Planning Department Wins 2016 American Planning Association Award for Bicycle Stress Map

August 31, 2016

National Capital Area Chapter of the American Planning Association recognizes digital Bicycle Stress Map as a valuable tool

SILVER SPRING, MD – The Montgomery County Planning Department, part of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, is this year’s recipient of a 2016 Award for an Outstanding Tool from the National Capital Area Chapter of the American Planning Association.

The chapter award recognizes the value of the Department’s Bicycle Stress Map in helping to develop the data-driven Bicycle Master Plan for Montgomery County. The purpose of the digital map is to understand impediments to bicycling and to identify and prioritize the changes that are needed to create a low-stress bicycling environment for people who say they would be interested in bicycling, but do not currently ride because they have safety concerns.

Planning Department staff evaluated more than 3,500 miles of roads and trails in the County to determine the level of stress on each road segment and intersection and assign a value to it, from high stress to low stress.

“This award recognizes the hard work of the Bicycle Master Plan team,” says Planning Director Gwen Wright. “The Bicycle Stress Map is making bicycle planning accessible to the community in a whole new way.”

The planning team will receive the award at a ceremony to be held on Tuesday, November 15, 2016 at the Atlas Performing Arts Center in Washington, DC.

“Montgomery County is working to elevate bicycle planning to the level of analysis that is used for traffic and transit planning by gaining a deeper understanding of what connectivity means for people who bicycle,” says Project Manager David Anspacher. “I am excited that the Bicycle Master Plan team was recognized for this cutting-edge tool.”

View the Montgomery County Planning Department Bicycle Stress Map.

Background on the Bicycle Stress Map

What is traffic stress?

For most people the decision to bicycle includes consideration of whether road conditions, such as traffic volume and traffic speed, exceed their threshold for stress. Since most adults are uncomfortable bicycling on roads with four or more lanes of traffic or a posted speed limit of 30 mph or higher, the opportunities to get from Point A to Point B in Montgomery County are limited unless a separated bikeway such as a path, trail or separated bike lane can be provided.

What does the bike stress map do?

This publicly accessible tool displays the data in a way that can inform the public about bicycling in the County and help decision makers prioritize bicycling improvements.

  • Users can toggle between stress levels to reveal the bicycling network available to people, depending on the different levels of traffic stress they tolerate.
  • Videos capture the look and feel of different stress levels.
  • Connectivity analyses show how well each rail station, public school, library, recreation center and regional park is connected to the surrounding neighborhood.
  • A customized bike shed analysis can be done to reveal the areas that can be reached by bicycle without exceeding one’s comfort level.

How has the Bicycle Stress Map helped planning efforts?

Preliminary analysis from the Bicycle Stress Map has revealed the following:

  • While about 70 percent of County road miles are suitable for most adult bike riders, only a fraction of actual trips can be completed on a low-stress network, due to the inability to reach destinations with minimal detours.
  • Only 18 percent of people living within a two-mile distance of a Metrorail station can reach that station on a low-stress bicycling network.
  • Connectivity is poor around schools. Elementary, middle, and high schools are connected to only 20 percent, 10 percent and 5 percent of the residences within their service area, respectively, by a child-appropriate bicycle network.

Questions or Comments?

Contact: David Anspacher, Bicycle Master Plan Project Manager
Telephone: 301.495.2191

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