Biking in Rockville Under Attack

Bike Route SignAlthough Rockville increasingly gains recognition as a livable community with the ability to bike and walk around the City, some people are fighting the Bikeway Master Plan. If you support being able to bike more safely around Rockville, you must make your opinion heard. The map of the plan is here clearly displaying which streets would be made safer for biking around Rockville.

Unfortunately, the Bikeway Master Plan has also been languishing with the Planning Commission. Recently the Traffic and Transportation Commission (TTC, of which I am a Commissioner) sent a memo to the Planning Commission asking them to move forward expeditiously on the draft Bikeway Master Plan. The memo emphasized that any concerns regarding the engineering implementation will be addressed as specific projects are considered for implementation and therefore there is no reason to delay the Plan approval process.

The West End Citizens Association (WECA) has sent out an email filled with inaccuracies:

Bike lanes are proposed in your neighborhood on the following streets:
* Martins Lane
* Mannakee Street
* N. Washington Street
* Dawson Avenue (extended)
Maryland Avenue ????
While no detailed engineering analysis has been completed to determine how a bike lane would be placed on these streets, they were identified in the draft Bikeway Master Plan as useful connections to important destinations and existing bicycle infrastructure. W. Montgomery Avenue is also included in the Bikeway Master Plan as an area to continue to study for future bicycle improvements.” (The bolded text is mine as is the questions about Maryland Ave.) The fact that the City wants to choose streets for bike paths without understanding the impact on the neighborhood is unreasonable and irresponsible. Bike paths could mean the elimination of curbside trees, grassy areas between the street and the sidewalk, parking, or even reduction of front yards. It has been my experience that once approved in the Master Plan, citizens will have little ability to prevent these detrimental impacts on the neighborhood, because the City will say that we agreed to the Master Plan. This is what happened in front of the historic houses on Fleet Street. The sidewalk was expanded for bicycles and the trees near the curb were destroyed. I have formed a committee to deal with the Bikeways Master Plan. Because the impact on the neighborhood could be adverse and potentially degrade property values, we should consider testifying with a WECA position at the next public hearing before the Planning Commission on October 14th.

First off, bike lanes (separate on street space for bicycles marked on pavement with paint) are being confused with shared use paths (off street facilities). In the Master Plan for each of the streets listed, none are shared use paths. The facilities proposed for these streets are all  within the street lanes. There is no plan to widen any sidewalks or remove trees for these streets in the West End.

The Bikeways Master Plan can only increase property value since livable, bikable, and walkable communities are sought after and high on prospective purchasers must-have lists when buying a house. In fact, read this article from entitled “From D.C. to Portland, OR, Buyers Are Shopping for Homes by Bicycle”.

On many occasions, those riding their bikes as transportation in Rockville have expressed the need, not for more shared paths involving sidewalks, but rather for increasing inter-connectivity throughout city with designated on-street bike lanes. If the opportunity arises to implement, i.e. they decide to repave a road, then it would be a great time to paint the lines on the street. This is primarily reason for the Bikeway Master Plan.

Neighborhoods are informed in advance and can respond to proposals. When a project is ready to consider for implementation, staff will conduct a thorough engineering analysis and bring all ideas to the table and meet with community groups to get their feedback. These ideas include road widening, lane narrowing, parking consolidation, lane removal, or changing the project from a bike lane to sharrows to take up less road space.The whole idea of the Master Plan is to make sure we don’t lose sight of opportunities to implement better bike connectivity one street at a time and those living on any street involved will have ample opportunity to voice concerns and have the plan changed.

So, if you care about biking in Rockville, please take the time to let the Planning Commission know:

There are four ways you can submit public comment and testimony for the Bikeway Master Plan:

1) By writing a letter addressed to the City of Rockville Planning Commission, c/o Kevin Belanger, 111 Maryland Avenue, Rockville, MD 20850

2) By email to Please include your name, address, and affiliation (if applicable). Comments received without a valid name and address cannot be included in the public record.

3) In person, at the Planning Commission Public Hearing to be held on Wednesday, October 14, 2015 in the Mayor and Council Chambers, City Hall, 111 Maryland Avenue, Rockville, MD, 20850. Those wishing to speak may sign up by calling 240-314-8200 by 4:00 p.m. on the day of the Hearing. Priority will be given to speakers who sign up in advance. Those speaking as individuals will be allotted three minutes, and those speaking on behalf of organizations will be allotted five minutes.

4) By filling out the form at this link.

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