New bike lanes on Old Georgetown Rd. draw criticism from area drivers

Bike lanes are popping up on roads throughout the D.C. region, but one of the latest installations in Maryland has sparked hundreds of complaints from local drivers.

Multiple social media sites have been peppered with critical posts, primarily focused on newly installed bicycle lanes on Old Georgetown Road on Maryland Route 187 in Montgomery County.

The project, which was announced in October, follows the deaths of two teenage bicyclists in separate crashes over the past three years. One of three lanes in each direction has been converted to buffered bicycle lanes with green pavement markings, lined with plastic flex poles.

The Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration said the lanes are intended to significantly improve safety for bicyclists and drivers.

“I understand that bicyclists love bicycling, it’s great exercise … I would suggest that they find a safer place to ride than Old Georgetown Road … whoever planned this didn’t even take the time to come out and look at it and if they had they wouldn’t have done it,” said Allan Ginsburg, a resident of Rockville.

Ginsburg said his travel times on the state road are now two to three times longer than they were before motorized traffic was limited to two lanes in each direction in North Bethesda between south of Interstate 495 and Nicholson Lane.

A 2020 project adding bike lanes on a stretch of Old Georgetown Road south of Ryland Drive were more quickly adapted and met with little criticism compared to the project in North Bethesda that’s been part of a recent repaving project.

“They’ve created something that’s already started to create a significant amount of confusion and it’s very dangerous,” Bethesda resident Steve Miller said.

Among the complaints from drivers are increased travel times, difficult turns at major intersections including Tuckerman Lane and some have raised concern about the possibility of slower response times for first responders.

“If you’re relying on the rescue squad to be there and it takes 5 or 6 more minutes, that’s critical,” said Ginsburg.

Some residents also question whether the State Highway Administration knew before installing bike lanes on Old Georgetown Road that there is already a 4-mile bike trail nearby.

“The State Highway Administration hardly seemed to know of the Bethesda Trolley Trail. It’s a bicycle, walking path that’s been around for God knows how long, that basically parallels Old Georgetown Road,” said Miller.

State Del. Marc Korman, whose district is in Montgomery County, said that the State Highway Administration’s projected travel times on Old Georgetown Road following the newly installed bike lanes do not match reality, while travel times better matched state projections in the 2020 bike lane installations on the southern portion of the state road.

In response, the State Highway Administration said the project in North Bethesda has been an undertaking following valuable input from community members.

Although there are one to two minutes of additional travel time for drivers, SHA is balancing efforts to reduce road deaths with the travel times for drivers. The SHA said it also expects there’ll be an adjustment period for drivers as they become familiar with new travel patterns.

“If these bike lanes, which we could talk about their permanence or lack of permanence, aren’t performing the way State Highway anticipated with their projections, they need to be reconsidered,” said Korman. “But we can’t lose sight of what the goal is which is to make the roadway safer for everybody.”

The project is not yet complete, according to the state delegate. More signage must installed and the SHA has committed to conducting a post-installation reassessment of the project.

“I’ve spoken to the two fathers of the two boys that were killed on Old Georgetown Road and what happened there must be taken into account also along with the needs of people trying to get to where they need to go on any given day,” Korman said.

Dick Uliano

Whether anchoring the news inside the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center or reporting from the scene in Maryland, Virginia or the District, Dick Uliano is always looking for the stories that really impact people's lives.

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