For drivers, cyclists and pedestrians, it’s easy to spot the recently painted lime-green bike lanes at the intersection of Woodmont and Bethesda avenues in downtown Bethesda.
The creation of the bike lanes is part of the county’s Bicycle Master Plan, approved by the County Council in 2018. The plan aims to transform the county into a world-class bicycling community, according to the planning department’s website. The county’s Department of Transportation is responsible for installing the bike lanes.
David Anspacher, the county’s transportation master planning supervisor, said the plan contains recommendations for creating about 1,000 miles of bikeways, and about a quarter of those miles have been constructed so far. Master plans typically take between 20 to 30 years to fully implement, he said.
“It’s gonna take many years, if not decades to fully implement the bike plan, but I would expect within the next five years that many of our most urban areas or downtowns have been fully built out,” Anspacher said.
The project was split into tiers, with downtown areas receiving high priority.
Downtown Silver Spring was one of the first focus areas for the county, Anspacher said, with some of the most expansive bikeways in Silver Spring installed along Spring Street and future bikeways planned for Fenton Street. The plan also calls for other bikeways to be completed in Silver Spring.
The county aims to build bikeway networks as opposed to individual bikeways that aren’t connected, Anspacher said. These networks would connect to existing or future bikeways outside of the downtown areas.
“We want to connect to the locations that people want to get to the most,” Anspacher said. “We want to connect to transit facilities. We want to connect to the downtowns where the greatest densities of people are living and working.”
By placing bikeways along the main streets of these downtown areas, such as Woodmont Avenue in Bethesda or Fenton and Spring streets in Silver Spring, the county aims to connect people in the suburbs to the downtown areas, Anspacher said.
In communities where there are streateries — sections of streets closed for outdoor dining — such as the intersection of Woodmont and Bethesda avenues in downtown Bethesda, cyclists are expected to ride in the center of the roadway, which remains closed to traffic, according to Matt Johnson of the county’s transportation department.
“The outdoor dining isn’t taking up the same lane as the bikeway,” Johnson wrote in an email. “Bicyclists do not share the same space as dining.”
Christine Zhu of Gaithersburg, a rising junior at the University of Maryland who is studying journalism and Spanish, is the Bethesda Beat summer intern.