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Sierra Club to Host a Mass Bike Ride in Silver Spring Saturday

The local leg of the environmental organization wants to encourage residents to get out of their cars.

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 ethan.goffman@maryland.sierraclub.org.

Simon Burke April 17, 2013 at 02:20 PM
Interested in the route as well. ANy ideas? I assume Sligo into Takoma. Then Metropolitan to somewhere though i have never used that one.
Ian Brett Cooper April 17, 2013 at 03:59 PM
Since Maryland law requires cyclists to use bike lanes, no matter how poorly designed and implemented they are and no matter how poorly maintained they are, I would prefer that Montgomery County not spend more money on such facilities. Bike lanes have been shown in study after study in the US and in Europe to make cycling LESS safe than cycling on the road, because motorists simply do not look for bike lane cyclists when turning at intersections. Often cyclists in a bike lane are screened from motorists' view by other cars, while cyclists on bike paths are screened by utility poles and boxes. This results in more collisions, more injuries and more deaths. See: http://ianbrettcooper.blogspot.com/2012/08/bicycle-infrastructure-studies.html and: http://ddot.dc.gov/DC/DDOT/Publication%20Files/On%20Your%20Street/Bicycles%20and%20Pedestrians/Bicycles/Bike%20Lanes/DDOT_BicycleFacilityEvaluation_ExecSummary.pdf The road is perfectly safe for cycling and has proven to be a lot safer than bike lanes and paths. The rightmost travel lane is always the bike lane and it's connected throughout the county and indeed the state. Until the state removes the requirement for cyclists to ride in hazardous bike paths, I advise cyclists to ride in the road, as the League of American Bicyclists and cycling safety experts nationwide and worldwide advise.
Ian Brett Cooper April 17, 2013 at 04:05 PM
"Bikers may either get discouraged and stop biking or become rude road hogs themselves" Cyclists are allowed to use the full lane in Maryland and indeed should do so in MOST situations, as noted in Maryland TR § 21-1205 (a) (6). This is not being a 'road hog' - it is a necessary road position that allows cyclists to avoid hazards and prevent unsafe passing.
Whitney Teal April 19, 2013 at 05:35 AM
The route: http://goo.gl/maps/0I3GA
Whitney Teal April 19, 2013 at 05:36 AM
Here's the route: http://goo.gl/maps/0I3GA

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