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 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.

DanConnor

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.

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.

(Some) Met Branch Trail construction this year in Silver Spring

Metropolitan Branch Trail Silver Spring

The Met Branch Trail along the Red Line near Montgomery College in Silver Spring. Photo credit: Dan Reed

The Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) will begin construction on the first section of the Met Branch Trail (MBT) in downtown Silver Spring this year. County Councilmembers asked MCDOT to build any sections of trail ready to go during the March budget work session.

New details emerged about the MBT phasing at the Transportation and Environment Committee (T&E) budget work session on April 20th  (you can watch the full discussion online here at 38:10). The construction of two buildings near Progress Place interfere with the trail construction between the Silver Spring Transit Center and B&O Train Station. Rather than wait until 2018/19 when the new buildings are complete to begin design and construction, MCDOT is willing to construct sections of trail now. Where possible, the MBT will be wider than the 10 foot minimum trail width and the trail will be fully lit at night.

The Met Branch Trail, when finished, will be a 8 mile trail from downtown Silver Spring to Union Station. Roughly 50 percent of the total trail is complete. About 1 mile of the MBT is in Montgomery County. The City of Takoma Park section is complete. The remaining unbuilt trail section is about .6 miles long. See our MBT priority page for further breakdown on trail progress and recent information.

See the full breakdown of trail sections and their anticipated construction schedule below.

The full MBT in Silver Spring will not be complete until 2019/2020. But, the community will see some progress this year and every year until it’s complete. Thank you to the Montgomery County Department of Transportation. We appreciate their willingness, responsiveness and flexibility to adjust the construction schedule. Trail projects are hard and take time to build. Showing some progress, even small pieces, are important to keep the public engaged and excited. Thank you to Councilmembers Berliner, Hucker and Floreen who serve on the T&E Committee for their continued committment of growing bicycling in Montgomery County.

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

If you could change one law for biking, what would it be?

John A. Wilson Building, Washington, DC
The D.C. Council Committee on Transportation and the Environment is convening a bicycle and pedestrian safety task force. The group will discuss the District’s current approach to biking and walking safety and look into possible regulatory and legislative way to improve.  The final outcome will be a report of recommendations to the Council.

The task force has strong representation from city agencies, including leadership from MPD, DDOT, the Mayor’s office, AAA, the insurance industry, and key community and advocacy organizations. AAA’s John Townsend and myself are co-chairs of the task force.

So, if you could wave a magic wand and change one law or regulation, what would it be?

We are looking for new ideas from other communities or other countries. Ideas about laws for both pedestrians and bicyclists are okay. In the past five years, D.C. Council has passed several bills related to walking and bike, including the Bicycle Safety Amendment Act of 2013 and Access to Justice for Bicyclists Act of 2012.

The Task Force will deliver a D.C. Council report on laws and regulations. The group will not be debating pending legislation either (i.e. the contributory negligence or a distracted driving bills before Council now), and obviously won’t supersede the standard legislative or regulatory process.

The process is quick. There will be four public meetings in May and June. All meetings will be a roundtable format and open to the public.

Safety Task Force Public Meeting Details
Location: John A. Wilson Building, Chairman’s Conference Room (Room 502)

May 21, 2-4 pm – Pedestrian Safety
May 27, 2-4 pm – Bicycle Safety
June 4, 2-4 pm – Enforcement, Liability, and Reporting
June 11, 2-4 pm – Updating the District’s Laws, Regulations, etc.

The final report of possible recommendations will be available by July.  The timing will fit nicely with the launch of DC’s Vision Zero Action Plan in the late summer / early fall.

So, what can the Council change to make biking and walking safer in D.C.? We have some initial ideas but what are your ideas? Send us your ideas and thoughts to advocacy@waba.org.

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.

Bike Funding Saved in Arlington!

Last week, the Arlington County Board voted to protect all bicycle and pedestrian funding in the County budget. The County Manager’s proposed budget cut much of the biking and walking program, and had the County Board approved those cuts,  installation of bike lanes, trail projects, bikesharing and other projects would have stalled.

In March, WABA alerted our Arlington members and supporters about the proposed budget cuts. Hundreds of residents contacted Board Members asking to reinstate the funds. Responding to the public feedback, the Board voted to sustain FY2015 funding levels.

The Board shifted some of the funding source from PAYGO funds to HB2313 local funds. HB2313 is the 2013 Virginia’s transportation appropriations bill. The bill includes funds for local jurisdictions. These funds must go towards transportation projects and not other County priorities.

The budget was formally adopted at last night’s County Board meeting. Thank you to the Arlington County Board for restoring core funding for biking and walking. Investing today in the programs and infrastructure that encourage biking will pay future dividends. Resident will enjoy diverse transportation options, stronger the local community and support the County’s economy.

Don’t cut funding for biking and walking in Alexandria

Take Action

Alexandria’s Acting City Manager’s proposed budget would eliminate multi-modal and transit investment in new infrastructure for the next decade. The proposed budget options would also remove operating funds for planned Capital Bikeshare expansion.

While Alexandria has long-standing goals and policies to encourage more walking and biking, relative investments in these areas have been declining for the past few years. This year, the proposed budget would cut Alexandria’s non-motorized transportation budget, remove operating funds from planned Capital Bikeshare expansion ($10,000 per station), and remove the City’s capital investment in the only two trails planned for the next decade. Capital funds are available from other sources for the bikeshare expansion, only operating funds are needed. As D.C. and other surrounding jurisdictions provide competitive transportation options to attract new businesses, Alexandria should be investing in, not cutting, non-motorized transportation infrastructure.

Please send a message to the City Council to restore investments in non-motorized transportation infrastructure.

Capital Bikeshare is a highly cost-effective system with fare-recovery at more than twice that of other transportation systems. The two trail projects will cost-effectively provide safe transportation, recreation and access to transit for people of all abilities. This proposal should also be considered against the rising number of studies showing that investments in walking and cycling are high payoff investments. Better infrastructure drives real economic development.

If you want to make walking and biking safer, and more accessible for every Alexandrian, say so. Otherwise, expect a decade- long (or more) delay. The City Council meets Thursday, April 9th to discuss the transportation budget. Please send your message before April 9th.

Please take a minute to ask the City Council to reject proposed cuts to the City’s non-motorized transportation budgets related to Capital Bikeshare, the Old Cameron Run Trail and the Backlick Run Trail.