Wednesday: Show Support for the Protection of DC’s Cyclists, in Enforcement and in Law

To all who want better protection of bicyclists’ safety in the District, please join us next Wednesday as we–and your fellow cyclists–testify in support of both better enforcement to protect bicyclists and better laws to allow cyclists access to justice when they have been assaulted on the District’s streets.

The hearing will begin at 11am in Room 412 of the John A. Wilson Building at 1350 Pennsylvania Ave., NW.

More details on the hearing can be found HERE.

Background documents on police enforcement concerns are HERE.

Background documents on the Assault of Bicyclists Prevention Act are HERE.

WABA and Area Nonprofits To Raise Millions As Part of Give to the Max Day, November 9th

Times are tough for many nonprofits.  Times are challenging for Washington Area Bicyclist Association. as well.  As an organization that advocates for better bicycling conditions in the Washington Metro region there has been a decrease in funding with an increasing demand for services leading to resources being stretched thin.

To help generate donations, and possibly win thousands of additional dollars in awards, on November 9th WABA will be competing in Give to the Max Day: Greater Washington (www.give2max.org), a massive one-day regional online fundraiser to support local nonprofit programs. More than a thousand nonprofits that serve the greater Washington region will ask donors to display their generosity in a region-wide competition to raise as much money as possible, and gain as many supporters as possible, in order to win hundreds of thousands of dollars in awards for WABA.

For 24 hours, starting at 12:00 AM on November 9th, nonprofits will drive their supporters online to donate, creating a huge display of support for one of the region’s largest sectors. There will be more than $100,000 in cash awards available for local nonprofits who generate the most in donations, and those that attract the most individual donors.  WABA has its sights set on thEntrepreneurial Nonprofit Grand Award for $10,000 for the nonprofits under $1 million in revenue that recruits the most donors and we’re just starting to rallying our members to participate.

To help WABA, and the great work we do every day

1) Pledge your support to WABA on November 9th at http://give2max.razoo.com/story/Waba

2) Sign up to be on our email list.

3) Follow us on Facebook and Twitter

4) Re-post to your social media networks in support of WABA and Give to the Max Day

5) Create your own personal fundraising page on Razoo.com to raise money for WABA

Learn more about Give to the Max Day at www.give2max.org

The Washington area nonprofit sector is one of the region’s most important economic drivers. To help local nonprofits, Give to the Max Day: Greater Washington was created by online fundraiser Razoo, and organized and supported by The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region and United Way of the National Capital Area.

If you are interested, please sign up for a shift here.

Support WABA through Employee Giving Campaigns

CFC #93587;  DC One Fund: #8708

As local employee giving programs come into full swing, please remember that every day WABA is in the streets, on the trails, at the public meetings, and in the halls of government working to create better, safer conditions for you and your loved ones who choose to travel by bicycle.

We appreciate your contributions to fund our operations and, specifically, to enable many of our programmatic activities in underserved communities where membership support alone cannot sustain important programming.

Please remember WABA in your employee giving.  And if you do not participate in an employee giving program, you can contribute through this link.

Thank you for your support!

Announcing Dates for Testimony Open House Sessions

In preparation for the November 2nd hearing before the DC Council’s Committee on the Judiciary on Bicycle Enforcement and the Assault of Bicyclists Prevention Act of 2011, WABA is hosting two open-house sessions in which those planning to testify can get assistance in drafting their testimony.  We will discuss the topics and answer questions, and we can help with tips for communicating clearly, staying within time limits, and generally making the most of your time before the Committee.

There will be a brief group discussion at each session, but participants are welcome to come and go anytime and are free to come discuss testimony without being present for the group discusion.

Open House #1: Thursday, October 27th, 3pm-7:30pm.  Group discussion at 6:30.

Open House #2: Monday, October 31, 10am-5pm.  Group discussion at noon.

Both sessions will be held at the WABA office at 2599 Ontario Rd., NW.

Nov. 3rd Call to Action Summit’s Speakers

WABA’s upcoming Regional Call to Action Summit on November 3rd is going to be an exciting day for bicycle advocacy in the Washington region.  Over the last two months, WABA has held five of the six local stakeholder meetings in Maryland, Virginia and DC (the sixth and final meeting is next Monday, 10/17 in Fairfax Co.) to listen to members, supporters, advocates, bike shop owners and other community members about what is needed to improve bicycling in the region.  With this feedback in mind, WABA staff and board are creating a Regional Call to Action document to help prioritize the next five years of bicycle advocacy.   The November 3rd Regional Call to Action Summit will present this document along with others speakers and panels related to the report.  Below is the schedule for the speakers and panel.  Learn more about the Summit at waba.org/events/summit.php.  Please join us on November 3rd and please RSVP.

8:30 am – Gathering & Coffee

9:30 am – Welcome

9:45 am – Tools for Planning Healthy Communities - Gina Arlotto (WABA’s Safe Routes to School Network Coordinator)

10:15 am – Crashed! Your Legal Rights In A Bicycle Accident – Bruce Deming, Lawyer

11:00 am – Panel: Regional Bikesharing – Speakers TBA

12:00 pm – Lunch Break (1 1/2 hour)

1:30pm – Panel: Planning Bicycle & Pedestrian Access to Metro – Nat Bottigheimer (WMATA Assistant General Manager), Patrick Schmitt (WMATA Parking Manager), Kristin Haldeman (WMATA Manager of Access Planning & Policy Analysis), Justin Antos (WMATA Transportation Analyst)

2:30 – Panel: The Role of Bicycle Businesses in Advocacy – Jakob Wolf-Barnett (Chief Operating Officer, Revolutions Cycles), Erik Kugler (Owner, BicycleSPACE), Stephen Marks (Managing Partner, Bike the Sites), Debora Hardng (CEO, City Bikes), Anne Mader (Owner, The Bike Lane)

3:30 pm - WABA’s Presentation of Regional Call to Action

4:30 pm – Summit End

Montgomery County Bikeways & Bikeshare Discussion Monday at 3pm

On Monday at 3pm, the Montgomery County Council’s Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy, and Environment (T&E) Committee will hold a meeting at which DOT officials will update the Committee on its progress on bikeways and bikeshare.

As noted previously, Councilmember Berliner–who chairs the Committee–is a proponent of bikesharing, and the materials provided to the public in advance of the meeting suggest the likelihood of a detailed and informed discussion of the future of bikesharing in Montgomery County. The meeting is open to the public, and will be held on the 7th floor hearing room.

Meeting materials are available HERE.

Testify in Support of Safer Streets, Better Legal Protection

WABA needs your help to make a compelling case to the DC Council that more effort is needed to improve bicyclist safety.

In February, WABA–along with many of you–testified before the DC Council’s Committee on the Judiciary regarding the need for better enforcement of traffic laws to protect bicyclists.  The stories told that day were compelling and, in some cases heartbreaking,  and led Councilmember Mendelson to refer the issue to the Office of Police Complaints for investigation.  Earlier this month, the Office of Police Complaints released its reports verifying our claims and finding that, indeed, the DC Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) is in need of improvements to its crash reporting and response systems and training regarding bicyclists.

Now, on November 2nd, we have the opportunity to appear before the Committee on the Judiciary again on the issue of bicyclist safety with this report in-hand to demand on-the-ground improvements and accountability and better protection of bicyclists on the District’s roadways.

This November 2 hearing gives cyclists who ride in the District the opportunity to address two separate, but deeply related, safety issues: (1) overall bicycle safety enforcement by DC MPD, and (2) the proposed Protection of Bicyclists from Assault bill that will help provide a civil cause of action allowing cyclists to fight back against those who intentionally attack and harass us on the roadways.

If you have a story to tell about either issue and want to help ensure that cyclists are protected on DC’s streets, we need you to come and tell that story to the Committee on the Judiciary on November 2nd.  We have put in many hundreds of hours of work to get this far, with a report officially stating that the police need to do more and a bill introduced by over half of the members of the Council.  But without a strong showing at the hearing, that progress can come to a hault.  The report can be filed on the shelf with others from the past.  Bills can die in committee.

If you want better enforcement, or if you want a better civil cause of action for assaulted cyclists, we need you to join us in saying so.

Those wishing to testify in person should contact Jessica Jacobs, either by telephone (202.724.8038) or via email (jjacobs@dccouncil.us).  Written testimony can also be submitted until November 16–though in-person testimony is likely to be more impactful and effective.  Full details for providing in-person or written testimony are available HERE.

If you do plan to provide testimony, we would appreciate your taking a moment (in addition to contacting Jessica at the Committee Office) to let us know by CLICKING HERE so that we have a sense of the likely turnout of bicyclists.

And finally, for those who would like to testify but would appreciate assistance in telling their stories more clearly and within the rules and time limits of the Council, WABA will be holding open-house sessions to help cyclists to testify more effectively.  Please email us at advocacy@waba.org to let us know if you would like our assistance in crafting your testimony.  The sessions will be scheduled once we have a better sense of the number of cyclists seeking this support.

Planning to Extend the WB&A Trail in Both Directions

WABA is urging Prince Georges County to continue with plans to connect the Anacostia River Tributary Trails with the Washington, Baltimore, and Annapolis Trail. At the annual budget hearing last week, WABA board member Jim Titus urged the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) to authorize $45,000 this year to extend the WB&A trail about 2 miles westward across US-50 and the Capital Beltway. (See map).

The WB&A Trail follows the right of way of the old WB&A railroad from the Patuxent River in Bowie to MD-450 in Lanham. MD-704 has been built along the right of way from about that point to the DC line. Many people who use the WB&A Trail would like to continue along MD-704, but doing to can be hazardous because the speed of traffic is typically 55-60 mph, and there is no shoulder along MD-704 until one crosses to the other side of US-50.

Extending the WB&A across US-50 and the Capital Beltway would immediately improve the usefulness of the trail because the Beltway is often a serious barrier to mobility. It would also provide a route to the New Carrollton Metro. On the broader scale, extending the WB&A across the Beltway is a key step toward the eventual goal of a trail between the WB&A and the Anacostia River.

Last year, Councilman Eric Olson persuaded M-NCPPC to commission a design study on how to connect the WB&A to the Anacostia River Trail. More than $125,000 was set aside for the study, whose scope of work included the following task:

Identify appropriate long-term improvements necessary for a safe and attractive bicycle and pedestrian connection(s) linking the Anacostia Trail Network with the WB&A Trail. This portion of the study should address the “big picture” of how we ultimately want to connect the Anacostia Tributaries Trails Network with the WB&A Trail over the long term. This route(s) may serve as the alignment for the East Coast Greenway and the America Discovery Trail within Prince George’s County, as well as serving as a critical east-west connection in the countywide trails network.

The winning contractor’s bid was for less than half the money—but in the end, the contractor only did half the job. The study designed a trail from the Anacostia River to New Carrollton, but not the “safe and attractive connection” between New Carrollton and the WB&A Trail. We are hoping that M-NCPPC will now complete the study—possibly using the funds that were left over from last year.

M-NCPPC’s decision to focus on the inner portion of the Anacostia to WB&A corridor is understandable, given the County’s need for safe bike routes into the District of Columbia. Yet the near-term opportunities from extending the WB&A may be just as great. This two-mile extension would probably be built by the State Highway Administration (SHA) because it will follow MD-704. It is already the county’s top bike-ped request to SHA. While SHA’s budget is down, it has not declined to the same extent as M-NCPPC‘s budget, which relies on the property tax in a county where assessment are down 40%. So this is an opportunity to leverage scarce resources to accomplish something big.

We are mindful that many of our members are especially interested in extending the WB&A Trail east into Anne Arundel County, where a 4-mile segment to Odenton has been built. Officials hope to eventually build a trail along the right of way of the WB&A’s South Shore line from Odenton to Annapolis. For the last decade the planned trail crossing over the Patuxent River has been on hold because the owners of the right of way on the Anne Arundel side of the river oppose the trail. (We offer our condolences to the family of Buz Meyer, the most prominent foe of the trail, a devoted naturalist, and community-minded environmental educator and gun safety instructor, who died last month.) Although Anne Arundel County and a developer own the land immediately next to the right of way, the County has chosen not to pursue a trail next to the right of way, for reasons it has not stated publicly. (County officials did make off-the-record statements about their thinking; but it is unclear whether those reasons are still relevant today.)

County officials have instead pursued a detour that would cross the Patuxent River about ½ mile northwest of where the trail currently reaches the river on the Maryland side. The Maryland State Highway Administration and M-NCPPC are cooperating with Anne Arundel on the detour crossing.

Rail trails almost always follow the old railroad right of way as closely as possible, unless there are unusually compelling reasons for a significant detour. Such reasons may exist in this case, but so far they have not been articulated to the public.

WABA is unlikely to play a leading role in the extension of the WB&A Trail eastward from Bowie to Odenton and beyond. Our area of advocacy includes Prince Georges County, but not Anne Arundel County. Nevertheless, we are concerned that the long-established plans of Prince George County and the City of Bowie for the trail to cross the Patuxent near the old railroad bed may be cast aside for an inferior detour, without a serious effort by local governments or the State of Maryland to engage cycling organizations in a dialogue about the alternative routes and potential costs and benefits of each option. We hope that the voices of bicycling advocates statewide, including groups like like Bike Maryland, the Maryland Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, and the Prince Georges Bicycle and Trail advisory Committee, will all be consulted before the state or M-NCPPC takes significant steps to move the trail’s crossing away from the railroad right of way.

Happy Tuesday: The 15th Street Cycle Track is Fixed!

By this point, every bicyclist in the city has seen, encountered or at least read about the closure of the sidewalk along 15th St. NW from G St. south to Pennsylvania Ave. The earthquake in late August damaged some of the decorative stonework atop the Treasury building, and in response, the sidewalk was fenced off in order to make sure nobody was hurt in the event that parts broke off and fell to the ground. In the weeks since the earthquake, pedestrians attempting to use the sidewalk simply walked in the cycle track instead.

Needless to say, this situation created a host of potential conflicts. Bicyclists have complained about the pedestrians, and pedestrians complained about the bicyclists. DDOT put up signage to educate pedestrians on the proper procedure (crossing the street to use the sidewalks on the east side) and WABA’s Bike Ambassadors spent some time directing traffic, but it was unclear if anything could be done to actually fix the problem.

Over the holiday weekend, however, it looks as though the Secret Service and the General Services Administration have decided on a solution. On Sunday, as @sharrowsdc reported on twitter, the fences that closed the sidewalk were moved, freeing up space for pedestrians to remain on the sidewalk. He also posted a photo.

Here are a few more pictures of the freshly reopened sidewalk and pedestrian-free cycle track:

15th St. cycle track and sidewalk, southbound view. Photo by Jason Clock

Northbound view. Photo by Glen Harrison.

Columbia Road, NW Bike Lanes to be Installed in November

Street striping plans for the Columbia Rd., NW bike lanes (click to download PDF version)

Bike lanes connecting the Columbia Heights, Adams Morgan and Dupont neighborhoods on Columbia Rd., NW are an important missing connection in the bicycle network. DDOT officials have confirmed they have received the appropriate approval of ANC 1C   and the lanes will be installed by Thanksgiving.  Community members’ concerns centered on the need to remove paid parking spots to accommodate expansion of commercial loading zones.

Currently, incomplete and disconnected bike lanes exist on Columbia Rd., NW on the parts of the 1600, 1700, and 1800 blocks.  When complete, the Columbia Rd NW bike lanes will connect with bike lanes on Euclid St., NW, bike lanes on Adams Mill Rd. / Calvert St., and the shared lanes on 18th St., NW (under construction, to be complete by May 2012).