Howard County Executive Calvin Ball has filed a resolution that would likely increase biking and pedestrian infrastructure in Howard County.
Howard’s access to public transit is significantly less in comparison to cities like Baltimore and Washington, D.C. The policy is said to create a “seamless, connected street network” that provides convenient access to bike lanes, pedestrian crossings and transit.
The policy, filed to the County Council in late August, would be carried out by county departments including planning and zoning and public works.
Under the proposed new regulations, new developments and mass transit projects would be designed to not allow developers to prioritize driver convenience over the safety of bikers and pedestrians.
The resolution places a bar for new developments to be exempt from this policy. Jim Irvin, director of the Department of Public Works; Val Lazdins, director of the Department of Planning and Zoning; and the administrator of the Office of Transportation would have to sign off on the approval.
When considering exemption, county officials can question if a project of equivalent scope and schedule exists or is already scheduled for funding within the next five years to provide connectivity for all users. Officials can also consider the cost of the accommodations or if the impact is “grossly” disproportionate to the need, according to the policy.
Ball’s resolution is supported by three Democratic County Council members: Christiana Mercer Rigby, Deb Jung and Opel Jones.
The Horizon Foundation, American Heart Association and Bicycling Advocates of Howard County has advocated for a measure like this in the past few years.
Nikki Highsmith Vernick, president of the Horizon Foundation, in a statement said the measure “is a great launching point toward making the county’s streets safer and more accessible and for children to walk to school, for people to be more physically active and for people with disabilities and older adults to travel more easily and independently.”
The county has 108 miles of shared-use pathways for bikers and walkers located off the streets — 90 of which are in Columbia.
Biking advocates last December went before Ball to ask for $3 million in funding over the next three years to expedite their policy to create infrastructure and to formalize the biking policy. Ball and the County Council approved $2.2 million for this fiscal year, according to a news release
Advocates said that of 1,038 miles of roads maintained by Howard County, only 35 contain bike lanes. Neighboring Montgomery County has 55.41 miles of “properly marked bike lanes,” 41.62 miles of “bike-friendly shoulders” and 1.68 miles of “separated bike lanes,” according to a spokesman for Montgomery.
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The County Council will host a public hearing at 7 p.m. Sept. 16 in the George Howard Building on this measure as well as one that would change land-use regulations in historic Ellicott City.