County officials are considering a two-way buffered cycle track along Woodmont Avenue in downtown Bethesda, what would be the county’s second use of the concept meant to provide more protection than traditional bicycle lanes.
MCDOT Chief of Traffic Engineering Emil Wolanin on Thursday told two Council committees the department has developed a concept plan for the cycle track and could install it next year.
The cycle track would stretch from the intersection of Old Georgetown Road and Woodmont Avenue south toward Bethesda Row. Wolanin said engineers have determined they can take out the existing lane of curbside meter parking and put in the cycle track without much effect on vehicle congestion levels.
MCDOT first looked at providing marked bicycle lanes on each side of Arlington Road, a piece of infrastructure long sought by advocates to effectively connect the north and south sections of downtown Bethesda.
But Wolanin said the Arlington Road concept — which would’ve meant making the four-lane road into one lane each way with a center turn lane — would’ve made intersections along the section even more congested for vehicles.
“The delays and the queues that would have resulted there just didn’t make this a feasible alternative,” Wolanin said.
Councilmember Nancy Floreen said she was “sorry to hear” vehicle congestion rates had seemingly taken precedence over bike lanes.
“If it’s going to take a little longer during rush hour to get through, oh well,” Floreen said.
MCDOT will start implementing its first cycle track this weekend along Woodglen Drive in White Flint, Wolanin said.
Cycle tracks are seen as an improvement over bicycle lanes because the routes include buffers (typically including plastic posts) from vehicle parking and regular traffic lanes. As opposed to a bicycle lane, the cycle track on Woodglen Drive won’t be close enough to a lane of parked cars to risk colliding with an opening car door.
MCDOT is also looking at adding a combination of bicycle signage and road markings to Woodmont Avenue north of Old Georgetown Road.
The one obstacle that could arise is the recent suggestion to make one-way Woodmont Avenue two ways between Old Georgetown Road and Montgomery Lane. The Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board, a group of residents and business representatives, recently asked the county to study the possibility.
Wolanin said MCDOT doesn’t think it’d be able to accommodate Woodmont Avenue’s traffic and the cycle track if it’s converted to two lanes.