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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Rolling on at the "First Great MoCo Bicycle Summit"

The "First Great Montgomery County Bicycle Summit" was a tremendous success. But, it is just one more step towards a much larger vision for the County: the creation of a vibrant bicycle culture along with a next-gen and best-in-class bicycle infrastructure. Once implemented, this vision will not only help the fearless riders (or advanced cyclists), but it will also make cycling less scary and more accessible for your average rider. The event left me and other County officials with a renewed sense of urgency for accomplishing these twin goals. I want to thank Councilmembers Roger Berliner and Nancy Flooreen for their participation in the event and, along with many other council members, their strong support for cycling. There is strong support at the County Council to move forward on these challenges.

I was thrilled by the interest and enthusiasm the community brought to the event. Indeed, over 35 people joined us for the bike ride from Silver Spring to Chevy Chase. The weather cooperated and gave us a beautiful (and precipitation-free) morning. Check all of us out in the photo below.

MoCo Bike Summit Ride

Over double the number in the group bike ride joined us for the panel discussions. We heard insightful presentations from a variety of cycling advocates and transportation experts, including Shane Farthing from the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA), Dave Anspacher from Montgomery Park and Planning (M-NCPPC), and Pat Sheperd, Fred Lees, and Anne Root from Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT). Here we all are.

MoCo Bike Summit Group Photo

One theme consistently emerged from the discussion: we need to plan, design, and engineer bicycle facilities for the rider is who is "interested, but concerned." That is, according to research, most residents would be willing to use a bicycle more if they felt safe doing so. But they don't feel safe, and so they choose other forms of transportation.

Traffic calming, buffered bike lanes, and cycle-tracks all are steps in the right direction, but it's not simply about infrastructure itself. Here is where the education, planning, and infrastructure must all come together to meet the needs of this diverse and growing bike community. Public education campaigns and master plans that place a higher priority on cycling are just as important.

Among the many ideas that came forward at the summit is the need to update the Countywide Bikeways Functional Master Plan. The field has advanced considerably since the last update to this plan, and I agree that we need to take this on now. Updating the master plan will provide a great opportunity for the community to come together and make the kind of policy changes that we all know are needed.

We are already looking ahead to next year for our Second Great Montgomery County Bicycle Summit. We will have loads more data on Bikeshare and the experience of another year to inform the conversation. I am about the business of making Montgomery County a first class bicycling community, and I hope you will join me in this great endeavor.

See the presentations from this year's summit below

Shane Farthing (WABA)
Dave Anspacher (M-NCPPC)
Pat Shepherd and Fred Lees (MCDOT)
Anne Root and Paul DeMaio (MCDOT)

Below is the write up that WABA did on the event.



I wanted to send a quick note to let you know what WABA is doing in Montgomery County and tell you how you can join us in making the county better for biking.

This past Saturday, I had the chance to speak at the first Great MoCo Bike Summit. It was led and hosted by Councilmember Hans Riemer and attended by every member of the Council's Transportation & Environment Committee, key staff from the Montgomery County Department of Transportation and Montgomery County Planning Department, and nearly 100 local bicyclists. In my remarks, I noted that while the county has made big steps in the right direction with the installation of Capital Bikeshare, by providing education and signage, and by putting in low-budget bikeways, the real tests are soon to come.

Multiple speakers touched on the fact that when asked, 60 percent of people say they are interested in riding a bike. But a few of those people actually do ride a bike because they need a combination of better infrastructure, better education, and better enforcement; they're too concerned to give it a try. Montgomery County has over a million people, so that's about 540,000 people who are interested in biking, but don't ride because of some barrier.

WABA's challenge in Montgomery County is to overcome those barriers and get those 540,000 people to join us on bikes.

First, we need people to consider biking. WABA's outreach team has been in the county talking up the benefits of cycling, handing out flyers and lights, and answering questions. Second, we need people to feel safe biking. For this, we offer City Cycling courses, designed to cover the basics and a few critical tips to keep you safe riding the region's roads and trails. (For those who want the classroom version, we also offer Everyday Biking Seminars for groups of 15 or more.)

And finally, we need you to support our ongoing efforts to get the infrastructure that supports cycling—the Purple Line, the Metropolitan Branch Trail. A protected bike lane on Woodmont, among others. Our advocacy coordinator is working hard on those projects, and has recently formed an action group, led by WABA board member and longtime advocate Peter Gray, to keep the pressure on for specific improvements within the county.

How can you make all those things become reality?

  1. Invite a friend to take one of our classes. There's one on Saturday in Bethesda, in fact, and we need to fill it—both because we're providing valuable information, and because we need to show the county that its investments in bicycling education are worthwhile.
  2. Ask your employer to host an Everyday Cycling Seminar. The link to request a seminar is here.
  3. Sign up for Bike to Work Day and encourage your friends to do so. BTWD is one of the best sources of biking data for the region. Signing up is a show of support for biking and ensures that you're included in our ridership data.
WABA is a member-supported organization. The majority of people reading this email are already bicyclists and WABA members (and if you aren't, join today). But we need your help reaching the next group of people who are interested in considering biking, but haven't given it a try.

That's it! I'm not asking for your money or your vote. I am asking you to tell a friend about what WABA does and urge them to get involved, too. Thank you so much for your support, and I hope we'll see some of you on Saturday at our City Cycling class in Bethesda.

Sincerely,
Shane Farthing
Executive Director