A small band of devoted bicyclists braved chilly winds Saturday to ride on the newly-installed bike lanes on Old Georgetown Road, which have been previously criticized by some Maryland drivers as troublesome, unnecessary and annoying.
Seven bicyclists took part in the ride that began in downtown Bethesda and landed them about five miles away at Pike & Rose, the retail development on Old Georgetown Road near Rockville Pike.
Among those welcoming the new lanes was a veteran rider who has long forsaken the car.
“It is so heartwarming to see the life I live to be opened up to other people … I don’t have an automobile, I haven’t owned one in 27 years,” said downtown Bethesda resident Richard Hoye, who led the ride on an e-bike, equipped with a side crate that carried his 12-year-old dog, Rudder.
Hoye said he ditched driving in the mid-90s, opting for an array of bicycles over the years, including a custom foldable, hybrids and, most recently, the e-bike.
“I love the bike lanes. I really feel that Bethesda is becoming more progressive by making greater mobility for people to walk, run, as well as bike, beyond just the C&O Canal trail,” said Heidi Hayes, a resident of Bethesda’s Kenwood Park neighborhood.
“Typically, we take our business down to D.C., when we can bike down there and go to a restaurant. Now, we’re going to take our business up to Pike & Rose … I’m really excited for those opportunities to see other areas of the county,” Hayes said.
The Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration installed nearly two miles of bike lanes on Old Georgetown Road in north Bethesda recently, following the deaths of two bicyclists.
“Riding up and down here is just so much safer now and all the studies have shown that,” said Jim Laurenson, a resident of Bethesda’s Wyngate neighborhood.
While drivers have complained that there are far fewer bikes than cars using the state road, the bicyclists expressed confidence that the bike lanes will grow in popularity.
“It takes a while for people to discover them, it’s also winter … I think a lot of people who work at NIH are really going to start to see this because these lanes funnel right into that area,” Laurenson said.