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

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

Mayor Bowser Signs #FixContrib bill at WABA Happy Hour

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On October 13, Mayor Bowser, Councilmembers Mary Cheh, David Grosso, and Elissa Silverman, DDOT Director Leif Dormsjo, and some of our favorite WABA members joined us for a very special member Happy Hour—to witness and celebrate the public signing of the Motor Vehicle Collision Recovery Act.

Councilmember Cheh:

“We’ve been trying to get a bill like this passed for a long time. We’re here to celebrate the effort that was put in by everybody to make that happen. This is a bill that provides a system of fair compensation. We know that bicyclists and pedestrians are at such great risk if they are hit by a car and yet they were often shut out of any recovery, it was just unjust! This is and should be seen as part of the overall Vision Zero work that is going on. At the end of the day, we want the District of Columbia to be safe for all users.”

Councilmember Grosso:

“The work the WABA does is so important for the District of Columbia. Their advocacy work down at the Council is what made this bill actually happen.  And it was not easy.  It was a long haul for 2 & ½ or so years. Normally we’re way ahead and people are asking us to slow down, but on this one there’s only three jurisdictions that hadn’t moved to this legal paradigm. I look forward to continuing to work with WABA to expand all our protected bike lanes throughout the heart of our city, around the perimeter.”

Councilmember Silverman:

“I’m here on behalf of the cycling Councilmembers. This bill provides fairness and access to the courts for cyclists and pedestrians who are in a crash. There has been a lot of effort by this administration to build bicycle infrastructure, to get people out of their cars and make this a city that truly is walkable and bikeable and safe for all.  

My WABA membership card is at my desk for every time Greg [Billing, Executive Director] comes around. I just show it to him and say, I’m with you!”

 

Mayor Bowser:

“We have made the case to public officials and to the public that biking is great for recreation, but it is also a viable commute option. When we think about where our city is right now, we know we can’t just have have car only options, that we have to make our network support everybody and we need more people riding their bikes.

But we’ve picked a lot of the low-hanging fruit. The things we have  to do now to speed up and have more bicycle lanes and fix our trails, this is the tough lifting that we have to do. I’m happy to have the Council so focused on this as a partner. We’re focused on this as well. We also have a challenge ahead of us.

WABA, you’re the leader of the pack. We need you to keep working hard, keep challenging us with great ideas, keep advocating for more funding, keep going out to neighborhoods and educating the public. We need your help with that. Because people won’t fight us if they are with us from the beginning. And you can help with that.”

Watch a video of the entire event and check out more photos below:

 

The signed Act is now under Congressional Review. Its projected law date is December 16, 2016.

September Advocacy Roundup


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At the #FixContrib Rally

At the #FixContrib Rally

Bike Laws and Policies

Bill to fix Contributory Negligence Passes the DC Council!

Great news!!  After nearly three years of persistent organizing and advocacy by the WABA community, the DC Council just voted unanimously for the second time to pass the Motor Vehicle Collision Recovery Act to fix contributory negligence!

Read more…


Low-Stress Bike Network

NPS releases finalized study for a seamless regional trail network!

The study includes a set of goals and 121 capital and programmatic recommendations, in addition to a framework for prioritizing regional funding of trail-related projects in the National Capital Region.

Read more …

A Bicycle Traffic Garden and Mt. Vernon Trail Reroute may be coming to Jones Point Park in Alexandria.

The George Washington Memorial Parkway is in the process of proposing improvements to Jones Point Park; we’re working to make sure the changes work for people on bikes too.

Read more …

Roosevelt Bridge and East Capital Bridge rehabilitations need to accommodate bicycles and pedestrians.

The District Department of Transportation is planning major rehab of the East Capital St. and I-66 bridges, yet needed bicycle and pedestrian sidepath improvements are not included.

Read more …

The prohibition against parking in bike lanes is rarely enforced.

We dug into DC’s Parking and Moving Violation data and found a few concerning trends.

Read more…

New Connections: Proposed improvements between Capital Crescent and Rock Creek Park Trails

The K Street/Water St NW situation is a scary one for bikes. Between the U-turning buses, trucks and vehicles, frustrated rush-hour commuters, lots of back-in parking, and missing sidewalks that force people to walk in the street, there is no clear area for cyclists to position themselves to avoid conflicts. Fortunately, there’s a plan to transform the corridor into something that works.

Read more…

Arlington Action Committee briefed by County staff on progress towards a protected bike lane on Quincy St.

Arlington County staff presented a summary of the constraints and trade-offs for upgrading N. Quincy Street’s existing bike lanes, and a preliminary design concept for a few key blocks.

Read more…


WABA in the News

Vision Zero FAQ

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Last year, Mayor Bowser committed to Vision Zero, an initiative to eliminate all traffic fatalities by 2024. Between 2010 and 2014, 67 drivers and passengers, 57 pedestrians and 7 bicyclists were killed in traffic related collisions. That’s 131 lives lost because of decisions we as a society make about what to value in road design.

Vision Zero is a paradigm shift to our approach to traffic safety that has at its core the idea that any loss of life on our roads is unacceptable. As the new Vision Zero Community Organizer at WABA, my job is to to make  sure Vision Zero succeeds. It seems like a huge goal but one I know we can reach. To get started, let’s talk about what Vision Zero is, how it will impact your life and what you can do to help make zero traffic fatalities a reality in the Washington DC region.

So let’s start with the basics-

What is Vision Zero?

Vision Zero is a city-wide approach to eliminating all traffic fatalities and serious injuries by 2024 for all people using our roadways. The core principle of Vision Zero is that traffic fatalities and injuries are preventable. Crashes are result of human behavior and poor roadway designs.

How Does Vision Zero Work?

To change the fact that people die on our roads every day, we will have to tackle road safety from a variety of angles, sometimes referred to as “the four E’s” —education, engineering, enforcement, and the evaluation of data. We need more public education about how to behave on the roads to keep from harming others, better roadway designs to minimize conflicts between road users, like people on bicycles, in cars, on foot, and using public transit, better enforcement of traffic laws and using crash data to help prioritize which areas most urgently require design and enforcement interventions to decrease crashes.

Where did the Vision Zero idea originate?

Vision Zero was adopted as national policy in Sweden in 1997. The philosophy of Vision Zero is “no loss of life is acceptable”.  The Vision Zero approach is that humans make mistakes. Our roadways need to keep us moving but those roads should protect us at every turn.

How would implementing Vision Zero change the city’s streets?

Some examples of changes that make streets safer are known as “traffic calming”— measures like removing or narrowing road lanes to send a signal that cars should be traveling at slower speeds. Other interventions include lowered speed limits and speed humps. Sidewalk repairs or additions, protected crosswalks, and pedestrian refuges to make it safer for pedestrians and those in wheelchairs to get around, or protected bike lanes that separate bicycles from car traffic.

Why lower speed limits? Won’t this make traffic worse?

No. Traffic is determined by traffic signals, cars turning and congestion. With lowered speed limits, drivers have a better field of vision to stop for pedestrians and bicyclists thus lowering the number of serious injuries and fatalities from collisions.

How will WABA be involved ?

We will be hosting workshops and street safety audits and asking for people like you in the community to help identify  areas that are unsafe for our most vulnerable citizens- those walking, biking, elderly, children, or disabled. The WABA community will work with DC Department of Transportation and other agencies assigned to do their part to achieve Vision Zero to create safer roadways and sidewalks for travelers.

How many traffic fatalities are there in the DC?

There are 20-25 fatalities due to traffic deaths every year in DC.  About half of those killed are drivers, about half are pedestrians and about 2 are bicyclists.

I want to make streets safer for everyone in DC. How can I help?

We will be hosting a number of workshops and other opportunities throughout the city over the next 12 months. The first one will be at Dorothy Height Library on Benning Rd NE on November 20th at 1pm. We will be discussing Vision Zero, traffic safety, participating in a walking safety audit to explore an intersection that could be safer for DC travelers and making suggestions on how to make the roadway less stressful for all. Come join us and provide your input. Or you can contact me at renee.moore@waba.org

New Connections: Proposed improvements between Capital Crescent and Rock Creek Park Trails

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The southern terminus of the Capital Crescent Trail. Photo by Kevin Posey.

Last week, I had one of the nicest bike rides of the summer. I cruised blissfully down the Capital Crescent Trail, soaking in the views of the Potomac and enjoying the shady tree cover. But the transition back to the on-street bike network was a harsh one, and my trail euphoria evaporated immediately.

For those of you who have ridden or walked along the Capital Crescent Trail and finished the trip at the southern terminus in Georgetown, you probably relate to the experience.

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The Capital Crescent Trail ends at the dead end of Water St. NW.

The K Street/Water St NW situation is a scary one for bikes. Between the U-turning buses, trucks and vehicles, frustrated rush-hour commuters, lots of back-in parking, and missing sidewalks that force people to walk in the street, there is no clear area for cyclists to position themselves to avoid conflicts. And despite thousands of people using the corridor every day, it remains a mess.

Fortunately, there’s a plan to transform the corridor into something that works for people on bikes and on foot.

The Georgetown Business Improvement District (Georgetown BID) and District Department of Transportation (DDOT) are working to provide a better solution for K Street/Water St NW (this is the road beneath the Whitehurst Freeway- it is Water St. on the western end, and turns into K St. at Wisconsin Ave.) between the southern terminus of the Capital Crescent Trail (near Potomac Boat Club) to Rock Creek Park Trail, just east of 29th St. NW.

With funding through Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG) Transportation-Land Use Connections Program, the project has taken off. Since January of 2016, Georgetown BID and DDOT have been gathering information and assessing the corridor, as well as reaching out to the public and business owners. They produced the conceptual design for the corridor in June 2016, and WABA and other stakeholders recently received an on-the-ground tour of what the concept plan entails.

Here’s what we learned:

The Capital Crescent Trail is a bicycle superhighway.

  • We all know it, but the numbers back up our instinct: The CCT is a bicycle superhighway. On this year’s peak day (Labor Day), more than 3,700 people rode under the Aqueduct Bridge at the southern end of the Capital Crescent Trail. That’s a boatload of folks on two wheels. In fact, if the Capital Crescent Trail traffic was measured like a road, it would be equivalent to a collector street! We must serve bicyclists better when they enter the on-road network.
    Beneath the Aqueduct Bridge, the Southern terminus of the Capital Crescent Trail, in Georgetown.

    Beneath the Aqueduct Bridge, the Southern terminus of the Capital Crescent Trail, in Georgetown.

Things will be A LOT better for bicycling.

  • Riding with car traffic along K/Water Street is not for the faint of heart. But the concept plan includes a two-way protected bike lane on the south side of K/Water Street. By providing protected infrastructure for bicyclists, it’s clear where to ride (away from cars) and allows many more people to access the corridor by bike.
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    Georgetown BID is proposing horse troughs as potential buffers for the protected bike lane in the K St./Water St. Bicycle and Pedestrian Enhancements project.

And it will be a lot better for walking.

  • By providing protected infrastructure for bicyclists, there is a clear directive of where to ride. This will reduce the number of bicyclists within Georgetown Waterfront Park. Many ride through the Park because the on-street traffic is so unpredictable (read: dangerous).
  • The trail adjacent to K/Water Street is a fantastic connector, but is not all the way connected, and some would argue is better suited for pedestrians.
  • Additionally, the concept plan includes widening sidewalks on both sides of the street, meaning more room in front of Malmaison to drink your coffee, more space in front of Gypsy Sally’s to meet your friends before a show, and more room to simply WALK.
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Will Handsfield from Georgetown BID explains the specifics of the concept plan.

But it’s not all about bicyclists and pedestrians.

  • The plan includes other enhancements that will make car traffic flow smoother, too, like the addition of a left turn lane for eastbound cars turning onto Wisconsin Avenue, and reducing the attractive nuisance of free parking spaces at the dead-end of the road, which causes significant traffic congestion.
  • Tour buses will also get a central drop off location on lower Wisconsin Avenue along with locations within a mile of Georgetown where they can reliably park and lay over.
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Looking down to Water St. NW and Georgetown Waterfront Park. Photo by Kevin Posey.

The concept plan is compatible with future long-term plans.

  • If/when the Streetcar makes it to Georgetown, or when additional boathouses are developed near the aqueduct by the National Park Service, the road and lane configuration can change to accommodate it. In the interim, using attractive planters as physical separation for bikes will create a cycling environment unlike anywhere else in the city.

There is an opportunity for a really neat bridge over Rock Creek at the eastern end of the corridor.

  • To connect to Rock Creek Park Trail, bicyclists would still need to squish onto a seven-foot sidewalk below an overpass, shared with pedestrians, and lacking safe sightlines. A temporary scaffolding bridge over Rock Creek where there is already a DDOT freeway overpass could be a temporary solution as NPS and others plan for a permanent bridge at the corridor’s east end. This area is nearly impossible to see from the road, but would be a vital solution for both walkers and bicyclists, and an innovative alternative to the too-narrow sidewalk that currently connects K St. walkers and bikers to the Rock Creek Park Trail.
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    A scaffolding bridge could span Rock Creek, an interim solution to connect the K St/Water St. improvements to the Rock Creek Park Trail.

This isn’t pie in the sky. It’s realistic, and many want to see it implemented.

  • The corridor is included in the 2005 DDOT Bicycle Master Plan, and is some of the lowest hanging fruit at this time.
  • Part of the corridor was also identified by National Park Service as one of 18 priority projects in their recently released Paved Trails Study (It’s project C1.1: Closure of Gap on Water Street NW b/w 30th and 31st St. NW.)
  • The community around this area is clamoring for improvements! The existing conditions are undesirable, and stakeholders from all different interest groups are eager to rally together to support a way forward.
  • This can be a great example of a public/private partnership. MWCOG, Georgetown BID, and DDOT have already shown a remarkable degree of cooperation in developing the concept plan, and the BID (a private entity) has stepped forward to offer various maintenance and implementation support that could make this streetscape the gold standard for a commercial area.

 

Something to note: The improvements in the concept plan relate to a current NPS Environmental Assessment regarding non-motorized boathouses in Georgetown. NPS has five proposed sites for new or refurbished boathouses along the waterfront. The Georgetown Nonmotorized Boathouse Zone Development Plan EA is open for comments until Sept. 30. We encourage you to comment!

We thank DDOT and Georgetown BID for their work on this project, and are excited to be part of the next stage.

Contributory Negligence clears another hurdle!

Great news!!  After nearly three years of persistent organizing and advocacy by the WABA community, the DC Council just voted unanimously for the second time to pass the Motor Vehicle Collision Recovery Act to fix contributory negligence!

Thank your Councilmembers!

This was something that, three years ago, we were told couldn’t be done. Together, we have changed what is possible.  It will now go to Mayor Bowser for a signature, and afterwards undergo thirty days of Congressional review. We aren’t across the finish line yet, but we are closer than ever. This could not have happened without strong leadership on Council, especially Councilmembers Grosso, Cheh, and McDuffie.

Click here to send a quick thank you email to all your representatives on DC Council.