Montgomery County Planning Department staff and outside consultants who worked for a year on a guide to local bikeway planning found that installing cycle tracks could complete the county’s bicycle network by connecting places such as suburban homes to urban work centers.
A report released Wednesday by the department also focuses on an approach to bicycle planning that revolves around the skill level of cyclists and accommodates bikers who aren’t comfortable riding in traffic.
According to the report, planners found that the county’s “dual bikeways” planning approach that has been implemented since 2005, which calls for off-street bikeways and on-street bikeways on the same roadway to accommodate a wide range of biker experience levels, “does not adequately connect everyday origins and destinations, such as those between home, work, school or shops.”
In urban areas in particular, there’s not enough space for the dual bikeways approach, and so planners are recommending the construction of cycle tracks, which are roadway bike lanes physically separated from traffic and pedestrians, the report said.
Cycle tracks are becoming more common in the District; examples include the designated bike lanes on 15th and L streets. But Montgomery County has yet to build lanes designated solely for cyclists; a proposal to build one on Woodglen Drive in White Flint between Edson Lane and Nicholson Lane would be the county’s first.
Cycle tracks, according to the report, are particularly attractive to bicyclists that are “interested, but concerned” about riding bicycles in urban areas. This type of rider makes up about 56 percent of the people surveyed in a Portland State University biking study that examined protected bike lanes in the D.C., Portland, Austin, Chicago and San Francisco.
The report found that the bicycle network in Bethesda could be improved at intersections crossing Wisconsin Avenue and by creating a separated bike lane or cycle track on Woodmont Avenue. “If a cycle track facility on Woodmont Avenue and the suggested intersection interventions are built, the bicycle network for the ‘interested but concerned’ population would cover most of downtown Bethesda,” planners wrote.
However, one problem could be installing cycle tracks on state roads in the county. The report notes that while the State Highway Administration has required bike lanes to be included on all state highways undergoing new construction or widening projects, it has not adopted cycle tracks as an alternative to bike lanes.
Consultants and planners are scheduled to present their report to the Montgomery County Planning Board on Sept. 4. The consulting firms Kittelson & Associates, Inc. and Toole Design Group worked on the bikeway report with the county, which was funded by a $30,000 grant from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.