The State Highway Administration’s (SHA) Route 1 reconstruction plan (post on it here) and the recently released draft study of our beloved roadway both call for striped bike lanes along the corridor. A five foot bike lane (each way) is being considered between the Beltway and Berwyn Rd. and a six foot lane is being considered between Berwyn Rd. and College Ave. Should the funding gods ever prioritize one segment (or all three segments) of the Route 1 reconstruction project, planners hope these bike lanes, in conjunction with reduced traffic speed (25 to 30 mph), consolidated driveways, and more mixed use projects, will bring more people out of their cars and onto bicycles. Given the huge bike culture in college towns like Davis, CA, Madison, WI, and Cambridge, MA it’s clearly hoped that Route 1 bike lanes will capitalize on the aptness of college students to ride bikes and create a more pedestrian friendly environment for College Park.
Obviously we encourage any movement towards pedestrian-friendliness in the city. That being said, we doubt strongly whether these bike lanes, like so many other bike lanes in the area, will be used to any considerable degree as they are currently proposed. Take for instance several “biker-friendly roadways” that are already in existence around campus. “Bike lanes” on these roads are nothing more than narrow, gravel-strewn, storm drain-ridden car shoulders which only the hardiest of bikers dare ride on. We aren’t willing to forfeit the potential for new bike lanes on Route 1 because we think (if done right) they could be a valueable addition to the area and could work well if connected well with the Paint Branch Trail (not far to the west) and the Trolley Trail (not far to the east).
SHA should consider further modifying their proposed bike lanes by adding color treatments (as picture above) rather than simply adding a narrow asphalt lane. Studies show that colored bike lanes increase awareness of bicycles, improve pedestrian safety, slow traffic, and avoid confusing lane convergences at intersections. Such bike lanes (colors vary across countries) have been used for years in the Netherlands (red), Denmark (blue), and France (green). From what we can gather, such lanes are technically not allowed (on any road!) in the U.S. by the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, but College Park could conceivably apply to the FHWA via the MD-SHA for “permission to experiment” with them as has been done in cities like Arlington, Denver, and Portland, OR among several others.
It seems that street seperated bike lanes like the one below (in Silver Spring) are not being considered at all for Route 1. Probably because the on-street bike lane can be used by emergency vehicles whereas off-street ones can’t.