Standing at the corner of Route 355 (also known as Rockville Pike) and Veirs Mill Road in Rockville, Maryland, you might be baffled that this city was recently named a Bicycle Friendly Community. Living just south of this area, I sure was, too. But, continue a block east or west of the Pike and you’ll see why.
Rockville — which is situated in the Washington D.C. metro region — didn’t allow a major state highway to get in its way of becoming bicycle-friendly. Instead, the city focused on off-road bike paths through parkland, connecting their network of lower volume streets, and a Safe Routes to School curriculum.
“The city has plans to redesign Rockville Pike – a great area for all kinds of shopping but very auto-centric,” says Nancy Breen, head of the Rockville Bicycle Advisory Committee (RBAC). “But until the redesign is done, we need to find other ways to invite people to ride a bike.” One of the first steps the city took was to engineer the Carl Henn Millennium Trail (pictured) – an 11-mile bike beltway that circles the city and comes within two miles of all Rockville neighborhoods. The trail was recommended in the city’s 1998 Bike Master Plan and came to fruition in 2006. Rockville then concentrated on connecting their bike network on lower volume streets through road diets, bike cut-throughs, traffic-calming, and bike/ped overpasses. The Sister City Friendship Bridge, that opened in 2007, allows bicyclists to safely and conveniently travel east-west across town over a major interstate, which before was unthinkable.