The Suitland Parkway, Now With 15% More Enjoyment!

Sometimes the best way to get to know a place is to roll up your sleeves, take a look around, and set to work making a small part of it better.  This weekend, an intrepid crew of volunteers joined our Trail Ranger team to do just that on the Suitland Parkway Trail. The aging trail –  stretching from the Maryland line to near the Anacostia Metro – certainly has its share of difficulties, but after Saturday’s efforts it has a little more spring in its step.

Beginning with a short ride from Yards Park near National’s Stadium to the trailhead, the group saw firsthand the somewhat odd route from the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail to the trail alongside the Suitland  Parkway. Seeing it on a map is one thing.  Experiencing it from the ground level helps explain why the trail is underutilized.  The fact is, it can be hard to find.  The recently announced future trail connection will be a huge step forward for mobility on and around the parkway.

Suitland Parkway Cleanup

A few super volunteers reclaiming pavement like pros

Once at the trailhead, our focus turned to improving the trail that we have today.  Armed with rakes and shovels, loppers and saws, our team dug back over 100 feet of trail edge from an eroding trailside, removed a quarter mile of overgrown branches, and cleared another quarter mile of trail debris, gravel, and trash.  Thanks to our volunteers the Suitland Parkway Trail is in better shape than it has been in months!

Next up: Come Celebrate the Marvin Gaye Trail!

On Sunday, July 27, join us for a community ride and trail cleanup on the Marvin Gaye Trail in NE DC.  Beginning with a relaxed ride through the quiet streets of Deanwood, Hillbrook and Lincoln Heights, we will take a spin through the Marvin Gaye Trail’s creekside greenery and playgrounds.  After a short break for lunch, we will finish the morning with a little trail work to keep the trail looking its best.  We hope you can join us!

Click here to sign up. and learn more.

A Day In The Life Of A D.C. Bike Ambassador

All smiles and waves this morning at Florida Ave NW and R St. NW. We delivered two messages to two types of road users: drivers  received, “Good morning, consider bicycling!” and bicyclists, “Hello, thanks for biking responsibly!”

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Bike ambassadors make a tangible impact on the streets of Washington, D.C. Interested in getting involved with the Bike Ambassador program?

Our next Bike Ambassador orientation is tomorrow, July 15th at the WABA office. Click here to learn more or contact Jon Gonzalez, the D.C. Bike Ambassador program coordinator, at jon.gonzalez@waba.org for more details.

Ride to the Washington Post

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If you’re free for your lunch break, local bicyclist Mike Forster has organized a bike ride to the Washington Post in response to the Courtland Milloy column. You can read WABA’s full response to the column on our blog.

Click here to view the event page for today’s ride. WABA is not formally officiated with this event, but we recognize the strong reaction to the column at-issue, and wanted to let our supporters know this event is happening.

We’d also like to thank you for being a member and enabling our efforts to push back against those who threaten bicyclist safety. We are only able to be here to stand up for bicyclists because of your financial support and commitment. Click here to join or donate if you haven’t already.

 

Setting the Record Straight re: Milloy’s “Bullies”

We still have that sign. We still mean it. Thanks for not hitting us because the newspaper says it’s OK.

Yesterday, The Washington Post published a column by Courtland Milloy that attempts to justify the violent assault of bicyclists by motorists, writing: “It’s a $500 fine for a motorist to hit a bicyclist in the District, but some behaviors are so egregious that some drivers might think it’s worth paying the fine.” The “egregious” behavior Milloy cites is simply slowing his car’s progress between stoplights.

This piece of rhetoric is both irresponsible and incorrect. Encouraging, or at least condoning, acts of violence has no place in civil discourse, and I am appalled that our hometown paper has published such a statement. We have, of course, grown accustomed to journalists and columnists who resort to bike-versus-car tropes to fill column space. However, this attempt to justify assault as a mere cost of doing business for motorists is well beyond the pale.

Those who might take Milloy’s counsel and share his sick calculation that bicyclists’ temporary slowing of motorists is worth attacking those bicyclists should know that his facts are wrong. Intentionally assaulting a bicyclist carries a much stiffer penalty than the $500 he cites. So even his readers who lack the moral judgment to recognize that assaulting a bicyclist with a motor vehicle is a barbaric, criminal act should know that his advice is flawed.

Throughout this column, Milloy does his best to avoid resorting to facts and data in favor of regurgitating simplistic, inaccurate, and pejorative stereotypes. Those who bike are labeled “bullies” and “terrorists” without explanation, and Milloy intentionally mischaracterizes and maligns programs that WABA has undertaken in our efforts to minimize the conflicts between drivers and cyclists on the roadways.

Rather than attempt to debate Milloy’s specious mental construction of the new-white-millenial-bully-terrorist-pedicabber laughing maniacally as he simultaneously displaces elderly churchgoers, threatens downtown pedestrians, and terrorizes motorists, I will focus on setting the record straight on the work that the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) actually does to make our roadways, sidewalks, and trails safer. (For those looking for the point-by-point rebuttal, I refer you to Aaron Wiener’s City Paper article and Washcycle’s response.)

Milloy is correct that much of our work is focused on improving roadway infrastructure to accommodate more than automobiles. That includes changes to our roadways that provide dedicated space for people who bike, including bike lanes and protected bikeways. Bicyclists are neither cars nor pedestrians, and in the District the number of people biking has moved the conversation well beyond the question of whether there needs to be space for people who bike, and on to how to provide it in a safe manner. At one time, Milloy seemed to recognize the need for this dedicated space for bicyclists, as his own 1998 account of biking after his license was suspended for excessive speeding included being caught in the common bicyclist’s catch-22 in which you are welcome on neither the roadway nor the sidewalk, and there is no third option. WABA unapologetically works to get that third option built into our public space.

Infrastructure is not the only key to integrating the growing number of bicyclists safely into the District’s transportation network, however. For things to function properly, rules and laws must be written appropriately for each mode of travel, and people must be encouraged or compelled to follow those laws. As biking grows, WABA advocates for laws that clarify the rights and responsibilities of bicyclists where physical differences justify departure from standard vehicular rules. However, our greater role is in encouraging safe and lawful behavior on the roadways through our education programming and Bike Ambassador program. This year alone, WABA has taught safe cycling to over 3,000 bicyclists, with a curriculum that emphasizes riding predictably and lawfully.

Meanwhile, our Bike Ambassador program works to engage with those who are not inclined to attend WABA’s education program on the streets. The program uses mobile signage, light and bell giveaways, explanatory flyers detailing bike laws and safety tips, and other forms of quick communication to encourage bicyclists to ride safely and motorists to respect that right. In his column, Milloy focuses on the words “bike ninja,” which is slang for a bicyclist who wears dark clothes and no lights while riding at night, and uses it as a catch-all for all sorts of belligerent, but irrelevant, behavior. What Milloy pillories in his column is an effort by the team of Bike Ambassadors who volunteer their time to give out lights to cyclists who would otherwise ride home after an evening movie without any.

Finally, I want to directly address Milloy’s scattered but consistent efforts to cast bicycling as the realm of “newly arrived white millenials” and somehow not for the longtime residents, black residents, Ward 8 residents, etc. Apparently “bikes versus cars” is not the only “us versus them” conflict worth trotting back out in print.

Milloy cites the fact that in the past, black juveniles on bikes were routinely stopped by police for trifling bike infractions in order to detain them, search them, or harass them. What Milloy neglects to mention is that the laws used to justify those stops are no longer on the books. They were successfully challenged by WABA and repealed nearly a decade ago, with the strong support of Councilmember Mendelson.

He also fails to note that WABA’s first formal outreach program was one designed to improve bicycling conditions and grow ridership east of the Anacostia River, with efforts centered squarely in Ward 8. In recent years, in that ward alone, WABA has held over a dozen classes, countless rides and events, and nearly thirty free bike repair clinics at which we have repaired several hundred bikes and led their owners on fun, casual, community rides. Undoubtedly, there are barriers to bicycling in Ward 8 that we must work together to overcome. WABA is working to overcome them and make the streets safer—especially in Ward 8 where the need for affordable mobility is perhaps most acute.

To Milloy, the facts seem not to matter, as his arguments are constructed to tear down a cartoon bicycling “terrorist” that bears little resemblance to real people who ride their bikes in the District: black, white, Latino, or otherwise. Certainly, one can build a composite of the worst behaviors encountered over time and attribute those behaviors to every person who rides a bike—but that is not journalism or even fair characterization. It is lazy stereotyping.

At no point does Mr. Milloy engage with the human side of biking or speak to any people who actually bike. By engaging only with his conceptual cartoon bike-terrorist, Milloy can excuse and justify violence against real people on bikes. He does not fear for his safety, the safety of his spouse, the safety of his children. He does not know the fear that stays with you for days after being threatened on the roadway by the angry driver of a machine weighing a ton. He does not know the fear that creeps into your throat when a bike-commuting family member is a half-hour late arriving home.

Every day, I talk to bicyclists who have been in crashes and try to help them deal with the experience. Less often, I speak to the families of those who have been in more serious crashes and are not able to speak for themselves. I have painted ghost bike memorials for cyclists black and white alike. I have placed them across the region and on both sides of the river, from Germantown to Southern Avenue. I have prayed at the vigils with churches and families, black and white alike.

In those moments, everyone is able to focus on the human tragedy and join together to call for the improvements that might keep the next human tragedy from occurring. In those moments it seems so silly that we cannot reconfigure simple pavement and white lines in a way that serves the safety of people, not just the speed of cars. The choice is not an abstract one.

Mr. Milloy: I encourage you to reflect upon your attempt to justify violence against your fellow citizens simply because they choose to travel by bike. In taking this stance, you adopt the cause of the comparatively strong against the comparatively weak and encourage them to use that strength to commit violence against the weak.

If that is the sort of man you are, I understand why you might have difficulty understanding programs like the ones that we run to broaden the appeal of bicycling, make every bicyclist safer, and encourage a safer roadway culture. From your position of strength this all seems silly. For us, all these programs and initiatives and attempts to calm the rhetoric—even the existence of a collective group of bicyclists like WABA—is a form self defense against roads, laws, and an enforcement system that do not yet protect us, and against people who share your views and will take your encouragement literally.

 

More Trail Events Coming Up

With hard work on the Met Branch and Anacostia Riverwalk Trails behind us, the Trail Ranger team is getting in gear for our lesser known trails east of the Anacostia.  With the Riverwalk Trail as a backbone of the network, the Suitland Parkway Trail and Marvin Gaye Trail serve as feeder lines from the Maryland line.  Come ride the trails with us and lend a hand keeping them in shape.

Suitland Parkway Trail Cleanup & Ride
Saturday, July 12, 10 am – 1 pm

Join us Rangers for a personal introduction and cleanup on one of DC’s least known bike trails. Through a little hard work, you’ll get a ground level perspective of where the trail goes, its challenges, and the future improvements we are advocating for. Learn more and Sign Up

Marvin Gaye Trail Cleanup & Ride
Sunday, July 27, 11 am – 2 pm

Roll up your sleeves and join the team in a community cleanup and ride on the Marvin Gaye Trail. Running the length of Marvin Gaye Park, the trail follows the Watts Branch creek for nearly 2 miles as it winds through quiet, green neighborhood streets from Minnesota Ave. to the Maryland line. Come discover how to get there, help us keep it looking fresh, and discover why you might want to come back. Learn more and Sign Up

Riverwalk Trail Gets Some Attention

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Last Saturday morning, our Trail Ranger team and some eager volunteers gathered in River Terrace park on the east bank of the Anacostia River to give the trail some much needed help.. In just under two hours, our crew greatly improved the Benning Road bridge crossing, trimming back overgrown vegetation, clearing sight lines, and removing glass. As the northernmost river crossing on the Riverwalk, the Benning Road bridge is often abuzz with bike and foot traffic. Thanks to our efforts, this crossing is a bit roomier, making for a more enjoyable ride.

With the hard work done, the group enjoyed a relaxed spin around the trail, highlighting some of the trail connections, nearby attractions, and the 4.5 mile Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens trail extension, now under construction.

Every week, we’re highlighting the work of WABA’s Trail Ranger program, an effort to increase use and upkeep of multi-use trails in the District. Check back for big trail updates, achievements, and ways to get involved with our cleanups and events. Click here for more about our Trail Ranger program.

Women & Bicycles Tip: Bring Back The Romper!

e6MXyK7ObZyMVaWZ7KTNlYi1U8M0BlyNV1r6XhihuwIThis is part of our Women & Bicycles blog series,  part of WABA’s initiative to build a stronger women’s bike community and get more women on bikes.  These posts aren’t exclusive to women, but they’re produced with and through the Women & Bicycles’ programming. Click here to learn more and get involved.

 

All the buzz  over the Penny In Yo’  Pants #CycleHack has me buzzin over my personal preferred bike-friendly feminine formal wear: rompers.

Rompers are lovely to bike in. I own six or seven. Rompers are like dresses except the bottom half is shorts or pants. They’re comfortable, lightweight, and dress-like plus you don’t have to worry about pulling a Marilyn Monroe or getting your skirt caught all up in yo’ wheel spokes.

So, yes, by all means continue rocking your skirts and dresses on your commute, and if you haven’t worn a romper since 1987, bring it back!

 

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Become a WABA Instructor

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WABA’s 2012 class of Instructors.

We are proud to announce the 2014 WABA Education Instructor training program. This is a unique opportunity to join one of the country’s most prominent and successful bike education programs that has been featured in The Washington Post and on NPR in 2013. You’ll get paid to teach adults and kids throughout the region how to make the most of their time on a bike.

Additionally, through the program, you will become certified as a League Cycling Instructor (LCI), enabling you to teach bike education anywhere in the country and/or to host your own classes as an independent instructor.

You’re invited to apply for one of a limited number of Instructor trainee positions this fall. The application is not long, but please take the time to think about your answers and use them as your opportunity to make the case for yourself.

Click here to fill out your 2014 WABA Education Instructor application!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a WABA Education Instructor?

WABA Education Instructors are enthusiastic local individuals who combine their love of bicycling and aptitude for teaching to help run one of the best Adult Bike Education programs in the country. Anyone can apply using this form, and from those applications, we will select 12-16 people to be our Instructor class for 2014.

Do WABA Education Instructors get paid?

Yes! Once Instructors have completed their Trainee period (seven hours of teaching), they are paid a rate of $50/hour for any classes they teach with WABA.

What is the time commitment for WABA Education Instructors?

The training program involves 3-4 mandatory events,  including weekly online assignments, a 9-hour class on a Saturday (tentatively scheduled for 9/13) and a weekend-long seminar (tentatively scheduled for October). We estimate that the total required time is somewhere around 40-50 hours (including time spent on homework) between August and November. Once you complete the Seminar, you will have to attend two WABA adult classes (totaling seven hours) as a Trainee. After that, however, your commitment level is up to you. Over 90 percent of our classes are held on weekend mornings and are 3.5 hours long.

What happens if I am chosen as one of the WABA Education Instructor candidates?

You receive the following:

  • A guaranteed spot in an Instructors-only Traffic Skills 101 class, tentatively scheduled for Sept. 13. ($75 value)
  • A guaranteed spot in WABA’s League Cycling Instructor (LCI) Seminar, tentatively scheduled for October 10-12. NOTE: This application is the ONLY way to attend this Seminar. ($300 value)
  • A WABA Instructor polo shirt. ($20 value)
  • A 1-year WABA membership OR renewal. ($35 value)
  • Payment at the $50/hour Instructor rate for any classes taught with us after you successfully complete your Trainee period.

And in exchange:

  • You must commit to the dates for ALL classes in the Instructor training program.
  • You must commit to completing your Trainee requirements (seven hours of instruction) in your first year as an LCI.
  • You must join the League of American Bicyclists, if you are not already a member.
  • You must complete the Traffic Skills 101 course with a score of 85 percent or higher.
  • You must agree to wear a helmet at all classes and while teaching.

We think that seems like a pretty fair trade.

What are the dates and times that I should know about?

July 8 – Applications begin
August 1 – Applications end
August 11 (Tentative) – Instructor Candidates notified
September 13 – Traffic Skills 101
October 10-12 – League Cycling Instructor (LCI) Seminar

What does it cost to become a WABA Education Instructor?

Completing the application form is free, of course. If you are selected as one of our fifteen candidates, you will be asked to pay for membership in the League of American Bicyclists ($40) in order to obtain your League Cycling Instructor certification.  Additionally, you are responsible for all transportation, food/beverage, and bike upkeep costs incurred while in the training program, and as a WABA Education Instructor thereafter (except where otherwise noted). WABA will cover the rest of the costs (see above list).

I completed WABA’s City Cycling course(s). Can I skip the Traffic Skills 101 requirement?

Sorry, but no. Traffic Skills 101 includes both a written evaluation and an on-bike evaluation that you must pass with a score of 85 percent or higher in order to be allowed into the LCI Seminar. While WABA’s classes cover some of the same material, the only way to take these evaluations with us is through this WABA Education Instructor training program.

What happens if I am accepted as a candidate, but fail to meet the 85% score requirement at the Traffic Skills 101 course?

It is possible for this to happen, though we will do our best to ensure that you reach the required score. If you do not meet the League’s requirement for the Seminar, we cannot allow you to continue. We will offer you a spot in the next LCI Seminar that is hosted by WABA, and will work with you to bring your score up.

Click here to fill out your 2014 WABA Education Instructor application!

Thanks for applying, and good luck!

 

Are You A Bike Ninja?

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Bike Nin·ja noun \ˈbīk\ˈnin-jə, -(ˌ)jä\

Definition of Bike Ninja: Bicyclists who ride unlit at night, or under low visibility conditions. They can go undetected by other bicyclists and motorists…like a ninja. This practice puts many people at risk, and should be avoided whenever possible.

On Wednesday, July 9th, Bike Ambassadors are riding to the NoMa Summer Screen viewing of The Muppets to hand out surprise goodies to people who biked.

This is a great opportunity to meet REAL LIFE Bike Ambassadors. We’re the folks out on the streets promoting respectful everyday biking, and we thank other road users who share the road with us. Talk to us, find out what we’re all about, and consider becoming a Bike Ambassador yourself.

Join us for a Bike Ambassador Orientation on July 15, at 6 pm at the WABA office. To find out more or sign up, click here.

Win! Suitland Parkway Trail Will Connect To The New Douglass Bridge

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Source: DDOT

The new Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge will include a direct, safe and convenient bicycle and pedestrian trail connection to the Suitland Parkway Trail. DDOT announced the change to the bridge plans yesterday via the the Anacosita Waterfront Initiative (AWI) blog.

Phase 1 of the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge will now include a trail connection from reconstructed bridge along the northern side of the traffic circle and parkway to Firth Sterling Avenue SE and the Anacostia Metro Station. Bicycle and pedestrian trail user will bi-pass the high speed I-295 exit ramp through a new tunnel underneath the road. The large yellow arrow on the rendering above points to the new trail tunnel. Phase 2 of the bridge project will finish the direct trail connection from the Anacostia Metro Station to the existing trail head.

WABA has been engaged for over three years with DDOT on the bridge replacement planning process. This victory concludes months of advocacy and petition efforts after we raised the trail connectivity issue back in January. The advocacy work on this bridge project in line with our Southeastern Trail Corridor advocacy priority.

We are encouraged by the many improvements and updates to bicycle and pedestrian access that have been made. The current design reflects the District’s multi-modal vision. You can learn more about the entire bridge project on the AWI website and watch the updated video of the proposed bridge below. When complete, the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge will be the best bicycling bridge in the region and it will be a major connection in the regional trail network.

While we wait for the new bridge and trail connection, join us on July 12th for a clean-up event of the Suitland Parkway Trail with our Trail Rangers. Sign up online here

And here’s a neat video rendering of the new bridge:

Virginia’s Three Foot Passing Law Begins Today

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Beginning today, Virginia law now requires to drivers to give at least three feet of space to bicyclists when passing. Safe passing laws are effective at educating drivers about safe distance needed to pass bicyclists while providing additional legal protection after a crash occurs.

Virginia is the 21st state to enact the three foot passing law. The District of Columbia and Maryland state both have three footing passing laws on the books, so Virginia’s new law brings much needed consistency to Washington area bicyclists and drivers.

The legislation (SB97) sponsored by Senator Bryce Reeves (R-Spotsylvania) passed the full Senate on January 21 and it passed the House of Delegates on March 21. The bill was signed into law by Gov. McAuliffe shortly after its successful passage. Learn more about the legislative history of SB97 in our March blog post.

WABA has worked for years with the Virginia Bicycling Federation to advocate for the three foot passing law. We would like to thank the thousands of Virginia bicyclists who contacted their legislators throughout 2014 legislative session.