Why is the L Street protected bike lane closed?

On the eve of Bike to Work Day, the protected bike lane on L Street NW went from being the spine of a low-stress bike network to a dangerous mixing zone with automobiles and heavy trucks.

Carr Properties, the company redeveloping the old Washington Post building, made the switch from demolition phase of their traffic control plan to the construction phase.

What you see now on the 1500 block of L St is what we will have for more than two years, unless we manage to break through DDOTs conviction that this constitutes a safe accommodation for bicyclists equal to a protected bike lane.

Background:

On March 18th, WABA sent a formal letter to DDOT to point out that the traffic control plan for the Carr Properties permit as issued was not compliant with the Bicycle Safety Amendment Act of 2013 or accompanying safe accommodation regulations. We proposed three compliant traffic control plan (TCP) alternatives that would have maintained the protected bike lane.  DDOT met with us to explain in detail the reasons they did not think any of our suggestions were feasible. They issued an official written response with this letter

At the root of agency’s argument is something called Level of Service, which is a measurement of how freely cars move on roads and through intersections. DDOT has made clear that the agency prioritized Level of Service metrics when deciding to skip over the safest options for accommodating bicyclists and pedestrians. DDOT’s letter states: “traffic analysis performed during the TCP review process indicated that taking another lane of travel would have resulted in failing levels of service at the intersections of both 16th and L street and 17th and L street NW.”  (Emphasis added). Using a Level of Service analysis in this context is contrary to both the letter and the spirit of the safe accommodations law and regulations.

It’s also worth noting that “failing levels of service” is not as catastrophic as it might sound. An F grade at an intersection means that… it takes a little longer to drive through the intersection.

So what exactly is a Level of Service Analysis?

Level of Service (“LOS”) is a performance metric for streets and roads that uses a scale of A-F to describe the amount of congestion a roadway or intersection experiences. It was originally used to rate interstate freeways during the highway boom of the 1950s and 60s.  At a certain point, traffic engineers began applying this standard to the rest of our street network. The problem with this is that most streets do not exist solely to move traffic through an area (like a highway), but rather, to serve homes, businesses, schools, churches, parks, and the people who live alongside them. Yet, in the pursuit of high LOS rankings, traffic engineers widen streets, remove parking, limit crosswalks, and deploy other strategies that make streets less safe for bicyclists and pedestrians, and less inviting in general.

Eliminating traffic congestion is not legally mandated; it is a self-imposed requirement that has become entrenched in the traffic engineering canon. A laser-focus on LOS street design for the hours of peak use encourages the overbuilding of streets for the remaining 22 hours of the day. In this case, LOS analysis has been used to justify non-compliance with the requirement to provide accommodations that replicate the safety level of the existing bicycle route.

What did DDOT get wrong here?

Under the Safe Accommodation regulations, DDOT is required to provide a protected bike lane adjacent to the motor vehicle lane as long as one motor vehicle lane can be maintained in the same direction of travel. The regulations are clear that safety accommodations for bicyclists should be afforded according to a prioritized scheme:

The method for providing the safe accommodation for bicyclists shall be prioritized as follows:

(1)       Closing a parking lane and keeping the adjacent bicycle lane open;

(2)       Shifting the bicycle lane to a location on the same roadway to by-pass the work zone, and if necessary, shifting and narrowing the adjacent motor vehicle traffic lanes; provided the adjacent motor vehicle travel lanes shall be maintained at no less than ten feet (10 ft.) wide;

(3)       Closing the adjacent motor vehicle travel lane to provide space for a bicycle lane; provided that a minimum of one (1) motor vehicle travel lane shall remain in the same direction of travel;

(4)       Merging the bicycle lane and the adjacent motor vehicle travel lane into a shared travel lane adjacent to the work zone, installing sharrow lane markings in the shared travel lane and installing work zone signage directing bicyclists to merge into the shared travel lane; provided the shared travel lane shall be maintained at no less than thirteen feet (13 ft.) wide; and

(5)       As a last resort, detouring bicyclists onto an adjacent roadway, in which case the detour route shall replicate, as closely as practicable, the level of safety found on the bicycle route being blocked.

There is no provision in the regulations for considering Level of Service. The safest practicable option must be selected from the list in the order provided. Currently, two lanes of traffic are open on L Street, which means that option three would be the correct selection for a safe accommodation for bicyclists on L street under the regulations.

Complete Streets and Vision Zero

DDOT adopted an internal Complete Streets policy in 2010. In all likelihood, DC Council will codify a Complete Streets policy before summer recess if/when they pass the Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Act Amendment of 2016 (B21-335). (More on this in an upcoming post). The concept of a Complete Streets policy is that all modes should be safely accommodated in the design of our regional streets and transit network.

In order to actually change the status quo and create streets for people, the Complete Streets policy elevates the safety of pedestrians, bicyclists, users of mass transit, people with disabilities, and the elderly over the convenience of motorists and freight providers.

The Complete Streets policy recognizes that certain streets have “modal priorities.” This was one of the justifications for not installing bike lanes on K street, which was determined to have a transit modal priority. L St and M St were selected for protected bike lanes in part because they are alternative parallel routes to K street. With the installation of world-class protected bike lanes on L and M Streets, and considering their significance in the transportation network for crossing the city by bike, it seems clear that on these streets, bicycle traffic should be considered the modal priority.

Moreover and most importantly, DC is a city pledged to Vision Zero—the initiative to eliminate traffic deaths and serious injury on our roadways by 2024. DDOT is the agency charged with leadership over this initiative. Prioritizing Level of Service for vehicles over the safety of bicyclists and pedestrians—even on streets to which bicyclists have already been diverted— on what constitutes an essential section of the protected bicycle network— flies in the face of the goals of Vision Zero, Complete Streets, and the Move DC plan.

Unfortunately, options for recourse are limited at this point. We recommend contacting the Mayor and your Councilmembers.

What about safe accommodations at other construction sites throughout the District?

When a contractor or developer applies for a permit to occupy public space during construction activities, they are required to submit a traffic control plan to DDOT for approval. Construction projects impacting our streets, bike lanes and sidewalks will generally fall into three categories:

1. The permit complies with the requirements of safe accommodations law and regulations, and the contractor is properly following the permit.

Remedy: Patience. This won’t last forever.

2.  DDOT has approved a legally compliant traffic control permit, but the contractor is not in compliance with the requirements of the permit as-issued.

Remedy: Contact the Public Space Regulation Administration at DDOT (202-442-4670) and report a suspected permit violation.  Take photos if you can, and be prepared to provide a street address or intersection, as well as what makes the accommodation (or lack thereof) dangerous. The public space team will send staff to inspect the construction area and may issue a stop work order until the contractor complies with the traffic control plan.

If you have time to do a little research, many approved traffic control plans are now available online at tops.ddot.dc.gov (the system can be cumbersome, so for quick requests the phone is probably your best option).  There is a “Search Permits and Applications” link at the bottom right hand corner of the landing page.  From the jump page select “Occupancy” and then submit search criteria (tracking or permit number if known is the best way—permit numbers are printed on the Emergency No Parking signs).  While not all approved Traffic Control Permits are viewable, the ones related to construction staging zones are. These are the ones most likely to include changes to sidewalks and bike lanes.

3. Contractors have been issued a legally deficient permit by DDOT.

Remedy: This is trickier, but the end result must be that DDOT amends the permit to comply with the law. WABA will be working with DDOT officials to create a guidance manual to give permitting and engineering staff at DDOT the tools they need to properly evaluate traffic control plans in permit applications for compliance with the safe accommodations requirements for bicycles.

As we all know, DC is a rapidly growing city and there are construction projects everywhere. This is all the more reason it is essential that DDOT get these permits—and their enforcement— right.

 

MoCo Council Backs A Massive Expansion in Bike Funding for Priority Areas

Photo from CDOT

Soon, this may be a common sight in Silver Spring

On Thursday, May 26th the Montgomery County Council unanimously approved the County’s 2017 Operating Budget and six-year Capital Improvements Program (CIP). In addition to maintaining funding for a number of long term trail and bikeway priorities, the Council approved a dramatic, 150%, funding increase for the Bicycle Pedestrian Priority Area Program. Alongside the innovative methods in the Bike Master Plan rewrite, movement on long delayed trail projects like the Capital Crescent and Metropolitan Branch Trails, and December’s commitment to pursue a Vision Zero initiative  this expansion in funding is another sign that Montgomery County is getting serious about supporting and encouraging bicycling.

In 2014, the County created the Bicycle Pedestrian Priority Area (BPPA) program to direct funding and resources to areas where changes will have the greatest effect on the safety and popularity of biking and walking. Since then, some 30 BPPAs have been designated and as many projects identified. With a $1 million yearly budget spread across even a few areas, planning and implementation of these projects are progressing well, though perhaps not as fast as they could — a new sidewalk and bulb-outs here, a protected bike lane there, a few bike racks and streetlights.  That is progress, but it takes more than spot improvements to change behaviors and get more people riding bikes when neighborhood roads feel like speedways.

In March, Councilmember Hans Riemer proposed a $1.5 million per year funding increase for this program as well as concentrated attention to projects in the Silver Spring BPPA first. WABA’s action alert generated considerable support from Silver Spring residents and committed bicycle advocates around the county. Roger Berliner, Nancy Floreen, and Tom Hucker who make up the Council’s Committee on Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment (T&E) all voted in support of the plan. Considering the inherent negotiations and changes required to find agreement on a complicated budget, we are thrilled to report that the County will dedicate a total of $15 million to BPPA projects over the next six years!

With this additional funding, Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) can do more at a faster rate. In Silver Spring, where demand for safe places to bike is on the rise, more funding allows resources for careful study, planning and implementation of a connected network of protected bike lanes. Soon, construction will begin on the Spring and Cedar St protected bike lanes. Next year, expect discussion on Second Ave, Cameron St, Wayne Ave, Dixon St and Fenton Ave. And, while MCDOT builds out the Silver Spring Circle, planning can begin for needed improvements in Glenmont, Grosvenor, Wheaton and eventually the 28 other BPPAs. Instead of spot improvements, MCDOT can build entire networks.

We’d like to thank Councilmember Hans Riemer, the T&E Committee, and the County Council for leadership and commitment to expanding the role of bicycling in the county. Thanks also to everyone who wrote and called your councilmembers in support of this proposal.

Curious about what’s going on around biking in Montgomery County?

Attend the the 3rd Great MoCo Bicycle Summit on Saturday, June 18, hosted by Councilmember Hans Riemer.

What: 3rd Great MoCo Bicycle Summit
When: Saturday, June 18 10-12 pm
Where: Council Office Building, 100 Maryland Ave, Rockville

Register to attend (free)

Meet Bryon, our new Vision Zero Campaign Coordinator

Bryon Burgin

Hi there!

My name is Bryon Burgin and I am the new Vision Zero Campaign Coordinator.

I recently relocated to the DC area from my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri after completing  my J.D. and M.A. in Urban Planning and Real Estate Development from Saint Louis University. I received my B.A. in Political Science from the University of Missouri. As a former bike shop manager and life-long cyclist, I welcome every chance to engage with you to promote bike ridership, trails, policy, law, transportation planning and creative ways to develop more connected, safe, diverse and sustainable neighborhoods for all.

My interest in Vision Zero is very simple: no one should ever die using our roads. Vision Zero  is an all-hands-on-deck approach to transportation safety. To prevent fatalities and serious injuries to travelers of our transportation system, we will pursue commitments from policymakers, traffic engineers, law enforcement officials, local businesses and road users from all backgrounds to end road fatalities and serious injury within a decade. I look forward to utilizing my past community development experiences with Habitat for Humanity to build support in our local communities. We need to formulate new attitudes and behaviors towards street safety and generate a true regional commitment to Vision Zero.

Together, we can change how our region values bike safety for generations to come. Please feel free to contact me at Bryon.Burgin@waba.org to learn more about WABA’s work to secure a regional commitment to Vision Zero. We can’t do this without you!

Jerseys and Socks and T-Shirts, Oh My!

New WABA Merchandise has arrived!

Get some cool WABA gear courtesy of the good folks at Primal, WABA’s Official Merch Sponsor!

 

jersey

Let the world know about your support for Better Bicycling in style with a high quality, moisture-wicking, full zip jersey by Primal!

 

waba socks

Make sure your feet are sending the right message with a pair of WABA Better Bicycling socks by Primal!

 

tshirts

Looking for something to wear on those rare occasions you’re not on your bike? Our stylish t-shirts help you show off all of the ways WABA makes bicycling better!

 

stickers

Turn anything into a bike advocacy centerpiece with new WABA stickers!
Available in English and Spanish.

 

Pick up your very own WABA gear and show your support today!

Are you a WABA Member? Email membership@waba.org
to get a discount code for 20% off your purchase!

 

Primal Logo

 

Big Turnout for the Spring Street Project Walk

WABA’s Action Committees are working around the region pushing campaigns for better places to bike. Here is an update on the Silver Spring Circle campaign from Kate Meyer Olson, a Montgomery County advocate.

Discussing details of intersection design at Spring St. and Covesville Rd

Discussing details of intersection design at Spring St. and Covesville Rd

On a rare sunny Saturday, May 14th, WABA’s Montgomery County Action Committee hosted a walk-along tour of the planned Spring Street and Cedar Street protected bike lanes in downtown Silver Spring.  This .8 mile segment along the north side of downtown will be the first piece of the Silver Spring Circle, a network of protected bike lanes envisioned by advocates, planners and county leaders.  Matt Johnson, Project Manager with the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT), joined us to speak about the project planning process and detailed considerations needed to bring this vision to fruition.

The group grew to over 40 interested residents before we started walking. We saw a good cross section of Silver Spring, including many generations of residents and a spread of interests in the project.  With plans in hand, the group walked the route discussing the details of each intersection as we went.

Looking at plans

We talked through the details of each intersection, comparing detailed plans to what is on the ground now.

The Spring and Cedar Street protected bike lanes will run adjacent to the curb on both sides of the street, with a 1 foot buffer and plastic flexi-posts between the bike lane and car parking where the road is widest, or moving traffic where there is no parking.  Each intersection will see some changes, with those at State Routes 97 (Georgia Avenue) and 29 (Colesville Road) the trickiest to design. The bike lanes will be marked at critical mixing points with green paint on the roadway to indicate where car traffic and bike traffic will encounter each other-—primarily at mixing zones where a right turn lane merges across the bike lane, as well as at several driveways where cars will cross the lanes.  At some intersections bicyclists will have a “bike box” in front of the car stop line to allow people on bikes a more visible position at intersections.  At some intersections, a painted “2-stage turn box” will suggest a safe place for bicyclists to queue for an easier left turn using the perpendicular street’s traffic light.

Floating bus stops on proposed Spring St protected bike lanes

Floating bus stops, bike boxes, and 2 stage turn boxes planned for Spring St protected bike lanes

A feature being introduced to the County for the first time is the floating bus stop which, “floats” the bus pick up point away from the curb, allowing the cyclists an unimpeded route while the bus passengers will alight and board the bus from an island in the roadway. 

In addition to the protected bike lanes, the route will feature additional bike parking and improved crosswalks, and incorporate new timing for many of the stop lights. There will be a slight loss of parking in the last block of the route on Cedar Street before it intersects Wayne Avenue. Due to some changes to placement of curbs, 3 small trees will be removed. MCDOT plans to begin construction very soon and to complete the resurfacing of the roadway this summer, minus one block where PEPCO has impending digging.  

Councilmember Hans Riemer talks about the importance of low stress places to bike.

Councilmember Hans Riemer talks about the importance of low stress places to bike.

At the end of the walk Councilmember Hans Riemer joined us, commenting on the growing importance of safe and accessible bike networks in the county and his support for the plan in Silver Spring. The participants were favorably impressed with the vision and are looking forward to the construction beginning. As we move towards construction and a finishing date this summer, expect details about a ribbon cutting and Lane Opening Ride Along. For more information about the project, visit the MCDOT website. Learn more about the Silver Spring Circle at the campaign page. Special thanks to Matt Johnson for leading the walk and to Councilmember Riemer and his staff for their vocal support for expanding the role of bicycling in Montgomery County.

If you are interested in becoming involved with the improvements to the cycling infrastructure in downtown Silver Spring, please join us on the 4th Monday of the month when we meet at the Civic Center  at 7 pm to discuss additional advocacy goals and strategize for a more bikeable, walkable Silver Spring! More info here.

Kate Meyer Olson is the Silver Spring Circle Campaign Lead, longtime Action Committee advocate and WABA member. She lives in Silver Spring.

Only a Month Left To Join Team WABA On The Climate Ride!

cropped_2011_05_17_ClimateRide_NYDC_Day5_0540

Image: Climate Ride

Ride for the issues you care about, ride to make bicycling better in your backyard!

To get all your Climate Ride questions answered, join us at our Climate Ride Meet and Greet on June 21st, 6pm to 8pm, at the WABA office. We’ll share tips and tricks and snacks! Click here to R.S.V.P.

Climate Ride NYC-DC is a grand bike adventure that connects two of the nation’s most important cities – New York and Washington, DC – by bicycle. From the departure by ferry in Manhattan to the hero’s welcome and rally at the steps of the US Capitol. The East Coast version of Climate Ride is more than a bike trip – it’s an inspiring journey with 200 like-minded people who are united by their passion for sustainability, renewable energy, and bicycles – the ultimate carbon-free form of transportation. And hey – if you’re looking to travel beyond our backyard, or those dates don’t work for you, there are 9 other rides to choose from!

To get your questions answered now, visit the Climate Ride page, or if you’re ready to register, sign up for our team page.

NYC-DC_mappy_map2

Image: Climate Ride

 

Get Ready for SafeTrack

safetrack homepage no dots LOL

A year of Metro shutdowns and singletracking. A year of extra cars on the road and longer commutes. A year of doom and gloom.

But it doesn’t have to be that way!

During the year of SafeTrack “surges,” WABA wants you to try your commute by bike instead.

To help you out, we’ve put together our SafeTrack biking resource page, designed to keep you in the know about what the region’s bike community has up its sleeve for each surge. You can find it at waba.org/safetrack.

Here you’ll find all the info you’ll need to bike your commute, join a bike train convoy, find or become a bike buddy, and more.

If you’re already a bike commuter or you just want to help your fellow Metro riders, we’re looking for volunteers for a whole host of opportunities: ride leaders, station captains, sign hangers, flier distributors, etc.

Volunteer with us