The Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) has joined WABA and some citizens associations by calling on County Executive Rushern Baker to create a bike-ped coordinator position within the Prince Georges County government.
On behalf of the county's Bicycle and Trail Advisory Committee (BTAG), Eric Foster (head of transportation planning) and Fred Shaffer (the principal bike-ped planner) recommended the following priorities for the Baker Administration (quoting):
- The creation of a bicycle and pedestrian coordinator position at the Department of Public Works and Transportation. This position will allow for the evaluation and incorporation of pedestrian and bicycle accommodations on new CIP projects and as routine maintenance occurs. This position would be comparable to existing positions at the District Department of Transportation and in Montgomery County. BTAG commends DPW&T for their continued work with M-NCPPC and BTAG, the inclusion of bicycle and pedestrian priorities on the Joint Signature Letter, the completion of a successful and comprehensive Safe-Routes-to-School application, and operating efficiently despite severe financial constraints. However, the creation of this position will help to ensure that the needs of all roadway users are accommodated through all phases of facility design, construction, and maintenance.
- The adoption of a Complete Streets Policy. The 2009 Approved Countywide Master Plan of Transportation included a Complete Streets Section that highlighted the need for accommodating all modes of transportation in new road construction or improvements. Incorporating the necessary accommodations for pedestrians and bicyclists into roadway design will not only improve safety, but also ensure that opportunities are provided to make some trips by modes other than automobile. Although not feasible for all trips, non-motorized trips can be most effectively utilized around transit stations, within existing established communities, and around schools. BTAG supports the adoption of the complete streets policy by the county that is based on the Approved Countywide Master Plan of Transportation and ensures that these improvements are considered and incorporated into road improvements and new road construction as funding allows.
- The provision of designated bike lanes along county roads where right-of-way permits as standard resurfacing or restriping occur. This step would allow for the implementation of the Approved Countywide Master Plan of Transportation through routine maintenance.
- The analysis of bicycle and pedestrian facility needs created by new development through the transportation adequate public facilities test. Bicycle and pedestrian facilities should be evaluated for these needs just as automobile facilities currently are.
- The development of a policy on shared-lane markings and “Bikes May Take Full Lane” signs (R4-11). The 2009 edition of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) includes guidance on additional treatments for accommodating bicycles safely along public roads. These newly endorsed techniques included shared lane markings and the R4-11 signs. BTAG recommends that the county develop a policy for utilizing these treatments in appropriate locations.
The letter added that the recommendations were originally formulated at an meeting last October, after Mr. Baker had won the primary election. In the following months, the recommendations were refined and reviewed to ensure that they represented M-NCPPC policy.
In most jurisdictions, an open letter from a local agency recommending an agenda to the County Executive would be unusual. But in Prince Georges County, transportation planning is conducted by the bi-county M-NCPPC which is independent of the county government. Mr. Baker's transition team has suggested moving the bike-ped mission from M-NCPPC to the county government. In an article last month, this author questioned the wisdom of transferring the planning function from a forward-looking agency to an agency that has always placed driver convenience above bicycle and pedestrian safety.
The consensus among planners and advocates is that Prince George's County should build capacity at the Department of Public Works and Transportation, not tear it down at M-NCPPC.
(Jim Titus is a member of BTAG and the Board of Directors of the Washington Area Bicyclists Association. The views expressed herein do not represent the officials opinions of WABA or BTAG.)