The Montgomery County Planning Department, part of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), has released the Working Draft of the Bicycle Master Plan for presentation to the Montgomery County Planning Board on Thursday, December 7, 2017.
The plan aims to turn Montgomery County into a world-class bicycling community. It sets the stage for a cultural shift, encouraging people of all ages and bicycling abilities to meet their daily needs by bicycle – in a safe, comfortable and accessible manner throughout the county.
“Since the Bicycle Master Plan was launched in 2015, our planning team has held numerous community meetings, community bike rides and other events to engage the public,” says project manager David Anspacher. “The feedback we received has been tremendous and has helped shape what we believe to be one of the most innovative bicycle plans in the United States – designed specifically to meet the transportation needs of Montgomery County residents.”
Pending approval of the Working Draft, the Board’s public hearing on the Bicycle Master Plan is scheduled for Thursday, January 18, when the community is invited to comment on plan recommendations at the Planning Department headquarters (8787 Georgia Avenue, Silver Spring, MD).
The Bicycle Master Plan is a comprehensive overhaul of the 1978 Master Plan of Bikeways, 2005 Countywide Bikeways Functional Master Plan and all bikeway recommendations in past master and sector plans.
“We took a data-driven approach to assess the amount of discomfort felt by people when they bicycle on roads in the county and, right now, that stress level is way too high,” says Anspacher. “The Bicycle Master Plan’s proposed bikeway network builds upon that analysis to identify bikeway recommendations that will create a safer, more comfortable bicycling experience for people of all ages and bicycling abilities in the county.”
Background on Bicycle Master Plan
The Bicycle Master Plan paves the way for safe, comfortable and accessible bicycling throughout Montgomery County. Appropriate bikeways are recommended in response to the amount of stress that traffic creates on each road. On busy roads, bicyclists will have dedicated space separated from traffic. On residential streets, they will be able to comfortably share the road with automobiles.
Concept of low-stress bikeways
One barrier to bicycling is what is known as “traffic stress.” People who tolerate a high level of traffic stress are comfortable bicycling on most streets, including highways. These so-called “strong and fearless” bicyclists account for about 7 percent of the population.
Those who tolerate a moderate level of traffic stress are comfortable bicycling on highways and arterial roads that include bike lanes. These “enthused and confident” bicyclists account for about 5 percent of the population.
Cyclists who tolerate a low level of traffic stress are comfortable riding on residential streets, trails and roads with bikeways separated from traffic. These “interested but concerned” bicyclists account for about 51 percent of the population and include children.
New bikeway facility classifications
The Bicycle Master Plan proposes a new bikeway facility classification system for Montgomery County. This system organizes bikeways into five facility types based on their level of separation from traffic. Trails are the bikeways most separated from traffic and shared roads are the least separated from traffic
Trails include off-street trails, stream valley park trails and neighborhood connectors. They are located outside of the road right-of-way and provide two-way travel for bicycling and walking.
Separated bikeways include sidepaths and separated bike lanes. They also provide physical separation from traffic and are generally considered for roads with 3 or more lanes, posted speed limits of 30 mph or faster or in commercial areas.
Striped bikeways include buffered bike lanes, bike lanes, advisory bike lanes and contra-flow bike lanes. They are distinguished from traffic lanes by striping and pavement markings.
Bikeable shoulders of at least four feet in width can improve comfort on some roadways for some bicyclists. They are most appropriate in rural locations, often where posted speed limits are 40 mph and faster.
Shared roads include shared streets, priority shared lane markings and neighborhood greenways. Space on these bikeways is shared by bicyclists, cars and vehicles.
Innovative outreach for the plan
Since the Bicycle Master Plan was launched in 2015, the planning team has held numerous community meetings, community bike rides and demonstrations of bicycle facility concepts to engage the public.
In addition, innovative outreach efforts were developed to engage more people throughout the county. They include a photo contest that invited residents to submit bicycling images that will be part of the plan. A stress-reducing coloring book was created to illustrate the key concepts of the low-stress network recommended in the master plan.
Digital feedback maps, including the Cycling Concerns Map, allowed stakeholders to comment about safety, connectivity and any other concerns related to bicycling. The award-winning Bicycle Stress Map was launched in April 2016 to document the stress levels encountered by cyclists on county roads and intersections, and allow cyclists to better understand road conditions in the county.
Since introducing the Bicycle Stress Map, planners determined that about 75 percent of county road miles are suitable for most adult bike riders. But only 17 percent of actual trips can be completed on a low-stress network, due to the inability to reach key destinations, such as jobs, stores, schools or transit hubs, without extensive detours or the need to travel on higher-stress roads.
Contact project manager David Anspacher at email@example.com or 301-495-2191 for more information.