IMAGE: Takoma Park’s bike map.
BY BILL BROWN
Roll out for Bike Month in Takoma Park.
The city celebrates pedal power with it’s own Bike to School Day May 4, and the regional Bike To Work Day on May 20.
Census data shows a 183 percent increase in bike commuting from 2011 to 2014 in Takoma Park’s ZIP code area, according to senior city planner Erikin Ozberk’s blog entry Celebrate Bike Month.
Bike to work day scene encountered last year by Takoma commuter Mary Ellsworth at Rhode Island Avenue Bike to Work station. Photo by Mary S. Ellsworth.
The city likes to start them young. This year’s Bike to School Day went well, thanks to good weather, according to Lucy Neher, Safe Routes to School Coordinator. Neher reported about her experience on the day riding with a graduate of last summer’s I Can Shine Bike Camp. The camp teaches children with special needs between the ages of 8 and 14 how to ride bicycles. Children who are Takoma Park residents can participate free of charge. The I Can Shine Bike Camp will be held again this summer June 27 through July 1, 2016.
Bike to Work Day
The city will participate in the DC metropolitan area Bike to Work Day. On the day, May 20 this year, bike commuters are celebrated and non-bike commuters are encouraged to try it. There are 80 “pit-stops” throughout the region, three of them in Takoma Park. Each is managed by a local business or agency. Bikers stop by and load up on goodies.
Each pit stop manager makes his or her own arrangements for food, drink and other giveaways, but all of them hand out Bike To Work Day tee-shirts. This year’s shirt is charcoal gray with a bright yellow design. Participants must reserve a t-shirt at the event’s website, and they must designate which pit stop they will visit to pick it up.
Scott Williams, League of American Bicyclists membership director talks to a bike-to-worker, at the Takoma Gazebo on Bike to Work Day, 2013. Photo by Bill Brown
Takoma Bicycles manages the pit-stop at the Takoma Park Gazebo on Carroll Avenue, just across the street from their store-front. Takoma Bicycle, owned by Bruce Sawtelle is the city only bike shop since the Green Commuter left Takoma Junction for Silver Spring a few months ago.
The Takoma/Langley Crossroads Development Authority business association will manage the pit stop near the University Blvd. and New Hampshire Avenue intersection. CDA’s Melanie Isis will be on hand at 7676 New Hampshire Ave., just south of the University Boulevard intersection.
City staffers Roz Grigsby, Community Development Manager and Lucy Neher, Safe Routes to School Coordinator, preside over the give-away Bike to Work t-shirts at the Takoma Gazebo on Bike to Work Day, 2013. Photo by Bill Brown.
The third stop will be managed by the aforementioned Erkin Ozberk, Senior Planner in the Takoma Park Housing and Community Development department. He’ll be handing out IHOP coffee, granola-bars and safety-oriented giveaways such as repair kits and blinking lights at the city’s bicycle repair station on the popular Sligo Creek Parkway bike path where it crosses New Hampshire Avenue.
Sligo Creek Trail is one of a number of popular bike trails and routes for the city’s commuter and recreational bicyclists.
The Metropolitan Branch Trail passes through Takoma Park on its way from Silver Spring to Washington, DC’s Union Station, roughly paralleling the Metro above-ground subway Red Line. Parts of the MBT are still under construction north of the Brookland Metro stop to Silver Spring but there are routes with bike lanes that connect with the constructed sections.
The Metropolitan Branch Trail on Sandy Spring Road, NW, Takoma, DC. Photo by Mary Ellsworth.
West of Silver Spring the MBT connects to the Georgetown Branch Trail and the Capitol Crescent Trail.
Sligo Creek Park Trail bi-sects the city as it follows Silgo Creek from Wheaton Regional Recreational Park to Hyattsville, MD. The Northwest Branch Trial which skirts the city to the east gives access to bike lanes on University Avenue to the University of Maryland.
The Sligo Creek and Northwest Branch paths are part of the Anacostia Tributary Trail System.
This fall the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens segment of the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail will be completed. That segment is the missing link in an almost 70-mile network of bicycle and pedestrian trails between the District of Columbia and Maryland.
Kansas Avenue, NW, 3rd Street, NW and Piney Branch Road, NW are popular bicycle commuter routes into the District.
The city has two bicycle repair stations, the one on Sligo Creek bike trail, which was installed in April 2016 and another near the city police station entrance at the city community center at 7500 Maple Ave. It was installed in November, 2016. The location is convenient for students who attend three nearby schools, use the community center recreation facilities and the library, and for bicycle-mounted police officers.
The repair stations are self-service. They have tethered tools such as allen wrenches, and air pump and a rack to mount a bicycle on which working on it.
The city-provided bicycle repair station on Sligo Creek bike trail near new Hampshire Avenue. City of Takoma Park photo.
An upcoming city bike-route improvement is the Ethan Allen Gateway Project. Ozberk is the project leader. The city has obtained federal funding to make “multi-modal” renovations to East-West Highway, State Route 410 where it crosses New Hampshire Avenue (State Route 650).
“Multi-modal” refers to different modes of travel: pedestrian, bicycle, bus and auto. The renovations include bike lane 1000 feet east of New Hampshire Avenue to the city/county border, and west of New Hampshire Avenue about a quarter of that distance. East-West Highway is named Ethan Allen Avenue on that section. Ethan Allen is a notoriously dangerous section of road from the New Hampshire intersection to Takoma Junction about a half mile to the west. The two lane roadway is too narrow to accommodate bike lanes.
Ozberk acknowledged that the “gateway project’s bike lanes won’t connect with any existing bike lanes. But, he said, “intersections are hardest” for bicyclists. Future plans for New Hampshire Avenue development include bike lanes.
The State Highway Administration is not known for cooperating with Takoma Park when it comes to adding crosswalks, stop signs, lights or anteing else it perceives as interference with auto traffic. But Ozberk says that for the last few years, the SHA has developed enlightened bike lane standards, and requiring bike lanes in new road plans. “They are definitely catching up,” said Ozberk.
Like that notorious section of Ethan Allen Avenue, many of Takoma Park’s desirable routes for bikes are on narrow state highways where riders feel unsafe, said Joe Edgell, chair of Takoma Park’s Safe Roadways Committee.
The committee suggested the city allow bicyclists to ride on all sidewalks in its 2015 annual report to the city council. “People ride on the sidewalk already, so we would be legalizing conduct that already occurs and has yet to result in injuries of pedestrians,” said Joe Edgell, committee chairperson.
Photo by Joe Edgell from the Safe Roadways Committee report.
“While it’s ideal for people to ride in the street, many roads are a hazard to ride on, especially because of the lack of bike lanes on major streets in Takoma Park,” said Edgell. He noted that bicyclists are not banned from sidewalks in the rest of Montgomery County or in adjacent Washington, DC. The council could set a 10 mile-per-hour bicycle speed limit on sidewalks and require bikes to yield to pedestrians.
The committee said allowing sidewalk biking might encourage hesitant people to ride or make use of Bike Share.
Currently there are four Capital Bike Share docking stations in Takoma Park, with two new Bike Share stations coming in early 2017, one station in the Takoma/Langley Crossroads area, the other at the city’s Recreation Center, 7315 New Hampshire Ave. The popular bike-rental system has stations throughout the region.
Each automated station has a bike rack. People with memberships can unlock a bike and ride it for an hourly rate, either returning it to the original station or docking it at another. The first half hour is free. A daily membership is $10, $17 for a three day membership. A thirty day membership is $28 and an annual membership is $85, or $96 with monthly payments.
There is an increase in city employee bike commuting, said Ozberk, especially among new staff and those who live one to five miles away. Some. including Ozberk, use a combination of transit and Bike Share.
Ozberk is active on the county Bicycle Master Plan. The Montgomery County Council passed resolution approving for a countywide bikeway master plan in 2005. The initial plan eleven years ago called for 200 bikeways totaling more then 500 miles county-wide. One of their current efforts is an online interactive “stress map,” on which riders can note streets which give them high stress to drive on. It is similar to an earlier effort – an interactive map on which riders could note connections, improvements needed and other suggestions. It garnered 2000 comments, said Ozberk, proving very helpful for bike-route planners.