Monday, November 24, 2014

Montgomery County Bill for Safer Streets (Bill 33-13)

The final reading for Bill 33-13 is scheduled for tomorrow morning.

This bill:

  1. defines target speeds for roads,
  2. lane widths,
  3. safety improvements,
  4. and ultimately commands multi-modal road use.
This bill could be improved, nevertheless:
With the option for alternative standards by the Executive with only a notification, the bill remains weakened.  I would have even more support if the Executive would need approval from the Council before an exception was approved. Additionally, this bill provides for some technical implementation for curb radius build-out, but lacks technical enforcement of the speed.   I would recommend speed humps be included along any commercial suburban/urban zones where the target speeds are 30mph or less.   The demand for slower speeds, in this bill, warrants my full support, even if technical specifications are missing.
I urge you to show your support for this bill.   You can do so easily at:

Thank you Councilmember Berliner and Councilmember Riemer for sponsoring this bill.


Montgomery County Council Enacts Bill to Redefine Road and Sidewalk Standards Bill Adopts Safe Speed Limits, Makes Communities Safer for Pedestrians and Bicyclists, Particularly in Emerging Urban Areas
  • Release ID: 14-351
  • Release Date: 11/25/2014
  • Contact: Neil Greenberger 240-777-7939 or Delphine Harriston240-777-7931
  • From: Council Office 
The Montgomery County Council today unanimously enacted Expedited Bill 33-13 that will limit the width of travel lanes, turning lanes and parking lanes, as well as the size of intersection curb radii in urban areas. The bill also will set target speeds at which vehicles should operate in urban business districts to provide mobility for motor vehicles and for a safe environment for pedestrians and bicyclists. Some of the new guidelines are particularly aimed at the emerging urban areas that are developing around various areas of the County.

The bill, which was sponsored by Councilmembers Roger Berliner and Hans Riemer, requires certain road improvements to include a sufficient pedestrian refuge area, directs developers building road improvements to add curb ramps where appropriate and requires curb ramps to be built in accordance with federal American with Disabilities Act (ADA) best practices.

Councilmembers Berliner and Riemer convened a working group of staff from the Council, the County Planning Department, the County Department of Transportation (DOT), the Montgomery Fire and Rescue Service and the Department of Permitting Services. The group met five times in October and November, and was assisted by Toole Design, a planning firm under contract to DOT that has considerable experience in the development of complete streets standards and guidelines.

Among the key aspects of the legislation was to set “maximum target speeds” to provide mobility for motor vehicles and a safe environment for pedestrians and bicyclists. This provision focuses on urban areas, but would not set target speeds in suburban and rural areas. The target speed for all County streets in urban areas would be 25 mph, unless otherwise specified in an adopted master plan or Capital Improvements Program.
"I am proud that the Council has passed a ‘complete streets’ measure that will make our urban nodes safer for all users,” said Councilmember Berliner, who chairs the Council’s Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment (T and E) Committee. “By narrowing lanes and turns, providing for more pedestrian refuges, and designing roads for lower speeds, we can make sure that our urban areas are places that will attract residents old and young. Our urban rights of way must be made accessible to all users, not just drivers. I look forward to working with the Department of Transportation on regulations that will further this movement toward a complete streets philosophy, a progressive approach to our urban streets."

To help achieve safe speeds, the bill generally limits road lanes to no wider than 10 feet, although the Planning Board or County Executive are given the authority to grant a waiver for improvements by a develop if a 10 foot-wide or 11 foot-wide lane "would significantly impair public safety.” A single traffic lane is generally designed to be 12 feet wide under most current standards.

Although a few County streets have lanes that are narrower, especially for left turns, 10 feet is considered the minimum width that can accommodate general traffic on a through lane. There is less room to maneuver in 10 foot-wide lanes than in the more standard 11-and 12-foot-wide lanes.
"Our residents want and deserve the high quality of life that well designed urban areas can provide, and this legislation will help the County move forward to provide them,” said Councilmember Riemer, who also is a member of the T and E Committee. “We want to create districts where people can walk and bike and feel safe, while cars can still move but the streets are comfortable for all users."

Sections of the law apply to all County roads, including the provision to create separated and buffered bike lanes. Separated bike lanes (also known as cycle tracks) have not been defined in the County Code, although they have been included in at least two recently adopted master plans. The new law defines a bike lane as a bikeway that is separated from motor vehicle travel lanes by a physical barrier, such as a landscape panel or a line of parked cars. It also defines a buffered bike lane as one that is separated from motor vehicle lanes by striped pavement.

The law encourages the building of sidewalks when road projects are developed. The previous law leaves broad discretion to the Council and the Planning Board on whether sidewalks must be installed with a road project. The new law limits that discretion to four situations: in very low density rural zones, along rustic or country roads, where limits on impervious surfaces apply and on tertiary residential streets where the Planning Board finds that a sidewalk is unnecessary. 

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1 comment:

  1. This bill passed.