BETHESDA, Md. (WDVM) — Old Georgetown Rd. in Bethesda sees all kinds of traffic – cars, bikes and pedestrians. A new State Highway Administration improvement plan reimagines how residents will use the busy roadway.
It’s a well-traveled throughway, but some residents won’t risk riding or walking it because, “it’s way too dangerous. The speed of the traffic, the space of the lanes, the sidewalk is, in some ways, more dangerous because it’s narrow and the curb is high,” said Michael Schoenbaum, a local bicyclist.
MDOT State Highway Administration is calling the new project a “road diet.” The change will provide a six-foot-wide bike lane with a five-foot buffer between vehicles, and wider sidewalks for pedestrians.
Susan Goldberg jogs through the area often, she worries about her safety and the safety of others who use this road.
“It’s horrible, this road is horrible, it’s so exciting that they’re actually going to put in a bike lane. My husband bikes to work, too, so that’s going to be huge,” said Goldberg.
Old Georgetown Rd has seen several serious collisions over the last year, including one that killed 17-year-old bicyclist Jacob Cassell, and seriously injured another teen riding her bike.
Local bicyclist Michael Schoenbaum was hit by a car nearly twenty years ago and considers himself lucky.
“I was hit when an SUV coming from the opposite direction failed to yield and turned left across my path and I spent two weeks in the hospital. I didn’t wanna give up biking, but it completely changed how I ride,” said Schoenbaum.
He believes it shouldn’t take a tragedy to decide it’s time to re-engineer dangerous roadways.
“The people who get killed are our neighbors, friends, children, family members, so I think we all have a stake in this,” he said.
The improvements come with a small sacrifice for drivers – drive times along Old Georgetown Rd. are expected to increase during peak travel hours throughout the day.