The Master Guide to the Bike Howard Master Plan


I stopped by the annual BikeHoward Open House on January 29 to learn more about the plan to improve bicycle infrastructure and accessibility in Howard County. I have been confused by all the terminology and projects being planned and how everything fit together, and I walked away from the Open House having a much better understanding of where things stands, what is being done, and what the future holds as Howard County makes significant improvements in its bike plans. The following describes the various initiatives (all with brief descriptions, links to learn more, and some pictures of the poster boards displayed at the Open House).

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The BikeHoward Master Plan is the comprehensive master plan developed in 2015 ---guiding the county’s future actions to improve conditions for bicyclists and promote bicycling as a safe and convenient travel option. The master plan is aspirational and comprehensive and provides a vision to work towards – it provides the details of all all desired bike networks and infrastructure, but did not guarantee or provide any funding or commitment that any of these plans would actually be funded and constructed. Funding would take creativity in seeking funding at the local, state, and federal level; acquiring grants, along with working with developers to fund the projects contained in the plan. As part of the redevelopment of downtown Columbia, the Howard Hughes Corp has committed to and completed several of the projects identified in the master plan while the county has allocated funding other projects as part of the Bike Howard Express Project.

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Bike Howard Express is a 3-year project from FY19 to FY21 to fund a subset of the projects identified in the master plan with a commitment of $8 million over 3 years from both county funding and grants. The projects within this plan were selected from the master plan and would include new bike lanes, designated shared roadways, and shared-use pathways over approximately 48 miles. Projects funded as part of Bike Howard Express include the North Laurel Connections bicycle route from Savage to North Laurel, new shared-use pathways providing bicycle access into downtown Columbia, Columbia Gateway, and along Dobbin Road, and nearly 15 miles of bike lanes.


As the focus of this blog is on downtown Columbia, below are brief overviews of some of the projects being funded as part of Bike Howard Express in the downtown Columbia area, but recognize that many of the projects in Bike Howard Express are located away from downtown.


Downtown Columbia Projects in Bike Howard Express Plan

South Entrance Trail: The South Entrance Trail (formerly known as the Downtown Columbia to Stevens Forest Road Pathway) would connect the growing shared-use pathway network in Downtown Columbia to Hillcroft Executive Park, Owen Brown, Lake Elkhorn, and the Patuxent Branch Trail. The 1.3-mile pathway would generally follow an existing sewer alignment along the Little Patuxent River.


Hickory Ridge Bike Corridor: The goal of this project is to develop a route for continuous bike lanes and multi-use paths to connect existing bike lanes on Grace Drive (providing access from River Hill and points west) to Hickory Ridge, Downtown Columbia and the rest of the Columbia pathway system and bike network. I blogged about this project last month. It’s important to note that this project is still in the planning phase. Recommendations from the study have been released for public comment which were due January 31 though I believe late comments may still be considered), and once the route and projects within the study are finalized, the project will move onto the design and then construction phase.


Twin Rivers Road: Currently in construction is a new multi-use pathway linking Wilde Lake to Downtown Columbia along Twin Rivers Road. This project is listed as part of Bike Howard Express in the poster above, though it is being funded by Howard Hughes.


Broken Land Parkway/MD 32 Park & Ride Access - Okay, I wouldn’t describe this one as being in downtown Columbia, but this project is one I’m personally excited about it will enhance my own commute into DC. This project would add a ~1/2 mile bike path along Broken Land Parkway connecting the Patuxent Branch Trail and Lake Elkhorn Loop to the Broken Land Parkway Park and Ride locations that provide commuter bus service into Baltimore and DC, allowing commuters to cycle from their home to the park and ride.

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Other Bike Projects of Note

There are several other bike-related projects ongoing in Howard County and surrounding areas that were presented during the Open House event. These aren’t new bike lanes or paths, but will significant help make getting around by bike easier and safer.


Complete Streets Policy Implementation: On October 7, 2019, Howard County adopted a Complete Streets Policy and is creating a Complete Streets and Bridges Design Manual. The vision of the Complete Streets policy is to “ensure Howard County is a place for individuals of all backgrounds to travel freely, safely, and comfortably. All public and private roadways within Howard County shall be safe and convenient for residents who travel by foot, bicycle, public transportation, or automobile.


Bicycle Wayfinding Signage: Howard County is conducting a county-wide bicycle network study to improve bicycle way-finding signage. This basically means adding new signs, like the one shown below and more clearly marking bike routes using color coding. Ultimately the goal of this project is to help people to better understand and use Howard County’s bicycle network and make it easier to connect with destinations.


The Patapsco Regional Greenway: The Patapsco Regional Greenway is a proposed 10-12-foot-wide, shared-use trail running through the Patapsco Valley from Baltimore’s Inner Harbor to Sykesville in Carroll County. This trail, if completed, would pass through or near the communities of Cherry Hill, Baltimore Highlands, Halethorpe, Elkridge, Catonsville, Ellicott City, Oella, Daniels, Woodstock, Marriottsville, and Sykesville.


Walk Howard: Okay, this is not a bike project, but it’s worth noting that the County Council just adopted an improved Howard County pedestrian plan in February 2020 through Resolution 14-2020. The WalkHoward plan is an update of the 2007 Pedestrian Master Plan. The new Pedestrian Plan, WalkHoward: Moving Forward, continues efforts to improve walkability in Howard County recognizing that the HoCo community is happier, healthier, safer and more efficient when we have a system of sidewalks, pathways, bus stops and roadway crossings that make it easy to get around on two feet and in a wheelchair. WalkHoward addresses walking in all of its forms – whether you are trying to get somewhere or just taking a casual stroll somewhere you love.


Howard County Bikeshare

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