Be an Advocate at Bike to Work Day

Be an Advocate at Bike to Work Day. Photo Credit: gypsybug

People take notice when 17,000 people bike to work on a single day, including your elected representatives. Bike to Work Day has grown more than 10% per year in recent years as more people choose to commute on two wheels. Despite this incredible growth, bicycling captures only limited attention from local governments. Bike to Work Day is your opportunity to advocate for bicycling by simply signing up and riding.

There are almost 80 local pit stops this year. Many local elected officials and decision makers will be in attendance for Bike to Work Day. Councilmembers, County Board Supervisors, State Delegates, State Senators, Members of Congress or even a Senator might make an appearance. Important decision makers such as Directors of Transportation Departments, officials from State Highway and DOTs and other planners and traffic engineers could be at a pit stop too. This is an ideal chance to speak with these decision-makers.

Follow these few tips to make the most of this opportunity:

  • Know your elected officials and other decision makersUse our handy legislator look-up tool and be familiar with your representatives. It’s also worth familiarizing yourself with local transportation officials such as the Director of transportation or Public Works.
  • Ask if they are planning to attend Bike to Work Day – Send them a message and inquire if they are attending Bike to Work Day. Include in your message an invitation for them to attend a local pit stop.
  • Plan what you want to say – Practice your elevator speech. You’re only going to get 30 seconds to speak to them. Introduce yourself, including where you live and what your bike commute looks like. Ask them to support a project or for their help in addressing an issue. Ask how to follow-up. Thank them for their support.
  • Introduce yourself at the pit stop – Identify the official and introduce yourself. Be respectful of others speaking with them and wait your turn to speak.
  • Thank them for attending and their support of bicycling – Appreciate their attendance of Bike to Work Day and general support of bicycling. It goes a long way to thank and appreciate people first. If they have recently supported a specific initiative, mention it and give credit where due.
  • Have an “ask” – What do you want them to do? Have a one sentence “ask”. Good example include “could you send a letter of support to DOT about this bike trail?” or “please ask the state DOT to address the issue of biking on this road?”
  • Be respectful of their time (be quick!!) – You might only get 30 seconds or less. Officials have busy schedules and multiple appointments in a single day. Be respectful of their time at an event.
  • Follow-up that day – Make sure to ask how you can follow-up with them. Should you email them or is there a staffer who you should reach out to directly. Send a follow-up email that day!

If you need ideas of what to ask your representatives, see the WABA Advocacy Priority list and ask them to support these initiatives. The WABA Advocacy Priorities represent projects that serve bicyclists throughout the region.

And one last thing, don’t forget to register for Bike to Work Day: especially if you bike every day. This is the one day of the year to be counted (literally). Good luck being a bike advocate and have a great Bike to Work Day.

MARC’s chief engineer wants to allow bikes on some weekend trains

The Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) is seriously looking at how to accommodate passengers who want to bring ordinary bicycles aboard a Maryland Area Regional Commuter (MARC) train. A background briefing by top MARC officials last week left bicycle advocates with the distinct impression that they want bikes to be allowed on some weekend trains within the next year or so.

MTA officials have long maintained that the combination of high speeds and full trains prevented them from allowing bikes. At a meeting three years ago in Washington , advocates pressed the matter with Simon Taylor (Assistant Administrator of MTA) and John Hovatter (Director of MARC and Maryland Commuter Bus operations). The officials made it clear that there was no real prospect for bikes on trains anytime soon.

Yet they also told us that MARC was planning for weekend service, and that bikes “should” be allowed if that service started. At the time, weekend trains seemed like a remote possibility. But now they are a reality, and MARC officials are evaluating options for allowing bikes aboard some weekend trains.

Why MARC Does not Allow Bike on Trains

MTA explained its reluctance to allow bikes on trains to several advocates at the 2011 meeting. MTA has long said that allowing bikes on trains is economically infeasible. Federal safety rules require bicycles to be securely tied down on trains running faster than 70 mph, lest they become a projectile in a crash, they said.

On the Penn Line, trains exceed 70 mph along most segments except in Baltimore. On some stretches, the trains exceed 110 mph when pulled by electric locomotives. MTA engineers have been unable to devise means for quickly securing bikes without permanently removing 3 to 5 seats from the car for every pair of bikes that could be potentially accommodated. With full trains, that is not a tradeoff that MARC is willing to make.

The Camden and Brunswick Line trains are not so full, so removing a few seats in favor of bike racks might be reasonable for those trains. But MARC rotates all train sets (except for the electric locomotives) between the three lines, so modifying cars for those two CSX lines would make Penn Line trains even more crowded.

Could MARC allow bikes on the Camden and Brunswick lines with the existing configuration of the trains? Given that WMATA allows bikes on off-peak Metrorail trains, it might seem safe to do so. But MARC officials countered that the CSX track is much poorer, resulting in side-to-side jostling which can cause bikes to slip out of the hands of the owner and strike another passenger. The low platforms at almost every station was another problem. None of these problems are insurmountable, but in MTA’s mind, they seemed to all add up to make bikes more trouble than they are worth.

Signs of a Possible Breakthrough

Last year’s increase in the fuel tax provided additional funds for transportation, making it possible to finally add weekend service. Last summer, I reminded Mr. Hovatter that he had indicated that “bikes should be allowed“ when weekend service starts, because the trains will not be crowded. I asked if he could provide us with an update of his thinking. He responded:

I would suggest we wait a few months to see how it is working and how many passengers we will be hauling. We are only running 3 car train sets to start off. If the trains are packed, and we hope they are, I doubt we will be able to handle any bikes, except the folding ones that we allow right now. Check back with us when it starts.

I was not encouraged by that response, but other members of Maryland’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (MBPAC) were more optimistic. Greg Hinchliffe, who represents Baltimore on the committee, pressed MDOT’s Michael Jackson to set up a meeting with MARC officials and MBPAC.

As soon as the meeting began, it was clear that something had changed. Rather than listen to cyclist pleas for better service, MARC started the meeting with a presentation by Erich Kolig, its Chief Mechanical Officer. His presentation started with a bit of a lampoon of MARC’s existing policy: With a perfect deadpan, he showed the MARC web site:

Here is our bicycle policy: “Due to safety concerns, MARC’s bicycle policy allows for the transportation of folding bicycles only…However, folding bikes are no longer restricted to those carried in a case.” You see, we do have a bicycle policy [loud laughter by all the advocates and Mr. Jackson].

Mr. Kolig then explained that he thinks the weekend service and MARC’s capital equipment upgrades provide an opportunity to start carrying bikes on some trains. While the trains have attracted more passengers than expected, they still carry fewer people than the weekday trains. His presentation included illustrations depicting how bikes can be safely stored aboard the trains. He had clearly thought through how to do it, and how to keep the cost low enough to make it economically feasible.

MARC officials asked the advocates to not reveal any details of the proposal.

Mr. Hovatter seemed favorably disposed to the proposal, although he did not promise that MARC will actually implement it. The decision to go forward is a few steps above his pay grade. And some unanticipated problems may arise, since railroads are highly regulated and MARC owns neither the track nor the largest stations on the Penn Line.

We hope that the Maryland Department of Transportation will approve Mr. Kolig’s recommendation and at least start a pilot project with bikes on weekend trains, as soon as practicable. WABA stands ready to assist MTA officials on any aspect where obtaining the cyclist perspective might be useful.

Jim Titus is a bicycling advocate and member of WABA’s Board of Directors from Prince George’s County, Maryland.

Bikesharing Commuter Benefit to Be Introduced Tomorrow

Photo credit: Mr.TinDC

Tomorrow is a big day for bikesharing in Congress.

Senator Charles Schumer of New York will introduce an amendment that allows commuters to pay for bikesharing with their transportation benefits. Last summer, the IRS ruled that paying for bikesharing was not allowed under the bike commuting fringe benefit. This amendment will fix this issue and allow commuters to pay bikesharing-related expenses with their benefits.

The Senate Finance Committee will vote on a tax extender package tomorrow that includes commuter parity, giving those who take the bus the same tax breaks given to those who drive. In January, the maximum transit benefit was cut in half to $130 per month,  while the parking tax subsidy stayed steady at $250 per month.

In a statement released by his office, Schumer says, “Bike share programs are an efficient, healthy, and clean form of mass transportation, and they should be treated the same way under the tax code as we treat car and mass transit commuters. It makes no sense for cars, trains, buses, and private bicycles to be covered by this program but not bike shares, and this legislation will fix that.”

Senator Mark Warner of Virginia is co-sponsoring the amendment.

According to the League of American Bicyclists, the amendment will have the following effects:

  • Last summer, the IRS ruled that costs associated with bike share memberships were not eligible under the commuter benefit statute as currently drafted. This amendment would change that.
  • Specifically, it adds bikeshare costs to the list of recognized expenses eligible for the transportation fringe benefit.
  • Like the Bike Commuter Benefit (for those who ride their own bike to work), employees using a bikeshare program to commute to work would now be eligible to receive $20 per month on a tax-free basis from their employer to subsidize their bikesshare membership.

Please take one minute and ask your Senator to support the bikesharing commuter amendment now.

Bike Theft is on the Rise. Take 10 Minutes and Do This Now.

Last week, we gave you a brief overview of what to do in the event that your bike is stolen. In that post, we mentioned WABA’s bicycle owner record sheet, which we’d like to discuss in a bit more detail today.

When a bike is stolen, the first thing you should do is to call the police and report the bicycle stolen. An officer will come and meet you to file a stolen property report. To file the report, they will need the following information: type of bike, color, serial number, a photo, etc.

To make sure you have this information available in the event that you need it, use our form. Download this PDF with fillable fields, enter all the relevant information, and save a hard copy in a safe place. Take some photos of your bike, making sure to capture any distinguishing characteristics (modifications you’ve made to the bike, damage or signs of wear and tear, stickers or other bling). Attach the photos to the record sheet. This information on this form will also be required by your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance if you decide to make a stolen property claim.

You can significantly reduce the risk of your bike being stolen by using proper locking techniques with a strong u-lock at secure parking spot in a well-lit area where there’s good foot traffic. DDOT, WMATA, private property managers, and others are working to increase the amount of secure bike parking in the region, but there is still a shortage—and still a chance your bike could be stolen.

The Washington Post recently covered the increase in bike theft in and around D.C., and Fox5 ran a story about an upcoming documentary about a professional bike thief. We hope you’ll never have to use this information, but if you do need it, providing the police with a complete record of your stolen bike could greatly help in its recovery.

Virginia and Maryland Legislative Update

Last week, we posted a quick listing of the primary bike-related bills in the Virginia and Maryland legislatures this session.  Since then, a few procedural steps have been scheduled and we’ve identified a couple more bills of note to the bicycling community.  We will post more on that shortly. But, as promised, things move quickly and we need to take action to move these bills forward. So…

Greg Billing and I will be in Annapolis today for the meeting of the Maryland Bike Caucus to be present for the introduction of HB 52 (Bike Duty Bill) and HB 92 (strengthening the 3 ft. passing law).

Virginia Bicycling Federation (VBF) will be in Richmond for hearings in the Senate Transportation Committee on SB 97 (Three Foot Passing) and SB 225 (Dooring).

From VBF:

If your senator is on this committee, please send them a quick note asking them to support these bills. As Champe Burnley says, “…a quick call or a sentence or two with the bill numbers is all you need to do.  Remind them that this is about safety on our roads, transportation choices, and saving lives.”  If you’d like to go into further detail, we’ve posted talking points.

Use the Who’s My Legislator page to find who your senator is.  If they’re on the Transportation Committee, listed below, please send them a note.  Click on their name for contact info.  You can email them or call.

Sen. Steve Newman (R-Forest) Chair

Sen. Henry Marsh (D-Richmond)

Sen. John Watkins (R-Midlothian)

Sen. Phil Puckett (D-Tazewell)

Sen. Frank Wagner (R-Virginia Beach)

Sen. Creigh Deeds (D-Bath)

Sen. Ryan McDougle (R-Mechanicsville)

Sen. Ralph Smith (R-Roanoke)

Sen. Dave Marsden (D-Burke)

Sen. Jeff McWaters (R-Virginia Beach)

Sen. Chuck Colgan (D-Manassas)

Sen. Bill Carrico (R-Grayson)

Sen. Barbara Favola (D-Arlington)

Sen. Kenneth C. Alexander (D-Norfolk)

We will continue to provide updates on the progress of bills in both statehouses–likely on short notice, as that’s things move in these short legislative sessions.  Thank you for helping us get these bills passed to improve the safety of cyclists in both states.

Bike Legislation to Watch in the 2014 Maryland and Virginia Sessions

Green Lanes Planner/Engineer Tour
Annapolis and Richmond are humming today as Virginia and Maryland kick off their 2014 legislative sessions. This year’s sessions present an opportunity for successful passage of many legislative efforts that will protect bicyclists and make regional roads safer for all users.

Both state legislative sessions are short, and bills move quickly. Maryland’s legislation can be no longer than 90 days; this year’s session is scheduled to wrap up by April 7. Across the Potomac, the Virginia legislative sessions is even shorter: 60 days, with the final day on March 8th. Tracking the sessions is often challenging, but we will do our best to keep you updated.

WABA will be closely following a slate of bills in both states that relate to bicycling and support the work of each state-level advocacy organization, the Virgina Bicycling Federation and Bike Maryland.

Virginia Bills:
HB 82 — Following Too Closely: This bill would require drivers of any vehicle to not follow more closely than is reasonable any other vehicle, including bicyclists.

SB 225 – Dooring Legislation: If this law is enacted, drivers and passengers in Virginia will be legally required to exercise care when opening their car doors with respect to adjacent traffic. Dooring of bicyclists by drivers and passengers can cause serious injury and this bill seeks to reduce the potential of dooring.

SB 97 – Three Foot Passing : Current Virgina law requires drivers to exercise care when passing vehicles, including bicyclists, and to give at least two feet when passing. This bill seeks to extend the passing distance to three feet, in line with D.C. and Maryland law.

HB277 – Pedestrians crossing highways: This bill would clarify the duties of vehicles to stop to allow pedestrians (and bicyclists) to cross highways at marked crosswalks. The full bill language helps to define many ambiguities that exist in current law.

HB320: Reckless driving; passing other vehicles at intersections: This bill seeks to amend the legal reckless driving statute by prohibiting a person from overtaking or passing another vehicle stopped at a marked or unmarked crosswalk at an intersection when a pedestrian (or bicyclist) is present.

Maryland Bills:
HB92 – Passing a Bicycle, an Electric Personal Assistive Mobility Device, or a Motor Scooter – Distance Requirement: This bill seeks to strengthen the three-foot passing law by altering the distance a driver of a vehicle is required to maintain while passing to four feet (with some exceptions).

HB52 – Bicycles and Motor Scooters – Rules of the Road: This bill clarifies that the duties of bicyclists are those defined in Maryland law, which ensures that a lawful cyclist who is in a crash is not denied recovery due to other, hypothetical duties not included in law.

WABA will give periodic updates on bills via our blog (–you’re reading it right now!). We will also be sending out targeted action alerts to our members and supporters who live in key legislators’ districts. Sign up below to receive updates and action alerts.



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We’ll alert you when immediate action is needed on bicycling issues. Emails are sent only a few times a month (at most). You can unsubscribe at any time.

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November: Hot for Bike Advocacy

Green Lanes Planner/Engineer Tour

Behold, the many opportunities to speak up for better bicycling this month!

Winter is coming, but regional bike advocacy opportunities are heating up!

November is packed with public meetings across the D.C. area that will impact bicycling. We’ve listed as many as we know about below. If you can attend, speak up for bicycling. Planners need to hear from you about the impact proposed projects could have on the bicycling community.

You can also bookmark our public Google advocacy calendar, which is full of public meetings, WABA advocacy trainings and other upcoming events. If you have items for the calendar, email them to us at

Rehabilitation of Broad Branch Road NW
Tues., Nov. 5 , 6:30 p.m.
Methodist Home of D.C., 4901 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, D.C.
DDOT is studying four alternatives for the rehabilitation of Broad Branch Road NW as part of an Environmental Assessment. The section of Broad Branch slated for rehabilitation is 1.5-mile length of roadway between Linnean Avenue and Beach Drive. Only one alternative would include any bicycle facility: Alternative 4 purposes a climbing bike lane on the uphill side and a shared-laned on the downhill side. The EA is being released for 30 days for public comments; please submit your comments to DDOT by Nov. 22, 2013. The complete EA is available for public review on the project website at

Proposed Rehabilitation of the Arlington Memorial Bridge Alternatives Meeting
Wed., Nov. 13, 6 p.m.-9 p.m.
The Little Theater, Washington Lee High School, 1301 North Stafford St., Arlington, Va.
The George Washington Memorial Parkway is holding a public meeting to present alternatives for the proposed rehabilitation of the Arlington Memorial Bridge. All alternatives would resurface the road and repair the sidepath surface, which would be great improvement for commuters. However, no presented alternative improves the bridge’s greatest deficiency: access from the trails on both sides of the river. Any improvement of the bridge should address this major safety issue. There should be direct access to the bridge from the Mount Vernon Trail and trails on the National Mall. Comments may be submitted electronically on the project website at

Community Meeting on the Rock Creek Trail Facility Plan
Wed., Nov. 13, 7 p.m.
Meadowbrook Park Activity Building, 7901 Meadowbrook Lane, Chevy Chase, Md.
Montgomery Parks invites the community to review renovation plans for the Rock Creek Trail, including proposed renovations to the Rock Creek Hiker-Biker Trail, opportunities to enhance the natural environment along the trail, ways to reduce the frequency of trail maintenance, and ideas to improve safety, pavement conditions, drainage, and accessibility. For more information visit

Fairfax Countywide Dialogue on Transportation
Tues., Nov. 12, 7 p.m., Fairfax County Government Center
Wed., Nov. 13, 7 p.m., Forest Edge Elementary School
Fairfax County is seeking input on how to spend its new transportation funding from Virginia’s recently passed funding bill. How should $1.2 billion be spent over the next 6 years? And how much should be spent on bicycling? Show up to these two public meetings—the last regarding this transportation funding—and demand funding for bicycling be increased. Information about the meeting locations and time, and the entire planning process is online at