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A public draft of the Complete Streets Design Guide is now available for review.

Montgomery County is developing a new approach to designing county roads using a concept called Complete Streets, roadways that are designed and operated to provide safe, accessible, and healthy travel for all users of the roadway system, including pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders, and motorists. On a Complete Street, it is intuitive and safe to cross the street, walk to shops, and bicycle to school. Click to read the newly released Complete Streets Design Guide.

  1. Safety – maximize safety for all (pedestrians, bicyclists, and motor vehicles),
  2. Sustainability – enhance ecological functions and economic appeal of a streetscape, and
  3. Vitality – create streets that are great, dynamic places.


In July, a formal public hearing will be provided by the Montgomery County Planning Board with additional opportunity for public comment. Planning Board work sessions will follow in September, with transmission to the County Council for their review anticipated in January 2021.


For more information, you are encouraged to contact either of the two co-Project Managers listed below:
Montgomery Planning – Steve Aldrich (301) 495-4528 Email
Montgomery County DOT – Andrew Bossi (240) 777-7200  Email

AARP Understands Complete Streets

AARP created a slide show that vividly shows why incomplete streets are so dangerous … not just for those 50+ but for everyone. Complete streets are designed and operated to enable safe, convenient travel for users of all ages and abilities regardless of their mode of transportation, including walking, cycling, driving automobiles, or riding public transportation.

Do any of the photos in this slide show look familiar? We’ve got similar sights and scenes in the Pike District. That’s why we are continuing our work with our successful Pike District Pedestrian Safety Campaign. See the slide show here.


It’s Time for Montgomery County to have “Complete Streets”

If you read this blog with any frequency, you’re familiar with the term Complete Streets.  This is the planning and design model focused on moving people, not just cars.  Complete streets are those that consider all users, regardless of their mode of transportation, age or ability.  In other words, it’s the opposite of Rockville Pike.

Our posts have shared the benefits, for physical and public health as well as public policy, of adopting these practices.  And, as White Flint is on the cusp of becoming  a more walkable area, we need these planning strategies in play. Highways cutting through our downtown areas act as barriers separating east and west and prevent us from having a cohesive district.  If we want people to feel safe and comfortable leaving their cars behind, then we have to help them feel safe and comfortable as pedestrians along our streets.  Help may be on its way at the county level!


County Bill 33-13: Streets and Roads – Urban Road Code Standards and Pedestrian Safety Improvements

Councilmember Roger Berliner (D-1, which includes White Flint) has introduced legislation to update the urban road code standards and integrate better pedestrian safety improvements.  It does things like reduce the width of travel lanes, which naturally controls driving speed, and limits turning radii, which creates a more compact intersection for pedestrians to cross.  The bill also proposes 6-foot pedestrian refuges to ease road crossings and sets target speeds for urban roads.  Councilmember Hans Riemer has joined as a co-sponsor of the bill.  These amendments to the current code would force our transportation engineers to consider all of a road’s users during the design process, rather than just focus on how to move as many cars as fast as possible.

These proposals would have exciting impacts on the roads in the White Flint area.  At the moment, you can drive nearly twice as fast along Rockville Pike in White Flint as you can through downtown Bethesda.  Attempts to cross our local roads are often met with more pavement to walk than time to walk it in.  “The overarching goal of this bill is to expand and enhance the county’s complete street policy and to facilitate the implementation of pedestrian friendly, bike friendly, walkable, livable urban areas as envisioned in several of the county’s approved master plans,” wrote Councilmember Berliner in a memo to his colleagues introducing the legislation.  It’s exactly what we need!


Concerns Raised by the Legislation

Not everyone is as excited about the proposed legislation and there have been some specific concerns raised about the Bill.  Some are concerned that the legislation is a blanket requirement for all “urban areas” in the county.  A “one-size fits all” solution is not appealing to folks who want control over the details of every plan that comes their way.  Also, the recommended travel lane widths are, on average, a narrow ten feet, which will cause drivers to naturally slow so they stay within the lines.  But, there are some buses and other large vehicles that are wider, side window to side window, than that.

Finally, the turning radii would be shortened which could lead to a few difficulties.  First, when a fire truck responding to an emergency wants to take a corner at a high rate of speed, they won’t be able to when that corner is a tight one.   Second, a long truck (like a tractor trailer) might have trouble negotiating these turns, resulting in them popping up on the curb and sidewalk and posing a risk to the very pedestrians the legislation is trying to protect.

It’s also worth noting that this legislation would apply only to county roads, while roads like Rockville Pike and Old Georgetown Road are controlled by the state.  It’s everyone’s hope that the State will follow suit when designing roads within these areas so that they remain true to the vision of the surrounds.


Can These Concerns Be Mitigated?

Jurisdictions all over the country and all over the world have implemented planning principles like the ones proposed by Councilmembers Berliner and Riemer, so there must be creative solutions to the concerns that have been raised.  For instance, couldn’t the legislation integrate a method for awarding exceptions to the standards under certain circumstances?  This would alleviate the concerns about a “blanket approach.”  Also, White Flint will be getting its own fire station near Rockville Pike and Randolph Road.  Perhaps that equipment can be designed to navigate our urban roads more efficiently.

Transforming roads from places that prioritize moving cars into places that prioritize moving people (see the difference?) is the crux of this legislation, and at the heart of what we’re creating here in White Flint.  But, as I mentioned, we’re not the only jurisdiction making these changes.  Is it possible that these barriers being thrown up are really just opportunities for us to flex our creative muscles?  If we’re designing an area for the future, we need to be bold and brave and willing to tackle these challenges without throwing our hands up at the first wrinkle.

New York City has been undergoing a similar transition.  In case you missed it, check out this Ted Talk presented by New York City’s transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan.  Bold moves can have great rewards:


Want to be Heard?

There are a couple of ways you can be part of the process with this legislation.  Start by reading the proposal here and the accompanying memo here.  The Council is holding a public hearing on the evening of Thursday, January 23rd.  Sign up to testify yourself by calling 240-777-7803.  Or, if you prefer, contribute toward Friends of White Flint’s testimony.  Either post here or email us with your thoughts on this exciting bit of local legislation!


Reminders of why we need complete streets

In early October the National Complete Streets Coalition held their first ever National Walking Summit, where community leaders from around the country came together to share ideas on policies, design guidelines, advocacy techniques and other tools that support walking.

Take a look at this PowerPoint from the Summit, which highlights some of the basic reasons why we need more complete streets in White Flint and beyond! Some of our favorites include:

  • 66% of Americans want more transportation options so they have the freedom to choose how to get where they need to go
  • 73% currently feel they have no choice but to drive as much as they do
  • 57% would like to spend less time in the car
  • 17% of all trips are less than 1 mile…of these trips, 47% are driven

The streets of White Flint are poised to transform from auto-centric roads filled with fast (or conversely, traffic-jammed) cars to boulevards that welcome people traveling on foot, in wheelchairs, on bikes, in buses, and in cars. It’s going to take a lot of work to get there, but we’re up to the challenge! Consider joining us to help make our streets safer and easier to navigate for everyone.

Public health professionals support complete streets

We’re big fans of complete streets, and the American Public Health Association agrees that policies that make streets safe and accessible for all users are necessary. Check out their two page fact sheet on complete streets for a good reminder of why we need these policies in White Flint. Here are some important statistics APHA highlights:

  • In 2009, 4,092 pedestrians were struck and killed by motor vehicles, accounting for 11.4% of all transportation-related fatalities.
  • A study conducted in Connecticut suggested that less than 1% of pedestrians of ages 72 and older achieved a walking speed at or above 4 feet per second, which is the speed at which they would generally have to walk in order to cross an intersection in the allotted time.
  • Motor vehicle collisions are the leading cause of death among children ages 3 to 14; in 19% of these fatalities, the children involved were pedestrians.
  • Studies have shown that bicyclist injuries and collisions with automobiles can be reduced by up to 50% by the creation of marked, on-road bike lanes.
  • The construction of a raised median, curbs and sidewalks has been demonstrated to reduce the amount of time during which pedestrians are exposed to traffic, and therefore at risk of collision, by 28%.
  • Streets that are designed for pedestrian safety often provide drivers with increased safety as well.

White Flint’s future depends on “complete streets”

Gibbs Street in Rockville Town Square is a “complete street.” Photo by the author.

The future of White Flint as a new downtown for Rockville Pike depends on whether people can get around safely and easily, no matter what mode of transportation they use. One way to make that happen is with “complete streets,” which are often described as streets designed for people of all ages and abilities traveling on foot, bike, by car or transit.

Complete streets show that different kinds of transportation can share the street. They often include features like level, wide sidewalks, bike lanes, dedicated bus lanes, frequent and safe crosswalks, medians where people can wait while crossing a busy street, and narrower travel lanes that slow cars down. They work best around buildings that are close to the street, creating “eyes on the street” that keep everyone safe and attentive.

There’s no such thing as the “perfect” complete street, as different situations often call for different design solutions. But let’s look at some good examples from around the country. We’ll focus on commercial streets, because they most resemble the streets that will be built (or rebuilt) in White Flint, and they often carry a lot of car traffic.

No curbs and broad crosswalks make walking in the Mosaic District safe and inviting. Photo by Payton Chung on Flickr.

Here’s a street in the Mosaic District, a new mixed-use development in Merrifield, an area of Fairfax County that, like White Flint, is making the transition from suburban to urban. There are wide, tree-lined sidewalks with benches for sitting. Each block has one or more large crosswalks in a different material than the street so drivers will notice them, and the sidewalks bump out so people don’t have as far to cross.

There aren’t any curbs anywhere in the Mosaic District. This makes it easier for people in wheelchairs or with strollers to move around and makes the street feel like one unified “space” as opposed to separate spaces for walkers and drivers. There are raised bumps at the sidewalk’s edge so blind people don’t unwittingly walk into the street.

This bike lane protects cyclists and drivers from potential conflicts. Photo by EURIST e.V. on Flickr.

One alternative is to place the bike lane between the parked cars and the sidewalk, like on this busy commercial street in Stockholm. This reduces the chance of passengers “dooring” a cyclist; since the bike lane is closer to the sidewalk, people who might otherwise be intimidated by cycling might take it up.

Vanderbilt Avenue in Brooklyn. Photo from the NYC Department of Transportation.

This street in Brooklyn used to be a dangerous, high-speed road before the New York City Department of Transportation turned it into a complete street. Now, there’s a landscaped median where people can wait while crossing the street. In the future, Rockville Pike will have medians like this as well.

Separate foot (on the left) and bike (on the right) paths on the Indianapolis Cultural Trail. Photo by Eric Fischer on Flickr.

And here’s the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, which I wrote about last week. Unlike traditional bike lanes, which are street level, the Cultural Trail gives bicyclists and pedestrians separate paths at the curb level. This helps people who may be afraid to bike feel more comfortable because they’re not mixing with car traffic.

What we have today

The intersection of Rockville Pike and Old Georgetown Road today. Photo by the author.

Unfortunately, Montgomery County is home to a lot of “incomplete” streets that are designed only for cars and drivers, like Rockville Pike and Old Georgetown Road, shown here. While cars get 6 or more lanes, pedestrians get that skinny little sidewalk at the top right where they can walk inches away from rush hour traffic. The “slip lanes” at each corner, while great for drivers making right turns, make it harder for people to cross the street, especially those with limited mobility.

This is a place where walking is considered unusual, or even a last resort, as resident Mary Ward told us last month. I remember being in high school and hearing a rumor that one of my classmates had been seen walking in front of White Flint Mall. What was wrong with him? Everyone asked. That certainly wouldn’t have been the case if he’d been walking on a more pedestrian-friendly street like Woodmont Avenue in downtown Bethesda.

Building complete streets isn’t just about sidewalks for the sake of sidewalks. It’s about creating the kind of communities that we want to live in. A recent article from Good Magazine says it much better than I can:

Design can make it more delightful to walk than drive, so people don’t want to jump in their cars for errands. Design can make it safer to bike so everyone feels comfortable on the street, not just hardcore cyclists. Design can make public transit fast, reliable, dignified, and sociable. And design can make neighborhoods beautiful, so people are inspired to protect and maintain them.

A walkable, bikeable, transit-accessible White Flint is a stronger, more tight-knit White Flint. And that’s a good thing for everybody, no matter how you get around.

Complete streets should include room for strollers

We’ve written multiple times about how aspects of New Urbanism, such as walkable neighborhoods close to transit and smaller housing units without a huge lawn to maintain, appeals to many Millennials and Baby Boomers alike. It may be easier to understand how this lifestyle appeals to young adults without children and empty-nesters. But what about families with children? We’ve noted that more young families are seeking an urban lifestyle, and one of the questions I still hear a lot is “how are parents supposed to walk to the grocery store with their children?”

A fair point. Right now it’s difficult for anyone, with or without kids, to walk or bike along Rockville Pike safely – never mind while also carrying a bag of groceries. But complete streets can change that. By providing wider sidewalks with ample room for bicyclists and pedestrians, and appropriate buffers to safely allow these people to use the streets with cars, parents with small children and strollers can more easily use these streets.

One mother from Miami chronicled the dangers of walking along the street with her child in a stroller. While she’s not in White Flint, I’d imagine that a parent walking down Rockville Pike, or any of White Flint’s streets with fast cars and narrow sidewalks, may have the same worries.

stroller miami


What makes a good “complete streets” policy?

The National Complete Streets Coalition identifies 10 elements of an ideal complete streets policy model:

1. Vision and intent: The policy outlines a vision for how and why the community wants to complete its streets.

2. All users and modes: The policy specifies that “all users” includes pedestrians, bicyclists and transit passengers of all ages and abilities, as well as trucks, buses and automobiles.

3. All projects and phases: Both new and retrofit projects are subject to the policy, including design, planning, maintenance and operations, for the entire right-of-way.

4. Clear, accountable exceptions: Any exceptions are specified and must be approved by a high-level official.

5. Network: The policy encourages street connectivity and creates a comprehensive, integrated and connected network for all modes across the network.

6. Jurisdiction: All other agencies can clearly understand the policy and may be involved in the process.

7. Design: The policy recommends the latest and best design criteria and guidelines, while recognizing the need for flexibility in balancing user needs.

8. Context sensitivity: Community context is considered in planning and design solutions.

9. Performance measures: Performance standards with measurable outcomes are included.

10. Implementation next steps: Specific next steps for implementing the policy are described.

(as taken from the Best Complete Streets Policies of 2012)

In their recently released Best Complete Streets Policies of 2012, the Coalition illustrated that support for complete street policies, in jurisdictions both large and small, has increased since 2005.

Number of Complete Streets policies

The Coalition scored complete streets policies throughout the nation based on how many of the 10 elements listed above were included, and to what degree. While the state of Maryland, Montgomery County, and the city of Rockville were all noted as having adopted Complete Streets policies (with varying scores), no jurisdiction came close to the scores of the top 10 policies of 2012. Having these policies is certainly a step in the right direction, but we need to make sure that they as comprehensive as possible and implemented to the best of our ability.

(For the record, the top 10 complete streets policies of 2012 are in: Indianapolis, IN; Hermosa Beach, CA and Huntington Park, CA (tie for 2nd place); Ocean Shores, WA; Northfield, MN; Portland, ME; Oak Park, IL; Trenton, NJ; Clayton, MO;  and Rancho Cucamonga, CA).

What are “complete streets?”

A major part of improving White Flint includes improving its streets. The traffic is terrible, but it can be difficult to get around without using a car. We want our streets to be more inclusive of all modes of transit, including bus rapid transit (BRT), bicyclists, and pedestrians. Streets that thoughtfully include various modes of transit in a safe manner are often called “complete streets.”

Smart Growth America has an entire program dedicated toward this mission, the National Complete Streets Coalition. The Coalition explains that, “Complete Streets are streets for everyone. They are designed and operated to enable safe access for all users. Pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and public transportation users of all ages and abilities are able to safely move along and across a complete street. Complete Streets make it easy to cross the street, walk to shops, and bicycle to work. They allow buses to run on time and make it safe for people to walk to and from train stations.”

We’ll be writing more about complete streets as we near the June 10th Implementation Advisory Committee meeting that will address the 35% design for the western workaround. In the meantime, check out a fantastic slideshow from the National Complete Streets Coalition for a more visual introduction to complete streets.

A Take on Streetsense’s Bethesda Beer and Banter Event

Wednesday evening I attended the Streetsense’s “Beer and Banter” event. Many Millenials, Generation Xs and even a few Baby Boomers attended the event, which was great to see. The event was focused on Millenials who live, work, and/or play in the Bethesda Sector to give them a space to express their needs and wants for the developing region. Besides the amazing free food from local restaurants offered at the event, there were many opportunities to learn more about the expansion plan for Bethesda sector and to give input on what is missing in the region and what we want to see come to area.

As a millennial who grew up in Rockville, I have spent many years shopping and eating in the Bethesda area. I have witnessed the population and economic growth of the region. What I found interesting is that many millenials I spoke with at this event did not grow up in the region and have moved here for job opportunities. The area has many attractive qualities: close proximity to public transportation, shops, restaurants, and bars, which is why so many people from all over have moved there. Bethesda is working on expanding these attractions, which will help with their economic growth. Similarly in the White Flint sector, we hope that our redevelopments will attract all kinds of people and bring positive economic growth to this region.

There were many discussions around transportation and safety issues in the region. Bethesda is full of many high-trafficked roads that are only designed for one mode of transportation, cars. Many millenials hope that these roads can be redesigned to become complete streets, giving room for cyclists and pedestrians. This issue mirrors issues faced by the White Flint sector as well. The county is working hard to create more complete streets through the sector so pedestrians and cyclists feel comfortable and safe using different forms of transportation.

Another major topic many individuals were discussing was affordable housing options for millenials. Millenials do not necessarily have a large income to spend on housing, so providing options for affordable housing is a major selling point. Providing affordable housing is also something important the White Flint sector needs to consider. One of the easiest ways to attract more millenials and young professionals to the region is to provide lower to moderately priced housing units. In addition, affordable housing will ultimately lead to more spending on other items such as amenities because the individuals have larger expendable incomes if they paying less for their housing.

This was a smart event that White Flint might consider as a way to check in with the community as build-out moves forward.  What types of events would you like to see from us?  Comment below or email us at