D.C. Police Shoot At Man Along Chevy Chase Border, Man Runs Into Maryland — D.C. Police are looking for a man involved in a confrontation with a police officer around 12:30 a.m. on Wednesday in the 5500 block of Western Avenue. A spokesperson said the officer noticed a bulge under the clothing of one of the suspects and started to pat him down. As he did this, the suspect pushed the officer and turned around as if he was going to reach for a weapon. The officer said he fired an undisclosed number of shots at the man, who was apparently not struck, before he and another man ran into Chevy Chase. [Washington Post]
Capital Bikeshare Survey Says Bikeshare Users Are Healthier, Make Trips They Wouldn’t Have Otherwise Made — A batch of surveys released by Capital Bikeshare yesterday show the bikesharing program coming to downcounty Montgomery by this fall leads to better health and perhaps better business — four in 10 of survey respondents said they made trips in the last month on the bike they wouldn’t have made otherwise. [Mobility Lab]
Ex-Swim Coach Curl To Be Sentenced Today — Former swim coach Rick Curl, who was charged with child abuse for a relationship he had with a teenage Montgomery County swimmer in the 80′s, will be sentenced today. Curl pleaded guilty in February. [AP via Washington Post]
Flickr photo by firstname.lastname@example.org
Affordable Housing Incentive Creates Tension On County Council — Sponsors of a bill that would give a tax break to developers who include 25 percent affordable housing units in their projects weren’t happy when Councilmember Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda-Potomac) moved to table the bill during Tuesday’s session. The existing requirement for developers is 12.5 percent affordable housing. [The Gazette]
Georgetown Square Giant Pharmacy Goes 24-Hours — Giant Food announced this week that its pharmacy at the Georgetown Square Giant (10400 Old Georgetown Rd.) is now open 24 hours a day.
Bikeshare Contractor May Have Underpaid Workers — The U.S. Labor Department is looking into whether Portland-based Capital Bikeshare vendor Alta Bicycle Share underpaid some of its workers during a more than two-year span. [Washington Post]
Flickr photo by Bill in DC
The official announcement from the county yesterday matches up with what DOT’s Sande Brecher told a citizens advisory board last month. Brecher said Portland, Ore.-based vendor Alta Bicycle Share must provide the Bikeshare equipment within a little more than 100 days after signing the contract.
Brecher said it will take four or five months to have the equipment come in, finalize the station locations and put the bikes and equipment down.
She predicted a best-case scenario opening for most downcounty Bikeshare stations by September 21, the official last day of summer.
Specific locations for the estimated 11 Bethesda stations remain undetermined, but will likely end up near the Friendship Heights, Bethesda, Medical Center and Grosvenor-Strathmore Metro stations.
“Bikesharing can be a cost-effective, healthy way to provide better transportation connections that reduce the need to drive for short trips, provide efficient links to transit and reduce traffic congestion. Since bikesharing is low-cost and available 24/7, it may be particularly helpful for low-income residents, many of whom hold multiple jobs and try to participate in job training programs,” County Executive Isiah Leggett said in the press release. “We expect the bikeshare program to significantly expand opportunities and improve the quality of life for all our residents.”
The Capital Bikeshare program in D.C., Arlington and Alexandria has been tremendously popular, recently surpassing 2 million rides. Montgomery County officials are hoping for much of the same, though some are concerned about safety.
Last year, Councilmember Nancy Floreen (D-At large) asked the State Highway Administration to consider bike lanes and bike markings in repaving and road improvement projects.
Older residents have expressed concern about the effects a new group of potentially inexperienced cyclists will have on pedestrian safety.
Flickr photo by James D. Schwartz
That was the best-case scenario offered Monday by Montgomery County Department of Transportation manager Sande Brecher at a meeting of the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board.
Brecher said MCDOT still hasn’t finalized specific locations for 11 Bethesda and 18 other downcounty (Silver Spring, Chevy Chase, Friendship Heights) stations.
Brecher said the county signed the contract with Portland, Ore.-based vendor Alta Bicycle Share in the first week of April after a hold-up with the state, which funded part of the project through a $1 million grant and $250,000 bond. Because the state used federal dollars, the signing of the contract was put on hold until the state was sure it had complied with federal requirements.
That held up the county’s end of the process, said Brecher, who last year had hoped for a spring or summer opening.
Once Alta signs the contract, it must provide the Bikeshare equipment within a little more than 100 days. Brecher said it will take four or five months to have the equipment come in, finalize the station locations and put the bikes and equipment down.
The stations are expected to be near Metro stations and other widely used public spaces, much like the successful systems in D.C., Arlington and Alexandria. One private developer has suggested Woodmont Triangle’s Veterans Park as a station site.
“We hope to have sites on the ground. Will we have all 30 or so? Probably not,” Brecher said. “We hope to have a critical mass of stations in place so we can proceed with opening the system.”
Flickr photo by James D. Schwartz
The developer of a luxury Westin Hotel planned for the Bethesda Court Hotel and next-door retail building got approval from the Montgomery County Planning Board on Thursday and will donate $57,000 that will likely go toward a nearby Capital Bikeshare station or a collection of stations.
The Board unanimously approved a new preliminary plan and site plan proposal from D.C.-based developer The Bernstein Companies, which came back with a revised plan that includes an additional 19 hotel rooms and new facades on the south side of the south building to accomodate the Bethesda Place office building property owner next door.
The owner of Bethesda Place took the Bernstein Companies to court, but the parties were able to resolve their differences with regard to the 12-floor hotel proposed for right next to the existing office building that contains Comcast SportsNet, among other tenants.
The 11-floor north building (7740 Wisconsin Ave.) of the Bernstein development will go on the site of the existing Bethesda Court Hotel. The two buildings will be separated by a 36-foot-wide pedestrian walk-thru area that will include public art, a waterfall-like feature and a modern piece of architecture.
The space, however, will not be able to accomodate a Capital Bikeshare station, so the developer asked that its $57,000 payment toward a general Traffic Mitigation Fund be appropriated for a nearby Bikeshare station. The estimated cost for one Bikeshare facility is $25,000 for installation, according to a Planning Department staff member. The rest of the $57,000 donation would pay for 12 years of operating costs.
The staff member said a Bikeshare station at nearby Veterans Park could make sense, but the Montgomery County Department of Transportation will determine how the money is used.
An author and professor on bikeway planning is coming to the Montgomery County Planning Department to talk bike safety, an important topic to many ahead of the county’s rollout of the Capital Bikeshare program later this year.
Ralph Buehler, a professor of urban affairs and planning at Virginia Tech and co-editor of the book “City Cycling,” will share his thoughts on how to make biking attractive for more than just those daring enough to battle car traffic. He’s speaking at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 9 the Planning Department’s Silver Spring headquarters (8787 Georgia Ave.).
Montgomery County hopes to install and open 29 Bikeshare stations this year in the downcounty area. Eleven of those would be in Bethesda at too-be-determined locations near Metro stations and activity centers.
The Bikeshare network and the anticipated increase of less experienced riders has left county officials concerned about existing bike paths and safety measures. It also has some Bethesda residents worried about bikers using crowded sidewalks.
Buehler’s presentation will delve into safety, bikeways, bike parking, integrating cycling with public transportation and promoting cycling for everyone. It’s part of the Planning Department’s Speaker Series. For more information, visit the website.
Ken Hartman, director of the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center, said an update on Bikeshare’s progress is scheduled for the Monday, April 15 meeting of the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board at the Regional Services Center (4805 Edgemoor Lane.)
Capital Bikeshare is coming to Bethesda (probably this summer) and its pending introduction has caused some friction between bike advocates and residents who say it will be unsafe for both drivers and pedestrians on sidewalks.
Even with stations planned in Chevy Chase and Bethesda, a vocal contingent of Chevy Chase residents are against a planned Wisconsin Avenue sidewalk that would theoretically connect the commercial downtown areas of Friendship Heights and Bethesda.
With those issues in mind and the success the Capital Bikeshare has seen in D.C. and Arlington, what’s your take on Bikeshare?
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Plenty of people complain about traffic congestion in Bethesda.
That’s the constant challenge facing Kristen Blackmon and her staff at Bethesda Transportation Solutions, a division of the nonprofit, county-funded Bethesda Urban Partnership charged with getting cars off downtown Bethesda roads by encouraging biking, telework, the use of mass transit and other ways to avoid rush hours.
“No one wants to get on a bus and have no idea where they’re going to end up. We’ve had people tell us they’re afraid of putting their bike on the bus. They don’t want to look dumb or hold up the bus driver,” Blackmon said. “There’s this sort of barrier that we have to break, calming the fears.”
BTS works directly with Bethesda employers, serving as a middleman of sorts for negotiating the state’s Commuter Tax Credit process, which provides benefits to companies that offer transit subsidies. BTS helps businesses set up teleworking systems and even will act as a “commuter buddy,” a one-on-one consultation for commuters new to the bus system or bike routes.
Still, motivating employees to embrace alternative options is difficult, even as America’s car-based culture declines.
“One of the biggest things employers tell me is, ‘What can you tell me that I can tell my employees to get out of their car that I’m not already doing,’” said BTS outreach representative Derrick Harrigan, who acts as a face-to-face liaison to Bethesda businesses. “They could be providing a subsidy already and just not getting a lot of people using it.”
Montgomery County’s implementation of a downcounty Bikeshare network shouldn’t be affected by equipment delays in other cities despite the use of the same vendor, said Department of Transportation manager Sande Brecher.
The Washington Post reported last week that expansion of the popular Capital Bikeshare system in D.C. slated for this fall was pushed back because Portland, Ore.-based vendor Alta Bicycle Share couldn’t provide enough equipment. Other cities using Alta, including New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Nashville, have had to delay their Bikeshare networks because of a technical glitch.
Brecher said she’s received no indication that the county’s spring and summer rollout of 29 downcounty Bikeshare stations (11 of which will be in Bethesda) will be affected by the needs of other cities. Alta officials did not return requests for comment.
“We’re aware of it. We don’t anticipate that’s going to cause a lot of issues,” Brecher said. “I think the reason it did for D.C. was they were ready to roll. We’re not there yet.”
A $2.4 million budget appropriation will be introduced today (Tuesday) at County Council that if approved would allow the DOT to place the order for the downcounty Bikeshare equipment. The public hearing for the appropriation is scheduled for Jan. 15 at 1:30 p.m.
A grant from the state of Maryland accounts for $1 million of the appropriation. The required county match of $252,000 was raised through private donors including developer Chevy Chase Land Company. The remaining roughly $1.1 million will be provided through membership fees and the Mass Transit Facilities Fund.
The County Council has shown strong support for the Bikeshare program, unanimously approving a pair of measures that will make it easier to develop Bikeshare stations and divert part of the developer’s transportation tax into the project.
Brecher said the DOT has a list of potential sites (mostly around Metro stations) for the Bikeshare stations but that a final list won’t be ready until funding is approved.
“We’ve been doing a little bit of that. We’re talking with some of the folks,” Brecher said. “The formal push on that can’t happen until we have the funding for the Bikeshare consultants and also our engineering folks to go out and look at sites.”
Flickr photo by kaszeta
Two measures to incentivize Capital Bikeshare development got unanimous approval from the Montgomery County Council today, before the County plans to install 11 stations next spring in Bethesda.
One of the bills will allow the county to use funds from a special development tax to build and maintain the system, which officials hope can duplicate the success of Bikeshare in Arlington and D.C. The second measure allows for building permits for a Bikeshare station without an approved site plan, something developers told the county would be an obstacle.
“These two pieces of legislation are a response to feedback we heard from the private sector as to what our County could do to make partnering with us a more attractive option to developers as we work to expand Capital Bikeshare to Montgomery County,” said Council President Berliner (D-Bethesda-Potomac). “I am very optimistic that we are making progress on this endeavor.”
Flickr photo by James D. Schwartz
Montgomery County councilmembers on Thursday raised concerns about cycling safety, a common theme in the last few months as the county prepares to implement a Capital Bikeshare program in the spring.
The remarks came at a joint Public Safety and Transportation Committee hearing in which Department of Transportation officials presented new numbers that showed even as pedestrian-car collisions have decreased significantly during the last six years, bicycle-car collisions were up.
“Our goal as a Council and I hope as a county is to increase the number of people using bicycles,” said Council President Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda-Potomac). “So going back to more accidents on bicycles is something that is going to be more important, not less important.”
Bethesda is set for 11 Bikeshare stations when 29 are installed in the downcounty area next spring. Already some are concerned with the prospects of more inexperienced riders on the roads and sidewalks.
“I’ve been raising some questions about how prepared we are and how many additional bike lanes and safe places for bicyclists we are creating,” Councilwoman Nancy Floreen (D-at large) of Garrett Park said. “The state’s repaving of roads seems to largely be including bike lanes. I’m not sure about the county’s process in that regard.”
Floreen recently asked the State Highway Administration to consider bike lanes and bike markings in repaving and road improvement projects.
Councilwoman Valerie Ervin (D-Silver Spring) brought up safety issues between bikers and pedestrians on sidewalks, something not measured in the DOT report.
According to an August report by CountyStat, there were eight reported bicycle collisions in downtown Bethesda in 2011 involving bicycles and cars, most at crosswalks.
The League of American Bicyclists on Friday named Bethesda as one of 28 new “Bicycle Friendly Communities,” a distinction for areas “that actively support bicycling” by providing infrastructure for safe biking and the encouragement to do it for transportation and recreation.
The announcement came a few days after a number of Bethesda residents raised safety concerns about the Capital Bikeshare program. Some said they were worried more bikes would mean more bikers on sidewalks, which could interfere with pedestrians.
A local bike advocate said there are a number of Bethesda streets, including the main thoroughfares of Wisconsin Avenue, Woodmont Avenue and Arlington Road, that could use the addition of dedicated bike lanes or marker adjustments to keep bikers safe.
Bethesda earned bronze status on the Bicycle Friendly Community list. The area has already seen a significant increase in the number of employees who bike to work regularly, according to the county’s Annual Commuter Survey. The county cited its location between the Capital Crescent Trail and Bethesda Trolley Trail as part of the reason for that.
“Bethesda is a terrific example of the kind of bicycle-friendly environment that makes places more livable and more attractive for new residents and businesses,” Council President and Transportation Committee Chair Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda-Potomac) said in a prepared release. “As we prepare for the expansion of Capital Bikeshare to Montgomery County, we need to continue to build on this success to ensure we have more bike-friendly places in the county.”
An August report by CountyStat showed eight reported bicycle collisions in 2011 in downtown Bethesda, most involving crossing vehicles at crosswalks.
The Bethesda Urban Partnership (BUP) and Bethesda Transportation Solutions division of BUP nominated Bethesda for the designation. It is now one of 242 such communities in the country. The City of Rockville also earned bronze status as a new city on the list.
“It is wonderful to see how far Bethesda has come in bike friendliness, and some of the biggest opportunities for bike-friendliness still lie ahead. As advocates for a bike-friendly region, we are proud to see the Bethesda joining the list of Bicycle-Friendly Communities,” said Washington Area Bicyclist Association Executive Director Shane Farthing in the county’s prepared release. “We look forward to seeing that bronze ranking go even higher under leadership that understands the value of bicycling as a transportation solution.”
Councilmember Nancy Floreen (D-At large) of Garrett Park, recently asked state transportation officials to include bike lane and marking improvements in all current county road projects ahead of the introduction of Bikeshare.
“This designation is a terrific affirmation of our commitment not only to providing a variety of transportation options but also to ensuring a safe environment for bicyclists,” Floreen said. “This recognition is just the beginning, and we will continue to strive for excellence when it comes to bicycle connectivity and safety.”
Just a few days after some Bethesda residents bemoaned safety problems that could come with Capital Bikeshare next year, a local cyclist organization is bringing a safety education course to the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad.
The Washington Area Bicyclist Association will hold one of its Confident City Cycling classes at the Rescue Squad (5020 Battery Lane) at 11 a.m. on Saturday.
The three-hour session is designed for riders of all experience levels and will teach basic techniques of safe cycling on city streets. WABA is asking those interested in attending to register on its website. Participants must bring their own bikes, helmets and water and will be required to sign liability waivers.
Background study is strongly recommended before the class, with an online traffic skills tutorial. The class will eventually be split into two groups, a beginner or “Trails” group and an intermediate or “Traffic” group.
The fee is $10 for WABA non-members and $5 for WABA members.
With 29 downcounty Capital Bikeshare stations (and 11 in Bethesda) planned for spring 2013, county officials including County Executive Isiah Leggett and County Councilmembers Nancy Floreen (D-At large) and Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda-Potomac) say they’re aware of the safety issues novice bike riders might face.
Floreen recently asked the State Highway Administration to consider bike lanes and lane markings conducive to cyclists in all its upcoming Montgomery County projects.
In their discussion about Bikeshare on Monday, members of the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board and other residents focused on the danger bikers could pose to pedestrians on sidewalks or in crosswalks. Jack Cochrane, a Bethesda resident and bike activist, explained how many drivers don’t know that cyclists are allowed to take up a lane if there are no dedicated bike lanes available.
He suggested the county look at re-marking a number of Bethesda roads, including turning four-lane Arlington Road into three lanes of car traffic with a center turn lane and dedicated bike lane.
In an August report, CountyStat showed eight reported bicycle collisions in downtown Bethesda in 2011.
Flickr photo by bethesdatransit.org
His remarks were admittedly blunt, but the resident was hardly alone in his apparent skepticism of the Capital Bikeshare program during a citizens advisory board meeting on Monday.
“I’m a senior citizen. Bicycles on the sidewalk are absurd. It’s incompatible,” said the man, who spoke after a County Department of Transportation official presented plans for implementing the system in downtown Bethesda. “Bicycles are stealth things. They creep up on you without making a sound.”
Others questioned whether Montgomery County would be held liable for accidents, why many Bikeshare users in Washington, D.C., and Arlington, Va., don’t use helmets, if there would be enough room on sidewalks for pedestrians and if drunk bar patrons might steal the bikes from docking stations after a night on the town.
Despite huge popularity in Washington and Arlington and a recent expansion into Alexandria, Va., the Monday night meeting of the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board showed Bikeshare has a long way to go before winning over some of Bethesda’s most civic-minded residents.
Montgomery County Councilwoman Nancy Floreen (D-At large) of Garrett Park last week urged the Maryland Department of Transportation to create bike lanes and markings before the county implements its Bikeshare program next year.
In a letter to acting Secretary of Transportation Darrell Mobley, Floreen asked for buffered bike lanes, non-buffered bike lanes, shared use markings and conflict zone markings where possible in ongoing DOT resurfacing projects.
“Bikesharing has the potential to significantly improve connectivity within Montgomery County and provide an entirely new transportation option for many,” Floreen wrote. “As we encourage this mode of transportation, we must also make sure we have the infrastructure to provide a safe environment for all bicyclists and especially for novice riders who will travel at relatively low speeds.”
Floreen, a member of the county’s Transportation Commitee, said the improvements are endorsed by the Washington Area Bicyclist Association.
In August, County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) made a similar suggestion for increasing bike safety before Bikeshare begins.
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.
Floreen specifically asked for bike lanes in downtown Silver Spring and asked DOT to consider lanes and markings in ongoing or planned resurfacing projects on Connecticut Avenue, Wisconsin Avenue and Rockville Pike.
Bicycle improvements are included “where appropriate” in the Wisconsin Avenue and Cedar Lane project.