Another Important Benefit to the R Street NE Improvements

DDOT’s plan for improving R Street, NE by connecting it to the Met Branch Trail and improving the road for bicyclists, has an important ancillary benefit: the improved route for children attending the numerous schools located in close proximity to the MBT, but not able to reach school via the trail, due to an incomplete trail to street grid connection. The current conditions of this area illustrate the barriers that school children face if they were to come down the MBT: a trash strewn, overgrown, abandoned lot to cross through with concrete barriers and illegal parking blocking the sidewalk on R Street.

McKinley Tech, Ideal Academy PCS, City Lights PCS, and Friendship Academy PCS are schools which draw hundreds of children from beyond a neighborhood boundary, due to the fact that they are a DCPS application only science and technology magnet school (McKinley) or public charter schools, which by definition, have no neighborhood boundary that they serve, drawing instead from the entire city for enrollment. In addition, Langley Education Campus, a DCPS pre-k through 8th grade school, is also located next to McKinley. And while Langley is a DCPS school with a traditional neighborhood boundary from which it draws, they are also a Science and Technology magnet school offering Chinese language instruction which is a very attractive curriculum for out of boundary families.

Many of these students are already taking the Metro to school every day and exiting the Metro system at the New York Avenue station. The connection of R Street to the Metropolitan Branch trail would enable these students the ability to walk up the trail and cross directly onto their school grounds, rather than attempting the extremely dangerous crossing of Florida and New York Avenues from the Metro, which is the current route most students take. This intersection is bad almost any time of day, but at school arrival and dismissal times, when it sits squarely in the middle of rush hour, children and parents are traversing a dangerous path in order to get to school. These R Street improvements would eliminate the need to cross New York and Florida Avenues at street level entirely, since they could walk up the stairs to the MBT and proceed to their schools.

The improvements to R Street and the connectivity of the Met Branch Trail into Northeast Washington are welcome improvements from DDOT. Not only would the R street improvements help pave the way to make it safer for bicyclists to ease off the MBT and onto a cross town route, but it will also make it easier for many hundreds of students get to school without the anxiety and potential harm of a dangerous street crossing.

Gina Arlotto is the DC and regional Safe Routes to School Network Coordinator.  Her work focuses on making it safer for children to walk or bike to and from school.

DC Office of Police Complaints Releases Report on MPD-Bicyclist Interactions

In February, WABA and many District cyclists testified before the Committee on the Judiciary regarding concerns about enforcement of roadway laws and the protection of bicyclists on DC’s streets.  Following that hearing, Councilmember Mendelson forwarded those concerns to the Office of Police Complaints (OPC) for review.  Today, OPC released its report on the matter.

We thank Councilmember Mendelson for referring these issues to OPC, and we look forward to the follow-up hearing on November 2, where he will have the opportunity to question MPD about the systemic issues raised in this report.

Police Complaint Board MPD-Bicyclist Report & Recs

50 States & 13 Colonies Ride Recap

This year’s 50 States  & 13 Colonies Ride was a resounding success for WABA and for those who biked more than 64-miles up and down and up some more, across The District’s expansive asphalt terrain. To those who’ve never participated in the event, this ride may sound downright masochistic, and okay maybe there’s some truth in that, but the pleasure is well worth the pain. Riders  discovered never-before-seen pockets of the city, formed lasting bonds along the way and earned the right to say, “I biked the 50 States!”

We couldn’t have asked for a more pleasant, rain-free September day.  500 participants gathered at Kalorama Park to collect their cue sheets and bike maps, and enjoy fresh produce by Giant Food while lining up in the start area. Before the ride set off, WABA staff  relayed some basic safety tips and gave fair warning of the route’s inherent difficulties. We advised riders, “It’s not a question of whether or not you will get lost, it’s a question of when you will get lost.”

Fortunately, when folks missed the “unmarked alley on 15th St SE” or rode past Texas Ave. SE, they weren’t lost for long. And that’s due in large part to our ride support; the veteran 50 States Rider corps who have joined us for the past 8 years, and the dedicated ride marshals, stationary marshals and volunteers, who led the packs and swept the route. Some participants like to think of 50 States as a day to get out and explore the city on their own while relying on paper and intuition, however the general experience is one of teamwork and encouragement. We overheard one woman say, “for being an unsupported ride, I’ve never felt so supported on a ride!” And for that we owe a big thanks to the camaraderie of our 50 States rider community and our hard-working volunteers!

We also owe this year’s success to our rest stop support. Thankfully, our staff was able to quickly zip across the city to follow the ride and set up rest stops with  Zip Car’s gracious contribution of two fully-loaded SUVs. Normally WABA staff stick to two wheels but we had no choice, we had to be car-nivores for the day. These SUVs were necessary in keeping our riders hydrated and energized because they carried 500 gallons of water donated by Drink More Water and 500 energy snacks donated by the The Nation’s Triathlon.

Riders weren’t the only participants taken care of along the route, so were the bicycles. Mechanics from Takoma Park’s The Green Commuter assisted riders at the start area, DC’s BicycleSPACE provided  bicycle maintenance at the Anacostia rest stop,  The Bike House, a volunteer-run Bike Co-op taught riders how to do basic repairs during lunch, and The American University Cycling Team spent their afternoon wrenching at mile 59 on AU’s campus.

Thanks for your time, energy and help, guys!

51st State After Party Sponsored by New Belgium Brewing

Lastly, we are most appreciative of the contributions from the latest and greatest, bike-centric brewers in town, The New Belgium Brewery, who sponsored the 51st State After Party. This year’s ride would not have been complete without a couple frosted Fat Tire Ales, T-shirts and bike goodies to commemorate the day!  We are proud supporters of their work as a triple bottom line, employee-owned company and their passion for supporting the national bike movement and we are honored to work with them. And of course that couldn’t have happened without our friends at The Grill From Ipanema who hosted our after party and provided delicious food, a patio perfect for cheering on the returning riders, bike parking and half of their dining area space for hundreds of sweaty lycrites!

We hope you enjoyed yourselves, and as always, we appreciate any feedback to improve this event for years to come. Please email nelle@waba.org with comments.

DC Ranks 5th for Bike Commuting!

According to newly released US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey data, in 2010, DC’s percentage of bike commuters rose to 3.1% of all commuters! With this increase, we now rank 5th among the 70 largest cities in the US. This is an unprecedented 44% increase over 2009’s rate (2.2%) and a 169% increase over the past ten years. Currently, only the cities of Portland (6.0%), Seattle (3.6%), San Francisco (3.5%) and Minneapolis (3.5%) rank above DC.

A solid year of growth in the bicycle commuting rate as represented in the ACS data is a testament to the region’s commitment to bicycling as a primary mode of transportation for residents. It also underlines the ever-present need to expand our bicycle infrastructure, develop and grow innovative programs like Capital Bikeshare, improve enforcement and encourage new populations to ride bicycles.

No Criminal Assault Charges to be Brought Against Driver Caught on Camera Striking Cyclist


By now, many of you have seen the video of a cyclist being intentionally struck by a pickup truck in DC.  WABA shared this video in order to highlight the danger of assault that cyclists face on the District’s roadways and to push for a law creating an improved civil cause of action to allow assaulted and harassed cyclists to seek justice.

In response to this bill (now introduced in the DC Council as the “Assault of Bicyclists Prevention Act of 2011″) some skeptics have stated that the law is unnecessary because this sort of behavior is already a crime, and that the criminal system will ensure proper punishment of the driver.

Try telling that to the cyclist who shared that video with us.

Despite having clear video evidence documenting the assault–including the threatening language prior to the attack, an independent witness who stated that the collision with the cyclist was intentional, and excellent police work by MPD in locating the driver of the vehicle and completing the necessary reports, no assault charges will be brought.

The authorities saw the video.  That was their answer.

If criminal assault charges are not pursued in a case like this one, where the entire incident is videotaped, corroborated, and well investigated, it is difficult to imagine a time when these criminal laws would be used to provide justice after a bicyclist is assaulted.

To those who say that current criminal laws provide the needed protection: you are incorrect.  This decision  makes that abundantly clear.

Please join us in working for the prompt passage of the Assault of Bicyclists Prevention Act of 2011 to provide cyclists with a means of redress.  If you have a story of being assaulted or harassed on the roadway, please share it with us here. To join the list of supporters of this law and receive updates as it progresses, please sign up here.

We look forward to the opportunity to testify in support of this bill and hope that the Committee on the Judiciary–chaired by Councilmember Mendelson–will take the bill seriously and hold a hearing on the law very soon.

(***Note that the Committee on the Judiciary is holding a hearing on enforcement practices related to bicyclists and pedestrians on November 2nd.  This is also an important hearing, but it is separate in nature.  The Committee must also hold a hearing on the Assault of Bicyclists Prevention Act in order for it to be voted on by the full Council and possibly go become law.)

Protection of Cyclists Law Introduced In DC

On Tuesday, Councilmember Wells–along with Councilmembers Cheh, Evans, Alexander, Bowser, Graham, Michael Brown, Barry, & Chairman Kwame Brown–introduced the “Assault of Bicyclists Prevention Act of 2011.”

This bill is based on WABA’s proposed anti-assault law, which is in turn based on a Los Angeles ordinance passed earlier this year.  The bill has been referred to the Committee on Environment, Public Works, and Transportation chaired by Councilmember Cheh.

We appreciate the support of the many WABA members and local cyclists who have helped us get this far by sharing their stories and the efforts of the DC Bicycle Advisory Council to pass a unanimous resolution in support of the bill.

The next step toward passage of this law will likely be a hearing before the Committee to discuss the bill and its merits.  WABA will, of course, testify at the hearing, but we also need individual cyclists to tell their stories and explain how this law will both send an important message about the rights of cyclists on the roadway and provide meaningful access to justice in real-life cases of assault and harassment.

If you have been intentionally assaulted or harassed while biking in the Washington area, we need your story.  We have updated our crash tracker tool, which we have been using to gather data on crashes and enforcement procedures, to include information on assault and harassment so that we can gather the data we need to make a compelling case to the Committee, the DC Council, and eventually other legislative bodies.

Please take a moment to tell us your story using the crash tracker, and forward this tool to your cycling friends, neighbors, and colleagues.

Best way to get to the Solar Decathlon: On a Bike!

The 2011 United States Department of Energy Solar Decathlon brings twenty college teams from the around the country and world to compete this month in Washington DC to build the most energy efficient solar powered house.  The project teams have been working for the past two years to design, build and transport an 800 square foot house to be judged in 10 different categories (hence a decathlon) including engineering, architecture, communications and more.

Traditionally held on the National Mall, this year’s Solar Decathlon will be held in West Potomac Park on Ohio Dr SW in Washington, DC.  The competition was required to move for 2011 because of the ongoing rehabilitation of the Mall.  As a result, getting to the Solar Decathlon will take a bit more planning this year.  Organizers will run a shuttle from the Smithsonian Metro stop every 15 minutes between 9:30 am and 3:30 pm on weekdays and from 9:30 am and 6:30 pm on weekends.  Be warned however, that it will be crowded!  Alternatively, you could walk the approximately 1.3 miles from the Smithsonian Metro Station or 1.5 miles from the Farragut West Metro Station (each way).  But, don’t even think about driving!  Only a few first-come, first-served parking spots will be available and we’re guessing traffic will be up to the DC standard: terrible!

But don’t fret – you can always go by bike!  We’ve mapped out eight bike routes with cues sheets from different parts of the region.  The routes begin in Vienna, Arlington (Ballston), Bethesda, Silver Spring, College Park, Capitol Hill, National Harbor and Alexandria.  The cue sheets are available to print off in PDF format with turn-by-turn directions and approximate mileages.  Google Maps has directions for bicycling to produce your own cue sheet if you are coming from another part of the region.  It should also be noted that bicycles are allowed on the Metro all hours except during weekday morning rush hour (7:00am – 10:00am) and evening rush hour (4:00pm – 7:00pm), which provides the option to ride just one way if you get tired or if the weather turns bad.

And when you get to the Solar Decathlon, WABA will be running a free bicycle valet for you! The valet will be located near the southern end of Solar Village near the welcome tent.  Our bike valet service works just like the coat check at your favorite fancy restaurant: roll up to the valet, drop off your bike and go enjoy the event secure in the knowledge that your bike is safe with our staff and volunteers.  When you are ready to go, bring your claim ticket back to the valet, retrieve your bike and ride safely home.  We do ask valet users to please plan on collecting your bike at least 15 minutes before the valet is scheduled to close.  If you forget, you just might get a friendly reminder phone call or text message from us.  There will also be an ample number of bike racks around Solar Village if you prefer to lock up yourself (use a U-Lock!). The valet will be open the following times:

  • Thursday, Sept. 22 – 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
  • Friday, Sept. 23 – 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, Sept. 24 – 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Sunday, Sept. 25 – 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Friday, Sept. 30 – 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, Oct. 1 – 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Sunday, Oct. 2, 2011 – 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m

Learn more about the Solar Decathlon at solardecathlon.gov and about WABA’s bicycle routes and valet for this event at waba.org/events/solardecathlon.php.  We would like to thank Perkins + Will for their generous support of the Solar Decathlon and the bicycle valet.

Take our advice – bike to the Solar Decathlon!