By Jeff Lemieux and Veronica Davis
Installation of bike infrastructure on the east side of the DC Metropolitan region has lagged for various reasons. However, advocates in Prince George’s County, MD and the District of Columbia have identified a key missing link in the region’s bicycle network.
The Washington Area Bicyclist Association’s (WABA’s) bike advocacy group for Prince George’s county has identified protected bike lanes on Suitland Road as a top priority to create a link between DC and large employment centers in Suitland, MD. The group identified the section from DC line to the Suitland Federal Center as a top priority. The second section would extend the bike lanes from the Suitland Federal Center to Andrews Air Force/Joint Base. The overall goals of adding a protected bike lane on Suitland Road would be to: encourage cycling, calm traffic, and improve the overall streetscape for all users.
Installing protected bike lanes has been shown to increase bike volumes in DC. Currently, there are cyclists that bike from somewhere in DC to the Suitland Federal Center in Maryland. While the Strava heat maps are not a perfect data set, they indicate that cyclists are taking Suitland Road through the Hillcrest neighborhood of DC to Suitland, MD.
Calm Traffic and Create a “Complete Street”
Over the last few years, DC has implemented traffic calming near the border with Maryland. DDOT installed speed humps on Suitland Road SE between 38th adding lane striping and sharrows on 38th Street SE between Suitland Road SE and Alabama Ave SE. In the District, Hillcrest Suitland Road has mature trees, a sidewalk on at least one side of street, and street lighting.
In contrast, the current view along Suitland Road in MD shows few (or no) sidewalks, extra-wide vehicle lanes that encourage speeding, inconsistent (or no) shoulders, and poor pedestrian access to bus stops. The nicest part of Suitland road in Maryland is where the road goes through a cemetery – after that, the road is simply run down, old fashioned, and just plain ugly. It’s no wonder businesses struggle along those blocks.
Suitland Road Streetscape in Prince George’s County
No Sidewalks or Bike Lanes on Suitland Road between DC and the Suitland Federal Center
Encourage the County Leadership to Take the Initiative
Although the state’s official policies are to encourage bike and pedestrian travel, the on-the-ground reality of most suburban Maryland roads begs to differ, and Prince George’s county is no exception. For a county with approximately a million residents, there are only have a handful bike lanes on the roadways, and many of those were built by municipalities; virtually none of the state-numbered roadways have safe bike access.
Bike transportation is such an afterthought that Prince George’s official transportation guide does not contain a section on bike riding. In fact, the work “bike” or “bicycle” only appears once in the entire booklet, as an offhand remark, not as a topic.
The group hopes that advocating for protected lanes on Suitland Road would help get the complete streets goal moved from theory into practice in Prince George’s. It is especially important to target a state numbered road, since the state controls most of the major roads in the county, and the state roads are the most dangerous for county cyclists and pedestrians.
Prince George’s Transportation Guide
Suitland Road between the Cemeteries in Maryland
By Contrast, Bike Lanes in SE DC
In DC, cyclists complain about the lack of safe bike lanes east of the Anacostia River. But across the border in Maryland, things are even worse. It’s time to move the complete streets goal from “just talk” to on-the-ground reality in Prince George’s county.
For more information about the Prince George’s County Advocacy Group, please contact Greg Billing at WABA (firstname.lastname@example.org), the group’s co-chairs, Phil Koopman of Mount Rainer/BicycleSPACE (email@example.com) and Jeff Lemieux of Greenbelt/Proteus Bicycles (firstname.lastname@example.org).
For more information about the Suitland Road project, please contact project leader John Epps at the Suitland Federal Center/Maryland Park Bicycles (email@example.com).