As a frequent rider on the Met Branch Trail (MBT), I view the abrupt ending of the trail under the Franklin St. bridge with mixed feelings. On one hand, it is a huge mental milestone – I am practically home! On the other hand, I have to get back into “city biking mode” – minding traffic, street conditions, pedestrians and the like. Often, I have wondered when the trail will finally be connected to Silver Spring as originally planned. The frustration with two years of inactivity towards MBT completion was recently explored in this post over at the Washington Area Bicyclist Association’ s blog. The post is a call to action and lays the blame for inactivity squarely at the feet of both the city of DC and Montgomery County.
I found a different blog post on the topic to be of even greater interest. The Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space blog proposes a “bicycle boulevard” in Brookland on 9th Street, between Franklin and Monroe Streets NE. According to Bicyclinginfo.org:
“Bicycle boulevards are low-volume streets that have been optimized for bicycle travel through traffic calming and diversion, signage and pavement markings, and intersection crossing treatments.”
For this solution to be viable, the Franklin Street bridge would have to be expanded to accommodate a bike lane. The writer, Richard Layman, puts forth that this may be the only way to provide a continuously bike-friendly environment when all is said and done. This is needed because Abdo / Catholic University plans have the MBT running between Michigan and Monroe Streets along the new development, but there will still be a gap between the end of the current trail and Monroe Street. Current development plans address this gap by having bikers riding along 8th Street - on the sidewalk.
So what to do? I think the 9th Street “bike boulevard” is an interesting idea. But, while 9th Street is not the busiest street, anyone familiar with that stretch knows that because of this, cars regularly fly down it at very high speeds. So there will be an enforcement element needed. But more that anything, will bikers really cross the Franklin Street bridge, bike 8 blocks, and then cross back over the tracks on the Monroe Street bridge to get back on the trail? Or will the shorter distance between two points be more tempting? I think that the latter is more likely. Thoughts?
(Hat tip: Greater Greater Washington)