Back in 2014, WABA and Prince George's County advocates asked the county to add protected bike lanes to Suitland Road, with the top priority section being the one from the DC line to the Suitland Federal Center. Part of the section just has one really wide lane and part has shoulders. Since 2014, there's been some small progress, an opportunity and a problem or two.
It's not an unreasonable request. Bike lanes on Suitland from DC to Allentown road were included in the 2009 county Transportation plan.
An attractive streetscape with continuous sidewalks, on-road bicycle facilites and pedestrian safety features are needed along Suitland Road. Suitland Road provides access to the Suitland Federal Center, Suitland Community Park and several school facilities.
In the original 2014 statement, the advocates wrote that Suitland Road has "no parking". Unfortunately, that's not true. Sometime in 2016, the Whitehall Square Apartments began aggressively towing cars that didn't have a valid Maryland license plate, which led many tenants to park their cars on the shoulder where it's legal between the cemetery and Arnold Road. As someone who rides this road often, I find this to be not awesome in so many ways. Also, cars are constantly being vandalized, so it's one of those "everybody loses" situations.
In April 2015, WABA hosted a community walk and in July sent a letter, together with local citizen groups, to SHA. Then in November 2015, SHA completed a feasibility study on a bikeway retrofit. They came up with four concepts, all with bike lanes. One pair adds curbs and gutters to the road and one does not. And then in each pair one has a sidewalk and the other doesn't. In one section the bikes lanes would be 5' and in another there would be a 4' bike lane with a 3' buffer.
Not what WABA was looking for, but
buffered bike lanes, in which bicyclists are separated from travel lanes by a wide painted buffer, are an enormous improvement from the 18 foot lane speedways in place today. If designed well, buffered bike lanes can easily be upgraded to protected lanes in the future once maintenance-related concerns over protected bike lanes are resolved within SHA.
WABA asked SHA to consider installing concrete barriers between the bike lane and roadway, Without saying no, SHA pointed out that such barriers (or "raised median islands") would present maintenance and operational challenges.
First, snow removal and street sweeping would require special equipment when the bikeway width inside of the raised island is too narrow for existing street maintenance equipment. Snow removal procedures will also need to minimize the creation of snow banks in the buffer zone. In addition, because melted snow flowing across the bikeway can freeze at night, raised median areas require frequent salting in order to avoid hazardous conditions.
Street sweeping may have to be done more frequently than on typical streets, especially during the fall season, due to the lack of the sweeping effect of vehicle traffic and the canyon profile of a bikeway, tends to hold leaves and other debris.
Another factor that should be taken into consideration is that separating the bicycle facilitieswith a curb or a similar device would effectively convert the facility into a bicycle path. The annotated code of Maryland requires that all bicycle paths be maintained by the responsible political subdivision. Therefore if raised median islands are to be considered SHA would have to enter into an agreement with Prince George’s County for the maintenance of the bicycle path
A few months late, the Urban Land Institute made a set of recommendations to the GSA about the Suitland Federal Center which is along Suitland Road. They recommended removing the perimeter fence and replacing it with a bike and ped path (fat chance on removing the fence, but the path could probably be put in without it); improving bike facilities on Silver Hill and Suitland roads and adding bike lanes or sharrows on campus.
During the buildup to construction of Suitland Town Center, which is currently underway, the Prince George's County Planning Board noted that county plans require a bike lane along Suitland Road, but is only requiring the developer to add bike lanes to Huron Road.
And that seems to be where we stand right now. The county plans on putting bike lanes in, knows that it can be done and has a starting framework for them. So, we still got a ways to go.