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Tentative proposals for downcounty bikeshare locations call for four docks in Friendship Heights and eleven in Bethesda, including at the Friendship Heights, Bethesda and Medical Center Metro stations and several throughout Bethesda Row and the Woodmont Triangle.
The Montgomery County Department of Transportation outlined their plans for the system at a Monday meeting of the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board. However, some at the meeting voiced safety concerns ahead of installation of the system, which is expected to launch in the spring of 2013.
The system, planned to build off of the success of Capital Bikeshare, is aimed to offer up a low-cost alternative transportation method in the most congested portions of the county. Phase one, funded through a state transportation grant, calls for 29 docking stations with 200 bikes in Friendship Heights, Bethesda, Medical Center, Takoma Park and Silver Spring.
“They’re designed for these very short connections between home and transit or transit and work – these point-to-point short trips to complement other transportation modes,” said Sandy Brecher, of Montgomery County's Department of Transportation.
MCDOT is working to contract with a bikesharing vendor and is awaiting Montgomery County Council action to appropriate funds from the state grant. After funds have been earmarked for the system in the county budget, county transportation officials will work to refine the bikeshare docking sites, drawing on public input.
The proposed sites -- highlighted during the application process for the state grant -- require more study and all may not be feasible, Brecher said. MCDOT is aiming for each site to be highly visible and located near commercial and residential "activity centers," with minimal impact on drivers and pedestrians, Brecher said.
“We are concerned about safety and how bike stations will be sited relative to heavily trafficked pedestrian areas and streets,” Brecher said."We don't have the ability to place them in areas with off-road bikeways and have them be in locations where people want them, to access Metro and activity centers."
Each station will require six feet of space and an additional six feet of clearance to allow cyclists to pull in and out of the station without interfering with pedestrians, Brecher said. Space for the docks may prove tricky in downtown Bethesda, however, where sidewalks are 12 feet.
MCDOT hopes to use public land for the docking stations, Brecher said.
Some at the meeting worried whether increasing the number of cyclists in downtown Bethesda could bump up conflicts between bikers, drivers and pedestrians, and suggested safety measures like dedicated bike lanes.
“Having biycles on the sidewalk is absurd and dangerous, pure and simple," said Chevy Chase resident Chuck Kauffman at the meeting. “Pedestrians and bicycles on the sidewalk are incompatible."
Jack Cochrane, of Montgomery Bicycle Advocates, said his group hopes to discourage bike riding on the sidewalk but advocate for road improvements to help make sharing the road safer.
Bike safety has been in the spotlight ahead of the installation of the system, and County Councilwoman Nancy Floreen (D-At Large) recently penned a letter urging the state transportation department to consider infrastructure improvements, including dedicated bike lanes.
“Bikesharing has the potential to significantly improve connectivity within Montgomery County and provide an entirely new transportation option for many,” Floreen wrote. “As we encourage this mode of transportation, we must also make sure we have the infrastructure to provide a safe environment for all bicyclists and especially for novice riders who will travel at relatively low speeds.”
The system is expected to cost $2.15 million, along with $500,000 in annual operating and maintenance costs, some of which will be offset by membership fees and private sponsorships, Patch reported in May.
With the help of private funding commitments and a $1 million state transportation grant, Montgomery County has enough to construct the first phase of the system. A $250,000 bond for the program approved by the Maryland General Assembly will help boost the system 50 stations in a second phase, but the county still faces a funding gap to complete the system.
To learn more about proposed locations for the downcounty bikesharing stations, check out the map attached to this story. You can also use Capital Bikeshare's crowdsourcing map to suggest locations in Montgomery County.
What do you think about the proposed locations for bikesharing stations in Montgomery County? Would you use the system? Tell us in the comments.
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