More than 100 cyclists and sozens of pedestrians rode and walked along the Old Georgetown Road corridor on Sunday, to show support for the new bike lanes. Credit: Steve Bohnel

More than 100 bikers convened in a parking lot and posed for a video camera Sunday at Old Georgetown Road and West Cedar Lane before they embarked on a journey along Old Georgetown Road. Organizers said they wanted to show elected officials and opponents that people throughout the region had used newly installed bike lanes on the state road.

They broke into a chant of “Safe Streets!” three times before riding in the lanes north up to Nicholson Lane and then back.

The bikers, along with dozens of pedestrians who also walked from Tuckerman Lane to Edson Lane and back, participated in Sunday’s festivities amid debate on whether newly installed lanes should remain on Old Georgetown Road, where a teen bicyclist was fatally struck in June and another teen bicyclist had been killed three years prior. A Corridor Needs Analysis noted that 338 crashes were reported on Old Georgetown Road from McKinley Street to Tilden Lane between 2014 and 2018, with pedestrians and bicyclists having an outsize risk of severe injury. 

Last fall, after the State Highway Administration (SHA) studied the roadway, crews resurfaced much of Old Georgetown Road in North Bethesda, narrowed lanes, planted flexposts along the bike routes, and installed high-visibility crosswalk markings at many intersections.

Some residents have criticized the lanes for extending their commutes by upwards of 20 or 30 minutes and said the changes were poorly designed, leading to confusion among motorists. An online petition opposing the changes had garnered almost 6,600 signatures as of Sunday afternoon.

A rival petition has collected about 1,500 signatures. And on Sunday, scores of bicyclists and pedestrians pushed back on criticism by using the lanes, in an attempt to show how effective they are for people who aren’t traveling by car.


Morgan Brisse, a Bethesda resident, is one of those residents without a vehicle. She said she uses the bike lanes often to commute to and from work. It’s nice to have bike lanes on a major thoroughfare in the county, Brisse said.  She rode her bike with over 100 others on Sunday.

“I think biking is just as legitimate of a transportation option as driving,” Brisse said, touching on the policy question of whether roads are solely for cars or for others as well.

More than 100 bikers convened at Old Georgetown Road and West Cedar Avenue before riding north in the new bike lanes. Credit: Steve Bohnel

Jeffrey Kuntz lives between downtown Bethesda and north Bethesda. He said he uses the lanes almost every day, as he commutes to his work via bike near Walter Johnson High School. He biked during Sunday’s event.


Kuntz understands he’s only one person, but added that when he’s driven along the road, his commute hasn’t been lengthened too much, probably about five minutes.

Brett Young, a D.C. resident, was more frank in his assessment. After seeing reports that the new bike lanes have caused significant delays for motorists, he has ridden them multiple times on his bike, and observed the impact on drivers on the road.

He doesn’t believe the impact is significant.


“I support the politicians and people in Maryland who put these in. … I wanted to see what [residents] were complaining about,” Young said. “And they better bring some data if they want to complain.”

According to SHA studies, the estimated delay via car at various points in the corridor were around five minutes or less, depending on the direction and time of day. Critics of the bike lanes have disputed that, saying it’s adding 20 to 30 minutes or more to their commute,

Larry Soler, who lives in the Wyngate neighborhood of Bethesda, and Stephen Springer, who lives in Somerset, also were riding Sunday to show support.


Soler said the bike lanes are important not just because they make biking safer, but also because pedestrians and other users now have a buffer between the sidewalk and vehicle traffic, he said.

Ravi Hausner, who lives in Grosvenor, agreed. He said that even a 20- or 30-minute delay via driving—if it is even that long—is fine, given that it will make the road safer. He noted the deaths of Enzo Alvarenga in June and Jacob Cassell in 2019.

Alvarenga was a University of Maryland student who died after being hit by a van while riding his bike along a sidewalk on Old Georgetown Road, then fell into the roadway to avoid a branch last summer. Cassell was fatally struck on his bike on the roadway in 2019.


“I think there’s this misconception that the only people who use the bike lanes are hobbyists,” Hausner said. “But there are a lot of people who don’t have a car and use a bike as their main form of transportation.”

The long-term fate of the bike lanes is undetermined. Cyclists said Sunday that the changes should exist for much longer before SHA makes any decision. More people will start using the lanes once they get used to them, they argued.

Shantee Felix, a spokesperson for SHA, wrote in an email on Friday that a post-installation study of the improvements to Old Georgetown Road is underway, and officials hope it will be completed by the summer.


It will help inform whether the project needs to be changed in any way, she added.

“The study will examine travel times, speed, volume/capacity … safety, mobility (vehicular and multimodal), etc.,” along with how stressful it is for bicyclists and pedestrians in the corridor, Felix wrote in an email.