Keeping a Bike Plan in High Gear: Montgomery County's Public Engagement Plan

Conducting a long-term master plan can be demanding. Keeping the public engaged for more than two years can be difficult. How do you keep your stakeholders actively involved after the initial rush of outreach efforts winds down? How do you keep your plan's outreach exciting and relevant while also building a bicycling community?

Montgomery County Planning Department's Bicycle Master Plan is proving that engagement can meet people where they are, using interesting, inviting, and integrated outreach.

The Bicycle Master Plan logo was created to use on all outreach materials with specific treatment and style guidelines. Photo by David Anspacher.

Montgomery County is a suburban community located in Maryland just outside Washington, D.C., where bicycling has long been a popular recreational activity. But bicycling for transportation remains limited. As planners for the county, we have grand ambitions to change that situation. Through innovative data analysis and public engagement, we are working to write a world-class bike plan.

The Bicycle Master Plan kicked off with traditional community evening meetings. Attendees were asked to leave comments on a clothesline, creating a fun visual effect. Photo by David Anspacher.

On-site engagement at Metrorail stations is one of the ways the Bicycle Master Plan team is connecting with community members about the bicycling in the County. Photo by David Anspacher.

An online GIS tool called the Cycling Concerns map was launched at the beginning of the plan to ask for feedback on how bicycling could be improved in the County. Photo by David Anspacher.

Such a plan is more than just a written document — it's an opportunity to bring new people into the process and create a strong bicycling community. That's why in Montgomery County, we are trying a number of approaches to build community support for this exciting and far-reaching plan. From hosting bike rides to our bike-stress map to crowd-sourcing public feedback, we are working to bring people together to make the plan as accessible and engaging as possible.

Our long experience in master planning shows that stakeholders are excited at the beginning of a project and pumped up at the end, but they lose interest in the middle of the process. One way we have tried to keep the momentum going was to launch a photo contest. This competition created a fun and engaging outreach opportunity for community members, a way to drive people to our website, while also providing us with high-quality photos of bicycling in the County to include in the final master plan document.

To encourage people to participate in the contest, we offered the winners a gift card and the chance to be published in the final Bicycle Master Plan document.

We promoted the contest on our website, through our e-newsletter, via social media accounts, and by word of mouth. We asked for action shots, staged shots, and other photos showing the joy of being on two wheels.

Bicycle Master Plan project manager David Anspacher at the 2015 Bike to Work Day where we hosted one of the pit stops for riders to learn more about the plan. Photo by David Anspacher.

Facebook post about the photo contest. Photo by David Anspacher.

The photo contest is winding down, but already we have a great pool of images to choose from, showing real-world examples of how people of all ages and abilities cycle in the County.

The winners will be selected after October 31 by a jury of photography and bicycling experts. Then the top photos will be posted online and judged in an online poll.

To learn more about the Montgomery County Planning Department's Bicycle Master Plan, email project manager David Anspacher at To follow the department's Bicycle Master Plan activities on Twitter, visit the team's profile @MCBikePlan.

Top image: The Bicycle Master Plan team participated in the 2016 PARK(ing) Day in Downtown Silver Spring, Maryland where a simulated separated bike lane was created and gave community members the chance to feel what it would be like to ride in a separated bike lane. Photo by David Anspacher.

About the Author

David Anspacher

David Anspacher is the lead planner for Montgomery County Planning Department's Bicycle Master Plan.

October 21, 2016

By David Anspacher