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]?

Trail Rangers Return for Season Two

2014 Trail Ranger Team

You’ve heard the rumors.  Pairs of friendly and helpful bicyclists have been spotted on off-street paved trails throughout DC.  Sources say they appear eager to help out with maps, trail information and patching the occasional flat tire.  Some say these uniformed “rangers” are even inspecting trail conditions, clearing debris, and removing trail obstacles for a smoother ride.

Well, its true.  WABA’s Trail Ranger team is back in full force for its second season!  After a long winter and a rainy bike month, we’re thrilled to unleash our 2014 Trail Ranger team on DC’s trails and the ever growing throng of trail users.  For the past three weeks they’ve been crisscrossing the city on the Met Branch, Anacostia Riverwalk, Marvin Gaye, and Suitland Parkway Trails, preparing for the work of supporting regular trail users and encouraging the hesitant to check them out   After over 220 training miles on and between these trails, the five ranger team is ready for the limelight!

Trail Rangers are out on trail daily during the morning and evening rush on weekdays as well as weekends.  Equipped with a host of trail information, bike tools and first aid supplies, they are always ready to lend a hand when you need it most.  The team also works to maintain and improve trail corridors, ensuring that irksome glass, obstacles, and tree branches are out of your way.  A regular Trail Ranger presence means smoother trail surfaces, a faster response to trail disruptions, and fewer barriers that might keep hesitant riders away.

In the coming weeks, we will introduce our enthusiastic and talented ranger team and unveil our schedule of cleanup events aimed at bringing trail users and neighbors together to keep DC’s trails looking great.  In the meantime, if you see a green shirt pulling a yellow trailer, be sure to give us a wave and say hello!

You can meet some of the team and have a cup of coffee next Friday, June 13th, on the Met Branch Trail.

Montgomery Co. Council Funds Snow Plowing for Capital Crescent Trail

The Capital Crescent Trail will be cleared of snow next winter after Montgomery County Council allocates $75,000 in the budget. Photo credit: PedroGringo

On Monday, we announced that Arlington County has included snow plowing on County trails in their FY2015 budget. Montgomery County Council is including funding for snow plowing on the popular Capital Crescent Trail to continue the trend of providing winter maintenance on area multi-use trails. In March, we asked our Montgomery County members and supporters to contact Council members

Montgomery County Parks Department proposed a pilot snow cleaning plan to Montgomery County Council during the spring budget deliberations. On May 15th, Council approved the  funding of $75,000 for a snow removal pilot program for the Capital Crescent Trail for 2014-2015 winter. $50,000 will cover the initial purchase of specialized plowing equipment with the remaining budget for labor costs. The Parks Department estimated the labor to cost about $1,100 to handle light snow events and $5,800 for heavy snow.

The planned section for snow plowing of the Capital Crescent Trail will extend from the Bethesda Metro Stop to the D.C. border. Montgomery Parks will not use chemicals, salt, or sand to treat the trail thereby reducing the environmental impact on the trail’s sensitive areas.

Council member Hans Riemer wrote in an email to residents who contacted him in support of this program, “Given the wide use of the CCT by bicycle commuters, it only makes sense to get the trail back to normalcy as soon as possible after a snow event. I see this as another important step in our quest to make Montgomery County more bike friendly, health conscious and environmentally friendly.”

We would like to thank Parks Department Director Mary Bradford for proposing a workable solution for snow plowing and a thank you to Montgomery County Council for funding a pilot program. The Capital Crescent Trail is one of the most heavily used bike paths in the region and with reliable winter maintenance the trail will continue to provide an accessible bicycle commuting route all year round.

Update May 23: We have received many questions about snow plowing on the DC side of the Capital Crescent Trail. National Park Service already plows their portion of the trail from the DC/MD border to Georgetown. The Montgomery County section was previously not plowed after a snow storm. Next winter, plowing should happen on both the DC and Maryland sections of the trail.

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.

Take a Trail this Bike to Work Day

Dandies ride by Gravelly Point

Photo by Flickr user joeflood

So you’ve heard that Bike to Work Day is coming up on May 16.  Maybe you heard that it is the one thrilling day that our region celebrates biking as an everyday form of transportation.  Maybe you heard that there are 79 pit stops with BTWD shirts, snacks, raffles, and giveaways.  Perhaps that is all the convincing you need.  Be sure to register.

But if you do not already bike to work regularly, then all the pit stop goodies and the support of thousands of other people biking along with you might not be enough.  You still have to find your way to work, and at first glance there may be a lot of busy streets between where you live and where you’re headed.

The DC area is fortunate to have an extensive network of trails that allow a near seamless off-street ride for much of your trip.  For the first time bike commuter, trails alleviate many concerns of riding with car traffic and can simplify finding a route through the web of streets.  For the regular commuter, trails are the highways of bike infrastructure offering direct routes that pass over and around busy intersections from as far as Vienna, Alexandria, Bethesda, Silver Spring and College Park.  Where these trails end, they often connect to streets with bike infrastructure like bike lanes and even cycletracks which form a network of bike friendly routes.  If you are an infrequent rider, these too will make getting to work a little less stressful.  Consult Google Maps bicycling layer to find a route or join one the BTWD Commuter Convoys that follow trails.

Click here to explore the area's bike facilities

Dark green lines are trails. Light green lines are on street bike lanes.

Regardless of your experience, Bike to Work Day is the perfect time to try out a trail near you.  With pit stops on or near many trails, you’ll find plenty of company and ample opportunities to exchange congratulatory high fives when you pick up your BTWD shirt.  Below are a some of the most popular trails with pit stops nearby.

Anacostia Riverwalk Trail: South Capitol St to Benning Rd on both sides of the Anacostia

  • Anacostia at Martin Luther King Jr Ave & Good Hope Rd SE
  • Canal Park at M St & 2nd St SE

Capital Crescent Trail: Bethesda to Georgetown

  • Downtown Bethesda at Reed St.
  • Georgetown Waterfront Park at K St. & Wisconsin Ave NW

Custis Trail: I-66 to Rosslyn

  • Roslyn at the Rosslyn Gateway Park

Metropolitan Branch Trail: Ft Totten to Union Station

  • Edgewood at Rhode Island Ave NE
  • NoMa at First St & Pierce St NE

Mount Vernon Trail: Mt Vernon to Rosslyn

  • Old Town Alexandria at Fairfax Dr & King St
  • Crystal City Water Park

Washington & Old Dominion Trail: Purcellville to Shirlington Village

  • Merrifield at Sandburg St
  • Fall Church at Grove Ave
  • Falls Church at East Falls Church Metro

Click here to register for Bike to Work Day and find a full list of pit stop locations.

DDOT Unable to Provide Deadlines for Major Trail Projects

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Mary Cheh, second from left, pressed DDOT on its lack of progress.

“Will I be alive [when the trail is finished]?” asked Transportation Committee Chair Mary Cheh of DDOT, with regard to when she can expect the Metropolitan Branch Trail to be completed.

On Fri., March 20, the D.C. Council Committee on Transportation and the Environment held a performance oversight hearing for the District Department of Transportation. After hours of public testimony, DDOT Director Terry Bellamy testified on behalf of the agency. Chief Engineer Nick Nicholson and Director of Planning Sam Zimbabwe were also on hand to answer questions from the councilmembers.

WABA provided testimony about DDOT’s performance for implementation of its bicycle program over the past year. Executive Director Shane Farthing expressed concerns with no progress on major trail projects, as well as with significant delays and design compromises with on-street facilities like the M Street Cycle Track.

Councilmembers Mary Cheh and David Grosso pressed DDOT for responses related to many of WABA concerns. “Rock Creek Trail—that has been many, many, many years in consideration,” asked Cheh. Over 2,400 people signed a recent petition effort by WABA to speed up the planning and design of a major rehabilitation of the Rock Creek Park Trail.

Raising the issue of public safety on trails, Councilmember Grosso noted, “The fact is the Met Branch Trail is something that people have been waiting on for a long time. And we know for a fact it will be safer for people to ride on that trail if it’s connect all the way to the top and we get more people using it. So that’s an urgent item.”

Committee Chair Mary Cheh pushed DDOT to provide deadlines for the completion of major trail projects. DDOT Chief Engineer Nick Nicholson replied, “We’d be placing ourselves in another place where we don’t make our dates. I would really like to get back to you with a firm schedule…by next week.”

Currently, there are no firm dates for completion of the Rock Creek Park, Metropolitan Branch, South Capitol Street, Oxon Cove trails or repaving of the Capital Crescent and Suitland Parkway trails. Under the leadership of Director Terry Bellamy, DDOT has not many any significant progress on trails in D.C.

A Rock Creek Park Trail Update, Plus an Open House

Rock Creek Park Trail-10

After we told you that we would no longer stand for the deplorable condition of the Rock Creek Park Trail, over 2,400 people signed our petition to fix the Rock Creek Park Trail.

That incredible action did not go unnoticed. Major regional news outlets covered the demand for a better Rock Creek Park Trail: Read the WAMU story here. Washingtonian, Fox 5 News, NBC 4 and Active Life DC also covered the egregious state of the trail.

An official from Rock Creek Park was quoted in the WAMU story as saying, “The current status is a [environmental] decision will be issued in the near future, this calendar year. And DDOT has budgeted for a trail reconstruction in fiscal year 2015.”

WABA will meet with officials from DDOT and Rock Creek Park in early March to discuss the details of this project. We will hold both public agencies to the timelines to which they have committed, and will continue to advocate for much-needed repairs to the Rock Creek Park Trail. Keep reading our blog for updates on this project.

The Rock Creek Park Foundation will host an open house from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m at Mon., March 3, 2014 at St. John’s College High School in Vaghi Dining Room at 2607 Military Road NW, Washington, D.C. This is a great opportunity to be engaged with the park on this issue and other issues related to it. You can learn more about the open house on the NPS website here.

Image via Flickr user TrailVoice

Fund a Regional Trail Summit in 2014

Last week, we posted our year-end appeal letter on our blog (WABA members and supporters may have also received the appeal via surface mail in the past few weeks). This week, we’re reposting descriptions of the projects we hope to fund through your donations for 2014; we asked for $30,000 to fund entirely and we have currently raised $15,796 thanks to your generous contributions. Make a tax-deductible donation to WABA right now and make our advocacy, education, and outreach dreams a reality!

Today, read about our proposed trail summit, which would require $10,000 to organize and host.

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For all our success in growing biking over the past few years, we’ve failed to bring meaningful progress to our regional trail network. Continued movement on the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail and the Rhode Island Trolley Trail are notable exceptions to the fact that the Met Branch Trail isn’t complete, that Rock Creek and the Capital Crescent need major infrastructural work, the Suitland Parkway Trail is falling apart, or that the Washington, Baltimore & Annapolis Trail doesn’t begin or end at a main destination. Too many projects are taking too long and have lost momentum. Interjurisdictional battles and land use disputes have dragged on to the point that project managers don’t even talk to one another anymore.

It is time to convene a regional meeting to bring together responsible agencies, relevant elected officials, and the general public to rebuild a vision for our trail network and reinvigorate efforts to build it. WABA can convene such a meeting, but big meetings take time and money.

Estimated need for a regional trail summit: $10,000. Donate now!

Resources: Bike Route Planning

This blog post is part of a new series by our bike ambassadors. It’s dedicated to presenting tips that will encourage new riders to get started. We’ll link these posts on our Resources page, forming a library of tips for beginning cyclists.

Once you’ve found the bike that works for you, it’s important to ensure it’s in working condition for riding before venturing out onto the road. Now that you’re all geared up, it’s time to plan your two-wheeled tour—of D.C., Maryland, Virginia, or anywhere!

Before mapping out your bike route, it can be helpful to consider your options. How comfortable are you riding in traffic? Do you prefer bike lanes and trails? How much time do you have to get to your destination? What time of day will you be riding? Do you want to avoid or tackle the hills?

Basic Route Planning
Google Maps (both the desktop browser map and the smartphone app) has an option to select bicycling directions. Just as if you were trying to get driving or walking directions, simply type in the start and end locations and click the bicycle icon.

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Often, there is more than one way to get from point A to point B. Dark solid green lines show separated bicycle facilities like trails or cycle tracks. Medium solid green lines indicate that street has a dedicated bicycle lane, but is not separated from traffic. Dotted green lines represent places in the city that are considered “bicycle routes” and/or have sharrows painted on them.

Depending on personal comfort level, mileage, and timing, you could choose any number of different ways to get around D.C. While an electronic mapping function like Google Maps may produce the directions for the most direct route, it may mean riding on busy streets without any dedicated bike infrastructure.  Some riders may be comfortable taking the lane, but others may not. Getting to your destination via the most bike-friendly route may mean taking an indirect path on trails and side streets in order to avoid major thoroughfares.

D.C.-Area Trails
While the D.C. trail network is not complete, there are a number of connections to and from the city for commuting to work or getting your workout. Trails can provide a safe alternative for riders looking to get out of traffic or to those looking for a scenic weekend ride. In some cases, trails are the only real connection between destinations. Check out or complete list of trails in the D.C. region.

Multi-Modal Routes
Having the option to hop on transit with your bicycle is a handy one. Whether you get a flat, get caught in a blizzard, or are too tired ride, knowing your options for getting home can make it easier to decide to go by bike.

Metro: Folding bikes are allowed on Metro Rail anytime during the usual hours of operation. Regular bikes are permitted at all times except for certain holidays and Monday-Friday rush hours, which are 7 a.m.-10 a.m. and 4 p.m.-7 p.m. Bicycles are permitted any time during the weekends. You must use the elevator with your bicycle.

Bus: Every Metro Bus has two bike racks on the front of the bus. You can carry your bike on the front of the bus at any time with no additional charge. Learn how to put your bike on the bus.

Park and Ride: Many of the area metro stations have bike racks or lockers on site. Check WMATA’s website to find out if your station has these amenities. Consider bicycling from home to the Metro for your commute to save on parking costs!

With over 200 stations in the region, Capital Bikeshare gives you the option of one-way, short bike trips. Check Bikeshare’s website for details about how to join, and use the app SpotCycle to figure out which stations near you have available docks or bikes.

Paper Bike Maps
If your smartphone is dead or if electronic maps just aren’t your thing, there are plenty of printed bicycle maps available for navigating your way through the city. Check out our complete list of maps available in the Maryland, Virginia, and the region, or stop by the WABA office to pick one up.

Friends and Forums
Pair up with a friend who bikes in your area and ride together. Talk to them about their favorite or fastest routes. If you don’t have a trusted bicycle buddy, hop onto the Washington Area Bike Forum and ask other bicycle enthusiasts in the area. Everyday bike riders are an invaluable resource when it comes to finding out where the best places to bike are, where you’ll find the biggest hills, and where to enjoy the best views of D.C.!

Remember:

  • Double check your bike route on a map before heading out!
  • Come prepared! Don’t count on trails to be well lit or for bicycle routes to be well signed. Knowing ahead of time where you’re going will save you frustrations later.
  • Leave extra time for new routes. Sure, there are times when getting lost can be a fun adventure, but not when you’re running late!

How Will the Shutdown Affect Regional Trails?

NPS' Capital Crescent Trail Improvements

This may or may not be open now or later today. Photo by Greg Billing.

Last night, we sent an action alert email to our members and supporters warning them that regional trails may be closed as a result of the shutdown, which you can read here:

WABA has learned that if the federal government shuts down tomorrow, the National Park Service intends to close many of its properties, including regional trails, to the public.  We have been provided very little detail, but we have seen preparations for closure on the Capital Crescent Trail.  All or part of the heavily-commuted Rock Creek Trail, Anacostia Riverwalk Trail, and George Washington Memorial Trail are on NPS property.  While we cannot provide additional information on the impacts to these trails because NPS has not been in contact with us, please be prepared for the possibility of closures in the event of a federal government shutdown.

We will continue to seek additional information and provide updates as available at www.waba.org/blog and through social media.

As of this morning, we have received no official update from the National Park Service about closures.

We’ll continue to update this post with information about trail closures as we receive them from our staffers and from the NPS. On Twitter, we’re retweeting reports of trail closures from users. If you use Twitter and notice a closure, let us know. If you don’t, you can still follow along.

UPDATE 8:54 p.m.: Bike ambassador Pete reports, “Hains Point bathrooms are closed and locked and the water is shut off.  The golf course parking lot has been turned into a parking lot for all the furloughed park vehicles” and “Meridian Park at 16th and Euclid is closed entirely.  All the entrances are blocked.”

UPDATE 4:26 p.m.: Washington City Paper has a list of roads closed by the National Park Service around Rock Creek Park, including Beach, Sherrill, Bingham, Ross, Morrow, and Glover drives.

UPDATE 2:40 p.m.: East Bank DC has photos of a closed Anacostia Park.

UPDATE: 2:27 p.m.: The C&O Canal Trust sends this email, which you can see on its website here:

As you may be aware, our Federal Government has shut down for an indeterminate amount of time. What you may not have realized, however, is that the closure of the Federal Government means the closure of the C&O Canal National Historical Park and all other National Parks. For the C&O Canal, this means:
THE TOWPATH IS CLOSED
  • Visitor traffic, whether on foot, bike, or horse, is strictly prohibited.
  • Bicyclists planning rides from Pittsburgh to DC on the GAP and C&O Canal should plan to turn back at Cumberland.
  • All Visitors Centers are CLOSED.
  • Hiker/Bikers and campgrounds are CLOSED.
  • The Canal Quarters lockhouses are CLOSED.
  • All restroom facilities, both permanent and portable, are CLOSED.
  • Handles have been removed from all well pumps.
  • The only Park staff that will be on duty will be law enforcement rangers.
  • The portion of the Capital Crescent Trail that runs parallel to the towpath in DC is managed by the C&O Canal NHP and is CLOSED.
  • All access roads to the Park are CLOSED. This means you will not be able to trailer boats to boat ramps along the towpath.
  • Interpretive and educational programming in the Park will be temporarily suspended. School field trips to the Park will need to be rescheduled once Park staff has returned.
  • Volunteer events and events requiring special use permits will not be able to take place.
  • All volunteers working in an official capacity should cease volunteer activities immediately and not enter the Park’s premises.

After working side-by-side with the wonderful staff of the C&O Canal NHP for many years, it’s heartbreaking for the Trust to see them closing the doors, given no choice but to turn away thousands upon thousands of visitors seeking to recreate and rejuvenate along the canal’s towpath.

While the Park staff has no choice but to stand idly by, we as civilians can take action:

  • Educate yourself and others on how the shutdown affects National Parks.
  • Be vocal on social media and use #KeepParksOpen.
  • Use any means of communication you can – letter, email, phone call, social media, or even a carrier pigeon – to appeal to Congress.Find your US Representatives and Senators on the National Park’s Conservation Association’s Legislative Lookup.
  • Send notes of encouragement to the Park staff through our FacebookTwitter, andemail. To say this is a rough time for them is an understatement. We’ll forward your notes on and post them on social media, letting our Park Rangers know how much we appreciate them and are anxiously awaiting their return.
  • Last but certainly not least, respect the closure. While we don’t like it one bit, we have to respect it. Disregarding the closure can create potentially unsafe and hazardous situations, damage Park resources, and create undue work and stress on the few staff left standing.

UPDATE 1:15 p.m.: Streetsblog notes that Beach Drive is closed to cars.

UPDATE 10 a.m.: WAMU reporter Martin Austermuhle tweets, “More government shutdown closures: Hains Point. So if you ride/run down there, you’re going to have to do so illegally” and that “According to NPS, Rock Creek Pkwy, Joyce Rd. and Wise Rd. will stay open. Beach Drive, though, will close to cars today.”

WABA still has not received an update from NPS.

UPDATE 9:32 a.m.: Commenter Bilsko writes, “At about 8:30AM,   I rode the stretch of the CCT trail from the Foundry Branch Park tunnel down into Georgetown with no sign of enforcement of closure – there were plenty of cyclists heading in both directions on the trail. There was also someone (NPP, perhaps) doing something with the lock mechanism on the gate, but I didn’t have a chance to stop and find out what.”

UPDATE 9:03 a.m.: Our bike ambassador Pete Beers writes: “The only trail closure on the west side of town is the C&O Towpath.  The tough part is that the Cap Crescent Trail connects to C&O at the edge of Montgomery County… so it is closed before getting to Georgetown. People are ignoring the barriers. My friend Ricky took that. I shared it on my Facebook wall. Other stuff seems to be open. I haven’t heard about stuff coming in from Tacoma Park or Rock Creek Park yet.”