Less driving and more biking is a clear path to a healthier Montgomery County, says Ethan Goffman, transit chair of the Montgomery County Sierra Club.
He, along with bicycling advocates Dan Reed, blogger for Greater Greater Washington, and Jack Cochrane of Montgomery Bicycle Advocates, will host a mass bike ride from Silver Spring to Takoma Park and back on Saturday, April 20.
The goal is raise awareness about both the benefits of biking and the dangers that many say exists for cyclists in Montgomery County.
"Montgomery County has built up a really great network [of bike lanes] except they're not connected and they're hard to find, so they're under-used," Goffman explained.
To that end, Reed composed a bike statement for the club, a manifesto of sorts that challenges county government to create a more complete network of bike lanes that is safe and convenient for bikers. (Read it, it's attached to this article.)
Goffman said members of the County Council received the statement, but haven't responded.
The Sierra Club is interested in how many people use biking as a transportation mode because it could potentially reduce the area's dependence on vehicles thereby, according to Goffman, reducing toxic emissions and increasing exercise for residents.
"The idea is you get a high enough volume and everyone feels safe biking," Goffman explained. "Right now in the US it's like this 'lone wolf mentality.'"
Goffman reasoned that because bikers are such a road minority, they develop hostility towards dominant cars that may be unwilling to share the road. Bikers may either get discouraged and stop biking or become rude road hogs themselves, he said, creating a "cycle of hostility."
"I've been honked at for doing something legal and there are poeple who will yell at bikes that they don't belong there," said Goffman. "There are so few bikes, they're often not aware of bikes."
More bikes would further the cause, the organization thinks, but also more education for drivers.
"Everyone needs to think about the other mode and be polite and realize how difficult it can be and not be in a rush," Goffman said.
Things like a three-foot rule for drivers to distance themselves from bikers and being aware of bikers making difficult turns are things that Goffman said many drivers lack education about.
Saturday's ride will bike largely on existing paths like the Metropolitan Branch and Sligo Creek trails, but also venture onto the street, Goffman said. It begins at 10 a.m., April 20 and Veteran's Plaza, near the skating rink.
For more information and to make a reservation, contact Ethan Goffman at email@example.com.