Move DC is a Big Vision with a Slow Start

Shiny new protected bike lane on 6th St NE

Shiny new protected bike lane on 6th St NE (photo: Mike Goodno, DDOT)

DDOT released the final Move DC transportation plan last week. The District plans to make a significant investment in bicycling to support growth over the next 25 years. Along with the final plan, DDOT produced a two-year action agenda to get a jump start in implementation. The Move DC plan is giant step forward for bicycling in DC, but the document’s Action Agenda is a timid start.

The final plan is over 173 pages so we haven’t dug too much into the details yet. The final plan looks a lot like the draft plan from June. With the city projected to add 100,000 new residents in the coming years, DDOT  acknowleges that the District can’t accomodate that many new cars, and sets a 25% mode share for walking and bicycling.

To accomplish this growth, DDOT proposes to expand the bicycling network by more than 200 miles over the next 25 years. The complete network would be over 343 miles of dedicate bicycle infrastructure. Beyond trails and bike lanes, Move DC calls for a range of other initiatives including:

  • expanding bikesharing,
  • more public education,
  • increased coordination on enforcement,
  • and lots more policy recommendations beyond physical infrastructure.

Released alongside the Move DC plan, the Action Agenda is a two-year blueprint for the agency. Bike elements include:

  1. Complete Klingle and Kenilworth Anacostia Riverwalk Trail projects and advance Rock Creek and Metropolitan Branch Trail projects (Item 1.5)
  2. Install or upgrade 15 miles of on-street bicycle facilities (Item 1.6)
  3. Study east side of downtown bicycle facility improvements (Item 2.2)
  4. Determine East-West Crosstown Multimodal Study needs and identify solutions (Item 2.4)
  5. Complete review of existing bicycle laws and identify opportunities for changes (Item 3.1)
  6. Complete revisions to the Design and Engineering Manual (Item 3.40
  7. Create TravelSmart program to develop tailored transportation choices for District residents (Item 4.5)
  8. Fully train DDOT staff on multimodal design (item 6.4)

We are glad to see several long-planned trail projects moving forward (item 1), but it’s worth noting that they would likely follow a similar timeline in the absence of the Move DC plan.  Expectations for new on-street bike infrastructure (item 2), on the other hand, have been scaled down, from 10 new miles of bike lanes per year in the District’s 2005 Bicycle Master Plan to 7.5 miles per year in the Move DC Plan. This is a disappointment, but also a realistic average of what the agency has been able to get done over the past few years. That said, as you can see in the photo above, the new bike lanes are both better —more of them will be physically protected from car traffic— and harder to build, as the District has captured most of the low-hanging fruit, and many new bike lanes will require more comprehensive street redesigns that will involve reducing car lanes or parking spaces.

All told,  Move DC is a comprehensive, well vetted plan for improving and encouraging bicycling. DDOT began the public process 18 months ago and made extraordinary efforts to involve the community. Move DC represents a shared vision for transportation. We’re glad that the District has invested in developing such a robust plan, and we look forward to its implementation.

Also

The Bicycle Segment of this plan is good because bicyclists showed up and shared their thoughts at every step of the process. A huge WABA thank you to all of our members and supporters who submitted comments, testified at hearings, showed up at public meetings, and participated in the process!

 

Fairfax County Bike Master Plan Passes Unanimously!

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Last night, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously in support of the Fairfax Bike Master Plan (read the official county press release). The plan recommends 1,130 miles in new on-street and off-road trails to create a connected network across the county. This is first bike master plan for the County.

17 speakers testified at the public hearing in support of the proposed plan. Only one person spoke in opposition. “By giving me [transportation] choices, you literally have changed my life” said Jenifer Joy Madden, a County resident speaking about connecting to new bus and Metro service in Tysons on bicycle.

Building a bike-friendly community starts with a plan and strong commitment from elected officials. Fairfax County Board of Supervisors made a important endorsement of bicycling for recreation and transportation. Chairman Sharon Bulova said, “bicycling is not only for recreation, but for transportation” citing the full bike racks at the new County bike parking facility at the Wiehle Ave Metro Station.

Thank you to all 700 local residents who signed our petition in support of the Bike Master Plan. Congratulations to the Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling (FABB), including a special shout-out to Bruce Wright, for tireless efforts on this campaign. FABB is a sponsored project of WABA. We worked together on this advocacy effort.

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

Trail Tours a Hit!

Over the last few weeks, we’ve been taking a close look at some exciting developments for trails in DC and the surrounding Washington Area.  In September and early October, we invited trail neighbors and curious advocates on three trail tours (each on our advocacy priority list) to see the trails, build some context, and explore options for moving forward with rehabilitation and extensions.  In case you missed the tours, read on a for a recap.  While many of these projects are progressing forward, continued public support and pressure are crucial to seeing them through.

Feeling like you missed all the fun?  Join us on November 15 for our Future Trails Celebration to celebrate our region’s trail’s and learn about the next ones.  This trail tour series, and our ongoing trail advocacy work, was made possible thanks to the generous support of REI!

Metropolitan Branch Trail

Traveling by foot, we toured the future northern route of the Met Branch Trail between the Fort Totten and Takoma Metro Stations, now in design.  This phase will connect directly to the existing trail on John McCormack Road and extend the trail almost to the DC boundary through a combination of wide sidepaths, separated trail, and possible on street improvements.  Click here for more details.

Southeast DC’s Unbuilt Trails

This time by bike, we toured two of the District’s existing trails in Ward 8, experiencing the needs, barriers, and possibilities for better mobility by bike and foot.  In particular, we discussed the new South Capitol St. Trail, the Oxon Run Trail Rehabilitation, and improved connection ot the Suitland Parkway Trail coming with the Douglas Bridge replacement project.

Washington Baltimore & Annapolis Trail

For our third field trip, we took a leisurely ride on the WB&A Trail, a rail trail that runs more than 10 miles in two sections between PG and Anne Arundel Counties in Maryland.  With quiet wooded stretches and luxurious bridges and tunnels, this trail is a delight to ride and would be a crucial connection from DC to Baltimore and Annapolis, if the ambitious plan is completed.  More on extension possibilities to come.

Ask the DC Council to Support the Bicycle Bill

John A. Wilson Building, Washington, DCAs we speak, the insurance industry is lobbying hard to kill proposed legislation aimed at helping injured bicyclists. They like the status quo, which allows them to easily deny claims by bicyclists who have been hit by drivers. But the present system leaves too many injured people without recourse after they’re hit—and it especially affects bicyclists after crashes with automobiles.

It’s time for the DC Council to hear your voice. A proposed bill would make it possible for bicyclists involved in crashes to have their medical bills and damaged bicycle covered by a driver who crashes into them. Under current law if a person contributes in any way to the crash, her claim can be denied. Forty-five states abandoned this doctrine years ago. It’s time for DC to catch up.

Tell the DC Council to update our unfair and out-of-date law.

Last week, the DC Council Committee on the Judiciary held a hearing for the bill. There was overwhelming support for the bill by local residents. Many people testified in favor of expanding the protection to pedestrians and other vulnerable road users.

This is a rare chance for real change. Please take a minute and contact your Councilmember.

You can learn more about this campaign and read our answered to the 10 most common questions about this proposed law.

Success: No bike ban on streetcar guideways

Good news! DDOT released a second draft of proposed rules regarding streetcars today. This draft no longer includes language banning bicycles from the streetcar guideway.

This is good news for several reasons:

  • It means that this poorly thought out policy won’t be implemented.
  • It avoids setting a precedent that would allow the District to ignore its own Complete Streets policy
  • It reaffirms that the public input process, though frustrating at times, does work. More than 800 of you sent emails to DDOT on this issue, and the agency listened.

This change to the regulations successfully addresses a policy problem, but it doesn’t resolve the underlying design flaw: if you’re not careful, streetcar tracks can be tricky when you are on a bicycle. Keep an eye on where your wheels are, and if you’re riding near the H Street line, consider taking parallel streets when you can. Impress your friends by showing off the nifty contraflow bike lanes on G and I Streets Northeast!

It’s worth noting, too, that WABA caught the proposed bike ban in the first place because we have full time advocacy staff whose job it is to read all this fine print. If you appreciate that work, consider becoming a member or making a donation. We can’t do it without your support!

Proposed Sidewalk Biking Ban: Bad Bill, Good Opportunity.

Yesterday, Councilmember Jim Graham introduced a bill that would ban bicyclists from riding on the sidewalk in the District wherever there is a bike lane in the same direction. In the accompanying press release, Graham cites as a reason for the bill the death of 78-year old Quan Chu, who was struck by a bicyclist while walking with his wife. This event was tragic, but it did not take place on a sidewalk.

We recognize that as more people bike and walk in the District, it is important to have clear norms for interactions between bicyclists and pedestrians to keep people safe. We also recognize that the present regulation of bicyclists on the sidewalk makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

For those who don’t know, the present system is to:

  1. prohibit bikes in an arbitrarily shaped “Central Business District,”
  2. place no signage telling anyone where that is,
  3. place bike parking and actual bikeshare stations on the sidewalks in that zone, then
  4. occasionally have MPD ticket bicyclists for using the bike infrastructure the District placed on the sidewalk in the area where the District prohibits sidewalk riding.

It is tempting to simply oppose Graham’s bill because it’s out of touch with the realities of urban riding—we need safe alternatives for novice cyclists when bike lanes are blocked or other safety needs would lead a cyclist to leave the roadway.  But simply opposing any legislation to deal with the sidewalk issue would be a missed opportunity to improve and rationalize the District’s regulation of the relationship between bicyclists and pedestrians.

To do that, we need to insist on evidence-based policy that accounts for real behaviors and real safety needs. We can’t just assume that because a bike lane exists, bicycling there is safe at all times. Similarly, we can’t just assume that because a sidewalk exists, bicycling is unsafe there at all times. Rather, we need to dig into the details and plan for pedestrians and bicyclists with a data-driven approach that accounts for congestion levels and actual safety.

We need to avoid the hyperbolic rhetoric about crashes that, while sad, are not relevant to the bill. And we need to avoid the knee-jerk reaction to take away portions of the public space from vulnerable users due to unsubstantiated fears and biases. Instead, let’s invest our energy in taking policy steps that would actually make pedestrians safer on the sidewalks and bicyclists safer on physically protected infrastructure.

We would like to work with our legislators and pedestrian advocates to improve the District’s regulation of public space for public safety. But this bill presents a lazy one-size-fits-all approach that assumes a bike lane is “good enough” to foreclose other options for people who bike, and we know that simply isn’t how things work in the real world. At a minimum, the bill should be amended to only ban sidewalk riding where there is a physically protected, unobstructed bike lane (also called a cycletrack). But we would prefer an approach that involved DDOT’s bicycle and pedestrian staff in examining sidewalk widths, bike/ped travel rates, and congestion to more sensibly address the issue.

Adding this bike-lane-based ban to the current silly system only makes the system sillier–ensuring that it won’t be enforced or paid attention by anyone. I challenge Councilmember Graham and his colleagues on the Council, if this issue is an issue they wish to focus on, to invest the effort to produce a bill that will rationalize our policy and improve public safety.

This bill doesn’t do that, and WABA therefore opposes it. But we remain eager to participate in crafting a bill that would address Councilmember Graham’s underlying concern in a more comprehensive and data-driven way, in hopes of improving safety for all.

Meanwhile, we’ll keep our focus on the solutions for the hundreds of pedestrians and bicyclists hit and injured by automobiles each year in the District (427 at the time of this writing). We invite our elected officials to take a leadership role in solving that problem as well.

Become a WABA Member: Support our Advocacy Work

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This week is our 2014 WABA Member Drive. On the blog, we’re highlighting the work your membership supports.

Join or renew now!

Your membership directly supports our advocacy work. We spend time in meetings, planning sessions, conference calls, and legislative sessions to try to get the best bicycle infrastructure and support for our region.

Here are some of our major victories over the past year:

 

  • MCDOT Rescinds Capital Crescent Trail Request: In August the Montgomery County Department of Transportation quietly requested that the Maryland Transit Administration remove a tunnel under Jones Mill Road for the Capital Crescent Trail, despite a long-standing plan to build a completely grade-separated trail from Bethesda to Silver Spring along the Purple Line. WABA asked members in Montgomery County to contact the County Council asking to keep the safe trail crossing. MCDOT rescinded their request and the tunnel will be built.
  • Safe Accommodations during Construction in DC: The Bicycle Safety Amendment Act of 2013 includes a provision which requires future construction permits to provide “safe accommodations” for bicyclists and pedestrians.
  • A Rebuilt Rock Creek Park Trail is One Step Closer: At the end of June, the District Department of Transportation released the Final Environmental Assessment for the rehabilitation of the Rock Creek Park Multi-Use Trail. The final design could not be completed without this environmental document, which was holding up construction. DDOT and NPS can now finalize the design, and construction could begin in some sections as early as next year.

More victories are ahead with your support! The first 500 people to join or renew this week will receive a limited edition “I bike. I vote. @ I’m a WABA Member” t-shirts. T-shirts can be picked up on October 17 from 5:30-8:00 PM at Beirgarten Haus on H st. or will be shipped the week after.