Help grow the DC bike network: attend a public meeting!

May is Bike Month, so if you are not spending your evenings riding a bike, check out a community meeting and show your support for projects that make bicycling better!

Here are some upcoming meetings in DC:

Grant Circle Community Meeting
Tuesday, May 2 6:30 – 8 pm
EL Haynes Public Charter School | 4501 Kansas Avenue NW

DDOT is hosting a meeting to discuss possible safety improvements for Grant Circle in Petworth. At the meeting, residents are invited to provide feedback on draft concepts, data, and analysis. Grant Circle is an obvious candidate for a lane reduction, raised crosswalks, curb extensions and protected bike lanes. Many of these options were direct recommendations of the Rock Creek East II Livability Study (pdf), completed last year. Click here for more information on the meeting.

DC Bicycle Advisory Council
Wednesday, May 3  6 – 8 pm
On Judiciary Square | 441 4th St NW, Room 1112

Attend the May BAC Meeting to learn about some emerging long term projects. Agenda here.

NoMa Bicycle Network Study, Public Workshop
Thursday, May 4 | 6 – 8 pm
Lobby | 1200 First Street NE

DDOT planners are taking a close look at the future bicycle network that will connect people who bike from NoMa to Mount Vernon Square. Come provide feedback on existing conditions for cycling through and from the study area. The project study area is from 6th Street, NW to 6th Street, NE between N Street NW and K Street NW. Priority corridors within the study area for consideration include K, L, and M Streets; 4th and 6th Streets NW/NE; and New Jersey Avenue. Click here to learn more.

Long Bridge Project Open House
Tuesday, May 16 | 4 – 7 pm
L’Enfant Plaza Club Room | 470 L’Enfant Plaza SW
Presentations at 4:30 pm and 6:00 pm.

Now over one hundred years old, the Long Bridge carries trains from SW DC to Arlington. Sometime soon, it will need substantial rehabilitation or replacement. Initial concepts included a new bridge with additional train tracks and a multi-use trail connecting the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail to the Mount Vernon Trail and Long Bridge Park. Attend the informational meeting to review and comment on the preliminary concept screening results for the Long Bridge Project and help us ensure that any new bridge includes more options for crossing the Potomac and connecting the region’s trails by bike. Click here for more information about the meeting, including detailed directions to the meeting room.

Can we have a protected bike lane yet?

Ten percent of all trips originating in the Shaw neighborhood are by bicycle. That is more than double the average bicycle mode share for the District. Yet, the best corridors for getting to destinations north and south of Shaw are streets with multiple lanes, high speeds, and aggressive driving. Safe places for people to bike are sorely needed throughout the city, and Shaw is no exception. And when streets are safe for bicyclists, they are safer for pedestrians and motorists.

Last year, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) went through a lengthy public comment process to select a preferred alternative out of four possible streets for a protected north/south bike lane through Shaw. Thousands of citizens participated, and the majority spoke up in favor of bike lanes on 6th or 9th streets NW.

According to the project timeline, a preferred alternative for this project was supposed to have been selected a full year ago— in April 2016. In February 2017, fully ten months past that deadline, DDOT announced that, rather than selecting just one of the alternatives, they were moving two alternatives to 30% design, a process that it says could take up to 9 months. Final design and construction of the selected alternative could take another 12 to 18 months.

Take Action

DC is a city that has committed to completely eliminating traffic fatalities and serious injuries, all while increasing the number of people who walk, bike and take transit, and accommodating an influx of 800+ new residents every month who need transit options other than their personal automobiles to get around. Yet important projects like this one, which would help accomplish all of those goals, are being slow-walked to the finish line, if not in danger of being scrapped entirely.

In the time it has taken DDOT to issue a “final” report on the initial study, more than 19 people were hurt in crashes in the study area. (We don’t know the actual number because crash data has only been made publicly available through May of 2016). This is unacceptable. Can we wait until the Summer of 2019 for a safe route through Shaw?

Take Action

We need this project to be built on a faster timeline than what DDOT is projecting, or hundreds of other people could get hurt while the city delays. Or, we need DDOT to build both of the final alternatives currently moving to 30% design, not just one. Both 6th and 9th streets are dangerous for pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers. People need to travel to locations on both. A protected bike lane on 6th St may give bicyclists a safe place to ride, but doesn’t make 9th street easier for elementary school kids or senior citizens to cross, or calm traffic for neighbors, and vice versa.

Street calming and safe places to bicycle through Shaw will induce DC residents to take more of their trips and commutes by foot and bike. Making the streets more hospitable for pedestrians and bicyclists will help local businesses and improve health outcomes for residents. And, incidentally, it would help DDOT start to catch up on the five miles of protected bike lanes each year they need to build to meet their 20 year goals. (They have been nowhere near that target in the past three years.)

Tell Mayor Bowser: No more delays. Build protected bike lanes through Shaw. Build both final alternatives. Build them faster than currently planned.

Plan for Florida Ave is Better, But Plenty of Room For Improvement

Rendering of a protected bike lane on Florida Ave NE (Source DDOT)

On Tuesday evening, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT), showed its 30% design plans for the Florida Avenue NE Multimodal Transportation Project at a crowded public meeting. Compared to the recommendations released last year, DDOT has made strong improvements to safely accommodate people who bike, including a new two-way protected bikeway between 2nd St and West Virginia Ave. However, the plan still leaves many challenging conflict points and safety issues unresolved, particularly east of West Virginia Ave.

DDOT is accepting comments on the project website through March 15. We encourage anyone who lives, works, or travels through this corridor to review the plans and leave comments and suggestions for how the plans could be improved to make Florida Ave a safe corridor for all road users.

A Protected Bike Lane on Florida Ave

Two-way protected bike lane on Florida Ave NE with “floating bus stop”

DDOT proposes a two-way protected bike lane on the south side of Florida Ave from 3rd St. to 9th St. This lane would be 8-10 foot wide and separated from car traffic by a 1-2 foot concrete curb. The design includes dashed green paint across conflict areas like driveways and bike lane markings through some intersections for added visibility. At cross-streets, left turn arrows will limit turning conflicts between turning drivers and bicyclists traveling straight and two stage turn boxes will help bicyclists queue to cross Florida Ave. At bus stops, the plans call for “floating bus stops” which run the bike lane behind the bus stop, allowing busses to take on passengers without blocking the bike lane. Compared to the standard 5 foot painted bike lanes proposed last year, these designs offer a relatively low-stress option for riding a bicycle on the west end of Florida Ave.

The protected bike lane, while a big improvement, does has some unsolved issues. On the west end, between 2nd and 3rd St, it transitions to a wide shared sidewalk, where bicyclists will mix with pedestrians walking and bus riders exiting the bus. At West Virginia Ave, where a left turn lane reduces available width, the protected bike lane will again transition onto a shared sidewalk, also at a bus stop, where pedestrian and bicyclist conflicts are inevitable. These are unacceptable compromises.

Design mixes pedestrians and bicyclists on narrow sidewalk at West Virginia Ave

Addressing these safety compromises is straightforward but requires DDOT to prioritize vulnerable road users. On the western end of the project, DDOT should reduce the road to 4 lanes of traffic and maintain the protected bike lane underneath the railroad bridge. At the eastern end, the design should eliminate the left turn lane onto West Virginia which would create enough space for the protected bike lane. Both of these design changes would demonstrate a commitment to the safety of people walking and biking over the convenience and speed of driving.

Shared Lanes on the Eastern End

Minimal changes to Florida Ave between West Virginia Ave and H St.

Between West Virginia Ave and H St. NE, DDOT plans to bump out curbs at cross-streets and widen sidewalks where they are too narrow, add trees and streetlights, and install new traffic signals at some intersections. But don’t expect any improvements for safe biking. At West Virginia, westbound bicyclists are encouraged to go north to Morse or south to G or I. And while that will work for some, many people on bikes will stay on Florida, so it really ought to be safe too.

DDOT’s plans make minimal changes to the roadway, which will remain two lanes (10’ and 13’)  in each direction with off-peak parking. DDOT says this configuration is required to move high peak traffic volumes while still accommodating the community’s parking needs. Unfortunately, the plan’s wide travel lanes are likely to encourage illegal and deadly speeding, rather than decrease it. And the extra-wide curb lane may make more trouble for bicyclists than a narrower one would. That extra road width could be used to widen the sidewalks or create median refuge islands for people crossing.

Review the Plans and Weigh In

If you live, work, play or travel in the Florida Ave NE corridor, head to the project website to review the presentation materials and comment using the comment form. The project team needs to hear what aspects of the design work and constructive feedback on needed improvements. Specific and detailed comments are always most helpful. The comment period closes March 15.

Submit Comments

Don’t let DDOT ignore bike safety on Florida Ave NE

Florida Ave NE is a crummy place to bike and walk (Source Google Street View)

Since 2013, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) has been studying ways to make Florida Ave NE between First St. NE and H St. NE a safe corridor for people who walk, bike, and drive. After a tragic 2013 pedestrian fatality, DDOT began a planning study, and finally released a final report last February. On Tuesday, February 21st, DDOT will host a long-awaited meeting to share preliminary engineering designs for what we hope are major changes to this car-focused corridor.

Meeting Details

Tuesday, February 21, 2017 | 6:30 pm – 8 pm | Presentation at 6:30 pm
New Samaritan Baptist Church 1100 Florida Avenue NE
Please attend and insist on a design that reduces speeding, protects vulnerable road users, and encourages multimodal transportation.

I’ll Be There

Florida Ave Has a Chronic Speeding Problem

Statistics and personal experience tell us that Florida Ave is a dangerous and stressful place to bike and walk. As an example, between 7th & 8th Street, DDOT analysis shows that the average driver exceeded the 25mph speed limit by between 5 and 10 miles per hour. In the same block, the 85th percentile speed, or the speed that 85% of drivers will drive at or below during free-flowing conditions, was 33 mph at morning rush hour, 38 mph at evening rush hour, and almost 45 mph overnight. During the study period, the fastest recorded speed was 70 mph.

Speed and Volume analysis on Florida Ave NE (Source DDOT)

A growing body of research shows that speed kills, and lower vehicle speeds result in fewer and less severe crashes. A pedestrian struck by a vehicle at 20 mph has a 90% chance of survival, but a 90% chance of death at 40 mph. Florida Ave NE, as designed, is undeniably and unacceptably dangerous. If DDOT is serious about Vision Zero, its initiative to eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries, then it must address this chronic speeding problem.

Pedestrian and Bicycle crashes in the study area (Source DDOT)

Florida Avenue Needs Fewer Lanes, Wide Sidewalks, and Protected Bike Lanes

Sidewalks on Florida Ave NE

Speeding is a chronic problem in this corridor because the road design encourages high speeds. Florida Ave is up to 6 lanes and 67 feet across. Some lanes are up to 17 feet wide. And while this width may help move cars during rush hour, it far exceeds the needed capacity during off-peak times, leading to a wide-open road and comfortable speeding. Even DDOT’s own traffic models show that the road could function quite well with one fewer travel lane in each direction.

Since so much width is dedicated to moving cars, pedestrians face a long list of challenges on Florida Ave. The sidewalks are in poor condition, but also comically narrow. On one block, the sidewalk is just 2 feet wide due to a light pole in the middle, rendering it impassable to anyone with a walker, stroller, or wheelchair. Pedestrian crossings are very long, and many of them are unsignalized. These challenges are particularly dangerous for senior residents, wheelchair users, and deaf students attending Gallaudet University. Wider sidewalks and shorter crossings are sorely needed.

Finally, Florida Avenue NE is a key link in the bicycle network, yet lacks any kind of bicycle facilities. The high stress environment does not serve the needs of people who bike today. A continuous, low-stress, protected bike lane is required for most people to even consider riding in this otherwise convenient corridor.

DDOT’s Preferred Alternative Misses the Mark

In 2014, DDOT presented 3 alternatives covering a range of options including fewer travel lanes, widened sidewalks, buffered bike lanes, and streetscape improvements. DDOT asked the public to weigh in both at a public meeting and in an online survey (WABA supported these alternatives). Almost two years after the last public meeting, DDOT released a final report. This Washcycle blog post provides a helpful summary.

Surprisingly, even though the issues of speeding, excess road capacity, wide lanes, inadequate sidewalks, nonexistent bicycle accommodations and the resulting major safety issues are discussed thoroughly in the report, the recommended alternative clearly sacrifices essential bicycle and pedestrian safety improvements to keep extra travel lanes and minimize vehicle delay. Citing the need to balance local and regional uses of Florida Ave, the study’s recommended alternative keeps most of the features that the study admits contribute to illegally high vehicle speeds and undeniable safety concerns.

The recommended alternative is not at all beneficial to bicyclists. Even though 85% of those surveyed chose as their #1 choice an alternative that included buffered bike lanes and fewer travel lanes, the recommended alternative adds only 6 blocks of narrow, unprotected bicycle lanes flanked by 2-3 travel lanes. These very stressful bike lanes will not connect to West Virginia Avenue to the east or the Metropolitan Branch Trail on the west end, which leaves gaps on either end of the proposed bike lane. The recommended alternative adds unsafe bike lanes where it is easy for DDOT to put them in, and nowhere else.  For a project explicitly about safety, this project does not promise to do much for bicycle safety.

Read the full planning study here.

You Can Help Improve the Plans

On Tuesday, DDOT will present its 30% engineering designs. Despite what you may hear, there is plenty of time to improve the plans. DDOT’s planning study includes many great ideas for a safe and inviting Florida Ave corridor that encourages biking and walking and keeps safe even the most vulnerable road users. Please join us on Tuesday to hold engineers accountable and demand that this project make Florida Avenue a place where safety is a reality and not a dream.

Join Us At The Meeting

Met Branch Trail Coming to Fort Totten

Last week, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) took the next major step to extend the Metropolitan Branch Trail from Brookland to the Fort Totten Metro. In a press release, DDOT announced that it is seeking proposals from firms to complete final design and build the new trail segment. Once the contract is awarded, construction could be complete in about 18 months. This will be the first major trail construction since the southern 2.2 mile section opened in 2010.

Existing trail in green, new trail in blue, interim on-street route in red (Source Google Maps)

This new phase will extend the sidepath on the east side of John McCormack Dr to the base of the hill across from the Fort Totten waste transfer station. Instead of heading up the hill, as it does today, the trail will continue north alongside the CSX tracks east of the Transfer Station. At the Fort Totten Metro, the trail will climb up and over the Green Line tunnel portal, then descend back to street level.

A bird’s eye rendering of the trail alignment around the Fort Totten Metro (Source DDOT)

This phase of construction will add nearly a mile of new trail, improving walking and biking access to the transit hub and the new development surrounding it. The project will include stairs for a direct route down to the Metro entrance and an improved trail through Fort Totten Park westward to Gallatin St, where the interim route continues northward. The new 10-12 foot wide trail will include lights, security cameras, and a relatively gradual grade compared to the steep climb up Fort Totten Dr. For more renderings and detailed design drawings, go to metbranchtrail.com/resources/.

When complete, the Met Branch Trail will span more than 8 miles between Union Station and the Silver Spring Metro Station. So far, the southern 5.5 miles are a mix of off-street trail, protected bike lane, and low traffic streets. Once built out from Bates Rd to Fort Totten, about 2 miles will remain to be built through Manor Park and Takoma to the Maryland line. DDOT finished 30% design for this last phase in 2016 and aims to complete final design in 2017.

Upcoming Project Meetings in the District

Construction crews are on their winter breaks, but the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) and Virginia Railway Express (VRE) are ramping up planning on a number of projects relevant to people who bike in the District. Please consider attending these meetings this month and speaking up for the needs of bicyclists.

 

Alabama Avenue SE Corridor Safety Study
Saturday, February 11, 2017 | 10 am – 12:30 pm
THEARC 1901 Mississippi Avenue, SE

DDOT is hosting the first meeting to discuss safety along the Alabama Avenue SE corridor.  DDOT aims to identify and address multimodal safety concerns and to improve the overall quality of the network for all users.  At this meeting, existing conditions and current traffic/crash data will be shared to capture ideas and suggestions from participants. Alabama Ave is an important bike corridor and would make an ideal protected bike lane corridor.

Tactical Urbanism at North Capitol Street and Lincoln Road
Monday, February 13, 2017 | 6:30 –  8 pm
NoMa BID Lobby 1200 First Street, NE

DDOT invites you to a meeting to discuss the Tactical Urbanism project at North Capitol Street and Lincoln Road, NE. The purpose of this project is to increase safety at the North Capitol/Lincoln Road, NE intersection through immediate, short-term improvements that will lead the way for a larger intersection safety project. DDOT will present a draft design concept and gather comments from the community at this public meeting. Rapid implementation of safety projects like this are a key part of DC’s Vision Zero Action Plan.

VRE Midday Storage Facility Public Meeting
Thursday, February 16, 2017 | 4:00 – 7:30 pm | Presentation at 4:30pm and 6:30pm
Bethesda Baptist Church 1808 Capitol Ave NE

Virginia Railway Express intends to replace its current storage space leased from Amtrak at the Ivy City Coach Yard in DC with a new storage yard alongside New York Avenue. The project will include planning, designing, and constructing a permanent midday storage facility for VRE trains that travel into the District from Virginia. VRE will work with members of the community, stakeholders, and property owners to assess potential impacts and determine ways VRE can be a good neighbor.

Florida Avenue Multimodal Transportation Project
Tuesday, February 21, 2017 | 6:30 pm – 8 pm | Presentation at 6:30 pm
New Samaritan Baptist Church 1100 Florida Avenue NE

DDOT will share 30% designs for multimodal transportation improvements along Florida Avenue NE from First Street NE to H Street/Benning Road NE. This project will add new wider sidewalks, bike lanes, new signalized crossings and streetscape improvements for a safer street. In the last project update in March 2016, DDOT’s preferred alternative eliminated many of the popular and safety-critical elements such as protected bike lanes and a road diet to curtail speeding. We hope that a year of work has found opportunities to point the project in the right direction.

New York Avenue Streetscape and Trail Project
Thursday, February 23, 2017 | 6 – 8 pm | Presentation at 6:30 pm
Gallaudet University’s I. King Jordan Student Academic Center 800 Florida Avenue, NW (map)

DDOT is in the early stages of planning significant streetscape improvements to beautify New York Avenue from Florida Avenue to Bladensburg Road. The project will study improvements to public space in the corridor, including curb, gutter, streetlights, plantings, trees, benches, public art and other public space improvements. Additionally, DDOT will develop concepts and designs to improve safety and quality of life for people who use New York Avenue, including a new multi-use trail connecting the National Arboretum and Metropolitan Branch Trail, and future transit services throughout the corridor. Read more at the project website.

Advocacy Behind the Scenes

Photo credit brixton under Creative Commons

A big part of successful advocacy is simply paying attention. The bureaucratic processes that bring about change are often slow, and can start quietly. Our team of advocacy staff and network of volunteers are always on the lookout for opportunities to have an impact, even if it takes a while. We work to make sure that better biking is part of the conversation from the beginning, not an afterthought.

If you subscribe to our advocacy action alerts, you know that we sometimes ask you to share your thoughts with a decisionmaker about the value of bike friendly infrastructure, laws and policy. Those action alerts are only one of many tools in an advocacy toolbox, and usually not the first one we reach for.

Often, a simple letter can start a project on the right path. Here are some of WABA’s comments and testimony from the past few months.

Georgetown Boathouse Zone EA

National Park Service (NPS) is examining sites along the Georgetown waterfront near the southern terminus of the Capital Crescent Trail (CCT) for development a series of boathouses that would cater to non-motorized boating (including rowing, paddling and stand-up paddle boarding). The project affects bicycle traffic in and around the area. NPS acknowledges that “the current configuration of the CCT and its connection to Georgetown do not provide safe and compatible access for pedestrians and cyclists with motorized vehicles to and through the Zone.”

The timing of the EA aligns with work that DDOT and Georgetown BID are doing to improve the K/Water Street corridor, which includes a protected bike lane to connect the CCT with the Rock Creek Park Trail.

Read our full comments here.

Oxon Cove Hiker-Biker Trail EA

NPS, in cooperation with DDOT, proposes to construct a multi-use hiker-biker trail in Oxon Cove Park. In our comments we recommend a seamless connection between the future South Capitol Street Trail and the proposed new trail. We also note that the Oxon Hill Farm Trail (which begins just off of South Capitol St and continues south into Oxon Cove Park) is in poor shape. This vital connection is functionally unusable to many because it lacks bridges and the trail is poorly maintained.

Read our full comments here.

Public Scoping for North George Washington Memorial Parkway EA

The National Park service is in the early stages of an Environmental Assessment for reconstruction of a significant portion of the northern George Washington Parkway. This is an important opportunity to consider how the parkway and the land around it could better accommodate and ensure the safety of people biking and walking.

Read our full comments here.

Long Bridge Phase II

DDOT is exploring options to replace the century-old Long Bridge, which carries freight and passenger rail from Northern Virginia into downtown DC. Though the study’s scope is currently focussed only on expanding the number of railroad tracks across the Potomac river, we make the case for including a high quality bike and pedestrian trail on the new bridge.

Read our full comments here.

Bethesda Downtown Master Plan

In October, Montgomery County Council held a final round of hearings on the updated Bethesda Downtown Master Plan. The plan is a long term guide to future density, land use, parks and transportation, and includes an impressive Bethesda bicycle network of protected bike lanes, trail access improvements, and standard bike lanes. Joe Allen, Co-Chair of our Montgomery County Action Committee, delivered WABA’s testimony at the hearing.

Read our full testimony here.

Roundtable on the Provision of 911 Services in DC

The DC Council’s Judiciary Committee held a roundtable to discuss 911 services. WABA submitted testimony raising ongoing concerns about the limitations of DC’s 911 dispatch system which delay or prevent emergency response to emergencies on off-street trails.

Read our full testimony here.

 Photo: brixton on Flickr