Arlington is scrapping plans for bike lanes on Washington Blvd

Proposed bike lanes on Washington Blvd between East Falls Church and Westover (Credit Arlington County)

In February, Arlington County announced plans to repave Washington Boulevard and add almost a mile of bike lanes from the East Falls Church Metro to Westover. These lanes would cut chronic speeding, improve pedestrian crossings, and fill a substantial gap in the area’s bicycle network for a safer bicycle connection to the Metro, shops, restaurants, school and library in Westover. Following the first meeting, supportive comments poured in from neighborhood residents. 65% of comments supported the bike lanes as did 55% of comments from neighborhood residents.

Now, to save some parking spaces and appease a vocal minority, the County has thrown out the public process, abandoned years of planning, and determined that putting people on bikes at risk is a fair compromise.

Take Action

The 7 block detour from Washington Blvd. Would you take it?

In the revised plans, five blocks of eastbound bike lane are removed to keep on-street car parking. Where the bike lane ends, a signed route will tell people on bikes to turn off of Washington Blvd onto side streets for a seven block detour. The detour adds new conflict points at seven intersections, an uncontrolled crossing of N Ohio St, and countless driveways.

This is unacceptable.

We need to send a clear message to Arlington’s leaders that we will not accept a few naysayers hijacking an important street safety project. Washington Boulevard needs continuous bike lanes in both directions.

Take Action

Push Back at Tomorrow’s Meeting

The final project meeting is tomorrow (Wednesday) and we need your help to push back against these indefensible changes. Join us, speak up and insist on a safe and direct bicycle route in both directions.

Wednesday, April 19 | 5:00 pm – 7:30 pm
Presentation at 6pm
Walter Reed Elementary School 1644 N. McKinley Road (map)

Learn More

Can we have a protected bike lane yet?

Ten percent of all trips originating in the Shaw neighborhood are by bicycle. That is more than double the average bicycle mode share for the District. Yet, the best corridors for getting to destinations north and south of Shaw are streets with multiple lanes, high speeds, and aggressive driving. Safe places for people to bike are sorely needed throughout the city, and Shaw is no exception. And when streets are safe for bicyclists, they are safer for pedestrians and motorists.

Last year, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) went through a lengthy public comment process to select a preferred alternative out of four possible streets for a protected north/south bike lane through Shaw. Thousands of citizens participated, and the majority spoke up in favor of bike lanes on 6th or 9th streets NW.

According to the project timeline, a preferred alternative for this project was supposed to have been selected a full year ago— in April 2016. In February 2017, fully ten months past that deadline, DDOT announced that, rather than selecting just one of the alternatives, they were moving two alternatives to 30% design, a process that it says could take up to 9 months. Final design and construction of the selected alternative could take another 12 to 18 months.

Take Action

DC is a city that has committed to completely eliminating traffic fatalities and serious injuries, all while increasing the number of people who walk, bike and take transit, and accommodating an influx of 800+ new residents every month who need transit options other than their personal automobiles to get around. Yet important projects like this one, which would help accomplish all of those goals, are being slow-walked to the finish line, if not in danger of being scrapped entirely.

In the time it has taken DDOT to issue a “final” report on the initial study, more than 19 people were hurt in crashes in the study area. (We don’t know the actual number because crash data has only been made publicly available through May of 2016). This is unacceptable. Can we wait until the Summer of 2019 for a safe route through Shaw?

Take Action

We need this project to be built on a faster timeline than what DDOT is projecting, or hundreds of other people could get hurt while the city delays. Or, we need DDOT to build both of the final alternatives currently moving to 30% design, not just one. Both 6th and 9th streets are dangerous for pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers. People need to travel to locations on both. A protected bike lane on 6th St may give bicyclists a safe place to ride, but doesn’t make 9th street easier for elementary school kids or senior citizens to cross, or calm traffic for neighbors, and vice versa.

Street calming and safe places to bicycle through Shaw will induce DC residents to take more of their trips and commutes by foot and bike. Making the streets more hospitable for pedestrians and bicyclists will help local businesses and improve health outcomes for residents. And, incidentally, it would help DDOT start to catch up on the five miles of protected bike lanes each year they need to build to meet their 20 year goals. (They have been nowhere near that target in the past three years.)

Tell Mayor Bowser: No more delays. Build protected bike lanes through Shaw. Build both final alternatives. Build them faster than currently planned.

Take Action: Arlington considers cuts to trail snow removal, trail lights, and more

Snow-covered Arlington trail (Photo credit: Raymond Crew)

The Arlington County Board is considering budget cuts to eliminate snow plowing of popular trails, resources to improve the county’s streetlight and trail light maintenance, and funding for street repaving.

Trail Plowing

Since late 2014, Arlington County has prioritized treating and plowing its major multi-use trails after heavy snowfall. Thanks to the advocacy of WABA members and the leadership of the County Board, Arlington treats 10 miles of county trails at the same snow removal priority and response time as primary arterial streets. When road crews head out to plow the major auto thoroughfares, another small crew tackles the bicycle arteries. Even when it snows, Arlingtonians can expect a safe, low-stress bike route. This approach sets a progressive example for the region to follow.

Unfortunately, funding for this cherished plowing initiative is under threat. In a deviation from the typical yearly budget process, the County Board is considering $11.1 million in optional budget cuts, including eliminating funding for the staff and equipment for priority trail snow removal. For a yearly savings of just $50,700, (0.003% of the total budget) Arlington would only plow trails after all county parking lots and all DPR assigned street routes are clear. The safety of Arlington’s bike commuters should rate higher than parking lots.

The results of these cuts would be dramatic, and disappointingly familiar. When it snows, unplowed trails become impassable for days as snow melts and refreezes, and trail use drops to near zero. Those who regularly use trails to get to work or get around instead pack onto already crowded buses, trains, ride on hazardous roads or drive until conditions improve. Arlington decided in 2014 that there was a better way, and we should not go backwards for such small cost savings.

Take Action

Trail Lights & Repaving Budget also under threat

The Board is also considering cutting planned improvements to the County’s streetlight and trail light maintenance program. The plan would have added staff and resources to improve response times for street and trail light repairs from 30 days to 3 days for routine outages and from 4 months to 1 month for major underground repairs. We all take lights for granted until they stop working. On streets, broken lights limit visibility and make bicyclists and pedestrians more vulnerable. On trails, broken lights in underpasses and tunnels discourage using the trail at night. Funding the planned increase ($830,000) would result in more reliable lighting on streets and trails countywide and create capacity to catch up on a large backlog of major repair needs.

Finally, the Board is considering reducing a repaving budget by $325,000. Paving county roads brings large benefits to drivers and bicyclists, especially on quieter neighborhood streets, but it is also responsible for many of the new bike lanes that are striped every year. Compared to long term capital road projects, which involve years of planning and construction, road repaving presents an opportunity to change lane striping to add bike lanes at a fraction of the cost. Reducing this budget will slow the pace of needed repaving.

Will you tell the County Board that you want to preserve funding for priority trail plowing, streetlight repair and repaving? Use our action tool to email the board and make your voice heard. Use our sample message or explain why you support priority trail plowing in your own words.

Take Action

A Measureable Impact on Trail Use

For a snapshot of the impact that quickly plowing trails can have on trail use, we can look to data collected by Arlington’s extensive automated trail counters after snow events. From January 23 – 24, the DC area got 17.8 inches of snow. Comparing the trail counts on snow days from a counter on the Custis Trail in Roslyn (which was plowed) to a counter on the Mount Vernon Trail near the 14th St Bridge (which was not plowed) reveals what you might expect: where trails were plowed, people used them. Where they were not plowed, use was nearly zero. Twitter reports show that the Custis trail was plowed by January 24th.

Use of the Custis trail, which was plowed, climbed steadily after the 1/23 snowfall.

The Mount Vernon Trail, which was not plowed, saw very little use until 1/30

Temperature records show that it was significantly warmer when trail counts began to climb again on the Mount Vernon Trail.

By February 2nd, counts on both trails climbed back to very similar daily counts. But by then, far more people had taken trips on the Custis Trail. Between 1/23 and 2/2 only 2,136 people were counted using the Mount Vernon Trail near the 14th St Bridge. In that same time, 5,335 people were counted on the Custis Trail.

Weigh In

Tell the County Board to reject the proposed cuts to trail snow plowing, streetlight repair, and repaving. Click here to send the board an email. You can also use the County’s online budget feedback form. Next week, we invite you to join our Arlington Action Committee in attending the Tuesday Budget Hearing (details) to show your support for these important County services.

To review the whole budget, go to the County’s FY18 budget page. Click here to review the full list of recently proposed cuts.

Action Alert: Authorize HAWK Signals in Maryland

A ghost bike memorializes Frank Towers at the intersection of Veirs Mill Road and the Matthew Henson Trail.

In the span of just six months, two bicyclists were hit and killed attempting to cross five lanes of fast-moving traffic on Veirs Mill Rd at the Matthew Henson Trail in Montgomery County. Following the death of Frank Towers, state highway engineers designed and installed a set of flashing lights to warn drivers to slow down when a bicyclist or pedestrian wanted to cross. But warning lights do not require a driver to stop, so most don’t. The driver who hit and killed Oscar Osario six months later did not stop either. In order to install actual stop lights at intersections like this, we need to make a technical change to Maryland law.

Take Action

HAWK signals (also called pedestrian hybrid beacons) use a red light to require drivers to stop, and are used in states states all over the country, including Virginia and DC. Studies show that HAWKs reduce pedestrian crashes by 69% and total crashes by 29% compared to unsignalized, painted crosswalks. They make it significantly safer to cross busy streets. HAWK signals save lives, but are not approved for use in Maryland. A bill before the Maryland General Assembly would change that.

House Bill 578 would explicitly allow the use of HAWK signals in Maryland. The bill has passed the House of Delegates and will be taken up by the Senate soon. Please ask your Senator to support this much-needed legislation to make biking and walking safer and more appealing in Maryland.

Take Action

Still not sure what a HAWK signal is? Watch this quick video for a rundown of how they work.

Don’t let DDOT ignore bike safety on Florida Ave NE

Florida Ave NE is a crummy place to bike and walk (Source Google Street View)

Since 2013, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) has been studying ways to make Florida Ave NE between First St. NE and H St. NE a safe corridor for people who walk, bike, and drive. After a tragic 2013 pedestrian fatality, DDOT began a planning study, and finally released a final report last February. On Tuesday, February 21st, DDOT will host a long-awaited meeting to share preliminary engineering designs for what we hope are major changes to this car-focused corridor.

Meeting Details

Tuesday, February 21, 2017 | 6:30 pm – 8 pm | Presentation at 6:30 pm
New Samaritan Baptist Church 1100 Florida Avenue NE
Please attend and insist on a design that reduces speeding, protects vulnerable road users, and encourages multimodal transportation.

I’ll Be There

Florida Ave Has a Chronic Speeding Problem

Statistics and personal experience tell us that Florida Ave is a dangerous and stressful place to bike and walk. As an example, between 7th & 8th Street, DDOT analysis shows that the average driver exceeded the 25mph speed limit by between 5 and 10 miles per hour. In the same block, the 85th percentile speed, or the speed that 85% of drivers will drive at or below during free-flowing conditions, was 33 mph at morning rush hour, 38 mph at evening rush hour, and almost 45 mph overnight. During the study period, the fastest recorded speed was 70 mph.

Speed and Volume analysis on Florida Ave NE (Source DDOT)

A growing body of research shows that speed kills, and lower vehicle speeds result in fewer and less severe crashes. A pedestrian struck by a vehicle at 20 mph has a 90% chance of survival, but a 90% chance of death at 40 mph. Florida Ave NE, as designed, is undeniably and unacceptably dangerous. If DDOT is serious about Vision Zero, its initiative to eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries, then it must address this chronic speeding problem.

Pedestrian and Bicycle crashes in the study area (Source DDOT)

Florida Avenue Needs Fewer Lanes, Wide Sidewalks, and Protected Bike Lanes

Sidewalks on Florida Ave NE

Speeding is a chronic problem in this corridor because the road design encourages high speeds. Florida Ave is up to 6 lanes and 67 feet across. Some lanes are up to 17 feet wide. And while this width may help move cars during rush hour, it far exceeds the needed capacity during off-peak times, leading to a wide-open road and comfortable speeding. Even DDOT’s own traffic models show that the road could function quite well with one fewer travel lane in each direction.

Since so much width is dedicated to moving cars, pedestrians face a long list of challenges on Florida Ave. The sidewalks are in poor condition, but also comically narrow. On one block, the sidewalk is just 2 feet wide due to a light pole in the middle, rendering it impassable to anyone with a walker, stroller, or wheelchair. Pedestrian crossings are very long, and many of them are unsignalized. These challenges are particularly dangerous for senior residents, wheelchair users, and deaf students attending Gallaudet University. Wider sidewalks and shorter crossings are sorely needed.

Finally, Florida Avenue NE is a key link in the bicycle network, yet lacks any kind of bicycle facilities. The high stress environment does not serve the needs of people who bike today. A continuous, low-stress, protected bike lane is required for most people to even consider riding in this otherwise convenient corridor.

DDOT’s Preferred Alternative Misses the Mark

In 2014, DDOT presented 3 alternatives covering a range of options including fewer travel lanes, widened sidewalks, buffered bike lanes, and streetscape improvements. DDOT asked the public to weigh in both at a public meeting and in an online survey (WABA supported these alternatives). Almost two years after the last public meeting, DDOT released a final report. This Washcycle blog post provides a helpful summary.

Surprisingly, even though the issues of speeding, excess road capacity, wide lanes, inadequate sidewalks, nonexistent bicycle accommodations and the resulting major safety issues are discussed thoroughly in the report, the recommended alternative clearly sacrifices essential bicycle and pedestrian safety improvements to keep extra travel lanes and minimize vehicle delay. Citing the need to balance local and regional uses of Florida Ave, the study’s recommended alternative keeps most of the features that the study admits contribute to illegally high vehicle speeds and undeniable safety concerns.

The recommended alternative is not at all beneficial to bicyclists. Even though 85% of those surveyed chose as their #1 choice an alternative that included buffered bike lanes and fewer travel lanes, the recommended alternative adds only 6 blocks of narrow, unprotected bicycle lanes flanked by 2-3 travel lanes. These very stressful bike lanes will not connect to West Virginia Avenue to the east or the Metropolitan Branch Trail on the west end, which leaves gaps on either end of the proposed bike lane. The recommended alternative adds unsafe bike lanes where it is easy for DDOT to put them in, and nowhere else.  For a project explicitly about safety, this project does not promise to do much for bicycle safety.

Read the full planning study here.

You Can Help Improve the Plans

On Tuesday, DDOT will present its 30% engineering designs. Despite what you may hear, there is plenty of time to improve the plans. DDOT’s planning study includes many great ideas for a safe and inviting Florida Ave corridor that encourages biking and walking and keeps safe even the most vulnerable road users. Please join us on Tuesday to hold engineers accountable and demand that this project make Florida Avenue a place where safety is a reality and not a dream.

Join Us At The Meeting

Upcoming Project Meetings in the District

Construction crews are on their winter breaks, but the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) and Virginia Railway Express (VRE) are ramping up planning on a number of projects relevant to people who bike in the District. Please consider attending these meetings this month and speaking up for the needs of bicyclists.

 

Alabama Avenue SE Corridor Safety Study
Saturday, February 11, 2017 | 10 am – 12:30 pm
THEARC 1901 Mississippi Avenue, SE

DDOT is hosting the first meeting to discuss safety along the Alabama Avenue SE corridor.  DDOT aims to identify and address multimodal safety concerns and to improve the overall quality of the network for all users.  At this meeting, existing conditions and current traffic/crash data will be shared to capture ideas and suggestions from participants. Alabama Ave is an important bike corridor and would make an ideal protected bike lane corridor.

Tactical Urbanism at North Capitol Street and Lincoln Road
Monday, February 13, 2017 | 6:30 –  8 pm
NoMa BID Lobby 1200 First Street, NE

DDOT invites you to a meeting to discuss the Tactical Urbanism project at North Capitol Street and Lincoln Road, NE. The purpose of this project is to increase safety at the North Capitol/Lincoln Road, NE intersection through immediate, short-term improvements that will lead the way for a larger intersection safety project. DDOT will present a draft design concept and gather comments from the community at this public meeting. Rapid implementation of safety projects like this are a key part of DC’s Vision Zero Action Plan.

VRE Midday Storage Facility Public Meeting
Thursday, February 16, 2017 | 4:00 – 7:30 pm | Presentation at 4:30pm and 6:30pm
Bethesda Baptist Church 1808 Capitol Ave NE

Virginia Railway Express intends to replace its current storage space leased from Amtrak at the Ivy City Coach Yard in DC with a new storage yard alongside New York Avenue. The project will include planning, designing, and constructing a permanent midday storage facility for VRE trains that travel into the District from Virginia. VRE will work with members of the community, stakeholders, and property owners to assess potential impacts and determine ways VRE can be a good neighbor.

Florida Avenue Multimodal Transportation Project
Tuesday, February 21, 2017 | 6:30 pm – 8 pm | Presentation at 6:30 pm
New Samaritan Baptist Church 1100 Florida Avenue NE

DDOT will share 30% designs for multimodal transportation improvements along Florida Avenue NE from First Street NE to H Street/Benning Road NE. This project will add new wider sidewalks, bike lanes, new signalized crossings and streetscape improvements for a safer street. In the last project update in March 2016, DDOT’s preferred alternative eliminated many of the popular and safety-critical elements such as protected bike lanes and a road diet to curtail speeding. We hope that a year of work has found opportunities to point the project in the right direction.

New York Avenue Streetscape and Trail Project
Thursday, February 23, 2017 | 6 – 8 pm | Presentation at 6:30 pm
Gallaudet University’s I. King Jordan Student Academic Center 800 Florida Avenue, NW (map)

DDOT is in the early stages of planning significant streetscape improvements to beautify New York Avenue from Florida Avenue to Bladensburg Road. The project will study improvements to public space in the corridor, including curb, gutter, streetlights, plantings, trees, benches, public art and other public space improvements. Additionally, DDOT will develop concepts and designs to improve safety and quality of life for people who use New York Avenue, including a new multi-use trail connecting the National Arboretum and Metropolitan Branch Trail, and future transit services throughout the corridor. Read more at the project website.

That Was Fast! A New, Safer Trail Crossing in Bethesda!

Great news for riders, walkers, and all users of the Capital Crescent Trail! Crews began work on Thursday (Jan 5) on major safety improvements to the Capital Crescent Trail crossing at Little Falls Parkway in Bethesda. Using flex posts, lane striping, and new signage, Little Falls Parkway is reduced to one travel lane in each direction, down from two, west of Hillandale Rd. Soon, signs will be in place to reduce the speed limit from 35mph to 25mph. These changes, made with relatively inexpensive materials, will dramatically reduce the chances of crashes, fatalities, and serious injuries at this busy trail intersection.


After these changes were announced, WABA circulated a petition to area residents and trail users offering an opportunity to thank county staff and elected leaders for taking quick action to prevent future crashes. As of Friday, January 6, 291 area residents signed on with enthusiastic support for the change.

Michael Riley, Director of Parks, Montgomery Parks
Casey Anderson, Chair, Montgomery County Planning Board

Thank you for taking fast and decisive action to make the Capital Crescent Trail at Little Falls Parkway safe for everyone. You and your staff deserve enormous credit for your quick work to prevent future crashes at this intersection with this road diet and speed reduction.

291 Signatures (Click here to see the petition responses)

We applaud the county leaders and staff involved in this decision. Their action recognizes that this intersection’s design creates a crash hazard that puts vulnerable road users and drivers at unnecessary risk. The solution puts the focus on what factors contribute to crashes (multi-lane crossing, visibility, speed) rather than who deserves the most blame. We hope that this case serves as a catalyst for safety upgrades to similar intersections across the county.

Click here to read more about the changes.

Want to show your gratitude? Sign onto the above petition here.