Move DC is a Big Vision with a Slow Start

Shiny new protected bike lane on 6th St NE

Shiny new protected bike lane on 6th St NE (photo: Mike Goodno, DDOT)

DDOT released the final Move DC transportation plan last week. The District plans to make a significant investment in bicycling to support growth over the next 25 years. Along with the final plan, DDOT produced a two-year action agenda to get a jump start in implementation. The Move DC plan is giant step forward for bicycling in DC, but the document’s Action Agenda is a timid start.

The final plan is over 173 pages so we haven’t dug too much into the details yet. The final plan looks a lot like the draft plan from June. With the city projected to add 100,000 new residents in the coming years, DDOT  acknowleges that the District can’t accomodate that many new cars, and sets a 25% mode share for walking and bicycling.

To accomplish this growth, DDOT proposes to expand the bicycling network by more than 200 miles over the next 25 years. The complete network would be over 343 miles of dedicate bicycle infrastructure. Beyond trails and bike lanes, Move DC calls for a range of other initiatives including:

  • expanding bikesharing,
  • more public education,
  • increased coordination on enforcement,
  • and lots more policy recommendations beyond physical infrastructure.

Released alongside the Move DC plan, the Action Agenda is a two-year blueprint for the agency. Bike elements include:

  1. Complete Klingle and Kenilworth Anacostia Riverwalk Trail projects and advance Rock Creek and Metropolitan Branch Trail projects (Item 1.5)
  2. Install or upgrade 15 miles of on-street bicycle facilities (Item 1.6)
  3. Study east side of downtown bicycle facility improvements (Item 2.2)
  4. Determine East-West Crosstown Multimodal Study needs and identify solutions (Item 2.4)
  5. Complete review of existing bicycle laws and identify opportunities for changes (Item 3.1)
  6. Complete revisions to the Design and Engineering Manual (Item 3.40
  7. Create TravelSmart program to develop tailored transportation choices for District residents (Item 4.5)
  8. Fully train DDOT staff on multimodal design (item 6.4)

We are glad to see several long-planned trail projects moving forward (item 1), but it’s worth noting that they would likely follow a similar timeline in the absence of the Move DC plan.  Expectations for new on-street bike infrastructure (item 2), on the other hand, have been scaled down, from 10 new miles of bike lanes per year in the District’s 2005 Bicycle Master Plan to 7.5 miles per year in the Move DC Plan. This is a disappointment, but also a realistic average of what the agency has been able to get done over the past few years. That said, as you can see in the photo above, the new bike lanes are both better —more of them will be physically protected from car traffic— and harder to build, as the District has captured most of the low-hanging fruit, and many new bike lanes will require more comprehensive street redesigns that will involve reducing car lanes or parking spaces.

All told,  Move DC is a comprehensive, well vetted plan for improving and encouraging bicycling. DDOT began the public process 18 months ago and made extraordinary efforts to involve the community. Move DC represents a shared vision for transportation. We’re glad that the District has invested in developing such a robust plan, and we look forward to its implementation.

Also

The Bicycle Segment of this plan is good because bicyclists showed up and shared their thoughts at every step of the process. A huge WABA thank you to all of our members and supporters who submitted comments, testified at hearings, showed up at public meetings, and participated in the process!

 

Fairfax County Bike Master Plan Passes Unanimously!

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Last night, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously in support of the Fairfax Bike Master Plan (read the official county press release). The plan recommends 1,130 miles in new on-street and off-road trails to create a connected network across the county. This is first bike master plan for the County.

17 speakers testified at the public hearing in support of the proposed plan. Only one person spoke in opposition. “By giving me [transportation] choices, you literally have changed my life” said Jenifer Joy Madden, a County resident speaking about connecting to new bus and Metro service in Tysons on bicycle.

Building a bike-friendly community starts with a plan and strong commitment from elected officials. Fairfax County Board of Supervisors made a important endorsement of bicycling for recreation and transportation. Chairman Sharon Bulova said, “bicycling is not only for recreation, but for transportation” citing the full bike racks at the new County bike parking facility at the Wiehle Ave Metro Station.

Thank you to all 700 local residents who signed our petition in support of the Bike Master Plan. Congratulations to the Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling (FABB), including a special shout-out to Bruce Wright, for tireless efforts on this campaign. FABB is a sponsored project of WABA. We worked together on this advocacy effort.

WABA’s advocacy is supported by your membership dollars. Join or donate to WABA today.

Ask the DC Council to Support the Bicycle Bill

John A. Wilson Building, Washington, DCAs we speak, the insurance industry is lobbying hard to kill proposed legislation aimed at helping injured bicyclists. They like the status quo, which allows them to easily deny claims by bicyclists who have been hit by drivers. But the present system leaves too many injured people without recourse after they’re hit—and it especially affects bicyclists after crashes with automobiles.

It’s time for the DC Council to hear your voice. A proposed bill would make it possible for bicyclists involved in crashes to have their medical bills and damaged bicycle covered by a driver who crashes into them. Under current law if a person contributes in any way to the crash, her claim can be denied. Forty-five states abandoned this doctrine years ago. It’s time for DC to catch up.

Tell the DC Council to update our unfair and out-of-date law.

Last week, the DC Council Committee on the Judiciary held a hearing for the bill. There was overwhelming support for the bill by local residents. Many people testified in favor of expanding the protection to pedestrians and other vulnerable road users.

This is a rare chance for real change. Please take a minute and contact your Councilmember.

You can learn more about this campaign and read our answered to the 10 most common questions about this proposed law.

Yay! DDOT Releases Final Safe Accommodation Regulations

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Capital Bikeshare shows how to maintain safe accommodations for bicyclists while they install a new station at 15th & L Streets NW.

DDOT released final regulations for safe accommodations of bicyclists and pedestrians during construction. Future public space permits issued by the city must maintain access for people traveling by foot or bike. A growing number of District residents and visitor rely on walking and biking everyday. Bike lane and sidewalk closures create hazardous situations and have a discouraging effect. With proper enforcement, the final rules should go a long way to maintaining safe access for people walking and biking.

Overall, the regulations are pretty good. Draft regulations were released in August and there have not been any substantive changes between draft and final.

The regulations give an explicit order of priority for providing safe accommodations:

  • Priority one would be to have no impact on existing bike lanes. This could be achieved by keeping construction activities restricted to the parking lane.
  • If that’s not possible, the next best choice is narrowing or reducing other travel lanes as long as at least one remains open.
  • The next option would be to create a shared-lane.
  • Finally, as a last resort, a detour could be set-up. Any detour option would need to replicate the existing infrastructure as practicably possible. Again, the overarching goal would be to simply reduce impacting the existing bike lanes.

The Bicycle Safety Amendment of 2013 became law in the beginning of 2014. WABA worked hard to with DC Council on this law. After it’s passage, this legislation triggered the rulemaking process. The law compels city agencies changes regulations for new permits that effect sidewalks, bike lanes and paths. Future permits must provide “safe accommodation for pedestrians and bicyclists” during construction. DDOT completed the task in less than a year.

Thank you DDOT!  We look forward to working together on enforcement of these new regulations. Safe passage during construction makes walking and biking a more reliable mode of transportation.

No Tunnel for the Capital Crescent Trail at Wisconsin Ave

The Bethesda tunnel. Photo by thisisbossi on Flickr.

Plans have fallen through for a Capital Crescent Trail tunnel underneath Wisconsin Ave in downtown Bethesda. Montgomery County attempted to facilitate a redevelopment of the Apex Building that would have allowed a large and more efficient Purple Line light rail station and trail tunnel. In a closed session several weeks ago the County Council, at the recommendation of County Executive Ike Leggett, decided not to move forward with this attempt.

WABA is disappointed that the county has abandoned these plans. The Capital Crescent Trail is one of the most travelled multi-use trails in the county, and the Purple Line transit project is a once-in-a-lifetime investment in better trail infrastructure. Redevelopment of the Apex Building would have allowed for the best possible station and trail.

The construction of the Purple Line will connect the Capital Crescent Trail to Silver Spring and will upgrade all trail crossings along the corrdidor, which is why WABA supported the project. The loss of a grade-separated crossing where one already exists is a significant compromise and loss. Wisconsin Avenue is the busiest road in downtown Bethesda. More than 1.3 million people use the trail annually. An at-grade crossing of this road is not an acceptable long term solution.

Repeat, there will be no trail tunnel.

A redevelopment of the Apex Building would have allowed the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) to design a larger, more efficient Bethesda Purple Line station with better multimodal facilities. A new building above the station would be considerably taller and denser. The plans also included a bicycle and pedestrian tunnel underneath Wisconsin Ave for the Capital Crescent Trail.

With this latest news, the MTA will go forward with the original plan for the project: when construction begins in late 2015, the existing trail tunnel will be closed and the light rail station will be built in that space. The completed station will include a very narrow pedestrian (and walking bicycle) entrance from Woodmont Ave. The Capital Crescent Trail will follow a surface route described below.

Now what happens to the Trail?

Plans for the Purple Line have always included the construction of an additional “surface route” for the Capital Crescent Trail through downtown Bethesda. You can think of the surface as the “business route” and the tunnel as the “express route”. The Montgomery County Dept. of Transportation is developing the plans for the surface route right now. The Coalition for the Capital Crescent Trail (CCCT) and WABA have been involved for over a year with a stakeholders group advising MCDOT on their plans. With the tunnel now off the table, the surface route will carry all of the traffic on the Capital Crescent Trail.

The stakes are now much higher for the design and execution of this surface route. Councilmember Roger Berliner has tasked MCDOT to build a “gold standard” trail experience for the at-grade crossing of Wisconsin Avenue. MCDOT is hoping to have draft plans to present to the public later this fall, finish designs and begin construction by next summer. This sounds like an aggressive timeline because it is one—the surface route must be completed before construction starts on the Purple Line, as the tunnel will be closed. We will post notice about a public meeting here when the information becomes available.

What next for the trail?

WABA has been working for more than two decades on the Capital Crescent Trail. The trail is a well loved community resource which provides an important recreation, fitness and transportation benefit to visitors and residents of all ages. The vision has always been a seamless trail from Georgetown to Silver Spring. While the Purple Line will complete a major gap in the trail, it leaves behind a new one.

We are disappointed by this loss of an tunnel option and hope that County officials exhausted all options before making this decision. We expect a safe, grade-separated crossing of the trail at Wisconsin Avenue to be the long-term solution.

Tell Montgomery County you want a safe trail crossing

What doesn’t get counted doesn’t count

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This old saying rings true in the transportation planning world, where future investments are based on available data. In this context, it’s very encouraging that the District Department of Transportation is installing their first permanent automatic bike and pedestrian counters on popular trails and bike lanes. Arlington County has the most robust automatic counting program in the country with about 30 counters deployed, including the first “bikeometer” on the East Coast.

The first counter was installed by DDOT was on the Metropolitan Branch Trail last week using Ecocounter equipment. The Met Branch Trail counter is able to count both pedestrian and bicyclist traffic including direction of travel (north- or south-bound). With around the clock data collection, transportation planners can monitor travel patterns as the relate to weather, time of day and the increase of traffic over time. The earliest data shows a peak of over 150 people biking past the counter during morning and evening rush hours.

DDOT also installed a bike automatic counter on Eye St. SW and plans to install a counter on a very busy downtown protected bike lane in the coming weeks. The data from all of these counters will provide more granularity of bike traffic and complement other data collect efforts. From 2006 to 2013, bicycling commuting to work has quadrupled to 4.5% of all commuters.

 

Met Branch Trail Bridge Now Looks Like A Bridge

 

Regular riders of the Met Branch Trail have probably noticed that the under-construction bridge between the trail and the Rhode Island Ave Metro suddenly looks a lot more like a bridge. The steel bridge span was hoisted into place in early hours of Wednesday morning. DDOT contractors used two large cranes to lift the pre-assembled span into position, bringing this project one major step closer to completion. When finished, the bridge will connect the Edgewood neighborhood and Met Branch Trail over the railroad tracks directly to the Rhode Island Ave Metro Station.

Here’s a time lapse video of the span being moved into position:

Read more about this project in both the WAMU and DCist coverage. The bridge project is loaded in the DDOT Dashboard so you can follow the progress along as you wait for it to be finished. But you don’t have to wait much longer, DDOT estimates the bridge will be fully finished and open to the public by the end of the year or January 2015 at the very latest.