Arlington Installs Its First Protected Bike Lanes

And there was much rejoicing…

Arlington County finished installing a protected bike lane (also known as a cycle track) this month on Hayes Street in the Pentagon City neighborhood. These are the first protected bike lanes in Arlington County. The set of one-way lanes run 1/3 mile from South Joyce St / 15th St to South Fern Street.

hayes-st-bike-lanesPeople riding bikes are buffered from motor vehicles by parked cars. The space is created by moving parked cars away from the curb.

The Hayes Street protected bike lanes are the first in Arlington County and part of what will be a growing network of lanes in the neighborhood. The County has plans to install protected bike lanes on South Eads Street this Fall,  Army Navy Drive and South Clark Street.

Increasing the number and quality of protected bike lanes in the region is one of  WABA’s ten advocacy priorities. Protected bikes lanes create a dedicated, safe space that makes bicycling more appealing to new and less confident riders.

Congratulations Arlington!

View the complete set of photos below or on the WABA Flickr page.

VDOT Installs Bike Lanes on Sherwood Hall Lane

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is almost finished installing the bike lanes on on Sherwood Hall Lane. We asked our WABA members and supporters in southern Fairfax County to speak up in support of the project during the public process back in March. With overwhelming support for the bike lanes, VDOT moved this project forward.

VDOT proposed traffic calming improvements and bike lanes on Sherwood Hall Lane in southern Fairfax County. This road is an important bicycle connection between Mount Vernon Parkway/Fort Hunt Road and the Route 1 corridor. Bike lanes now extend about 1.75 miles. Del. Scott Survell (VA-44th) has recorded a video tour of the new bike lanes with his helmet camera, you can watch them on his blog.

There has been little push back to the new bike lanes. There was however a negative Letter to the Editor about the Sherwood Hall Lane bike lanes in the Mount Vernon Voice on August 20th. Read it online here. Letter to the Editor in support of the bike lanes can be sent to their editors through their website.

Thank you to Fairfax County Supervisor Gerald Hyland, Virginia Senator Toddy Puller, and Virginia Delegate Scott Surovell for their support of this project.

WABA’s advocacy is supported by your membership dollars. Join or donate to WABA today to enable us to continue to achieve success in our advocacy work.

DDOT’s Safe Accommodation Rules Are Pretty Good.

Construction blocking the M St Cycletrack

We’ll see less of this sort of thing in the future.
(photo by @mstbiketrack)

Last week, DDOT released its draft regulations for construction projects that block sidewalks and bike infrastructure. The regulations require:

“A safe and convenient route for pedestrians and bicyclists that ensures an accommodation through or around a work zone that is equal to the accommodation that was provided to pedestrians and bicyclists before the blockage of the sidewalk, bicycle lane, or other public bicycle path.”

These new rules are required by the Bicycle Safety Amendment Act of 2013, which WABA worked hard to pass.  By and large, they’re quite good.

You can read WABA’s official comments on the rules here, many of which are small but important wording changes, but here’s a short version:

Minimum Design Standards. The rules that apply to blocking car lanes have objective standards for things like lane width. As written, bicycle accommodation is only required to be “equal in level of safety” to the affected bicycle facility. We would like to see explicit, objective standards provided here.

More clarity about how the rules apply to trails.  Trails are technically included in the regulations as a “Public Bicycle Path,” but safely accommodating a blocked bike trail presents different challenges than a blocked bike lane. We’d like to see the language amended to state:

“The method for providing the safe trail accommodation for bicyclists shall require construction of a detour of similar width and character adjacent to the impacted trail, or as a last resort, detouring bicyclists onto the nearest roadway, in which case the detour shall replicate, as closely as practicable, the level of safety found on the bicycle route being blocked.”

Ongoing Maintenance: As written, the rules don’t explicitly require the construction company or whoever is blocking the bike infrastructure to maintain the temporary facility once it is built. We would like to see this requirement made explicit.

If you would like to add your own comments on these rules, you can do so here.

 

Let’s Extend the 15th St NW Protected Bike Lane to Constitution Ave

This guest post is written by Cheryl Hawkins, a WABA Member from Washington, DC. Have an advocacy issue you’d like to write about for our blog? Contact us at advocacy@waba.org.

During my daily commute from Takoma neighborhood to Crystal City I think I ride on every form of bicycle infrastructure – shared streets, bike lanes, and off-street paths. I also have the privilege to ride along nearly the entire length of the 15th St. NW protected bike lane (also known as a cycle track) and I absolutely adore it. I would say many other cyclists agree, since the protected bike lane is usually filled with long lines of cyclists on my evening commute home. I recently heard someone from out-of-town who was riding in the bike lane comment that she had “never been in a bicycle traffic jam before.”

The reasons the protected bike lane is popular are obvious – separation from automobile lanes means a much safer and more comfortable ride. According to DDOT counts, between 300-400 people travel the lanes during the morning and evening rush hours. The additional separation created by the white flex-posts and hashed areas make it less likely for a person riding to be injured by a car door than when riding in the bike lanes that run between parked cars and car lanes. The protected bike lane provides a fast, direct route for people riding bikes through the center of the District.

While not perfect, the 15th St. protected bike lanes is far superior to sharrows and standard bike lanes. I also prefer the protected bike lane to narrow, shared-use paths like Mount Vernon trail because the space is dedicated to bike riders. Pedestrians have their own separate space on the wide sidewalk.

I feel incredibly lucky to have the 15th St. protected bike lane as part of my route to work, but where the protected bike lane ends on Pennsylvania Ave. is the absolute worse part of my entire commute. The block of 15th St. between Pennsylvania Ave. and Constitution Ave. is chaotic, and frightening at times, for cyclists traveling in both directions. People riding south along this block in the mornings have to contend with vendors parking their trailers, forcing the cyclists into the left traffic lane while fast moving traffic coming down the hill bears down on them. Cyclists traveling southbound in the evenings have to worry about getting crushed between the enormous tour buses leaving the right lane and the heavy automobile traffic that fills the block. For northbound cyclists, it is confusing how to best connect to the protected bike lane once reaching Pennsylvania because it is on the opposite side of the street. There are many different variations to connect from the northbound lanes into the protected bike lanes and no one does it the same causing confusion for bicyclists and drivers alike.

I have been yelled at by drivers to “get into the bike lane,” and have had some close calls with passing cars that violate the legally required three feet buffer. Sidewalks and paths on National Park Service property are technically shared-used and it is legal for people to ride bikes on them. However, the parallel sidewalk on 15th St. between Pennsylvania Ave. and Constitution Ave. is not Park Service property, but a DC sidewalk and within the Central Business District where sidewalk riding is illegal. For this one block bicyclists are forced to mix with car traffic which confuses, and possibly upsets, drivers when they observe cyclists on the sidewalk one block away.

This one dangerous block demonstrates a difficulty in the developing bicycle infrastructure – the gaps. The gaps are where bike lanes and protected bike lanes end and bicyclists are forced to mix with cars. For drivers the sudden appearance of people on bikes in their lanes is an annoyance, which some respond to with rather risky behavior. For bicyclists the end of a bike lanes can be nerve racking. There may be alternative routes to and from the National Mall from the 15th St protected bike lane to avoid this dangerous spot, but the most direct and convenient route is obvious.

The main opposition to the extension of the 15th St. protected bicycle lane to Constitution Ave. will be from the tour bus operators and the few food and souvenir vendor trailers that currently park on the west side of the street. The parking lane will be repurposed in order to accommodate the protected bike lane extension. The vendor spaces could easily be moved to the other side of 15th St. and the tour buses already have several drop-off/pick-up locations one block over on 14th St. NW. The safety and mobility of daily District bike commuters and bikeshare riders should not be secondary to the convenience of t-shirt vendors.

The protected bike lane was initially installed as a pilot project by DDOT. Without a doubt, the pilot has been a resounding success with many thousands of people rely on it daily. The original pilot plan from 2010 included the one-block extension south but was later scrapped when there was political pushback from vendors. The need for the extension is now abundantly clear. Currently, DDOT has included the extension of the 15th St. protected bike lane to Constitution Ave. in the District’s draft long range transportation plan MoveDC. The project is listed as a Tier 1 project which means it is top priority.

DDOT needs to continue improving the bicycling network to support the rapidly growing number of daily riders with a focus on extending the current network of lanes citywide, and removing any gaps in the routes. DDOT should work quickly to complete the extension of the 15th St. cycle track to Constitution Ave. as soon as possible.

 Sign the petition to extend the 15th St. Protected Bike Lane

 

A First Step Toward Better Bike Lanes in MD and VA

Two way protected bike lane illustration from the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide.

This week, WABA sent letters to local departments of transportation requesting consideration and adoption of the National Association of City Transportation Officials’ (NACTO) Urban Bikeway Design Guide. The NACTO guide presents state-of-the-practice solutions that create safe, enjoyable complete streets for current and new bicyclists.

The NACTO guide provides county traffic engineers with additional designs for innovative bicycling facilities that use several techniques to encourage new bicyclists, primarily by separating bike lanes from car traffic. The guide also has recommendations for designing on-road facilities such as buffered bike lanes, protected bike lanes (cycle tracks), bike boxes, contraflow bike lane and other facilities.  Adoption of the NACTO guide by local DOTs clears one of the many obstacles to building protected bike lanes.

Why protected bike lanes?

Protected bike lanes keep current bicyclists safer while encouraging new people to use bicycles for transportation. WABA is working to increase the miles of protected bike lanes throughout the region. Learn about our advocacy priority and our local campaign to build a protected bike lanes in Bethesda. More local campaigns are coming soon.

We sent letters to the Directors of Transportation for Fairfax County, Prince Georges’ County, Montgomery County and the City of Alexandria*.

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) and Arlington County have already endorsed the guide and are currently implementing protected bike lanes. We will publish the written responses we receive from the departments to the blog.

Read the full letter requesting adoption of NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide.

* Update: The City of Alexandria has also endorsed the NACTO guide. 

DC Dept. of Public Works Testing Side Underrun Guards

DPW Side Underrun Guard Pilot

DC DPW is piloting side underrun guards on a few vehicles. Photo credit: DC DPW

The District Department of Public Works (DPW) is piloting a few designs of side underrun guards on a some of their large vehicles. Underrun guards are installed to limit the likelihood a bicyclist or pedestrian would be pulled underneath a vehicle when a crash occurs. DPW is testing a few different prototype designs and will be evaluating them over the coming months. There is no immediate schedule for when all vehicles would be outfitted.

The Bicycle Safety Enhancement Act of 2008 requires the Mayor to “equip all District-owned, heavy-duty vehicles side-underrun guards to prevent bicyclists, other vehicles, or pedestrians from sliding under rear wheels” (full legislation on DC Council website). WABA advocated for this law after the tragic death of Alice Swanson in Dupont Circle who was killed by a turning privately owned truck. The mandate was unfunded for a few years until 2012 at the urging of DC Council. We would like to thank DPW for working through all of the challenges to implement this element of the 2008 law and we would like to express our encouragement for full implementation.

Tiny Steps Toward Reality for Met Branch North

Image Credit: mvjantzen

Preliminary engineering and design of the northern section of the Met Branch Trail between the Fort Totten transfer station to the Tacoma Metro Station (technically called Phase 2) kicked off this month. DDOT provided this juicy news during their update at July meeting of the DC Bicycle Advisory Council (DC-BAC).  The preliminary engineering and design phase will bring the plans to 30% of complete. It’s a small but important step forward. For a sense of where this fits into the whole project, here’s a handy chart:

The engineering firm RK&K is the primary contractor on this project with the Toole Design Group as a subcontractor for trail design. A timeline of when this phase will be complete is not finalized yet.  After this work, the trail design needs to be 100% complete before a construction contract could be awarded and actual trail building to begin. All of these dates are unknown.

This is definite forward progress on the MBT. But, still no answer to Councilmember Mary Cheh famous question: “Will I be alive [when the trail is finished]?

Ride to the Washington Post

Bike Ambassador/ Women & Bicycles 2

If you’re free for your lunch break, local bicyclist Mike Forster has organized a bike ride to the Washington Post in response to the Courtland Milloy column. You can read WABA’s full response to the column on our blog.

Click here to view the event page for today’s ride. WABA is not formally officiated with this event, but we recognize the strong reaction to the column at-issue, and wanted to let our supporters know this event is happening.

We’d also like to thank you for being a member and enabling our efforts to push back against those who threaten bicyclist safety. We are only able to be here to stand up for bicyclists because of your financial support and commitment. Click here to join or donate if you haven’t already.

 

Setting the Record Straight re: Milloy’s “Bullies”

We still have that sign. We still mean it. Thanks for not hitting us because the newspaper says it’s OK.

Yesterday, The Washington Post published a column by Courtland Milloy that attempts to justify the violent assault of bicyclists by motorists, writing: “It’s a $500 fine for a motorist to hit a bicyclist in the District, but some behaviors are so egregious that some drivers might think it’s worth paying the fine.” The “egregious” behavior Milloy cites is simply slowing his car’s progress between stoplights.

This piece of rhetoric is both irresponsible and incorrect. Encouraging, or at least condoning, acts of violence has no place in civil discourse, and I am appalled that our hometown paper has published such a statement. We have, of course, grown accustomed to journalists and columnists who resort to bike-versus-car tropes to fill column space. However, this attempt to justify assault as a mere cost of doing business for motorists is well beyond the pale.

Those who might take Milloy’s counsel and share his sick calculation that bicyclists’ temporary slowing of motorists is worth attacking those bicyclists should know that his facts are wrong. Intentionally assaulting a bicyclist carries a much stiffer penalty than the $500 he cites. So even his readers who lack the moral judgment to recognize that assaulting a bicyclist with a motor vehicle is a barbaric, criminal act should know that his advice is flawed.

Throughout this column, Milloy does his best to avoid resorting to facts and data in favor of regurgitating simplistic, inaccurate, and pejorative stereotypes. Those who bike are labeled “bullies” and “terrorists” without explanation, and Milloy intentionally mischaracterizes and maligns programs that WABA has undertaken in our efforts to minimize the conflicts between drivers and cyclists on the roadways.

Rather than attempt to debate Milloy’s specious mental construction of the new-white-millenial-bully-terrorist-pedicabber laughing maniacally as he simultaneously displaces elderly churchgoers, threatens downtown pedestrians, and terrorizes motorists, I will focus on setting the record straight on the work that the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) actually does to make our roadways, sidewalks, and trails safer. (For those looking for the point-by-point rebuttal, I refer you to Aaron Wiener’s City Paper article and Washcycle’s response.)

Milloy is correct that much of our work is focused on improving roadway infrastructure to accommodate more than automobiles. That includes changes to our roadways that provide dedicated space for people who bike, including bike lanes and protected bikeways. Bicyclists are neither cars nor pedestrians, and in the District the number of people biking has moved the conversation well beyond the question of whether there needs to be space for people who bike, and on to how to provide it in a safe manner. At one time, Milloy seemed to recognize the need for this dedicated space for bicyclists, as his own 1998 account of biking after his license was suspended for excessive speeding included being caught in the common bicyclist’s catch-22 in which you are welcome on neither the roadway nor the sidewalk, and there is no third option. WABA unapologetically works to get that third option built into our public space.

Infrastructure is not the only key to integrating the growing number of bicyclists safely into the District’s transportation network, however. For things to function properly, rules and laws must be written appropriately for each mode of travel, and people must be encouraged or compelled to follow those laws. As biking grows, WABA advocates for laws that clarify the rights and responsibilities of bicyclists where physical differences justify departure from standard vehicular rules. However, our greater role is in encouraging safe and lawful behavior on the roadways through our education programming and Bike Ambassador program. This year alone, WABA has taught safe cycling to over 3,000 bicyclists, with a curriculum that emphasizes riding predictably and lawfully.

Meanwhile, our Bike Ambassador program works to engage with those who are not inclined to attend WABA’s education program on the streets. The program uses mobile signage, light and bell giveaways, explanatory flyers detailing bike laws and safety tips, and other forms of quick communication to encourage bicyclists to ride safely and motorists to respect that right. In his column, Milloy focuses on the words “bike ninja,” which is slang for a bicyclist who wears dark clothes and no lights while riding at night, and uses it as a catch-all for all sorts of belligerent, but irrelevant, behavior. What Milloy pillories in his column is an effort by the team of Bike Ambassadors who volunteer their time to give out lights to cyclists who would otherwise ride home after an evening movie without any.

Finally, I want to directly address Milloy’s scattered but consistent efforts to cast bicycling as the realm of “newly arrived white millenials” and somehow not for the longtime residents, black residents, Ward 8 residents, etc. Apparently “bikes versus cars” is not the only “us versus them” conflict worth trotting back out in print.

Milloy cites the fact that in the past, black juveniles on bikes were routinely stopped by police for trifling bike infractions in order to detain them, search them, or harass them. What Milloy neglects to mention is that the laws used to justify those stops are no longer on the books. They were successfully challenged by WABA and repealed nearly a decade ago, with the strong support of Councilmember Mendelson.

He also fails to note that WABA’s first formal outreach program was one designed to improve bicycling conditions and grow ridership east of the Anacostia River, with efforts centered squarely in Ward 8. In recent years, in that ward alone, WABA has held over a dozen classes, countless rides and events, and nearly thirty free bike repair clinics at which we have repaired several hundred bikes and led their owners on fun, casual, community rides. Undoubtedly, there are barriers to bicycling in Ward 8 that we must work together to overcome. WABA is working to overcome them and make the streets safer—especially in Ward 8 where the need for affordable mobility is perhaps most acute.

To Milloy, the facts seem not to matter, as his arguments are constructed to tear down a cartoon bicycling “terrorist” that bears little resemblance to real people who ride their bikes in the District: black, white, Latino, or otherwise. Certainly, one can build a composite of the worst behaviors encountered over time and attribute those behaviors to every person who rides a bike—but that is not journalism or even fair characterization. It is lazy stereotyping.

At no point does Mr. Milloy engage with the human side of biking or speak to any people who actually bike. By engaging only with his conceptual cartoon bike-terrorist, Milloy can excuse and justify violence against real people on bikes. He does not fear for his safety, the safety of his spouse, the safety of his children. He does not know the fear that stays with you for days after being threatened on the roadway by the angry driver of a machine weighing a ton. He does not know the fear that creeps into your throat when a bike-commuting family member is a half-hour late arriving home.

Every day, I talk to bicyclists who have been in crashes and try to help them deal with the experience. Less often, I speak to the families of those who have been in more serious crashes and are not able to speak for themselves. I have painted ghost bike memorials for cyclists black and white alike. I have placed them across the region and on both sides of the river, from Germantown to Southern Avenue. I have prayed at the vigils with churches and families, black and white alike.

In those moments, everyone is able to focus on the human tragedy and join together to call for the improvements that might keep the next human tragedy from occurring. In those moments it seems so silly that we cannot reconfigure simple pavement and white lines in a way that serves the safety of people, not just the speed of cars. The choice is not an abstract one.

Mr. Milloy: I encourage you to reflect upon your attempt to justify violence against your fellow citizens simply because they choose to travel by bike. In taking this stance, you adopt the cause of the comparatively strong against the comparatively weak and encourage them to use that strength to commit violence against the weak.

If that is the sort of man you are, I understand why you might have difficulty understanding programs like the ones that we run to broaden the appeal of bicycling, make every bicyclist safer, and encourage a safer roadway culture. From your position of strength this all seems silly. For us, all these programs and initiatives and attempts to calm the rhetoric—even the existence of a collective group of bicyclists like WABA—is a form self defense against roads, laws, and an enforcement system that do not yet protect us, and against people who share your views and will take your encouragement literally.

 

Win! Suitland Parkway Trail Will Connect To The New Douglass Bridge

WABA

Source: DDOT

The new Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge will include a direct, safe and convenient bicycle and pedestrian trail connection to the Suitland Parkway Trail. DDOT announced the change to the bridge plans yesterday via the the Anacosita Waterfront Initiative (AWI) blog.

Phase 1 of the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge will now include a trail connection from reconstructed bridge along the northern side of the traffic circle and parkway to Firth Sterling Avenue SE and the Anacostia Metro Station. Bicycle and pedestrian trail user will bi-pass the high speed I-295 exit ramp through a new tunnel underneath the road. The large yellow arrow on the rendering above points to the new trail tunnel. Phase 2 of the bridge project will finish the direct trail connection from the Anacostia Metro Station to the existing trail head.

WABA has been engaged for over three years with DDOT on the bridge replacement planning process. This victory concludes months of advocacy and petition efforts after we raised the trail connectivity issue back in January. The advocacy work on this bridge project in line with our Southeastern Trail Corridor advocacy priority.

We are encouraged by the many improvements and updates to bicycle and pedestrian access that have been made. The current design reflects the District’s multi-modal vision. You can learn more about the entire bridge project on the AWI website and watch the updated video of the proposed bridge below. When complete, the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge will be the best bicycling bridge in the region and it will be a major connection in the regional trail network.

While we wait for the new bridge and trail connection, join us on July 12th for a clean-up event of the Suitland Parkway Trail with our Trail Rangers. Sign up online here

And here’s a neat video rendering of the new bridge: