A chance to improve trail rules in Maryland

crossing bridge on Tributary Trail by Leah Jones copy

The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) is updating its Park Rules and Regulations. This is good, and there are some good changes being proposed.

We need your help making sure the rules are updated to match the way people actually use the vast trail network that these rules govern. Specifically, we need to ensure that the update recognizes that these trails are an important part of our region’s transportation network.

You can read the whole discussion draft, and a set of policy alternatives, On the M-NCPPC website, but here are the pertinent changes that need your support:

Policy Alternative 3: Open all paved surface trails to transient bicycle traffic 24/7 and clarify that bicycles are permitted on Parkways 24/7.

Why we support it: Currently most Maryland park trails close at dark, which means that using them for commuting to a 9-5 job is technically not allowed during fall and winter.

At a commission meeting on Thursday, a compromise was proposed that would close trails from midnight to 5am. While this is an improvement, we don’t think it goes far enough for a couple of reasons:

  • Equity: curtailing hours like this excludes people working nights and early mornings—nurses, restaurant staff, folks in the construction and service industries—from a safe and convenient part of the transportation network. Trails are often the safest option for traveling by bike in Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties and, like roads, they should be available at all times.
  • Metro: WMATA has proposed permanently ending late night service. If trail access is curtailed after midnight, Without Metro or trail access, driving becomes the only transportation option between midnight and 5am. This puts more sleepy drivers on the road and restricts employment opportunities for folks who can’t afford a car..

Policy Alternative 4: Eliminate the across-the-board absolute speed limit for bicycling on Park Property.

Why we support it: Bicyclists are already required to ride at a speed that is reasonable and prudent for existing conditions or in some cases a posted speed limit. Since bicycles are rarely equipped with speedometers (and not required to be), imposing additional limits is not likely to deter reckless bicycling.

Policy Alternative 6: Allow electric bicycles, as defined in the Maryland Transportation Article, to be regulated on Park Property in the same way as traditional bicycles.

Why we support it: This change updates the rules to allow electric-assist bikes, which are an important part of making transportational bicycling and family biking an option for more people.

Click here to send an email to the commission supporting these changes. Public comments are due by August 1st.

This is where things get a little complicated.

Policy Alternative 5 [which appears to be mistakenly listed as the first of two #6’s in the document]: attempts to clarify the obligations of bicycle riders to yield at trail intersections and implement signage and other traffic control devices.

This rule is a mess, and to be honest, we don’t have a good solution for the problem that fits within the scope of these rules revisions.

Here’s what should happen:

Unless an intersection has traffic lights or an all way stop, drivers should yield to trail users.

As a matter of policy, it is better to require the driver to yield to the vulnerable trail user. Drivers should be incentivized to drive safely, non-aggressively, and to be on the lookout for trail users at all crossings. The expectation that drivers must yield is key to creating a safety culture on the road, and key to embracing the fact that no loss of life on trails or roads is acceptable.

As written, the rule states the basically the opposite:

“Bicyclists must yield to all vehicular traffic if the intersection is not controlled by a sign or signal.

This is bad for a number of reasons: it promotes a driver-first culture, legalizes victim-blaming, and minimizes driver responsibility to follow the law and exercise due care. In a contributory negligence jurisdiction like Maryland, it can also can be a huge setback for vulnerable trail users harmed at intersections.

It would be convenient if this rule were just wrong and could be reversed, but it’s not that simple. M-NCPPC has control over its trails, but often it does not have control over the roads they are crossing. This means that even if the rule were changed, M-NCPPC would not be able to compel the Maryland State Highway Administration or other agencies to design or build trail intersections that made it safe for bicyclists to exercise their right-of-way, even if they had it.

Compounding that, Maryland law, unlike Virginia and DC, is also vague about whether drivers are compelled to yield to people on bikes who are in crosswalks. The law needs to be clarified at the state level to include all vulnerable road and trail users.

Our email action to the commission states states that we oppose this rule, but understand that fixing it depends on larger statewide changes to law and transportation policy that are outside the scope of this rulemaking.

Click here to send an email to MNCPPC to make sure that trails stay open when people need them, that parents can haul their kids to school on them, and that no one gets ticketed for riding their bicycle at a reasonable speed.

This Saturday, Sell, Buy, or Swap Your Thing-a-ma-gigs!

To celebrate the opening of their DC Flagship, REI is leading 100 days of recess and and donating $100,000 (!) to five local non-profits. Your votes determine the donations! By attending their summer events, you’re voting where the benefit dollars go. Click here for more information.


Thingamajig Image
Date: Saturday, July 30th, 2016
Time: 12:00 PM – 5:00 PM
Location:REI’s Community Space at WunderGarten: First and L St NE, DC
Registration: $7 for REI members, $10 for non-members (hurry, space limited!)

Let’s listen to live bluegrass and deal, swap and sell our favorite well-worn gear. A portion of each ticket supports a local outdoor nonprofit. The Lineup: 12PM: By and By, 1:45PM The Bumper Jacksons, 3:30PM Johnny Grave.

The deets: $7 gets you in the door ($2 from each attendee going to support The Mid-Atlantic Climbers, a local outdoor nonprofit protecting local climbing areas). The first 50 people in the door with used gear to sell get a ticket for a free beer.

Table space will be provided for people to merchandise their wares. REI will also be selling top-quality used gear. All sales are person to person. Bring cash to buy/sell gear. Restrictions: No guns, knives, hatchets, or anything that could be construed as a weapon. No motors -human powered transport items only. No rock climbing equipment. Please tag your items for sale with a price ahead of time.REI reserves the right to review and refuse items for sale. Let us know if you have questions at dc-os@rei.com.


Images courtesy of REI.

You Know What Was Cool? Bike To The Pool!

On a Saturday afternoon a couple weekends back, we went for a bike ride in DC’s Ward 7. But it wasn’t just a normal bike ride — it involved splashing, swimming, and a few games of Marco Polo! We rode along the Marvin Gaye Trail and stopped off at the Watts Branch Playground Splash Park, then headed over to the Deanwood Recreation Center Pool (which has an AWESOME slide). Here are some pictures from the day:

Maybe you want to give it a try this weekend? Well, here’s a map of places to swim and splash in DC:

Connect all the dots!

Delays on the Red Line? We got you.

safetrack homepage no dots LOL

SafeTrack is coming to Montgomery County and WABA and MCDOT want you to consider biking! Come ride with us and discover safe, fun routes for getting around the Red Line disruptions. You’ll learn the route to ride during the week as well as tips and tricks from our bike experts.

Sunday, July 31st – Ride from Glenmont to West Hyattsville!

Saturday, August 6th – Ride from Shady Grove to Twinbrook!

Both rides begin at 10:00 AM and are FREE for walk-up participants, or you can reserve a spot for $10 at the links above.

These rides are open to all ages, but riders under 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Participants must provide their own bikes & helmets. Helmets are required.

We have lots more details on our Safetrack Resources page.

Introducing Recess Outings, a WABA Business Member!

WABA’s Business Members understand the importance of a community that bicycles. Their membership supports our advocacy, outreach and education. Our business members are committed to a sustainable future of our region and are adding their voice to a growing number of bicycle-friendly businesses supporting WABA. Today meet Recess Outings.

Recess Outings is a family-friendly bicycle outing company created for adults who want to bring their young children for a ride.

Founder Kate Gallery has been biking with her two-year-old daughter for a little over a year. As an avid rider she sorely missed biking towards the end of her pregnancy, and during those first months adjusting to life with a newborn she was eager to get started and share her love for spending time outdoors on a bike with the new addition to the family. Biking together quickly proved to be as fun as hoped, and Kate started Recess Outings that summer when her daughter was one year old.

Recess Outings has a small fleet of bikes with attachable child seats available so parents and young children can simply sign up and join them for a D.C. ride. Helmets, equipment, snacks and logistics are taken care of so they don’t have to worry about any details beyond getting out the door. As a local, neighborhood business owner, Kate loves D.C. and scouts routes endlessly to make riding through the city as smooth as possible, taking advantage of the city’s safe and convenient infrastructure and beautiful trails.

Current ride offerings focus on recreationally exploring DC with rides like “Rollin’ on the River” on the Anacostia and “To Market, to Market” from Eastern to Union Market and back, and getting parents comfortable biking with toddlers with their “Precious Cargo” rides. Recess Outings is also excited to announce the “That’s My Girl!” ride series for tough little girls and the grownups who support them. These monthly rides will explore DC and pedal past several monuments and landmarks devoted to inspirational women.

Learn more about Recess outings and the fantastic rides they offer at recessoutings.com.


Do you own, work for, or patronize a business that is a good candidate for our business membership? For just $300 or $800 per year, you can show your support for a bike-friendly region and WABA’s advocacy and get all sorts of perks, including your very own blog post! Details here.

Matthew Henson Trail Crossing at Viers Mill Road is Still Deadly

On Sunday July 17th, Oscar Mauricio Gutierrez Osorio, 31 of Silver Spring, was killed crossing Viers Mill Road in Silver Spring where the Matthew Henson Trail crosses a high speed Maryland State Highway, according to the Washington Post. The exact details of the deadly crash involving Mr. Osorio are not public, but the trail crossing is a known safety hazard. This is the same location where Frank Towers, 19 was killed in December 2016,  just days after receiving a new bike for Christmas.

Trail users must cross 7 lanes of traffic where drivers regularly exceed the 45 mph speed limit. For reference, a person walking or biking struck by a driver at 40 mph or greater has an 80 percent chance of dying. At this trail location, there is no traffic light requiring drivers to stop for people walking and biking across the road. Compounding the problem, the trail crosses Viers Mill Road at the bottom of a hill with poor sight lines.

After the death of Frank Towers, the Maryland State Highway Administration “improved” the trail crossing with overhead flashing yellow lights which must be activated by trail users. The crosswalk beg button provides visual and audio cues that the yellow lights are active which was a deficiency of the previous design. This was a flawed approach from the beginning, as yellow lights only require drivers to exercise caution, but not to stop. Any design that requires less than a full stop will continue to cause safety issues. WABA pleaded with engineers to design and constructed a traffic light or HAWK signal which would require drivers to come to a full stop. The request was denied, now with deadly consequences.

Montgomery County is committed to Vision Zero. This is the principle that we must design our streets so that no person (bicyclist, pedestrian or driver) will be killed while using them. This requires that policy makers and traffic engineers be ultimately accountable for design decisions made in our transportation system. People make mistakes when they use our streets, but streets should be designed to be so safe that those mistakes aren’t deadly.

Following Sunday’s crash, WABA reached out to local and state elected representatives, and transportation officials requesting action. On Thursday, July 21st, the entire Montgomery County Council sent a letter to Maryland Governor Hogan, Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn and Maryland State Highway Administrator Greg Johnson requesting immediate prioritization of trail crossing improvements. The letter calls out the current dangerous conditions and the need for immediate action.

Fixing the Matthew Henson Trail crossing at Viers Mill Road is just the beginning. This needs to happen now to prevent future injuries and death at this location. But there are dozens of other trail crossings in the Montgomery and Prince George’s County that need attention too. We need the leadership of the Maryland State Highway Administration to work with localities to protect vulnerable road users by focusing on critical street and trail crossings. This means prioritizing the life and safety of people walking and biking over the convenience of people driving.

No one should die walking or biking across the street.

July 29th, 2016 Update: The delegation from Maryland’s 19th District sent a letter to Maryland State Highway Administrator Greg Johnson requesting immediate corrective action at the Matthew Henson Trail crossing of Veirs Mill Road.  A special thank you Senator Manno (D-19th) for organizing this action on this important community safety issue.

That’s a wrap for the 2016 Bike Camp!

Bike Camp 2016

Bike Camp! 2016 wrapped up last week. Over the 10 days of the City Explorers program, we rode about 120 miles, visited sites in all four quadrants of the city (and beyond!). Our team of students developed a better understanding of D.C. geography and history, and learned how to navigate the city, taking advantage of protected bike infrastructure like on 15th St NW, trails like the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail, and to identify lower stress streets and when to use the sidewalk to arrive safely at where we were going.

We took tours of the Kennedy Center, Frederick Douglass’s House, RFK Stadium, the National Zoo and more. We had lunch under the airplanes at Gravelly Point, on a boat on the Anacostia and under the tree canopy at the National Arboretum.  We rode here and there, nearly melted in the heat, and ran through more than one sprinkler.

We had so much fun and can’t wait for Bike Camp! 2017.  There may be changes for 2017, with the potential for a younger camp and an older camp. To get Bike Camp! Updates sent directly to you, sign up at the

Want to get updates about Bike Camp 2017? Yes!

Bike Camp 2016 climbing Einstein

Bike Camp 2016 at the Einstein Statue

Bike Camp 2016 Anacostia

Bike Camp 2016 looking at the  Anacostia River

Bike Camp 2016 R St

Bike Camp 2016 R St

Bike Camp 2016 Gravelly Point

Bike Camp 2016 at Gravelly Point

See you next year!