MacArthur bikeway plans cycling along
Depending on County Council approval, construction may begin in spring 2011
Yellow signs along MacArthur Boulevard gently remind drivers to "share the road" with bicyclists. But some Glen Echo, Cabin John and Potomac residents are hoping that that will be easier to do once a hiker/biker path and road space for cyclists is installed along a 7.3-mile stretch of the highway.
Many agree that the narrow, winding road, which meanders along a popular stretch of the Potomac River, can be tricky to navigate for both cyclists and drivers.
"It's very tight and motorists are in a hurry and want to go by the bicyclists," said Burr Gray, president of the Cabin John Citizens Association.
Not enough space exists for both to use the road, and that means cars must wait until it is safe to cross the center line to pass cyclists. But some say that can occasionally cause tensions on the road often used by both bikers and drivers to commute to and from Washington, D.C.
"A lot of drivers get impatient and they don't necessarily want to wait until there's an opportunity to pass," said Jack Cochrane, a Bethesda resident and chair of Montgomery Bicycle Advocates. "The bottom line is that drivers just need to be patient and recognize that bikers are legally allowed to use the road."
The project would widen the road by 2 feet on both sides and reduce the width of the driving lanes by a foot, creating a 3-foot shoulder designated for on-road bicyclists on each side. It would also add a shared use hiker/biker path that is separated from the roadway. A shared use path already exists in some stretches, but because it is not separated from the road, cars can often mistake the path for an extra driving lane, according to Gray.
"If someone's headed east and there's a car that's in their lane making a left turn off of MacArthur, oftentimes drivers will go around that car, and in doing so they'll end up on the shared use path," Gray said. "It's pretty lucky that nobody's gotten run over."
Gray said he was happy to see that the path would be separated from the roadway, and that space would be designated for on-road cyclists.
A segment of the path, which would stretch from Oberlin Avenue in Glen Echo to the Interstate 495 underpass in Cabin John, is in its final design stages, according to Aruna Miller, a facility planning manager for the county's Department of Transportation. County Executive Isiah Leggett recommended that $8.63 million be designated as part of the fiscal year 2011-2016 Capital Improvements Program budget to complete design of the segment and construct it beginning in spring 2011, Miller said. The recommendation hinges on County Council approval, however . The council will review the CIP budget in May.
Two other segments are planned, and the path would eventually stretch for 7.3 miles from the District Line to Old Angler's Inn in Potomac, pending approvals, Miller said.
Similar bikeways in the Bethesda and Potomac areas are in initial phases, including one along Seven Locks Road and Bradley Boulevard. The Bradley Boulevard plan would span a half-mile between Wilson Lane and Goldsboro Road, and transportation officials are in the early stages of developing concept plans, presenting them to the public and gathering feedback. A similar project is in the early stages for Seven Locks Road, which would span 3.3 miles from Montrose Road down to Bradley Boulevard.
But the paths are not without opposition. Some Potomac residents whose homes border Seven Locks Road have asked how the path will affect their front yards, along with space for on-street parking. Some are actively opposing the Bradley proposal, saying the money could best be sent elsewhere.
"The money that we have in the county that we all contribute in huge taxes should be spent on the essentials," said Tiffany Audas, whose home abuts the proposed Bradley Boulevard path, citing school construction and fire and rescue services.
Bicycle advocates, say that the paths would smooth out "pinch points" along Seven Locks and Bradley where cyclists are forced too close to traffic. And the MacArthur path would mean more space for both drivers and cyclists to share along the entire stretch of the road, they say. "I think the path will serve commuting bicyclists and community members alike," Cochrane said.