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 weeks, 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).

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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.

Pennsylvania Ave Now has Protected Bike Lanes

DDOT is installing rubber parking curb today to prevent illegal and dangerous U-turns across the Pennsylvania Ave NW bike lanes. Photo credit: @DDOTDC

The District Department of Transportation announced Friday that they will install protective rubber parking curbs along the Pennsylvania Ave NW bike lanes. Installation of the rubber parking stops began Friday morning and is expected to be completed within the next week (or two).

DDOT Director Leif Dormsjo and Associate Deputy for Policy Sam Zimbabwe made the announcement Friday morning at the Freedom Plaza Bike to Work Day Pit Stop. “Following extensive formal observation of the traffic patterns on this segment of Pennsylvania Avenue NW, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) has determined that low-profile barriers are effective at discouraging drivers from making illegal U-turns” wrote in their Letter to WABA.

Penn Ave Park-it LetterFour people biking on Pennsylvania Ave NW were struck by U-turning drivers since the beginning of April this year. There have been countless crashes since the installations of the bike lanes in 2010. Earlier this month, we counted 13 illegal U-turns across a single block of bike lanes. WABA kept up the pressure for the installation of a physical barrier and better enforcement to protect people biking on Pennsylvania Ave NW.

We would like to thank DDOT for hearing our calls for increased safety on Pennsylvania Ave NW. We know can officially call them the Pennsylvania Ave Protected Bike Lanes.

How many U-turns across Pennsylvania Ave bike lanes did we count in one hour?

Written by WABA Member Dave Salovesh

Too many.

Nobody thought adding safe bike lanes on Pennsylvania Avenue was going to be easy. Yet, just in time for Bike to Work Day 2010 they came to the center of America’s Main Street between the US Capitol and the White House. Even before marking was complete, riders saw one of the biggest challenges firsthand: drivers making U-turns across the new lanes.

Quite possibly the first U-turn on Pennsylvania Ave NW on May 7, 2010. Photo credit:

Was this the first U-turn on Pennsylvania Ave NW? Photo taken on May 7, 2010. Photo credit: Dave Salovesh

It takes time to get used to any changes, and everyone hoped this behavior would diminish as drivers became accustomed to people using this space. That was not the case, and by late 2012 drivers were observed making U-turns at the rate of almost one per minute in just one block.  D.C. Councilmembers, the Mayor, MPD, and DDOT responded with emergency regulation banning U-turns, increasing enforcement, and planning design changes to reduce driver confusion and prevent this risky infraction.

Separating bike lanes from general traffic, and keeping motor vehicles out, is the best thing cities can do to keep people bicycling safe. While there may be reasons  that options for D.C.’s roadway engineers to protect bike lanes are somewhat limited, there are solutions out there to help.

DDOT uses these methods and others to protect cyclists using protected bike lanes over D.C., and they’re very helpful. In 2013 a pilot program was approved to test zebra barriers on one block. And, in 2014 an additional study was started to evaluate the use of rubber parking stops. Preliminary results have demonstrated that both are effective at reducing U-turns and other lane incursions. DDOT uses a combination of flex-posts, rubber parking stops and concrete curbs to physically separate bike traffic from motor vehicles in other parts of the city.

13 illegal U-turns in one hour on April 23, 2015 in the 1400 block of Pennsylvania Ave NW, including one near miss.

With the return of pleasant weather we’ve seen an increase in people enjoying bicycling in D.C. Unfortunately, that has also brought an increase in crashes, and on Pennsylvania Avenue over the last two weeks there have been at least three crashes due to U-turns across the bike lanes. We documented at least 13 vehicles making U-turns across the bike lanes in 1400 block during a single hour of evening traffic.

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The third crash involving a bicyclist and U-turning driver on Pennsylvania Ave NW this spring. Photo credit: Dave Salvesh

The steps to make Pennsylvania Avenue safer from U-turns have been known for years, but have not yet been fully implemented. During that time countless crashes and near-misses have happened. Drivers persist with the mistaken understanding that this space reserved for bicycles is open for them as well. And unfortunately, many bicyclists have decided the risk is too great for them or their families. They have found alternate routes, or some may even choose other means of travel.

Now is the time for that to change. The D.C. Council, and the Mayor should push DDOT to produce a definite timeline for installing a protective barrier along the entire length of the Pennsylvania Avenue bike lanes, as a high priority project. All the pieces are ready, the pilots and studies are complete and the need is great. We know how quickly D.C. can accomplish good work when it’s necessary. Can the safety of Pennsylvania Avenue’s bike lanes be improved before Bike Month 2015 ends?

Let’s Talk About The Met Branch Trail

 

Support the Met Branch Trail at the upcoming public meeting on March 21st.Photo credit: DDOT DC

Here’s your chance to discuss the Met Branch Trail with DDOT—

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) and Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4B will hold a joint meeting on the preliminary design of the Metropolitan Branch Trail from Brookland to Takoma Park on Saturday, March 21.

You can attend the meeting to show your support for the trail. Representatives from DDOT will present the trail alignment and solicit feedback from the general public.

The Metropolitan Branch Trail is a planned eight-mile, paved bicycle and pedestrian trail from Union Station in Ward 6 to Silver Spring, Md. The portion between Union Station and Brookland in Ward 5 is very popular, averaging more than 500 users a day. Design is underway for the section that’s north of Brookland. The new section, as currently proposed, will run along the railroad tracks from Bates Road to the Ft. Totten Metro station, then along First Place, Riggs Road, First Street, all in Northeast, and Blair Road, NW.

Comments on the preliminary design, as well as requests for more information should be directed to Jim Sebastian at jim.sebastian@dc.gov.

WABA will host an informal happy hour on Thursday, March 19th from 6 pm to 8 pm at Simple Bar in Brightwood. We want to connect you with other trail supporters, answer your questions so that you can feel prepared for the public meeting. WABA advocacy staff will be available at the happy hour to discuss the Met Branch Trail project or other advocacy priorities. We hope you can attend both the happy hour and trail open house.

Metropolitan Branch Trail Open House
Saturday, March 21, 2015, 1 pm to 4 pm
Metropolitan Police Department – Fourth District Station
6001 Georgia Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20011
Google Map directions

WABA Met Branch Trail Happy Hour
Thursday, March 19, 2015, 6 pm to 8 pm
Simple Bar
5828 Georgia Ave NW, Washington, DC 20011
Google Map directions

RSVP for the WABA Happy Hour

Please help us show strong community support for completion of the northern section of the Met Branch Trail.

DDOT Hosting Bike Lane Celebration Tomorrow

One of the new protected bike lane installed this year by DDOT on M St NE.

At a celebration and press event on Wednesday morning, the District Department of Transportation will celebrate a record breaking year of bike lane installation. In 2014, DDOT has installed nine miles of on-street bike lanes, including almost two miles of protected bike lanes. DDOT Director Matthew Brown and Associate Director Sam Zimbabwe will be in attendance with agency employees from planning, engineering and maintenance divisions.

The 2006 Bike Master Plan outlined a ten year plan to install a network of bike lanes city wide. The plan set an ambitious target of 10 miles of new bike lanes per year. Since 2006, DDOT has planned and painted 69 miles of marked bike lanes in all eight wards of the city. While DDOT hasn’t quite hit the lofty goal of 10 mile per year, the agency deserves a tremendous amount of credit for their hard work and commitment to improving biking so far. And the efforts have paid off; everyday bike commuting rates in DC have quadrupled in the last decade as our streets become safer and more enjoyable for biking.

The recently released Move DC plan and the accompanying two-year action agenda set a goal of 7.5 miles of new bike lanes, many of which will be protected bike lanes, for 2015 and 2016.

Bike Lane Event Details
WHEN:
  Wednesday, December 17, 2014, 10:00 am – 11:00 am
WHERE: Southwest Corner of 4th and Independence Avenue, SW (Google Map)

Roll into work a little late tomorrow morning and thank DDOT for their hard work this year  — we hear there might be cool swag giveaways too.