Prince George’s is hiring a bike and pedestrian coordinator

Cross posted at Greater Greater Washington

Prince George’s County leads the Washington region in pedestrian deaths, and it’s behind when it comes to trails and streets that are safe and useful for people on foot and bike. To fix the problem, the county will soon hire a bicycle and pedestrian coordinator and develop a bikeway plan.

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Photo by Cindy Shebley on Flickr.

News of the hire comes from Darrell B. Mobley, Director of the County’s Department of Public Works and Transportation (DPW&T). Mobley says his agency wants to facilitate bicycling.

More specifically, Mobley wants to make the county’s bike network more usable. While Prince George’s has a lot of trails and local streets that are perfect for bicycling, they aren’t connected well enough for bicyclists to reach a destination without riding on more hazardous state and county roads. Mobley wants to create a bicycle network across the county using trails, bike lanes and safe streets.

The Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) and several county council members have urged DPW&T to hire a bicycle and pedestrian coordinator since Rushern Baker first became the county executive. The county posted the job this week, specifying that it’s a Planner III position that will pay between $53,000 and $97,000 per year.

The coordinator will report to Victor Weissberg, the special assistant in the director’s office who has long been responsible for representing the department on bike and pedestrian matters. According to Weissberg, the coordinator will have frequent access to both Mobley and Andre Issayans, DPW&T’s Deputy Director.

Developing a bikeway plan is likely to be one of the first tasks for the new hire, says Weissberg.

The county’s master plan of transportation shows where bike lanes and trails should be built in the very long run, but it does not address what will actually done or when. Weissberg says that creating a bikeway plan would probably require supplemental funding.

“When the county is ready, we will find the money,” says Greg Billing, director of advocacy for WABA.

Weissberg is not sure whether DPW&T will create a formal bicycle plan or something more like an internal work plan. But he promises to share drafts with the bicycle community and others as the plan is formulated.

Does the new hire signal a substantive change in county policy, or just an institutional commitment?

When Mobley was a top official at the Maryland Department of Transportation, the State Highway Administration (SHA) issued a policy declaring that bicycles would be presumed to ride on all state highways where bicycles are not explicitly prohibited, and that SHA would make at least some effort to make bicyling safer. For example, roads might get signs that told drivers that bicycles may take up the full lane.

By contrast, DPW&T has stated that some roads are not part of the bicycle network, that cyclists use these roads at their own risk, and that no “use full lane” signs would go up on such roads because doing so would encourage other cyclists to ride on them.

Mobley says that he is not ready to endorse SHA’s approach. He says that it is too soon to say that bicycles are part of the expected traffic mix on all county roads because he has not examined all of these roads. He wants to wait for the bike and pedestrian coordinator to come on board so that the county can adopt a position based on a reasoned analysis.

“Give us some time and we’ll work through these challenges,” says Mobley.

 

Calling all bicycle and beer lovers…

Join WABA, New Belgium Brewing Company, our awesome volunteers and their crazy carnies TONIGHT, Thursday, May 28th for the official kick-off, pre-party, and volunteer appreciation event of the Tour de Fat bicycle festival.

The party is also a fundraiser for WABA. Want to have your very own New Belgium Brewing cruiser bicycle?! WABA will be taking donations for raffle tickets and New Belgium will raffle off a bicycle at the end of the evening!

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It’s become a WABA tradition that every year on the Thursday before the Tour de Fat, we gather at Churchkey for a pint to toast to bicycles and our shared love of two wheels. All Tour de Fat volunteers (and there’s a lot of them – over 250 volunteers!) are invited to be part of the excitement and are treated to a pint on New Belgium. The pre-party is open to anyone, and it’s not to be missed if you are a beer snob*, err…., craft beer “aficionado”.

Event Details:
What: The FOURTH ANNUAL Pre-Tour de Fat Party & Volunteer Party
When: Thursday, May 28th from 6:00-9:00pm (TONIGHT!)
Where: Churchkey @ 1337 14th St NW, DC (party is upstairs at second floor bar)
Why: Support WABA, our love for bicycles, and our friends at New Belgium

There will be 15 New Belgium drafts, including 6 different Lips of Faith beers, and they are pouring 5 different brews on cask. WABA will be taking donations for raffle tickets throughout the evening (1 ticket + $2, 3 tickets = $5, Arms Length tickets = $20). All raffle proceeds benefit WABA! The cruiser bike will be raffled off at 9pm, and you must be present to win.

We can’t wait to see you there!

And p.s.: You should still come to the Tour de Fat on Saturday, May 30th at Yards Park, DC! Find the full Tour de Fat festival schedule and beer list here.


*For you beer aficionado’s, here’s the draft list that will be at the Pre-Party on Thursday:

Leopold’s Apple Whiskey Barrel Oscar
Sideshow (Bluejacket Collaboration)
Lips of Faith: Pear Ginger
Lips of Faith: Gratzer
Lips of Faith: Wild2 Dubbel
Lips of Faith: Cocoa Mole
Sunshine Wheat
Slow Ride Session IPA
Rampant Imperial IPA
Fat Tire
Skinny Dip Lager
Trippel
Snapshot
Shift Lager
Blue Paddle Pilsner
Abbey Dubbel
Ranger IPA w/ Simcoe (Cask)
Ranger IPA w/ Amarillo (Cask)
1554 w/ Chinook (Cask)
Fat Tire w/ Simcoe (Cask)
Somersault w/ Amarillo (Cask)

Greetings from the Summer Women & Bicycles Fellow!

Hello, everyone!

My name is Emily Janas. I am an undergraduate social work major at the Florida State University and the summer Women & Bicycles Fellow here at WABA!

Thanks to a service scholarship I won through my university, I am able to be here in Washington to work within the W&B program for the next twelve weeks on various projects, including expanding outreach efforts to neighborhoods and populations in the greater D.C. area that are currently underrepresented in the Women & Bicycles group. I’ll also get involved with other facets of the program and participate in our packed calendar of rides, workshops, and mentorship meetups.

Needless to say, I am looking forward to getting to know this wonderful bicycling community all summer long. I am grateful and excited for the opportunity to learn and grow here at WABA, and hopefully do some important and impactful work.

Until then, happy riding!

[Editor’s Note: Welcome, Emily! We’re so happy you’re here!]

I-66 Trail Could Be a Reality But Your Help is Needed 

Written by Sonya Breehey. Sonya is an active member of Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling.

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The Custis Trail is one of Northern Virginia’s most popular trails. Let’s extend it to past the Beltway and beyond. Photo Credit: MV Jantzen

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) recently unveiled concept plans for an extension of the Custis Trail along I-66 outside the Beltway in Fairfax and Prince William Counties. Hundreds of Fairfax County trail users contacted VDOT asking for the trail extension as part of the I-66 project. While it is exciting to see the trail one step closer to reality, VDOT still has not included the trail as part of the I-66 project.  VDOT is asking for additional feedback on how the parallel trail will benefit you, your commute, and your neighborhood.

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Proposed Custis Trail extension along I-66 in Dunn Loring. Source: VDOT (PDF)

The Custis Trail is one of the most successful bike trails in Northern Virginia, providing a popular recreation destination and critical bike-commuting route for thousands of commuters each year. In 2014, over 500,000 people rode a bike or walked along the Custis Trail. A similar trail outside the Beltway would be a major benefit to bicyclists in Northern Virginia.

A recent study showed that 25% of Fairfax County residents live within a mile of the proposed I-66 trail or within 1/2 mile of either the Fairfax Co Parkway or W&OD Trails, both of which would be connected by an extended Custis Trail.

I66 Trail Benefit Area

25% of Fairfax County residents would live within a mile of the proposed I-66 Trail or within 1/2 mile of the Fairfax Co. Parkway or W&OD Trails.

While there are right-of-way concerns and some backyards may be impacted, similar challenges were faced when building the Custis Trail. VDOT should seek to reduce the impacts by fitting as much of the trail within the existing project right-of-way and minimize impacts to neighbors.

Now is the time to take the long view.  Providing safe accessible connections for people to bike and walk to transit, and along and across I-66, will offer residents and commuters transportation options that enable us to shift more trips to biking and walking.

If you want the I-66 trail to be a reality, here is how you can help.

Speak Up at an Upcoming I-66 Public Hearings

Attend one of the I-66 Public Hearings and tell VDOT you support bicycle improvements, especially extending the Custis Trail, as part of the I-66 improvement project. Hearings are scheduled from 5:30 to 9:00 pm.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015
VDOT Northern Virginia District Office
4975 Alliance Drive, Fairfax, VA 22030

Thursday, May 28, 2015
Oakton High School – Cafeteria
2900 Sutton Road, Vienna, VA 22181

Tuesday, June 2, 2015
Battlefield High School – Cafeteria
15000 Graduation Drive, Haymarket, VA 20169

Wednesday, June 3, 2015
Bull Run Elementary School – Cafeteria
15301 Lee Highway, Centreville, VA 20121

Send a Message to VDOT

Written comments may be submitted through June 18th by mail to Ms. Susan Shaw, Megaprojects Director, at the VDOT District Office address above, or by email to Transform66@VDOT.Virginia.gov.  Reference “Transform 66 Outside the Beltway” in the subject line.  Copy your public representatives on your email to make sure everyone gets your message for better bicycling! Don’t wait until June 18th, send your comments now.

Involve Your Neighborhood Association

Contact your neighborhood association to let them know how improving bicycling as part of the I-66 project will help your neighborhood, and urge them to get involved.

Visit FABB’s I-66 page for more information about efforts to include bicycling in the I-66 project.

New Stickers for Taxicabs, Safer Streets for Bicyclists

Taxi cabs in New York City display a “Look for cyclists” sticker to warn passengers of passing bicyclists. Photo credit: NYCDOT

Written by Women & Bicycles Community Member Lucy Aguirre

A victory for all people who bike! In an effort to prevent bicyclists from getting “doored”, the DC Taxicab Commission recently approved a new rule mandating will require taxicabs to display “LOOK FOR CYCLISTS” stickers.

I’ve heard too many stories about bicyclists getting “doored”. The first story I heard involved a roommate who was biking home from work, cruising safely in the bike lane until a taxicab suddenly stopped at a green light. A passenger opened the rear right door in the path of my unsuspecting friend, flinging her and her new Trek road bike straight into the pavement. Luckily she wasn’t seriously hurt; however, she was traumatized in other ways. “My desire and love of bicycling was crushed,” she said. “It destroyed my confidence and I was scared to bike again. Although that was five years ago, I still feel a little bit of that fear.”

It is simply unacceptable that inattentive drivers and passengers have injured so many bicyclists with their car door. Opening a car door into any moving traffic is illegal and very dangerous for vulnerable road users. Bicyclists are often unable to stop fast enough to avoid a crash, especially when doored from the side.

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Dan Connor was doored by a NYC taxicab. The video of crash went viral in 2014. Photo credit: Dan Connor

This is not an isolated problem. Several bicyclists in New York City were doored and killed, leading the city government to action. The NYC Taxi & Limousine Commission now requires “Look for Cyclists” stickers in taxicabs in an effort to prevent such incidents. After the latest DC dooring incident was reported to WABA’s Women & Bicycles group, I was compelled to advocate for “Look for Cyclists” stickers for taxis in DC too.

While the timeline for design and installation of the new safety stickers is not yet finalized, we hope you see them in a DC taxicab soon. Thank you to DC Councilmember Mary Cheh and DC Taxicab Commission Chairman Eric Rogers for recognizing this public safety issue and rapidly responding to implement this simple solution.

Updated May 28th to clarify that DC Taxicab commission did not approve a new rule mandating stickers in taxicabs. The warning signs are part of an update to signage in taxicabs.

Haulin’ Our Way to Crystal City on WABA’s First Arlington Community Ride

Our spring Community Ride series is in full swing, and last Wednesday we made our debut in Arlington with Haulin’—a community ride about moving and grooving with everything you need to carry on a bike.

We explored the Pentagon City and Crystal City neighborhoods, saw a wide variety of bike facilities including the Four Mile Run trail and the new protected bikeways on South Hayes Street.

At the end of the ride, we learned about the Fixit Station—a great new innovation put in place by the Crystal City BID. At the access point to the Mount Vernon Trail on Crystal Drive, you can pump up your tires, use tools for minor adjustments, fill your water bottle, and even buy spare parts from a bike vending machine!

After the ride was over, the whole group headed to the San Antonio Grill for delicious tacos.

Education Coordinator Daniel Hoagland introduces the group to bike sharing.

Education Coordinator Daniel Hoagland introduces the group to bike sharing.

Thank you to Bike Arlington, the Crystal City BID, and the San Antonio Grill for helping make our Haulin’ Ride a big success!

Join us for more Community Rides in May and June!

Pennsylvania Ave Now has Protected Bike Lanes

DDOT is installing rubber parking curb today to prevent illegal and dangerous U-turns across the Pennsylvania Ave NW bike lanes. Photo credit: @DDOTDC

The District Department of Transportation announced Friday that they will install protective rubber parking curbs along the Pennsylvania Ave NW bike lanes. Installation of the rubber parking stops began Friday morning and is expected to be completed within the next week (or two).

DDOT Director Leif Dormsjo and Associate Deputy for Policy Sam Zimbabwe made the announcement Friday morning at the Freedom Plaza Bike to Work Day Pit Stop. “Following extensive formal observation of the traffic patterns on this segment of Pennsylvania Avenue NW, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) has determined that low-profile barriers are effective at discouraging drivers from making illegal U-turns” wrote in their Letter to WABA.

Penn Ave Park-it LetterFour people biking on Pennsylvania Ave NW were struck by U-turning drivers since the beginning of April this year. There have been countless crashes since the installations of the bike lanes in 2010. Earlier this month, we counted 13 illegal U-turns across a single block of bike lanes. WABA kept up the pressure for the installation of a physical barrier and better enforcement to protect people biking on Pennsylvania Ave NW.

We would like to thank DDOT for hearing our calls for increased safety on Pennsylvania Ave NW. We know can officially call them the Pennsylvania Ave Protected Bike Lanes.