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Dueling petitions to remove and protect the new Georgetown Road bike lanes

A petition calling for the removal of the Old Georgetown Road bike lanes has more than 4,000 signatures. Meanwhile, a petition supporting the lanes has over 170.

BETHESDA, Md. — Brand new bike lanes in Montgomery County have stirred up some controversy. Thousands of drivers have signed a petition against the new bike lanes on Old Georgetown Road, but bike safety activists argue they can save lives. 

The petition against the bike lanes had garnered more than 4,030 signatures as of Thursday afternoon. A competing petition in support of the lanes had 171 signatures on Thursday afternoon. 

"There's consistent congestion now," said Mary Cullen, who signed the petition against the bike lanes. "Which is creating traffic pattern havoc." 

According to the Maryland Department of Transportation, the bike lanes were put onto Old Georgetown Road this fall in the area between the Capital Beltway and Nicholson Lane. 

Credit: Evan Koslof
Bike lanes have been added to Old Georgetown Road in the area north of the Capital Beltway.

The change turned the six-lane highway into a four-lane roadway. According to MDOT, this highway typically sees about 40,000 vehicles per day. 

Cullen said that she is concerned that the traffic will slow emergency response from first responders, who use the roadway. She also said the congestion is pushing some drivers to take residential backroads.

"Everyone is using different traffic patterns," she said. "They can’t afford to wait on Old Georgetown Road. And they’re going down side streets like this one on Wilmett Road.” 

Credit: Evan Koslof
Neighbors Are Split; Marcy Rogers (L) supports the bike lanes, while Mary Cullen (R) think they should be removed.

In response to our inquiry about neighbor concerns, a spokesperson for the Maryland Department of Transportation's State Highway Association sent us the following statement: 

"Our engineers estimated the safety improvements for our vulnerable users will lead to an additional one to two minutes of travel time for motorists along sections Old Georgetown Road.  We are balancing our efforts to reduce fatalities on our roadways with the travel times for motorists.  We anticipated an adjustment period for motorists to become familiar with the new travel patterns."

Other bicycle safety advocates have celebrated the new bike lanes. Peter Gray, a Maryland Organizer for the Washington Area Bicyclist Association said the lanes have the potential to save lives. 

"It’s important because we’ve had enough people dying on these roads using the sidewalk..." he said. "And maybe it’s worth it to spend a few extra minutes in traffic to avoid other people dying.”

Credit: Evan Koslof
Peter Gray, a Maryland organizer for the Washington Area Bicyclist Association supports the bike lanes.

Neighbor Marcy Cullen said she supports the bike lanes. 

“People who opt to bicycle should be able to do so in peace," she said. "To do so in a way that is safe to them.”

Other neighbors, who have commented on the petition to have them removed, have been more critical. 

"The removal of a lane of traffic on MD-187 (Old Georgetown Rd) between Tilden Lane and Cedar Lan (sic) is nothing short of governmental malfeasance," wrote Peter Davidov. "It provides no public good and significantly detracts from the standard of living in Montgomery County." 

Credit: Evan Koslof
Bike lanes have been put on both sides of Old Georgetown Road north of the Capital Beltway.

According to MDOT, this isn't the first time bike lanes have been added along Old Georgetown Road. Back in April 2020, MDOT added "buffered bicycle lanes" in the area south of the Beltway. 

There were 563 road fatalities in 2021, and 25% of them were "vulnerable users", according to MDOT. 

"One death is too many and we are committed to safety of all highway users," MDOT wrote in a statement. "

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