Advocacy Behind the Scenes

Photo credit brixton under Creative Commons

A big part of successful advocacy is simply paying attention. The bureaucratic processes that bring about change are often slow, and can start quietly. Our team of advocacy staff and network of volunteers are always on the lookout for opportunities to have an impact, even if it takes a while. We work to make sure that better biking is part of the conversation from the beginning, not an afterthought.

If you subscribe to our advocacy action alerts, you know that we sometimes ask you to share your thoughts with a decisionmaker about the value of bike friendly infrastructure, laws and policy. Those action alerts are only one of many tools in an advocacy toolbox, and usually not the first one we reach for.

Often, a simple letter can start a project on the right path. Here are some of WABA’s comments and testimony from the past few months.

Georgetown Boathouse Zone EA

National Park Service (NPS) is examining sites along the Georgetown waterfront near the southern terminus of the Capital Crescent Trail (CCT) for development a series of boathouses that would cater to non-motorized boating (including rowing, paddling and stand-up paddle boarding). The project affects bicycle traffic in and around the area. NPS acknowledges that “the current configuration of the CCT and its connection to Georgetown do not provide safe and compatible access for pedestrians and cyclists with motorized vehicles to and through the Zone.”

The timing of the EA aligns with work that DDOT and Georgetown BID are doing to improve the K/Water Street corridor, which includes a protected bike lane to connect the CCT with the Rock Creek Park Trail.

Read our full comments here.

Oxon Cove Hiker-Biker Trail EA

NPS, in cooperation with DDOT, proposes to construct a multi-use hiker-biker trail in Oxon Cove Park. In our comments we recommend a seamless connection between the future South Capitol Street Trail and the proposed new trail. We also note that the Oxon Hill Farm Trail (which begins just off of South Capitol St and continues south into Oxon Cove Park) is in poor shape. This vital connection is functionally unusable to many because it lacks bridges and the trail is poorly maintained.

Read our full comments here.

Public Scoping for North George Washington Memorial Parkway EA

The National Park service is in the early stages of an Environmental Assessment for reconstruction of a significant portion of the northern George Washington Parkway. This is an important opportunity to consider how the parkway and the land around it could better accommodate and ensure the safety of people biking and walking.

Read our full comments here.

Long Bridge Phase II

DDOT is exploring options to replace the century-old Long Bridge, which carries freight and passenger rail from Northern Virginia into downtown DC. Though the study’s scope is currently focussed only on expanding the number of railroad tracks across the Potomac river, we make the case for including a high quality bike and pedestrian trail on the new bridge.

Read our full comments here.

Bethesda Downtown Master Plan

In October, Montgomery County Council held a final round of hearings on the updated Bethesda Downtown Master Plan. The plan is a long term guide to future density, land use, parks and transportation, and includes an impressive Bethesda bicycle network of protected bike lanes, trail access improvements, and standard bike lanes. Joe Allen, Co-Chair of our Montgomery County Action Committee, delivered WABA’s testimony at the hearing.

Read our full testimony here.

Roundtable on the Provision of 911 Services in DC

The DC Council’s Judiciary Committee held a roundtable to discuss 911 services. WABA submitted testimony raising ongoing concerns about the limitations of DC’s 911 dispatch system which delay or prevent emergency response to emergencies on off-street trails.

Read our full testimony here.

 Photo: brixton on Flickr

“Who knew I would get a PhD before learning to ride a bike?”

Did you know that WABA offers classes to teach adults how to ride a bike? The classes are only 3 hours long and are offered almost every weekend in the spring and fall, in different locations throughout the region. You can view the schedule of remaining classes by here. If none of those classes work for your schedule, Sign up for updates on our 2017 class schedule.

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Nervous about signing up for a class? Each class is taught by instructors that have been certified by the League of American Bicyclists. In addition, each instructor has gone through additional training in our nationally acclaimed approach to Learn to Ride classes. Here’s recent success story:

Who knew I would get a PhD before learning to ride a bike? There was always an excuse… I grew up on a hill in the country without access to a bike… I was traveling… I saw too many people get hit by cars to want to ride a bike. And then I felt too old, every time a man asked me on a date to go bike riding I would make up an excuse. Finally, at 33, on a beautiful Sunday I joined WABA for an adult bike riding class. We all trickled in nervously, as if not knowing how to ride a bike was shameful and a secret we’ve carried for years. The instructors were kind and enthusiastic and people started talking and making jokes. I decided there and then this was the day I was going to learn! My new friend Greg and I posted up at the end of the line, under the excellent instruction of Jeff, a kind older man who reminded me of my magnificent hippie parents. He taught us how to glide, we laughed through the awkwardness. We gradually got pedals for practice, and then got a taste for speed. By the end of the three hours I was weaving through the obstacle course, wanted to buy a bike, take new classes and become part of the club. Two new friends from class and I walked to brunch and talked about how excited we were. It felt like the first day of camp (in a great way). While I am still afraid of hills and cars I am excited for the next step. Thank you WABA – I encourage everyone to go out and give it a whirl!

So far this year we’ve taught more than 500 adults how to ride a bike. You can already ride a bike? Can your friend or neighbor or colleague? Wouldn’t it be great to go ride bikes together on the weekend? Send them to WABA—one of the ways we work to make bicycling better in the region is by putting more people on bikes in the first place!

 

Traffic Calming 101

In an earlier blog, we discussed some possible ways that Vision Zero may affect DC streets. Traffic calming is one of the tools for making streets safer for our most vulnerable users, like pedestrians, bicyclists, children, the elderly, and the mobility-impaired.

Our roads are designed by traffic engineers. They tend to use the same standards that they use to design highways, even though neighborhood roads are used by a variety of users. When roads are “overbuilt” (ie: have more lanes than necessary, or wider lanes) they send signals to drivers that it’s okay to drive much faster than the posted speed limit. This is a design problem that can be addressed by the traffic calming measures discussed below.

According to a report by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, reducing vehicle speeds, also called “traffic calming,” makes a big difference in serious injuries and traffic fatalities. When a person is struck by a car traveling at 15 mph, the risk of death is less than 5%. At 25 mph, the risk of death more than doubles to 12%. And if a person is struck by a car traveling at 45mp, the risk of death is 60%! Slowing down traffic can greatly reduce the likelihood of death or serious injury for vulnerable road users.

According to the Institute of Transportation Engineers, traffic calming is the combination of mainly physical measures that reduce the negative effects of motor vehicle use, alter driver behavior and improve conditions for non-motorized street users.

Traffic calming is the deliberate slowing down of traffic through neighborhoods by building speed bumps or other obstructions. Traffic calming helps to reduce crashes and increases the safety and convenience of pedestrians and other non-motorized vehicles. Neighborhood Streets Network noted traffic calming measures can also give children more space to play, decrease noise pollution and improve the scenery.  

This week, I’ll discuss some traffic calming measures suggested by the Project for Public Spaces you have probably seen in and around DC.

Road Diet

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In road diet, planners and engineers reduce the number of lanes, or width of existing lanes, on the street. This is usually done by creating a separate space for pedestrians and bicyclists to travel. Road diets help reduce crashes by separating bicyclists from cars with physical barriers, making everyone’s commute better.

To learn more, check out this 2 minute video, which shows how planners can redesign a roadway.

Protected Bike Lanes

15th St. protected bike lane extension

Protected bike lanes visually reduce the width of the roads which can reduce drivers’ speed and separate bicyclists from cars by using curbs, planters, or posts.  Protected bike lanes increase safety for bicyclists and encourage new riders to travel for shorter trips, which reduces traffic on the roadways.  

Curb Extensions

A curb extension in Montreal.

A curb extension in Montreal. Photo by Gerald Fittipaldi on Flickr.

Curb extensions physically and visually narrow the roadway without reducing the roadway capacity.  Curb extensions force drivers to be more attentive and drive closer to the speed limit since they lower the design speed of a road. Curb extensions increase pedestrian visibility while decreasing the amount of time it takes to cross the roadway.

Roundabouts

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Roundabouts are large, raised, circular islands at major intersections. Because the road narrows as a cars approach a roundabout, drivers tend to slow down. Roundabouts help to calm traffic by creating a steady flow of traffic. Since all drivers are traveling in the same direction and at a slower speed, crashes are less severe. Roundabouts are also safer for pedestrians and bicyclists because they only have to cross traffic coming in one direction and the distance is shorter than a typical intersection.

These are just a few of the traffic calming measures that can be used in a city. They each help slow down drivers, which can reduce traffic fatalities and serious injuries.

If you would like to learn more about how you can get involved in reducing traffic fatalities and serious injuries, join us for our community workshop:

Sunday, November 20th
1pm- 4pm
Dorothy Height Library
3935 Benning Rd. NE Washington,  D.C.  20019  

 

Register for the Nov 19 Virginia Advocacy 101 Training

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Want to learn how to be an effective bike advocate? Register for our Virginia Advocacy 101 training on Saturday, November 19th.

What: The training, led by WABA’s advocacy team, is for Virginia folks interested in making their community more bike-friendly. We’ll explore how decisions are made in Virginia, and dive into some of the fundamental tools and approaches to influencing those decisions to make our communities more bike-friendly.

When: 10:30 am – 2:00 pm

Where: Westover Branch Library 1644 N McKinley Rd Arlington, VA

Why: You have an idea that will make it easier and safer to bike in your community and want to learn how to make it happen.

Whether it’s restriping a bike lane or trimming a bush to improve sight lines; getting a new protected bike lane, lighting a dark stretch of trail, improving an intersection or changing a city policy, coming up with great ideas to improve biking in your community is usually not the challenge; Getting a solution implemented is.  And that’s what effective advocacy is all about.

While parts of the region have made great strides recently, we have  a long way to go. That’s what we work towards every day. And while pushing for a great solution can be challenging, anyone can be an effective bicycle advocate— and a little training can help a lot.

Register Here

Breakfast and light snacks will be provided. Registration is free and open to all. No advocacy background or experience required.

Questions? Contact Garrett Hennigan at garrett.hennigan@waba.org or 202-518-0524

Arlington Celebrates Niños y Bicis 

If you missed Escuela Key (Key School)’s Fall Fiesta in October, you’re not going to like this blog post, because it was fantastic!

Hundreds of happy kids were there dancing to music, bouncing on trampolines, eating plates of food from an exceptionally international spread, and riding in the school’s second annual Bike Rodeo. 

The Bike Rodeo was organized by Melissa Dalio, a bicyclist and exercise physiologist who specializes metabolic testing. She’s a mother of six, the youngest of which, Eleanor, is a second grader at Key. Melissa’s rodeo was an obstacle course on a parking lot designed to let kids have fun as well as to challenge them to learn new skills on two wheels. She also incorporated safety elements such as a crosswalk–complete with little chalk pedestrians–to practice stopping and yielding.

Melissa reckons that parents were surprised to see how much their kids liked riding bikes. Some of the kids, she said, started off a bit wobbly, but were riding comfortable within an hour. 

Melissa is a supporter of universal bike education in schools, and says that “we become what we surround ourselves with.” In that spirit she would like to see her community become more healthy and fit-minded while encouraging kids to get out and pursue fitness by biking. Reminding kids to be Predictable, Alert, and Lawful, teaches them valuable lessons that they will carry on into adulthood and help keep the streets safe.

Remember, whether you’re walking, biking, or driving, it’s easy to #BEaPAL

Future PAL Volunteer Opportunities:

November 17th Block Party – Once a month, the PALs get outreachy on Arlington streets. We spread the #BEaPAL message through creative events all over the County. Join us, won’t you? All are welcome!

December 7th Pizza Party – Come out and join your PALs to plan over pizza! Every month we get together to brainstorm and scheme up future outreach ideas. These planning sessions are a great, low-commitment way to get involved for the first time. Plus free pizza. All are welcome!

Introducing EYA, WABA Business Member and 2016 Cider Ride Title Sponsor

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

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EYA is proud to join the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) as a new business member. In 2016, EYA became WABA’s largest event supporter as the title sponsor of The Cider Ride. EYA’s support helps WABA bring people together to celebrate cycling and raise awareness of and support for cycling safety.

EYA is a local developer with a focus on smart growth communities where residents can enjoy an active lifestyle with easy access to the region’s many amenities and transit options––including metro, bus, bicycle, and walking. EYA shares common goals with WABA members to reduce dependence on cars and encourage new opportunities for more sustainable living.

Since 1992, EYA has earned recognition for introducing innovative and thoughtfully designed new homes in DC metro area neighborhoods. Learn more about EYA’s commitment to life within walking distance ® and all of their bicycle and pedestrian friendly neighborhoods at EYA.com.

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 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.

Resounding Regional Support for Trails

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The Announcement Ceremony for the Capital Trails Coalition was held on October 13 (more information here). We were joined by a few fantastic speakers, including Congressman Don Beyer, multiple National Park Service leaders, a representative from REI, and transportation leaders from Maryland and DC who spoke to the importance of coordination and collaboration in the Coalition’s effort to connect the region’s trail network. Here’s a recap:


Beth Porter with the National Park Service’s Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance (RTCA) Program, who has been an integral part of the Coalition’s creation over the past year.

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Beth Porter, Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance (RTCA) Program, National Park Service

We heard from Deputy Superintendent Blanca Stransky, who welcomed us to the George Washington Memorial Parkway (GWMP) and touched on the importance and the heavy use of the Mount Vernon Trail.

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Blanca Stransky, Deputy Superintendent of George Washington Memorial Parkway, National Park Service

She mentioned the challenges that come with that heavy trail use (including speed enforcement, snow removal, overcrowding of the trail, and overall trail safety) and welcomed GWMP’s involvement with the Capital Trails Coalition. According to Stransky, “By us working together, we’ll find solutions to these complex problems, and start planning for future trail users.” We couldn’t agree more!

After the Deputy Superintendent, we were honored to have Congressman Don Beyer come to the podium. Congressman Beyer, who represents Virginia’s 8th District, understands that biking and walking are essential to how Northern Virginians get around.

“We can’t consider biking a secondary mode of transportation. This is now a primary mode of transportation for many, many people in this area.”

-Congressman Don Beyer, Jr.

Congressman Beyer gave a shout out to important trail connections, like from the Mount Vernon Trail to Memorial Bridge. He noted that “…In the past, we’ve invited NPS and WABA to check out the problem spots together. These discussions help people to plan, react and take things to the next level.”

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Congressman Don Beyer, Jr.

We were so pleased to hear the Congressman mention that collaboration, because that’s one key piece of why the Capital Trail Coalition exists. By having all stakeholders visit the gaps in the system, and build consensus about strategies to fill those gaps, we will build a more robust network that will serve the needs of our entire community.

Congressman Beyer also noted that trails are what the residents of Northern Virginia are asking for. In the 2016 Needs Assessment Survey in the Public Spaces Master Plan in Arlington VA, paved, multi-use trails were the most desired outdoor facility, with 87% of respondents indicating that their household has a need for trails! As he notes, those statistics “…speaks to their role as a transportation asset AND community necessities. Walkable, bikeable communities are more livable communities.”

Peter May, Associate Regional Director – Lands and Planning with National Park Service noted that the announcement of the Capital Trails Coalition means “…our work to furthering a regional trail system can jump into high gear.”

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Peter May, Associate Regional Director for Lands, Planning, and Design for the National Capital Region for the National Park Service

May mentioned the recently completed Paved Trails Study, the regional vision and goals that will strengthen and expand the paved trails system in the National Capital Region. And yet that planning is happening in other jurisdictions, too, and for regional success, collaboration is paramount.

“The only way to establish a truly regional trail network is to work together with local governments and trail partners. And this is where the Coalition is a game-changer. The Coalition can be a cohesive element, bringing us together and providing a forum for planning and sharing resources, coordinating activities to strengthen and expand the trail network throughout the Washington Area.”

-Peter May, Associate Regional Director for Lands and Planning, National Park Service

We heard from Captain Sara Newman, Director of the Office of Public Health for the National Park Service. She encouraged the Coalition members look at trails and parks in a new role, “one in which they are solutions for many of the social service needs of the American public,” such as preventative chronic disease.

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Captain Sara Newman, DrPH, MCP, Director of Office of Public Health, National Park Service

“…existing parks, trails, and green space in the DC area are the largest healthcare facility that we have.”

-Captain Sara Newman, DrPH, MCP, Director of the Office of Public Health, National Park Service

Matt Liddle from REI told the inception story of REI’s involvement in the Capital Trails Coalition, from funding Trails Symposiums in 2014 and 2015, and seeing how important trails are to the DC region. He announced that REI is investing $500,000 in the project over the next three years, and explained that REI is investing in this way because they know they’re members in this region want this work to be done, and will benefit in both the short and long term.

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Matt Liddle,  Outdoor Programs and Outreach Mid-Atlantic Manager, REI

We heard from two transportation professionals, Charles Glass from Maryland Department of Transportation and Sam Zimbabwe from District Department of Transportation. The message was clear: trails are transportation, and coordination is vital.

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Charles Glass, Assistant Secretary for Policy Analysis & Planning, and Director of Bicycle and Pedestrian Access for the state of Maryland at Maryland Department of Transportation

“The District is a key part of this regional puzzle. The Capital Trails Coalition can help us make sure everyone in the DC and region as a whole has access to this incredible resource.”

-Sam Zimbabwe, Acting Chief Project Delivery Officer, District Department of Transportation

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Sam Zimbabwe, Acting Chief Project Delivery Officer, DDOT

Keith Laughlin, President of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC), explained that one of the reasons the national trails organization is investing time and energy with the Capital Trails Coalition is because of the demonstration effect:

“What better place than the nation’s capital to demonstrate what this kind of system would look like. The Washington DC region gets over 20 million visitors per year. Imagine if some small percentage of them can experience this trail network and can take those ideas back home and say ‘We want that too.’”

-Keith Laughlin, President, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy

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Keith Laughlin, President of RTC

And the demonstration doesn’t stop at visitors. It also applies to members of Congress who can learn from what is done in the region and implement similar projects in their home districts. (You can find RTC’s coverage of the event here.)

Greg Billing, WABA’s Executive Director provided the closing remarks. He reminded attendees that we have many questions yet to be answered, including how many miles of trails need to be built and what the price tag of the network will be. We don’t know those answers yet, and this is the perfect time to get involved in the process to help shape the vision of the network.

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Greg Billing, Executive Director of WABA


If you represent an organization or agency and would like to be involved with the Capital Trails Coalition, you can find more information here.

For more information, and to sign up for updates, visit www.capitaltrailscoalition.org