Thursday, August 23, 2018

How Did This Traffic Light Slip Under My Radar?

When I took these couple of photos on July 25th, I kind of figured out that the bus stops located on either side of Old Columbia Pike were getting platforms and probably lighting.

I did not come to understand, until today, that a full-blown traffic light was getting installed.  Living less than a 1/4 mile from this "new" traffic pattern, I'm shocked that I had no previous knowledge of the plans.  In my experience with any of the DOTs in the region, getting a request to completion usually takes a mound of paperwork and years of persistence.    I have no opinion on the light location itself, as it wasn't even something I considered on this section of road. 

I can't believe that the neighborhood, community, and regional interest groups were not involved in the development of the design for this traffic light.   As you can see from the first photo above, the southbound shoulder is now blocked by a raised bus platform.   This is great for people waiting at the stop, but now bicyclists must move out in to traffic at this intersection.   If the design was put forth for public comment, I certainly would have asked for the platform to be moved back off the shoulder to leave room for bicyclists, especially during commute hours. 

Finally, I'd like to know why this light became necessary.   At the trail crossing of the Matthew Henson trail at Viers Mill Road, multiple people were killed and yet it still took a strong, active community quite some time to persuade SHA to move forward with a better crossing option.  Newspaper articles were widely written, advocacy letters distributed, but that was not the case with this traffic light.   
( So what was the justification for this light?   Who requested it, and what community backed it up?   Why did it get installed without local community input? 

I would like to see documented and consistent processes in Montgomery County and the State of Maryland.  Transparency will lead to better ideas and community involvement. 

Thursday, June 7, 2018

We really need to fix Old Columbia Pike

Recently, I we had some nice weather in the area, so I just wanted to take my bike out for a little shake down before I begin my summer commutes on it.   Living in an area surrounded by busy, high volume roads, I generally seek out the safest, quietest routes.   

This was an unplanned route, but in my head, I thought I could get down to Randolph Rd, then turn around and return via Old Columbia Pike.   So I started out heading south knowing I was going to ride under the ICC via the bike trail on the east side of the interchange.    It's a bit isolated for me, generally, it's not visible from the road, and therefore I find this trail to be unsafe.   In retrospect, this trail should have been built for better visibility, either up higher, next to the roads, or along the neighborhood streets.  Hopefully in the future, new trails will be built keeping visibility in mind. 

Click image for larger image of the area I rode in the Fairland Area. 
Additionally, as you can see from my route, I didn't quite make it down to Randolph.  Unfortunately, there's no direct route southbound once I made my way south through the ICC interchange.   I would have had to ride through Calverton Park, local streets, and generally take a long way to get where I wanted to go.  I would be better if we just connected a trail to Randolph along the property frontage of Verizon on the east side of US-29 from Fairland Rd.   Certainly, explore the map in detail more to see the roads and connections that are needed. 

On my return, I wanted to avoid Old Columbia Pike, so I crossed and road zig-zagged through some neighborhood roads to avoid the narrow or non-existent shoulders and high volume of traffic.   North of Fairland Rd, and especially the point where Old Columbia crosses over the ICC, there is no extra room on the road for vulnerable users.   The section northbound on Old Columbia Pike could use a shared-use-path along the east side.   Even if it was a sidewalk, I would be on it as drivers failed to give me even 3-ft of clearance.
Looking North on Old Columbia Pike at the ICC Bridge

Old Columbia Pike is a major connector for biking in the area between Burtonsville and White Oak.  Planning phases come and go, yet I still have no safe place to ride. 

Who is going to take the lead and get the money needed to build safe riding paths along Old Columbia Pike? 

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Only Shared Use Path Available -- BLOCKED

The only semi-safe route available along MD-198, and it's blocked!

It's bad enough that this path along MD-198 doesn't connect all the way to Cedar Tree Rd, stopping at Dino Dr.   Now there is construction that appears to be daily now and constantly blocking the only shared use path my kids and I would like to use. 

The path (shown below) west of the construction connects to the Downtown Burtonsville area and considering the basically non-existent shoulder, speeding cars (rarely enforced along this stretch), and groups of motor vehicles jockeying for position as they leave the US-29 intersection by cutting around each other in the right hand merge lanes, I have no place to safely ride along this stretch of road. 

The Lorenzo Construction LLC appears to be doing the construction (410-984-1935) but unfortunately, feels the need to park their vehicles on the path.  The road at this point is essentially 5 lanes, with the merge lane ending.  It would be simple enough to put up cones and block the end of this merge lane without blocking the path.  It would not cause any problems for traffic either.

Additionally, it appears Lorenzo is also doing some construction at the U-turn at Dino drive where they are parking all their trucks and filling the U-Turn extension that I believe was put there to allow larger trucks the ability to make the U-Turn. 

I would love to see a better policy created and adhered to prevent blocking of sidewalks and paths for vulnerable road users.   Those walking and biking have no choice.  Vehicles have 5 lanes of options.  Please keep the sidewalks and paths open whenever possible.