Updates on Important Bike Funding Debate in Montgomery County

We wanted to share some details about a quiet advocacy victory that happened this week:

Last month, funding for bike infrastructure in Montgomery County looked bleak. County Executive Ike Leggett had sent his proposed budget amendments to the County Council, including major cuts and delays to the entire bikeways program—most significantly, the Met Branch and Capital Crescent Trails.

Two weeks ago, WABA sent a letter to the Montgomery County Council asking that the bikeways budget not be cut or delayed.

Just this past Monday, the next part of the process began. The Transportation & Environment (T&E) Committee held their budget work session. The T&E Committee’s role is to assess the budget amendments proposed by Executive Leggett and to pass a final budget later this spring. Overall, the committee supported the funding of bike projects. The committee is comprised of Councilmembers Berliner, Floreen, and Hucker, all of whom were present. Additionally, Councilmember Riemer (not on the committee) attended the hearing in support. Many Councilmembers asked the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) to keep moving bike projects forward, despite various challenges. You can watch the full discussion on the Montgomery County Council website here.

Here are some of the highlights.

Met Branch Trail in Silver Spring


The Metropolitan Branch Trail project is being considered in two phases. Phase one is the trail from west of Georgia Ave. to the Silver Spring Transit Center. while phase two is the trail segment east from Georgia Ave. to Montgomery County College. The T&E Committee recommended restoring the original project timeline, not the proposed delay. Phase one cannot start until two buildings are constructed. Without the delay, the anticipated completion of the trail would be 2019.

During the discussion, MCDOT showed plans for the trail around the historic B&O Station. As currently planned, the trail will not go under the trail station canopy. It will curve around the north and east side of the station. Councilmember Floreen voiced many concerns with this plan (Around 43:00 in the video). She clearly wants the trail to follow the master plan alignment which is the straightest path through the property, underneath the canopy. She thinks curvy trail around the entire property is a lose-lose scenario for trail users and for Maryland Preservation Inc. (owners of train station).

The Committee also asked the trail to be built at a width of 11-12 feet with a two-foot shoulder where possible. It was clarified that the trail will have lighting. The Committee wants MCDOT to show how to make some progress on phase two as well. After much discussion, the Committee asked MCDOT to come back to the committee with revised plans for phasing, budget and timeline later this spring. Councilmembers were clearly frustrated with the lack of progress on the trail.

Seven Locks Road, MacArthur Blvd, Falls Road, Bicycle-Pedestrian Priority Areas, etc.

County Executive Leggett’s proposed budget recommended delaying all of these important bike projects. However, the T&E Committee recommended restoring all the funding to all of them. Councilmember Hans Riemer–who championed the Bicycle-Pedestrian Priority Areas (BPPA) last year–was astonished that the program was proposed to be cut after just one year. MCDOT presented progress made so far on the BPPA program, much of which has been planning work. Implementation of bike and pedestrian safety improvements are scheduled to begin soon, if the Committee’s recommendations are accepted and the program is not cut.

Capital Crescent Trail – At-Grade Trail at Wisconsin Ave. in Bethesda

The general consensus at the hearing was to pause the development of the at-grade trail and crossing at Wisconsin Ave. in Bethesda. Without a firm date for Purple Line construction, development of the at-grade trail is less pressing. As it stands, the trail tunnel will remain open to trail traffic until construction of the Purple Line starts.

Thank you to everyone who reached out to Council. We will be meeting with both Councilmember Berliner and MCDOT Director Al Roshdieh in the coming weeks. We will share our thoughts with him on these budget amendment among other issues.

“Las Bicicletas” Coming to Pennsylvania Avenue

las bicicletasYou’re about to see more big, vibrant bikes in DC—and we don’t mean Capital Bikeshare expansion.

For the month of March, the Reagan Building Plaza right next to the Pennsylvania Avenue bike lanes will house eighty colorful, bike-shaped metal sculptures.

They are designed to make us slow down and consider the environmental and community health impacts of bicycling, and they come to us from internationally renowned Mexican artist Gilberto Aceves Navarro.

Aceves Navarro is one of the most celebrated representatives of abstract expressionism in Mexico. He has received, among others, the National University Award (Premio Universidad Nacional, granted by the National Autonomous University of Mexico) in 1989, the National Prize for Arts and Sciences (Premio Nacional de Ciencias y Artes) in 2003 and the Medal for Merit in Fine Arts and Sciences (Medalla de Bellas Artes) in 2011. He has been invited on numerous occasions to show his work in Germany, Japan, Colombia and the United States.

In 2008, the first retrospective of his career featured over 400 of his works at the Palacio de Bellas Artes. Since the 1970s, Aceves Navarro has influenced generations of artists through his academic work in the ENAP and in his private studio. Now over 80, he still paints every day, confirming that “drawing is fundamental to my life.”  Aceves Navarro’s work has also been described as a precursor to figurative expressionism.

As a celebration of Aceves Navarro’s 83rd birthday, 83 sculptures will be exhibited in DC for the public to enjoy during the month of March 2015. The complete urban exhibit is comprised by 250 bicycle sculptures in black, white, red and orange; colors that were used by the Mayan culture to symbolize the four cardinal points. Aceves Navarro created Las Bicicletas as a means of promoting, through art, the universal acknowledgement of bicycles as “vehicles of happiness and health,” and in interviews has reflected on the important economic and transportation role bicycles filled during his youth in Mexico.

The message of this work aligns perfectly with WABA’s mission, as we promote a city and region designed so that bikes can again play a major part in our transportation network. We also share Navarro’s belief in the power of bikes to reduce carbon emissions, bring about happiness and enhance community health.

In the past, we have lacked the resources and ability to spread this message outside a small group of engaged bicyclists. Specifically, reaching out to the large regional community of Spanish speakers has been a challenge for us. It is a challenge we have been working to overcome, however, because we recognize the importance of ensuring that our work serves the diverse region we live in.

Regional statistics show us that the places with high concentrations of Spanish speakers also have some of the highest crash rates and least safe traffic conditions for bicyclists and pedestrians. Because this failure of design raises serious environmental justice concerns, we intend to enhance our advocacy efforts to improve bicycling conditions and safety in these parts of our region. We will also expand and improve our outreach and education programming to better serve Spanish speakers.

Over the past year, we have added Spanish-speaking staff to our outreach and education staff. We have conducted classes in Spanish in partnership with La Clínica del Pueblo and Bike Arlington. And we have developed Bike Ambassador materials intended to serve and engage Spanish speakers.

Now, we are looking for partners and funders interested in helping us to expand our regional bicycling community to be more inclusive of Spanish speakers, to address the environmental justice issues revealed in crash data, and to expand our programming to serve the region more comprehensively.

Thus, as we seek to bring attention to our fledgling Spanish-language program and our need for partners in the Spanish-speaking community, we are delighted to welcome to DC this amazing exhibit. Navarro’s sculptures not only beautifully draw attention to the bicycle and its benefits to communities, but also unify us with others in our region who view bicycles as important to the city’s health and happiness. We look forward to building partnerships that will enhance our Spanish-language capacities and better serve our entire region, and we invite all WABA members and supporters to join us at a cocktail reception and special viewing of the sculptures at the Mexican Cultural Institute on March 5th.

What: Cocktail Reception and Special Viewing of “Las Bicicletas” sculptures, with artist Gilberto Aceves Navarro

When: March 5th, 6pm to 8pm

Where: Mexican Cultural Institute, 2829 16th Street, NW, 20009

 

 

Public Open House for Arlington Memorial Circle Redesign on March 3rd

memorial-circle
The National Park Service is hosting a public open house on March 3rd to present rough design ideas for Arlington Memorial Circle on the George Washington Memorial Parkway. The area has a long history of safety issues for Mount Vernon Trail users. NPS started the planning process back in September with an initial round of public open houses.

NPS is undertaking a Transportation Plan and an Environmental Assessment to evaluate possible reconfiguration of the road, traffic circle and trail. The goal is to improve safety and the park experience for bicyclists, pedestrians and drivers, while minimizing the impact on the cultural and historical resources of the area. The planning process will take almost two years to complete. We do not expect a final decision document until the summer of 2016.

More information about the public open house, the planning process and how to give your input are included the following NPS meeting announcement:

Public Open House
Tuesday, March 3, 2015
5:00 pm to 8:00 pm
National Park Service
National Capital Region
1100 Ohio Drive SW
Washington DC 20242

We will present rough sketches of design concepts that were developed at a workshop that evaluated previous studies of the area, existing and projected traffic conditions including accident, speed and road/trail volumes, and the memorial character of the area. These concepts will be the foundation for the development of alternatives to be presented later in the year.  Please take this opportunity to offer your thoughts about this process and the ideas that were generated before we develop alternatives.

Comments will be accepted at the open house or may be provided online through the NPS Planning Environment, and Public Comment (PEPC) website.

On March 3rd the sketches will be posted to the project website and comments will be accepted from March 3, 2015 to March 10, 2015. You can access this site from the project website at: http://parkplanning.nps.gov/mctpea Navigate from the left side of the page to Document List, then 2015 Design Concepts, and Comment on Document.

Introducing Planet Bike, a WABA Business Member

WABA’s Business Members understand the importance of a community that bicycles. Their membership supports our advocacy, outreach and education. Our business members are committed to a sustainable future of our region and are adding their voice to a growing number of bicycle-friendly businesses supporting WABA. Today meet Planet Bike.

Planet Bike was founded in 1996 and from the start they have dedicated their business to not only selling innovative products that make it easier and safer for people to ride bicycles but also supporting bicycle advocacy.  Because Planet Bike believes that the bicycle can improve the health of individuals, communities and the planet, they donate 25% of profits to causes that promote bicycle use.

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The well known Planet Bike light combo!

One of the coolest things about Planet Bike is that they are just 7 people strong. Every person working at Planet Bike believes in the mission of the company and they live it day in and day out. Planet Bike is most well know for their lights – having some of the brightest in the business. They also sell racks, grips, pumps, and everything in between. We are proud to call Planet Bike a Business Member!

Do you own, work for, or patronize a business that is a good candidate for our business membership? For just $300 or $800 per year, you can show your support for a bike-friendly region and WABA’s advocacy and get all sorts of perks, including your very own blog post! Details here.

Mayor Bowser Commits to Implementing Vision Zero

Last week, Mayor Muriel Bowser stated her committment to Vision Zero in the District of Columbia. The announcement came at last Friday’s press conference with Secretary Foxx of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Vision Zero is a system-wide effort to end traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries for all road users.

The Mayor also announced that she will be joining Secretary Foxx’s Mayors’ Challenge for Safer People and Safer Streets. The Secretary is challenging Mayors to take action to improve safety for people walking and biking. D.C. is a leader for improving street safety, and adopting a Vision Zero goal raises the bar.

On average more than 40 people die each year walking, biking or driving on our city streets. Traffic-related fatalities have declined in recent years, but crashes causing injury (rather than death) are on the rise, especially among those who walk or bike. Traffic deaths and injuries are preventable. Vision Zero makes it everyone’s job—from policymakers to traffic engineers to law enforcement officials—to prevent them completely.

“We are taking our first step towards realizing a ‘Vision Zero’ where no lives are lost on our streets or at our intersections,” says Mayor Bowser in an official press release.

Mayor Bowser committed to adopting a Vision Zero goal and strategy during her campaign. Two weeks ago, WABA sent a letter asking her to fulfill this promise. Friday’s announcement is an important first step.

We will track the progress of next steps over the coming weeks and months. The core element of Vision Zero is a commitment to end traffic fatalities and serious injuries within a specific amount of time. New York City committed to ending traffic deaths within 20 years. San Francisco’s goal is by 2024.

A clear and coordinated cross-governmental strategy will be required to meet this goal. The Mayor will need to pull together all relevant public agencies. Accountability is key. We expect regular updates detailing efforts undertaken, results and progress towards the goal.

A strong community values human life, and we should do our best to protect it. Vision Zero is a commitment to making our streets safer for everyone, including those who bike. We are very encouraged by Mayor Bowser’s first step toward this goal.

 

Safer Maryland bikeways get the green light

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Thanks to new guidelines, curb-protected or buffered bike lanes will be allowed on Maryland state roads. This change could ultimately make many roads much safer.

Eads Street in Arlington. This will now be permitted on Maryland’s state highways. Photo by the author.

The Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) released new policy and engineering guidelines in January. They will allow more innovative and protective bike infrastructure in many rapidly urbanizing suburbs such as College Park, where Route 1 is supposed to get a bike lane but needs one that’s safe alongside high-speed traffic.

Changes add space between cars and bikes and make intersections safer

Bike lane designs can now include extra buffering, such as striped and cross-hatched lane markings, to separate bike and car traffic. And while the new guidelines don’t mention the use of flexposts, which engineers and planners around the country often use for extra visibility and “soft protection” for buffered bike lanes, SHA also doesn’t forbid them. And that’s encouraging.

The new regulations will also allow bike lanes raised up between the height of the main roadway and the curb. Raised lanes further increase the separation of people biking from motor vehicle traffic, and help prevent people from driving or parking their cars in spaces that are for people on bikes.

The guidelines also introduce designs for “bike boxes,” which allow cyclists to wait in a visible location at the head of a line of traffic and make it easier and safer to turn. Other places have been using bike boxes for several years, but they haven’t been permissible on Maryland state roads until now.

All of these new approaches to protecting and separating bike lanes from traffic on busy or high-speed roads will be better than the bike lane designs SHA is currently using. For example, the photo below shows a newly-painted bike lane on Greenbelt Road near the Capital Beltway. Would you feel safe riding your bike in that lane? Would you want children or elderly people riding in it?

An unprotected bike lane on Route 193 in Greenbelt. Photo by the author.

This is a great step, but SHA’s work is far from finished

While we applaud SHA’s new guidelines, there are still some key problems with their overall bike lane design approach.

First, building bike lanes to fit the new guidelines is still not mandatory, making the guidelines somewhat limited in scope. Even though SHA policy now allows buffered and protected bike lanes, engineers are still allowed to build narrow unprotected lanes alongside high-speed or high-traffic state roads. Protected and buffered bike lanes should be the standard, not just an option, especially where separated sidepaths are not feasible.

Noticeably absent are designs for facilities such as two-way protected bikeways, protected intersection designs, and creative ways of accommodating transit adjacent to bike lanes—since people often ride bikes between buses and the curb, it’s crucial that transit riders have easy places to cross bike lanes to get to their buses or transit vehicles.

Protected bikeways are important because while SHA rules do require new roads to include bike lanes, the typical painted bike lanes are simply too narrow for the kinds of high-speed roads where they often appear. These roads frequently have lower speed limits than the speeds people really drive, meaning that a bike lane designed for a 30-mph street would be inadequate where people are really usually traveling 40, 45, or 50.

Finally, the new guidelines are incomplete in that they don’t include illustrations and criteria for additional bike lane and intersection designs, which are very common in other urban and semi-urban areas. Navigating intersections can be tricky for cyclists—they’re where the majority of collisions happen—so it’s very important to get their design right.

For people who want to ride their bikes safely in Maryland, the new state guidelines are a strong pedal-stroke in the right direction. We hope this is the beginning many positive changes coming from SHA to incorporate and implement state-of-the-art designs that will increase the safety of people riding bikes, especially for the more densely populated and urbanizing parts of the state.

Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington

The Winners of the Washington Area Bicyclists’ Choice Awards!

2015 Washington Area Bicyclists Choice Awards

First, we would like to share the winners of our special WABA Awards:

The Advocate of the Year for 2014

Winner: Jim Durham, Chair of the Alexandria Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee

The Vision Zero Award

Winners: Bruce Deming and Cory Bilton, local attorneys who provided pro-bono legal assistance to WABA’s contributory negligence campaign

The Biking for All Award

Winners: Bayley Vanderpoel of Velocity Co-op and Katie Lupo of Gearin’ Up Bicycles

The Green Lanes Award

Winner: The Montgomery County T&E Committee

The Future Trails Award

Winner: REI

The Access to Justice Award

Winner: DC Councilmember David Grosso

 

Thank you to everyone who nominated and voted in the 2015 Washington Area Bicyclists’ Choice Awards. Now we would like to recognize and celebrate the winners of the Bicyclists’ Choice Awards:

Best New Bike Infrastructure in the District of Columbia in 2014:
Winner: M Street protected bike lane

Best New Bike Infrastructure in Maryland in 2014:
Winner: MARC train Bike Cars from DC to Baltimore

Best New Bike Infrastructure in Virginia in 2014:
Winner: King Street bike lanes in Alexandria, VA

Bike Friendliest Neighborhood or Business Improvement District
Winner: DowntownDC BID

Bike Friendlies Bar, Restaurant or Coffee Shop
Winner: District Taco, various locations in DC and VA

Bike Friendliest Developer or Property Manger
Winner: Nationals Park

Best Bike Shop
Winner: BicycleSPACE

Bike Friendliest School
Winners (tie): School Without Walls High School, DC and the Washington & Lee High School, Arlington, VA

Bike Friendliest College or University
Winner: University of Maryland at College Park

Best Shop Ride
Winner: BicycleSPACE Hills of Anacostia

Best Use of Biking Data
Winner: Bike Arlington’s Freezing Saddles (http://freezingsaddles.com/)

Best Media Coverage of Biking
Winner: Martin DiCaro for WAMU

Best Social Ride
Winner: BicycleSPACE’s 7th Street Social

Biggest Advocacy Win of 2014
Winner: Snow Removal on Arlington County Trails

Best Overall Trail or Bike Lane (anywhere in the region)
Winner: W&OD Trail