Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Public Comment for the MD 28, Norbeck Road, and MD 198, Spencerville Road/Sandy Spring Road project AW068_11 (was MO886_11)

Please submit a public comment about MD-198 by July 19th!

Here's my message -- thanks Sebastian for producing a template that made it easier to put these items together.  

To: jbeck@sha.state.md.us
Cc: eric.luedtke@house.state.md.us, Tom.Hucker@montgomerycountymd.gov, craig.zucker@senate.state.md.us

Dear Mr Beck,

As a regular user of MD 198, I am pleased to see progress at making this road safer for bicyclists, pedestrians, and drivers. That being said, there is room for improvement.

I have been a long time resident of Burtonsville and have been a strong supporter of rebuilding this community into a destination via my participation in the design of the Burtonsville Crossroads Neighborhood Plan and continuing work through the Maryland Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (MBPAC) and Montgomery County Bicyclists Advisory Group (MCBAG).   I envision and walkable and bicycle friendly business district with bicycle connections between all surrounding communities and parks.   To make this happen, I urge the State Highway Administration to make the following revisions to the MD 28/198 Corridor Improvement Study.

For all All of MD198/MD28
  • I support bike-friendly facilities, in particular, the off- road shared-use path on one side of MD 198 in areas with few driveways or curb cuts.  Areas that currently have a high density of access points should be reconfigured to reduce curb cuts/access.   The path and roadway should be separated by a green space buffer wide enough for tree planting to provide shade. 
  • The shared-use path should be wide enough for two directions of bicycles and pedestrian traffic and designed to be as straight as possible and for a reasonable bicycle cruising speed of up to 15-20 miles per hour. 
  • Crosswalks should be announced with markings and signage to warn drivers about crossing bicyclists and additional markings should be made where driveways cross the trail, possibly with raised crosswalks to slow drivers and raise awareness to trail users. 
  • High-speed, right- turn slip lanes that turn across the trail should be reconfigured to slow down turning vehicles and improve visibility of cyclists and pedestrians.
Critical recommendations for SHA Project Management Division, Segment D (Burtonsville):
  • Comply with the Burtonsville Crossroads Neighborhood Plan by providing a landscaped median with breaks to establish a grid of local streets, enhance safety, and improve access to businesses.  This would look more like the Alt-3 Access Management Profile.  
  • Lanes should be narrowed from 11 ft to 10 feet to discourage speeding and bring a more residential/commercial quality to the business district.
  • In addition to lane with reductions, speed limit through Burtonsville Business District should be set to a maximum of 25 mph.
  • Overhead utilities should be cleaned up and buried.
  • Widen grass buffers between sidewalks and road to 6 ft to allow streetscaping.
  • Widen bike lanes to 5 ft and add 2 ft buffer from travel lanes to improve safety.
  • Add traffic circles at Old US-29 and MD-198 and at Old Columbia Pike (diagonal intersection) and MD-198.  This will facilitate those who need to make U-Turns since left turns will be essentially eliminated through the Business District with the exception of a traffic light at the Burtonsville Town Square intersection.
Critical recommendations for SHA Project Management Division, Segment E (West Laurel):
  • Add second turn lane from McKnew Road to MD 198 or add a signalized intersection at Cedar Tree to relieve the aggressive behavior people exhibit when attempting to leave the community.  
  • Drivers leaving McKnew Rd to MD-198 should not have any turns while MD-198 through traffic is green.  The limited visibility and speed of traffic in this segment makes even right-on-red dangerous.   Additionally, a bicyclist on the shoulder has no bailout area due to the volume and speed of traffic which is a problem when vehicles routinely make continuous right-hand-turns on red (without a stop). Even with a stop, the vehicles are pulling well into the bicyclists useable shoulder area. 
  • The MD-198/McKnew intersection should be completely controlled, including left turns with red-arrows from MD-198 to McKnew to prevent the frequent collisions that occur today.   
Critical recommendations for the SHA District 3 office include:
  • Allocate funding for intersection improvements at MD 198 and Peach Orchard Rd.
  • Install traffic signal at Burtonsville Town Square.
  • Install speed activated signs in 25 and 30 mph speed zones.
  • Provide crosswalks for people to safely cross MD 198 (see Coalition to Fix 198 document for locations).
Critical recommendations for Montgomery County include:
  • Install gateway landscaping and signage at entrance to Burtonsville retail district.
  • Accelerate funding for Burtonsville Access Road.
  • Draft amendment to state legislation to clarify applicability of speed cameras.
  • Construct sidewalk on McKnew Road to connect to MD 198.
  • Extend Sidewalk on North side of MD-198 from 4140 Sandy Spring Rd to McKnew Rd to allow pedestrians a place to walk while not forcing crossings midway.  Also allows safer access to bus stop.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the study. I encourage you to review the full report developed by the Coalition to Fix MD 198 (download at: https://goo.gl/LUCzepfor more recommendations.


Stephen Ashurst


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Skimping on Trail Design, Already? (Patapsco Regional Greenway)

 Almost right on queue, as soon as a proposal for a new bike trail is on the table, disclaimers immediately follow.  This particular network of trails was jointly announced with the disappointment that the trail couldn't be built to full width.  
The greenway is proposed to be a 10- to 12-foot-wide, ADA-accessible trail, though this may not be feasible in some sections of the corridor due to environmental, right-of-way, and topographical constraints.
This needs to stop.  I'm all for protecting sensitive lands and being as environmentally friendly as possible, and we all understand that building through such areas come at a cost.  But we also build six lane super-highways above & through environmentally sensitive areas, so we should be able to build a simple 12 foot wide path that would ultimately be more useful than the six lane highway 25 years from now.  I'm thinking about the ICC where the bike lane was promised for the full length of the toll road, but remains unbuilt on account that it would cause too much environmental damage.  We need to look at the big picture and stop cutting these really small corners.  If the ICC right-of-way, for example, was such an environmentally sensitive area, perhaps they should have only built four lanes and allowed for the bike lanes, saving more than 24 feet of roadway instead of just 12 feet of bike trail.

The above quote is from the "concept" plans for the Patapsco Regional Greenway.  Concept, to me, means it should be time to dream and plan what the network should be like, without restrictions and short changing bicyclists.     Bike and pedestrian networks should be planned and implemented with the same priorities as large roadway projects, including public input that would have a process of vetting the concept ideas and selecting the most sensible.  All of this needs to be supported with investment to make the project a success.  This is no time for dismissing and skimping on trail design.  Make a concept that would serve the needs today and 25 years from now. 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Maryland Legislation 2017

I've recently sent an a record amount of letters to my legislators about both worthwhile and horrendous bills.  Here are some of my top subjects:

I supported these bills:
  • HB0578 - Vehicle Laws - Pedestrian Hybrid Beacons (cross-filed: SB0338)
    • Amendments have jointly been made by Bike Maryland, State Highway Administration and other sponsors to conform to the Federal Highway Administration standards. 
    • Almost all motorists (99%) of drivers adhere to these Beacons and 76% of cyclists and pedestrians understand and use them. Pedestrian Hybrid Beacons save lives.
  • HB0332 - Montgomery County - Maximum Speed Limits Outside Urban Districts MC 23-17
    • This would give Montgomery County the authority to set speed limits as low as 20mph on certain roads outside urban districts.  This will give local engineers another option in their tool bag so they can make certain streets safer.
  • HB0997 - Vehicle Laws - Bicycles, Play Vehicles, and Unicycles - Operation on Sidewalks and in Crosswalks
    • This would allow bicycles to operate lawfully on sidewalks and in crosswalks.     This bill adds legal protections for bicycles that are at the same level as pedestrians when using sidewalks and crosswalks.
  • HB0011 - Vehicle Laws - Causing Diesel Emissions to Discharge Onto Another - Prohibition
    • Intentional emissions of diesel exhaust is a menace to cyclists, runners, and drivers. I've personally had a truck do this while driving in Montgomery County.  This dangerous practice should be prohibited.
    • Video of this action happening to a cyclist: https://youtu.be/h8k8bhGrXIo

I do not support these bills:
  • HB1451 - Left Lane Use for Passing
    • This bill only seems to enable and legalize speeding on our roadways. Maryland roadways are severely congested already and even in normal flowing traffic conditions, all lanes must be used, whether passing or not. In order to move all traffic down the road, all lanes must be used. 
    • There are many specifics missing from this bill. We don't know how long is "too long" to say in the left lane. As vehicle speeds vary, even while passing, it may be impossible to always continue passing as someone in the right lane speeds up. Also for left exits, there's no rule about how far in advance of the exit we may enter the left lane. For an area, such as MD-32 and I-95, I generally get in the left lane to go from MD-32 E to I-95 N almost 2 miles in advance knowing that if I wait till I'm only one mile or one-half mile from the exit, it may be backed up and I won't be able to merge into the left lane. On roads like US-29 with stop lights and left turns all along it, there's no reason for people to move out of of the left lane, and doing so would only cause chaos as people are concerned with getting tickets for being caught in the left lane for too long. 
    • This is a dangerous bill to people's safety while traveling our roads. It will encourage speeding and aggressive driving and likely enable more road rage incidents.
  • HB1456 - Vehicle Laws – Passing to the Right – Use of Shoulder
    • This bill makes no mention about the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists using the shoulder in a legal manner.   Even completely focused drivers, not to mention distracted drivers, are rarely verifying the shoulder is clear of these vulnerable users before bolting around a vehicle just to save a second or two of time.   This bill endanger these users of the road and shoulder.   Instead of passing this bill, a future bill to require re-engineering of roadways to allow for proper, safe left-turns while keeping a through lane open and preserving the shoulder and perhaps a protected bike lane would be more appropriate.

I encourage you to contact your legislators and get involved with your community and state level issues.