Maryland lawmakers seek solutions to improve safety on Old Georgetown Road

A teenage cyclist was killed in a collision Wednesday while riding along Old Georgetown Road in Bethesda, Maryland. It was the second cyclist death on that road, also known as Route 187, in three years. Now, two state lawmakers say more has to be done to ensure cyclists and pedestrians are safe.

Maryland State Del. Marc Korman said he and Montgomery County Council member Andrew Friedson will be talking about safety issues with officials from the Maryland State Highway Administration in a meeting that was already scheduled before 18-year-old Enzo Marcel Alvarenga was killed on Wednesday.

Both spoke with WTOP about their concerns.

“We have a combination of outdated, dangerous designs and extremely high rates of speed,” Friedson said. “And, when you combine those two factors, there are deadly consequences, and we’re unfortunately facing yet another tragedy related to our dangerous-by-design roads.”

He said that on a “walk along” with state highway officials, they observed, in some areas, signposts, utility poles and even fire hydrants were placed in the middle of the sidewalk.

“An absurdity,” Friedson said. “You would never have that in the middle of a lane of traffic.”

The lawmakers mentioned the 2019 crash that killed 17-year-old Jake Cassell, who was killed along Old Georgetown Road near Beech Avenue. Following that incident, “a partial solution” was to add separate painted bike lanes to help bicyclists.

“Those bike lanes themselves are not enough,” Korman said, pointing out there’s no physical separation “other than space between the road traffic and the bicyclists.”

Korman suggested that flex posts be added to offer a level of protection for cyclists. He said the posts “wouldn’t necessarily stop a speeding car, but would make a car that’s veering into the lane realize that it shouldn’t be there or would prevent cars from purposely moving into the lane to take a turn early.”

In January, the Maryland State Highway Administration published a “needs analysis” for increasing safety for pedestrians and cyclists along Old Georgetown Road.

“The needs analysis that the State Highway Administration put together covers a much broader area of Old Georgetown Road, and some of it is looking at the separated lanes, as well as some other things that could be done, like prohibiting certain turns and painting crosswalks,” Korman said.

The report also referred to a “bicycle level of traffic stress,” which is a measurement of comfort/danger level for cyclists along a stretch of roadway. It states that the bicycle level of traffic stress for Old Georgetown Road is at a 4 out of 5, a “high stress” level.

The report included possible solutions as well, stating “long-term projects are typically high-cost projects that can take many years to plan, coordinate, and successfully implement,” but that “the MD 187 corridor includes multiple opportunities for near-term improvements.”

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Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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