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Mapping How Stressful Streets Can Limit Cycling

Montgomery County, Maryland, is using traffic-stress data to determine how biking comfort affects connectivity.
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Bicycle Stress Map

Few cycling thoroughfares in Washington, D.C., are fully protected from traffic. They’re packed with rushing cars, people backing out of driveways, and shape-shifting bike lanes, when any actually exist. As a daily bike commuter, I can attest that these factors can make cycling pretty harrying, which in turn discourages a lot of other people from doing it. And research shows that fewer cyclists means riskier streets.

Just north of D.C., transportation planners in Montgomery County, Maryland, are taking a systematic approach to breaking this vicious cycle. With a new Bicycle Stress Map, county planners have quantified and mapped the “traffic stress level” of the county’s bike network, assigning a numeric value and corresponding color to every street and bike trail.