Montgomery County, Maryland, transportation planners want you to slow your roll, and they’re designing roadways to do just that.
On Monday, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich joined officials from the Department of Transportation and the Planning Board to cut the ribbon on the new “protected intersection” at Spring Street and Second Avenue in downtown Silver Spring.
Matt Johnson, a senior planner with the county’s transportation department, explained how the concrete islands that jut into the intersection, narrowing the turning radius of cars, help change driver behavior. Pointed to a passenger car approaching the intersection, he said, “They can turn perfectly fine without touching the concrete, and we want them to turn slowly. That’s the point.”
Johnson also pointed out how the road design that incorporates a bike lane puts cyclists within the field of vision of the driver. The idea is to cut the risk of a “right hook” when a right-turning driver does not see cyclists who may come up in the blind spot at an intersection.
Elrich said there are plans for more of these kinds of intersections. “This one here is pretty cool. I will bring my bike up here and try it.”
County council member Tom Hucker said the new design will likely get mixed reviews, from users who appreciate the new design to those who say it feels confusing. “We deal with a lot of people who think that the environment we live in now was sort of handed down on stone tablets,” Hucker said. But design changes like the one in Silver Spring can make a positive change. “So it is safe for everybody and every mode of transportation at all times,” he said.
Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson noted that in the past month alone, he attended three vigils for cyclists and pedestrians who had been killed on county roads. He said that his college-aged son sometimes rides home from his campus in D.C., “And I want him to get home safely.”
Anderson said that many people know someone they care about who may bike or travel on foot, “And I’m so glad to be here at this ribbon-cutting instead of a memorial ride or walk to put in a ghost bike or to memorialize somebody who’s died.”
Council member Hans Riemer said the design is not just about safety, it’s also part of making downtowns more economically competitive.
“Communities all across the country that are at the cutting edge, that are driving economic progress, are also making these kinds of changes,” and designing a community where users feel as comfortable walking or biking as they do driving is a win-win, he said.
The intersection also closes the loop of bike lanes started in 2016. The new segment allows users to get to the Silver Spring Transit Center at Colesville Road using protected lanes along Spring and Cedar streets.
The intersection is just the start, said Montgomery County planners, who point out the master plan includes 95 miles of separated lanes across the county.