Old Georgetown Road’s bike lane should be extended North to the 355 intersection


Photo by Sourish Dey

The bike lane on Old Georgetown Road provides cyclists with a dedicate lane of travel. Unfortunately, this bike lane only exists for a small stretch of the road.

Reading the headline, you may be thinking: why does Old Georgetown Road need a bike lane or why is this a big deal? While it may seem minor, a bike lane would be a major benefit for those who seek to bike rather than drive down the road.

First, I should put this in context. Biking is a very good form of transportation. It is a low emissions means of transport, it takes up less space on the roads leading to less congestion, and is beneficial for the health of the biker. This is unlike driving for which commuting is usually detrimental to mental health. Driving is an emission intensive means of transport and the amount of space used to move one person is huge which contributes to congestion. Additionally, biking is a much cheaper way to get around.

Given all of this, you would hope that our streets and communities are designed in a fashion that makes biking safe and easy. However, in the United States, this is often not the case. Oftentimes, roads have 6 to 8 lanes of traffic going over 40 miles an hour while only providing a narrow or no sidewalk for pedestrians or bikers. This is the case on Old Georgetown Road.

In fact, this reality has had tragic consequences on Old Georgetown Road. In August of 2019, a student at Winston Churchill High School named Jacob Cassel was struck by an SUV and died. The tragedy was viewed as a case study of how suburban roads are not designed for cyclists.

Soon after, a bike lane was built between the Beltway and Cedar Lane on Old Georgetown Road. The bike lane spans for about 1 mile of the road and is a safe and easy way for bikers to navigate the busy road. As someone who has biked and been in a car down that section of road many times, I can safely say that it’s a street where all modes of transport are fitted in. It’s easy to walk, bike or drive down that section of the road.

However, Old Georgetown Road is over 5 miles long so the vast majority of the road isn’t covered by the bike lane. WJ is quite far north of the bike lane meaning few WJ students can take advantage of it when biking to school. On Old Georgetown Road north of the bike lane, the conditions are in a similar unsafe condition to that of where Cassell was killed in 2019. The road is 6 lanes wide, and the speed limit is 40 miles an hour with many cars approaching 50. The sidewalk is extremely narrow.

This means that bikers using the road have to pick their poison: bike on the sidewalk or on the road. They can ride on the sidewalk which is very narrow, forcing the cyclist to make sharp, unsafe turns very close to traffic in order to pass pedestrians and obstructions. Keep in mind, they could be in a serious accident if the turn goes wrong and they end up in the street.

The alternative is to bike on the road. While there are fewer unsafe turns to make, a cyclist must now contend with aggressive drivers and the general roadway environment.

Given that these are the conditions on Old Georgetown Road near WJ, these are the options faced by all the students that use Old Georgetown Road to bike to school. The fact that this is the situation faced by students who chose to use a mode of transport that is healthy for themselves, their planet and reduces congestion on the roadway is ridiculous. With the bike lane extended, this situation changes drastically.

I want the students of WJ including myself to have a safe way to bike to school. I want Old Georgetown Road and all the places it connects to be a safe place to bike. The step needed to make this ideal a reality is very simple: extend the bike lane.