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Planning Board Sends Bicycle Master Plan to County Council for Consideration

Council will hold public hearing on the Planning Board Draft before voting on the plan in the fall

SILVER SPRING, MD – At its meeting Thursday, May 3, the Montgomery County Planning Board, part of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), voted to transmit the Planning Board Draft of the Bicycle Master Plan to the County Council and the County Executive for consideration. The public will get a chance to provide comments about the master plan during a soon-to-be scheduled public hearing at the County Council.

The Planning Board Draft of the functional master plan is available for review on the Planning Department’s website. The goal of the plan is to make Montgomery County a world-class bicycling community. It sets the stage for a cultural shift, encouraging people of all ages and bicycling abilities to meet their daily needs by bicycle in a safe, comfortable and accessible manner throughout the county.

View the Planning Board Draft of the Bicycle Master Plan.

“At the start of the Bicycle Master Planning process in 2015, I challenged staff to write a world-class bike plan and they have not only delivered, but have redefined what it means to plan for a low-stress bicycle network in North America,” said Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson. “I’m proud of this plan and look forward to the Council and County Executive’s feedback as we work to implement this exciting plan for our county.”

The Bicycle Master Plan is a comprehensive overhaul of the 1978 Master Plan of Bikeways, 2005 Countywide Bikeways Functional Master Plan, and all bikeway recommendations in past master and sector plans.

The goals of the plan include:

  1. Increasing bicycling rates in Montgomery County;
  2. Creating a highly connected, convenient and low-stress bicycling network;
  3. Providing equal access to low-stress bicycling for all members of the community; and
  4. Improving bicycling safety.

Background on Bicycle Master Plan

The Bicycle Master Plan paves the way for safe, comfortable and accessible bicycling throughout Montgomery County. Appropriate bikeways are recommended according to the level of stress experienced by cyclists in response to vehicular traffic on each road. On busy roads, bicyclists will have dedicated space separated from traffic. On residential streets, they will be able to comfortably share the road with automobiles.

Concept of low-stress bikeways

One barrier to bicycling is what is known as “traffic stress.” People who tolerate a high level of traffic stress are comfortable bicycling on most streets, including highways. These so-called “strong and fearless” bicyclists account for about 7 percent of the population.

Those who tolerate a moderate level of traffic stress are comfortable bicycling on highways and arterial roads that include bike lanes. These “enthused and confident” bicyclists account for about 5 percent of the population.

Cyclists who tolerate a low level of traffic stress are comfortable riding on residential streets, trails and roads with bikeways separated from traffic. These “interested but concerned” bicyclists account for about 51 percent of the population and include children.

New bikeway facility classifications

The Bicycle Master Plan proposes a new bikeway facility classification system for Montgomery County. This system organizes bikeways into five facility types based on their level of separation from traffic. Trails are the bikeways most separated from traffic and shared roads are the least separated from traffic

Trails include off-street trails, stream valley park trails and neighborhood connectors. They are located outside of the road right-of-way and provide two-way travel for bicycling and walking.

Separated bikeways include sidepaths and separated bike lanes. They also provide physical separation from traffic and are generally considered for roads with three or more lanes, posted speed limits of 30 mph or faster or in commercial areas.

Striped bikeways include buffered bike lanes, conventional bike lanes, advisory bike lanes and contra-flow bike lanes. They are distinguished from traffic lanes by striping and pavement markings.

Bikeable shoulders of at least four feet in width can improve comfort for some bicyclists. They are most appropriate in rural locations, often where posted speed limits are 40 mph and faster.

Shared roads include shared streets, priority shared lane markings and neighborhood greenways. Space on these bikeways is shared by bicyclists, cars and vehicles.

Innovative outreach for the plan

Since the Bicycle Master Plan was launched in 2015, the planning team has held numerous community meetings, community bike rides and other events to engage the public.

In addition, innovative outreach efforts were developed to engage more people throughout the county. They include a photo contest, online feedback maps and a coloring book to illustrate the key concepts of the low-stress network recommended in the master plan. The team is pleased to announce recent recognition by the Hermes Creative Awards for the Enjoy the Ride coloring book. The book was a fitting communications tool since the goal of the plan was to create a low-stress bicycle network and coloring has been shown to be a stress-relieving activity.

Digital feedback maps, including the Cycling Concerns Map, allowed stakeholders to comment about safety, connectivity and any other concerns related to bicycling. The award-winning Bicycle Stress Map was launched in April 2016 to document the stress levels encountered by cyclists on county roads and intersections, and allow cyclists to better understand road conditions in the county.

Since introducing the Bicycle Stress Map, planners determined that about 75 percent of county road miles are suitable for most adult bike riders. But only 17 percent of actual trips can be completed on a low-stress network, due to the inability to reach key destinations, such as jobs, stores, schools or transit hubs, without extensive detours or the need to travel on higher-stress roads.

Contact project manager David Anspacher at or 301-495-2191 for more information.