The next steps towards Vision Zero

Blocked bike lane by USPS

Just before the holidays, D.C. took two important steps toward implementing Vision Zero: Mayor Bowser released the Vision Zero Action Plan, and the D.C. Department of Transportation and Department of Motor Vehicles proposed rules  that increase penalties for drivers who endanger public safety by violating traffic laws. The proposed rules are an important aspect of the Mayor’s Vision Zero initiative, which recognizes that increasing penalties to curtail dangerous driving is an essential part of the broader city-wide effort to eliminate all traffic deaths by 2024. 

WABA fully supports Mayor Bowser’s Vision Zero goal, including the proposed rules, which would crack down on speeding, failing to come to a complete stop before turning right on red, parking in bike lanes, dooring, and other dangerous behaviors that put road users at risk.  Current penalties in the District for the most dangerous and egregious driving behaviors are generally far too low to serve as a deterrent, and in some cases are entirely non-existent. 

The proposed rules would bring the District’s penalties in line with those of comparable U.S. cities. We support these proposed rules as an important part of a much broader action plan that includes improvements to enforcement, education, and street design.

Support New Rules for Vision Zero

Highlights of the proposed rules:

Speeding

Proposed Change: Increased fines for speeding in excess of 25 mph from $300 to $1000, and the fine for criminal speeding from $300 to $500.

Why WABA supports it:  Speed kills. According to AAA research, a person struck by a vehicle at 30 mph is 74 times more likely to be killed than a person struck by a vehicle going 25 mph.

The District’s default speed limit for residential streets is 25 mph. Between 2010 and 2014, more than half of traffic fatalities in the District occurred on streets with a 25 mph speed limit.  A motorist traveling through a populated neighborhood at 25 mph over the speed limit is going 50 mph or faster. This is reckless, deadly behavior that should be punished severely.

Right Turns on Red

Proposed Change: Increased fines from $50 to $200 for failing to come to a complete stop at a red light before turning, failing to yield the right of way to vehicles or pedestrians, or violating a “No Turn on Red” sign.

Why WABA supports it: D.C. law requires drivers make a full stop and yield the right of way to pedestrians and other vehicles before turning right at a red light.  In practice, drivers often do not come to a full stop behind the stop bar or even slow down before making a right turn on red. The requirement for drivers to stop at an intersection before making a right turn on red is so the driver can take the time to ensure that no pedestrians are in the crosswalk, because the pedestrian has the right of way. Drivers making unsafe turns at red lights also puts any drivers or bicyclists proceeding with the right of way on perpendicular streets at unacceptable risk.

Parking in a Bike Lane

Proposed Change: Increased fines for stopping, standing or parking in a bike lane, from $65 to $300 (for commercial trucks) or $200 (for all other motor vehicles).

Why WABA supports it: Drivers who block bike lanes, even temporarily, create hazards for all road users by forcing bicyclists to merge suddenly into a regular traffic lane. This all-too-common experience in the District discourages inexperienced or apprehensive riders from riding their bikes. It is currently illegal in the District to stop, stand, or park in a bike lane. However, the number of vehicles that continue to do so demonstrates that the current fine is not a sufficient deterrent, especially for commercial delivery drivers and taxis, for whom the fines for parking in bike lanes are treated as a cost of doing business.

Dooring

Proposed Change: Increased fines for opening a vehicle door into traffic in a way that presents a danger to others, from $25 to $100.

Why WABA supports it: The act of opening a car door into the path of a bicycle or other vehicle is one of the most common causes of injuries to bicyclists. The best way to end dooring is to redesign our streets so that bike lanes are physically separated from traffic and parked cars. In the meantime, the penalty for creating this dangerous situation for cyclists should be strengthened.

The following chart summarizes the full set of proposed changes: (click the image to see a larger version)

Proposed Regs Table

We note that increasing fines in a vacuum will not lead to the types of safety improvements we need to end traffic fatalities and serious injuries. Traffic fines are an effective deterrent when the likelihood of enforcement is high. For Vision Zero to work, Metropolitan Police Department must increase traffic enforcement for all road behaviors that endanger others. All too often, enforcement is concentrated during targeted campaigns, but is lacking the rest of the time.

Moreover, the public must know what the fines are and where the money goes. Though not in the regulations, WABA supports directing funds raised from traffic safety violations towards Vision Zero projects, like enforcement, education and engineering— not the general fund. The city should post signs about traffic fines and use public education campaigns to communicate with road users.

Under these proposals, every road user has a choice: support Vision Zero by behaving like a responsible citizen who values human life, or support Vision Zero with fines. Anyone who wishes to avoid paying a fine may do so by simply obeying the law.

The D.C. Council will hold hearings on the proposed regulations on Friday, January 8, 2016 at 11am in room 500 of the Wilson Building. D.C. residents wishing to provide testimony at the hearing should contact Ms. Aukima Benjamin at 202-724-8062 or via email at abenjamin@dccouncil.us.

Support New Rules for Vision Zero

If you would like help with your testimony, email a draft before 12pm Thursday to advocacy@waba.org, and we will be in touch.

More Support for a Low Stress Louisiana Ave

Support is growing quickly for a protected bike lane on Louisiana Avenue to fill a major gap in downtown DC’s low stress bike lane network. Since June, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) and the Architect of the Capitol (AOC) have received requests from DC Councilmember Charles Allen, ANC 6C, and even members of the Congressional Bike Caucus, urging swift action and support for a protected bike lane on Louisiana Avenue between existing lanes on First Street NE and Pennsylvania Ave. Following these requests, DDOT and AOC staff have already conducted a preliminary site visit to explore possibilities.

Louisiana Ave in red is a missing link in a much larger protected bike lane network in green

Earlier this week, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton added her support in a letter to DDOT Director Dormsjo and Architect of the Capitol Stephen Ayers.

“A protected bike lane between Union Station and the U.S. Capitol Grounds on Louisiana Avenue would improve safety and provide a vital link between already existing bike lanes in the area,” she wrote. “Union Station and the U.S. Capitol are separated by multi-lane roadways with fast-moving traffic, which poses safety risks to the residents, workers, and visitors destined for Union Station, the U.S. Capitol, and points beyond. DDOT Has already constructed protected bike lanes on Pennsylvania Avenue NW and First Street NE and throughout the city. Filling in the missing link on Louisiana Avenue NE would help complete this network of bicycle lanes.” Read the full letter here.

We are grateful to have the support of Congresswoman Norton for a project with benefits for countless DC’s residents, workers, and visitors. More updates on this campaign as it progresses. Read more about the proposal here

Recap: Trail Ranger Workday on the Suitland Parkway Trail

The Suitland Parkway Trail fits snugly between the fast-moving Parkway and the hillside, connecting Barry Farm and the Anacostia Metro to Douglas, Bueno Vista and Garfield Heights. One of DC’s shortest at 1.5 miles long, the trail slopes up gently compared to the surrounding hills, and could be a great feeder trail from the neighborhoods down to the Metro, South Capitol Bridge and beyond. 

Three years of regular light maintenance has improved the trail – the trail is consistently passable thanks to the trail rangers hours spent chopping back vegetation, and removing trash & glass. More people are choosing to use the trail —we regularly see folks now.

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But the trail made leaps and strides this week thanks to two intensive workdays of Trail Rangers and DDOT Urban Forestry. Bucket trucks, chain saws, weed whackers, a whole bevy of pole saws and loppers, and a bunch of thank yous from neighbors and trail users  – the passable trail corridor was moved 4 feet away from the trail bed and 15 feet high. As one trail user said, “that really needed to be done!” 

Councilmember Nadeau’s Top Ward 1 Bike Lane Projects

Bike-Ambassadors-with-Brianne-Nadeau

Councilmember Nadeau (Ward 1) joins the DC Bike Ambassador for street outreach in Columbia Heights.

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.

 

Mile Markers coming to the Metropolitan Branch Trail

MBT Coffee Hour 12.12.2014Over 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

Mile markers may resemble this

Mile markers may resemble this

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.

Construction Starting on 15th St Bike Lane Northern Extension

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A short but very important extension of the 15th St NW protected bike lane. Photo provided by DDOT.

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).

15th-st-extension-1

Final design for the new 15th St, New Hampshire Ave , Florida Ave and W St NW intersection. Photo provided by DDOT.

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.

Go to a Vision Zero Pop-Up Event

vision zero campaign bannerTraffic 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:

Date Ward Locations Time
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.

Add your safety issues Vision Zero Map by visiting http://visionzero.ddot.dc.gov/VisionZero/. To find out more about Vision Zero visit www.DCVisionZero.com.