The introduction of a pair of measures to help Montgomery County jump into the Capital Bikeshare program spurred discussion at Tuesday’s council meeting of the need to ensure bicycle safety, especially in the congested downcounty areas of Bethesda, Friendships Heights and Medical Center.
The county is hoping to build 29 bikeshare stations in Bethesda, Chevy Chase and Silver Spring by next spring, with the hope of capitalizing on the popularity of the program in Washington, D.C., Arlington, Va., and Alexandria, Va.
“We’re looking at a cultural shift here in Montgomery County,” said Council President Roger Berliner (D-Potomac-Bethesda). “It will take some time, but we will get the infrastructure in place.”
Berliner spoke of a recent trip to Portland, Ore., where up to six percent of commuters bike to work, the highest rate in the country. Berliner and Councilwoman Valerie Ervin (D-Silver Spring) co-sponsored a bill that would make it possible for the county to use a special developer tax to fund the bikeshare docking stations.
In May, the county estimated the total cost of the downcounty bikeshare system would cost $2.15 million. The county received a $1 million state grant and a $250,000 bond. Berliner said the Chevy Chase Land Company, a private developer, has pledged $120,000 to the project.
Councilmembers Phil Andrews, Marc Elrich, George Leventhal, Nancy Navarro and Hans Riemer added their support for the bill and a zoning text amendment that would make it easier to get site approval to build a station.
Councilwoman Nancy Floreen (D-At large) said the county must take an active approach to paving roads and painting markings to ensure bicyclists’ safety before the bikeshare system is launched.
“By doing this, we are encouraging more and more bicyclists out there,” Floreen said, “and I query whether they are really safe.”
Both bills will go to a public hearing on Oct. 23. It’s unclear whether the special tax measure would close the apparent funding gap.