Introducing Toole Design Group, a WABA Business Member

We’ve recently introduced you to our business membership programWe debuted the program in 2012 and are steadily signing up new business members in 2014. As part of the program, we’d like to introduce you to some of our business members. Today, meet Toole Design Group

Jennifer Toole founded Toole Design Group in 2003 with a mission to create dynamic communities where walking, biking and transit use is possible for people of all ages and abilities. Toole Design Group maintains a unique blend of local, state and national expertise – ranging from designing sidewalks and trails to preparing national policy and best practice guidance. Some of the firm’s first projects included Washington, DC’s transformative Bicycle Master Plan, and the subsequent design and construction of an extensive bicycle network in the Nation’s Capital.

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Pennsylvania Ave Cycletrack

The company believes that walking and bicycling are fundamental forms of transportation that should be available to everyone. Toole Design Group has offices all over the country, but started right here in Maryland. Many local Toole employees are already WABA Members. When Toole Design Group joined as a WABA Business Member they even challenged other design firms to support us through Business Membership as well. We are proud to call Toole Design a WABA Business Member!

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.

City Cycling is a hit in Alexandria

Last Saturday, we kicked off the fall education season with our first City Cycling class of the season. We met Saturday morning in Jones Point Park, where the Mount Vernon Trail crosses under the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. After discussing the basics of helmet use and fit, and helping students get to know their bikes a bit better, our instructors set up a series of skill-building exercises.

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Instructor Allyson Brown gives students the lowdown on brakes.

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Instructor Sam Mazur showing off a Capital Bikeshare bike.

We believe confidence comes from controlling your bike in everyday situations, so we start with the basics and students progress from there. The exercises gradually get more complex and we try to mimic the situations and challenges riders may encounter on the roads and trails, all in safe and controlled space.

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Students navigating the course during exercises.

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A pair of students gets a feel for braking from behind the saddle.

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Instructor Allyson Brown demonstrating an avoidance weave.

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A student successfully pulling off the instant turn.

After a short break, everyone gets ready for a ride. Half the group took advantage of the Mount Vernon trail to practice safe passing, trail etiquette and communication skills before venturing out into a quiet neighborhood nearby. The other half explored Old Town Alexandria’s bike routes, rode alongside drivers, and even practiced taking control of the travel lane.

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Instructor Brenda Ruby leads the group on the Mount Vernon trail.

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You can never be too courteous when passing pedestrians on trails.

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Taking the lane on Cameron St. in Old Town Alexandria.

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Instructor Sam Mazur makes sure no riders get left behind.

When the riders returned, they were full of smiles and ready to turn around and get back out there! They left with new skills, more confidence, and a wealth of new information, helpful tips, maps, and guides. We know they’ll be out there riding well and helping other cyclists.

If you haven’t taken a City Cycling class yet, now’s the time! You can check out our upcoming fall schedule here. All classes cost $10 to reserve a space, or you can walk-up to any class for free. Riding a bike in the city is for everybody, come on out and get started!

DDOT’s Safe Accommodation Rules Are Pretty Good.

Construction blocking the M St Cycletrack

We’ll see less of this sort of thing in the future.
(photo by @mstbiketrack)

Last week, DDOT released its draft regulations for construction projects that block sidewalks and bike infrastructure. The regulations require:

“A safe and convenient route for pedestrians and bicyclists that ensures an accommodation through or around a work zone that is equal to the accommodation that was provided to pedestrians and bicyclists before the blockage of the sidewalk, bicycle lane, or other public bicycle path.”

These new rules are required by the Bicycle Safety Amendment Act of 2013, which WABA worked hard to pass.  By and large, they’re quite good.

You can read WABA’s official comments on the rules here, many of which are small but important wording changes, but here’s a short version:

Minimum Design Standards. The rules that apply to blocking car lanes have objective standards for things like lane width. As written, bicycle accommodation is only required to be “equal in level of safety” to the affected bicycle facility. We would like to see explicit, objective standards provided here.

More clarity about how the rules apply to trails.  Trails are technically included in the regulations as a “Public Bicycle Path,” but safely accommodating a blocked bike trail presents different challenges than a blocked bike lane. We’d like to see the language amended to state:

“The method for providing the safe trail accommodation for bicyclists shall require construction of a detour of similar width and character adjacent to the impacted trail, or as a last resort, detouring bicyclists onto the nearest roadway, in which case the detour shall replicate, as closely as practicable, the level of safety found on the bicycle route being blocked.”

Ongoing Maintenance: As written, the rules don’t explicitly require the construction company or whoever is blocking the bike infrastructure to maintain the temporary facility once it is built. We would like to see this requirement made explicit.

If you would like to add your own comments on these rules, you can do so here.

 

Five Reasons To Join the Treasure Hunt

On August 30, our Trail Ranger crew is bringing a treasure hunt to the shores of the Anacostia River. If you’re not swayed by promises of a lighthearted team competition wrapped in a bike adventure with cheeky pirate themes, here are the top five reasons to weigh anchor and pedal down to Diamond Teague Park next weekend.

5. There’s Real Treasure in DC’s Backyard!

OK, so truth be told, you won’t see any rubies or gold pieces, but you may be surprised by what your team digs up.  DC has no shortage of sweeping views, so you can expect plenty of those.  But just as exciting are the places where the trees take over and the city fades away.  Come find your new favorite hideaway.

4. The Anacostia Riverwalk Trail is Amazing!

RiverWalk Ride

The eight mile loop is a pleasure to ride.  With sweeping bridges, easy connections to nearby streets and thriving wildlife, the trail is an attraction all on its own.  And it is only getting better!  Construction is underway on a 4.5 mile connection to Maryland’s Anacostia Tributary Trails, so expect a significant bump in trail users by Spring of 2016.  Quit waiting.

3. There are Boats of All Sizes

We hope not to see any naval battles, but there sure are a ton of ships to board like the Navy’s display ship Barry

Display Ship Barry
or this one

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2. Kids will have blast too!

Our younger, bike savvy explorers can expect a shorter, more directed route mapped out on a treasure map of their own.  Along the way, they’ll find some great views, shoeline riding, and a few surprises.

1. Treasure Maps, Clues, Exploration, Bikes and Prizes!

Bike rides with friends are fun.  Bike rides with friends with treasure maps and riddles are better.  Add costumes, prizes, a little bit of bushwhacking and prizes and you’ve got a real adventure!  Come join in the fun.

Weigh Anchor and Sign Up!

Chipotle sponsors WABA for another year!

Our riders love @chipotle! Thanks for the burritos!

WABA is very happy to announce that Chipotle is our primary food sponsor in 2014! We’re extremely grateful to Chipotle for providing catering services and financial support for so many of our events throughout the year, including BikeFest and the 50 States Ride.

Marvin Gaye Trail Cleanup 7/14

And it’s not just the large-scale events! Chipotle liked the idea of  our Women and Bike meetups so much that they provided food for those too.
Thank You Chipotle!

Thank you Chipotle!

What’s a Bike Ambassador, and Should You Be One?

A Bike Ambassador helps pull a trailer down in SE DC

A Bike Ambassador helps pull a trailer down in SE DC

The Bike Ambassadors are a group of volunteers who ride around the city in bright red shirts and serve as a bicycling resource for the community. We tow around that bright green trailer emblazoned with helpful reminders, table at events to promote responsible cycling in the city, and spread positive messages about bicycling out on the city’s roads and trails.  Outreach is fun on its own, but we also get together for social gatherings from happy hours to coffee clubs and even book clubs.

Count me in!

If you want to make DC bicycling happier (and you like bright red t-shirts),  join the Bike Ambassador team!

The next orientation is tomorrow evening from 6:00-7:30 pm. No experience required! All you need is a love for biking.

Visiting the Anacostia River Walk during a recently sunny day in SE DC.

Visiting the Anacostia River Walk during a recently sunny day in SE DC.

Bike Ambassador social bike ride to Union Market.

Bike Ambassador social bike ride to Union Market.

Bike Ambassadors flag down an ice cream truck after a long ride.

Bike Ambassadors flag down an ice cream truck after a long ride.

Bike Ambassadors tackle the Pennsylvania Ave. Cycletrack.

Bike Ambassadors tackle the Pennsylvania Ave. Cycletrack.

An evening enjoying food from Indigo on K St. NE and discussing the book Triumph of the City.

An evening enjoying food from Indigo on K St. NE and discussing the book Triumph of the City.

Bike organization to watch: iCan Bike

In July I ventured to Arlington to see the iCan Bike camp, a program of iCan Shine, Inc., designed to teach students with disabilities a skill that Executive Director Lisa Ruby believes they’ll use for life: how to ride a two-wheeled bike.

In a gym, among volunteers running along students as they pedaled, Ruby told me a bit about the program.

Ruby’s team works with a total of 3,000 students with disabilities nationally. Camp participants are aged eight and up, and although 42 percent of them are on the autism spectrum and 26 percent have downs syndrome, the rest come with a wide range of disabilities.

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The camp uses adaptive bikes developed by University of Illinois mechanical engineer Richard Klein, who designed a set of rollers that attach to adapted bikes, facilitating balance while students gain confidence with pedaling and steering. As students progress, volunteers and site facilitators switch out the rollers for narrower and narrower versions, until the students are balancing on a roller the same width of a bike tire.

Klein's rollers, in order of decreasing size.

Klein’s rollers, in order of decreasing size.

Though iCan Shine’s bike camps are finished for the summer, volunteers are needed for next spring and summer’s programs. Want to get involved? Email Lisa Ruby at lisa@icanshine.org.

Ruby answered a few of my questions, below.

WABA: What happens after the students start balancing on two wheels in the gym?

Lisa Ruby: At that point we like to transition them to [biking outside], because there are more distractions and things going on — cars and wind blowing and birds singing and all of that stuff, and that’s where they’re going to be, so making that transition in a safe way is important.

WABA: Can you talk about what the kids who go through this program get out of it?

LR: For this population that we serve, if they’re not riding a bike, then their family is usually not riding a bike, because they can’t all go together. Somebody has to stay home, so [our program] really gets everybody active.

Especially for a child with a disability who has younger siblings who are riding bikes and they’re not, it blows their self-esteem. It’s just crushing. So when [our kids] learn to ride a bike and they can be just like everybody else, it changes everything for them. It’s not just, “I can ride a bike now.” It’s, “I can do anything I want to do.” It makes them so self-confident.

You know how it feels to ride a bike. It’s awesome – it’s just like, “I’m free, and I’m doing this. It’s me and only me.” And that’s awesome for someone with a disability.

WABA: There’s no maximum age limit on the program, right? What brings the older students to class?

LR: A lot of our teens and young adults come because they want independent transportation. They can’t get a driver’s license, but they want wheels, right? They have a job; they want to be able to get there and go see their friends and get around, and that’s important.

Also, a lot of our parents recognize when their children are young that they won’t be able to drive a car. So they know the value of learning to ride a bike early.

Founder and Executive Director Lisa Ruby stands with one of the bikes used for programming.

Founder and Executive Director Lisa Ruby stands with one of the bikes used for programming.

WABA: How did you get into this field?

LR: Very interesting. I spent years in corporate America, and I owned a business in Seattle for six years, and it allowed me to take some time off and volunteer. I was volunteering at a transitional school for homeless children, and I had this epiphany that I needed to be working for and with children and no one should be excluded.

I thought that meant United Nations, or Save the Children, and all those types of organizations were in Boston, New York City, or Washington, DC. I decided DC was going to be it for whatever reason, and my first week here I went to a neighborhood recreation center  looking for a place to work out. There was a big sign that said if you volunteer for adaptive aquatics you get to use the facility for free. So I did, and I was assigned a three year old boy with autism who had so many sensory issues he couldn’t even focus on me.  After working with him I was hooked — I did swimming, I did adaptive gymnastics, I worked for Fairfax County Parks and Rec for a while, and then I found this.

WABA: Why was starting a bike program more appealing than focusing on other sports?

LR: I had never seen anything, any sort of program where in less than six and a half hours somebody can learn a lifetime skill. Never even imagined something like this existed. So I quit my job and we started a non-profit and built the infrastructure, and now I have 28 staff in the summer and 82 camps, and we’re all across North America.

WABA: If I want to help out at iCan Shine, what can I do? 

LR: This is a good volunteering opportunity. We do have local camps for next summer — four in Maryland and three in Virginia DC area, and a spring break camp as well.  I think awareness is huge, just to let people know about it and get involved and help out.

 

 

 

Connect the 7th NW St Bike Lanes

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This guest post is written by Lauren Hayes, a WABA Member from Washington, DC. Have an advocacy issue you’d like to write about for our blog? Contact us at advocacy@waba.org.

One of my favorite parts of the day is my commute. Like many DC residents I save money, stay fit, and see the beauty of DC by riding my bike to work.

After years of riding in DC, I love seeing bike lanes expand across the city. As the bike network grows, though, the places where the connectivity fails begin to stand out. If you ride daily like me, then you can probably think of a few such spots. For me, it’s the bike lanes on 7th Street NW.

If you ride on 7th st NW (perhaps en route to Dacha for an outdoor beer or to the bike shop) then you are familiar with this odd stretch of lanes. The bike lanes start at Florida Ave and extend south to N St NW. At N St, despite no obvious change in the width of the road, the bike lanes end. Cyclists have to mix into car traffic to continue south.

Sign the Petition to Extend the 7th St. Bike Lanes

This gap in bike lane connectivity, just as 7th street intersects with two major diagonal streets (Massachusetts and New York) at Mt Vernon Square, makes for a nerve-wracking five blocks. And then, despite the ostensible bike/bus lane south of I St , the ride through Chinatown can feel pretty hairy too—that section is of often congested with out-of-towners and traffic between the National Mall, the Verizon Center and 395. Fortunately for me, at this point I arrive at work and can safely tuck my bike away until the evening commute back along this challenging route.

The frustrating part is that 7th Street (and many others around the city) should have bike lanes by now. According to the 2005 DC Bicycle Master Plan, these bike lanes lanes were supposed to be built between 2010 and 2015. We’ve got 4 months left until 2015 and there’s no sign of a  bike lane.

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) should prioritize filling the gap on the 7th St bike lanes from N Street NW to Mount Vernon Square immediately. Currently, there are two northbound lanes and only one southbound. To install the lanes, DDOT will need to remove extra northbound lane and re-purpose the space. This project would not effect on-street parking.

Because of  growing pressure regionally to maintain car capacity, DDOT has slowed the pace of bike projects that re-purpose travel lanes.  DDOT planners are forced to jump over additional bureaucratic hurdles to move lane/road diet projects forward. Meanwhile, as excess car capacity is protected, local residents lose the ability to bike short trips on dedicated bike infrastructure.

After addressing this immediate gap, DDOT must address the dysfunctional bus/bike lanes in Chinatown. As currently configured, they do not work. Drivers use the lanes with impunity, causing bus delays leaving no dedicated space for people riding bikes.

You can get involved to help extend our bike lanes by signing the petition requesting DDOT to address the gap in the 7th Street bike lanes. Please share the link to the petition with your friends, co-workers and other fellow bike commuters. If you live in ANC 6E, please speak with your ANC Commissioner and express your support for extending the bike lanes.

Thank you for your help. I look forward to seeing you during the daily commute!

Sign the Petition to Extend the 7th St. Bike Lanes

Don’t Let MCDoT Eliminate Part of the Capital Crescent Trail


Updated 4:15pm.
We received the following email from Bruce Johnston at MCDOT informing us that the agency has suspended its request to MTA:

Good afternoon Shane,

As directed by Director Holmes, MCDOT staff has contacted MTA to suspend the previous orders to MTA to make changes to the Capital Crescent Trail configuration at Jones Mill Road.

Subsequent to the aforementioned order, additional engineering information has been provided to our staff, which is currently being reviewed by MCDOT engineers.

After our evaluation is complete, and before any further decision is made, the results of our evaluation will be vetted with the Capital Crescent Trail stakeholders, including the bicycling community.

Be assured that Washington Area Bicyclist Association will be involved.

I hope this information is helpful.

Bruce Johnston

 

Thank you to everyone who contacted the County Executive, T&E Committee, and MCDOT about this matter. And thank you to Bruce, Director Holmes, and MCDOT for reconsidering this decision.  We look forward to continuing to push for a safe, well-designed Capital Crescent Trail with grade separated crossings, as promised.


 

Original action alert below

After years of public input and agreement on the design for the future Capital Crescent trail, the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) just moved unilaterally to eliminate the long-promised grade-separated crossing of busy Jones Mill Rd.

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The grade separation makes the trail safer, and safety is vital to ensuring this heavily travelled trail remains a viable transportation option. Through thousands of hours of meetings on the future of the Capital Crescent Trail, County officials have promised safe crossings of major roadways that don’t leave bicyclists competing with cars or pressing “Walk” buttons and waiting for minutes.

But the County’s own transportation officials just sent a letter to the Maryland Transit Agency (MTA), requesting that the separation be removed from the request for proposals (RFP). Despite years of working together on this project, MCDOT did not notify the public. They did not hold a meeting. They did not mention this at a Council hearing. They did not send a note to representatives of the bicycling community. It is unclear whether they even communicated their intentions to the County Executive.

Frankly, they tried to sneak this past without any of us noticing.

We noticed. We noticed that at the first opportunity to save money by sacrificing trail safety, they attempted to do so in a manner that evades public scrutiny and reneges on years of promises.

We need you to take action today to tell the County Executive that we will not stand for such a downgrade to our prized trail, or for such misleading actions from our local transportation officials.

Our hope is that the County Executive’s office was as misled as we were, and that they will immediately, clearly, and unambiguously tell MTA that the County is NOT seeking an amendment to the Purple Line RFP to eliminate the grade-separated crossing at Jones Mill Road.

With years of work still ahead to complete the trail as promised, we cannot stand for a precedent of closed-door decisions that remove, or compromise, long-promised trail improvements.

For an in-depth engineering perspective on why a grade separated crossing is both doable and the best option. check out this post at Silver Spring Trails

For WABA’s position on the Purple Line project, have a look at this post.

200 Bikes Repaired at Anacostia Library: Thanks DCPL, The Bike House

It’s been a busy summer, but on the final Saturday of July the Anacostia Library hosted the final mobile bike repair clinic of the season, and we’re pleased to report over fifty bikes were repaired. That brings our season total to over 200  bikes repaired through this season’s partnership among DCPL, The Bike House, and WABA.

It has been a great season of outreach and wrenching, and we want to again express our appreciation to The Bike House for providing mechanical support and DCPL for hosting and assisting with the cost of supplies.

Throughout the season we were also joined by representatives of Capitol Hill Bikes, the Metropolitan Police Department, and numerous community groups.  We appreciate the support of the community as we try to provide programming of this sort to encourage ridership in a part of the city lacking easy access to local bike shops and the supplies and expertise we rely on to keep rolling.

Thanks to everyone who came out this season to volunteer, wrench, flyer, celebrate, and have your bike repaired.

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