Of the 72 projects that will receive funding, 15 are transit-based (receiving $156M) and 26 are focused on roads (receiving $221).  The rest are planning projects.  But, look at that balance between transit and roads.  This is the future of our country’s infrastructure – balanced!

Another notable item is that over $25M is being awarded to bike and pedestrian infrastructure.  And, guess what, Bus Rapid Transit is taking hold across the nation:

  • Central Omaha, NE:  $14.9M for BRT
  • Richmond, VA: $24.9M for BRT
  • Nevada: $16M for BRT
  • Madison, WI: $300K for BRT
  • Philadelphia, PA: $2.5M for BRT

We’re on the right track (pun intended – BRT doesn’t use tracks!) — let’s keep our infrastructure moving forward before we fall behind Central Omaha, Nebraska!

Biking Infrastructures are Necessary for Sustainable and Engaging Communities

To make the White Flint sector more walkable and accessible to all types of individuals – pedestrians, cyclists, young, old – supportive pedestrian and bike infrastructure is necessary. Friends of White Flint and our members value biking and walking as alternative forms of transportation.  As we begin to see the White Flint Sector Plan implemented, we want to make sure the values our residents, our community members, and our business owners hold will continue to be part of what is developed. There are many things to consider when adding new developments and infrastructures to urban landscapes, however. We always need to consider the effects they might have on current issues. Right now, one of the major issues the White Flint sector faces is traffic.

Creating new biking infrastructures can be directly related to street design, which is why people often believe it will cause more traffic congestion. Bike lanes, however, are a good example of a biking infrastructure that show how traffic can actually be eased by new infrastructures.  In fact, this article from Grist.com shows that adding bicycle lanes can actually reduce traffic delays.

There are many examples of large urban areas- Washington, D.C., NYC, and Portland, where bike lanes have been used and have not caused more congestion. By narrowing street lanes, room for buffer zones and bike lanes emerges, without completely taking away necessary street lanes.

Biking infrastructures like bike lanes, cycle tracks, and wider sidewalks provide many benefits for an urban area. These elements allow cyclists to feel safe and comfortable using bikes as a main source of transportation, not just for commuting but for recreational purposes as well. The lanes create a space for only cyclists to ride on, separating them from car traffic. By providing supportive infrastructure, the idea is that more individuals will feel safe biking as an alternative to cars, thus actually decreasing the car traffic. When safety is perceived, people tend to be more willing to take alternative forms of transportation, possibly lowering the amount of people who travel by car.

Rockville Pike and Old Georgetown Road are still and will continue to be major roads that carry traffic through Montgomery County. The best solution to create a more walkable urban center, however, is to design the street and sidewalks in a smart and complete way. To carry out our vision of what we want the White Flint sector to become, from a car-centric suburb to complete streets, urban center promoting alternative forms of transportation such as walking and biking, we need our infrastructures to match our vision.

This is why Friends of White Flint and our members will continue to advocate for pedestrian and biking safety and strong infrastructure.

Heads Up on the Sidewalk!

Even despite our best efforts at advocacy and watchdoggingness (that’s a word, right?), we periodically find that things are not exactly happening according to plan.  By “plan” I mean, the White Flint Sector Plan — that 90+ page document approved by our County’s Council and Planning Department and overwhelmingly supported by the community — which is guiding the suburban retrofit we’ve been working toward.  The first sentence of the Plan reads,

This Sector Plan vision establishes policies for transforming  an auto-oriented suburban development pattern into an urban center of residences and businesses where people walk to work, shops and transit.

Lovely, right?  So, it’s frustrating when we come across new little installations that fly in the face of this vision.  Take, for example, Old Georgetown Road in front of Pike and Rose.  I was there this weekend to glance around the first restaurant to open on the property, Del Frisco’s Grille, when I couldn’t help but notice a few things about the sidewalk.  You know, the one we’re supposed to use to “walk to work, shops and transit.”

First – can we acknowledge how awesome it is to see the transformation we’ve been working toward for over seven years?  To actually see the the corner of Old Georgetown Road and Grand Park Avenue is pretty exciting!

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But, say you’re walking downhill (west) on Old Georgetown Road – away from the Pike.  Maybe you’re moving a little faster because you’re biking on the sidewalk, a little too unnerved to challenge the traffic by riding in a travel lane.   You will notice quite an improvement from our previous sidewalk.  A great buffer separates pedestrians from traffic – I felt pretty safe standing there with my little kid.

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I walked a little farther down the sidewalk and thought my eyes were playing a trick on me.  Was something in the middle of the sidewalk (and, no, I don’t mean the orange piece of construction equipment taking a break)?  Do you see it?

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It’s such a skinny little thing that I asked my helper (that’s Charlie, everybody) to help me highlight the scary obstacle SITTING IN THE CENTER OF THE  SIDEWALK!  See it now?  (You can click to zoom in on any of these photos, by the way).

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You kind of have to be right on top of it to see it and, depending on your circumstances, that might be too late!

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This skinny pole, again, IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SIDEWALK, was installed by Pepco, we’re told.  It attaches to the utility pole to your left for, I don’t know, stability?  That seems important but, really, Pepco?  This was the best solution you could come up with?  Someone is going to get hurt with this obstacle in the middle of the sidewalk.  I repeat:  SOMEONE IS GOING TO GET HURT WITH THIS OBSTACLE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SIDEWALK.

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When we turned around to return to our car (yes, we drove there), something else jumped out at me.  Can someone explain why the “walk sign” is sitting in the middle of the sidewalk?

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According to our County DOT and State Highway Administration, this location is necessary so those in wheelchairs can reach the walk request button.  Again, surely we could have found a better solution here because, if one of those persons in a wheelchair wishes to turn left at that corner, they’re going to experience a significant pinch point.

While we wish these were the only spots where infrastructure is falling short, we expect there will be others.  Get your voices ready!  

If you’d like to speak out on these issue, either comment here or on social media or email your concerns to Darcy Buckley in the county’s White Flint Implementation Coordination office at darcy.buckley@montgomerycountymd.gov. Although they don’t control Pepco, that office is the best place to coordinate an improvement to these two situations.

 

 

Bike Commuting Rate in DC Doubled in Last 4 Years

The rate of bike commuting in Washington D.C. and NYC has doubled in the last four years. With new biking infrastructure such as Capital Bikeshare, designated/protected bike lanes, buffer zones, and cycle tracks, the occurance of commuting cyclists has increased from 2.2 percent in 2009 to 4.5 percent in 2013 in Washington, D.C. At this rate, Washington, D.C. becomes second to Portland, Oregon as a “bike commuting hub” amongst U.S. cities.

As our neighboring city continues to increase its biking infrastructure, we hope here in the White Flint sector that this infrastructure will flourish as well. It is extremely important that the infrastructure in an area addresses the demands and needs of its residents, in this case, cyclists. As more individuals in the White Flint sector continue to use alternate forms of transportation, we must make sure our infrastructure can support their choices. This is why we need to continue to advocate for pedestrian and bicyclist safety and strong infrastructure. Check out some of Friends of White Flint’s points of focus on this topic that we hope to bring to the attention of our county stakeholders.

Pedestrian/Bicyclist Advocacy

Our last Friends of White Flint meeting was focused on pedestrian and bicyclist safety, and ways we can improve them in the short-term.  Although the White Flint Sector Plan does include robust improvements in this realm, we don’t anticipate seeing many of them immediately as they’re parts of larger infrastructure and other redevelopment projects.  But, as we’re encouraging folks to get out of their cars more, we must find ways to make it safer for them to do so now.  We’re grateful that representatives from county government – Councilmember Hans Riemer and representatives from both MC DOT and the County Executive’s Office – as well as the State Highway Administration were present to offer their ears and their voices to the discussion.

From the meeting, FoWF has narrowed down on five points where we’d like to see progress.  I’ve started by sending an email to county stakeholders asking to continue the conversation.  Here are our points of focus:

  • Our community has grave concern about the intersection of Executive Blvd and Rockville Pike.  That super-block, combined with bus stops and attractions located on both sides of the road, encourage jaywalking – which has turned deadly.  What is the timeline for evaluating this stretch of road to offer safer alternatives for those crossing without a car?  Super-blocks abound in White Flint – are there safety measures we can implement now while we await full build-out?
  • How can we improve the southbound right-turn from Rockville Pike onto Executive Boulevard so drivers are more aware of crossing pedestrians?
  • How can we be of use on advocating for better bike infrastructure and, ultimately, BikeShare?
  • We have asked for one before but, on the recommendation of Councilmember Riemer at our meeting, I’d like to renew our request for a Walkability Audit. As infrastructure plans and designs are being developed, this would be a great time to ensure all bases are being covered the first time.
  • A member raised the suggestion of limiting “rights on reds” in the district.  While this move would, anecdotally, seem to reduce hazards, is that truly the case?  If so, what are the steps to implement such a change at our busier multi-modal intersections?

Of course, this is just the tip of an iceberg but we think it’s a pretty solid starting place.  We’ll keep you posted on our progress – we hope you’ll do the same as you notice other spots where safety is a particular concern.