photo bikers on Metropolitan Branch Trail

Councilmembers “Bike to Work” Day

Montgomery County Councilmembers Roger Berliner, Valerie Ervin, George Leventhal and Hans Riemer will be among the more than 10,000 Washington-area commuters hopping on their bicycles on May 17 to join the annual “Bike to Work Day” sponsored by Commuter Connections and the Washington Area Bicyclist Association.

May is National Bike Month and Bike to Work Week is May 13-17. On May 14, Councilmembers Berliner and Ervin will present a proclamation recognizing Bike to Work Day during the Council’s regular weekly session in Rockville.

The League of American Bicyclists began Bike to Work Day as part of Bike Month in 1956. Over the years, Bike to Work Day has grown into a widespread event with bicyclists taking to the streets nationwide in an effort to get commuters to try bicycling to work as a healthy and safe alternative to driving alone. In the Washington metropolitan region, Bike to Work Day has grown from a small group of a few hundred in 2001 to more than 12,000 participants.

Thousands of area commuters bike to work every day. Census data shows that bicycle commuting grew by 86 percent from 2000 to 2009. The County has encouraged employers and building owners to provide amenities and programs that can be put into place with a low cost investment to encourage bicycle commuting.

“2013 is an exciting year for bicycling in Montgomery County,” said Councilmember Berliner, who chairs the Council’s Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee. “We continue to invest in becoming a more bike-friendly community, and we expect Capital Bikeshare to launch this summer. Biking to work will be easier than ever for our residents, and I hope participating in Bike to Work Day will encourage more people to consider riding a bike as an everyday, convenient option. Even I’m riding my bike to work this year.”

The Council has continuously supported the expansion of bicycle friendly programs. In 2012 it unanimously approved two measures designed to encourage the expansion of Capital Bikeshare to Montgomery County. Bill 25-12 allows transportation impact tax funds to be used to help fund BikeSharing stations. Zoning Text Amendment 12-14 allows private property owners to more easily seek building permits for BikeSharing facilities. Councilmembers Berliner and Ervin were the lead sponsors of the two initiatives.

Transportation impact taxes—paid by developers as part of the approval process for new developments—may be used for a variety of functions that help improve transportation in the County. Bill 25-12 adds installation of BikeShare stations to a list that already includes funding bicycle paths and providing bicycle lockers.

ZTA 12-14 allows a building permit for a BikeShare facility to be granted without a requirement for conformance to an approved site plan. The County’s Planning Board recommended approval of ZTA 12-14 as introduced. It said the measure would make it easier for a developer to provide BikeShare facilities.

“This is an exciting time for bicyclists as many initiatives I have been advocating for are finally becoming a reality, including the BikeShare program and the construction of trails and bikeways such as the Metropolitan Branch Trail,” said Councilmember Ervin, the Council’s representative on the County’s Pedestrian, Bicycle and Traffic Safety Advisory Committee who has worked since 2008 on implementing BikeShare in the County. “There are environmental, health and transportation benefits of bicycling, and I will continue to work to ensure that we have the infrastructure needed for cyclists to travel safely in Montgomery County.”

The Fiscal Year 2014 County operating budget recommended by County Executive Isiah Leggett and that the Council is expected to tentatively approve within the next week includes more than $1 million to operate the BikeShare program in the County.

“This year the Council has an opportunity to increase funding for biking infrastructure such as lane striping and signage,” said Councilmember Riemer. “I hope the funds will be approved in next week’s budget decision.”

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