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.

More Detail on Silver Spring’s Second & Wayne Avenue Bike Lanes

Guest post by David Cranor

Sometime in 2018, the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) hopes to build a protected bike lane on Second and Wayne Avenues in downtown Silver Spring. This road diet would create the county’s 5th protected bike lane.

This project will follow the Spring Street/Cedar Street Separated Bike Lanes project (the county’s 4th protected bike lane), which is being constructed in Spring 2017. It will connect to, and extend, those lanes west – where they will connect to the future Capital Crescent Trail.  On the east side, it will connect to the Silver Spring Green Trail.

Because the road has different widths in different locations, the design differs from section to section. From Spring to Fenwick, there will be conventional 5′ wide bike lanes. From Fenwick to Colesville Road there will be one-way, 6′ wide separated bike lanes on each side, with a 6′ wide buffer.

From Colesville Road to Georgia Avenue it will have a 2-way, 8′ wide separated bikeway on the north side of the street. This will be accomplished by moving the curb in and taking advantage of an old bus bay.

The most unusual, and likely most controversial, part is the so-called “Colesville Transition,” where eastbound cyclists will turn across the avenue to the north side to join the two-way bikeway.

Other intersections will be redesigned too. Designs use two-stage queue box pavement markings, colored paint, and floating bus stops.

And at Spring and Second there will be a protected intersection.

The final design should be done this upcoming summer, with the 3-4 month project starting in late 2017 or early 2018. A .pdf with the full current design can be found here.

David Cranor is the Chair of the DC Bicycle Advisory Council and writes about bicycling in the area at The Washcycle

Submit comments to improve the design

  • Door Zone Bike Lanes: plans include a block where people on bikes will have to ride in a narrow painted lane between moving traffic and high turnover parking spaces. While some bicyclists may be accustomed to standard bike lanes, they are far more stressful for inexperienced or young riders and more dangerous due to illegal parking and the high potential for getting “doored.” A network is only as good as it’s weakest link.
  • Narrow Lanes: the protected lanes will also be quite narrow in some places, making it difficult to pass a slower bicyclist or just fit through with a wider format bicycle. Driving lanes should be squeezed to their minimums (10 or 11 feet) to expand the bike lanes in these areas.

This project is sorely needed in downtown Silver Spring, yet even one block of dangerous design makes the whole network less useful. There is still plenty of time to improve these shortcomings, but we need your help to show that there is demand for these changes. Public comments will be accepted until December 21st.

Click here to submit comments to improve the design

Is Mayor Bowser delaying the Shaw protected bike lane?

Biking on 6th St NW: Currently a stressful experience.

Last fall, WABA members and supporters submitted thousands of comments to Mayor Bowser and the District Department of Transportation  in support of building a protected bike lane through Shaw to downtown. Eleven local businesses in Shaw signed on to a letter of support for the project, and nearly 100 residents took the time on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in February to show up in person to the project’s public meeting to demonstrate support and present testimony on what being able to ride around Shaw on a protected bike lane would mean to them. 

Sources tell us that DDOT has recommended one of the four build alternatives and is ready to move forward, but the project has been sitting in the Mayor’s office waiting for a green light.  The original timeline for selecting a preferred alternative for the project was April 2016.  

DDOT and the project study team should be commended for the thorough technical analysis and extensive community outreach that went into this project. The four build alternatives that have been presented to the public represent a more than fair compromise by maintaining up to 95% of on-street residential and Sunday church parking spots, minimizing impacts to traffic, and installing critical pedestrian and bicycle safety improvements. DDOT is recommending a win-win-win.  

The reality is that travel through the Shaw corridor is not as safe as it could or should be. In 2014 alone, 49 people were struck by vehicles while walking and biking along streets in the bike lane project study area. In 2015, 25 people were struck by vehicles on 6th and 9th St. In the first six months of 2016 (the period for which crash data is available), 19 people were struck by vehicles on those streets. These figures represent only those incidents that were reported to police and caused injury, so presumably the actual crash rate is much higher.

Even with the Mayor’s immediate approval of the Eastern Downtown protected bike lane preferred alternative, it would still take up to a year of additional design, engineering, and construction planning before the bike lanes could be built. As the crash statistics above clearly show, people are regularly coming to harm on these streets. This is preventable and we cannot afford further delays.


Sign up for updates on this project






WABA has sent a formal letter to Mayor Bowser requesting that she allow the Eastern Downtown project to move forward. You can read the letter here. If you would like to add your voice, please contact the Mayor and tell her that we have waited long enough for safe streets in Shaw.

Here is some contact information for Mayor Bowser:

Email: eom@dc.gov

Twitter: @MayorBowser

Facebook: MayorMurielBowser

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