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.

Welcome Our New Community Organizer—Renée Moore

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Hello!

I’m Renée Moore, the new community organizer focusing on Vision Zero and the former coordinator for WABA’s Women & Bicycles program, a community of 5,400 women working to inspire more women to bike, teach, lead, and advocate in our region.

I’m so happy to be (back) here and working to share the power of biking. It’s very important to me—riding my bike is my favorite activity and it all started here in D.C. I was able to get rid of a gym membership, avoid parking tickets, lose 37 pounds, and have fun all while getting places around the city.

At 6 years old, I ran into a parked car on my bike and my grandfather took my bicycle away from me- forever. For years I would see others riding and think, “wow, that looks like so much fun.” Finally, when I was 25, a guy asked me on a date and asked me what I wanted to do. I said I wanted to learn to ride a bike. He looked surprised and said cool ok! We went to Georgetown, rented a bike and within 2 hours I was riding along the waterfront all by myself. I was free and I loved it.

In 2013, I took my bicycling group to a workshop with Black Women Bike DC, a workshop on how to bike in the city during the winter. I sat in the back the entire time thinking, “ok, there is no way I am riding in DC streets; that is just crazy!” The four or five times we talked about why bicyclists fare best when they ride in the streets I sat there shaking my head. I decided to take the class again in the spring and this time we went on a ride after the workshop.  I found it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought. But in September, my mom had a stroke. Luckily, she caught it in time and I got her in George Washington Hospital. Unfortunately, the parking was $22! I told my mom that I was going to ride my bike to see her rather than spend $154 / week parking the car to come visit her. And I did! I fell in love with riding in DC. I was saving money. I was getting outside. It was therapeutic.

It was great riding the streets of DC, but not every street in DC feels safe to ride on. We need better infrastructure and better enforcement to make sure that our streets are safe for everyone to walk and bike. And that’s what I’ll be working on—making sure the District’s Vision Zero plans are implemented and our Vision Zero goals realized. I’ll need your voice and help to make it happen. You can reach me at renee.moore@waba.org or on Twitter @girlonbluebike.

See you in the bike lanes,
Renée


 

Everyone loves a public meeting!

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How would you like to spend an hour or two:

  • Meeting your neighbors?
  • Making the place you live better for biking?
  • Meeting the planners and engineers who make decisions about our roads and trails?

Sound good? Great!

Here a few Public Meetings happening this month that you might find interesting:

DC Crosstown Study Meeting
September 13
Columbia Heights Educational Campus
Bike lanes from Brookland to Columbia Heights! DDOT will present its recommendations. Let’s make sure they’re good.
Details

Long Bridge Study Meeting
September 14
L’Enfant Plaza Club Room
DC is studying a new rail bridge across the Potomac. Bike facilities are a possible part of this project.
Details

ANC 1B Transportation Review Committee
September 15th, 7pm
Thurgood Marshall Center, 1816 12th Street NW
DDOT will present designs to the committee for bike lanes along 4th St NW near Howard University and 14th St NW between Florida Ave and Columbia Rd.

Cleveland Park Streetscaping Meeting
September 15
Cleveland Park Library
The goal of this project is to address the recurring flooding problem near the Cleveland Park Metro Station, improve pedestrian safety, access and visibility at all intersections, and upgrade public amenities (curb ramps, adding bike racks, benches and tree boxes). DDOT will present design concepts and gather comments from the community at the meeting.
Details

Quincy Street Protected Bike Lane Update
September 19
Washington & Lee High School, Arlington
Thanks to our Arlington Action Committee’s Bike Friendly Ballston campaign, Arlington County planners will give an update on plans and explain some of the complications of upgrading N Quincy Street’s bike lanes in Ballston. If you’ve been curious about this campaign, this is the meeting for you.
Details

Downtown West Transportation Study Meeting
September 28
MLK Library
On the agenda: westward extension of the Pennsylvania Ave protected bike lanes and other improvements. Good stuff!
Details

A slower, smarter Maryland Ave NE is coming.

Maryland Ave NE Project Area

Maryland Ave NE Project Area

A community meeting last Wednesday to explore DDOT’s 30% design plans to address endemic speeding on Maryland Ave NE turned acrimonious.

The meeting on August 10th was meant to be a chance for residents and neighbors to get a detailed look at the design for the street and offer constructive feedback to improve the project as the design process moves forward. Instead, the packed library meeting rooms filled with heated concerns about parking. We’ve seen this movie before.

The redesign for Maryland Ave. NE is what’s known as a “road diet” due to the fact that it will reduce the number of travel lanes in each direction (from 2 to 1) and the way that it “slims down” the road at intersections to shorten the amount of time it takes for pedestrians to cross. It also includes unprotected bike lanes along the full length of the project.

In DDOT’s analysis, Maryland Ave. NE is a good candidate for a road diet because its traffic volume (9,000-11,000 vehicles per day) can be served by fewer travel lanes without reducing the Level of Service unacceptably. (Note: we’ve discussed this problematic engineering metric before.)

A small but vocal contingent of residents calling themselves Citizens For an Informed & Safer Maryland Avenue believes that the road diet plan has been undertaken without adequate analysis or community input. This despite the work mentioned above and a timeline that began in March of 2011, proceeded through more than a dozen public meetings, and involved hundreds of hours of community engagement—both for the project itself and in conjunction with 2013’s MoveDC plan.

Prior to Wednesday’s meeting, the citizens group circulated a flier urging Maryland Ave. NE residents to attend and raising the twin specters of reduced parking and increased congestion (full disclosure: I live on the 1000 block of Maryland Ave. NE). They also started an online petition and a survey to gauge neighborhood opinions on the road diet. Among their concerns is the “argument” that Maryland Ave. NE is unsafe to bike on and therefore doesn’t need bike lanes.

We here at WABA don’t think these plans are perfect: DDOT missed an good opportunity to install the first protected bike lanes on Capitol Hill (as pointed out over at Greater Greater Washington), but this process has gone on for far too long. Maryland Avenue NE in its current configuration enables rampant speeding and puts people who walk and bike along the corridor in unnecessary danger. DDOT and the community decided this needed to change five years ago. WABA supports the Maryland Ave NE plan as it is currently designed (pending the comments from the meeting) and encourages DDOT to finish the project in 2016.

 The DDOT employees responsible for this project are George Branyan and Ali Shakeri (george.branyan@dc.govali.shakeri@dc.gov). If you live, work, or bike around the project area, please send them an email to let them know you support this project and want to see it move forward.

Great News! The Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety bill passed!

On June 28, the DC Council voted unanimously for the Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Amendment Act of 2016 (B21-335). Mayor Bowser signed the bill in late July. It will become DC law at the end of August after 30 day period of Congressional review. 

Highlights of the Act:

  1. Open access to data and information, including monthly reports published on the DDOT website making available collision data that includes geographic and demographic data, death and injury counts, and possible contributing human factors like intoxication, distraction, or failure to yield. This is an unprecedented level of transparency that will enable independent research and analysis by advocacy groups and public citizens.
  2. Creation of Bicycle and Pedestrian Priority Areas, based on factors such as areas with a high volume of people riding bikes or walking, or areas with frequent or severe crashes. Safety modifications to an area selected to be a Bicycle and Pedestrian Priority Area could include interventions such as prohibiting right turns at red lights, reducing speed limits, installing protected bike lanes, or increasing levels of automated enforcement like safety cameras.
  3. Codification of a Complete Streets policy, with the expressed goals of encouraging walking, bicycling and the use of public transportation, establishing a District-wide integrated system of bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, involving residents and stakeholders in planning and design decisions, actively looking for opportunities to repurpose roads to enhance connectivity for pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit riders, and improving non-motorized access to schools and parks. The Act directs DDOT to incorporate the policy into the agency’s Transportation Strategic Plan, Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plans, and other manuals, rules, regulations, and programs, including construction and reconstruction and maintenance of all roads.
  4. Bicycle insurance consumer protection— the Act contains an entire section on bicycle insurance regulations.
  5. Bicycle and pedestrian safety provisions, including an explicit prohibition against dooring bicyclists, and mandating universal traffic and street safety curriculum for public school children in 1st-5th grade.
  6. Motor vehicle safety provisions, which include updates to taxi and vehicles-for-hire driver training requirements— explicitly instructing them in the rights and duties of motor vehicles not to stop in an intersection or a bike lane; mandate a study for a deferred disposition program for traffic infractions that would allow someone to reduce fines and points if they attend a safety training; increased penalties for aggressive driving; the installation of side guards and blind spot mirrors on registered trucks, and a ban on the use of ATVs and dirt bikes in the District.
  7. Drunk driving provisions that increase penalties for first time drunk driving offenders and offenders with blood alcohol content above .08 but less than .20., mandate participation in the interlock program for all offenders that have a blood alcohol level above the legal limit, and permanently revoke the license after a third conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, driving while intoxicated, or operating a vehicle while impaired.
  8. Establishment of a Major Crash Review Task Force that will consist of staff from MPD, DDOT, Office of Planning, the Bicycle Advisory Council, the Pedestrian Advisory Council and the Multimodal Accessibility Advisory Council. The Task Force will review crashes handled by the Major Crash Investigation Unit of the MPD.

We didn’t get everything we wanted here, but it is a step in the right direction to making D.C. a truly multi-modal city. The legislation is the culmination of the efforts of the Bicycle Pedestrian Working Group convened by Councilmember Cheh last summer, on which our Executive Director Greg Billing served.  As-introduced, this bill represented the consensus items of that working group—which meant some good ideas generated by the group were not aired in the legislative process. Despite initial consensus, stop as yield (aka, the Idaho stop) was removed from the bill amidst last-minute opposition by AAA and MPD.  WABA also pushed the Council to include a city-wide speed limit on local streets of 20 mph and a city-wide ban on right turns at red lights; neither of which are included. Additionally, while other major components of the Mayor’s Vision Zero bill were incorporated into the Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Act, distracted driving provisions were not included. We hope to see those provisions strengthened and combined into a stand-alone bill next legislative session. 

Registration now open for Aug 27 Advocacy 101 Training for Prince George’s Advocates

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Want to learn how to be an effective bike advocate in Prince George’s County? Register for training on Saturday, August 27th.

What: The training, hosted by WABA’s advocacy team, is for Prince George’s folks interested in making their community more bike-friendly. We’ll explore how decisions are made in the County, dive into some of the fundamental tools and approaches to influencing those decisions, and see how we, as individuals or groups, can push Prince George’s County to be more bike-friendly.

Why: Every week, our advocacy team gets emails from local citizens, asking what seems to be a simple question: “I have a great idea that will make it easier and safer to bike in my community. How do I make it happen?”

We love these questions because behind every one is someone riding a bike on the way to work, to the grocery store, or with their kids, thinking “biking is great, but it could be better, and I know how.” Sometimes that idea is as simple as restriping a lane or trimming a bush to improve sight lines. Sometimes it is bigger: a new protected bike lane, lighting a dark stretch of trail, improving an intersection or changing a city policy. We hope that the ideas never stop coming because while parts of the region have made great strides recently, we have  a long way to go.

But the idea is usually not the challenge. Getting a solution implemented is. And that’s what advocacy is all about. That’s what we work towards every day. And while advocating for a great solution can be challenging, it doesn’t take a degree or years of training. Anyone can be an effective bicycle advocate. A little training helps, though.

When/Where:

9:30 am – 1:00 pm
Hyattsville Municipal Building— 4310 Gallatin St. Hyattsville, MD

 

Breakfast and light snacks will be provided. Registration is free and open to all. No advocacy background or experience required.

Register Here

 

Matthew Henson Trail Crossing at Viers Mill Road is Still Deadly

On Sunday July 17th, Oscar Mauricio Gutierrez Osorio, 31 of Silver Spring, was killed crossing Viers Mill Road in Silver Spring where the Matthew Henson Trail crosses a high speed Maryland State Highway, according to the Washington Post. The exact details of the deadly crash involving Mr. Osorio are not public, but the trail crossing is a known safety hazard. This is the same location where Frank Towers, 19 was killed in December 2016,  just days after receiving a new bike for Christmas.

Trail users must cross 7 lanes of traffic where drivers regularly exceed the 45 mph speed limit. For reference, a person walking or biking struck by a driver at 40 mph or greater has an 80 percent chance of dying. At this trail location, there is no traffic light requiring drivers to stop for people walking and biking across the road. Compounding the problem, the trail crosses Viers Mill Road at the bottom of a hill with poor sight lines.

After the death of Frank Towers, the Maryland State Highway Administration “improved” the trail crossing with overhead flashing yellow lights which must be activated by trail users. The crosswalk beg button provides visual and audio cues that the yellow lights are active which was a deficiency of the previous design. This was a flawed approach from the beginning, as yellow lights only require drivers to exercise caution, but not to stop. Any design that requires less than a full stop will continue to cause safety issues. WABA pleaded with engineers to design and constructed a traffic light or HAWK signal which would require drivers to come to a full stop. The request was denied, now with deadly consequences.

Montgomery County is committed to Vision Zero. This is the principle that we must design our streets so that no person (bicyclist, pedestrian or driver) will be killed while using them. This requires that policy makers and traffic engineers be ultimately accountable for design decisions made in our transportation system. People make mistakes when they use our streets, but streets should be designed to be so safe that those mistakes aren’t deadly.

Following Sunday’s crash, WABA reached out to local and state elected representatives, and transportation officials requesting action. On Thursday, July 21st, the entire Montgomery County Council sent a letter to Maryland Governor Hogan, Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn and Maryland State Highway Administrator Greg Johnson requesting immediate prioritization of trail crossing improvements. The letter calls out the current dangerous conditions and the need for immediate action.

Fixing the Matthew Henson Trail crossing at Viers Mill Road is just the beginning. This needs to happen now to prevent future injuries and death at this location. But there are dozens of other trail crossings in the Montgomery and Prince George’s County that need attention too. We need the leadership of the Maryland State Highway Administration to work with localities to protect vulnerable road users by focusing on critical street and trail crossings. This means prioritizing the life and safety of people walking and biking over the convenience of people driving.

No one should die walking or biking across the street.

July 29th, 2016 Update: The delegation from Maryland’s 19th District sent a letter to Maryland State Highway Administrator Greg Johnson requesting immediate corrective action at the Matthew Henson Trail crossing of Veirs Mill Road.  A special thank you Senator Manno (D-19th) for organizing this action on this important community safety issue.