Let’s Not Cross That Bridge When We Get To It

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Guest Post by Alex Hutchinson

Whether it’s the Boundary Bridge that straddles Rock Creek right outside Silver Spring or the Cabin John Bridge nestled into Glen Echo, I love the bridges our region boasts.  I’m no gephyrophobiac, bridges don’t scare me one bit. But there is one bridge that makes me uneasy–and no, it’s not the Tacoma Narrows— it’s the Downtown Silver Spring Library bridge. Despite the fact the Planning Board voted 8-1 against the bridge, it has once again become part of our local discourse. Here’s why I hope this bridge wobbles into oblivion.

It’s been argued that the proposed bridge is the best and most economic way of achieving accessibility for all. Silver Spring already has a skywalk: the bridge that … Continue reading

Why Don’t People Take the Bus?

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Transportation planners talk about mode share, trip mitigation, and relative arterial mobility all displayed in charts and graphs. But there is a human element to using transit. Why would you shower, dress, and walk down the hill to stand here while your neighbors whip past in their BMWs, warm, dry, singing along to Norah Jones, and a swigging a latte?

Montgomery County has a great local bus system, the Ride Ons, which course through neighborhoods connecting to central business districts, Metro, and regional buses. They are clean, relatively prompt, and reasonably priced. Seniors and students get a price break, increasing access, and some of the fleet is running on compressed natural gas, encouraging good green behavior.

But in a … Continue reading

Cool Commuting

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Sure, part of the reason we don’t use Metro is because it’s a long walk from home or you’ve got to pick up the kids after school or you’re just not that interested in the cell phone social life of your seatmate. But wouldn’t mass transit be a little more appealing if it felt like your commute was a scene from a very cool Japanese spy movie?

And Maryland made the New York Times this week as a community that has taken interesting steps toward being green. I can’t believe that DC beat us to taxing shopping bags, this seems like a natural for Montgomery County and isn’t everyone in the habit of traveling with a folded up bag … Continue reading

See planning history in Greenbelt by bike

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When it comes to the built environment, the Washington region has long been one of the proving grounds for Planning.

From the first-ever National Planning Conference in 1909 to the demonstration of New Urbanism at Kentlands, Washington has benefited from planning ideas that often seemed far-fetched at the time.

Greenbelt, Maryland is no exception. It’s the best-preserved example of New Deal-era utopian town planning in the United States, and has been named a National Planning Landmark. This Saturday, I’m leading a bike tour of the community (details below). I hope you can make it.

About Greenbelt: Faced with housing shortages, a decimated economy, and deteriorating conditions in cities, the Roosevelt Administration, as a part of the New Deal, set … Continue reading

What does diversity mean to you? Tell us in 20 compelling images

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guest blogger: Valerie Berton

You’ve heard it before, and probably from us:  Montgomery County is becoming increasingly diverse. What do you think when you hear the word “diversity?”

Tell us at our upcoming Pecha Kucha contest, where you can demonstrate your vision of diversity in 20 slides shown for 20 seconds each. Anyone can join, and the winner – judged using on-site polling – will be featured on our Montgomery Plans cable show. Winning a Pecha Kucha contest could be a great resumé line!

Walk the sidewalks of Rockville, Silver Spring and any of the county’s downtowns and you’ll see a wide array of people. My kids’ class lists read like an assembly at the United Nations.

That’s more … Continue reading

Man vs. Nature on the Greenways

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The recently approved Germantown Sector Plan recommends greenways along Observation Drive and Crystal Rock Drive that would connect Black Hill Regional Park to the Town Center. It’s a good fit on streets that already have wide sidewalks, buffers, and stormwater management facilities.

Sounds like a great feature, one that creates a distinctive roadscape, creates a desirable recreation feature that also works for bicycle and pedestrian transportation, and can be implemented at the same time road and site improvements are made.

Fitting recreation into existing infrastructure and making that infrastructure do double duty is a sensible approach, given not only public sector’s fiscal limits, but our increasing interest in sustainability. Just google greenways and you’ll find lots of communities pursuing … Continue reading

Summer Streets

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It’s a cool morning, the first in a long time, and the frayed leaves are starting to look less lush, but there’s still time to think about Summer Streets, New York City’s program to create a temporary 6.9 mile car-free route to encourage bicycling in the city.

Free bike rentals and repairs, free skate rental, rest stops, maps, and yes–you can cool off in a dumpster pool!–remove barriers and excuses.

I like the idea of temporarily rethinking the city. Trying out parks and bike routes is not only a physical test of infrastructure, but a test of how we function as individuals in our environment. Certain things are hard–biking, recycling, walking–not because they are inherently difficult, but because the infrastructure isn’t set up … Continue reading

Capital Bikeshare Begins

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DC has taken an early step in becoming a more bike-friendly community (a la Montreal). See the press release below:

Sign Up Today for Capital Bikeshare

Discount Memberships Now Available at www.capitalbikeshare.com

Become a Founding Member

(Washington, D.C.) – Cyclists in the Washington area can now sign up in advance for Capital Bikeshare, the regional bikesharing network that is scheduled to start service in September in the District and Arlington, Virginia. The program’s website is now live at www.capitalbikeshare.com and by signing up online now individuals can take advantage of a special introductory offer.

Here are the details:

For a limited time, Capital Bikeshare is offering annual memberships for $50. That is $25 off the regular annual price. In … Continue reading

Qu’est que c’est Bixi?

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Bixi is Montreal’s homegrown rental bike system. Designed to serve tourists and residents with more than 5,000 bikes distributed through the city, the program is a real commitment to urban biking. Price and convenience contribute to their use and the system is well-managed to local habits—bikes are trucked around the city to ensure their even distribution after rush hour trips downtown.

But I think the real reason people bike in Montreal is the 502 kilometers of bike lanes and bike routes. Some are painted on the street, some run through parks, and some are separated by curbs, but all are well-respected and well-used.

Yes, even in the winter, though not without challenges. The commitment to bike infrastrucutre has created a bike … Continue reading

Streetscape Challenges for Planners and Users

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This Thursday, the Planning Board will review the County’s DHCA plans to upgrade the 25-year old streetscaping along Georgia Avenue between Selim Street and Silver Spring Avenue. The goals are to meet ADA standards and to install new soil panels that will help street trees reach full maturity.

But it’s more than a matter of setting in a few bricks and new trees. The design of the sidewalk space and its elements has to mediate among the needs of all users. Business owners want trees that don’t obscure their storefronts and signs. Curb edges and varied paving materials can hold up wheelchair users but can help blind pedestrians navigate. Agencies undertaking the work, trying to make the most out of … Continue reading