Tell Fairfax County to Adopt the Bike Master Plan

Fairfax County currently does not have a bike master plan. And that’s not good.

The proposed Bike Master Plan contains recommendations for developing a comprehensive bicycle network. It also includes guidelines for bike-friendly programs and policies. The plan vision is “Meeting the safety, access, and mobility needs of bicyclists today, while encouraging more people to bicycle in the future…making Fairfax County bicycle friendly and bicycle safe.” Without a master plan, Fairfax County Department of Transportation has fallen behind in implementing bicycling improvements.

The Fairfax County Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the county’s Bicycle Master Plan (Phase II) on Wednesday, October 1 at 8:15 p.m. There needs to be a strong showing by residents who support the plan. Please consider attending the public hearing to show your support for the plan.

Details about the October 1st hearing can be found online here. You can sign up to testify at the Planning Commission using this form. The Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing on October 28. Look for another WABA email alert prior to that hearing.

We are also asking cyclists to sign the FABB Bicycle Master Plan petition urging the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors to approve the plan.

This petition is from the Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling, a sponsored project of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association

DDOT Proposes Bike Ban Wherever Streetcars Operate

“Bike Prohibited” could be the next version of this sign. Photo source: mvjantzen

DDOT’s proposed streetcar regulations, released last week, prohibit “riding a bicycle within a streetcar guideway, except to cross the street.” On H St Northeast, that guideway is the entire street, effective banning biking on this popular corridor. This is a problem.

For years, WABA and others have raised concerns about the interaction of streetcars and bicycles and suggested a range of both equipment and communication best practices to improve the situation. Rather than seriously pursing these solutions, DDOT is proposing to ban bikes.

Tell DDOT Not to Ban Bikes

Streetcar tracks can pose a legitimate hazard to bicyclists, but banning bikes is not an acceptable solution. Please contact DDOT immediately, and demand that this bike ban be removed from the regulations before they are made final.

This restriction is not just a bad idea, it contradicts DDOT’s own Complete Streets Policy, which explicitly requires:

“All transportation and other public space projects shall accommodate and balance the choice, safety, and convenience of all users of the transportation system including pedestrians, users with disabilities, bicyclists, transit users, motorized vehicles and freight carriers, and users with unique situations that limit their ability to use specific motorized or non-motorized modes to ensure that all users, especially the most vulnerable can travel safely, conveniently and efficiently within the right of way.”

Bicycles and streetcars share space in cities across the world. There are a variety of technical and design solutions to this problem. It is past time for DDOT to commit to learning about and using these sorts of solutions rather than banning an entire mode of transportation from the road.

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.

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

 

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]?

You Get a Cycle Track, You Get a Cycle Track

movedc-downtown-cycletracks-everywhere

The recommended downtown bike network in the draft Move DC plan. Every dashed white/pink line is a proposed protected bike lane (cycle track).

At Friday’s ribbon cutting for the First St. NE event, Mayor Gray announced the release the much anticipated Move DC draft Multimodal Long-Range Transportation Plan. The draft plan is a giant step forward for biking in the District of Columbia. It’s worth repeating, the expansion of bicycling as a mode of transportation for the next twenty years in Move DC are some of the most ambitious in the entire United States.

To get to the juicy details first, the Move DC draft plan proposed an expansion of the bicycling network with over 200 new miles of bike lanes, protected bike lanes (cycle tracks) and trails. The total envisioned bicycle network would be 136 miles of bike lanes, 72 miles of protected bike lanes (cycle tracks), and 135 miles of trails – the finished network would be a whopping 343 miles of dedicated bicycle infrastructure!!!

The entire draft plan with appendices is over 500 pages so there is still plenty of information, data, policies recommendations and plans to dig through. The bicycling element examines existing conditions, current policies and highlights the recent growth. Bicycling in DC is the fastest growing mode of transportation and it is in this context DDOT outlines a substantial growth in the bicycle network. DDOT planners hope to have a majority of city residents within a 2 minute bike ride of a protected bike lane or trail.

This plan represents a huge step forward for bicycling in DC. However, DDOT has set a less than ambitious goal for total bicycling increase in their Bicycle Element Performance measures. The goal over the 25 year period is an increase in bicycling to 12% of all trips that start and end in the District. According to the US Census most recent American Communities Survey (2012), DC’s bicycling commuting rate is 4.1% for work trips. Since 2005, the commuting rate has increase about 30% each year. Projecting the growth out 25 years to 2040 at a 30% growth rate would be an overall 12% bike commuting mode share but only for work trips.

The ACS data is notorious for under counting bike commuting and only considers work trips, not all trips. Estimates put work trips as only 1/6th of total trips made by a person. Non-work travel includes grocery shopping, going out to dinner, picking kids up at school, etc., which are generally shorter and closer to home. Biking makes up a larger portion of non-work trips for the very reason they are shorter. DDOT’s 12% goal for all trips in the city to be made by bike should be more ambitious.

Included in the draft plan is a thorough update and progress report on the 2005 Bicycle Master Plan (pdf).  DDOT gives updates on the 14 core recommendations outlines in the master plan. Many major initiatives have been finished or are nearing completion. Other projects such as the Met Branch Trail and Rock Creek Park Trail are years behind schedule. It’s worth reading the full progress update and see how much has been done, and how much is still left to do.

The public input process began last year in February with a major kick-off event and three rounds of public meetings. There were also online surveys, webinars, and a bimonthly advisory group meetings. WABA members and supporters tirelessly participated in the public input process. The Move DC plan is a big step forward for biking in the District, but we’re not done deal yet.

A plan of this scale has not be undertaken in recent DC history. From the beginning, WABA and other transportation advocates have asked does this plan process become the plan for the entire agency. The draft Multimodal Long-Range Transportation Plan is a detailed framework in which all future policies, funding, project planning, engineering and construction are decided within.  The process of adoption is now becoming clear but more complicated by other current policy and political discussions.

DC Council is a considering a reorganization of DDOT, and other transportation related agencies such as the DMV and Taxi Commission (full Council bill). DDOT would the primary agency responsible for implementing a future Move DC plan. The Council has also voted to reduce future streetcar funding, a primary transit mode in the Move DC plan. The additional developments complicated the overall discussion of Move DC but also highlight the issue of transportation a prime concern to be addressed in a growing DC.

There is now an open public comment period to provide feedback on draft plan. Comments are being now accepted online. On June 27th, the DC Council Committee on Transportation and the Environment will hold a public hearing on the draft plan. After the comment period ends on July 6th, 2014, DDOT will compile comments and make edits to the draft plan. A final plan would go back to DC Council for a vote.

Please comment on the plan, especially the Bicycle section, and express your support for the plan. The next 25 years for bicycling in DC will be very excited if the Move DC plan becomes the vision we build.

First St. NE Cycle Track Ribbon Cutting Tomorrow

photo1
WABA will be celebrating the completion of newly rebuilt First St. NE Street at a community event hosted by the  NoMA Business Improvement District (BID). Mayor Vincent Gray will cut the ribbon on the new street which includes DC’s first curb protected cycle track. Construction began in the spring of 2013 and lasted about a year.

Come join the fun and thank DDOT for this awesome new protected bike lane. WABA Bike Ambassadors and Trail Rangers will be at the event, so stop by and say hello. The 2014 WABA Trail Rangers will be riding the cycle track almost daily on their way to the Met Branch Trail. The celebration will include goodies, music and more.

Event Details
When: Friday, May 30.
11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Where: grassy field adjacent to 1100 First Street, NE
(intersection of Pierce and First Streets, NE)
What: Neighborhood celebration of the completion of construction on First Street, NE. Free goodies, food, and more will be available from the NoMa BID.

Arlington County Funds Snow Removal in FY15 Budget

Arlington County will plow trails this coming winter! Photo credit: PedroGringo

The Arlington County Board has allocated dedicated funding for snow removal on the County’s multi-use trails in FY2015 (beginning July 1, 2014). In February, we asked our members and supporters to contact County Board Members with the request of the Board to direct the County Manager to develop and prepare a snow-clearing plan for the county’s bike trail network. Along with a plan, we asked the Board to provide the resources to test and implement that plan in a predictable manner.

In the proposed FY2015 budget, the County Board allocated $309,000 for snow removal. The budget includes one-time funding of $227,000 for two pieces of snow removal equipment and construction of a storage facility for the equipment. The remaining budget proposal of $68,000 would be used to hire contractors for library plowing and sidewalk clearing. The Department of Parks and Recreation would shift existing personnel and resources to winter maintenance of trails from library parking lots and sidewalks.

According to the budget proposal, “with additional funds, DPR could expand the service level on trails that would pre-treat trails before any storm, start clearing the trails throughout the snow fall, and post treat any areas that may refreeze post storm (with the same prioritization/response time currently given to primary (red) and secondary (blue) arterial streets).” Read the entire budget proposal online here (PDF).

We would like to thank the members of Arlington County Board for listening to the concerns of the bicycling community and dedicating resources to keep the trails cleared during the winter.

DDOT Publishes Proposal for 2014 Bike Lanes

DDOT's proposed bike facilities for 2014

DDOT’s proposed bike facilities for 2014

The District Department of Transportation has released its proposal of bike lanes to install in 2014. You can view the proposed facilities on a full map of the city or on a one-page spreadsheet, both on DDOT’s website.

At the top of the list are several 2013 projects, such as the M Street cycletrack and contraflow bike lanes on G and I streets NE. The 1st Street cycletrack between M and K Street will ostensibly be finished this spring; this will be a critical on-street connection between the Met Branch Trail and Union Station.

Other facilities to get excited about include bike lanes on 14th Street NW from Florida Avenue to Columbia Road, a connection of the 4th Street SW bike lanes across the National Mall to Pennsylvania Avenue, and climbing lanes on Malcolm X Avenue SE and Rock Creek Church Road NW.

If you don’t see a project you desire on the 2014 list, check out the proposed Move DC bike facilities plan. Move DC is DDOT’s 20-year multi-modal plan for all the District’s transportation modes. A draft plan for public review and comment is expected this spring, with a final version to be released over the summer. Once the Move DC plan is adopted, DDOT will begin planning and implementing projects from it. D.C.’s bike network is planned to grow to over 74 miles of cycletracks, 122 miles of bike lanes, and 133 miles of multi-use plans.

While what DDOT has released is merely a list of proposed bike lanes for 2014, we hope that the agency will meet its required goal of installing 10 miles of lanes per year. Go get ‘em, DDOT!

Tell the Arlington County Board to Plow the Trails

snow-covered-arlington

A completely impassable Four Mile Run Trail on February 13, 2014 in Arlington County. Photo credit: Raymond Crew

How did you get to work today?

Without a cleared bike trail, did you drive to work? Did you take a crowded bus? Or, did you squeeze onto a full Metro train?

Snowstorms highlight a government’s true prioritization of transportation means. In Arlington, major roads and highways get plowed first. Secondary and neighborhood streets are next to have snow removed. When all else is finished, the trails and bike lanes might be cleared—often days after snowfall, if at all. Evidently, clearing a cul-de-sac before the Custis Trail reflects Arlington’s transportation priorities.

Data from Arlington County’s trail counters show trail traffic drops to close to zero for days after snowfall. Cold weather doesn’t discourage riders, but snow-covered trails are unbikeable.

Arlington County should prioritize snow removal from main commuting trails and give cyclists the option to commute by bike in the days following a snowstorm. County board members have expressed concerns over the effectiveness, environmental impacts, and resources related to clearing such trails. While these are all understandable issues that need to be addressed, they have not even directed the County Manager to try to do so.

Gold Level Bicycle Friendly Communities build great networks of bike lanes and trails — and then maintain them. Keeping trails reliably cleared throughout the winter sustains mobility for bicyclists.

Tell the Arlington County Board to direct the County Manager to develop and prepare a snow-clearing plan for the county’s bike trail network and to provide the resources to test and implement that plan in a predictable manner.

Thank you for helping to create a community where bicycling is a year-round transportation option.

Send an email to the Arlington County Board now.