State’s update of bike and pedestrian plan could change funding priorities -- Gazette.Net


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State is halfway through re-evaluation process

by Elizabeth Waibel

Staff Writer

The state is updating its Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan, which could influence how easy it is to get around by bike or by walking in communities across Maryland.

The plan, adopted in 2002 and now midway through a substantial update process, sets policy goals that affect funding for things like capital improvement projects.

Kate Sylvester, a community planner with the Maryland Department of Transportation, said the department is required by law to update the plan along with the Maryland Transportation Plan, which is also being updated. Over the past decade, however, people have prioritized improvements to make bicycling and walking easier in their communities.

“Ten years have passed, and an awful lot has changed for bike and pedestrian priorities,” Sylvester said.

Since 2002, more data has testified to the economic value and public health benefits of bicycling and walking, Sylvester said, and Maryland residents have made it known that they want infrastructure that supports biking and walking.

The Capital Bikeshare program, which provides short-term bike rentals, is also growing. Just last week, the company announced a slew of new locations in Montgomery County, including 13 within the Rockville city limits.

Over the past two years, Sylvester said, a program called Cycle Maryland has also provided funding for bikeshare and more bike facilities.

“That’s really exciting, because we’re seeing a lot of communities building their first bike lanes that they’ve had,” she said.

The update to the Bike and Pedestrian Master Plan comes at about the halfway point of the plan’s 20-year lifetime, after which a new plan will likely be written. Planners are about halfway through the update process, and Sylvester said the department will likely release a draft of the revisions this fall.

The draft goals for the plan, discussed at a community meeting in Rockville June 11, include creating seamless multi-modal travel networks, improving safety, building roads for bikes and pedestrians as well as cars, strengthening communities, and promoting walking and biking as everyday modes of transportation.

Once completed, the plan will help determine which projects designed to improve roadways for cyclists and pedestrians get funding, said Chuck Brown, a spokesman for the state’s transportation department. He said the department has earmarked about $151 million over the next six years.

Sylvester said the plan doesn’t dictate specific projects, but it does provide goals.

“It’s a 20-year policy plan, so it’s pretty high level,” she said. “It won’t get into specific projects that people will see. It helps us focus our priorities.”

To find out how to weigh in on the plan’s update, visit mdot.maryland.gov/bikewalkplan.

ewaibel@gazette.net