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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

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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.

Success: King Street Bike Lanes Will Go Forward

Success! The City of Alexandria will install bike lanes on King Street in 2014.

The City of Alexandria will move forward with plans to install bike lanes on King Street east of the Metro station. In a letter to residents of King Street, Director of Transportation and Environmental Services Rich Brier will direct City staff to implemented the compromise proposal in the new year.

66 speakers testified at the TPB hearing on Nov. 25. 48 spoke in favor of the bike lanes, and 18 were opposed. City residents who spoke in favor of the bike lanes included a high-school teacher, two vision-impaired riders who ride with sighted riders on tandem bicycles, parents, students, and other residents. WABA worked to mobilize the support of Alexandria bicyclists and gave testimony on behalf of our Alexandria members and supporters.

In the four page letter to residents Director Rich Brier writes, “As a professional engineer tasked with ensuring the safety for all users of our street system and after reviewing the data and researching alternative proposals, I believe that the modified plan is the best plan to achieve the common goals of improving safety and balancing the needs of multiple users of King Street.” Read the letter in its entirely on the City of Alexandria’s website.

Learn more about the City’s proposal for King Street online including their original proposal and the late compromise solution. City staff initially proposed removing all 37 on-street parking spaces but late presented a revised proposal that retained 10 on-street spaces.

The City of Alexandria has made an important step towards towards making the streets safer for all roadway users. Please take a moment now and send a note of thanks to the City Mayor and Council. Click this link to send an email of appreciation.

The Washington Area Bicyclist Association is the leading voice for bicycling in the region. WABA members and supporters enable us to advocate for better conditions for bicycling. Join or donate today to ensure that we can continue to represent you.

 This blog post was update to include a link to the full letter from Transportation Director Rich Brier.

Welcome, Zebras, to Pennsylvania Avenue

A giant panda cub in Woodley Park! A red panda in Adams Morgan! And now: Zebras on Pennsylvania Avenue NW. Yesterday, DDOT installed a set of zebras—small physical traffic barriers—on the 1200 block of the Pennsylvania Avenue cycletrack. The plastic devices are intended to curb the high rates of illegal u-turns across the bike lanes.

Since the installation of the cycletrack in 2010, cars making u-turns across the lanes have caused many crashes with bicyclists. The zebras will provide some physical separation for bicyclists from car traffic.

These zebras are a pilot project, so DDOT only installed them on the 1200 block. Before installing barriers along the entire corridor (and potentially other cycletracks in the city), the agency wants to study the zebras’ effectiveness. The most important questions to answer are whether these new traffic control devices reduce the rate of u-turns across the bike lane and if that leads to a lower crash rate for cyclists. If the zebras are successful at reducing crashes and making the lanes safer, DDOT intends to install them along the entire bike lane.

The length of the study period is currently unknown.

This is the latest development on the Pennsylvania Avenue NW cycletrack. That zebras have been installed is a step in the right direction to make the lane safer for cyclists—one of WABA’s goals. Earlier this year, u-turns across the lanes were made illegal by emergency rulemaking by the D.C. Council, and there has been increased enforcement by MPD. Zebras comply with the strict historical nature and national significance of Pennsylvania Avenue. DDOT sought approval from the Commission on Fine Arts before installing them.

The zebras are produced by a Spanish company, Zicla. According to Zicla’s technical specifications, the zebras should be spaced no more than 8.2 feet (2.5 meters) 8.2 meters apart. It appears that DDOT installed the first row of zebras at a spacing of 12 feet. This will need to be corrected.

We’ll continue to follow the progress of improvements along Pennsylvania Avenue and insist that the cycletrack is safe and comfortable for all cyclists. See more photos of the zebras, taken yesterday morning, after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

Walk the Tracks Next Monday, May 6

Come learn about the much-anticipated cycletrack on M Street NW at our “Walk the Tracks” event next Mon., May 6 at 6:30 p.m. WABA staff, members, and supporters will walk the length of project, starting at Thomas Circle, and discuss the proposed bike lane. Staff from DDOT and the Golden Triangle and Downtown BIDs will be present. This event is a chance to have your questions answered about the project, its design, and the timeline for its construction.

The proposed one-way westbound cycletrack will extend from Thomas Circle at 14th Street NW to 28th Street NW in Georgetown. The cycletrack will be 1.3 miles in length. Last fall, DDOT constructed a one-way eastbound cycletrack on L Street NW. When complete, the L Street and M Street cycletracks will be parallel routes that establish a major east-west crosstown corridor for bikes—and add to the growing network of physically separated Green Lane Projects in our city.

The event will start at 6:30 p.m. at the Capital Bikeshare station on the west side of Thomas Circle. We will walk 1.3 miles west along M Street NW, ending in Georgetown. After the walk, those interested in enjoying a cold drink can do so at a local Georgetown business. If you are planning on attending our “Walk the Tracks” event, please RSVP here.

Walking and Biking Rank #1 in First Round of Move DC Workshops

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On April 9, DDOT’s Transportation Plan Advisory Committee held its second meeting on the District’s Multimodal Long Range Transportation Plan, called Move DC, following the first round of workshops held earlier this spring. The April 9 meeting built on opinions gathered from those workshops and thanks to WABA members’ particpation, bikes and pedestrians were well represented. “Bikes and Peds Everywhere” was at the top of the list as the most in-demand form of transportation, followed by Metrorail, more local transit, car capacity, and fast transit.

In this meeting, TPAC introduced a building block exercise as a tool to encourage dialogue about planning for the city’s transportation future. It works like a sliding tile puzzle of four blocks, where one block is given for day to day management and commitments, and you fill in the three remaining squares as a “choose your own transportation planning adventure.” Options included different modes of transportation as well as allocation of funds for things like “smarter systems” or “low-cost transit.”

Members of the public and TPAC split into groups to collaboratively build a vision of D.C.’s transportation future. What emerged is informative about attitudes towards transportation in the city and where bikes will fit in. There was restrained but passionate debate of cars versus bikes, agreement on the importance of low-cost public transit, and a general consensus for more local transit. No one wanted to take bikes off the chart, and the most widely supported initiative connected to cars was parking management (how to manage parking management is its own issue). Metro had few defenders; attendees were indifferent to taking it off the board when forced to make fast changes.

For both the TPAC group and the public, the top three agreed-upon priorities were “bikes and pedestrians everywhere,” “more local transit,” and “parking management and expansion.”

What wasn’t chosen is also illustrative—”accelerated good repair,” “sustainability and beauty,” and “fast transit.” Either most people feel these could be incorporated into other systems, or have given up on expecting them all together. More abstract concepts like “smarter systems” and connecting the grid didn’t win fans, either.

The final Move DC plan must address regional transit issues, like the 420,454 vehicle commuters coming into the District each day and the 100,000 people expected to move to the area in the next five years. Necessarily, the plan has to focus on how to get commuters out of their cars and onto other forms of transportation.

DDOT is still soliciting feedback during this initial phase, including the building block exercise. I encourage you to give your feedback and support bicycling if you have not already done so. The public input will help shape the alternatives that are developed going forward. DDOT will continue to accept input on this phase until Mon., April 22nd.

The next round of public Move DC workshops will be in early June. Sign up on the official moveDC list to stay in the loop. Please also sign up for the WABA Advocacy Hub email list for notifications on upcoming Move DC actions and other advocacy alerts.

This guest post is written by Christine Driscoll, an associate at Green Strategies and resident of Adams Morgan. She rides a blue Schwinn traveler and the T Street bike lane is her favorite.

 

Anacostia Riverwalk Trail Bridge Construction Halted

eotr-art-bridge

The final span of the bridge on the east side of the Anacostia River as construction has stopped.

In April 2012, Mayor Gray cut the ribbon for the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail bridge on the river’s west side. This was the first of two riverwalk trail bridges planned to pass over the CSX tracks. The second bridge, on the east side of the river, should have been completed this past July. But in January 2013, we still don’t have a finished bridge.

According to the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative, the contractor for the project struck an underground object and needs to move or redesign the final few supporting structures. The project is stalled while DDOT and the contractor hash out who pays for the changes. The AWI team says a completed bridge is months away, if not longer.

Completing this bridge will link the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail from the Frederick Douglas Bridge to Benning Road. In 2014, when the Kenilworth Garden trail section is complete, the Riverwalk Trail will link D.C. to Maryland’s Anacostia Tributary Trail System, which is over 50 miles.

We hope DDOT will find a solution soon to complete the bridge.

South Capitol Bridge: New Rendering, Nothing Really New as Design-Build Looms

With the District Department of Transportation’s release of a video rendering of its South Capitol Bridge concept, we’re concerned with the design’s suitability for bikes and pedestrians.

Essentially, nothing in this rendering is new. It is precisely in keeping with the Federal Environmental Impact Study, in which WABA found a laundry list of disappointments, including a lack of dedicated bicycle space and access. Despite some follow-up with DDOT, the Bicycle Advisory Committee, and Councilmember Tommy Wells, nothing has been modified, and our concerns are still prevalent.

Over 300 bicyclists wrote to express similar disappointment with the the FEIS stage. We are displeased that there has been no response to that community input.

DDOT has awarded this project—like the 11th Street Bridge and many other construction projects—as a design-build contract (in which details are developed throughout construction, as budgets and timelines become better known), rather than a traditional design-bid-build process. A design-bid-build process requires designers to take public input and produce final designs for the project before construction is underway. Those designs are used as bid documents, and the chosen contractor executes the designs with only minimal changes.

For advocates and regulators, the existence and sharing of designs prior to construction, as required by the design-bid-build project, is important: That provides the opportunity to make sure nothing has been missed (like the inclusion of any bike infrastructure at all!) and provide feedback at a stage when corrections can still be made. A design-build process can be more efficient in terms of time and money, but it makes the incorporation of public input difficult. There’s no point at which changes can no longer be made and concerned parties can look at “final” plans.

When large transportation contractors make time- and budget-based decisions without community input, they do get the obvious tasks right. No one ever forgets to put in high-speed vehicle lanes. But contractors can make changes that impact bicyclist and pedestrian facilities by redesigning them in ways that are impractical or inefficient. Sometimes, components are eliminated entirely. Community input from cyclists is critical in elucidating why changes might not make sense, but in a design-build process, outside involvement is minimal.

There’s been evidence of the problems with the design-build process just this week. In December, Greg Billing wrote about the lack of a direct connection from the 11th Street Bridge to the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail. He emailed DDOT over the course of several months, seeking details,  and received either noncommital or no responses at all. Greg was only told of the lack of connection at a Ward 8 Transportation Taskforce meeting when he directly raised the topic. It was not until a council staffer followed up on the the issue that DDOT explained what it was doing with regard to a bridge connection in detail: The agency reversed course and said that the connection would be built.

We don’t know if the representative at the Ward 8 Transportation Taskforce meeting was simply mistaken about the status of the connection, or if the connection was not part of the design at the point. That’s because, under the design-build model, plans for major infrastructure evolve even as construction takes place. It’s difficult for everyone—especially the public—to keep track of what’s happening. The designs are ever-changing in the hands of DDOT, its contractors, and their subcontractors.

During the formal environmental review period for the South Capitol Bridge, hundreds of comments expressed concern with its design. But WABA and other members of the D.C.-area cycling community received no meaningful feedback and have seen no changes from DDOT to their fundamental concept. The bridge is still planned to be a big circle and a big oval with wide sidewalks. With the design-build process moving forward, that DDOT hasn’t acknowledged any input from the cycling community is worrying—and frustrating.

We have resubmitted our concerns with the South Capitol Bridge to DDOT, with a few additions:

  • That the circle and oval are over-designed and will be difficult for bicyclists and pedestrians to cross
  • A restatement of our concern with the design in general, which relies on extensive mixing of bicyclist and pedestrian traffic on a bridge expected to carry large numbers of pedestrians arriving en masse for stadium events
  • Emphasis on the importance of connecting the bridge to main bicycling trails, the Anacostia Metro station, and the Anacostia neighborhood

The design-build process is not going away, nor should it. It saves money and time. But some of the efficiency of design-build comes from minimizing public comment. While time-consuming, opportunities and solicitations of public comment ensure that the project will meet the needs of the people using it. Projects like the South Capitol Bridge are a significant expenditure of city and federal funds, and should meet the needs of the people using it as effectively as possible.

This issue is broader in scope than just the South Capitol Bridge. But DDOT will soon award a contractor the authority to turn the agency’s renderings, National Environmental Policy Act documents, and guidance for the bridge into a piece of infrastructure that will be around for decades. We need to ensure that the development process for the bridge hears and acts on our needs and concerns.

We look forward to working with DDOT and its chosen contractor to ensure that appropriate consideration is given to the needs of bicyclists. And we’re excited for the the cycling community to have the opportunity to see, understand, and input on the design for the bridge—rather than having it imposed upon us.

How We Feel About Funding Bikeshare in Montgomery County

Last week, County Executive Ike Leggett sent to the Montgomery County Council a request for appropriation of county funds that, along with state funding and private-sector support, will fund the expansion of bikesharing into the County.

WABA fully supports the implementation and expeditious growth of bikesharing in Montgomery County.  Several outlets have recently suggested that WABA and local advocates called for a series of improvements prior to starting up bikesharing in Montgomery County. We do believe that there are significant infrastructure improvements needed in the county to maximize the opportunities presented by bikeshare, and to make bikesharing safe and appealing to a broader audience of potential cyclists. But those improvements are not a precondition to the expansion of bikesharing in the county. The lack of such infrastructure certainly does not prevent many from bicycling in Montgomery County today.

WABA supports bikesharing because it is a great way of getting more people to travel by bike. And we support improvements to infrastructure because they make bicyclists safer, and get more people to travel by bike. Bikesharing and infrastructure improvements are mutually supportive, so we hope the implementation of bikeshare and improvements to infrastructure combine to accelerate Montgomery County’s growth as a bike-friendly county.

For reference, read WABA’s most recent memorandum to Councilmember Nancy Floreen detailing infrastructure needs to support bikesharing.

WABA Bikeshare Memo

 

 

11th Street Bridge Fails to Link Anacostia Riverwalk Trail

In a few months, DDOT’s largest project to date will be finished without promised bicycle and pedestrian connections built in. The 11th Street Bridges is the largest element in the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative and is a critical way to connect bicyclists and pedestrians from both sides of the Anacostia River. It is also necessary for use of the entire Anacostia Riverwalk Trail.

But the finalized bridge will not directly connect the Riverwalk Trail on both sides of the river to each other. This is a failure.

The 11th Street Bridges project represents a $370 million investment in the regional transportation network. Missing interstate connections are being built to remedy the awful cut-through traffic that communities east of the river have experienced since the first 11th Street Bridges were built over 50 years ago.

The new local 11th Street Bridge is to include a “14 foot sidewalk/bikepath” to connect local communities and the Riverwalk Trails, which run parallel on both sides of the river. The resulting project will be a 14-foot sidewalk, minus the space occupied by lamp posts, streetcar catenary supports, railings and fences—so, effectively, 10 feet or less. And, it will not connect directly to the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail on the east side of the river!

In the project’s current state, bicyclists coming south from the Ward 7 and Maryland (via the new Kenilworth Garden Trail section) wishing to get to Capitol Hill will have an extra and unnecessary route to the bridge. Traveling south along the Riverwalk Trail, trail users will have to bike or walk on-street along Good Hope Road into Anacostia. Then, they will have to turn left at the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and Good Hope Road onto 11th Street towards the bridge. This circuitous route adds an additional one-third mile of walking or biking to access the bridge from the Riverwalk Trail. The actual distance between the Riverwalk Trail and the local bridge sidewalk/bikepath is about 200 feet part.

The old 11th Street Bridge, which was recently removed, did have a direct connection to the trail along the downstream side. This shouldn’t be lost with the new bridge—because it wasn’t planned to be lost.

Planning for the new bridge began when DDOT completed a Final Environmental Impact Statement in October 2007. The FEIS includes a direct connection between the Riverwalk Trail and the local bridge (see page 60). DDOT chose a design-build construction process to speed up project delivery and stay within a constrained budget. The result of the design-build process has been frustrating for those trying to stay involved.

In June 2012, I contacted DDOT to inquire about the lack of a direct connection from the local bridge to the Riverwalk Trail. A few emails were sent around, with more people copied each time. In the end, there was no answer for the lack of this important trail connection.

At last night’s the Ward 8 Transportation Task Force meeting, representatives from DDOT and the project team were on hand to give a progress report. When asked about why the trail connection was not being built, two answers were given. The DDOT representative said the previous trail connection on the old bridge was “not ADA compliant,” so it wouldn’t be replaced. And when pressed on the fact that the FEIS includes the connection, project manager Pete McDermott said DC Water was planning to dig in the area, so no connection would be built.

The community was promised a world-class waterfront with recreational and transportation amenities, including the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail. The construction of the 11th Street Bridge fails to provide the high-quality direct connection between the east-side and west-side Riverwalk Trails it assured from its outset. WABA hopes to see this critical connection completed while this project is still under construction and amenable to improvement.

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