Tell Fairfax County to Adopt the Bike Master Plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tour the Unbuilt Met Branch Trail’s 2nd Phase

Next Saturday, September 20th, come take a walk with WABA’s trail advocates on the planned but unbuilt route of the Metropolitan Branch Trail in NE DC.  The existing and interim 8.5 mile trail from Union Station to Silver Spring Is already a hub for neighborhood recreation and a major commuter route, drawing bicyclists from Silver Spring and beyond.  But the unbuilt second phase, between Fort Totten and Takoma, remains a significant gap in the trail network.  Join us Saturday at 1 pm to see where the trail will go, what it will look like, and what stands between the interim route we have today and the seamless trail of tomorrow.

MBT Phase 2

Met Branch Trail Phase two in blue. Click for a larger map.

One of the most common questions we get these days is “When will the Met Branch Trail be finished?”  The simplest answer is that while projects of this magnitude take time, progress is being made.

The Met Branch Trail that we have today is the result of over twenty five years of steadfast effort from committed residents, advocates, and planners through a lengthy public process.  Construction, too, spread for over a decade with early segments opening as early as 2004 (Michigan Ave to Ft. Totten Drive) and as recently as August of 2013 (Monroe St. to the Brookland Metro).

Today the trail boasts 4.2 off-street miles stretching from Union Station to Fort Totten Park and a short span in Montgomery County.  This spring, the District added a half a mile protected bike lane through NoMa as an additional southern option, and in the coming fall and winter, a connection to Florida Ave NE and a bridge to the the Rhode Island Metro are expected to open.

MBT-Progress-Chart-clean

Breakdown of what is built, under construction, in design, and yet to come

While there is plenty of progress to celebrate and enjoy (thousands of MBT users do each month), there remains a substantial gap in the trail between Fort Totten and the District line.  And though the interim on street route offers mostly quiet streets, it is no substitute for a fully separated trail.  In July, we received the exciting news of small steps toward design of this large missing link.  This Saturday, we invite you to join us for a block by block tour of the trail’s proposed route, design challenges, and next steps.

Sign up here


This tour is the first of three trail tours this fall.  Join us in October for a look at two other crucial trail priorities and a glimpse of what the region’s trail network could become.  This tour series is made possible thanks to REI.

September 20 – Unbuilt Met Branch Trail Walking Tour

October 4 – Southeast DC’s Unbuilt Trails Bike Tour

October 11 – Washington Annapolis & Baltimore Trail Bike Tour

Announcing a Trails Advocacy Partnership with REI

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At the end of last year, we offered up a list of things that was our “wish list” of projects we had on our minds for many months. Our most ambitious goal was to raise enough money to start planning for a Regional Trail Summit and Advocacy project And thanks to the generosity of our supporters, we came up with enough seed money to lay the groundwork.

But this is what happens when people start hearing about what WABA wants to do: people get inspired, they get excited and they want to build on what we begin. After hearing about our vision, not just for a trail summit, but for a larger, longer term project, we got another big boost: REI, a nationally recognized leader in outdoor recreation, community involvement and global stewardship,  invited us to apply for one of their grants. In January, we prepared an expanded grant proposal which included a full advocacy campaign, a summit with participants from all over the region, multiple trail tours, a concept plan for a new trail connection, public visioning sessions and online engagement.

Over the summer, we were thrilled to learn that we did indeed receive a grant from REI to cover almost all the costs of this expanded trail advocacy and summit vision. With what WABA will contribute in staff time, we now have the resources to launch a very robust and focused trail advocacy campaign. Thanks to the REI grant, all of the resources that come from this effort will become advocacy tools that we can use to build a case for expanded trails for years to come. Without the REI grant opportunity, we would not have been able to fund such a comprehensive advocacy program. Thank you REI!

To get the ball rolling, we’ve scheduled three tours with our advocacy team on three different trail systems. Please join us as we begin the process to help our trails get to the full potential of a completed and expanded trail circuit.

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