2017 Trails Symposium

On Thursday, November 16, the Capital Trails Coalition convened at the Hill Center for the fourth annual Trails Symposium. The Symposium was presented by REI, and we had record attendance, with nearly 100 participants.

The Capital Trails Coalition is a collaboration of public and private organizations, agencies, and citizen volunteers working to advance completion of an interconnected network of multi-use trails for metropolitan Washington, DC.

The Coalition convenes and coordinates among the public and private stakeholders who are critical to accomplishing the vision of an interconnected network. The group identifies trail funding, broadens the base of support, and cultivates widespread consensus that a trail network is a regional priority.

At the Symposium, the Coalition dove into topics related to trail use and trail development, including economic development, converting potential trail users into current trail users, how bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure fit into mega million dollar infrastructure projects, and how changing technology will help us build out the regional trail network.

The opening plenary was given by Jack Koczela, Chair of the Recreational Trails Advisory Committee and vice Chair of the Capital Trails Coalition. We took a look back at major milestones of the last few years, as well as a chart forward for 2018.

After the morning plenary, attendees broke out into two sessions- Trails Coalition 101 and Trail Project Prioritization.

The session addressing Trail Project Prioritization was lead by Beth Porter from National Park Service and Kelly Pack from Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. The Coalition has a list of projects and a network map. The session was focused on how the group leverages the strengths of each Coalition member group to take the trail network from vision to reality.

Trails Coalition 101 was an introductory session for people that were new to the Coalition, and explained the ways that new organizations and agencies could get involved with the Coalition’s work and become Coalition members.

The next set of sessions were a panel on Mega Projects and a panel on Local Government and Trails, specifically ANCs.

Stewart Schwartz, from Coalition for Smart Growth moderated the Mega Projects Panel. Three experts from three departments of transportation joined us for that panel- Susan Shaw (VDOT), Katherine Youngbluth (DDOT) and Tim Cupples (Montgomery Co. DOT). Projects like the expansion of I-66, the Purple Line, and Long Bridge affect those who walk and bike. The panel discussed the challenges and opportunities for trails in these megaprojects.

The Local Government and Trails Panel was moderated by David Whitehead from Greater Greater Washington. Panelists were Natalee Snider (ANC 4B), Eddie Garnett (ANC 5E) and Joe McCann (former ANC Transportation and Public Space Committee Chair).

After lunch, the third breakout sessions began: Changing Times, Changing Tech, and Using the Web Application.

Wayne Clark with East Coast Greenway Alliance moderated the Changing Times, Changing Tech panel. The panelists discussed how new technologies (from automated vehicles to dockless electric bikeshare to digital maps) relate to the Coalition’s work to complete the trail network. Panelists were Brandi Horton from Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, Nelle Pierson from Jump Mobility, Joshua Nadas from National Park Service, and Jeff Ciabotti from Toole Design Group.

Kelly Pack from Rails-to-Trails Conservancy walked through the web application with the trail network map, and explained its functions and tools to new Coalition members.

Our next sessions were Partnering In a Fiscally Constrained World and a work session focused on equity.

David Daddio from U.S. DOT Volpe Center explained how National Park Service is engaging with partners locally and nationally to meet its biggest infrastructure challenges. That conversation was incredibly relevant to our work in DC, especially because transportation funding is increasingly competitive, localized, and debt financed. The Q&A for this session was moderated by Beth Porter from National Park Service.

The Equity Work Session was lead by Liz Thorstensen from Rails-to-Trails Conservancy and Sterling Stone from Gearin’ Up Bicycles. The Coalition has created a working definition of “equitable trail development.” The next step for the group is to use our equity definition to guide our trail development work. This was a working session, and participants came ready to share their thoughts and chart a course forward.

The final choice for participants was between a session addressing Economic Development Groups, Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) and Trails and Converting “Potential” Trail Users Into Current Trail Users.

The first of those sessions was moderated by Will Handsfield from Georgetown BID. Panelists were Galin Brooks from NoMa BID, Stuart Eisenberg from Hyattsville Community Development Corporation, and Robert Mandle from Crystal City BID. Participants learned that BIDs and other economic development groups can embrace trails as part of their brand, and support trail development and trail use, as all three of the panelists’ groups have done. They shared innovative examples of how BIDs help trails (and how trails help BIDs).

During the trail user session, Brandi Horton from Rails-to-Trails Conservancy lead the conversation with a panel of trail use experts, including Sterling Stone from Gearin’ Up Bicycles, Ursula Sandstrom from Washington Area Bicyclist Association, Henry Dunbar from Bike Arlington, and Lynn Butler, M-NCPPC, Dept. of Parks and Recreation, Prince George’s County. The panelists shared their experiences with different community groups, and discussed the reasons that some people don’t use our current trail network. With the session participants, the panelists discussed how we can lower the barrier to entry when it comes to trail use.

The Trails Summit wrapped up with a closing plenary by Jack Koczela. We recapped the sessions and talked about ways to stay involved with the Coalition.

Many thanks to our speakers, panelists, and moderators, as well as all of the event attendees.

Want to learn more about the Capital Trails Coalition? Check out http://capitaltrailscoalition.org/

Is your organization or agency a potential Coalition member? Email katie.harris@waba.org for more information on membership.

You’re invited: WABA Member Holiday Party!

When: Wednesday, December 13th, 6-9pm

Where: Bar Roubaix, 1400 Irving St NW, Washington, DC 20010 (former location of Acre 121)

Who: WABA members (don’t worry, you can join at the door!)

RSVP: Join the Holiday Party event on Facebook and invite your WABA friends

All WABA members are invited to join the WABA Staff, Board of Directors, and your fellow WABA members on Wednesday, December 13th at Bar Roubaix in Columbia Heights for an evening of bicycle cheer.

Come eat, drink, and be merry with us in celebration of this year’s successes and mingle with fellow WABA members. The party is free and there will be drink specials available for you to purchase at the bar.

Bar Roubaix (a new, bicycle themed bar!) has generously agreed to match the first $1,000 you donate to WABA at the party! And, 20% of the proceeds from the night go to WABA, so come ready to support better bicycling and enjoy some drinks!

Want to volunteer to help sell WABA merchandise and keep the night running smoothly? Sign up here.

This party is for WABA members (don’t worry, you can join at the door). WABA is a member-supported nonprofit organization and your yearly membership dues and donations fund our ongoing advocacy, education, and outreach work. We can’t do this without your financial investment. If you have friends who are not WABA members, bring them and encourage them to join at the party! And, if you’re not sure if you’re a current dues-paying member, email membership@waba.org or check a recent email from WABA—there will be a note at the bottom.

Questions? Email events@waba.org or call 202-518-0524 x218.

What Makes a Trail Great? The Ride

On Oct. 28, Women & Bicycles took to the trails to explore trail design and learn what makes a great trail a great place to ride. Trails expert and DC Trail Ranger Coordinator Ursula Sandstrom joined us as our expert speaker.


The group on the Anacostia River Trail


The ride started with a quick downhill from Congress Heights and across the busy, multi-lane Suitland Parkway road to our first stop on the Suitland Parkway trail.


Lesson #1: Connectivity!

Great trails connect to each other, and to amenities we need in the city. The Suitland Parkway Trail follows the bottom of a ravine, but while it is near multiple Metro stations it fails to connect any of them- they are all out of reach beyond steep hills, or across wide and busy roads, or both. It just doesn’t connect to much- it doesn’t go all the way to the large employment centers just a few miles away in Maryland on the Parkway; there are only three spots along the entire mile length that folks can get onto the trail; and only two spots are accessible from the east and those are of dubious quality for pedestrian or bicyclist safety. It doesn’t directly connect to the other nearby trails, as we would find out as we crossed ramps, took the lane on a busy street, and rode small dirt stretches.

Narrow curvy trail with poor sightlines around the trees

Once we got to the Anacostia river trail, connectivity was a different story. The trail connects to the Maryland Anacostia Tributary Trails, has clear direction signs, is easily accessible from many trail adjacent neighborhoods and makes amenities like the ballpark and the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens easy to find and easy to ride to.


Easy, smooth rolling.


Lesson #2: Situation!

In our first stop, we noticed that the Suitland Parkway Trail was separated from the busy road by mere feet at its furthest. Traffic exposes riders to heat, vehicle exhaust, and noise pollution. Additionally, without a buffer, a trail user immediately next to a fast road faces significant dangers in the event that a driver loses control of their vehicle, with no other protections between cyclists and cars. Great trail construction plans for buffers between cars and trail users. A wide, safe, green buffer with physical impediments between cars and bikes shields riders-and their cargo – from unnecessary exposure.  

No buffer and a short curb isn’t ideal construction.

The flip side of that coin was the wide trail with huge buffers on the National Park Service Anacostia Park. The heavily used multiuse trail is a great destination ride for families with kids (playgrounds), adventurous people (there’s a roller rink!), sports fans (with access to community sports such as track workouts in the Kenilworth neighbor tracks, and professional sports like the baseball and soccer teams of DC), and pet owners (with wide fields for dogs to run in).

This wide buffer and thick curb accommodated the entire group during a short educational break.


Lesson #3: Maintenance!

As the adventure continued on the Suitland Parkway, we stopped in an area near a number of homes. We discovered the trail marker sign down, and a trail exit point which curved around some trees effectively hiding it from view (and also startling a jogger).  There were many leaves and debris scattered over the trail.

A downed trail sign on Suitland Parkway

The Anacostia Riverwalk Trail was pristine in comparison. Trail maintenance goes a long way towards helping a rider feel like the city knows about what trail amenities can do.  One super fact is that the Anacostia river trail is constructed with mixed materials and with the intention of allowing flooding. The trail rangers go out in the summer after flooding rains to sluice the sludge off the trail surface in the NY Ave area.

Discussing trail design and flood planning near NY Ave.

Overall, we have a lot of great trails in the DC area, and we also have some trails that were good starts which would benefit from upgrades and connectivity.

Interested in learning more about advocacy with the trail network? Follow the Capital Trails Coalition for the latest news.

More information about the Trail Rangers program can be found here.

Support Women & Bicycles with a donation. Your support helps fund programs like these.

Interested in more educational rides with Women & Bicycles? Join our mailing list.
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Tips for Bike Light Season

It’s bike light season again!

Lights are one of the most important safety features on your bike. If you don’t have lights, get some lights! You can buy a good set of front and rear lights at any bike shop, most hardware stores, or your preferred online retailer. If you can’t afford lights, let us know and we’ll help.


Light tips

  • Keep a spare battery or a charger at work or in a little bag on your bike.
  • Make sure you have lights that meet your needs:
    • If you’re likely to be riding on an unlit road trail, make sure you have a light that’s bright enough to let you see where you’re going.
    • If you’re just riding on city streets, a small blinking light is probably enough.
  • When you’re riding on a trail, be aware of the angle of your front light. Modern LEDs can be quite bright, and you don’t want to blind on coming trail users.



Note: WABA gives away thousands of bike lights every year. We’ve found that we can get more lights into the hands of folks who don’t already have them if we do not announce times or locations in advance. Instead, we seek out places where we see lots of people riding without lights. If you see us out there, say hello! Pick up a set of lights only if you need them.


Our best Trail Ranger season yet!

The DC Trail Ranger program went into its annual winter reduced operations in October. The team did important work this summer and we had so much fun.

Huge thanks to Daniel, Gabriel, Harum, Kemi, Kevin, Seth, Shira, Tom and Trey for being the greatest 2017 Trail Ranger team we could imagine.

  • 3,173 miles covered
  • 232 hours of outreach
  • conversations with 3,747 people
  • 1,000 bike bells distributed
  • 385 hours of cleanup
  • 113 issues reported to the city
  • 2,617 DC bike maps distributed

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Interested in being a trail ranger? Sign up to hear about future job openings Yes!

Want to volunteer with the team next year? Yes!

Contract Awarded for the Met Branch Trail Extension to Fort Totten

A bird’s eye rendering of the Met Branch Trail around the Fort Totten Metro (Source DDOT)

This morning, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) announced a key milestone for the extension of the Metropolitan Branch Trail (MBT) from Brookland to Fort Totten. After a long procurement process, DDOT awarded the contract to complete the design and construct the next phase of the popular multi-use trail!

This new trail will extend the sidepath on the east side of John McCormack Dr to the base of the hill across from the Fort Totten waste transfer station. Instead of turning up the hill, as it does today, the trail will continue north alongside the train tracks. At the Fort Totten Metro, the trail will climb up and over the Green Line tunnel portal, descend to street level and continue on First Pl NE towards Riggs Rd.

Existing MBT in green, new segment in blue, interim on street route in red (Source Google Maps)

This phase of construction will add nearly a mile of new trail, improving walking and biking access to the Fort Totten transit hub and the new development surrounding it. The project will include stairs for a direct route down to the Metro entrance and an improved trail through Fort Totten Park westward to Gallatin St, where the interim MBT route continues to Silver Spring. The new 10-12 foot wide trail will include lights and a relatively gradual grade compared to the steep climb up Fort Totten Dr. For more renderings and detailed design drawings, go to metbranchtrail.com/resources/.

When complete, the Met Branch Trail will span more than 8 miles between Union Station and the Silver Spring Metro Station. So far, the southern 5.5 miles are a mix of off-street trail, protected bike lane, and low traffic streets. Once built out from Bates Rd to Fort Totten, about 2 miles will remain to be built through Ward 4 to the Maryland line. Completing final design and construction should take roughly 18 months or by spring 2019. This new timeline is almost a year behind the schedule published in May 2016.

Improve the Georgetown Branch Trail Interim Routes

When the Georgetown Branch Trail closed in early September for the start of Purple Line construction, trail users faced the frustrating task of finding alternatives to an irreplaceable piece of the biking, walking, and recreation network between Bethesda and Silver Spring. And though Montgomery County’s Department of Transportation (MCDOT) has signed a trail detour, it leaves much to be desired for the individuals and families who depended on the trail for their daily routines.

On Wednesday, November 1, Councilmembers Roger Berliner and Hans Riemer, along with the Planning Department, MCDOT and WABA, are hosting a community meeting to discuss bicycling issues, planned improvements, and opportunities in the Bethesda area. This is an important chance to voice constructive concerns about the existing trail detour and help build consensus and urgency for improvements that fill the void left by the trail, while creating new low-stress connections in Bethesda, Chevy Chase, and beyond. We hope you will join us for this important discussion.

Bethesda Community Meeting on Bicycling 
Wednesday, November 1 from 7:30 to 9 p.m
Jane E. Lawton Community Center
4301 Willow Lane Chevy Chase, MD 20815
Learn more | RSVP

WABA supports the Purple Line because it will create a new reliable transit connection for inner suburban Maryland and a world-class multi-use trail from Silver Spring to Bethesda. As construction continues, we have called on Montgomery County to provide safe and useful alternatives to the trail that accommodate all trail users. You can read our recent letter here.

For more information on the signed Georgetown Branch Trail detour route, click here. For more on the Bethesda Master Plan’s recommended bicycle network, click here (see p. 59).