Let’s Talk About The Met Branch Trail

 

Support the Met Branch Trail at the upcoming public meeting on March 21st.Photo credit: DDOT DC

Here’s your chance to discuss the Met Branch Trail with DDOT—

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) and Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4B will hold a joint meeting on the preliminary design of the Metropolitan Branch Trail from Brookland to Takoma Park on Saturday, March 21.

You can attend the meeting to show your support for the trail. Representatives from DDOT will present the trail alignment and solicit feedback from the general public.

The Metropolitan Branch Trail is a planned eight-mile, paved bicycle and pedestrian trail from Union Station in Ward 6 to Silver Spring, Md. The portion between Union Station and Brookland in Ward 5 is very popular, averaging more than 500 users a day. Design is underway for the section that’s north of Brookland. The new section, as currently proposed, will run along the railroad tracks from Bates Road to the Ft. Totten Metro station, then along First Place, Riggs Road, First Street, all in Northeast, and Blair Road, NW.

Comments on the preliminary design, as well as requests for more information should be directed to Jim Sebastian at jim.sebastian@dc.gov.

WABA will host an informal happy hour on Thursday, March 19th from 6 pm to 8 pm at Simple Bar in Brightwood. We want to connect you with other trail supporters, answer your questions so that you can feel prepared for the public meeting. WABA advocacy staff will be available at the happy hour to discuss the Met Branch Trail project or other advocacy priorities. We hope you can attend both the happy hour and trail open house.

Metropolitan Branch Trail Open House
Saturday, March 21, 2015, 1 pm to 4 pm
Metropolitan Police Department – Fourth District Station
6001 Georgia Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20011
Google Map directions

WABA Met Branch Trail Happy Hour
Thursday, March 19, 2015, 6 pm to 8 pm
Simple Bar
5828 Georgia Ave NW, Washington, DC 20011
Google Map directions

RSVP for the WABA Happy Hour

Please help us show strong community support for completion of the northern section of the Met Branch Trail.

Support Biking in Tysons on Monday

support-tysons-2015-bike-lanesFairfax County recently announced that several major roads in Tysons could soon have bike infrastructure as part of the county’s summer repaving schedule. We need you to speak up for biking at a public meeting on Monday, March 16 at Westbriar Elementary School from 7-9 p.m. Here is the proposed new bike infrastructure:

  • Greensboro Dr. – Road diet from Spring Hill Rd. to Solutions Dr.
  • Tyco Rd. – Road diet from Route 7 to Spring Hill Rd.
  • Westbranch Dr, – Road diet from Westpark Dr. to Jones Branch Dr.
  • Jones Branch Dr. – Climbing lane from International Dr. to Westpark Dr.
  • Spring Hill Rd. – Combination of bike lanes/sharrows from Route 7 to International Dr.
  • Westwood Center Dr. – Sharrows from Route 7 to the end of the road

A full map of proposed bike projects is online here.

Meeting Details
Monday, March 16 at 7-9 p.m.
Westbriar Elementary School
1741 Pine Valley Dr., Vienna, VA 22182
Google Map directions

Since these projects are part of the repaving schedule, no additional funds are available to supplement the projects. They may not be perfect, but it’s important that we support this effort by the county. If you work or bike in Tysons, please consider attending this meeting to support these important projects. Check the Fairfax Bike Pages or the FABB blog for more info.

Updates on Important Bike Funding Debate in Montgomery County

We wanted to share some details about a quiet advocacy victory that happened this week:

Last month, funding for bike infrastructure in Montgomery County looked bleak. County Executive Ike Leggett had sent his proposed budget amendments to the County Council, including major cuts and delays to the entire bikeways program—most significantly, the Met Branch and Capital Crescent Trails.

Two weeks ago, WABA sent a letter to the Montgomery County Council asking that the bikeways budget not be cut or delayed.

Just this past Monday, the next part of the process began. The Transportation & Environment (T&E) Committee held their budget work session. The T&E Committee’s role is to assess the budget amendments proposed by Executive Leggett and to pass a final budget later this spring. Overall, the committee supported the funding of bike projects. The committee is comprised of Councilmembers Berliner, Floreen, and Hucker, all of whom were present. Additionally, Councilmember Riemer (not on the committee) attended the hearing in support. Many Councilmembers asked the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) to keep moving bike projects forward, despite various challenges. You can watch the full discussion on the Montgomery County Council website here.

Here are some of the highlights.

Met Branch Trail in Silver Spring


The Metropolitan Branch Trail project is being considered in two phases. Phase one is the trail from west of Georgia Ave. to the Silver Spring Transit Center. while phase two is the trail segment east from Georgia Ave. to Montgomery County College. The T&E Committee recommended restoring the original project timeline, not the proposed delay. Phase one cannot start until two buildings are constructed. Without the delay, the anticipated completion of the trail would be 2019.

During the discussion, MCDOT showed plans for the trail around the historic B&O Station. As currently planned, the trail will not go under the trail station canopy. It will curve around the north and east side of the station. Councilmember Floreen voiced many concerns with this plan (Around 43:00 in the video). She clearly wants the trail to follow the master plan alignment which is the straightest path through the property, underneath the canopy. She thinks curvy trail around the entire property is a lose-lose scenario for trail users and for Maryland Preservation Inc. (owners of train station).

The Committee also asked the trail to be built at a width of 11-12 feet with a two-foot shoulder where possible. It was clarified that the trail will have lighting. The Committee wants MCDOT to show how to make some progress on phase two as well. After much discussion, the Committee asked MCDOT to come back to the committee with revised plans for phasing, budget and timeline later this spring. Councilmembers were clearly frustrated with the lack of progress on the trail.

Seven Locks Road, MacArthur Blvd, Falls Road, Bicycle-Pedestrian Priority Areas, etc.

County Executive Leggett’s proposed budget recommended delaying all of these important bike projects. However, the T&E Committee recommended restoring all the funding to all of them. Councilmember Hans Riemer–who championed the Bicycle-Pedestrian Priority Areas (BPPA) last year–was astonished that the program was proposed to be cut after just one year. MCDOT presented progress made so far on the BPPA program, much of which has been planning work. Implementation of bike and pedestrian safety improvements are scheduled to begin soon, if the Committee’s recommendations are accepted and the program is not cut.

Capital Crescent Trail – At-Grade Trail at Wisconsin Ave. in Bethesda

The general consensus at the hearing was to pause the development of the at-grade trail and crossing at Wisconsin Ave. in Bethesda. Without a firm date for Purple Line construction, development of the at-grade trail is less pressing. As it stands, the trail tunnel will remain open to trail traffic until construction of the Purple Line starts.

Thank you to everyone who reached out to Council. We will be meeting with both Councilmember Berliner and MCDOT Director Al Roshdieh in the coming weeks. We will share our thoughts with him on these budget amendment among other issues.

Public Open House for Arlington Memorial Circle Redesign on March 3rd

memorial-circle
The National Park Service is hosting a public open house on March 3rd to present rough design ideas for Arlington Memorial Circle on the George Washington Memorial Parkway. The area has a long history of safety issues for Mount Vernon Trail users. NPS started the planning process back in September with an initial round of public open houses.

NPS is undertaking a Transportation Plan and an Environmental Assessment to evaluate possible reconfiguration of the road, traffic circle and trail. The goal is to improve safety and the park experience for bicyclists, pedestrians and drivers, while minimizing the impact on the cultural and historical resources of the area. The planning process will take almost two years to complete. We do not expect a final decision document until the summer of 2016.

More information about the public open house, the planning process and how to give your input are included the following NPS meeting announcement:

Public Open House
Tuesday, March 3, 2015
5:00 pm to 8:00 pm
National Park Service
National Capital Region
1100 Ohio Drive SW
Washington DC 20242

We will present rough sketches of design concepts that were developed at a workshop that evaluated previous studies of the area, existing and projected traffic conditions including accident, speed and road/trail volumes, and the memorial character of the area. These concepts will be the foundation for the development of alternatives to be presented later in the year.  Please take this opportunity to offer your thoughts about this process and the ideas that were generated before we develop alternatives.

Comments will be accepted at the open house or may be provided online through the NPS Planning Environment, and Public Comment (PEPC) website.

On March 3rd the sketches will be posted to the project website and comments will be accepted from March 3, 2015 to March 10, 2015. You can access this site from the project website at: http://parkplanning.nps.gov/mctpea Navigate from the left side of the page to Document List, then 2015 Design Concepts, and Comment on Document.

Mayor Bowser Commits to Implementing Vision Zero

Last week, Mayor Muriel Bowser stated her committment to Vision Zero in the District of Columbia. The announcement came at last Friday’s press conference with Secretary Foxx of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Vision Zero is a system-wide effort to end traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries for all road users.

The Mayor also announced that she will be joining Secretary Foxx’s Mayors’ Challenge for Safer People and Safer Streets. The Secretary is challenging Mayors to take action to improve safety for people walking and biking. D.C. is a leader for improving street safety, and adopting a Vision Zero goal raises the bar.

On average more than 40 people die each year walking, biking or driving on our city streets. Traffic-related fatalities have declined in recent years, but crashes causing injury (rather than death) are on the rise, especially among those who walk or bike. Traffic deaths and injuries are preventable. Vision Zero makes it everyone’s job—from policymakers to traffic engineers to law enforcement officials—to prevent them completely.

“We are taking our first step towards realizing a ‘Vision Zero’ where no lives are lost on our streets or at our intersections,” says Mayor Bowser in an official press release.

Mayor Bowser committed to adopting a Vision Zero goal and strategy during her campaign. Two weeks ago, WABA sent a letter asking her to fulfill this promise. Friday’s announcement is an important first step.

We will track the progress of next steps over the coming weeks and months. The core element of Vision Zero is a commitment to end traffic fatalities and serious injuries within a specific amount of time. New York City committed to ending traffic deaths within 20 years. San Francisco’s goal is by 2024.

A clear and coordinated cross-governmental strategy will be required to meet this goal. The Mayor will need to pull together all relevant public agencies. Accountability is key. We expect regular updates detailing efforts undertaken, results and progress towards the goal.

A strong community values human life, and we should do our best to protect it. Vision Zero is a commitment to making our streets safer for everyone, including those who bike. We are very encouraged by Mayor Bowser’s first step toward this goal.

 

Safer Maryland bikeways get the green light

by and

Thanks to new guidelines, curb-protected or buffered bike lanes will be allowed on Maryland state roads. This change could ultimately make many roads much safer.

Eads Street in Arlington. This will now be permitted on Maryland’s state highways. Photo by the author.

The Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) released new policy and engineering guidelines in January. They will allow more innovative and protective bike infrastructure in many rapidly urbanizing suburbs such as College Park, where Route 1 is supposed to get a bike lane but needs one that’s safe alongside high-speed traffic.

Changes add space between cars and bikes and make intersections safer

Bike lane designs can now include extra buffering, such as striped and cross-hatched lane markings, to separate bike and car traffic. And while the new guidelines don’t mention the use of flexposts, which engineers and planners around the country often use for extra visibility and “soft protection” for buffered bike lanes, SHA also doesn’t forbid them. And that’s encouraging.

The new regulations will also allow bike lanes raised up between the height of the main roadway and the curb. Raised lanes further increase the separation of people biking from motor vehicle traffic, and help prevent people from driving or parking their cars in spaces that are for people on bikes.

The guidelines also introduce designs for “bike boxes,” which allow cyclists to wait in a visible location at the head of a line of traffic and make it easier and safer to turn. Other places have been using bike boxes for several years, but they haven’t been permissible on Maryland state roads until now.

All of these new approaches to protecting and separating bike lanes from traffic on busy or high-speed roads will be better than the bike lane designs SHA is currently using. For example, the photo below shows a newly-painted bike lane on Greenbelt Road near the Capital Beltway. Would you feel safe riding your bike in that lane? Would you want children or elderly people riding in it?

An unprotected bike lane on Route 193 in Greenbelt. Photo by the author.

This is a great step, but SHA’s work is far from finished

While we applaud SHA’s new guidelines, there are still some key problems with their overall bike lane design approach.

First, building bike lanes to fit the new guidelines is still not mandatory, making the guidelines somewhat limited in scope. Even though SHA policy now allows buffered and protected bike lanes, engineers are still allowed to build narrow unprotected lanes alongside high-speed or high-traffic state roads. Protected and buffered bike lanes should be the standard, not just an option, especially where separated sidepaths are not feasible.

Noticeably absent are designs for facilities such as two-way protected bikeways, protected intersection designs, and creative ways of accommodating transit adjacent to bike lanes—since people often ride bikes between buses and the curb, it’s crucial that transit riders have easy places to cross bike lanes to get to their buses or transit vehicles.

Protected bikeways are important because while SHA rules do require new roads to include bike lanes, the typical painted bike lanes are simply too narrow for the kinds of high-speed roads where they often appear. These roads frequently have lower speed limits than the speeds people really drive, meaning that a bike lane designed for a 30-mph street would be inadequate where people are really usually traveling 40, 45, or 50.

Finally, the new guidelines are incomplete in that they don’t include illustrations and criteria for additional bike lane and intersection designs, which are very common in other urban and semi-urban areas. Navigating intersections can be tricky for cyclists—they’re where the majority of collisions happen—so it’s very important to get their design right.

For people who want to ride their bikes safely in Maryland, the new state guidelines are a strong pedal-stroke in the right direction. We hope this is the beginning many positive changes coming from SHA to incorporate and implement state-of-the-art designs that will increase the safety of people riding bikes, especially for the more densely populated and urbanizing parts of the state.

Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington

No New Camping Site Fees for C&O Canal Park

The C&O Canal National Historical Park announced late on Friday a revised fee proposal (PDF). The National Park Service is exploring potential changes to visitor fees to raise revenue. The proposed fee changes included a new charge for the hiker-biker camping sites of $20/night. The revised proposals retains the current no charge for the hiker-biker camping sites.

From the National Park Service, “having heard concerns over the proposal for new fees, the park has decided to rescind its proposal to expand fee collection. The park is still proposing to moderately increase existing entrance, campground and pavilion rental fees only at park locations where fees are currently collected.”

Last week we posted to the WABA blog about the proposed new charges and fee increases. Thank you to the WABA members and supporters who attended last week’s public meeting.

The revised fee increases are listed below:

Park Annual Pass:
Current: $20, Great Falls, MD only
Proposed: $30, Great Falls, MD only

Per Vehicle Pass:
Current: $5/vehicle for 3 days, Great Falls, MD only
Proposed: $15/vehicle for 7 days, Great Falls, MD only

Per Person Pass:
Current: $3/person for 3 days, Great Falls, MD only
Proposed: $7/person for 7 days, Great Falls, MD only

Motorcycle Pass:
Current: $5/motorcycle for 3 days, Great Falls, MD only
Proposed: $10/motorcycle for 7 days, Great Falls, MD only

The park is are also proposing to increase fees for campgrounds and picnic pavilions. Comparability studies have been completed to determine rates. The proposals are as follows:

Drive-In Campgrounds:  
Single Site Rate: Current: $10 per night, Proposed $20 per night
Group Site Rate: Current $20 per night, Proposed $40 per night

Hiker-Biker Camping Sites:
Current: No Charge, no changed proposed

Picnic Pavilion: Carderock Pavilion
Monday-Thursday: Current $150 per day, Proposed $250 per day
Friday-Sunday & Holidays: Current $250 per day, Proposed $350 per day

There are still opportunities to comment on the revised fee increase proposal. You can submit online comments via the NPS Planning, Environmental & Comment website. The public comment period will remain open until February 22, 2015.

NPS will continue to hold public meetings as follows:
February 9, 2015, at Hancock Town Hall, 126 West High Street, Hancock, MD from 6:30-8:00 PM
February 11, 2015, at Storer Ballroom at the Shepherd University Student Center, 210 North King Street, Shepherdstown, WV, from 6:30-8:00 PM
February 17, 2015, at Brunswick City Park Building, 655 East Potomac Street, Brunswick, MD, from 6:30-8:00 PM