Many of you have seen the video of the cyclist struck while riding illegally during a community ride last week. We’re glad the cyclist is OK, but we’re disappointed at the way the incident and the video portray the bicycling community. I have no doubt, given the number of voicemails I have received, that this video is being used to paint cyclists as nothing but scofflaws. But it raises some serious questions about how the District is going to deal with the growth of bicycling and group rides. So far, the answer has been, in too many cases, “not very well.”
Many know that the annual BikeDC event was cancelled this year because permits could not be secured, due to restrictions that were overly burdensome individually and self-contradictory, and therefore impossible to meet. Fewer know that smaller events, including the Tour de Fat parade, were also unable to meet permitting requirements. In the case of the Tour de Fat parade, WABA went to the affected ANCs to voluntarily ask for support. Though we did receive ANC support, we were still unable to obtain a permit for the ride and were thus unable to limit motor vehicle traffic along the route or, importantly, exclude participants who might have been riding or celebrating in inappropriate ways.
Organizers of rides frequently reach out to WABA asking for assistance in making their rides safe. But if the issue is a number of riders who refuse to follow the rules that the organizers set, the organizers are left with no recourse. Anyone can ride public streets along with a group.
What is the solution?
We do not want a system in which every group ride has to get a permit. That makes a mockery of our right to bike on public streets. But that was actually suggested in some our our prior permit negotiations with the D.C. permitting taskforce—that any time multiple cyclists ride together an event permit would be required. However, the mayor’s office quickly clarified that was not the case.
What we need is the ability to work with enforcement officials interested in balancing in a flexible way the safety of events with functioning roadways. Perhaps the one fortunate thing to come from this ridiculous demonstration of bad behavior is that Sgt. Terry Thorne, who has worked productively with WABA on numerous bicyclist safety issues, contacted us to figure out a way forward.
I will be contacting a number of groups with a specific interest in this issue to participate in a discussion with Sgt. Thorne and MPD to work out a reasonable approach to ensuring that community ride events can take place, and that MPD can focus its efforts on public safety.
That said, WABA does not support additional restrictions on group rides. We already have a permitting system with so much red tape and so many fuzzy “security” standards that only large and well-heeled fundraising rides and races can be held. Community events are either cancelled or left to operate on their own. But we do look forward to an open conversation with police about how we can better work together to find a balance that helps ensure the safety of group bike rides.
To that end, I will be reaching out to a number of ride leaders in the coming week to discuss the issue further. If you operate a group ride and want to be included in this conversation, email us at email@example.com to be on the list.
We don’t need any more viral videos of bad behavior, and we especially don’t need any more people hit by cars on group rides. Let’s work together and find a solution that meets the needs of bicyclists that WABA and ride leaders can collectively get behind.
Photo by Flickr user Mr. T in DC
Yesterday, long-simmering displeasure with the pattern of illegal u-turns across the Pennsylvania Avenue bike lanes netted considerable media attention from NBC4. Reporter Mark Segraves was most interested in a video by Bill Walsh of a police officer actually pulling someone over for u-turning. However, this is far from standard; more often, drivers u-turn with impunity.
It has been difficult for WABA to get information about Pennsylvania Avenue. We know that the bollards that once lined the cycletrack would be removed for the winter, due to the threat of snow as well as plans for the inauguration. We know that DDOT was working on ideas for better, and perhaps more, bollards. But as to why the bollards have been left in a pile and not been reinstalled? We’re as perplexed as everyone else. Additionally, we haven’t gotten a clear description of exactly what sort of enforcement MPD has done since it and DMV agreed that u-turns were illegal.
After Justin Antos counted and documented thirty U-turns in thirty minutes on Pennsylvania Avenue, I forwarded his photos to Mayor Vince Gray’s office with a request for explanation and assistance. I received the following response:
MPD and DDOT have been working to improve enforcement and protection. It’s my understanding that flexposts are on the way to replace the ones that have come down, and that DDOT is working with the Federal Highway Administration, the Planning Commission, and the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts to find a suitable perimeter divider. We’re hopeful that the divider we’ve presented to them will be accepted. If they are, we will move quickly to install.
As of today, MPD has written approximately 62 improper turn citations and approximately 70 warnings. Prior to yesterday, we were doing targeted enforcement during selected rush hours and special events. Today’s AM Officer observed no violations and wrote zero citations during the scheduled enforcement. It should be noted that yesterday was a special situation because of the sinkhole at 14th and Pennsylvania. Our resources were deployed to direct traffic around this traffic blockage. Moreover, some where cars were allowed to turn around on PA Avenue to mitigate what was a significant traffic/public safety incident.
As you are aware, Pennsylvania Avenue is a special case because of the intersecting jurisdictions. But, we remain committed to expanding cycling in the District and making our streets safe for those who use bicycles.
We now know that the new flexposts are on the way and that DDOT is engaged with the federal planning and fine arts entities that have a say in what happens on Pennsylvania Avenue. We hope that these conversations—especially those involving the Commission on Fine Arts—will be open to the local, affected public. If they aren’t, we’ll find other ways to ensure the CFA understands that its decisions could place the community in physical danger.
We also know that MPD is doing enforcement. I think we can all agree that when a guy with a camera can document thirty instances of unlawful behavior in thirty minutes—and repeat the exercise daily—that enforcement mechanism is failing. But enforcement exists. That said, we want to see it improved, and we want to better understand its timing and method so that we are better able to communicate to the bicycling community what is being done.
From a policy standpoint, the worst possible result would bicyclists losing so much confidence in the safety of biking facilities like Pennsylvania Avenue that those facilities fail to enable more people to bike safely. We are on the verge of that with Pennsylvania Avenue’s bike lanes, and we need prompt improvements to both the infrastructure and enforcement mechanisms. Either alone won’t be good enough.
In the meantime, we need DDOT to rush the procurement of those new flexposts, or put the old ones back until the new ones arrive. Installing a flexpost isn’t a big job. It’s OK to do it twice to prevent crashes and save lives.
Image via DDOT on Flickr
Last Friday’s Bike to Work Day was a great success, setting a new record for registered riders and number of pit stops. Thanks to the beautiful weather and great activities provided by pit stop sponsors, the over 14,500 riders who came out were treated to a fantastic celebration of biking to work.
This weekend, I started looking through Bike to Work Day’s final registration tallies and data. And all figures pointed in the same direction: Bicycling is growing in the entire region, so we need to continue our ability to grow our regional advocacy approach accordingly. Hopefully, the expansion of our advocacy work in recent years and the launch this winter of our suburban outreach program has helped to dispel any remaining notion that WABA is only about biking in D.C.
We have increased our efforts in suburban jurisdictions, just as Bike to Work Day has expanded its pit stop offerings away from downtown and into all parts of the region. We can see the results. Bike to Work Day’s top three overall pit stops were evenly spread: one in Virginia (Rosslyn), one in Maryland (Bethesda), and one in the District (Freedom Plaza). This makes sense given the region’s employment density, and, in my view, reflects that the decision by the Bike to Work Day organizers to better cover the region with pit stop opportunities was the correct one. What we lose in the optics of everyone in a giant gathering at a single location, we gain back in overall growth and attraction of new riders throughout the region who want pit stops convenient to their commutes.
Of course, no discussion of regionalism in transportation can go far without addressing the elephant in the room: WMATA. Previously, though it’s engaged on transportation issues that affect bicyclist and pedestrians, WMATA had played a limited role in Bike to Work Day. Since the completion of its excellent Bicyclist & Pedestrian Access Study, WMATA has taken steps to further encourage integration of bicycling and Metrorail/Metrobus commuting. This year, it hosted two pit stops at two Metro stations, West Hyattsville and Cheverly. The choice of these stations was especially important, because they’re in areas of relatively low Bike to Work Day registration. Additionally, West Hyattsville is a major destination for Spanish-speaking bike commuters who are more difficult to reach through traditional marketing, outreach, and education channels; Cheverly is in the region east of the city that notably underserved in biking infrastructure. WMATA’s pit stops didn’t break attendance records, but they helped us broaden the event demographically and geographically and provide additional outreach on bicycling to communities we might not have reached otherwise.
Next year, we hope to work further with WMATA to encourage non-cyclists to try bicycling by better marketing the multi-modal commute—and ensuring that people understand that biking to Metro counts for Bike to Work Day.
Finally, the final tally did allow us to compare participation by jurisdiction to see where we have more work to do to encourage greater bike commuting. In total, Virginia had the most registered riders, followed by the District, with Maryland slightly behind. Given the relative populations of the jurisdictions, we would like to see higher numbers from Maryland relative to the District and Virginia. These Bike to Work Day numbers confirmed a concerning trend we’ve already recognized in our own membership and supporter data. As a result, in the past week we have submitted proposals to Montgomery and Prince George’s County to expand education and outreach activities, in hopes of growing ridership in Maryland. One measure of our success will be next year’s state-level breakdown of Bike to Work Day data.
Thank you to everyone who registered and rode on Friday. We’ve all heard the phrase “don’t be a statistic,” implying that “being a statistic” is only applied to bad outcomes. In biking, where our governments are often unwilling or unable to invest in generating the data and statistics that would help us make the case that bicycling is important to the region’s transportation, health, and economy, being a statistic—especially on Bike to Work Day—is incredibly helpful.
We can’t thank you enough for being a living, breathing person who came out to celebrate bicycling with us. And thank you for being a statistic who will help us demonstrate the demand for bicycling and push for better bicycling in the coming year.
While we have not been contacted directly by anyone associated with the bicyclists involved in crashes this morning and therefore can offer no further detail than what the media has already reported, we offer our best wishes and support to all involved.
Anyone who needs help dealing with a bicycle crash or advice on any issue related to bicycle safety or law can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For the 14,000-plus people who will be riding tomorrow in celebration of Bike to Work Day—or for whatever reason—please be safe.
Last week, we learned from a Montgomery County Department of Transportation presentation to the county’s Transportation & Environment Committee that progress on the Metropolitan Branch Trail in the county had stalled due to the unwillingness of the nonprofit owner of the historic Silver Spring train station to agree to submit the trail plans for historical review with the Maryland Historic Trust.
We received word today that the landowner, Montgomery Preservation Inc., has changed its mind and will allow the plans to be reviewed by the Trust. While this is certainly not the last hurdle to overcome, it is a significant one. We appreciate the efforts of all those involved in getting this far.
Thanks to MCDOT, the T&E Committee, and Councilmember Ervin for pushing forward on the Met Branch Trail.
Of course, now it is even more important to ensure that funding for the trail is not delayed.
Yesterday, representatives of the Montgomery County Department of Transportation provided the County Council’s Transportation and Environment Committee with an update on its work on the Metropolitan Branch Trail. Work on the MBT been stalled for some time due to disputes over its crossing at Georgia Avenue and proposed routing that would have the trail pass by the historic Silver Spring train station. The train station is controlled by the nonprofit Montgomery Preservation Inc.
Despite protestations on its website that MPI is not stalling the project, MCDOT’s update yesterday showed that MPI is in fact preventing the project’s moving forward. Delays are attributable to MPI’s unwillingness to accommodate the master plan trail alignment, which led Montgomery County’s county executive to propose delaying the funding of the project for a year.
Fortunately, all three members of the T&E Committee—Roger Berliner, Nancy Floreen, and Hans Riemer—as well as Councilmember Valerie Ervin, who is not on T&E Committee but represents the District that houses the MBT and the train station, expressed strong support for the trail as well as frustration at MPI’s unwillingness to support proposed solutions.
Specifically, because the train station is historically designated, changes must be approved by the Maryland Historic Trust. However, only MPI—due to its control of the station–can make that submission and initiate the review. According to MCDOT, it refuses to do.
As a result, the county is being blocked from building a trail that will serve hundreds of thousands of regional residents, is included in the County master plan, and was previously supported by MPI.
During the hearing, councilmembers expressed frustration with the situation and asked the county attorney to review the situation. They hope that agreements with the county that have, over the years, given MPI control of the property and funding will provide a way to move forward.
This impasse is unfortunate, but we appreciate the strong showing of support from the T&E Committee and Councilmember Ervin. We firmly believe that the county should assert its rights and authority over the project and the process and continue to move forward with its design, which respects both the community’s need and demand for the trail and the historic significance of the train station.
MCDOT’s Edgar Gonzalez stated that the delays stemmed from past action and that within two months the county should be prepared to move forward, with or without Montgomery Preservation Inc. Therefore, this year’s delay in funding for the trail is unjustified.
For all the complexity of MPI’s involvement and the historic land use issues surrounding the Silver Spring train station, the County’s representatives are in agreement that it is time to move forward with the Met Branch Trail. MCDOT says it will have a way to do so within two months. Montgomery County should budget accordingly by restoring funding for the trail in this year’s budget.
We are sad to learn and to announce that there will be no 2013 Bike DC ride. Despite a nearly yearlong effort by the event operator, it was not possible to secure the necessary approvals from the Mayor’s Special Events Task Group and the National Park Service to hold the ride.
The inability to secure permits also means the inability to secure sponsors or sell tickets to pay for the significant costs of holding such an event. Therefore, it is impossible to proceed.
This is a significant blow for WABA’s work to promote bicycling in the DC region. Bike DC is the region’s primary opportunity for residents of all ages and abilities to ride bikes on streets closed to automotive traffic. It’s critical as an entry point to attracting new people to bike regularly for transportation. Canceling Bike DC is a step in the wrong direction for biking in the region. We know this, and we know that this leaves the D.C. area without a significant, closed-streets community ride or open-streets event.
This is also a significant financial blow for WABA. As the beneficiary of Bike DC, the event is one of our primary fundraisers and a key opportunity to grow our membership. Nonetheless, we will continue to grow bicycling in the region and continue to push for the trails, infrastructure, and protections for bicyclists to make every ride as safe and comfortable as a closed-streets ride—while also pushing back against the permitting rules that have ceded so much of our public space to automotive traffic that community bicyclists cannot enjoy streets car-free for even one morning.
We look forward to seeing you at one of our many other events, classes, meetings, clinics, or volunteer nights throughout the season, and we appreciate your ongoing support as we continue to serve our mission while working to overcoming this community-wide and organizational setback.
On Tuesday morning, the Environmental Matters Committee of the Maryland House of Delegates will hold a hearing on House Bill 339 to require that every person operating a bicycle in Maryland wear a helmet. This bill is bad policy.
Mandatory helmet laws cause fewer people to bicycle, and when fewer people bicycle, cycling becomes less safe. So much less safe, in fact, that decreased ridership increases the individual cyclist’s risk of injury more than wearing a helmet decreases risk of injury.
This does not mean that bicyclists should not wear helmets. We encourage bicyclists to wear helmets. However, there are several reasons why people who are deeply committed to bicyclist safety oppose mandatory helmet laws.
Mandatory helmet laws decrease ridership
Numerous studies of places that have enacted helmet laws have shown this to be true. The most commonly-cited study—Dorothy Robinson’s “No Clear Evidence from Countries that have Enforced the Wearing of Helmets”—examined data from New Zealand, from Nova Scotia, Canada, and from several states in Australia. In each place, the mandatory helmet law significantly decreased ridership, from 20% to 44% with an average of 37.5%.
(One can debate whether Maryland can expect a decrease of this magnitude. There is no local data available, so this analysis uses the average of 37.5%. But even if the decrease is only 20%, the lowest Robinson observed, even half of that, the result is the same.)
Lower ridership makes bicycling less safe.
We are defining “safety” as the likelihood of a bike-auto crash. By saying that decreased ridership makes bicycling less safe, we mean that a decreased rate of bicycling within a population is correlated with increased crash rates, and vice versa.
The leading article on this topic—Peter Jacobsen’s “Safety in Numbers: More Walkers and Bicyclists, Safer Walking and Bicycling“—reviews data on biking, walking, and injury rates in 68 California cities, 47 Danish towns, 14 European countries, and the United Kingdom.
Across the independent sets of data from these many jurisdictions, Jacobsen finds a consistent, inverse, curvilinear relationship between bicycling and injury rates, determining that “the total number of pedestrians or bicyclists struck by motorists varies with the 0.4 power of the amount of walking or bicycling respectively.” Expressed simply, more people biking leads to fewer per capita crashes while fewer people biking leads to more per capita crashes.
Jacobsen also derives a formula for how this affects the individual cyclist: “Taking into account the amount of walking and bicycling, the probability that a motorist will strike an individual person walking or bicycling declines with roughly -0.6 power of the number of persons walking or bicycling.” In other words, as more people bicycle, the per capita risk to each bicyclist of a crash decreases; if fewer people bicycle, the per capita risk to each bicyclist increases.
Helmets do not make cyclists as safer as commonly thought
For the individual, of course, the story is different. Wearing a helmet is likely safer than not wearing one. This is true for bicyclists; it is also true for people who are skydiving, rock climbing, sitting under an oak tree, or taking a bath. Individually, we make our decisions based on our own risk tolerances and values, and many of us choose to wear helmets and encourage our loved ones to do so.
But at the broader level, where we ought to analyze legislation and public policy, how much safer will a helmet make a person in a bike crash that leads to a head impact? This is a topic of debate and uncertainty, but as research methods improve we move further from some of the magical thinking that took hold due to early estimates—derived from emergency room data rather than population data—that suggested helmet effectiveness rates of 85% and above.
Generally, those estimates came from retrospective studies that looked at people with head injuries in emergency rooms and compared the numbers who lived and died, and whether they were wearing helmets when they were hit. When more recent studies have attempted to compile these data into meta-analyses with more informative sample sizes, their results do not approach the long-accepted 85% level. Some show a smaller effect; others, none at all. In fact, in population-level studies focusing on hospitalization rather than emergency room visits, helmets have no discernible, statistically significant effect on hospitalization rates. (Jacobsen 2012)
Recent studies that have focused on overall health, rather than simply crash mortality rates, have shown that the individual and public health benefits grossly outweigh the costs, by a factor of 20:1. (De Jong 2012)
The mandatory helmet law in Maryland will increase danger for Maryland cyclists
Assuming that the helmet law will decrease cycling by the 37.5% average in Maryland, the total Maryland cycling population, post helmet law, would shrink to only 62.5% of the current cycling population. Assuming also that Jacobsen’s safety-in-numbers effect holds true in Maryland—as it has consistently throughout California and across Europe—the number of motorists colliding with people bicycling will increase by roughly 17.1% per capita (1-0.6250.4=0.171)
For the individual, these assumptions mean that the likelihood of injury from a crash with a motor vehicle would increase by roughly 33% (0.625-0.6=1.326)—regardless of whether the individual wears a helmet. The increased risk comes solely because mandatory helmet laws take people off bicycles, and fewer people on bicycles makes the remaining bicyclists less safe. Substantially.
Maryland does not keep much data on bicycling, but one piece of data that we do have is that in 2010, there were 734 reported bicycle crashes in Maryland. Looking only at this data—and assuming ridership decreases by 37.5% from the helmet law in Maryland—we might expect only 459 crashes instead of 734.
However, this expectation is wrong. Due to the decreasing “safety in numbers,” we would instead expect to see 537 crashes, or 78 additional crashes directly attributable to the mandatory helmet law. So even though the total number of crashes might decrease, that is not because the law has made cyclists safer; it is because substantially fewer people are riding bikes, and those that still ride are measurably less safe, because of the law.
Discouraging cycling runs counter to Maryland’s other priorities
The state of Maryland has launched, or is poised to launch, two programs dedicated to encouraging cycling. The mandatory helmet law would undermine the success and safety of both.
First, knowing the overall benefits of biking to public health and well-being, transportation, economic development, and other public priorities, the state of Maryland initiated a campaign to get more people riding bikes. Maryland’s Department of Transportation introduces the campaign on their website with:
Governor O’Malley’s Cycle Maryland initiative is an effort to encourage more Marylanders to get out and ride, and to make bicycling a true transportation alternative. Cycling is a great way to connect to your community, support a cleaner environment, encourage a healthier lifestyle, reduce household transportation costs and enjoy Maryland’s magnificent landscape.
With the mandatory helmet law reducing ridership, Maryland will be left with more people to figure out how to move, and will have to treat more people for health problems associated with sedentary lifestyles.
Second, Maryland has contributed funds to expand the popular and successful Capital Bikeshare program to Montgomery County. Due to the nature of bikesharing, users are less likely to wear helmets, more likely to be casual rather than experienced users, and more likely to be operating in urban environments with motor vehicles. So perhaps the legislators proposing this mandatory helmet bill mean to ensure the safety of those riders, before bikesharing arrives in the state?
However, again, consider the data: Capital Bikeshare users have logged over 3.4 million trips, with an approximately 38% lower helmet usage rate than the general population. (Kraemer 2012) There have been zero fatalities and only one head injury. That is roughly one crash for every 88,000 miles ridden! Yet by driving potential cyclists away, a mandatory helmet policy would undermine the likelihood of success of the program in Montgomery County, Baltimore, and other areas statewide.
That safety record speaks for itself and shows that biking is not an inherently dangerous activity. Mandatory bicycle helmet laws falsely portray it as such, and in doing so create a false sense of danger that limits ridership and undermines the many positive impacts of mass cycling for Maryland.
“Contributory negligence” makes the law especially harmful
And finally, some believe that this law is acceptable and benevolent and will not have these impacts because there is no fine for violation. But this law has other, even more dire consequences for violators.
Maryland, like the District and Virginia, is a “contributory negligence” jurisdiction. That means if the victim of a crash contributed in any way to her own injury, she can claim no civil recovery for her damages. In Maryland, violation of a law is negligence per se.
Thus, it is possible that a cyclist who rides the bus to work on a rainy morning but chooses to take a bikeshare bike home when the weather clears, and suffers permanent brain injury when a drunk driver veers into a bike lane and strikes her, could be denied any civil recovery as a result of not wearing a helmet.
Is this the transportation future we want in Maryland? Is this the sort of public policy we hope to encourage?
In Maryland, we can anticipate a mandatory helmet law to reduce bicycle ridership by 37.5% (along with its accompanying public health, environmental, and economic benefits), per capita crashes to increase by 17%, and the per capita risk of a crash to increase by 33% for every person riding a bike in the state of Maryland, regardless of whether he or she wears a helmet.
In a broader sense, these laws are a form of victim blaming—telling bicyclists that it is our responsibility to avoid the risk of injury by padding ourselves, rather than the state’s to design a transportation network capable of moving non-motorists with a decent level of safety and efficiency.
WABA opposes a mandatory helmet law in Maryland because it is bad policy based on accepted, tested, and peer-reviewed data—not just some libertarian philosophy or desire of cyclists to “feel the wind in our hair.”
Fundamentally, we do believe that the legislators proposing this mandatory helmet law hope to do what is best for bicyclist safety, but they have significantly erred in determining what will, in fact, be best. They have the power to impose new risks on each of us who rides a bike, even when we wear helmets. We hope they will consider this information seriously and decide that a mandatory helmet law is a bad policy for the state of Maryland.
If you’d like to voice your opposition to Maryland’s House Bill 399, you can do so here.
De Jong, Piet. 2012. The Health Impact of Mandatory Bicycle Helmet Laws. Risk Analysis. 5 (32): 782-790.
Jacobsen, Peter L. 2003. Safety in Numbers: More Walkers and Bicyclists, Safer Walking and Bicycling. Injury Prevention 9 (3): 205-209.
Jacobsen, Peter L. and Harry Rutter. “Cycling Safety” City Cycling. Ed. John Pucher, Ed. Ralph Buehler. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2012. 141-156.
Kraemer, John D., Jason S. Roffenbender, and Laura Anderko. 2012. Helmet Wearing Among Users of a Public Bicycle-Sharing Program in the District of Columbia and Comparable Riders on Personal Bicycles. American Journal of Public Health 102 (8): e23-e25.
Robinson, Dorothy L. 1996. No Clear Evidence from Countries that Have Enforced the Wearing of Helmets. British Medical Journal 332 (7543): 722-725.
Photo by Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious on Flickr
Last month, we—and many others—expressed concerns about DDOT’s plans for the South Capitol Bridge after the agency released a video rendering of the project. In response to our concerns, the DDOT Anacostia Watershed Initiative team asked to meet to go over some of the details that were not included in the rendering and to hear our concerns. The team’s message was clear: Designs are still in the early stage and can be improved.
Last night, at a joint meeting of the Bicycle Advisory Council and Pedestrian Advisory Council (with Councilmember and Transportation Committee Chair Mary Cheh in attendance), DDOT’s bike/ped team and the project’s consultants, from CH2M Hill, presented and sought feedback on their lastest ideas, many of which have been developed or improved since WABA met with DDOT on this project in January.
Most notable, given the project’s scale, is the changed alignment of the bridge from the version included in the Final Environmental Impact Statement. That alignment was offset from the current bridge to allow space for the current bridge to open during construction in order to allow tall ships. But the lack of any actual tall ship traffic in recent years means there’s really no need for the bridge to open during construction. So the alignment currently under consideration is parallel to the existing bridge on the downstream side. While this alignment change has little impact on bicyclists on the bridge itself, it does allow for an altered configuration to existing roadways and changes connections, especially on the bridge’s eastern end.
Unfortunately, the connections at each end are similar to what we have seen before: They appear to provide space for monuments rather than to efficiently move urban traffic. There are still large ovals surrounded by more lanes than are probably necessary, even for the anticipated traffic volumes. However, the connections to the ovals have been reimagined, and DDOT has indicated that some sort of bicyclist and pedestrian facilities and connections will be included in the ovals.
We don’t believe that these ovals are the best options, but DDOT seems unwilling to undertake changes that would require a new EIS–especially given that the federal planning and aesthetic interests that pushed the ovals would be present in a repeat process. (The already-completed FEIS is not yet finalized, but should be soon.)
The DDOT team has made great strides with bike facilities and connectivity since our meeting in January. On the bridge, DDOT is planning 16-foot bike/ped pathways on both sides, with horizontal separation of markings or signage to show that one portion is primarily for pedestrians and one is primarily for bicyclists. There is not a change of elevation from the walking portion to the biking portion, allowing for flexible space to handle peak traffic of either bike or pedestrian during busy periods, like ballpark events or morning commutes.
Most importantly, that 16-foot bike/ped pathway will be present around the western oval, with eight feet marked for bicycle use. This commitment from DDOT to ensuring safe space for bicyclists to get around the oval is a significant step, and we look forward to seeing detailed designs and better understanding the signal interactions that will allow cyclists to safely reach either side of the bridge and all connections to the oval.And for those who would prefer to avoid the oval, the new configuration leaves a relatively easy connection along Half Street SW to the bridge.
We’re awaiting further clarification that the connections on the east side of the Anacostia will have similar upgrades, and we look forward to seeing these broad ideas for bicycle safety and access fully designed. In the meantime, we want to commend DDOT for progressing on issues of bicycle connectivity and design in a relatively short time. What we were shown last night, while not perfect, is far better for bicyclists.
See a PDF of the slideshow from last night’s meeting below:
After more than a year of working with our friends and partners at Black Women Bike DC to grow and diversify bicycling in the District, we are pleased to announce that WABA and BWBDC have formally joined forces. BWBDC is now formally a sponsored project of WABA. This move, unanimously approved by the leadership of both organizations, provides organizational support to enable the growth of BWBDC in support of its mission to “build community and interest in biking among black women through education, advocacy, and recreation.”
While WABA provides advocacy, outreach, and education programming to expand and enhance bicycling throughout the region, it also provides targeted outreach to groups underrepresented within the community of bicyclists. BWBDC ensures that those groups are not left behind as biking becomes an increasingly important way to improve regional mobility, public health, and sustainable transportation. And BWBDC is an excellent partner: It’s brought groups of riders together for its own events as well as existing regional biking events, has hosted classes and training, and raised the profile of bicycling among the black women who comprise its target audience and the District as a whole.
In characterizing the group’s rapid growth and impact to date, BWBDC co-founder Veronica O. Davis says, “In the one-and-a-half years we’ve existed, we’ve grown the organization from three founders to 730 members in our Facebook group, and we have women who are getting back on their bikes for the first time in decades. We’ve even been able to get women bike commuting to and from work, and running errands by bike all around D.C.”
Nichole Noel, of the BWB leadership team, says, “BWBDC’s partnership with WABA will enable us to create and develop programs that will make biking more accessible to black women throughout the D.C. metropolitan area, especially riders east of the river and in Prince George’s County. This partnership will help turn the BWBDC vision–that black women of all ages ride their bikes for fun, health, wellness, and transportation–into reality.”