Bike Lanes Arrive, More Improvements Anticipated

The re-paving of Great Star Drive and the installation of bike lanes along this roadway are the latest result of the Association’s efforts to improve local pedestrian and vehicular safety and to enhance connections with Columbia and the surrounding County.  Since 2010 the River Hill Village Board, in conjunction with the Association’s Traffic and Safety and Master Plan Committees, has been advocating for bike lanes in the community and discussing options with a variety of stakeholders. Avid bikers in the River Hill community, representatives from Bicycling Advocates of Howard County,  the Columbia Association (CA), our County Council Representative, the County Executive’s Office, and representatives from within the County’s Department of Public Works have all played a role.

Now it is time for drivers and bikers to do their part. Given the changes in lane markings and the addition of the bike lanes, drivers are urged to be alert and use caution, obey the posted speed limits, and be aware of added bikers on Great Star Drive. Remember, it’s the law – when sharing the road with bikes, leave 3 feet when passing cyclists. Parents, please be sure to review the rules and the roadways changes with your teen drivers. Bikers familiarize yourselves with the new markings, be alert to the areas where you share the road with motorized vehicles, remember to signal turning and wear a helmet.

This project in River Hill comes at a time when CA, the County, The Howard Hughes Corporation (THHC), and the State Highway Administration are undertaking projects to improve biking facilities and connections. In the fall of 2011, CA launched Connecting Columbia, an analysis of the current pathway system and the identification of priorities for moving forward. With the vision of creating a more interconnected and comprehensive bicycling and walking circulation system for health, recreation and transportation purposes, the draft Active Transportation Action Agenda document is now under review. The document includes recommendations for connections, pathway design and maintenance, safety, and wayfinding.  Also identified are hundreds of prioritized projects, one of which is a short connector pathway designed to close the gap between the existing path near Wild Orange Gate and the River Hill Village Center on Daylong Lane.  The study recommends that this be one of four pilot projects to be implemented soon after the adoption of the document.  To review the draft document, visit www.columbiaassociation.com/content/GetInformed/ConnectingColumbia/.

While CA can undertake improvements on its open space, it is necessary for the County, the State, private land owners, and the community to work collaboratively to address such things as roadway crossings, on-street bikeways, and major gaps in the network. On Thursday September 4, the Toole Design Group, the consultant for THHC will hold a community meeting to present the Design Guidelines and a Site Development Plan for the first phase of the multi-use pedestrian bicycle pathway connecting Blandair Park to Howard County General Hospital. This meeting is an opportunity for public engagement in the process of redeveloping Downtown Columbia and will be held at Slayton House at 6:30 p.m.

Meanwhile, the County is undertaking a Bicycle Master Plan process and is working in partnership with the State and others to improve connections. This includes a multijurisdictional effort to build a safe bicycle commuter route connecting Clarksville with Fort Meade. On Monday, September 24, representatives from the State Highway Administration will meet with the Village Board to present plans for this proposed route.  The meeting is open to the public and will be held at 7 p.m. in Claret Hall. The new bike lanes along Great Star Drive are a critical component of this effort. Grant funding is expected to enable the County to widen shoulders for cycling along a portion of Guilford Road.  As part of this route, SHA will implement a signing plan to provide directions and promote shared use of the roadways by motorists and bicyclists using funding received from the Maryland Bikeways Program. So, more changes in our community are anticipated.

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