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Oct 9 14

New Montgomery County Zoning Ordinance Takes Effect October 30, 2014

by Bridget Schwiesow

zoning gfx
Updated code improves usability, simplifies development process  

Montgomery County has taken a giant step forward in improving the planning and development process and making the county a more desirable place to live. After years of community meetings, stakeholder discussions, work sessions and redrafting, the Montgomery County Planning Department, part of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, has completed a new zoning ordinance and a new comprehensive zoning map for the county, both of which were approved by the Montgomery County Council.

The new law takes effect on October 30, 2014. It is the most comprehensive update to the County’s land use regulations since they were last revised in 1977. Piecemeal updates to the code over the past several decades resulted in a document with more than 1,200 pages, more than 120 zones, more than 400 uses, hundreds of footnotes and many confusing and sometimes contradictory provisions. The new Zoning Ordinance is a vast improvement over the former code in being more user-friendly and up-to-date. It embraces the most current planning concepts and offers new tools to achieve the goals of the county’s master plans. The zoning ordinance encourages better development, enhances sustainability, and enables more mixed use zoning.

The new Zoning Code seeks to bring more vibrancy to Montgomery County by encouraging mixed-use, walkable communities. The law allows flexibility for more housing in and around commercial centers and encourages more pedestrian-friendly, sustainable developments while providing greater protections from new and infill development for existing residential neighborhoods. In addition, it improves the efficiency of the development review process by allowing more consolidated plan reviews, reducing redundant requirements and codifying review deadlines.

History and Goals of the New Zoning Ordinance
Since the last major update to the zoning code in 1977, the County has grown and changed substantially, and many of the zoning laws have become outdated. The County Council tasked the Planning Department with undertaking a comprehensive rewrite of the zoning code in 2007 with the following goals in mind:

-simplify and consolidate the regulations;

-improve their clarity and consistency;

-accommodate the county’s changing markets and demographics, while protecting established neighborhoods;

-reflect more sustainable policy goals;

-provide the tools to shift from greenfield development to infill, mixed-use development.

After an extensive public review process, the Planning Board approved a draft of the new code and presented it to the Planning, Housing, and Economic Development Committee of the County Council in May 2013. Numerous open houses, community meetings and discussions in local neighborhoods provided feedback from residents and property owners on the code and associated zoning map. In March 2014, after 15 work sessions at the PHED and Council, the Council adopted the text of the new zoning ordinance.

In July 2014, following months of public outreach, the Council approved a District Map Amendment to implement the new code.

Implementing Change through Development Review and Outreach
The rewritten zoning ordinance includes a provision requiring specific time frames for each major step of the development review process. Department staff is currently working to implement these time frames. A specific, written schedule for each development project will allow the review of project, sketch and site plans to be accomplished in 120 days, as required in the new Zoning Ordinance.

A voluntary concept plan process will allow plans to be reviewed by staff at a very early stage so that major concerns can be identified and hopefully resolved without slowing down the review process. The goal of this revamped review process is to make doing business in Montgomery County more predictable.

In addition, the Planning Department is conducting staff and public training sessions to ensure a smooth transition to the new zoning ordinance. On October 7, the Department held an evening event for the Montgomery County community that included a presentation of the zoning changes and a question and answer segment. The event drew 70 people.

View the video of the community training on the Zoning Ordinance held on Tuesday, October 7 at the Planning Department Headquarters.

Oct 8 14

Recap: September 29 Visioning Workshop Advances Greater Lyttonsville Sector Plan

by Bridget Schwiesow

Brand Only

Silver Spring, MD — The Greater Lyttonsville Sector Plan Visioning Workshop on Monday, September 29, at the Montgomery County Planning Department Headquarters (8787 Georgia Ave.) allowed residents and business owners to learn more about the planning process for the community. Staff presented recent community feedback regarding strengths, challenges, and opportunities within six different areas of Greater Lyttonsville. The workshop included an interactive exercise to explore community character as it relates to open spaces, streetscapes, environmental elements, land uses, buildings and community facilities.

Watch the on-demand video recording of the Greater Lyttonsville Sector Plan Visioning Workshop from September 29.

The Planning Board will receive a briefing at their regular meeting on Oct. 16 that will summarize the outcomes of the Sept. 29 workshop and previous community meetings. All are invited to attend. The summary will also be available on the Planning Board website online one week before the Planning Board briefing.

To get up to speed on the progress on the Greater Lyttonsville Sector Plan, view these videos below:

-The GreaterLP recap video from the July 15 community workshop

-Check out this video segment with planners Erin Banks and Melissa Williams and learn how to get involved with the future of shaping the #greaterLP area.

-Watch the GreaterLP Needs You short promotional video

Learn about the progress of the Greater Lyttonsville Sector Plan and how to get involved with shaping the future of this community.

Oct 8 14

Natali Fani-Gonzalez Appointed As New Planning Board Member

by Bridget Schwiesow

fani_gonzalez photo

The Montgomery County Council votes unanimously

The Montgomery County Planning Board is pleased to welcome Natali Fani-Gonzalez as the newest member of the Planning Board. On Tuesday, October 7, the Montgomery County Council unanimously voted to appoint Natali Fani-Gonzalez to the vacant seat.

Born in Venezuela, Fani-Gonzalez, 33, is the founder and principal of the Rockville-based public relations firm, The Matea Group. She is the first Latino and first millennial to serve on the five-member Planning Board, which reviews master plans and policies governing growth and development throughout Montgomery County. Fani-Gonzalez will serve a term through mid-2018 in a part-time position that pays $30,000 annually.

In her letter requesting appointment, Fani-Gonzalez promoted her skills saying, “I will bring a pragmatic vision with a strong social conscience amplified by the use of technology.”

“I am pleased that Natali was selected to serve as the newest member of the Board,” said Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson. “I am excited for the energy and creativity that Natali brings to the job as I know she will help keep Montgomery County moving forward.”

A human and civil rights activist and entrepreneur, Fani-Gonzalez has been recognized as a 2013 “Leading Women” honoree by The Daily Record for her numerous contributions to Maryland. She started her career as a lobbyist for CASA de Maryland, the largest Latino and immigrant organization in the state, and then joined the communications team of the Service Employee International Union Local 32BJ before starting her own public relations firm.

Fani-Gonzalez graduated from Goucher College with a bachelor’s degree in political science and international relations. She lives with her husband and their two children in Kensington.

Fani-Gonzalez was one of 25 applicants for the planning board vacancy and one of four interviewed for the position.

The vacancy now filled by Fani-Gonzalez was created when Planning Board Chair Françoise Carrier decided not to seek a second term. Casey Anderson, who was already serving on the board, was designated as the new chair in July 2014. Fani-Gonzalez will serve a four-year term.

Learn more about the Montgomery County Planning Board.

Oct 1 14

Montgomery Parks Announces Completion of 32 Intercounty Connector Mitigation Projects in Parks

by Melissa Chotiner

Exemplary projects to be presented at Peachwood Neighborhood Park on October 11, 2014.

SILVER SPRING, MD—Montgomery Parks, part of the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission announces the completion of 32 Intercounty Connector (ICC) mitigation projects in parks spanning the entire county. Peachwood Neighborhood Park is a prime example of the different types of environmental enhancements established in Montgomery County parks as part of the State Highway Administration’s (SHA) ICC Environmental Stewardship and Compensatory Mitigation Program. Park staff will provide tours detailing the projects at Peachwood Neighborhood Park on October 11 at 10 a.m. Media and the public are invited to attend.


The ICC Environmental Stewardship and Compensatory Mitigation Program  was directed by SHA and conducted to offset the environmental impacts of the ICC and go over and above required environmental mitigation.

Located along one of the county’s most valuable resources, Peachwood Neighborhood Park is nearly 20 acres and part of the Upper Paint Branch Special Protection Area (SPA). The Upper Paint Branch stream valley is a unique, nationally recognized coldwater fishery that contains the only suburban stream system in the county that supports a self-sustaining brown trout population.

To protect and preserve this habitat and other environmental aspects of the park, the mitigation work included:

Bioswales in the neighborhood surrounding the park;
A stormwater management pond
Stream restoration; and
Tree plantings


Montgomery Parks’ staff worked in close collaboration with SHA during planning to determine the most important needs of the community and correlate them with the greatest environmental needs of the sensitive area where the park is located.


“We knew the importance of involving the community in this project,” said Matt Harper, Montgomery Parks Principal Natural Resources Specialist. “Before doing any work on the park, we conducted a park user survey to understand which amenities park users valued and what they felt the park lacked.”


As a result of the survey, park staff incorporated a variety of additional initiatives into the project including installing a new basketball court, resurfacing the tennis courts, repairing and repainting of the handball court and removing impervious surface from the parking lot.


The success of this project was achieved through collaboration among the SHA, Montgomery Parks and the Peachwood community.


A number of other ICC mitigation projects have been completed in the SPA including but not limited to:

  • A stream restoration along the right branch of the Good Hope tributary, as well as along the main Good Hope Tributary;
  • A stromwater pond retrofit and outfall stabilization within the Great Hope Homes Community;
  • A 12 acre wetland creation within the Peach Orchard/Allnut property;
  • Ovreall stream restorations in the Gum Springs tributary, Left Fork of Upper Pint Branch and Paint Branch Mainstem;
  • Stormwater facility upgrades south of Peach Orchard Heights, along Cabin Creek Drive, within the Fairland Gardens community, in Wembrough Neighborhood Park, and in the Colesville Heights community; and
  • Multiple reforestation sites.


About the ICC Environmental Stewardship and Compensatory Mitigation Program (ES/CM)

Symbolizing the ICC project’s commitment to the environment are initiatives that go beyond meeting minimum requirements to mitigate for environmental impacts – unrelated to the ICC – that otherwise would remain unaddressed. These include 51 environmental stewardship projects that are addressing environmental needs caused by development in the area. Many environmental mitigation and stewardship projects, all of which are located in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties, have been combined into approximately 51 projects that have an estimated value of more than $97 million.


About the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission Montgomery Parks

Montgomery Parks manages more than 35,000 acres of parkland, consisting of 418 parks. Montgomery Parks is a department of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), a bi-county agency established in 1927 to steward public land. The M-NCPPC has been nationally recognized for its high quality parks and recreation services and is regarded as a national model by other parks systems.


For more on the Montgomery Parks visit


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Sep 29 14

Design Workshops Explore Placemaking Opportunities in Downtown Silver Spring

by Bridget Schwiesow

 Silver Spring and Placemaking logo without Partnership tag

Public invited to brainstorm creative ideas for improving Transit Center civic space, Ripley District and Metro Plaza

The Montgomery County Planning Department, part of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) is partnering with the office of County Councilmember Hans Riemer, and the Silver Spring Urban District to host three design workshops focused on placemaking strategies for Downtown Silver Spring.

The current Silver Spring Sector Plan was last updated in 2000. Since then, many aspects of the plan have been implemented, transforming Downtown Silver Spring into a vibrant urban community. These workshops will explore creative ways of enhancing three downtown locations with proposed improvements. The public is invited to participate in these workshops. RSVP’s are encouraged but not required. RSVP for each event at

The first workshop, to be held on October 15 from 7 to 9 p.m., at the Planning Department Headquarters (8787 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring, MD) will explore the creation of civic space in the vicinity of the Transit Center. The session will examine enhancements such as temporary short-term green space and bike facilities improving pedestrian experiences from the Transit Center to Downtown Silver Spring via Wayne Avenue. RSVP for the first Silver Spring Placemaking workshop focused on the Transit Center and green space.

The second workshop happening on Wednesday, October 29 from 5 to 7 p.m. at Denizens Brewing Co. (1115 East-West Hwy, Silver Spring, MD), will focus on the community character of the Ripley District and the pedestrian experiences in the area to heighten community identity within the district. Creating a civic green space within the area will also be considered. RSVP for the second workshop focusing on the Ripley District.

The third workshop will take place on Wednesday, November 5 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.(location to be announced), will examine the areas immediately surrounding the proposed Purple Line station in Downtown Silver Spring. These areas are slated for high density development. Participants will explore design options for the redevelopment of the Metro Plaza site (located on the northeast corner of East-West Highway and Colesville Road), a prominent gateway to Downtown Silver Spring from the District of Columbia.  So that redevelopment can proceed in a manner best suited to this location, the workshop will address transit support structures and streetscape enhancements aimed at improving pedestrian connectivity. RSVP for the third workshop examining the areas around the Purple Line station.

Learn more about the workshop series:



Sep 29 14

Free Trees for Qualifying Property Owners in County’s Priority Urban Districts

by Bridget Schwiesow

Casey Trees Community Tree Plantings (2) (photo by Casey Trees)

Planning Department Expands Shades of Green program that provides free trees to eligible property owners in Montgomery County

SILVER SPRING, MD – The Montgomery County Planning Department, part of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, is offering free trees to qualifying property owners in certain urban districts of Montgomery County. The Shades of Green program, which was launched in 2012 as a pilot program, is now expanding to some additional areas of the county that have a high level of impervious surface in an effort to enhance the tree canopy cover.

The Shades of Green program provides free trees to qualifying property owners. The program is financed through the Forest Conservation Fund, which primarily includes contributions paid into the fund by developers when tree planting on their own development sites is impractical.

The expanded program includes property owners who live within the qualifying urban centers identified below. They are invited to participate in the program to receive free trees by filling out a form at: To see if you are eligible for free trees, please click on this link:

The Shades of Green program will now be offered in these areas:
-Germantown Center
-Shady Grove
-Olney Center

The program has already been active since 2012 for the following areas:
-Silver Spring CBD
-Montgomery Hills
-Wheaton CBD
-Flower/Piney Branch Urban District
-Bethesda CBD
-Friendship Heights Urban District
-Westbard Urban District

To better understand Montgomery County’s tree cover, county planners analyzed the layer of leaves and branches that cover the ground when viewed from above. High-resolution aerial imagery revealed much lower tree canopy levels in urban areas than in more suburban neighborhoods.  Increasing the number of trees in more urban areas will increase the tree canopy cover resulting in numerous benefits.

More trees will help to:

-beautify urban districts
-reduce street temperatures
-cool buildings, thereby reducing energy demands
-support the local economy
-improve street ambiance and quality of place
-enhance water, air and habitat quality
-reduce greenhouse gas, and
-reduce the “heat island effect”

Learn more about eligibility and Shades of Green program details.

Sep 29 14

Attend or Watch the Greater Lyttonsville Sector Plan Visioning Workshop Tonight

by Bridget Schwiesow

lyttonsivlle promo

Planners will ask community to give in-person and online feedback 

The community is invited to attend the Greater Lyttonsville Sector Plan Visioning Workshop starting at   5 p.m. on Monday, September 29 at the Planning Department Headquarters (8787 Georgia Ave.).

The workshop, which will be held from 5:00 to 8:30 p.m., will have an open house format, with the presentation being given at 5:30 p.m., 6:30 p.m., and 7:30 pm. At each one, Staff will present the planning process, recent feedback that has been provided regarding constraints and opportunities, as well as next steps. The workshop will also include an interactive exercise to explore community character as it relates to open spaces, streetscapes, environmental elements, land uses, buildings, and community facilities.

Watch the live online streaming of the Greater Lyttonsville Sector Plan Visioning Workshop.

Attendees, residents and business owners will also have the opportunity to take the Greater Lyttonsville Visioning Questionnaire that will ask respondents what they would like to see in the Sector Plan Area. The online questionnaire will be available for the next two weeks and will help to guide the planners in their work as they form preliminary recommendations.  Take the questionnaire here.

The Planning Board will receive a briefing at their regular meeting on Oct. 16 that will summarize the outcomes of the Sept. 29 workshop. All are invited to attend. The summary will also be available on the Planning Board website online one week before the Planning Board briefing.

Greater Lyttonsville Sector Plan Visioning Workshop

Monday, Sept. 29
5 – 8:30 p.m.
Planning Department Headquarters (8787 Georgia Ave. Silver Spring, MD 20910)
All community members and children are invited. Snacks will be provided

To get up to speed on the progress so far on the Greater Lyttonsville Sector Plan, view these videos below:

-The GreaterLP recap video from the July 15 community workshop

-Check out this video segment with planners Erin Banks and Melissa Williams and learn how to get involved with the future of shaping the #greaterLP area.

-Watch the GreaterLP Needs You short promotional video

Learn about the progress of the Greater Lyttonsville Sector Plan and how to get involved with shaping the future of this community.

Sep 25 14

Training Session Offered to Community on New County Zoning Ordinance

by Bridget Schwiesow

Planning Department staff will present the new code and answer questions

SILVER SPRING, MD – The Montgomery County Planning Department, part of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, is offering an evening training session to the Montgomery County community on the newly approved County Zoning Ordinance on Tuesday, Oct. 7 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Planning Department Headquarters Auditorium (8787 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring, MD).

The session is open to the public and will include a presentation by Planning Department staff on the new zoning code followed by a question and answer session. The new zoning code and zoning map have been adopted by the County Council and will become effective on October 30, 2014.

What: Zoning Code Training
When: Tuesday, Oct. 7 (7-9 pm)
Where: Planning Department Auditorium (8787 Georgia Ave, Silver Spring)
Who: all community members are invited to attend

The County Council recently approved the revision of the County’s Zoning Ordinance which governs land use laws in the county. The last time the code was comprehensively reviewed was in 1977. Much has changed since that time, and the new code reflects the growing needs of the Montgomery County community. The comprehensive rewrite of the ordinance started five years ago with the goal of simplifying the complex and outdated code. It is now easier to use, encourages better development, enhances compatibility, promotes sustainability and supports the county master plans.

The new zoning code represents a great step forward for Montgomery County to have a more understandable, clear and coherent zoning ordinance that will be easier to use. It offers a better organization of uses and zones, clearer procedures for approval and a solid foundation in modern planning and design principles

As part of the roll-out of the new code, Montgomery Planning staff has produced companion documents to help the community better understand and interpret the new code. The companion documents include:

-Use of the Zoning Ordinance
-Old Code to New Code Section Cross Reference
-Article by Article Summary of Changes Made in the New Zoning Code |
-Use comparison charts
-Parking requirement comparison charts

Staff also created a series of fact sheets to explain different aspects of the new zoning code. The fact sheets include:

-Building Types
-Compatibility Standards
-“T” Provisions
-Commercial/ Residential zones
-Employment zones
-Industrial zones
-Floating zones
-Summary of development standards for Agricultural, Rural Residential, and Residential Detached zones

Learn more about the new Montgomery County Zoning Code

Sep 22 14

Attend the Westbard Sector Plan Kickoff Meeting – Tuesday, Sept. 23 at 7:00 p.m.

by Bridget Schwiesow

Westbard Cover v3
Westbard Sector Plan Briefing Book Now Available for Review

SILVER SPRING, MD – The Montgomery County Planning Department, part of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, will hold a community meeting on the Westbard Sector Plan on Tuesday, Sept. 23, from 7-9 p.m. at Walt Whitman High School cafeteria (7100 Whittier Blvd., Bethesda, MD). Anyone who lives, works or has an interest in the future of the Westbard community is invited to attend the PlanWestbard kickoff meeting where the existing conditions, opportunities and constraints of the plan area will be discussed.

The community is invited to review the Westbard Sector Plan Briefing Book which summarizes the existing conditions of the Sector Plan area and is intended to be used as a reference for the community throughout the planning process.

The first hour of the meeting will be an open house and include interactive map activities for attendees. The second hour will consist of a presentation about the planning process, schedule, planning subject areas and will conclude with a discussion of next steps.

Meeting Agenda:
7-8 p.m. Open House/Map Exercise
8-9 p.m. Montgomery Planning Department Presentation about process, subject areas, schedule

The Westbard Sector Plan is one of the oldest plans still in use in Montgomery County, having last been revised in 1982. It is now being updated at the direction of the Montgomery County Council to keep pace with the times and changes in the area. The community will have an opportunity to review the Westbard Briefing Book at the kickoff meeting that will feature the existing conditions of the area.

The Plan’s Scope of Work, focused on the areas and issues identified at the kickoff session, will be presented at a meeting on Oct. 21. A week-long planning workshop scheduled for November will allow community members to give their perspective and provide feedback on the planning process.

What: Westbard Sector Plan Kickoff Meeting: Existing Conditions, Opportunities and Constraints
Who: Residents, property owners and anyone with an interest in the future of Westbard
When: Tuesday, Sept. 23 (7 – 9 p.m.)
Where: Walt Whitman High School cafeteria (7100 Whittier Blvd., Bethesda, MD)
Sign up: for the PlanWestbard-E-Newsletter
Call: the PlanWestbard Hotline for updates on upcoming planning events: 301-495-4567
Follow: updates on Twitter: @planwestbard
Learn More:
RSVP: for the Kickoff Meeting}
Use: #PlanWestbard

Information and ideas gathered at the Sept. 23 meeting will inform the planning process. This is an opportunity for the community to contribute to planning for a successful Westbard that should continue to thrive for the next 20 years and beyond.

Learn more about the Westbard Sector Plan and how to get involved:

Westbard Background:
Westbard lies in the southwestern part of Montgomery County, approximately one mile from the D.C. boundary line. It is less than two miles from the commercial areas of Friendship Heights and Bethesda. The Westbard area is served by two major northwest to southeast highways: River Road and Massachusetts Avenue and is surrounded by well-established single-family neighborhoods. Over a period of years, the residential uses were built around the commercial/industrial areas, which extend along River Road and Westbard Avenue. The popular regional Capital Crescent Trail runs the length of Westbard.

Sep 11 14

Ride the Montgomery Modern Bike Tour – Oct. 11, 10:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

by Bridget Schwiesow


Community invited by Montgomery Planning to pedal around mid-century neighborhoods and landmarks

SILVER SPRING, MD – The Montgomery County Planning Department, part of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, is hosting a bike tour of mid-century modern architecture. The route will follow the Rock Creek Park trail through entire subdivisions of contemporary homes designed in the 1950s.

The tour is sponsored by the Planning Department’s Historic Preservation Office and the Potomac Valley chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

Register for the Montgomery Modern Bike Tour.

The morning tour visits houses in neighborhoods of Hammond Hill and Hammond Wood, and leads through Rock Creek Woods, all designed by architect Charles Goodman, FAIA. Goodman, who designed the Hollin Hills subdivision in Alexandria, was Washington’s foremost modernist architect working in single-family housing in the 1950s.

Bikers will have a box lunch at the North Chevy Chase Christian Church, followed by a tour of this modernist gem by Bethesda architect John Samperton, AIA, known for his design of Gallaudet College and Catholic University buildings.  Also on the tour is Samperton’s pristine North Chevy Chase Pool Bathhouse.

Montgomery Modern Bike Tour
sponsored by the Montgomery County Planning Department’s Historic Preservation Office and the Potomac Valley chapter of AIA
October 11, 10:00 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Tour mid-century neighborhoods in Montgomery County on two wheels: $30 for the public ($20 for AIA and Docomomo members) and includes lunch and interior visits.

Learn more about the Montgomery Modern Bike Tour

The purpose of the tour is to heighten awareness of mid-century modern design in Montgomery County and the preservation challenges now facing owners of buildings dating from the post-World War II decades. The works of two leading architects and their approaches to 1950s modernism will be discussed as well as ways of renovating and expanding mid-century designs now considered historic.

The event is part of the Historic Preservation Office’s Montgomery Modern initiative to educate the public about the architectural heritage of Montgomery County. This preservation program includes the agency’s research and writing of a new book, Montgomery Modern, on the wealth of mid-century modern architecture in the county. The book is scheduled for publication in fall 2015. Learn more about the Historic Preservation Office’s Montgomery Modern initiative.

The bike tour is part of the Docomomo Tour Day event sponsored by Docomomo-DC. This non-profit is dedicated to the documentation and conservation of buildings, sites and neighborhoods of the modern movement (Docomomo) and is part of an international organization founded in 1988 by two Dutch architects.

Interested tour participants are required to bring their own bicycles and wear helmets. The tour will start at the Newport Middle School, 11311 Newport Mill Road, Kensington, Maryland 20895.

Bikers must be willing to pedal at a slow to moderate pace, and travel up and down hilly streets with some traffic possible during the 13.5-mile tour, which includes the 6 mile ride from the end of the tour back to the starting point.