Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Bikeways proposed for Four Corners

Montgomery Planning has published this interactive map of proposed and existing bikeways across the county.  This map appears to have been published within the last couple days, and it depicts bikeways that are proposed under the Countywide Bikeways Functional Master Plan, as well as those proposed under local plans.  Some of the bikeways proposed on this map are included in our 1996 Four Corners Master Plan, while others appear to have been added which were not in the 1996 plan.

Bikeways proposed in and around Four Corners.  Red dashed lines indicate proposed shared-roadway bicycle facilities, green dashed lines represent proposed shared-use paths along roadways.  The solid green line around Blair is a proposed on campus ring path.   Click here for full map.   




Most of the proposed bikeways around Four Corners are on-street bike facilities, called "signed shared roadways" in the plan.

These are a nice gesture, but these signed shared roadways lack the type of infrastructure that makes cycling pleasant.  Signs such as "Share the Road" and "Bikes May Use Full Lane" do little to protect cyclists from the things that make on-road cycling dangerous, such as aggressive drivers and the lack of dedicated cycling space (bike lanes).  If you're riding a bike in the right lane of Route 29, with a car following 5 feet behind you laying on the horn, the fact that the road is a "signed shared roadway" doesn't do much for you.  

However, shared use roadways on residential streets do not have this problem due to the lower speed limits.  Since riding a bike on residential streets is preferable to riding on a six lane highway, it makes sense to label certain streets as bike routes.  Under both plans, streets in all four neighborhoods are slated for increased bike signage and sharrows.  This type of infrastructure currently exists only on Forest Glen Road in South Four Corners.        

Bikeways proposed under the 1996 Four Corners Master Plan.  Compare this to the first map and note the similarities and differences.

While most of Four Corners is slated for simple shared use roadways in both plans, something interesting in the more recent plan caught my eye:  the proposed University Boulevard shared use path.  

Quick terminology recap:  a "shared use roadway" is a normal road with a few signs alerting drivers to be aware of cyclists.  A "shared use path" is a paved path intended for use by cyclists and pedestrians.  Forest Glen Road is a good example of a shared use roadway, while the Sligo Creek Trail is a good example of a shared use path.  The word "share"is overused in my opinion, but "sharing is caring" so I can see the appeal.  

Anyone who has walked along University Boulevard knows that the sidewalks are far from ideal.  The sidewalks in the immediate vicinity of the intersection are great because they were upgraded in the 90's to accommodate Blair High School.  As soon as one leaves the commercial district, the sidewalks narrow down and become crappy again.  That is why I am very pleased with the idea of a shared use path along University Boulevard.  

A shared use path along Annapolis Road (MD 450) in Lanham.  The guardrail protects users from distracted drivers and provides an important sense of safety.  Image from Google Streetview.

The shared use path depicted in the map runs along University Boulevard from Wheaton to Long Branch, a distance of 4.5 miles.  This would provide a great east-west connection for cyclists, and it would provide an alternative to the Sligo Creek Trail, which is winding and often crowded.  This path could also be great for pedestrians walking to and from the shops at the intersection.  University Boulevard is often the most direct route from nearby homes to local businesses, but its unpleasant sidewalks deter pedestrians.  A shared use path with separation from the road (in the from of a planting strip) would be a huge improvement over existing conditions.

Current sidewalks on University Boulevard.  Photo by the author.


I hope all of the bicycle improvements proposed in this plan get implemented.  There are many good ideas for Four Corners and elsewhere in the county that could make this a much more pleasant place to bike and walk.    

6 comments:

  1. Why have a shared use path on University Blvd. and note Colesville Road? More direct access to DTSS, a (relatively) more bike-friendly area than Wheaton or Long Branch, makes more sense.

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  2. I was thinking that same thing, Chris.

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  3. "The sidewalks in the immediate vicinity of the intersection are great because they were upgraded in the 90's as a concession to the community from the SHA for widening the roads."

    This was not a concession to the community. They upgraded the sidewalks to the then current standards as they do with all reconstruction. The road was reconstructed because of the new high school installation which also required pedestrian facilities.

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  4. As for why they omitted a shared path on Colesville Road, I was going to discuss that, but I didn't want to be too negative or overly critical. My guess is that they left it out because there are many residential streets that parallel Colesville through Indian Sprig and North Hills of Sligo, which cyclists can use if they are not comfortable riding on Colesville (which is basically every cyclist). In contrast, Universioty Boulevard has very few parallel streets, meaning riders don't have the same number of alternatives that they do on the Colesville road corridor. Also, the topography along Colesville is more challenging for building a wide side path, with steep hills directly adjacent to the road in many places, which University doesn't have.

    Re: Anonymous I had Sutherland and Timberwood in mind when I said "concession to the community" since both roads received widened sidewalks (as part of a larger rebuild), despite the fact that they are outside of the SHA's right-of-way and not too close to the school (by the Corner Pub and Pepco substation). It shows that the SHA and the county went "above and beyond" with the project when they did not have to. Sutherland and Timberwood did not need to be improved (they are low speed streets that already had sidewalks). but the community wanted them to be improved, so the county and the SHA agreed to do it in conjunction with the larger rebuild of the intersection. So yes, the sidewalks were rebuilt to the then current standards, but the fact that they were rebuilt along Sutherland and Timberwood was also a bit of a concession.

    Thanks for reading.

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  5. No, Timberwood, Sutherland and several other streets in Northwood/Four Corners (including my own) got sidewalks because of the new high school and the county policies re: walkers and busses. While we had been in the process of petitioning to get sidewalks and going through the process (it was contentious within the community), the school location made the point moot and the sidewalks were installed (I was civic association president at the time).

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    1. Good to know, thanks for the correction! I'll update the post.

      Can you send me an email? I'm interested in knowing more about the process that brought Blair to Four Corners, since it was so controversial. I wrote a blog post for another blog last week and Jorge Ribas commented on it. He implied that there was a major disagreement between Indian Spring and the rest of Four Corners surrounding Blair. I'm sure you would have interesting things to say about that time since you were president of a civic association back then. My email is seanemerson1 at gmail dot com.

      Thanks, Mike!

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