D.C. Councilmember Brandon Todd, WABA, and 50 Ward 4 residents toured the several Ward 4 neighborhoods by bike on Sunday afternoon. The 5 mile ride featured the longest bike lanes in the ward on Kansas Ave NW and the future Met Branch Trail. Riding the route also highlighted areas for future upgrades to the bicycle network including potential protected bike lanes on New Hampshire Ave NW. Thank you to Councilmember Todd for participating in the event and we look forward to working together with the community to improve bicycling in Ward 4.
The Council of the District of Columbia’s legislative session is in full swing with four bills relevant to bicycling. Here are brief summaries of each bill and links to the full legislative language. We will be tracking the progress as these bill move forward (or don’t).
Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Act of 2015 (B21-0335)
This bill reflects the consensus recommendations of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Working Group, (convened by Councilmember Cheh and co-chaired by WABA and AAA Mid-Atlantic) which was formed to assist the Council in reforming the District’s laws, regulations, and policies to improve road safety. It includes improvements to crash data reporting, adopts a Complete Streets policy, creates pedestrian and bicycle priority zones, adopts “stop as yield” (a modified version of the Idaho stop law) for bicycles, clarifies that existing laws prohibiting opening doors into traffic apply to bicycles, and a host of other safety improvements.
Vision Zero Act of 2015 (B21-0383)
Mayor Bowser’s bill codifies aspects of the District’s Vision Zero plan. The bill makes the Complete Streets policy law; bans the use of ATVs and dirt bikes on D.C. streets; establishes an ignition interlock device program for repeat DUI offenders; changes fines and jail sentences of drunk drivers; increases fines for distracted driving from $100 to $500 and adds two points.
Motor Vehicle Collision Recovery Act of 2015 (B21-0004)
If passed, this bill will bring D.C. negligence laws out of the dark ages and more in line with the majority of states. Under current D.C. law, a bicyclist injured in a crash cannot collect damages if she is found to have been in any way at fault, even if the other party bears a disproportionate amount of blame. As a result, insurance companies routinely deny claims resulting from crashes, leaving injured bicyclists with few options. Under the proposed bill, contributory negligence could not be used to deny coverage to a bicyclist or pedestrian who was 50% or less responsible for her injuries. It also explicitly retains the doctrine of joint and several liability— a primary concern for the D.C. Trial Lawyers Association that contributed to an earlier version of the bill being tabled in 2014.
Enhanced Penalties for Distracted Driving Amendment Act of 2015 (B21-0021)
This bill, introduced by D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, strengthens the penalties for distracted driving. Under the proposed law, the first violation would result in a $100 fine, with fines escalating for repeat violations over an 18 month period. The second violation in an 18 month period would be a $200. Any further violations would incur a $400 fine and suspension of license and vehicle registration for 60 to 180 days. Points could be assessed for a second violation within 18 months even if the violation did not result in an accident.
WABA will give periodic updates on bills via our blog (waba.org/blog–you’re reading it right now!). We will also be sending out targeted action alerts to our members and supporters who live in the district. Sign-up for email updates and action alerts here.
Councilmember Brianne Nadeau (Ward 1) sent a letter today to the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) Director Leif Dormsjo in support of several priority bike lane projects for Ward 1. The list of projects recognizes the needs to close important gaps in the bike lane network.
Nadeau’s letter expresses support for the construction of protected bike lanes whenever possible: “Protected bike lanes have many benefits including safety and fewer illegal parking problems, which is why I have been an advocate for them since my time as an ANC [Commissioner]. Welcoming bike lanes also discourage bicyclists from using the sidewalk instead of the street.”
The priority projects for Ward 1 are:
- 15th St NW protected bike lane extension north from V St. NW to Euclid St NW
- 14th St NW protected bike lane and a connection of the bike lane gap between Euclid St NW and Florida Ave NW
- 11th St NW protected bike lane and an extension to Spring Rd (and then to Kansas Ave NW)
- Completion of the Florida Ave streetscape project between Sherman Ave and U St NW
- Support for the eastern downtown protected bike lane study and rapid implementation of its findings
Thank you Councilmember Nadeau for your support of safer and more convenient bicycle access in Ward 1.
Over the past few weeks, a series of troubling incidents on the Metropolitan Branch Trail have again raised questions of user safety on this popular urban trail. Though counter data show an average of 1200 trail users each day since April, recent incidents and the law enforcement response to them have justifiably shaken the confidence of regular trail users.
Two weeks ago, WABA sat down with leadership from District Department of Transportation (DDOT), Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), Office of Uniform Communication (OUC), and DC Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency (HSEMA) to address these concerns. As a result, DDOT will install mile markers throughout the trail backed by changes to the 911 computer dispatch system to ensure a timely and direct law enforcement response to 911 calls.
Why is location so difficult?
When someone dials 911 to report an incident, pinpointing an accurate location is one of the first priorities for the dispatcher. For places on the street grid, this is easy. The dispatcher has a vast database of city addresses and landmarks at their fingertips for quick action to an emergency.
Locations on trails are much more difficult to pinpoint because they do not easily map onto the street grid. To send help to the right place, the caller must have some idea of where they are and the dispatcher must have a record of that location. A caller may know they are on the Met Branch Trail, but have few useful landmarks to communicate where. On the other end, the 911 dispatcher’s system requires a valid address or a selection from a limited number of hand coded points along the trail. In an emergency, even half a mile is too large a margin for error.
Shortly after the MBT opened in 2010, DDOT installed street signs along the trail to help trail users orient themselves to the street grid. At the same time, the Office of Unified Communication, which runs the 911 call center and the location database it uses, identified a number of possible landmarks along the trail. Trail access points such as the ramp at M St and the cross streets of R St, T St, and 8th St. were coded into the 911 location database. In theory, a caller could identify any street crossing and the dispatcher would be able to work with that.
What works in theory is failing in practice. Police and emergency responders cannot help if they are sent to the wrong place.
A solution is on the way
Two weeks ago, WABA helped convene a meeting with the leaders from the OUC, MPD and DDOT to walk through the 911 response issues we have seen and heard about. A quick review of recent cases showed that confusion on location, both by caller and dispatcher, is far too frequent. Trail users have too few reliable landmarks and dispatchers have an incomplete list of street intersections and access points.
The solution: DDOT will install mile markers along the full length of the Met Branch Trail. In addition to giving trail users a clear message on where they are, every marker will be entered into OUC’s location database. No longer will callers and dispatchers have to go back and for on which metro station is in the distance or which street is closest. Mile marker 1.7 on the Met Branch Trail will suffice. Signs are designed for every 1/10 of a mile and should start going up soon.
Trail safety remains a priority
Mile markers and better 911 response are crucial, long needed improvements for the Met Branch Trail. But, signs alone cannot erase the concerns of trail users and neighbors. We are encouraged by more frequent police presence on the trail and greater awareness of the trail’s specific challenges by MPD’s leadership. Law enforcement must be an integral part of ensuring the trail remains a safe place to be.
In the coming months, the NoMa BID will be releasing its final report to conclude the Safety and Access study which began earlier this spring. It will include a number of recommendations for the short and medium term which could do a lot to make the MBT an even better, more popular community resource. More activities, more eyes, better neighborhood connections and, of course, more miles will ensure the MBT’s continued success.
The 15th Street NW protected bike lane is about get a little longer and a whole lot prettier. Last night, this District Department of Transportation updated the community of their final designs for the intersection of 15th St, New Hampshire Ave, W St and Florida Ave NW. The final plans will extend the two-way protected bike lane from V St. NW to W St NW and will be separated from traffic by granite curbs. The bike lane will also incorporate curbed pedestrian refuge islands between the bike lane and travel lanes to provide a safe place to wait for people walking.
While it may seem like a minor accomplishment to extent of the protected bike lane one block. This extension is critical to extending the lane further north to Euclid St. DDOT refused to reconfigure 15th St NW from W St to Euclid St NW to a two-way protected bike lane from the bizarre double bike lane, until this project was finished. This project is the missing block and will pave the way for a full extension of the bike lanes to Euclid (pun intended).
Beyond the new protected bike lane, the project will replace the dangerous slip lane from 15th Street to Florida Ave with a new pocket park. The new street will incorporate low impact development (LID) to manage stormwater and shorten all of the crosswalks with curb extensions. The new intersection will be a vast improvement for all.
Construction will start in the next few weeks and it’s expected to be complete by the end of the year. Weather and other delays could push the completion past December, but should not take more than 6 months. Access for bikes will be maintained during construction in the current northbound direction.
Traffic fatalities and serious injuries are preventable. Vision Zero aims to end all traffic-related deaths and serious injuries in DC by 2024.
The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) is holding 10 public events across DC’s eight wards over the next two weeks. DDOT wants your input and ideas about to achieve Vision Zero in DC. Give your input by attending one of the events in the next two weeks.
Mayor Bowser announced her administration’s commitment to Vision Zero during her first one hundred days. DDOT is now coordinating a wide range of DC Government agencies to develop a two-year action plan. The Vision Zero Action Plan will apply effective use of data, education, enforcement, and engineering to achieve the goal of eliminating traffic deaths in DC by 2024. The Action Plan will be released to the public in September.
The Vision Zero Awareness Events will take place between now and August 1. Here are the times, locations and dates for the events:
|7/15/2015||6||Eighth and H Streets, NE||3:30 pm – 6:00 pm|
|7/16/2015||3||Cleveland Park Metro Station, NW||5:00 pm – 7:30 pm|
|7/18/2015||1||14th Street and Irving Street, NW||11:00 pm – 1:30 pm|
|7/21/2015||4||Takoma Metro Station, NW||5:00 pm – 7:30 pm|
|7/23/2015||8||Anacostia Metro Station, SE||3:30 pm – 6:00 pm|
|7/25/2015||2||M Street and Wisconsin Avenue, NW||11:00 pm – 1:30 pm|
|7/27/2015||2||Seventh and H Streets, NW||3:30 pm – 6:00 pm|
|7/29/2015||7||Minnesota Avenue Metro Station, NE||5:00 pm – 7:30 pm|
|7/28/2015||5||Rhode Island Ave Metro Station, NE||5:00 pm – 7:30 pm|
|8/1/2015||6||Eastern Market Metro Station, SE||11:00 am – 2:30 pm|
Can’t make an event? Give your input online now.
Written by Women & Bicycles Community Member Lucy Aguirre
A victory for all people who bike! In an effort to prevent bicyclists from getting “doored”, the DC Taxicab Commission
recently approved a new rule mandating will require taxicabs to display “LOOK FOR CYCLISTS” stickers.
I’ve heard too many stories about bicyclists getting “doored”. The first story I heard involved a roommate who was biking home from work, cruising safely in the bike lane until a taxicab suddenly stopped at a green light. A passenger opened the rear right door in the path of my unsuspecting friend, flinging her and her new Trek road bike straight into the pavement. Luckily she wasn’t seriously hurt; however, she was traumatized in other ways. “My desire and love of bicycling was crushed,” she said. “It destroyed my confidence and I was scared to bike again. Although that was five years ago, I still feel a little bit of that fear.”
It is simply unacceptable that inattentive drivers and passengers have injured so many bicyclists with their car door. Opening a car door into any moving traffic is illegal and very dangerous for vulnerable road users. Bicyclists are often unable to stop fast enough to avoid a crash, especially when doored from the side.
This is not an isolated problem. Several bicyclists in New York City were doored and killed, leading the city government to action. The NYC Taxi & Limousine Commission now requires “Look for Cyclists” stickers in taxicabs in an effort to prevent such incidents. After the latest DC dooring incident was reported to WABA’s Women & Bicycles group, I was compelled to advocate for “Look for Cyclists” stickers for taxis in DC too.
While the timeline for design and installation of the new safety stickers is not yet finalized, we hope you see them in a DC taxicab soon. Thank you to DC Councilmember Mary Cheh and DC Taxicab Commission Chairman Eric Rogers for recognizing this public safety issue and rapidly responding to implement this simple solution.
Updated May 28th to clarify that DC Taxicab commission did not approve a new rule mandating stickers in taxicabs. The warning signs are part of an update to signage in taxicabs.