We attended the Great MoCo Bike Summit on Saturday. About 70 people attend the event, with about half that decided to join the community bike ride from Silver Spring along the Capital Crescent trail to the Jane E. Lawton Recreational Center in Bethesda. The event began with an introduction from Councilmember Hans Riemer. Riemer discussed that the essential parts of boosting biking culture will be to bring changes to the urban areas throughout the county, to major commuter routes, and to create recreational areas that are conducive to biking.
Shane Farthing, from Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA), discussed the types of people that policymakers and enthusiastic bikers should try to reach out to in the community. WABA found that 11,700 Montgomery County residents are biking supporters, people who have expressed interest in some of WABA’s programming. There are four types of individuals related to biking: no way, no how; interested but concerned; enthusiastic and willing; and fearless and strong. To boost biking in the county, we need to reach the 60% of the population that fall in the interested but concerned category. These people may have not considered biking, are not safe biking, do not feel safe biking, or do not feel comfortable biking. The first few steps in changing resident’s behaviors is to provide them with information and to get them to question their current routines that may involve vehicle transportation. Then safety concerns need to be address, including perceived safety. Essentially, to boost bike culture means we need to be able to change our lifestyle, our routines.
Dave Anspacher, from Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), discussed the more policy side of boosting biking culture in the county. The county received a grant from the Council of Governments to complete a Network Connectivity Study that studies the level of traffic stress experienced in certain areas. The county is able to see areas where connecting islands of safe bike routes or walking routes need to be connected in the future. The pilot study was a part of the Bethesda Downtown Plan. The next step the county needs to take is to update the County Bikeway Plan, which was last updated in 2005.
Pat Shepherd, the Bikeways Coordinator for MCDOT, discussed that the county is focusing on implementing buffered bike lanes and cycle tracks currently. These are what residents have asked for. Fred Lees, Traffic Engineer, also discussed the resurfacing of streets that is taking place creating bike lanes (such as the Marinelli Road proposed bike lanes).
Anne Root, coordinator of the Capital Bikeshare program at MCDOT, really focused on the fact that the Bikeshare program is another public transportation system. It helps increase public health, decrease vehicle occupancy, and boost economic development. As we have discussed in past posts, biking can help bring profit to businesses because bikers are more likely to make more than one stop along strip of stores than a driver who will want to stay in close proximity to their parked car. Bikeshare sent a survey to their 2013 annual members, and 40% of the respondents said they made at least one trip they would have never made because of the bike, which are called “induced” trip, inducing people to spend money. The Bikeshare program has reduced 4.4 million driving miles across the Washington area, cutting back the vehicle traffic that has overcome this area.
Near the end of the summit, a resident from White Flint, discussed the need to bring more biking infrastructure to the White Flint sector. Right now, Nebel Street is the only proposed area that will have bike lanes. Jack Cochrane from MoBike agreed with the statement and added that we should think about adding some new facilities in the White Flint area that are not necessarily part of the plan.
This is where the Urban Road Code bill that Councilmembers Hans Riemer and Roger Berliner are working on comes in. Updating the codes will allow for more biking infrastructures to take place. The council needs to hear from residents to understand how important these improvements will be for them.