Vote for WABA in REI’s #UnitedOutside Campaign

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To celebrate the opening of their DC Flagship, REI is leading 100 days of recess and and donating $100,000 (!) to local non-profits. Your votes determine the donations!

Join an event, collect your token, and #VoteForWABA at Storey Park. Fill your calendar at unitedoutside.com

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Yep, spend the morning stand-up paddleboarding, your night learning about backpacking, take your kids out for a ride, or just hang out and talk about bikes. You have literally 100 events to choose from, and most are free. Worth noting, on July 16th and 17th everything is free.

WABA is honored to share the ballot and the beneficiary dollars with the C&O Canal Trust, Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, The Anacostia Watershed Society, and The Outdoor Foundation. It’s up to you where the dollars go.

How to #VoteForWABA

Step 1. Fill your calendar with events (RSVP where necessary)

Step 2. Go have a blast at events

Step 3. Collect your vote tokens at events

Step 4. Keep your vote tokens in a safe place

Step 5. Take your vote tokens to REI’s Wundergarten Storey Park and #VoteForWABA

REI’s investing in work on the ground, and we’re grateful to partner with them to build opportunities in the outdoors into our everyday routines. Like their CEO says, “The more we study the relationship between health and the outdoors, the more we’re convinced that this country needs to stop looking at time outside as optional.”

 

DDOT Proposes Some Improvements to the East-West Bike Network.

If you've ever biked on this corridor, you know that improvements are sorely needed.

If you’ve ever biked on this corridor, you how terrible it is.

What’s the issue here?

Getting from Columbia Heights to Brookland is a frustrating experience on a bike. It’s not a whole lot better on a bus, and really not great in a car either.

Starting on the west side of the study area, bikes, buses, commuter shuttles and drivers all share pothole-ridden one way streets with inconsistent parking and intermittent lane markings.

As you move eastward, these high traffic residential streets abruptly spaghetti themselves into a six lane divided highway on the north side of the Washington Hospital Center and four lane arterial on the south side. If you’re on a bike, you’re left to ride on a narrow sidewalk “bike route” or hope that drivers observe the 35mph speed limit on a road that feels like an interstate.

East of North Capitol Street, the north and south routes converge into Michigan Avenue as a six lane arterial road with no dedicated space for people on bikes.

Brookland has several blocks of standard bike lanes on Monroe Street, but after 12th St NE, it dwindles to a few “Bike Route” signs.

Fixing the problem:

At present DDOT Has two concepts for this project. You can read about them here, and they are fairly well summarized in these maps:

If you've ever biked on this corridor, you know that improvements are sorely needed.

Build Concept 1.

 

If you've ever biked on this corridor, you know that improvements are sorely needed.

Build Concept 2.

You can also read through the full project documents at the project website: dccrosstownstudy.com.

WABA applauds DDOT for tackling this long needed project. All of the options presented are an improvement over the functional absence of any bike facilities along most of the study corridor.

Understanding that this is complex corridor, and that DDOT is attempting to balance the needs of many kinds of road users, WABA has the following concerns with the concepts presented:

Defining shared use paths.

Several portions of the proposed bike network in the Central and Eastern sections of the corridor are designated as shared use paths, but project documents do not offer a clear definition of the term. WABA supports shared use paths that conform to modern trail design specifications. Trails must be at minimum 10 feet wide and clear of obstructions, with curvature, sight lines, and stopping distances designed with a bicycle in mind. These paths should be lit at night, set back from the roadway, maintained, and feature raised crosswalks, appropriate signage and signalization at intersections to communicate an expectation of frequent bicycle traffic to drivers. Widened sidewalks are not bike infrastructure.

When designing off street bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, we also urge DDOT to consider the dramatic increases in pedestrian traffic that will accompany planned development in the corridor.

Bike network gaps at the western end of the study area.

Since this planning study will guide a decade of future transportation projects, it should aspire to completely solve major connectivity issues throughout the project area. If either Concept were implemented today, the bicycle network would still have major gaps at the western end.

In Concept 1, the protected bike lane ends at 14th Street NW with no connection planned to bike lanes on Columbia Road or Mount Pleasant Street. While Concept 2 connects to 16th Street for eastbound bicyclists, it still leaves westbound bicycle traffic stranded at 14th Street. Without a seamless, low-stress route between Columbia Road and the center section’s bike elements, many bicyclists will choose the most direct route or not bike at all.

Removing parking on Park Rd NW would enable the Kenyon St protected bike lane to continue to a low stress connection through Mount Pleasant.

Ending the Crosstown bike corridor at 14th creates additional risk because, despite the paint on the ground, the street does not have bike lanes, it has double parking lanes, taxi standing lanes, and truck loading zones that are occasionally passable by bicycle. This problem is not a matter of enforcement, but one of design. Without infrastructure improvements that carve out exclusive space for bicyclists, 14th Street NW in Columbia Heights will remain a gap in the bike network, and east-west bike facilities should not rely on it.

Maintaining or improving existing North-South infrastructure on Warder St and Park Pl when the street grid is reconfigured.

Concept 1 calls for reopening Park Pl NW between Harvard and Kenyon to two way traffic. Both concepts call for reconfiguring one way traffic in the blocks between Warder Street NW and the Washington Hospital Center. In this reconfiguration, it is critical that the existing bike lanes on Park and Warder are maintained or improved. Sharrows are not an acceptable replacement.

Michigan Ave needs bike infrastructure around the Washington Hospital Center.

While we are pleased to see bike infrastructure improvements on Irving St on the north side  of the Washington Hospital Center, without corresponding infrastructure on Michigan Ave on the southern side of the complex, the neighborhoods of Bloomingdale and Stronghold remain entirely cut off from the Crosstown bike corridor. Designating shared bus / bike lanes does not serve most bicyclists. Separate spaces must be made for bicyclists on Michigan Ave through this section.

Shared use paths along Irving create conflicts with cloverleaf ramps.

In addition to our concerns above about width, the shared use paths along Irving between Park Pl NW and Michigan Ave NE create problems where they cross the highway-style ramps that connect Irving St to North Capitol St. Despite existing signs alerting drivers to the crossing, most fail to yield. And, due to the extreme approach angle, it is difficult for a bicyclist to maneuver and check that no vehicles are approaching simultaneously.

While long term plans suggest closing and reconfiguring these ramps, in the short term, we recommend raised crosswalks, rumble strips and stop signs for drivers at shared-use path crossings. The onus should be on drivers to stop for trail traffic, not the other way around, and design should facilitate compliance.

Design considerations for center running protected bike lanes on Irving.

We have two concerns with the center running protected bike lane on Irving St between Park Pl and Michigan Ave NE.

First, intersections at Irving and Kenyon St (in Concept 2) on the west end, and Irving and Michigan Ave (in both Concepts) on the east, will need to be configured to provide safe access to the bike lanes. Requiring bicyclists to merge into the left travel lane to enter the protected bike lane is not a low-stress option.

Second, given the highway-like design and feel of Irving St between Kenyon and Michigan, a center running protected bike lane will need a substantial, permanent barrier. Plastic flex posts and rubber parking stops will not be sufficient to make this a safe, low-stress place to bike. New York City’s Allen Street protected bike lanes serve as an excellent example to follow.

Weak connections to Brookland’s main street and the Metropolitan Branch Trail.

A protected, low stress Crosstown bike route should have a protected connection to the Metropolitan Branch Trail. Neither concept proposes this, instead relying on painted bike lanes to connect to the Metropolitan Branch Trail where it crosses Monroe Street. Parking protected bike lanes on Monroe St between Michigan Ave and 8th St NE would provide a low stress connection to the trail. Continuing them to 12th street would connect the low-stress network to Brookland’s retail hub.

Lack of protected bike facilities in the eastern section of the study area.

Protected bicycle infrastructure needs to extend the length of the study area. Neither the local street route presented in Concept 1 nor the painted bike lanes on Michigan Ave in Concept 2 provide a sufficiently safe or low stress route for people riding bikes.

Michigan Ave between Monroe Street and South Dakota Ave is a busy four lane road, and since it connects the highway-like section of Irving Street and the equally highway-like Queens Chapel Road across the border in Maryland, drivers expect to be able to drive fast. The bike lanes on Michigan Ave need physical barriers to keep people on bikes separated from this high speed traffic. Unprotected bike lanes also increase the risk of drivers illegally parking or stopping in bike lanes, which forces bicyclists out into fast moving car traffic.

Equity Concerns

We are concerned by the fact that the quality of the proposed bicycle infrastructure declines from west to east. Equity in transportation is an important feature of both the MoveDC plan and the District’s Vision Zero program. DC needs to ensure that all of its residents have access to world-class bicycle infrastructure.

A Trail Along New York Avenue in Northeast DC? Yes, Please.

On a toasty Friday afternoon, over 30 trail enthusiasts came out for a two-mile walk along the proposed New York Avenue Trail in Northeast DC. This trail would connect NoMa to the National Arboretum and the neighborhoods in between, and bicyclists in the surrounding area are thrilled to hear more separated infrastructure could be in their futures.

A trail within the New York Avenue corridor is not a new idea. In fact, it was included in the District’s 2005 Bicycle Master Plan, and thanks to development along the corridor, specifically in NoMa and Ivy City, there is renewed interest in the trail concept.

Trail Rendering courtesy of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy

The group, including representatives from the Bicycle Advisory Committee, local businesses, nonprofits and interested citizens, started out from Union Market. After navigating to Florida and 4th St. NE, trail development professionals from Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC), who completed a concept plan of the corridor which was released this January, described the connections that could happen to the south, linking up with the Metropolitan Branch Trail and providing access to NoMa. We peeked down the way to the Uline Arena, where the new REI store will open this fall, and Matt Liddle, REI’s Mid-Atlantic Manager spoke to the benefits that REI sees in having bicycle and pedestrian connectivity not just to their store, but throughout the entire city.

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We headed north to a tunnel that burrows under New York Avenue. Eli Griffen from RTC shared the opportunities and challenges associated with using the tunnel as part of the trail alignment. The proposed trail would follow the railroad tracks eastward, but without a trail to walk on, the group walked along a dirt path along New York Avenue. The heavy car and truck volume (and high speeds) was a stark reminder of how unpleasant (and for many, unsafe) the arterial would be to ride, and underlined the importance of having alternative options for walking and biking along the corridor.

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As we reached Ivy City, we were joined by Andrea Gourdine from Douglas Development, who talked to participants about Douglas’s involvement in the project and why they see trails and other bike infrastructure as central to their work. Erik Kugler from BicycleSpace shared why they chose to open a store in Ivy City and what a trail connection would mean for him and his business.

While the idea of the corridor itself could be transformative, other visionaries including Robert Looper III, Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner for Single Member District 5C03 – Fort Lincoln, see the potential to go even further east. Looper spoke about his view for what the corridor could be, and the positive impact it would have on his constituents. Continuing the trail along the New York Avenue corridor could open up biking and walking options to neighborhoods beyond the current study area.

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WABA will work closely with DDOT, RTC and other stakeholders to move the trail development process forward. But that’s not to say that it will be easy- there’s a significant possibility that this could get quite complicated. Virginia Railway Express (VRE), a commuter rail service linking DC and Northern Virginia, has plans to relocate it’s railcar storage in light of the expansion of Union Station. Their chosen location is from 4th Street NE to 16th Street NE- right below New York Avenue, right where the concept plan routes the trail. Learn more about the proposal here

What is clear is that New York Avenue is quickly becoming a residential and retail destination, and that both private developers and the city are significantly investing in the corridor. The planned trail connection will bring safe multimodal infrastructure to the community and should be built.

WABA would like to extend a special thank you to DDOT Trail Planner Michael Alvino for joining us for the walk and answering technical questions along the way, and to all of the event participants for spending their Friday afternoon with us.


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The Fix Contrib bill has been delayed another two weeks

At the #FixContrib Rally

At the #FixContrib Rally

On Tuesday, the DC Council voted to postpone acting on the Motor Vehicle Collision Recovery Act of 2015 until July 12th. The legislation would repeal DC’s unfair and punitive contributory negligence standard for bicyclists and pedestrians involved in crashes with drivers.

While we commend the Council, particularly Councilmembers Cheh and McDuffie, for attempting to fix this unfair situation, we call on the Council to act quickly and decisively to adopt the Act on July 12th. There are real world, daily consequences that come with deferring action on this bill. Only an hour after the bill was postponed, a woman riding a Capital Bikeshare bike was critically injured in a crash with a motor vehicle. The details of yesterday’s crash are unknown to us but it highlights the absolute and day-by-day urgency to protect bicyclists and pedestrians who are hit by drivers. Our thoughts are with the injured victim, her friends, co-workers, and family.

Tuesday’s Council meeting, which we expected would result in passage of the bill after the first reading, began with an unexpected request. Councilmember McDuffie requested withdrawal of the bill and postponement of consideration until the next regularly scheduled meeting in October. Councilmember Cheh opposed this, sparking a procedural debate. The result is that the vote on this crucial bill has been postponed until July 12th.

It’s clear that Councilmembers McDuffie and Cheh both support fixing contributory negligence, as is evident in the overall support of the bill and elaborated on in the Judiciary Committee’s report. It’s also clear that a majority of the Councilmembers support changing the law. The question now is how to do it.

The current bill would allow for 100% recovery of damages in cases where the bicyclist or pedestrian is less negligent than the driver. In circumstances where the cyclist or pedestrian is found more negligent than the driver, the recovery is zero. This is the strongest legislation for vulnerable road users. It recognizes the unique and exposed nature of people walking and biking, and give them full recovery when they are injured by negligent drivers. We believe that this is the best approach to changing the current regime and that Council should pass the existing bill.

The alternative approach floated by Councilmember McDuffie in yesterday’s meeting appears to propose a different comparative negligence model. While the exact language of the Councilmember’s proposal is unknown, it is our understanding that his proposal would not only bar vulnerable users at 50% fault or more from any recovery (as does the present bill), but it would also reduce the recoverable damages of any plaintiff by the amount the plaintiff found to be at fault. Put another way, a bicyclist or pedestrian who is found to be 10% at fault when getting hit by a car will not be able to recover the full amount of her medical bills, damages to her bike, or lost wages. Under the existing bill, the vulnerable road user would be able to recover all of her damages. While we would likely continue to support the bill if Councilmember McDuffie’s amendment passes (it is still a measurable improvement over the status quo), we support the bill without amendment.

We will continue remain respectful and passionate throughout this campaign, We ask our members, supporters and the greater bicycling and walking community to remain respectful in the debate too.

We strongly supports abolishing the unfair contributory negligence regime for vulnerable road users, and believe that quickly passing the existing bill before the Council is the best way to achieve that goal. We thank Judiciary Chair McDuffie for moving this bill out of committee and before the full DC Council. The bill, as introduced and amended in the Judiciary Committee, represents a carefully negotiated compromise between the involved stakeholders and should be passed without further delay.

 

A busy summer on the trails

Now in full swing for the fourth year running, the Trail Ranger team has busy since April tidying up, talking up and leading cleanups and rides on the District’s trails. If you’ve been on the Marvin Gaye, Anacostia Riverwalk, Metropolitan Branch or Suitland Parkway trails, you’ve likely seen us! In our 541 miles of riding, we’ve spent 35 hours cleaning up the trails and reporting at least 75 issues to the appropriate agency. But what do those numbers actually mean?

Less glass on Marvin Gaye Trail

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An uncovered mural on the Metropolitan Branch Trail

Less gravel on the Anacostia Riverwalk

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A cleared bridge on Marvin Gaye

An uncovered trailbed on the Suitland Parkway.

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A cleaner bridge on the Metropolitan Branch

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A sidewalk uncovered on the Suitland Parkway Trail

And lots of great conversations with neighbors about our fantastic trail resources.

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Give us a shout next time you see us on the trails!

Fixing bikes, making friends at the Anacostia Public Library

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For the past three years the Anacostia Public Library has hosted bicycle maintenance clinics throughout the summer. On a Saturday in June, the library held its first clinic of the season. We’re pleased to report our friends at Velocity Co-Op, Gearing Up Bicycles, and The Bike House fixed about 30 bicycles and got them back on the road.

More important than just getting the bikes road ready, the energetic group taught the bike owners how to perform some of the work on their own. By the end of the day, kids were putting air in their own tires, adults were putting new tires on their bikes and a master mechanic taught one adventurous child how to execute a proper “bunny-hop.”

A special thanks goes out to Chrome Industries, Velocity Co-Op, Gearing Up Bicycles, and The Bike House for all their support and repair expertise. WABA is committed to making bicycling more accessible for residents of Ward 7 & Ward 8, and WABA is delighted that DC Public Library is a community partner once again this summer.

If you would like to volunteer with the DC Bike Ambassadors please join WABA’s next outreach brainstorming session at the WABA offices on July 13th at 6 pm. Pizza and drinks will be provided courtesy of the DC Bike Ambassador program. If you would like to help with bicycle programming in Ward 7 & Ward 8 please contact Jon Gonzalez at jon.gonzalez@waba.org.

#DCFemTech Made Us Some Fancy New Tools

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Thanks to the tech heroes over at #DCFemTech, WABA had the help of mappers, designers, developers, and CSS champions working to build two new advocacy tools.

Bike Love 1

Team Map (pictured above) assembled the start of a regional map that will show which neighborhoods have access to our current bike infrastructure and which don’t. It’ll help WABA visualize the disparities in access, and help prioritize our advocacy power.  Our goal is to get all residents in the greater metro region within one-mile of safe, dedicated space ride and the greater bike network by 2035.

Bike Love 2

Team SafeTrack (pictured above*) spent the weekend overhauling the SafeTrack page on our website. Our local bike community has a unique opportunity over the next year or so to convert metro riders to bike commuters (in the short and long term).  Team SafeTrack’s goals were to ensure that anyone who lands on our site can easily find the bike resources they need, and the encouragement to give biking a try.

Alex Hack!

We’ll be rolling out these tools shortly. In the meantime, we extend a hearty thank you to the enthusiastic and hard-working volunteers and our team leads Alex and Beth! Bigtime shoutout to @DCFemTech organizers and their sponsors for stepping up to make this happen; thank you, , , , , , and !

*Why are we all linking heart hands? We’re sharing that Tech/Bike love! This weekend combined two burgeoning initiatives in the DC region, WABA’s work to unite women through biking, and DCFemtech’s work to link and lift up women in the tech world. #synergies.