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Geez, another bumpout fiasco. Somehow I missed this one. MCDOT is just now discovering that these things are trouble for bicyclists.

Curb extensions that are properly designs should not extend into the path of bicyclists. This typically means that they do not go past the edge of parked cars. US DOT says the following:

"Curb extensions are only appropriate where there is an on-street parking lane. Curb extensions must not extend into travel lanes, bicycle lanes, or shoulders (curb extensions should not extend more than 1.8 m (6 ft) from the curb)."


I am not familiar with Aspen Hill, but recent modifications to Arcola Ave in the Wheaton area are similar. The street narrows at numerous locations with curb bulb outs, which forces cyclists to move closer to traffic, if not into the only travel lane.

I agree, the bulb-outs/bump-outs/curb extensions on this road are bad news for bikers, albeit helpful for pedestrians.

Here are two links regarding the issue:

Gazette Oct. 15 Bumper to Bumper column

Wiki page on Aspen Hill Road from aspenhill.net

The stretch of Aspen Hill Road at issue -- the 1.6 miles between Veirs Mill Road and Connecticut Avenue -- is mainly a two-lane artery through a residential area. Although it has no bicycle lanes per se, it has wide shoulders/parking lanes that were somewhat bikeable prior to the installation of the bump-outs. I use "somewhat" because because parked cars often block the shoulder, forcing you to make a choice between the main travel lane or the sidewalk, the latter sometimes causing conflicts with pedestrians.

However, I've also walked and jogged in that area, and crossing that road was a nightmare during peak hours (Bel Pre Road, to the north, is just as bad if not worse in this respect). Aspen Hill Road is a popular east-west route for motorists, who usually exceed its posted speed limit of 30 mph. The speed and volume of traffic make crossing the street risky unless you are at one of the two signal-controlled intersections at Arctic Avenue or Parkland Drive. Unfortunately, these two stoplights are separated by nearly a mile, and apparently many pedestrians aren't willing to go that extra mile just for the safety of crossing at a light.

To aid pedestrians attempting to cross the road, the county recently installed a pair of traffic-calming bulb-outs in tandem with crosswalks and signs. And at two additional intersections, crosswalks with pedestrian islands were installed.

The biker in me saw that the bulb-outs created a hazard by temporarily eliminating the buffer that the shoulders provided. As a pedestrian, though, I appreciated the efforts to make the road more pedestrian-friendly.

So I guess it comes down to finding a solution that works for both pedestrians and bikers.

I wonder it would be feasible to install a stoplight midway between Arctic and Parkland -- say, at Iris Street or Oriental Street. This would shorten the distance to the nearest controlled pedestrian crossing by at least half.

Other traffic calming measures such as speed humps or mini-circles could be used, but they may have unacceptable drawbacks -- e.g., impeding emergency responders.

Here's an idea: On Hurley Avenue in northwest Rockville, I've noticed that it's possible to coast a bike through the narrow gutter carved out of the far right edge of the bulb-outs. (I haven't checked if the Aspen Hill bulb-outs have such gutters.) The gutter is only about a foot or two wide, so there's little margin for error as far as steering or pedal clearance, but I'd rather take my chances brushing against the gutter than trying to squeeze into the narrow travel lane with speeding motorists. If this gutter were widened to 3-4 feet, it would be even better for cyclists.

The pedestrian benefits of bump-outs and islands are great, but it doesn't have to be done in a way that's so bad for bicyclists. There are intelligent ways to build bumpouts. Yes, some have been tried somewhere with a slot for bikes. I prefer that they simply not be so big.

I wrote this in September about Arcola Ave:
"Maybe [Arcola] was bad for bikes before, but I can attest that it's got big problems right now, and needlessly so. The center islands and bumpouts were constructed without any consideration of cyclists. The bumpouts appear out of nowehere to block the shoulder, while the islands cause the travel lane to shift over into you (if you're using the shoulder) which is especially treacherous. If you were to ride in the travel lane for the entire 2.5 miles, you would undoubtedly be the target of road rage (given that there's a shoulder 99% of the time). But playing the shoulder game isn't much better. In one case today, although I'd moved into the travel lane early enough, one car passed me almost too late before one of the islands, and a car hot on his heels thought he'd do the same but would have failed, so I held my arm out, palm backwards, the universal "don't pass me now" sign (short of actually cutting him off), which was greeted by something between a honk and a toot. Then at one of the bumpouts I signaled and moved into the travel lane, basically cutting a driver off a bit late (I waved), but the alternative was to come to a complete stop on the shoulder from 20 mph. And there had to be a dozen of these things. Parked cars aren't this bad. At least parked cars are very visible to both the cyclist and the driver, and drivers are usually pretty accommodating if there's one in your way. But drivers are pretty oblivious to the fact that the shoulder you're on tapers to a point when there's an island. Grosvenor Lane has a couple of these pinchdowns. But Arcola has them one after another"

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