How many U-turns across Pennsylvania Ave bike lanes did we count in one hour?

Written by WABA Member Dave Salovesh

Too many.

Nobody thought adding safe bike lanes on Pennsylvania Avenue was going to be easy. Yet, just in time for Bike to Work Day 2010 they came to the center of America’s Main Street between the US Capitol and the White House. Even before marking was complete, riders saw one of the biggest challenges firsthand: drivers making U-turns across the new lanes.

Quite possibly the first U-turn on Pennsylvania Ave NW on May 7, 2010. Photo credit:

Was this the first U-turn on Pennsylvania Ave NW? Photo taken on May 7, 2010. Photo credit: Dave Salovesh

It takes time to get used to any changes, and everyone hoped this behavior would diminish as drivers became accustomed to people using this space. That was not the case, and by late 2012 drivers were observed making U-turns at the rate of almost one per minute in just one block.  D.C. Councilmembers, the Mayor, MPD, and DDOT responded with emergency regulation banning U-turns, increasing enforcement, and planning design changes to reduce driver confusion and prevent this risky infraction.

Separating bike lanes from general traffic, and keeping motor vehicles out, is the best thing cities can do to keep people bicycling safe. While there may be reasons  that options for D.C.’s roadway engineers to protect bike lanes are somewhat limited, there are solutions out there to help.

DDOT uses these methods and others to protect cyclists using protected bike lanes over D.C., and they’re very helpful. In 2013 a pilot program was approved to test zebra barriers on one block. And, in 2014 an additional study was started to evaluate the use of rubber parking stops. Preliminary results have demonstrated that both are effective at reducing U-turns and other lane incursions. DDOT uses a combination of flex-posts, rubber parking stops and concrete curbs to physically separate bike traffic from motor vehicles in other parts of the city.

13 illegal U-turns in one hour on April 23, 2015 in the 1400 block of Pennsylvania Ave NW, including one near miss.

With the return of pleasant weather we’ve seen an increase in people enjoying bicycling in D.C. Unfortunately, that has also brought an increase in crashes, and on Pennsylvania Avenue over the last two weeks there have been at least three crashes due to U-turns across the bike lanes. We documented at least 13 vehicles making U-turns across the bike lanes in 1400 block during a single hour of evening traffic.

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The third crash involving a bicyclist and U-turning driver on Pennsylvania Ave NW this spring. Photo credit: Dave Salvesh

The steps to make Pennsylvania Avenue safer from U-turns have been known for years, but have not yet been fully implemented. During that time countless crashes and near-misses have happened. Drivers persist with the mistaken understanding that this space reserved for bicycles is open for them as well. And unfortunately, many bicyclists have decided the risk is too great for them or their families. They have found alternate routes, or some may even choose other means of travel.

Now is the time for that to change. The D.C. Council, and the Mayor should push DDOT to produce a definite timeline for installing a protective barrier along the entire length of the Pennsylvania Avenue bike lanes, as a high priority project. All the pieces are ready, the pilots and studies are complete and the need is great. We know how quickly D.C. can accomplish good work when it’s necessary. Can the safety of Pennsylvania Avenue’s bike lanes be improved before Bike Month 2015 ends?

Introducing Crystal City Business Improvement District, a WABA Business Leader Member

We’ve recently introduced you to our business membership programWe debuted the program in 2012 and are steadily signing up new business members in 2014. As part of the program, we’d like to introduce you to some of our business members. Today, meet Crystal City Business Improvement District

Crystal City has made a commitment to building a better bicycling city and they are doing that in a big way with many bicycle-centric events in May! Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie, beginner, or a competitive cyclist, Crystal City has something that fits your bike speed!  From the Phoenix Derby to Bike to Work Week and the annual Air Force Association Cycling Classic (AFACC), Crystal City offers vigorous and casual opportunities to get or keep you spinning.

  • Phoenix Derby – A Garage Race and FundraiserSaturday, May 2nd from 2 pm to 6 pm.  The Phoenix Derby transforms the underground parking garage at 1900 Crystal Drive into a dynamic, urban race course and spectator event with music, an energy-filled lounge and a bar. Register here.
  • During Bike to Work Day Week: Crystal City BID employees will greet area commuters each morning in the Crystal City Water Park from 7 am to 9 am with bagels, bananas, coffee, snacks, great prizes, and good cheer.  The 100 riders that show up the most number of mornings during pit stop hours will receive a free custom Crystal City Cycling Jersey! Pledge to take the challenge here.
  •  TechShop Tuesday Happy Hour: Tuesday, May 12th from 6 pm to 8 pm. Learn more about TechShop’s bike maintenance workshops and take home fun bike accessories. Purchase tickets here.
  • Air Force Association Cycling Classic: One of the region’s premiere cycling events. Registration is now open!
  • Does your bike need some TLC? Take a pitstop at the Fixtation by the Crystal City Connector Trail or schedule an appointment with Everything Esmonde Mobile Bike Repair (which is in Crystal City every other Thursday). 
  • Join WABA on May 13th for our Arlington Community Ride ending in Crystal City! We’ll have fun and get to know the community by bike. Learn more and register here.

Crystal City is dedicated to being a warm and welcoming stop for bicyclists. From the Crystal City Fixtation, 18 Bikeshare stations, to the multiple regional trails that converge in the area, they have a made a commitment to invest in smart and safe bicycle infrastructure and support.   We are proud to call Crystal City BID a WABA Business Member Leader!

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.

What we learned at the Family Biking Town Hall

WABA's Family Biking Town Hall  (8)
Back in December we took small steps toward something big. We hosted our first-ever Family Biking Town Hall where we met with parents, members of youth-serving organizations, WABA members, and community stakeholders.

We talked about making our work serve youth and families better, and we learned a lot.

The meeting resulted in the following recommendations to make our programming more inclusive.

In all our programming, we’ll cultivate more consciousness around scheduling at family-friendly times and choosing routes and event spaces that are appropriate for children.

In our outreach:

We’re pleased to offer more Family Biking Workshops with Kidical Mass this spring. The first one is this Saturday, May 2, at 10:30 a.m. at the Watha T. Daniel/Shaw Neighborhood Library.

Click here for more info. See you there?

With additional funding, ideas for future programming include:

  • Creating a neighborhood family bike ambassador program
  • Family-friendly community nights
  • Roundtable discussions with youth and family biking groups around the region to share best practices and develop ideas

In education, we learned that our stakeholders are interested in:

  • Afterschool bike clubs for youth
  • Classes where parents can learn how to ride with and alongside their kids
  • More ABCs of Family Biking events throughout the region
  • Summer Bike Camp

We’re happy to be implementing a number of those suggestions this spring. We’re leading an afterschool Bike Club at Benning Park Recreation Center through the month of May, and we’re partnering up with Gearin’ Up Bicycles to hold our first-ever summer camp in July. We hope that the summer and fall will bring more opportunities to plan ABCs of Family Biking events and to schedule inclusive biking classes for youth and families.

In planning large-scale events, we learned:

  • We should work toward including shorter, family-friendly ride routes as part of our large ride events.
  • We should work on diversifying our ride themes — think Tour de Playground and Cargo Bike Race. Youth and family-friendly theme ideas, anyone?
  • Making events accessible to all makes the world go around! More snack breaks, family-friendly start times, teen rides, off-bike activities, and childcare at events.

In advocacy we’re working on:

Teaching advocacy at schools and in afterschool programs

  • Creating traffic gardens and bike schools
  • Creating more bike parking at schools, libraries, and other institutions used by youth and families

With additional funding and resources, we learned that we should tackle:

  • Consistent wayfinding that highlights comfortable routes that are ideal for families
  • Trail advocacy that focuses on amenities for families
  • Holding advocacy meetings at local high schools
  • Including youth perspectives in testimony
  • Securing subsidized Capital Bikeshare memberships for high school students

And, we learned about all the existing Family Biking groups:

  • Black Women Bike DC: Workshops, rides, forum all year long
  • Kidical Mass Arlington: Family-friendly group rides monthly
  • Kidical Mass DC: Family-friendly group rides monthly
  • Kidical Mass Falls Church: Family-friendly group rides monthly
  • Kidical Mass Gaithersburg: Family-friendly group rides monthly
  • Kidical Mass Rockville: Family-friendly group rides monthly

We owe a big thank you to all the folks who participated in our Town Hall in December, and to those who filled out our Family Biking Survey. Because of your dedication, we were able to open an important discussion.

And don’t forget, next Wednesday is Bike to School Day! You can check here to see if your school is participating. If they aren’t you can still ride by yourself or with friends and neighbors.

Join the conversation by coming out to our Family Biking Workshop with DCPL this Saturday. Or sign up here to join our Youth & Family Biking email list. You can always drop us a line at outreach@waba.org. There are so many ways to be involved, and we’d love to have you on board.

 

There’s plenty of room for safe bike lanes in College Park

By Originally posted at Greater Greater Washington

Route 1 in College Park is about to undergo a major reconstruction. As long as Maryland’s State Highway Administration doesn’t widen the road’s travel lanes, the project is a chance to make Route 1 safe for people on bikes.


Route 1 plans. All images from Maryland SHA.

Local residents, the University of Maryland, the City of College Park, and biking advocates all want protected bike lanes on Route 1. SHA engineering guidelines now include design specifications for protected bike lanes.

But SHA is looking into widening Route 1’s existing travel lanes at the expense of safe, usable bike lanes.

Advocates from the Washington Area Bicyclist Association recently measured the existing roadway and lane widths on Route 1 between between the entrance to the University of Maryland and Greenbelt Road. Currently, that stretch is nearly 53 feet wide, with ten-foot travel lanes along the entire segment.

Ten-foot lane widths would mean ample room for safer, buffered and protected bike lanes. On the other hand, making travel lanes wider would lead to higher vehicle speeds that’d then make it more difficult to make downtown College Park walking and biking-friendly. Narrow, unprotected bike lanes are unsafe alongside high-speed, high-traffic roads.

Route 1 can be a road everyone can use

SHA’s original proposal for Route 1 included 11-foot travel lanes plus five feet for bike facilities (a four-foot lane and a one-foot gutter pan). Five feet for bike lanes that run alongside Route 1’s heavy car and bus traffic is not enough space—just look at how rarely people use the unprotected bike lanes on several other busy Prince George’s County roads. The bike lanes would be stressful to use at best, and dangerous at worst.


Original Route 1 proposal.

SHA is considering expanding the bike lanes to six feet in total width (a five-foot lane plus a gutter). That would be better, but the bike lanes would still not be protected or buffered, and SHA would still be expanding the current lane widths from 10′ to 11′ for all four travel lanes.

However, if there is room for two 11′ travel lanes and a 6′ bike lane, then there’s also room for a properly buffered and/or protected bike lane. SHA’s minimum recommended width for buffered bike lanes is seven feet: four feet of lane, two of buffer, and a one-foot gutter.

If at least one of the travel lanes stays at ten feet wide rather than going to 11, there would be room for a seven-foot protected bike lane.

If both travel lanes stay at ten feet wide, there would be room for an eight-foot wide bike lane with a three-foot buffer and a five-foot lane. This would make College Park and the university more accessible and safer to travel around by bike. That’s what the community wants and deserves.

There have been several pedestrian deaths on Route 1 in recent years, and SHA has billed Route 1 reconstruction as a safety and accessibility improvement for people who walk and travel by bike.

Completely rebuilding Route 1 is a tremendous opportunity for Prince George’s county to create a walkable, person-friendly corridor in College Park. Buffered or protected bike lanes should be part of that vision. As long as Route 1’s travel lanes don’t get any wider, there’s plenty of room for that.

AT LAST: Rock Creek Park Trail reconstruction starts this fall

A new trail bridge is coming to the Rock Creek Park Trail at the zoo tunnel. Photo credit: M.V. Jantzen

Construction is coming to the Rock Creek Park Trail this fall. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) will rebuild the trail along Beach Drive.  The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) will finish the trail work in late 2016/early 2017. For a community that has been waiting for over a decade, construction on the trail will be a welcomed sight.

The Environmental Assessment plans for 3.7 miles of trail rehabilitation from P St. NW to Broad Branch Road. FHWA will construct roughly two miles of trails from the Rock Creek Park Trail to Broad Branch Road. FHWA will also modify the road within the zoo tunnel to accommodate a narrow trail. Construction crews will build a new trail bridge over Rock Creek near the tunnel. Where possible, the trail will be widened. The trail surface will be completely repaved.

FHWA will issue bids this summer and plans to begin construction this fall. The trail will be reconstructed in conjunction with a complete rebuild of  Beach Drive from the Rock Creek Parkway to the Maryland border. The smooth pavement will be a great improvement to weekend rides.

Project managers combined the trail and road project. They seek to limit construction impacts and speed up implementation of both projects. The Beach Drive project will happen in five phases—the trail reconstruction will occur during first two phases. Trail construction in this section should be complete by summer 2016.

Construction will close the trail temporarily.

During construction, FHWA will close both Beach Drive and the Rock Creek Park Trail. This is not ideal, but keeping access open during construction is not feasible. Drivers and trail users will be detoured. We are working to ensure that the trail detour is a reasonable one that minimizes busy roads and the steep climbs out of the park. During construction, trail users should plan alternate routes. We hope the complete trail closure will speed up construction.

The full 3.7 mile trail rehabilitation will not be complete when FHWA finishes their work next summer. DDOT is responsible for all trail sections across the creek from Beach Drive and along Rock Creek Parkway (south from Beach Drive), along with the new spur trail along Piney Branch Parkway. DDOT intends to complete design phase for their trail sections by August 2016 and begin construction in the fall of 2016. The agency plans to finish the entire trail reconstruction in 2017.

Last year, WABA lead a petition effort to push the trail rehabilitation project forward. Over 2500 residents signed the petition asking the National Park Service and District Department of Transportation rebuild the trail. After a yearlong delay. DDOT finalized the EA last summer, allowing final design and construction to begin.

If everything goes according to plan, residents and visitors will be enjoying newly rebuilt trail sections next year and a fully rebuilt trail by 2017. Thank you to the National Park Service, DDOT, FHWA and everyone else involved in bring this project to completion.

TONIGHT: Volunteers Needed for Flier and Poster Night!

Join us TONIGHT for a Volunteer Night of putting up fliers and posters around town.

Spring is in full swing, and WABA needs to get the word out about Bike to Work Day, Tour de Fat, new Women & Bicycles events, and all sorts of other fun stuff!

So help us out. We’ll be putting up fliers and posters for our programs at multiple spots in DC, Maryland and Virginia, so there’s almost certainly a location near your home or workplace.

We’ll meet at 6pm, pair up and spread out around the area with our posters for an hour or two, then meet back up for a bite to eat and a tasty beverage! Feel free to invite a friend or meet some new bike-loving friends here. Each location is being run by a WABA staff member.

You can sign up to help out right here.

 

Thank you for five great years

Five years ago I came to WABA with a list of priorities that I believed the organization should pursue to make biking safer and more popular throughout the region. For the last five years, I have led the organization, systematically realizing those priorities in pursuit of our mission.

Today, it is with a great sense of pride in our accomplishments and in recognition of the need for new priorities and new challenges—both for WABA, and for me—that I write to tell you that at the end of June I will be stepping down as WABA’s Executive Director. There is only so long one’s transportation, recreation, and occupation can overlap so significantly before one’s mind starts to look outside for new things to learn, new challenges to address, and new ways to contribute.

I am immeasurably grateful to the WABA board, staff, and members for supporting the priorities that brought me to the organization. We have worked every day, many nights, and countless weekends to make biking available to all the region’s residents as a tool to access opportunity, not just a niche cause. And while there is a long way to go, I am proud of our work to grow and diversify the region’s biking community, while also doing the hard work to make every person safer while riding.

Take away the fancy words and that’s what it’s all about: making biking safe and popular. And it’s been a privilege to make that my mission for a half-decade in the city and region that I love.

I am sad to be leaving WABA. It is a wonderful organization and this is a wonderful job. But it is time for a new direction. As I consider and seek that new challenge and new way to contribute, I want to thank each of you for your support.

I have had the privilege of knowing that whatever I have done here at WABA, I have had the support of tens of thousands of people behind me. For that, I am incredibly grateful. And, please, remember that even when you’re out there riding alone, you are part of the WABA community. With every turn of the pedals, you have tens of thousands of people behind you, should you need them.

The best part of this job has been coming to know that with absolute certainty.

In the coming weeks, the WABA board will be conducting an open search for WABA’s next Executive Director. The position description is here, and I encourage everyone reading this to take a moment to reflect on whether you are the person WABA needs next.

Again, thank you. If you have questions or concerns, reply to this email. Or catch me at Bike to Work Day or Tour de Fat.

It’s nearly Bike Month, after all, and I plan to truly enjoy this one.

Best,

Shane