Archives October 2014

Glow in the Dark Bike Lanes, Cool!

The Netherlands is testing glow-in-the-dark lanes along one of their highways. The green paint is charged by daylight, allowing it to glow at night. The lanes are ”clearer than existing cat’s eye reflective spheres.”

Currently, the green lines are used to mark the street lanes, reducing the need to use street lamps to light the road. Netherlands hopes to use the lines to mark cycle lanes soon. And the UK wants to test this unique approach to safety for bicyclists next. The glow-in-the-dark lines could help bicyclists and drivers travel at night in a safe way, which is great strategy.

What do you think about these bike lane demarcations? Wouldn’t it look cool in White Flint?

 

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BBC News

Bicycling Benefits All People

As we watch the final stages of construction of the cycle track along Woodglen Drive, it is important to note why biking facilities are so important for the White Flint sector.

Biking infrastructures allow for cycling to have positive impacts on cyclists and non-cyclists alike. Urbanful recently discussed a report completed by British Cycling that focused on all the benefits cycling has on all types of people, even non-cyclists.

First of all, cycling can have positive effects on one’s health.  Cycling is just one great way to get the 30 minutes of recommended cardio exercise everyday, substantially increasing health.  Furthermore with cycling, individuals can save money they would otherwise spend on healthcare if they were in poor health. Exercise can prevent health issues that one could have in the future.

In addition, with people riding bikes, less vehicles are traveling on the roads, making less car traffic and congestion. Also, with more bicycles on the road, less carbon dioxide emissions and air pollution are released by vehicles.

Biking facilities also increase the mobility of people of all socio-economic classes, which cars and public transportation can somes prevent.

Biking can help increase retail sales, when there are protected bike lanes that encourage more individuals to bike. When dedicated bike lanes are located next to retail stores, it allows individuals opportunity to frequent more stores, without having to park their car away from the stores. Kids have a sense of independence, that getting a driver’s license used to fulfill.

Finally, safe and supportive biking facilities allow for less vehicle deaths, something we hope to find in the White Flint sector.

 

Thanks for Walking White Flint

Last Saturday morning was a gorgeous one for exploring White Flint by foot.  Thanks to the forty, or so, Friends who joined our Community Walking Tour to better understand pedestrian and bicyclist safety, and how smart infrastructure plays a big role in getting people out of their cars.  

Particular thanks goes to former Governor Parris Glendening, now a leader with Smart Growth America, White Flint champion Councilmember Roger Berliner and Ramona Bell-Pearson from County Executive Leggett’s office. We all pitched in for a robust conversation as we walked around the block – a single block which creates about a mile-long walk.

We were also joined by Dan Reed, of JustUpThePike.com, who has graciously shared the photos he took during our walk.  See all of his photos on his Flickr page by clicking here.

One pedestrian safety hazard that exists in two spots on Old Georgetown Road are “slip lanes.” They’re the uncontrolled, at-speed right hand turns that give drivers little notice of pedestrians in their way.  At both the intersection with Rockville Pike and with Executive Boulevard (pictured) pedestrians cross at their own risk because no signal light controls that lane of traffic.  Although there’s a crosswalk, there is little other notice for drivers (who need not slow to make the turn) that pedestrians might be in their way.

At the new intersection of Grand Park Avenue and Old Georgetown Road, we crowded around the pole in the middle of the sidewalk and to talk about how the shapes and radii of corners can impact pedestrians.  The wider and more curved a corner is, the less caution a driver will take when turning.  This means they could be less aware of pedestrians.

There are several hardy souls in this photograph! First, the pedestrians walking along Rockville Pike have nothing separating them from traffic speeding by at 40 miles an hour.  The same road, when it reaches downtown Bethesda, will have a speed limit of 25mph. Even though they’re probably safe up on the sidewalk, it’s the perception of safety and the unpleasantness of the walk that keeps people from doing it. Cars came past me fast enough that my sweater blew around. Also – hooray for the bicyclist on Rockville Pike!

Even in this photograph, one can sense how a little space between the pedestrians and the traffic can create a more pleasant pedestrian experience. Here, we’re walking south on the Pike and approaching the metro tunnel entrance at Marinelli.

Our last stop allowed for the most pleasant of the pedestrian experiences – a walk down Marinelli Drive buffered by both grass and a new bike lane. I think all of the participants could really feel the difference that those small additions made in walking down the street.

A last, but important, thanks to Pike Central Farmers Market for allowing us to gather on their site! Mitch Berliner and Debra Moser have really built a community staple in their first few years in White Flint and we’re looking forward to many more to come. In the meantime, the Market will be open every Saturday until the week before Thanksgiving so get there soon!

11th Street Bridge Park

Last week, I shared photos from my recent trip to New York City and highlighted some of the infrastructure elements they’ve implemented to make pedestrians and bicyclists more safe.  I also shared photos of our stroll along the High Line, formerly an elevated train track that has been reclaimed as a public space.  Examples of this creative thinking can be found popping up all over the world – but we’ve got an exciting one coming to our region.

DC is preparing to retrofit the 11th Street Bridge into a park akin to the High Line.  A winner was recently selected after a design competition and renderings have been released.  See them by clicking here.  We’re still several (four?) years away from the park opening but this is just another exciting example of rethinking the spaces around us.

A prime example of this in White Flint is Wall Park – presently, a surface parking lot that will one day be transformed into an exciting green space.  This plan is also several years out, but we hope that Councilmember Berliner’s recent request of the Parks Department to integrate some interim solutions to better activate the space gains traction.  We certainly join him in that effort!

Update on the Urban Road Code Bill 33-13

This morning, the Montgomery County Council’s Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy & Environment Committee is meeting to discuss the amended Bill 33-13: Streets and Roads- Urban Road Standards and Pedestrian Safety Improvements. The committee meeting will take place at 9:30 am and will be televised on County Cable Montgomery (CCM), as well as available for viewing on the county council’s website.

Councilmember Roger Berliner and Councilmember Hans Riemer first introduced the bill to the County Council in late 2013. The first public hearing on the bill took place in January 2014. Many community organizations, individuals, residents, and civic associations sent in testimonies supporting the need for updated urban road standards and providing suggestions for improvements on the bill. Since the bill was introduced to the County Council, a multi-agency workgroup was formed to discuss, refine, and improve it. Revisions to the bill were put forth by the workgroup, which will be what the committee discusses this morning.

The bill is designed to provide standards that will make the roads in our urban areas become complete streets, which are defined as streets accessible to all users – driver, pedestrians and bicyclists alike. The bill focuses on our streets in the Metro Station Policy Areas and Road Code Urban Areas designated by Council resolutions.  White Flint will be one of these areas so it’s important to keep our eyes on the policy.

Some of the changes to the bill include the maximum target speed, narrower lane width, and narrower curb radii, strengthened language of pedestrian and bicycling facilities, and the requirement that MCDOT creates a complete streets design guideline.  Pertinent to our discussion about the design of Old Georgetown Road, this bill will only address county roads.  Old Georgetown Road, and Rockville Pike for that matter, are both state-controlled roads that will not be subject to these amendments.  But, the hope and presumption is that the state will be swayed by our  municipality’s emphasis placed on these design elements.

Stay tuned for more information about the next steps for the amended bill. In the meantime, click here to read the new bill and click here to see our blog posts from last year on the subject.

Councilmember Berliner Asks for Improvement to Wall Park Now

On Wednesday, Councilmember Roger Berliner transmitted the following letter to the Parks and Planning Department seeking low-cost, interim ways to improve Wall Park now.  I know it’s quite small – just click on it to enlarge:

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Also – stay tuned for Monday when the Urban Rode Code Bill, first introduced late last year by Councilmembers Berliner and Riemer, finally makes its way to a committee worksession.  We’ll have all the details for you later today or Monday morning.

New Stop Sign on Nebel and Marinelli

Early this morning, I was greeted with a surprise on Nebel Street — a stop sign at Marinelli Drive!  This intersection has come up several times at the Downtown Advisory Committee and the Implementation Advisory Committee but it had seemed like creating a three-way stop here would require much more study.  Click here for notes from a meeting in March that addressed this topic and why a stop sign here is important to the community.  Thanks to the county for moving quickly on this big safety improvement!20141023_053721
Bike infrastructure is still in the works for Nebel Street.  The county is assessing the route for a cycle track, similar to what’s being installed this very minute on Woodglen Drive.  Stay tuned for updates!

Lessons from New York City

Last week, my kids had a day off school so we decided to take an impromptu long weekend in New York City.  Now, the funny thing about being so deep in the weeds on White Flint over the last few years is that this work has started to color how I see the world around me.  Although we traversed all over the city, the only time we got into a car was to give our kids the “NYC Taxi Cab experience” and the little fitness tracker I wear went off the charts with my physical activity.  Even though we were tourists and walking more than normal, I was still quadrupling my regular days where I drive to an office and sit before driving home.

Of course, New York City is as urban as urban gets.  It’s definitely not the level we’re trying to reach with White Flint, so I don’t want to cause confusion or panic — I’m not suggesting we go off the deep end and build Manhattan in Montgomery County.  But, we must admit that New York City has figured out some innovative ways to make walking, bicycling and transit attractive options so that cars are needed less.  And, we can learn from their experiences and consider some of the ideas as we work to improve conditions here.

Something I saw all over the City were bike lanes.  Below, notice how the bike lanes are protected from traffic by parked cars, and pedestrians on the sidewalk are even further buffered.  Also – notice that there’s a trash can on every corner.  We don’t yet see these around White Flint but this is the type of amenity that the Downtown Advisory Committee is working on.

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Another street with the same bicycling amenity.

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On this more-narrow street in the West Village, there was room created for a parking lane, a travel lane and a bike lane.  Not pictured, to the far right, is a pocket park with a well-used playground.IMG_1573

Even in our old Bronx neighborhood, we found sharrows on the pavement reminding drivers to share the lane with bicyclists.IMG_1576

And, yep, we even found this  street sign in Midtown:IMG_1553

It was found here, where bicyclists even have a dedicated crosswalk:

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Taking the infrastructure seriously enough to do it right is important because by offering commuters and other travelers safe passage, we will get them out of their cars more. 

We also noticed a well-thought pedestrian refuge, created for those who couldn’t safely make it all the way across a street with the “walk” sign:

IMG_1580_1And, excellent way-finding opportunities for visitors:

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We also spent time in a most impressive public space – The High Line park. Originally an elevated freight rail line that ran along the west side of Manhattan in the early 1900’s, the tracks have been sitting empty since 1980.  About fifteen years ago, a group of residents created “Friends of the High Line” to convert the eyesore into something worthy of their neighborhood.  So, starting in 2009, sections of The High Line have been opened to the public for their free pleasure.  On the Saturday morning we visited, the foliage-lined walkway was enjoyed by visitors, residents and joggers.  Every block or two, the space would expand to offer a unique and interesting space for enjoying the city above or below.

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The train tracks are still visible next to the walkway – water fountains along the path help irrigate the myriad plants within.

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In one space where the path widens for visitors to pause and soak in their surroundings, loungers are mounted onto the tracks and can be moved for customized groupings.
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Other little pockets allow bleacher-style viewing of the streets below.
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The view, of 10th Avenue, was particularly popular among visitors and tour groups.  And, when one turns around, the Statue of Liberty is visible in the distance.
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A gift shop where all of the proceeds benefit Friends of the High Line:
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And, Friends of the High Line had some awesome events planned.  The day of our visit held two Social Soup Experiments where meal was created from all-local ingredients. Guests sat at long communal tables to enjoy community with their food. Both were sold out.
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Stay tuned tomorrow to learn how DC is looking to implement a similar public space downtown (hint.

One last relevant bit I noticed was much harder to capture well with my camera.  Those were the pedestrian-only spaces that have been created by closing off blocks here and there to traffic.  Where a diagonally-directed street crosses through the regular grid, there are sometimes little triangles created.  These are tricky intersections for vehicles, so City officials have used them for another purpose – pedestrian plazas.  The one we observed was in Herald Square, right in front of Macy’s.  But, as the NYC DOT website shows, these public plazas span all of the boroughs and have not negatively impacted traffic.  Here’s what the website says:

Streets make up approximately 25% of the City’s land area and yet, outside of parks there are few places to sit, rest, socialize, and to enjoy public life. To improve the quality of life for New Yorkers, DOT creates more public open space by reclaiming underutilized street space and transforming it into pedestrian plazas.

In addition to the plazas listed below, there are 26 plazas that are in some phase of planning, design, or construction with three additional plazas expected each year. The most high profile pedestrian plazas are improving quality of life and safety for New Yorkers and tourists at Times Square, where the City is preparing to make permanent the public space enhancements that were installed as part of a six-month pilot during the summer of 2009.

What wonderful, holistic thinking and planning!  Thankfully, because great ideas are thriving all over the country and all over the world, we need not invent many new wheels here in White Flint.  Maybe some of the innovations implemented in New York would serve us well here, too.

Updates from the October Implementation Committee Meeting

Here are the updates from the White Flint Sector Plan Implementation Advisory Committee meeting from Tuesday, October 14th:

1)   Updates

  1. North Bethesda Market II and Gables Residential White Flint went to the development review committee about 2 weeks ago.
  2. As mentioned before, the Western Workaround has been broken up into 2 phases. Right now, Phase I of the Western Workaround is on hold.

2)   Discussion of Western Workaround

  1. Nkosi Yearwood mentioned that the County Council introduced an amendment on Tuesday, the 14th, for the Old Georgetown Road segment between Grand Park Avenue and Towne Road for the CIP. The discussion around the amendment will take place in January 2015.
  2. For the past month, many have expressed concerns that the design of the Western Workaround segment and that it is not consistent with what was discussed in the Sector Plan. David Frieshtat asked the committee to endorse the segment as written in the Sector Plan, as it is time for this part of the community to raise their voices. It is important to know that Old Georgetown Road is a state road so SHA will make the final decision on the plan for anything related to Old Georgetown Road.
  3. Bruce Johnston mentioned that MCDOT had a traffic study done of the WF sector. White Flint Partnership created another traffic study. The studies started with using very different land use assumptions, which is why the numbers that each study found varied some. The study done by the WF partnership makes use of every road in the WF Sector, while the MCDOT’s study did not. They have submitted both studies to SHA and now they are waiting on the comments from the SHA. Federal Realty did a local study of Old Georgetown Road.
  4. Bruce Johnston says the design is at 30% design, so the current design includes 2 eastbound lanes, 2 westbound lanes, and 2 turning lanes, one on each side. According to Bruce, if a pedestrian were to walk across Old Georgetown Road at the crosswalk within this segment, they would cross 6 lanes but if one were to walk in the middle of the road/block, they would cross 8 lanes. But down by the intersection of Old Georgetown Road and Grand Park Avenue, it will be 7 lanes. As the Hoya Street extension was added to the CIP FY2015-2020, it will be designed according to state standards.  Bike lanes will be included and the hope is to connect Montrose Parkway and will continue all the way to Towne Road, which will hopefully take traffic off Old Georgetown.
  5. The plan for the segment between Grand Park Avenue and Towne Road was always in the Sector Plan but the funding was not. It became funded during the last CIP budget designation, which became effective on July 1st.
  6. The design for the segment is not set in stone, so MCDOT is open to changes, especially with what was introduced by the county council last week. Ultimately the design is up to SHA, as they have the decision power. The SHA controls Old Georgetown Road but it is up to the county to fund any projects or changes to the road. The county is working with the state to agree on a mutually beneficial plan, which will be based on all the studies and reports completed on the area. Right now, the area is forward funded, which means money is being taken away from other projects that could be funded now. MCDOT hopes to have the design done by the end of this fiscal year. The construction will take place in different phases because traffic will still need to flow through the area so the construction cannot be done all at once.
  7. The county wants to push towards having some sort of bike facility whether that will be a bike lane, a shared-use path, or something else.
  8. Brian Downie focused on the need for a united front when we bring the design to the state. It will take the county (MCDOT, County Council), the Planning Board, the Implementation Committee, and community members coming together to show that the new design is important for the change we want to create in the White Flint sector. In addition, a committee member mentioned it is necessary for the county to bring a complete application/design to the state, which means that the county has completed all the necessary studies and reports and analyzed them sufficiently.
  9. Brian Downie also mentioned that creating the street grid or network is the most important part of the change for the White Flint sector, so all stakeholders in the changes need to remember this.
  10. David Frieshtat made a recommendation that we engage the Planning Board/Planning Chair to make sure what is implemented in the White Flint sector is what was put forth in the Sector Plan.

3)   Downtown Advisory Committee Update from Ken Hartman

  1. They hope to launch the website for the White Flint sector by Thanksgiving. It will include a directory of restaurants, employers, and businesses in the area as well as social networking connections with a newsfeed and Twitter updates. The leading domain right now is MetroWhiteFlint.org but the final decision on the domain has not been made yet. Alongside the branding discussion of the sector, they will make the necessary adjustments with the name when the final decision is made about the brand. They want to launch the website as soon as possible to start engaging the economic development of the region and promoting what already exists.
  2. In addition, they are working on the beautification plan for Rockville Pike. This plan includes landscaping for green spaces along the Pike as well as flower planting.
  3. Furthermore, they are working on the streetscape plan for the White Flint Sector. They want to develop a plan to incorporate different types of features that can be used by developers when they design the facades of their buildings. Each developer may want to use varying features so they want to make a comprehensive plan that will include many features.

4)   White Flint Implementation Coordinator report from Dee Metz

  1. The Woodglen Drive cycle track is coming along nicely and is in the middle of construction. The weather has postponed the pavement marking but this week the flex posts, green striping, and bike detecting devices will be put up. They hope to be done with the cycle track construction by the end of the month.
  2. The county is working on the site plan amendment for the parking garage for the North Bethesda Conference Center.
  3. Gables Residential White Flint is trying to move forward with their plan. The county is doing completing a study right now to see if it is possible to close part of Executive Boulevard and detouring the traffic elsewhere. The county and Gables continue to have productive meetings with SHA and VOB. They hope to get advanced funding for the plan with the possibility of early dedication of the land. The state is cooperating now and trying to work towards the creation of a plan, however it is a very complex issue.
  4. The county is working with the state on the fire station property with the senior housing co-located in the building. They hope to have the plan finalized by the end of the year. The county is working on the issues with the utilities along Chapman Avenue extension, where the fire station will be located (north of Old Georgetown Road). The hope is to have road construction started by Spring 2015.
  5. The Nebel Street bike facilities are still in the study phase.

5)   Update from Cindy Gibson, Chief of Staff for Councilmember Roger Berliner

  1. Councilmember Berliner is working on a possible interim use of Wall Park before the development occurs. They want to create a productive use for the park that will include low cost alternatives and will activate the park in the short term. The interim use will not affect the long-term use of the park. The county council seems open to the idea of an interim use.

Meet Avant Garde Ballroom Dance Center

As one of our newest business members, Avant Garde Ballroom Dance Center, I recently had a chance to speak with them about their business. Avant Garde Ballroom is the premier dance studio in the North Bethesda area serving the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. Avant Garde Ballroom has a state-of-the-art studio with knowledgeable dance teachers offering classes designed for all types of individuals.

 

Avant Garde Ballroom opened 2 years ago, becoming part of a tight-knit ballroom community. They provide high quality instruction, offering a variety of dance classes: “survival class,” which provides basic dance lessons for beginners, “Latin club class,” which teaches salsa, merengue, and “Wedding Ready,” which is specially designed for wedding couples and various classes for competitive dancers.  They take pride in the expertise of their dance professionals, moreover, the dance studio has brought in top-knotch dance coaches including Louis Van Amstel, world champion and also known as a Dancing with the Stars’ Professional. It is a great place for people to come unwind after a long day at work or a place to continue a date night after enjoying a nice dinner.

 

The owners of Avant Garde Ballroom have over 30 years of experience. Nick Short owned a dance studio in Bethesda for over 30 years and sold it in 2004. He wanted to continue offering first class dance instruction for all people in this community. Co-owner, Slava Sergiev, came into the business with many years of competitive dancing and instruction under his belt. And Michaela “Pinky” Puno who was asked by Nick Short and Slava Sergiev to join the studio could not resist joining this wonderful experience.  Having lived and worked in the area for years, they knew that this was a great location to have a dance studio. They often hear people say “we didn’t know you were here,” which is why they want to branch out and get to know the business community around them. Parking and access to Nick Short’s previous studio in downtown Bethesda could be troublesome and when he and his partners found their current location, they knew it would be the perfect place. The parking opportunities are great. As well, there is good access to the Metro. And as the new more restaurants, shops, and other amenities continue to pop up, more people will be attracted to the area. Avant Garde Ballroom hopes to become part of this thriving community.

They also offer a youth program that has proven successful. The program shows that dancing is more than just fun. Dancing has major health benefits, providing a great opportunity to get physical activity. In addition, it promotes good manners, positive self-esteem and confidence, and social skills as well as improves academic abilities.

Avant Garde Ballroom also offers rental opportunities for a variety of special events including: wedding receptions, rehearsal dinners, birthday celebrations (Sweet Sixteens, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, Quinceañeras, etc.), anniversary parties, graduation parties, fundraisers, and more.

FoWF members are invited to Avant Garde Ballroom’s Guest Party. Check out more information about the party below:

“Come one, Come all!

Avant Garde Ballroom’s Guest Party

Friday, October 24, 2014

7:30 pm -10:00 pm

Admission is free to all Friends of White Flint!

We want to meet you and share with you the wonderful world of ballroom dancing

There will be hors d’Oeuvres and refreshments, performances, and mini-dance classes throughout the evening.”

 

It’s the perfect opportunity to meet their talented staff and owners – see what they are all about!

For more information about Avant Garde Ballroom, you can call (301) 881-1436 or visit their website.