Protected bike lanes — a winning proposition

Woodglen bike lane
The advantages of protected bike lanes are many. Rather than bicyclists and drivers maneuvering and fighting for space, each has its own safe space for their preferred mode of travel, according to a recent study.
  • Across six cities, the study found a rise of ridership between 21% and 171% after the lanes were installed.
  • Ten percent of cyclists said they would have used another form of transportation before the lanes were built.
  • Some 43% of residents said the lanes improve the desirability of their neighborhood, compared to 14% who said it detracted from desirability.
  • Nineteen percent of cyclists and 20% of residents were more likely to visits stores with the new bike lanes installed.
  • More than half of residents said traffic had become more predictable as a result of the bike lanes.
The Pike District already has a protected bike lane on Woodglen Drive by North Bethesda Market. How many more people would ride their bikes rather than drive their cars if they had safe lanes in which to pedal? Imagine the reduced traffic, healthier lifestyles, and increased fun if protected bike lanes were the norm.

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White Flint Bikeways Update

As we mentioned last month, the Montgomery County Department of Transportation offered a great presentation to the White Flint Implementation Advisory Committee on the status of Bikeway infrastructure in White Flint.  We’ve expressed concern in the past about the dirth of this amenity in White Flint but it looks like MCDOT is heeding the call!

We’re very grateful that MCDOT has shared its robust PowerPoint presentation with us so we can, in turn, pass it along to you.   Take a minute to click and scroll through so you can visualize the difference between a bike lane and a cycle track:

bike facilitiesFrom

and much, much more – including the proposed plans for Woodglen Drive, Nebel Street and Marinelli Road.  Just click here to see the full presentation.  Thanks to MCDOT for sharing!

Bike Infrastructure & More at the Implementation Committee Meeting

Last week, the White Flint Implementation Advisory Committee held their monthly meeting and, after preliminary and general updates, we finally got more information on the latest plan for Woodglen Drive.  Here are our notes from the meeting:

  • Not much development activity since last month. Only item is that the Goddard School on Edson will be filing in the near future.
  • County White Flint Implementation Coordinator Dee Metz’s Update:
    • The County along with the White Flint Partnership filed for a TIGER grant to fund a study for BRT on 355. Expect to have a response by the end of September.
    • The County is working with the Stadium Authority to bid out the design work for the parking garage that will sit on the Conference Center property. Design work should start by the end of the year.
    • The County is continuing to coordinate with the Gables.
    • Dee did a bike tour of DC with WABA.  Said the bike tour was interesting.
    • The traffic study for White Flint is still in progress. In particular there was concern over Old Georgetown Road. FRIT and many residents would like to see Old Georgetown reduced to 2 lanes in each direction. The County is proposing 3 lanes in each direction based on input from MD SHA. The County has been revising its projections based on changes in the residential / commercial mix of projects in the pipeline. The County is trying to project out to 2042. Generally, SHA agrees with their traffic projections, but has challenged the County on plans if the projections are exceeded. SHA has thus asked for additional analysis. MC DOT and the County are working to better understand what SHA is asking for.   The County hopes to publish the traffic study by the end of the year.
  • Representatives of MCDOT were present and were asked to focus on  pedestrians and cyclists in addition to cars. Bruce Johnston of MCDOT explained that their designs are consistent with the Sector Plan and, in some facets, exceed the Plan, ie bike lanes on Marinelli and the introduction of cycle tracks.
    • Bruce noted that they are predicting 50/50 split in mode share by 2042, so they are not being conservative in their view towards an increase in non-auto trips. Dee reiterated that they do not control state roads. Evan Goldman noted that FRIT will push for 2 lanes in each direction on Old Georgetown, even if they have to go to the State / Governor. He noted it will take pressure from the community to make this happen.
    • Bruce noted that the additional phases of the western work-around are a ways off due to the slow acquisition of buildings like the VOB building.
  • The Manager of Pike & Rose spoke about tenants moving in to all floors of PerSei and that it’s been successful thus far. Looking forward to the entertainment and restaurants opening, beginning in September. Evan Goldman spoke about phase 2 of Pike & Rose and a commitment to biking facilities (bike racks) and Zip Car. Phase 2 residential units also offer fewer car spaces per unit .7 spaces per unit vs. 1 per unit in Phase 1. Evan discussed the need to fund a bikeshare station.
Update on Bike Infrastructure in White Flint
  • Bruce Johnston, Chief, Division of Transportation Engineering, and Patricia Shepherd, Bikeways Coordinator, were on hand to discuss improvements Marinelli Road, Woodglen Drive and Nebel Street.
  • Bruce quickly reviewed the bike lanes that were added to Marinelli Road when it was resurfaced. He noted that MC DOT is attempting to improve cycling infrastructure when the opportunities present themselves, and this was one of those opportunities. He noted that bike lanes on Marinelli Road were not part of the Sector Plan. This section is considered complete, though sharrows and bicycle signage should be added shortly on the east bound lane of Marinelli at the intersection with Rockville Pike.
  • Improvements to Woodglen between Nicholson Drive and Edson Lane were supposed to be completed almost a year ago. MC DOT is now presenting a new design based on community feedback, the desire to save some trees and the inability to move utilities. The new design presents the County’s first cycle track, a 2 way bike lane that will be separated from street parking and traffic by a 2 – 3 foot striped buffer with plastic posts. The cycle track will be on the west side of Woodglen Drive.
  • They are also working on the intersections at Edson Lane and Nicholson Drive, but did not present those designs. They intend to use green surface treatments at intersections in the bike lanes to increase awareness.
  • They also presented two designs for Woodglen Drive from Nicholson Drive to Marinelli Road. They worked with BF Saul / Brian Downie on the design. This section features a two way cycle track, but it is separated from on street parking and traffic by a 5 foot grass buffer. The 2 options presented only varied in whether the cycle track would be on the same grade as an adjacent shared use path. One design had the cycle track a few inches below the shared use path, the other had the cycled track at grade with the shared use path.
  • The improvements to Woodglen were well received by those in attendance and represent a huge improvement to the previous design. There will be a briefing on the Woodglen improvements at the Planning Board meeting on September 4th.
  • Nebel Street is currently being designed by DOT. There are two groups within DOT that are working on unique designs. MC DOT is trying to figure out whether a cycle track or bike lanes are better for Nebel. MC DOT is intent on designing solutions that are best for each type of road. MC DOT will share a design for public input once the designs have been finished and evaluated.
  • There will be a briefing on the Woodglen improvements at the Planning Board meeting on September 4th.
  • Sogand Seirafi from MC DOT was on hand to discuss a new pedestrian and bicycle facility improvement initiative that was proposed by Council Member Hans Riemer. The County Council has appropriated $375,000 for projects in five areas where the enhancement of bicycle and pedestrian traffic and safety is a priority. Those areas are: Glenmont, Grosvenor, Silver Spring CBD, Veirs Mill/Randolph, and Wheaton CBD.

White Flint Implementation Advisory Committee Meets Tonight

The White Flint Implementation Advisory Committee will hold its monthly meeting tonight at 7pm at the headquarters of Federal Realty Investment Trust, 1626 E. Jefferson Street in Rockville.  Aside from the usual updates on development projects, the bulk of the agenda will be devoted to an update on the “Proposed Woodglen Drive Bicycle Facility” – the bike lanes and shared use path planned to stretch from Edson Lane to Nicholson Drive along Woodglen.  This has been in the planning stages for months – and was supposed to have completed construction by now – but community concerns sent some aspects back to the drawing board.  Click here to read the detailed posts we’ve published before on the subject.  The county Department of Transportation will be presenting the committee with the latest.  The meeting is open to the public but, if you’re not able to make it, we’ll post our notes here shortly.

The White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee will not be meeting this month.

Downtown Advisory Committee has Busy Meeting

Tuesday’s White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee Meeting had been much-anticipated as the question of the naming/branding/borders of the future urban district has heated up.  So, it surprised some that the issue didn’t arise until the last few minutes of the gathering.  Below are the meeting highlights:

Western WorkaroundCounty Implementation Coordinator Dee Metz reported that construction of the western workaround will be broken into two phases.  The first will include the relocation of Executive Boulevard, the addition of the east/west Market Street and the adjustments to the area around the conference center.  Design is 90% done on this phase.  The second phase will address the intersections of Old Georgetown Road.  As will be the bottleneck in many upcoming projects, the challenge is with the utilities.  It will take the various utility companies a year to relocate their wires, lines and pipes after design is complete.

Chapman Avenue:  Ms. Metz also said that, to connect Chapman Avenue through to Randolph Road, utilities will begin their nine-month relocation process in the fall.  Road construction will begin next summer with a projected open date for the new stretch of road in summer of 2016.

Woodglen Drive and Nebel Street: We’ve been reporting for months on the county’s planned improvements to pedestrian and bicycling infrastructure on these roads.  Dee Metz said that we will hear more about the plan for Woodglen at the August meeting of the White Flint Implementation Committee.  As for Nebel, the county is looking into installing “cycle tracks” for this stretch.  These allow for bicycles to travel in both directions on one side of the road, separated from traffic.  They’ve not been built in Montgomery County before but are common around the country.

Downtown Advisory Committee Goals for this Year: Newly-minted committee chair Cliff Cohen listed his priorities for the Downtown Advisory Committee in this second year of its existence.  Among other things, he hopes to: (1) accelerate the maintenance and beautification of Rockville Pike (they’re working to navigate issues with the state), (2) consider hiring a streetscape consultant to move forward with the vision of Rockille Pike as a boulevard, (3) pursue one zip code for the sector, (4) establish a destination website and hire an intern to assist with its maintenance, (4) assess the types of public safety and human service needs that the future urban district will confront, and (5) move forward on establishing an urban district by, first, commissioning a report on the subject by the county’s Office of Legislative Oversight.

Presentations:  The committee heard two robust presentations that offered framework and background as the committee begins deeper work on the economic development and creation of the urban district.  First was Holly Sears Sullivan, president of Montgomery Business Development Corporation.   She focused on the impressive data capabilities of MBDC and on the opportunities the Downtown Advisory Committee might leverage from them.  Second, Jeff Burton of Bethesda Urban Partnership spoke about the functions and structures of BUP.  I’ll save most of my notes for a deeper blog post on the subject but, suffice it to say that BUP provides service and support to the 250 acres of downtown Bethesda with a budget of about $4M a year.  The existing White Flint Sector is 430 acres and won’t have access to the same funding streams (mainly parking fees) enjoyed by Bethesda.  This, I think, will be our next big hurdle.

Naming/Branding: This is why you read this blog post anyway, right?  Let’s start at the beginning.  The County created the White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee with the following purpose:

The Committee advises County departments on public services in the White Flint Sector Plan Area; and coordinates community activities that promote and advance business interests, and a sense of place, community, maintenance and walkability within the Area. The Committee will also advise and make recommendations to the County Executive and County Council on the feasibility and timing of the establishment of the Urban District in White Flint no later than September 2017.

So, because this committee’s mission is to work within the Sector Plan Area, chair Cohen does not plan to entertain discussion of border adjustments at this time.  Similarly, he acknowledged that outside groups are working on naming the district and invited them to present their ideas when ready.  But, the committee will proceed with its council-driven mission in the meantime.

On that note, we’re pleased to share that the community’s input will be more robustly sought at an upcoming public charette.  You might remember charettes from the sector planning process.  They’re public meetings designed to solve a problem.  This one will focus on the naming/branding of the district.  It will be facilitated by neutral professionals who will begin with a bit of education on how branding works.  From there, all potential names will be on the table.  The goal will be to emerge from this session with 5 – 10 names that everyone can live with.  Those will then be taken for deeper market research.  We hope to hold the charette in the next month and a half, and it should be scheduled within the next week.  Stay tuned to this blog and our weekly emails for more details – we hope to see you there!

Google Street View Now Shows Changes Over Time

Google Maps has made it available for users to view archived Street View images. Angie Schmitt, from Streetsblog, pointed out that this capability “means it’s easier than ever to show what streets looked like before and after a redesign.” This strategy can help us view the White Flint District in a different light. As the redevelopment continues, we will be able to see even more changes across the district. You can also add your own photos to make sure the view is up-to-date, which is a great feature as well.

Below you can find images of intersections in the White Flint district and how they used to look.

Mid Pike Plaza-2009

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Mid-Pike Plaza- 2012 – just wait until the next version with Pike & Rose towering in the background.

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Woodglen Drive– 2008

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Woodglen Drive- 2012

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Updates on Woodglen Drive and Washington Gas Tower

Back in April of last year, we shared that Washington Gas was planning a 145 foot tall communications tower that would sit in the center of their industrial property on Nebel Street, not far from where new residential high-rise buildings are planned.  At that time, there were several approvals that were necessary before construction commenced but we’ve not heard any updates since then.  Learn more on the background of the project by clicking here.

We checked in with Washington Gas last week when we realized that no apparent progress had been made on the project.  Washington Gas tells us that the county has asked them to look at alternative sites and determine whether another might suit their needs.  No word, yet, on what the result of that process will be but we’ll keep you posted.

Also, in August, we told you about improvements planned by the county’s Department of Transportation along Woodglen Drive.  Specifically, the plan was to install a shared-use path and bike lanes stretching from the trolley trail to the terminus of Woodglen.  These would be extended to metro (and, hopefully, beyond) as properties along the way redevelop.  Learn more about the plan’s details by clicking here.

At that time, construction of the full project was slated for Fall 2013 but nothing has happened as yet.  So, we checked in with MCDOT for an update and learned that the project was delayed while community concerns were considered.  The delay caused the project to miss the construction season before winter but, all things being equal, it’s better to hash these things out before ground is broken.

The shared-use path proposed for the west side of Woodglen, at 8-feet wide, would have required the removal of some trees and also created some pinch points at utility pole locations.  MCDOT and a technical design team are looking at this piece again and will keep the community apprised as they move forward.  The on-road bicycle facilities, including the bike lane and sharrows, will move forward as planned.  When we learn about any community meetings or a construction schedule, we’ll post them here!




White Flint Implementation Highlights

The White Flint Implementation Advisory Committee met on Monday night at Shriver Aquatic Center.  The highlight of the meeting was a parking study of Woodglen Drive and the surrounding area.  Spurred by the proposal to remove six metered parking spaces along the east side of Woodglen, in order to install a bike lane, the County’s DOT undertook a parking study of the entire area to ensure capacity would meet demand.  Three of the parking spaces are near Security Lane, in front of a synagogue, and the other three are right near the entrance of Whole Foods.

The study was an interesting look into the mechanics of seemingly small decisions.  Although the removal of six spaces seems inconsequential, the study looked for any ripple effect that might be caused.  To do this, the study defined a wide area of White Flint and inventoried all parking options, including on-street and garage.  They then spent three days in April, a Thursday/Friday/Saturday, monitoring the spaces for parking turnover and duration data.  While the coveted 80 on-street parking spaces in the vicinity of Woodglen Drive and Executive Boulevard experience high usage, the peak usage in the three days was at noon on Saturday with 93% occupancy.  At its Friday peak, at 7pm, the spaces were only 75% occupied.  So, capacity does exist at all times.

As anyone who shops at Whole Foods knows, those three spaces that are slated for removal are nearly always occupied, and there’s often a fourth car illegally parked right at the corner.  But, even though those spaces are frequently used, there is enough capacity in the immediately surrounding area to compensate.  Many meters on Executive Boulevard are 12-hour meters, which encourages all day parkers to leave their cars on the streets when garages or lots are better options.  The purpose of a meter should be to encourage turnover so that convenient parking is available when a patron is ready to pop into a business.  Cars left there all day block this purpose. The recommendation is that these meters be converted to 2-hour meters for this purpose.  A “repositioning of the system” should alleviate any stress caused by the removal of the three spaces and, overall, capacity in the general area looks good.

The Whole Foods garage offers two hours of free parking.  Its peak usage was at 7pm on Friday when it was 93% occupied.  But, otherwise, occupancy never exceeded 80%.  Paladar Latin Kitchen is offering free valet parking – but the valet stand is in the middle of the future bike lane at the moment.  So, we’ll be checking in with them for their plans on that.  Construction on the bike lane project begins next month – click here for more on that.