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December 4, 2015
Improved Bikeways May Lure More Out of Cars

There are at least three mental approaches to bicycle commuting, according to transportation planners. There is the 1 percent who are considered “strong and fearless.” There are 30 percent who say “No way, no how.” And about 60 percent describe themselves as “interested, but concerned.”

It is the latter category that tantalizes both the NIH Bicycle Commuter Club and the Montgomery County planning department, whose representative David Anspacher addressed NIH’ers Nov. 18 in Bldg. 35.

“Our goal is to increase the number of commuters on bicycles,” said Dr. Vernon Anderson, chair of the NIHBCC.

Some coming improvements might accomplish club goals. A new Bikeshare dock is slated to be set up near the Gateway Center at the Medical Center Metro station, said Joe Cox, chief of transportation services in the Office of Research Services. And an underground pedestrian tunnel will be built, starting this winter, under Rockville Pike at the Metro station, to make crossing busy MD 355 much safer.

NIH bicycle commuters can look forward to installation of a Bikeshare dock near the Medical Center Metro station.
NIH bicycle commuters can look forward to installation of a Bikeshare dock near the Medical Center Metro station.

Additionally, dedicated bike lanes—separated from vehicle traffic—are planned for both the White Flint sector north of NIH and at the Shady Grove Life Sciences Center, where NCI has a major presence.

The model for these improvements is the $56 million Indianapolis Cultural Trail, Anspacher said.

The county is in the midst of revising a decade-old Bicycle Master Plan, he explained. While the first county bike plan was created in 1978, the current master plan—intended to last for 20 years—needs updating at the halfway point. “This will be our first set of consolidated recommendations since 2005,” Anspacher said.

The project began in July and is slated to last 2 years. Five public meetings were held during the fall to acquaint citizens with details.

The plan’s major goals are to recommend bikeways and to identify long-term bike parking locations, Anspacher said. “Our goal is to eventually have bike parking at all Metro stations.”

The plan will not design new bikeways, change speed limits or enforce roadway laws, he cautioned.

Meeting attendees—many of whom seemed to be hardy 1 percenters—made numerous comments about NIH-specific issues, including the abrupt removal, without warning, of safe bicycle access to the west side of campus due to an expansion of Suburban Hospital on Old Georgetown Rd.

Anspacher concluded his presentation with assurances that Montgomery County leadership has never been more enthusiastic about promoting bikeways and is determined that the county will eventually be a national leader in the field.

To keep abreast of the county’s Bicycle Master Plan, follow it on Twitter: @MCBikePlan or register for email updates at—Rich McManus

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