More than three years in the making, Montgomery County’s goal of creating a world class bike trail system is becoming a reality.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Montgomery County Council adopted a bicycle master plan for a comprehensive, countywide network comprised of more than 1,000 miles of bike lanes. Spearheaded by the county planning department, the goal of the bikeway system is to ensure cyclists of all ages are comfortable and safe while riding to transit stations, employment opportunities and other public facilities, according to the approved plan.
The council’s unanimous approval of the bicycle master plan allows implementation to begin throughout the county.
“This plan raises the bar for bicycle infrastructure planning and design in North America,” Montgomery County Planning Board Chairman Casey Anderson said. “It positions Montgomery County to be among the leading bicycling communities in the country. … I fully expect that Montgomery County will have some of the best communities for bicycling in the entire region.”
The project will take about 50 years to fully implement, according to planning department staff, and many of the bikeways will be installed as a component of other road and private development projects.
Approximately 44 percent, or 488 miles, of the recommended bikeway network would be constructed beyond the 25-year lifespan of the approved bicycle master plan. More than 25 percent, or 261 miles, of the network currently exists, according to the 378-page plan. The remainder of the project is broken into four tiers encompassing 356 miles of bikeways and is scheduled to be completed within 25 years.
The plan includes the installation of secure, locked facilities to store bikes near Metro stations, and guidelines for short- and long-term parking at commercial and multifamily residential developments.
The bicycle master plan focuses on four goals: increasing bicycling rates in the county; creating a highly connected, convenient and low-stress bicycling network; providing equal access to low-stress bicycling for the entire community; and improving the safety of bicycling.
The plan is a key element in Montgomery County’s Vision Zero initiative, which aims to eliminate traffic-related serious injuries and fatalities by 2030.
This year, 13 pedestrians, one of which was a bicyclist, have died after being struck by vehicles in the county.
“This plan lays the foundation for safer bicycling through recommendations for new bikeways throughout the country,” Planning Director Gwen Wright said. “It is truly innovative in identifying ways of making bicycling a mainstream mode of transportation in a suburban jurisdiction and helping the county to achieve its Vision Zero goals.”
The bicycle master plan outlines different types of bikeways to be implemented in different areas, dependent upon the intensity of traffic in the area. On busy roads, bicyclists will have a dedicated space separate from traffic, while cyclists on residential streets will share the road with drivers. A “breezeway network” will be implemented between activity centers, allowing faster-moving bicyclists to travel without delays, while slower-moving users can travel at a comfortable pace.
On Tuesday, the council added language to the plan to clarify the county is not guaranteeing all bikeways in the plan will be built as specified and removed language that specified implementation years for each phase of the project. An updated version of the plan will be posted to the county planning department’s website by spring.