Archive for April, 2011
At an event on Wednesday at Mt. Vernon, the Washington Sustainable Growth Alliance announced its 2011 Regional Conservation Priorities. Included on the list is the completion of the Capital Crescent Trail and the Metropolitan Branch Trail. WABA has long been a proponent of the completion of these trails. The CCT is to be completed alongside the Purple Line and continued into Silver Spring, where it will join with the MBT.
The Conservation Priorities booklet is available here.
On Saturday, April 30th, Casey Trees will hold an Open House from noon to 5pm at their new headquarter location in Brookland, DC (3030 12th St NE). The event will feature family-friendly activities, program spotlights and demonstrations, building tours and neighborhood tree walks. Attendees can come and go as they wish, view exhibits, participate in presentations, talk directly with Casey Trees staff and volunteers and provide comment.
Casey Trees is the District’s premier urban forestry organization. To see the visible impact they’ve made in your neighborhood, please visit their interactive tree map.
WABA is providing the bike valet services throughout the event on the corner of 12th and Irving st. NE.
Here are three suggested route guides to help you arrive safely,
from the Capitol Hill area:
and from Silver Spring:
For more route assistance please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-518-0524
Every year along about this time, a driver in Montgomery County has to wait behind cyclists traveling more slowly than the driver would prefer to drive, on a road with a nearby trail. And then the driver prepares a radio commentary or circulates a letter asking why those cyclists are on the road instead of the trail.
In this year’s widely circulated letter, a driver wrote:
I am both a bicyclist and motorist. Jones Mill Road is extremely dangerous, I think we all agree to that. I have seen 2 car/bike accidents in the past 3 years. Even one is too much. But I see bicyclists with limited lighting and motorists putting on makeup, eating, talking on cell phones.
This road has just barely room for 2 cars to pass and any bicycle on the road halts traffic and causes danger to all, particularly during rush hour. Adding to motorists frustration is the fact that we just resurfaced the immediately adjacent hiker/biker trail and the bicyclists refuse to use it…. They already have a trail, why not use it and avoid all this danger…
I… see huge gaggles of 40-50 bicycles completely blocking the road–not courteous and definitely not sharing–arrogance again. But during weekdays and particularly during rush hours, I just see arrogance by the bicyclists, with no concern for sharing the road with cars. I see bicyclists in danger and frustrated motorists almost every bike day.
IS it right for the bicyclists to force sharing a non sharable road when they have a trail right there? … Perhaps we organize a campaign to put up road signs stating (no bicycles, use trail). Yes, I ride that trail on bicycle almost every Mon, Wed, Fri and Saturday and drive that road every weekday.
Michael Jackson, the director of bicycle and pedestrian access for the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) provided a reply that hit on just about every aspect of this issue
Your concerns are commonly shared by many members of the public. However bicycling has a lot of counterintuitive truths.
Under Maryland law bicycles are vehicles and bicycle vehicle operators have generally the same rights and responsibilities as motor vehicle operators. Bicyclists are legally entitled to use most roadways in Maryland including Jones Mill Road. Toll roads, interstate highways and travel lanes with posted speed limits of 55 mph or higher are places where bicycling is prohibited…
Why Do Bicyclists Insist on Exercising Their Legal Right to Use Roadways Adjacent To Trails?
Another counterintuitive truth is that generally roadways are safer than trails. Trails have higher crash rates than roadways. While certainly a car/bike collision can lead to serious injuries and fatalities, unfortunately serious injuries and fatalities occur on trails. Bicyclists run into each other, run into fixed objects or simply lose control and fall.
Trails often cannot safely accommodate the speeds that skilled bicyclists can achieve due to relatively narrow widths, tight curves, limited sight distances and sometimes worse overall pavement conditions than adjacent roadways. Another complicating factor [is] the presence of pedestrians, including children, dog walkers, and less skilled bicyclists. Often these folks are less predictable in their movements than motorists. Common speed limits on trails are 15 mph, a speed easily exceeded by skilled bicyclists. However a cyclist rarely exceeds the legal speed limit on a roadway.
Finally roadways often provide a more direct route than the adjacent trails which have a tendency to meander. So due to improved safety, less hassle with pedestrian conflicts, higher speed limits and directness often bicyclists prefer roadways over adjacent trails…
Jones Mill Road Safety
You mentioned that you’ve seen two car/bike crashes (presumably on Jones Mill Road) in three years and that even one is too much. I assume the argument is that bicyclists should be banned from Jones Mill Road because of these crashes. If true than we would have to ban motoring as well, considering the 32,000 motor vehicle fatalities occurring annually, let alone the hundreds of thousands of injuries and collisions that occur nationally. Instead of taking that extreme step as a society we determine if motoring and bicycling are reasonable risks while we continue to work on improving safety.
Bicyclist Arrogance, Motorist Inattention and Road Rage
Often the public believes that bicyclists are mere trespassers on public highways who deserve whatever abuse they receive from motorists. This is not the case. Motorists have to understand that bicyclists have as much right to use Jones Mill Road as motorists have. Bicyclists must travel in a lawful and courteous manner in the name of roadway safety and reinforcing the image of bicyclists as legitimate roadway users.It is true that bicyclists often aggravate motorists by violating traffic laws, including unnecessarily impeding traffic when riding in groups. As you noticed motorists often engage in distracted driving and occasionally can be prone to fits of road rage. The common factor is that both bicyclists and motorists are human beings with all the faults that come with being human…. there are jerks behind the handlebars, jerks being the steering wheels and jerks afoot. However this does not raise the danger level to such a degree that we should ban bicycling or motoring.
Why does this issue arise so often? First, Maryland actually did have a law requiring the use of sidepaths from 1970-77. That provision was part of the Uniform Vehicle Code, portions of which have been adopted by most states. Second, although Maryland repealed the requirement fairly quickly, about 15 states still had it as late as 2005. Until 2007 the Virginia code authorized localities to require cyclists to ride on sidepaths. Someone who moves from another state to Maryland does not have to take a test on all the differences between their former state and Maryland laws, so unless the law is publicized, people tend to assume that the law is the same in Maryland as the state whence they came. Finally, the mandatory side path law fits neatly into a conceptual model shared by most drivers, most public officials, and even many cyclists: that public safety and common sense requires bikes to stay out of through lanes built mainly for drivers.
That’s probably true for small children and others still learning to share the road. First-time drivers probably do not belong on the beltway during rush hour either. The fact that many long-time drivers and public officials also do not understand what it means to share the road suggests that there is a serious gap in driver education.
Throughout Maryland, the state and local highway departments have installed more than one thousand signs that say ”[bicycle symbol] Share the Road.” Clearly, many drivers believe that these signs are a directive to cyclists to share the road with automobiles by moving to the extreme right. In fact, the signs are a warning to drivers that bicyclists are sharing the road.
But the main problem is that most drivers do not know what it means to share a narrow road. A key principal of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices is that road signs should have a clear meaning, but it seems that to many, “Share the Road” signs do not have a clear meaning. Given this lack of clarity most “Share the Road” signs on roads without shoulders should be replaced with the new (R4-11) signs that say “Bicycles may use full lane.” No ambiguity there.
(Jim Titus is a member of WABA’s Board of Directors from Maryland)
–This entry cross-posted with the FABB Blog at fabb-bikes.blogspot.com–
Most of us who travel by bike know that for short trips riding a bike is often faster than driving, especially when you consider the time it takes to park and walk to your destination. We also know that our travel time is fairly consistent. Motorists usually have to allow extra time to account for possible congestion, wrecks, parking problems, etc.
To prove that bicycling is a good option for short trips we’ve challenged some local officials to compare travel time for bike/car/bus for a 3 mile trip to the Reston Town Center. Starting near South Lakes HS I will be bicycling on roads and trails. Delegate Ken Plum will drive his hybrid car, and Kathleen Driscoll McKee will take the bus. We’ll compare travel times and we’ll compare the cost of the trips, including the direct cost of the trip (breakfast for me, gas for Del. Plum, and bus fare for Ms. McKee), the cost of annual maintenance (bike/car), and other indirect costs such as “free” parking and air pollution. See our news release, below, for more info:
Bike/Car/Bus Challenge to be held on Monday, May 2, 2011
Reston, VA, April 26, 2011 - Bike to Work Day is Friday, May 20 at the Reston Town Center Pavilion. To promote traveling by bicycle, on Monday, May 2, several residents of Reston are holding a bike/car/bus commute challenge. The purpose of the challenge is to compare the cost and travel time of the three modes during a typical short commute within Reston. For short trips, bicycle travel time compares favorably to car and bus travel times, and the cost of the trip is much less. National surveys indicate that nearly 50 percent of all trips are 3 miles or less.
The event will begin at 8:15 a.m. on May 2 and will last approximately an hour. The participants will leave from Cobblestone Lane in south Reston and travel to the Reston Town Center Pavilion, slightly more than 3 miles away. Each participant will be timed. The motorist must park in long term parking, as if he is going to be working at the Town Center for the day, and walk to the Pavilion. The bicyclist must also park and lock his bike and walk to the Pavilion. The bus rider’s time includes walking to and from the bus stop. People can choose their own route and must obey traffic rules.
Bruce Wright, Chairman of Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling, will ride his bicycle, Del. Ken Plum will drive his hybrid car, and Reston Association President Kathleen Driscoll McKee will ride the bus. “I’m confident I can get to the Town Center before Ken and Kathleen. On a bicycle I’m not affected as much by congestion on the road,” said Bruce. “Plus, I’ll have fun, save money, and get a workout at the same time.” Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins has been invited to meet everyone at the Town Center.
The cost of maintaining a bike is around $200/year. By comparison AAA estimates that the cost of maintaining a car is about $8,000/year, more than most people spend on clothing, health care and entertainment combined. Driving also has many indirect costs as well. Nationwide, motorist user fees pay for about half the cost of building and maintaining roads. All of us pay for the rest of the cost. Most of us also pay for “free” parking by paying higher prices for goods and services. The cost of one structured car parking space is around $15,000. The cost of a bicycle rack is approximately $300 installed. Transit costs are more difficult to quantify, varying by type and usage.
Bruce Wright is a member of the WABA Board of Directors and Chairman of Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling (FABB), a sponsored project of WABA advocating for improved cycling in Fairfax County, VA.
On Friday, the Federal Highway Administration gave interim approval for the use of green pavement for bicycle lanes, stating:
Positive operational effects have been noted in the experiments, such as bicyclists positioning themselves more accurately as they travel across intersections and through conflict areas, and no notable negative operational effects have been observed. The research has also shown that bicyclists and motorists both have a positive impression of the effect of the green colored pavement, with bicyclists saying that they feel safer when the green colored pavement is present, and motorists saying that the green colored pavement gives them an increased awareness that bicyclists might be present and where those bicyclists are likely to be positioned within the traveled way.
This approval is excellent news–as is a stated rationale by FHWA that there are positive operational effects on both bicyclists and motorists.
In the past, the opposition to colored pavement has come nearly as often from aesthetic review agencies as DOTs. This guidance clearly tells transportation planners and design engineers that green pavement is allowed, and gives notice to those aesthetic review entities that there is a real benefit to roadway safety.
Thus, in future planning discussions, bike advocates will be able to point to FHWA’s rationale and approval and ask aesthetic review entities either to rebut FHWA’s statement that green pavement has a positive operational effect, or to justify the elevation of aesthetic concerns over safety concerns on our roadways.
With the return of warmer weather and increased traffic on the area’s trails, we want to remind cyclists of the importance of riding in a way that protects oneself and considers the rights and enjoyment of others. Last week’s collision on the CCT provides yet another reminder that on multi-use trails that cross roadways (another use), everyone has a role to play in keeping the interactions safe.
In October, WABA met with Councilmember Roger Berliner of Montgomery County, the Coalition for the Capital Crescent Trail, officials from the relevant parks and police agencies, and representatives of trail-adjacent civic assocations to discuss ways to make trail usage safer and more enjoyable for all. In the end, each group agreed to reach out to its membership to provide information on how to enjoy the trails safely.
So WABA will be out on Saturday, April 23rd providing information on trail safety and usage, biking in the region, and the future of the CCT–in addition to answering any bike-related questions you have for us. We will also be providing bells (while supplies last) to cyclists who lack them. By DC law, a bike must have a bell. And if you ride trails, a bell is a good idea even if not required in your jurisdiction.
We will be near the Georgetown and Bethesda CCT trailheads and roving along the trail informally from 10am to 2pm on Saturday, April 23rd. Stop by and say hello.
And in the meantime, cyclists, remember these trail safety tips:
- Ride right, pass left.
- Signal audibly when passing.
- Yield to pedestrians and oncoming traffic.
- Be sure there is space to pass safely before attempting to pass.
- Beware of dogs and their leashes.
- Children may lack the coordination to keep in a straight line. Pass carefully.
- Stop at stop signs, and ensure that it’s safe to proceed before crossing roadways.
And to non-cyclists, we hope that you will also help us to share the trails safely by following these suggestions.
- Walk on the right, and allow room for faster travelers to pass on the left.
- Be sufficiently aware of your surroundings to hear an audible warning.
- Know that “On Your Left” is a common audible warning by a bicyclist that means “I am passing you on your left.” It does not mean you should move to the left.
- Keep your dog controlled and on its leash.
Last week, a public meeting was held by MTA on the future of the Purple Line and the accompanying trail improvements to the Capital Crescent Trail that would make the portion of the trail between Bethesda and Silver Spring a more viable connection between these two employment and transit hubs.
After more than a decade of debate, you might think that questions about the future Purple Line would be put to rest. But as work has continued, budgets have tightened, and cost estimates have been released, some trail opponents are bringing up the same misleading arguments about lack of public input, expense, and harm to the Capital Crescent Trail (CCT).
Throughout this planning process, trail opponents have cloaked their opposition with positive spin, naming the anti-Purple Line advocacy organization “Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail” and circulating a “Save the Trail” petition. This has created a great deal of confusion, and we want to clarify—now that some time has passed—where WABA—as credible, regional cycling advocates who love the trail and have advocated for it from its inception—stand on this project.
So let’s set the record straight: The Purple Line is not going to destroy the trail. While the trail will change, in most ways it will be for the better. The fact is that the Purple Line is the best way— in fact, the only realistic way—to get improvements to the existing segments of the CCT and to extend the trail into downtown Silver Spring.
WABA outlined our reasoning for the Montgomery County Park and Planning Commission in 2008:
WABA has studied the arguments of Purple Line opponents about the impact of a transit line running parallel to—and in the same right-of-way with— the Capital Crescent Trail with great interest. We have considered their claims carefully, and we think they are simply incorrect. The Purple Line build options in the environmental impact statement are fully consistent with preserving the trail . . . . WABA prefers the light rail versions to the bus line options because rail would more effectively integrate the area’s transportation infrastructure, including Metrorail and alternative modes of commuting such as bicycling.
WABA also noted that the infrastructure built for light rail will provide the maximum number of opportunities to include trail crossings to avoid several dangerous intersections:
The existing trail includes at-grade crossings with limited visibility or heavy automobile traffic at Jones Bridge Road and Connecticut Avenue . . . . Once the trail reaches the western part of Silver Spring, cyclists and walkers are dumped onto the streets, and they are forced to cross wide, busy intersections at 16th Street and at Colesville Road. The heavier investment Purple Line options provide for the trail to cross all of these intersections on bridges or under tunnels, improving safety.
Montgomery County and MTA planners have adopted each and every one of the specific recommendations we made in 2008. At a briefing for the board of the Coalition for the Capital Crescent Trail, MTA showed how the trail will be extended by an additional 1.4 miles into downtown Silver Spring as part of the Purple Line project. The CCT will connect directly to the future Metropolitan Branch Trail in the new Silver Spring Transit Center, as WABA requested, to complete the missing northern link in the long-planned “bicycle beltway” beginning at Union Station, extending north to Silver Spring, west to Bethesda, and south again through the District of Columbia ending in Georgetown.
The rebuilt trail will be more complete, wider, better paved, and better separated from motor vehicle traffic than the interim gravel trail that exists today. As WABA recommended, the trail will be paved and 12’ wide from the Bethesda tunnel to Silver Spring. The trail will have grade separated crossings of all busy highways, including Connecticut Avenue, Jones Mill Road, 16th Street, Spring Street, and Colesville Road. The trail will be safely separated from the transit tracks by a landscaped buffer and fencing, and it will include direct access to five transit stations, including at the Bethesda and Silver Spring Metro stations.
Now, will these improvements come without investment? Of course not. But the more recent release of a $65M cost estimate for completing the trail has brought trail opponents back into the picture.So let’s put that $65M in context. Certainly, we could demonstrate that much of the cost allocated to the trail is actually for access to the rail stations that would exist, regardless of the trail’s status. And we could argue that certain costs for moving the existing trail were computed in a way that is never applied to similar relocations of roadways. But even if we accept the $65M, we can still show that, as a transportation investment, this trail is good buy.
Yes, $65M is a lot of money. In the context of our own personal or family economies, it is overwhelming—and that is why opponents of the trail are citing it. It is a big number, and that is all they want people to hear, even if that big number represents a good investment in transportation infrastructure.
So let’s take that $65M and place it in the cost context of transportation infrastructure. Looking at current projects in Montgomery County, a standard resurfacing of existing roadway is slated to cost $3.5M for a 1.4 mile stretch of roadway—with little to no change in transportation effectiveness. (Resurfacing University Blvd. from Arcola Ave. to Colesville Rd.) And improving a single roadway intersection is budgeted to cost $62.5M—nearly as much as the entire trail, even accepting the $65M figure. (Georgia Ave. at Randolph Rd.) And that’s not even comparing it to the truly expensive projects, such as the $2.5 BILLION Intercounty Connector, whose affiliated bicycle-related projects to serve east-west traffic already have been undermined.
So here is the bottom line: Yes: $65M is a big number when compared to a weekly grocery budget. But it’s not a big number when compared to the massive costs accepted simply as necessary to move cars around our region. And here, we know that this trail is a better investment in moving people because we already know that the paved portion of the CCT moves over a million people every year from DC to Bethesda, but experiences a significant drop-off in usage when it leaves Bethesda and becomes unpaved.
WABA looked at the Purple Line years ago and concluded that the rail option was the best thing for cyclists, and for the region’s mobility. Looking at it again—in the context of regional growth, the progress in Silver Spring, and the ongoing work on the Metropolitan Branch Trail—we are even more convinced of that conclusion today. We know Silver Spring is growing. We know Bethesda is growing. And we know that regionally, Silver Spring is to become a major multi-modal transportation hub. Completing the Purple Line and accompanying trail continues to be the best and most effective opportunity to contribute significantly to the regional trail network in Montgomery County, and to enable people to travel by bicycle.
As mentioned yesterday, WABA will be at the Bethesda CCT trailhead and along the trail providing safety tips, route guidance, and other information to cyclists. If you have questions about the trail or the impact of the Purple Line, we would be happy to answer them. Look for us from 10am to 2pm.
Note: This posting is adapted from an article in the forthcoming issue of RideOn–WABA’s quarterly newsletter for members. Thanks to Casey Anderson and Wayne Phyillaier for their contributions to the article and for their ongoing advocacy in support of the trail.
Since 9/11, the area immediately south of the White House has been closed for security reasons. Despite lasting nearly a decade, the closure is still “temporary.” But NPS and the United States Secret Service are studying whether or not to make the closure permanent, and how to make the permanent condition meet the requirements of numerous overlapping design standards for the White House area.
At a minimum, we assume this will mean fewer concrete barriers and improved landscaping. But for cyclists, this is an important project, as it takes place in an area of high bicycle usage & at the intersection of 3 major downtown bicycle arteries: E Street, Pennsylvania Ave., and 15th Street.
At the scoping phase, the project team is asking the public what issues should be considered–not yet for a final solution. So we have submitted the following issues:
1. Accessibility to cyclists (the big one);
2. Avoiding spillover that renders external bicycle facilities unsafe or unusable (e.g. blocking of 15th Street cycletrack by vehicles queued for security screening);
3. Provision of bicycle parking for private bicycles and bikeshare bikes;
4. Use of materials that allow for safe and comfortable bicycle travel (e.g. avoiding deep cobbles, vertical grates, overly-narrow bollards);
5. Separation of modes to minimize conflicts between cyclists, pedestrians, etc.
If we missed anything, please pass it on to NPS through their project website HERE–and let us know. Scoping comments are accepted until April 22.
Following up on an advocacy issue we reported on in March, the District Department of Real Estate Services (DRES) has completed a improved transition between the existing Oxon Cove Farm Trail and the DC Village Lane in Blue Plains.
The original transition was rough and uneven — an afterthought. WABA contacted Adenegan Olusegun, the DRES project manager for the DC Evidence Warehouse, regarding the less than satisfactory work. Olusegun worked with WABA and the on-site contractor to repair the transition area.
The current transition is flat, even and with out tire-pinching bumps. WABA would like to thank the Adenegan Olusegun of DRES for his helpfulness in completing this repair in a timely manner.
WABA’s advocacy staff works hard to ensure the region builds a complete bicycle network for efficient transportation. To contact the advocacy staff, email email@example.com.
As a volunteer-led advocacy group, Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling (FABB) has already proven itself one of the best bicycling advocacy groups in the nation, as demonstrated by its selection as winner of the 2011 Alliance Advocacy Award for Innovation. This award, sponsored by the nationwide umbrella group of walking and cycling advocacy groups, was given to FABB for its Guide for Reviewing Public Road Design and Bicycling Accommodations for Virginia Bicycle Advocates.
But FABB does much more. Commenting on roadway plans, informing the public of cycling-related issues and needs, fighting for cycling staff and funding at the County-level, working with statewide Virginia advocates, teaching commuter seminars, providing lights and safety equipment…. The list goes on and on.
Now, FABB will be joining with WABA as a sponsored project–which will enable them to formally seek donations, grants, and funding for their initiatives, and will give them access to many of our advocacy and outreach tools.
To area cyclists, the result is simple: A stronger voice for cyclists in Fairfax County. Combining the local expertise of FABB with the regional advocacy and resources of WABA, the possibilities are limitless.
FABB is ready to take on a full slate of new and ongoing advocacy activities in Fairfax County this spring and summer. And I am looking forward to working with them and seeing how they can transform Fairfax County into a more bicycle-friendly place.
We are asking Fairfax County WABA supporters to help them get off on the right foot as they take this step forward to bigger and better activities in the County.
Now that they are able to receive funds, we at WABA want to help them get started in their work immediately. Any contributions made to WABA in response to this request will be divided, with 50% going to WABA’s regional work and 50% directly to FABB to kickstart their next phase of programming in Fairfax County.
We are excited to formally welcome FABB into the WABA family, and I hope you will be too.
If you are not already familiar with FABB’s work, please visit them at www.fabb-bikes.org