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

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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

Upcoming Public Meetings for Bike Lanes in Fairfax County

Buffered bike lanes in Seattle, WA. Source: NACTO

On the heels of its recently passed Bike Master Plan, Fairfax County Department of Transportation is holding two public meetings for bike lane projects. The two meetings are your chance to give input and express support for these projects.

Amherst Avenue/Backlick Road Buffered Bike Lanes
Fairfax County DOT is proposing a lane diet on Amherst Avenue from Cumberland Avenue to Highland Street. A road diet would create space for a buffered bike lane for 1/2 mile. On Backlick Road, public space is constrained. The County is proposing either bike lanes or a neighborhood street route alternative. Attending the public meeting is an opportunity to support full bike lanes on Backlick Road. See the area on Google Maps here.

Meeting Details
February 10th, 2015, 7:00 pm
Lynbrook Elementary School, Cafeteria
5801 Backlick Road
Springfield, VA 22150.

Kingstowne Village Parkway Bike Lanes
The County is proposing a road diet with bike lanes on Kingstown Village Parkway from Beulah Street to Hayfield Street. See the area on Google Maps here.

Meeting Details
February 18th, 2015, 7:00 PM
Kingstowne’s Thomas Center
6090 Kingstowne Village Parkway
Alexandria, VA 22315.

 

Public Meeting Tonight on C&O Canal Park’s Proposed Fee Increases

C&O Canal towpath near Slackwater. Photo credit: Rudi Riet

The National Park Service announced yesterday that they will be hosting a public meeting to discuss their proposed fee hikes (PDF) for access to and amenities on the C&O Canal National Historical Park. The C&O Canal is a public park that stretches from Georgetown in Washington, D.C. to Cumberland, MD.

While most of the meetings on the subject are outside the Washington region, Tonight’s meeting will be held at the Washington Waldorf School, 4800 Sangamore Rd. in Bethesda from 7pm to 8:30pm.

We encourage all bicyclists to attend, ask questions, and voice any concerns about the proposal.

WABA is working with NPS to learn more about the proposal, but we oppose regressive fees that would limit access for biking, walking, and enjoying the public park. NPS Director Jarvis has tasked all parks with considering such revenue-generating activities, so we are working throughout the region to respond to these fee proposals. Presently, public comment periods are open for the Prince William Forest Park, George Washington Memorial Parkway, and the C&O Canal.

If you bike on the C&O Canal towpath, you will likely be affected by this proposal. Please consider attending the meeting tonight.

Meeting Details
What
: National Park Service meeting on proposed fee increases for
C&O Canal National Historic Park
When: 7pm – 8:30pm, Thursday, February 5th
Where: Washington Waldorf School, 4800 Sangamore Rd., Bethesda, MD
Google Map Directions

Montgomery Co. DOT Endorses NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide

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Montgomery County’s first protected bike lane on Woodglen Drive in White Flint. Photo Credit: Dan Reed

Good news! The Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) has endorsed the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide. This guide, produced by the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), gives transportation planners and engineers access to state-of-the-practice bikeway designs. It provides innovative tools for growing bicycling such as protected and buffered bike lanes, bike boxes, contraflow bike lanes and other types of infrastructure.

Last fall, MCDOT installed the first protected bike lane in the County on Woodglen Drive in White Flint. The 0.3 mile long protected bike lane extends the Bethesda Trolley Trail from Edson Lane to Nicholson Lane. MCDOT is currently planning protected bike lanes on Woodmont Ave in Bethesda and Nebel Street in White Flint. We anticipate more protected bike lanes coming to the County following the department’s endorsement of the NACTO guide.

From the MCDOT Acting Director Al Roshdieh’s letter:

MCDOT is committed to providing a multi-modal transportation network that incorporates state-of-the-practice bicycle facilities, and endorses the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide as one of several documents to utilize in the design and implementation of new bicycle facilities County-wide. Thank you for your support and we look forward to partnering with you in our efforts to create a more bicycle-friendly Montgomery County.

WABA sent a letter in August requesting MDCOT’s adoption or endorsement of the bikeway guide. MCDOT is now in good company as the transportation department in the District of Columbia, Arlington and Alexandria also endorse the NACTO Guide. You can download the MCDOT letter endorsing the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide. Thank you to Acting Director Al Roshdieh for responding to our request.