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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

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guest blogger: Michael Brown

Imagine, in an effort to reduce spending, Montgomery County Public Schools has decided to reduce the number of students they will bus to school. As a consequence, more children will be forced to walk to school or more parents will be forced to drive them.

This is the reality of parents in Clayton County, Georgia, a suburban community south of downtown Atlanta. Just days before the new school year started, the school system announced that itwill no longer provide bus transportation to 4,600 students living within a mile and half of their schools.

After hearing this news my first thought was TRAFFIC!   As a reviewer of mandatory referral applications for school projects in Montgomery County, … Continue reading

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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

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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

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When we think about urban environments we picture tall buildings, noisy traffic, and hard surfaces. But the real point of urban environments is people, lots of them, bouncing off each other—eating lunch in the square, going to the theater, crowding around a street performer, sharing a sidewalk. Cities bring people together.

Food also brings people together and one could think of urban spaces as giant family tables. After all, Napoleon didn’t describe Venice’s Piazza San Marco as “the finest drawing room in Europe” for nothing. A $15.00 lemonade at one of its cafés is worth every penny if you make good use of your plaza-side table.

Community spaces and tables are prevailing in private spaces as well. Metropolis Magazine … Continue reading

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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

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guest post: Valerie Berton

July 29 will be the last meeting of the Montgomery County Planning Board until September 16. The Board, which meets weekly on Thursdays, typically takes a recess every August. This year, the Board will stay on break through the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah and reconvene in mid-September.

As you might expect, the Board’s agenda is packed on this last day before a six-week recess. On tap:

A mandatory referral review of the proposed Travilah Fire Station, on 5½ acres at Darnestown and Shady Grove roads in Shady Grove. The proposed station is expected to serve Travilah, Traville, Fallsgrove and western Rockville. The Planning Board will provide comments to the county’s Department of General Services … Continue reading

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With low-cost, long-distance options like Vamoose, bus travel is on the ascendancy, especially when they can offer high-tech services like Wi-Fi. If we could apply some of that high-tech thinking to congestion  management, they could really move.

A new COG survey has found an increase in telecommuting and a decrease in driving alone in the Washington metro region. Transit use is part of that equation–more than eight in ten respondents who live in inner ring communities live less than one half mile from a bus stop. But can they walk there easily and once they get there are they perched on the curb, rather than sitting under cover?

And if you can’t be green at least look green.

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In March, one of our planners, Claudia Kousoulas, showed the difference in scale between urban development and the infrastructure underlying suburban development by overlaying the I-270/I-370 interchange on top of Bethesda’s Woodmont Triangle area.

The amount of space we devote to moving cars is almost surreal at times. At Montrose Road, Interstate 270 is a whopping 14 lanes wide. At that rate, it seems we’re trying to rival places like Atlanta and Los Angeles.

But what is even more amazing is the amount of space we devote to storing cars. When people think of the automobile, it is invariably involved in going somewhere. But cars spend the vast majority of their time parked.

In Montgomery County, we devote about … Continue reading

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guest post: Ben Gruswitz

I’ve been thinking less about good community design and more about a good process to get there—particularly augmenting the community’s role in that process. Community participation is a critical element of good community design, and we are always looking for better ways of engaging the community.

More and more this is happening through the web. The Straight Line and now our Director’s blog are just two examples of community engagement through the web. Friends of White Flint’s FLOG played a key role in promoting community participation in the White Flint Master Plan. And increasingly local bloggers are getting the word out about upcoming public meetings and doing follow-ups for people who missed them.

But beyond … Continue reading