Last week ended with some good news on bicycling for Montgomery County, which next year hopes to install 11 Capital Bikeshare stations in Bethesda.
The League of American Bicyclists on Friday named Bethesda as one of 28 new "Bicycle Friendly Communities," a distinction for areas "that actively support bicycling" by providing infrastructure for safe biking and the encouragement to do it for transportation and recreation.
The announcement came a few days after a number of Bethesda residents raised safety concerns about the Capital Bikeshare program. Some said they were worried more bikes would mean more bikers on sidewalks, which could interfere with pedestrians.
A local bike advocate said there are a number of Bethesda streets, including the main thoroughfares of Wisconsin Avenue, Woodmont Avenue and Arlington Road, that could use the addition of dedicated bike lanes or marker adjustments to keep bikers safe.
Bethesda earned bronze status on the Bicycle Friendly Community list. The area has already seen a significant increase in the number of employees who bike to work regularly, according to the county's Annual Commuter Survey. The county cited its location between the Capital Crescent Trail and Bethesda Trolley Trail as part of the reason for that.
“Bethesda is a terrific example of the kind of bicycle-friendly environment that makes places more livable and more attractive for new residents and businesses," Council President and Transportation Committee Chair Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda-Potomac) said in a prepared release. "As we prepare for the expansion of Capital Bikeshare to Montgomery County, we need to continue to build on this success to ensure we have more bike-friendly places in the county.”
An August report by CountyStat showed eight reported bicycle collisions in 2011 in downtown Bethesda, most involving crossing vehicles at crosswalks.
The Bethesda Urban Partnership (BUP) and Bethesda Transportation Solutions division of BUP nominated Bethesda for the designation. It is now one of 242 such communities in the country. The City of Rockville also earned bronze status as a new city on the list.
“It is wonderful to see how far Bethesda has come in bike friendliness, and some of the biggest opportunities for bike-friendliness still lie ahead. As advocates for a bike-friendly region, we are proud to see the Bethesda joining the list of Bicycle-Friendly Communities,” said Washington Area Bicyclist Association Executive Director Shane Farthing in the county's prepared release. “We look forward to seeing that bronze ranking go even higher under leadership that understands the value of bicycling as a transportation solution.”
Councilmember Nancy Floreen (D-At large) of Garrett Park, recently asked state transportation officials to include bike lane and marking improvements in all current county road projects ahead of the introduction of Bikeshare.
“This designation is a terrific affirmation of our commitment not only to providing a variety of transportation options but also to ensuring a safe environment for bicyclists,” Floreen said. “This recognition is just the beginning, and we will continue to strive for excellence when it comes to bicycle connectivity and safety.”
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