New Stickers for Taxicabs, Safer Streets for Bicyclists

Taxi cabs in New York City display a “Look for cyclists” sticker to warn passengers of passing bicyclists. Photo credit: NYCDOT

Written by Women & Bicycles Community Member Lucy Aguirre

A victory for all people who bike! In an effort to prevent bicyclists from getting “doored”, the DC Taxicab Commission recently approved a new rule mandating taxicabs to display “LOOK FOR CYCLISTS” stickers.

I’ve heard too many stories about bicyclists getting “doored”. The first story I heard involved a roommate who was biking home from work, cruising safely in the bike lane until a taxicab suddenly stopped at a green light. A passenger opened the rear right door in the path of my unsuspecting friend, flinging her and her new Trek road bike straight into the pavement. Luckily she wasn’t seriously hurt; however, she was traumatized in other ways. “My desire and love of bicycling was crushed,” she said. “It destroyed my confidence and I was scared to bike again. Although that was five years ago, I still feel a little bit of that fear.”

It is simply unacceptable that inattentive drivers and passengers have injured so many bicyclists with their car door. Opening a car door into any moving traffic is illegal and very dangerous for vulnerable road users. Bicyclists are often unable to stop fast enough to avoid a crash, especially when doored from the side.

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Dan Connor was doored by a NYC taxicab. The video of crash went viral in 2014. Photo credit: Dan Connor

This is not an isolated problem. Several bicyclists in New York City were doored and killed, leading the city government to action. The NYC Taxi & Limousine Commission now requires “Look for Cyclists” stickers in taxicabs in an effort to prevent such incidents. After the latest DC dooring incident was reported to WABA’s Women & Bicycles group, I was compelled to advocate for “Look for Cyclists” stickers for taxis in DC too.

While the timeline for design and installation of the new safety stickers is not yet finalized, we hope you see them in a DC taxicab soon. Thank you to DC Councilmember Mary Cheh and DC Taxicab Commission Chairman Eric Rogers for recognizing this public safety issue and rapidly responding to implement this simple solution.

Pennsylvania Ave Now has Protected Bike Lanes

DDOT is installing rubber parking curb today to prevent illegal and dangerous U-turns across the Pennsylvania Ave NW bike lanes. Photo credit: @DDOTDC

The District Department of Transportation announced Friday that they will install protective rubber parking curbs along the Pennsylvania Ave NW bike lanes. Installation of the rubber parking stops began Friday morning and is expected to be completed within the next week (or two).

DDOT Director Leif Dormsjo and Associate Deputy for Policy Sam Zimbabwe made the announcement Friday morning at the Freedom Plaza Bike to Work Day Pit Stop. “Following extensive formal observation of the traffic patterns on this segment of Pennsylvania Avenue NW, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) has determined that low-profile barriers are effective at discouraging drivers from making illegal U-turns” wrote in their Letter to WABA.

Penn Ave Park-it LetterFour people biking on Pennsylvania Ave NW were struck by U-turning drivers since the beginning of April this year. There have been countless crashes since the installations of the bike lanes in 2010. Earlier this month, we counted 13 illegal U-turns across a single block of bike lanes. WABA kept up the pressure for the installation of a physical barrier and better enforcement to protect people biking on Pennsylvania Ave NW.

We would like to thank DDOT for hearing our calls for increased safety on Pennsylvania Ave NW. We know can officially call them the Pennsylvania Ave Protected Bike Lanes.

(Some) Met Branch Trail construction this year in Silver Spring

Metropolitan Branch Trail Silver Spring

The Met Branch Trail along the Red Line near Montgomery College in Silver Spring. Photo credit: Dan Reed

The Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) will begin construction on the first section of the Met Branch Trail (MBT) in downtown Silver Spring this year. County Councilmembers asked MCDOT to build any sections of trail ready to go during the March budget work session.

New details emerged about the MBT phasing at the Transportation and Environment Committee (T&E) budget work session on April 20th  (you can watch the full discussion online here at 38:10). The construction of two buildings near Progress Place interfere with the trail construction between the Silver Spring Transit Center and B&O Train Station. Rather than wait until 2018/19 when the new buildings are complete to begin design and construction, MCDOT is willing to construct sections of trail now. Where possible, the MBT will be wider than the 10 foot minimum trail width and the trail will be fully lit at night.

The Met Branch Trail, when finished, will be a 8 mile trail from downtown Silver Spring to Union Station. Roughly 50 percent of the total trail is complete. About 1 mile of the MBT is in Montgomery County. The City of Takoma Park section is complete. The remaining unbuilt trail section is about .6 miles long. See our MBT priority page for further breakdown on trail progress and recent information.

See the full breakdown of trail sections and their anticipated construction schedule below.

The full MBT in Silver Spring will not be complete until 2019/2020. But, the community will see some progress this year and every year until it’s complete. Thank you to the Montgomery County Department of Transportation. We appreciate their willingness, responsiveness and flexibility to adjust the construction schedule. Trail projects are hard and take time to build. Showing some progress, even small pieces, are important to keep the public engaged and excited. Thank you to Councilmembers Berliner, Hucker and Floreen who serve on the T&E Committee for their continued committment of growing bicycling in Montgomery County.

WABA’s advocacy is supported by your membership dollars. Join or donate to WABA today.

If you could change one law for biking, what would it be?

John A. Wilson Building, Washington, DC
The D.C. Council Committee on Transportation and the Environment is convening a bicycle and pedestrian safety task force. The group will discuss the District’s current approach to biking and walking safety and look into possible regulatory and legislative way to improve.  The final outcome will be a report of recommendations to the Council.

The task force has strong representation from city agencies, including leadership from MPD, DDOT, the Mayor’s office, AAA, the insurance industry, and key community and advocacy organizations. AAA’s John Townsend and myself are co-chairs of the task force.

So, if you could wave a magic wand and change one law or regulation, what would it be?

We are looking for new ideas from other communities or other countries. Ideas about laws for both pedestrians and bicyclists are okay. In the past five years, D.C. Council has passed several bills related to walking and bike, including the Bicycle Safety Amendment Act of 2013 and Access to Justice for Bicyclists Act of 2012.

The Task Force will deliver a D.C. Council report on laws and regulations. The group will not be debating pending legislation either (i.e. the contributory negligence or a distracted driving bills before Council now), and obviously won’t supersede the standard legislative or regulatory process.

The process is quick. There will be four public meetings in May and June. All meetings will be a roundtable format and open to the public.

Safety Task Force Public Meeting Details
Location: John A. Wilson Building, Chairman’s Conference Room (Room 502)

May 21, 2-4 pm – Pedestrian Safety
May 27, 2-4 pm – Bicycle Safety
June 4, 2-4 pm – Enforcement, Liability, and Reporting
June 11, 2-4 pm – Updating the District’s Laws, Regulations, etc.

The final report of possible recommendations will be available by July.  The timing will fit nicely with the launch of DC’s Vision Zero Action Plan in the late summer / early fall.

So, what can the Council change to make biking and walking safer in D.C.? We have some initial ideas but what are your ideas? Send us your ideas and thoughts to advocacy@waba.org.

How many U-turns across Pennsylvania Ave bike lanes did we count in one hour?

Written by WABA Member Dave Salovesh

Too many.

Nobody thought adding safe bike lanes on Pennsylvania Avenue was going to be easy. Yet, just in time for Bike to Work Day 2010 they came to the center of America’s Main Street between the US Capitol and the White House. Even before marking was complete, riders saw one of the biggest challenges firsthand: drivers making U-turns across the new lanes.

Quite possibly the first U-turn on Pennsylvania Ave NW on May 7, 2010. Photo credit:

Was this the first U-turn on Pennsylvania Ave NW? Photo taken on May 7, 2010. Photo credit: Dave Salovesh

It takes time to get used to any changes, and everyone hoped this behavior would diminish as drivers became accustomed to people using this space. That was not the case, and by late 2012 drivers were observed making U-turns at the rate of almost one per minute in just one block.  D.C. Councilmembers, the Mayor, MPD, and DDOT responded with emergency regulation banning U-turns, increasing enforcement, and planning design changes to reduce driver confusion and prevent this risky infraction.

Separating bike lanes from general traffic, and keeping motor vehicles out, is the best thing cities can do to keep people bicycling safe. While there may be reasons  that options for D.C.’s roadway engineers to protect bike lanes are somewhat limited, there are solutions out there to help.

DDOT uses these methods and others to protect cyclists using protected bike lanes over D.C., and they’re very helpful. In 2013 a pilot program was approved to test zebra barriers on one block. And, in 2014 an additional study was started to evaluate the use of rubber parking stops. Preliminary results have demonstrated that both are effective at reducing U-turns and other lane incursions. DDOT uses a combination of flex-posts, rubber parking stops and concrete curbs to physically separate bike traffic from motor vehicles in other parts of the city.

13 illegal U-turns in one hour on April 23, 2015 in the 1400 block of Pennsylvania Ave NW, including one near miss.

With the return of pleasant weather we’ve seen an increase in people enjoying bicycling in D.C. Unfortunately, that has also brought an increase in crashes, and on Pennsylvania Avenue over the last two weeks there have been at least three crashes due to U-turns across the bike lanes. We documented at least 13 vehicles making U-turns across the bike lanes in 1400 block during a single hour of evening traffic.

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The third crash involving a bicyclist and U-turning driver on Pennsylvania Ave NW this spring. Photo credit: Dave Salvesh

The steps to make Pennsylvania Avenue safer from U-turns have been known for years, but have not yet been fully implemented. During that time countless crashes and near-misses have happened. Drivers persist with the mistaken understanding that this space reserved for bicycles is open for them as well. And unfortunately, many bicyclists have decided the risk is too great for them or their families. They have found alternate routes, or some may even choose other means of travel.

Now is the time for that to change. The D.C. Council, and the Mayor should push DDOT to produce a definite timeline for installing a protective barrier along the entire length of the Pennsylvania Avenue bike lanes, as a high priority project. All the pieces are ready, the pilots and studies are complete and the need is great. We know how quickly D.C. can accomplish good work when it’s necessary. Can the safety of Pennsylvania Avenue’s bike lanes be improved before Bike Month 2015 ends?

There’s plenty of room for safe bike lanes in College Park

By Originally posted at Greater Greater Washington

Route 1 in College Park is about to undergo a major reconstruction. As long as Maryland’s State Highway Administration doesn’t widen the road’s travel lanes, the project is a chance to make Route 1 safe for people on bikes.


Route 1 plans. All images from Maryland SHA.

Local residents, the University of Maryland, the City of College Park, and biking advocates all want protected bike lanes on Route 1. SHA engineering guidelines now include design specifications for protected bike lanes.

But SHA is looking into widening Route 1’s existing travel lanes at the expense of safe, usable bike lanes.

Advocates from the Washington Area Bicyclist Association recently measured the existing roadway and lane widths on Route 1 between between the entrance to the University of Maryland and Greenbelt Road. Currently, that stretch is nearly 53 feet wide, with ten-foot travel lanes along the entire segment.

Ten-foot lane widths would mean ample room for safer, buffered and protected bike lanes. On the other hand, making travel lanes wider would lead to higher vehicle speeds that’d then make it more difficult to make downtown College Park walking and biking-friendly. Narrow, unprotected bike lanes are unsafe alongside high-speed, high-traffic roads.

Route 1 can be a road everyone can use

SHA’s original proposal for Route 1 included 11-foot travel lanes plus five feet for bike facilities (a four-foot lane and a one-foot gutter pan). Five feet for bike lanes that run alongside Route 1’s heavy car and bus traffic is not enough space—just look at how rarely people use the unprotected bike lanes on several other busy Prince George’s County roads. The bike lanes would be stressful to use at best, and dangerous at worst.


Original Route 1 proposal.

SHA is considering expanding the bike lanes to six feet in total width (a five-foot lane plus a gutter). That would be better, but the bike lanes would still not be protected or buffered, and SHA would still be expanding the current lane widths from 10′ to 11′ for all four travel lanes.

However, if there is room for two 11′ travel lanes and a 6′ bike lane, then there’s also room for a properly buffered and/or protected bike lane. SHA’s minimum recommended width for buffered bike lanes is seven feet: four feet of lane, two of buffer, and a one-foot gutter.

If at least one of the travel lanes stays at ten feet wide rather than going to 11, there would be room for a seven-foot protected bike lane.

If both travel lanes stay at ten feet wide, there would be room for an eight-foot wide bike lane with a three-foot buffer and a five-foot lane. This would make College Park and the university more accessible and safer to travel around by bike. That’s what the community wants and deserves.

There have been several pedestrian deaths on Route 1 in recent years, and SHA has billed Route 1 reconstruction as a safety and accessibility improvement for people who walk and travel by bike.

Completely rebuilding Route 1 is a tremendous opportunity for Prince George’s county to create a walkable, person-friendly corridor in College Park. Buffered or protected bike lanes should be part of that vision. As long as Route 1’s travel lanes don’t get any wider, there’s plenty of room for that.

AT LAST: Rock Creek Park Trail reconstruction starts this fall

A new trail bridge is coming to the Rock Creek Park Trail at the zoo tunnel. Photo credit: M.V. Jantzen

Construction is coming to the Rock Creek Park Trail this fall. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) will rebuild the trail along Beach Drive.  The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) will finish the trail work in late 2016/early 2017. For a community that has been waiting for over a decade, construction on the trail will be a welcomed sight.

The Environmental Assessment plans for 3.7 miles of trail rehabilitation from P St. NW to Broad Branch Road. FHWA will construct roughly two miles of trails from the Rock Creek Park Trail to Broad Branch Road. FHWA will also modify the road within the zoo tunnel to accommodate a narrow trail. Construction crews will build a new trail bridge over Rock Creek near the tunnel. Where possible, the trail will be widened. The trail surface will be completely repaved.

FHWA will issue bids this summer and plans to begin construction this fall. The trail will be reconstructed in conjunction with a complete rebuild of  Beach Drive from the Rock Creek Parkway to the Maryland border. The smooth pavement will be a great improvement to weekend rides.

Project managers combined the trail and road project. They seek to limit construction impacts and speed up implementation of both projects. The Beach Drive project will happen in five phases—the trail reconstruction will occur during first two phases. Trail construction in this section should be complete by summer 2016.

Construction will close the trail temporarily.

During construction, FHWA will close both Beach Drive and the Rock Creek Park Trail. This is not ideal, but keeping access open during construction is not feasible. Drivers and trail users will be detoured. We are working to ensure that the trail detour is a reasonable one that minimizes busy roads and the steep climbs out of the park. During construction, trail users should plan alternate routes. We hope the complete trail closure will speed up construction.

The full 3.7 mile trail rehabilitation will not be complete when FHWA finishes their work next summer. DDOT is responsible for all trail sections across the creek from Beach Drive and along Rock Creek Parkway (south from Beach Drive), along with the new spur trail along Piney Branch Parkway. DDOT intends to complete design phase for their trail sections by August 2016 and begin construction in the fall of 2016. The agency plans to finish the entire trail reconstruction in 2017.

Last year, WABA lead a petition effort to push the trail rehabilitation project forward. Over 2500 residents signed the petition asking the National Park Service and District Department of Transportation rebuild the trail. After a yearlong delay. DDOT finalized the EA last summer, allowing final design and construction to begin.

If everything goes according to plan, residents and visitors will be enjoying newly rebuilt trail sections next year and a fully rebuilt trail by 2017. Thank you to the National Park Service, DDOT, FHWA and everyone else involved in bring this project to completion.