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Montgomery County Council members worried about more cyclists on streets

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Local,Maryland,Kate Jacobson

Montgomery County lawmakers are worried that the county will not be ready to deal with an influx of bicyclists predicted to use the county's planned Capital Bikeshare program, set to start late this summer.

At a County Council committee hearing Wednesday, some council members wondered whether increasing access to bikes in the county without increasing bike lanes would be wise.

"If we're going to do the bikeshare program, I think we need a bigger commitment and a pretty coordinated plan that makes it safe," said Councilwoman Nancy Floreen, D-at large.

The bikeshare program is included in County Executive Ike Leggett's proposed fiscal 2014 budget. The county received a $1 million grant from the Maryland Department of Transportation and $250,000 from the state legislature to start the program last year.

Councilman Roger Berliner, D-Bethesda, said he was worried that the bike program was so close to implementation, and yet there was little knowledge of how safe cyclists would be and where they would ride.

"We're talking about a summer launch," he said. "When we launch, we want to be in a position to have a safe program and ... we need to hear back from [officials] what the plan is."

If the program is implemented next fiscal year, roughly 29 Capital Bikeshare stations -- holding about 204 bikes -- would be stationed in Friendship Heights, Bethesda, the Medical Center Metro station, Takoma Park, Silver Spring, and eventually Wheaton and Forest Glen.

Glenn Orlin, deputy council staff director, said county master plans usually don't specifically call for bike lanes to be added. In business districts such as downtown Bethesda, streets cannot be expanded to include bike lanes, he said, but there are enough stop signs and slow enough speeds for bikers to be safe.

He also warned against adding bike lanes to roads because Maryland state law would require them to use the lanes, and bikers don't always do that. Another problem, he pointed out, is roads that can't be widened for bikers, which would cause potential headaches for drivers.

He said because cyclists are legally allowed to use the roads, they should continue to do so.

Floreen recommended putting up signs in business districts letting bikers know they could use the streets.

Berliner requested that Arthur Holmes, director of the county's Department of Transportation, come back to the council with a timeline of how the bikeshare program would be implemented. The council is expected to be briefed in coming weeks.

kjacobson@washingtonexaminer.com

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