Bike lanes on Old Georgetown Road cause discourse in community


Screengrab by Rhea Noumair

The petition starting on Dec. 27 gained 7,733 signatures out of the 10,000 needed to remove the bike lanes. “I drive and I like people to have their own lanes. For people to be biking on the sidewalk or on the road with cars, it’s not safe,” senior Joseph Khalil said.

On Oct. 17, 2022, the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration announced the installation of two miles of protected bike lanes on Old Georgetown Road in North Bethesda between West Cedar Lane and Nicholson Road and narrow driving lanes. The decision, which was officially implemented in December of last year, was cause for major debate between car drivers and cyclists in the school due to the emerging traffic and the commute becoming hazardous.

“I drive and I like people to have their own lanes. For people to be biking on the sidewalk or on the road with cars, it’s not safe. [For those who say it’s dangerous to drive with the bike lanes] they are not comfortable enough and it’s understandable but I feel like they should be more comfortable around them and respect [cyclists’] lanes,” senior Joseph Khalil said.

Khalil, both a driver and a cyclist, supports the bike lanes and finds them to be a benefit to the community. He uses them often and in general does not mind sharing the road.

However, support was immediately drowned out by those who opposed the bike lanes and who found them to be more of a safety hazard. The community proposed a petition on on Dec. 27, 2022, and as of Feb. 7, there have been 7,733 signatures out of the 10,000 needed to remove the bike lanes.

Car drivers and bus riders such as junior Antonia Flores are against the bike lanes because they believe that are taking up space and making commutes dangerous.

“I feel like they’re using too much space, especially around the cars. They could make them smaller,” Flores said.

Despite the split in opinions, there is an agreement regarding the importance of safety for pedestrians and cyclists. In 2022, there were 938 cyclist deaths in the United States. In Montgomery County, there were 11 pedestrian and cyclist deaths by motor vehicles. The tragedies were cause for immediate implementation of the long-time plan to reduce pedestrian and cyclist deaths and were implemented as a permanent fix, however, both sides agree that there are ways for the lanes to be improved.

“It would be better if they didn’t make them interrupt the traffic lanes, that would be safer for them too,” Flores said.

Many bike lane supporters also have their critiques.

“Having the lane at [Rockspring Drive] is very inconvenient because there are a lot of students that exit from that side and some students like to Tokyo Drift it so it’s dangerous,” Khalil said.

In general, drivers do not want cars to be excluded from the road, pedestrians do not want to be excluded from the road and cyclists do not want bicycles excluded from the road. With talks of banning bicycles from thousands of miles of road and a proposition put forward by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in 2020, the idea of banning one group from the road may seem to make it ‘safer’ instead of adding the bike lanes. Recent occurrences have proven that there needs to be a balance. Despite the proposed FHWA rule being immediately shut down, it opened up more room for the bike lanes debate. As well as with the petition circling around the community, the bike lanes may or may not have a chance to improve.

“I’m going to take a wait and see approach, I assume a lot of research and data went into the decision and it might promote more green and health practices especially in the spring. But, as a driver, I find it to feel a little unsafe since it’s new. It’s a little frustrating to have some more back up and to wait for longer traffic light cycles,” social studies teacher and commuter Jeremy Butler said. “I don’t want to say I don’t like it because it’s new or because it’s slightly inconvenient if in the long run, It can make things safer.”