Michael Conklin moved to Sandy Spring in 2011, after not owning a car for 18 years. He tried biking on Md. 108 between Sandy Spring and the Blueberry Gardens farm in Ashton for a few months, but eventually gave up and bought a car.
Plans are in the works that might get him back on two wheels.
The Sandy Spring Civic Association recently adopted a resolution advocating for a shared-use path (or bikeway) to be constructed on Md. 108 from Sandy Spring to Doctor Bird Road, on Doctor Bird Road from Md. 108 to Norwood Road, and on Norwood Road from Doctor Bird Road to Md. 108. The organization sent a letter to County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) requesting the project be expedited for completion in 2014.
Association president John Salzberg said the bikeway was included in the county’s Facility Planning-Transportation document, listed under “Other Candidate Studies Proposed after Fiscal Year 2018.”
“We believe this project deserves consideration now rather than after Fiscal Year 2018, and ask that it be considered in 2014,” he said.
These proposed shared-use paths or bikeways are consistent with the recommendations in the 1998 Sandy Spring/Ashton Master Plan.
Adding this triangular bikeway/shared-use path would provide several benefits to the community, said the organization’s president, John Salzberg.
It would enable students of Sherwood High School, Sandy Spring Friends School, Our Lady of Good Counsel High School and Sherwood Elementary School to bike or walk to school. It also would provide a safer route for the schools’ cross-country runners.
It would increase bike and pedestrian traffic between Olney and Sandy Spring, enabling residents to frequent businesses in the Village of Sandy Spring and Olney.
A completed path system also would enable residents of Friends House Retirement Community to walk to the Sandy Spring village, and allow the staff of Friends House safer access to public transportation.
“I’d much prefer to bike around here instead of unsustainably and unhealthfully drive,” Conklin said. “Daily conveniences have had their day for our country and county, but in the long run appear to have become just too costly for both our bodies, community and physical environment.”
Conklin said he is not a long-distance cyclist with fancy apparel, but instead is just a commuter.
“I am now retired and would like to do more biking, but I am frustrated by the risk,” he said. “There are a couple of stretches along Md. 108, particularly between Norwood Road and Doctor Bird Road, that are really dicey.”
Susan Milner lives on one of those stretches of Md. 108, just west of Sherwood Elementary School, and often sees people walking in the street.
“108 is too busy of a road for people to be walking in the street,” she said. “There are some bike paths, but there are a lot of gaps that need to be filled in.”
Milner’s three children ride their bikes to Sherwood Elementary, a route that involves cutting through some neighbors’ yards before reaching the paved path. Her hope is that by the time her fifth-grader reaches high school, he will be able to ride his bike to Sherwood High School safely.
A completed path also would open up other opportunities for her family.
“Olney has a lively downtown,” she said. “If there was a path, I would bike there all the time — to the library when it opens, to the gym.”
County spokeswoman Ester Bowring said the status of the project would not be known until Jan. 15, when Leggett releases his Capital Improvements Plan for Fiscal Years 2015-20, which will list the priorities along with what funding is available.
Pat Shepherd, capital projects manager/bikeways coordinator for the county’s Department of Transportation, said the project has been evaluated, and there is a need to provide a complete bikeway network in Sandy Spring.
“However, it would need to compete with other projects, as well,” she said.
Shepherd said the project might be a good candidate for a Maryland Department of Transportation Bikeways Grant, which may be awarded to projects to fill in missing segments of bike paths to enhance safety.
Bowring said that during the county’s capital budget process, there would be ample opportunities for input, including public hearings planned for February. Specific dates are not yet available.