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

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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

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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

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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.

Continue reading

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.