The Best Way Across the Potomac Isn’t Built Yet (But It Could Be)

Recent construction on bridges over the Potomac has been a bit of a disaster for bicyclists. In a sense, the existing inadequacies of Potomac River crossings (trails dead ending, narrow sidewalks, dangerous fencing, and more) have been exacerbated by the construction highlighting a need for more, high-quality Potomac River crossings to be connected to both the Virginia and District’s bike networks.

But that might change.

We have an opportunity to build the finest Potomac River trail crossing in an unlikely place—the Long Bridge.

Wait…what is the Long Bridge?

The Long Bridge is the the rusting hulk of a rail bridge that you can see heading over the Potomac River on Metro or from the Mount Vernon Trail. Currently, it is a two-track railway bridge that serves freight, commuter trains and Amtrak.

However, this bridge needs some improvements. Built in 1904, the bridge has outlived its usefulness and needs some serious improvements to meet the needs of our growing region.

DDOT, VDOT, CSX, the Federal Railroad Administration (and more) are working on a series of potential redesign options. Though the scope of the project is focused on increasing rail capacity, included in those redesigns are two bicycle/pedestrian options—one option is for a bike/ped bridge that is connected to the rail bridge and the other option is a free-standing bridge that runs parallel to the bridge. However, DDOT is only considering these options. These options are not guaranteed and we have already heard some grumbling about cost and security for a bicycle/pedestrian crossing.

“Build the Long Bridge for people.” Has a nice ring to it, no?

Though we don’t have much more clarity on those options, what we do know is that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to build what could be the safest, highest quality Potomac River bicycle and pedestrian crossing on the day it opens.

So WABA—along with fourteen (14) partner organizations—called for the project team to include a bicycle and pedestrian trail to be constructed concurrently with the rail component. You can find our letter here.

The letter itself lays out five principles for designing the project:

  1. Include a bicycle and pedestrian trail across the Potomac River.
  2. This bicycle and pedestrian trail should be funded and constructed concurrently with the rail component of the Long Bridge project.
  3. The bicycle and pedestrian trail should be incorporated into the design of the broader project in a way that optimizes the achievability of the project with regard to cost and complexity.
  4. The bicycle and pedestrian trail should be designed to enhance the connectivity of the regional trail network. Specifically, the trail should connect to the esplanade in Long Bridge Park in Arlington. In the District, the trail should extend as far towards L’Enfant Plaza as physically possible to maximize connectivity to existing trails.
  5. The bicycle and pedestrian trail should be designed and constructed to the highest design standards, with a minimum width of 12 feet wide, and seamless connections to existing trail networks.

To be clear, this project is a long way from being built. And we’ve got a lot of work to do to make sure that the bridge includes a bike/ped trail. That’s why we want you to show up to the next public meeting on November 29th to speak up for Long Bridge.

Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs Building
1100 4th St SW (Room E200)
Washington, DC 20024
4pm – 7pm (presentations will be at 4:30pm and 6pm)

Let us know if you’re coming

You can find out more about the project at the project webpage here or on the WABA blog. At the meeting, DDOT will show us their proposed their preferred alternative.

The benefits to having a pedestrian and bicycle trail across the Potomac along with the rail component are clear for the region. In addition to connecting the Mount Vernon Trail to East Potomac Park (and providing bicyclists and pedestrians a safe crossing along the Potomac), there are very real economic and transportation benefits to this project. That’s why we’ve got to show up and work to make this happen.

Putting our money where our mouth is

A message presented in partnership with our Corporate Partner, and 2018 50 States Ride title sponsor, Signal Financial:

A nonprofit is more than its work: as an employer and a participant in our region’s economy, we have the power to ensure our values and vision are reflected in our business practices and in the way we steward the investments WABA members and donors make in our organization.

WABA’s vision of a connected region goes beyond the protected network of trails and bike lanes we advocate for—we seek a community connected to personal and environmental health, transportation access, economic opportunity, and mobility.

That’s why we’re excited to announce that WABA moved its primary bank accounts from Wells Fargo and now banks exclusively with Signal Financial Federal Credit Union. Signal Financial is a member-based and volunteer-founded organization that directly invests in its community and shares a regional footprint with WABA.

Beyond shared values and an effective partnership, Signal Financial and WABA share members. WABA members are eligible to join the credit union, and anyone interested in banking with Signal Financial will have their first year of WABA dues paid by the credit union. And to walk the walk on those shared values, Signal Financial will donate $50 to WABA for every new Signal membership opened by a WABA supporter between now and December 31st.

Here’s to building community, one bicyclist and one business decision at a time.

Find the press release here.

End of Year Report: A Trail Ranger Sort of Season

The DC Trail Ranger seasonal program champions the trails and trail users of the District of Columbia. During the 2018 season, Tim, Carly, Trey, and Matthew kept District trails clear, led events and rides to introduce the trails to more people, and fixed a flat or three to keep trail users rolling.

Trail Rangers helped Red Line commuters try the Metropolitan Branch Trail during the August Metrorail shutdown around Brookland, partnered with the National Park Service for the centennial of Anacostia Park with a guided history tour, and had 250 people join Anacostia Pedal Paddle Palooza to explore the Anacostia watershed. It was a busy summer on the trails! Thank you for joining us.

By the numbers: in 2018, DC Trails Rangers:

  • Rode 1,978 miles on four urban trails
  • Promoted trails through 147 hours of outreach
  • Spent 195 hours cleaning broken class, clearing branches, and keeping the trail tidy for users
  • Spoke with 2,058 people about regional trails and WABA programming
  • Distributed 864 DC bike maps
  • Celebrated trails with 691 people at 19 events

Interested in being a trail ranger? Sign up to hear about future job openings! Yes!




Cider Ride: Best. Day. Ever.

On Saturday, November 3rd, WABA hosted the Cider Ride!

The rain stopped and sunny, blue skies opened up just in time for hundreds of riders join us in a celebration of fall! Riders chose one of three routes, all of them showcasing our region’s incredible multi-use trails, colorful fall foliage, and delicious cider and pie along the way.

Fall foliage on the trails makes us this happy, too.

Many riders took the chance to advocate for more trails; we worked with local businesses in Hyattsville to host a pop-up pit stop at a gap in the Hyattsville Trolley Trail. Along with sampling the offerings of several nearby businesses, riders wrote postcards to Maryland state officials to ask for quality trail design and accelerated construction of the trail extension, which would fill a critical gap in the regional trail network. Click here to sign up for future updates on the Trolley Trail.

Get updates on the Trolley Trail

Afterwards, participants celebrated the beautiful ride, ate more pie, and drank another cup of steaming cider at Dew Drop Inn. Biking, advocacy, treats, and friends—it can’t get any better!

Riders at Dew Drop Inn, enjoying donuts and the snazzy Cider Ride mugs!

To all the riders: thank you for supporting WABA! Like all signature rides, the proceeds from Cider Ride directly fund the hard work that WABA is doing to make bicycling better for everyone in the region. Your support helps us advocate for better trails and more bike lanes. Thank you.

If you want to get more involved with WABA, sign up for our advocacy alerts, join us for a City Cycling class, or volunteer at an event. Otherwise, we’ll see you at the Holiday Party in December.

We’ve collected some photos from the ride below, but, first, a final shoutout to our sponsors:

 

Celebration Sponsor:

And for additional support from:

Enjoy the photo gallery from this year’s Cider Ride!

 

Push for changes to a Capital Crescent Trail intersection where a cyclist died

Guest post by Ross Filice

photo by Erica Flock

Two years ago, a cyclist was tragically struck and killed by a driver at the intersection of the Capital Crescent Trail (CCT) and Little Falls Parkway. After this incident, the local parks service reduced car lanes to one each way and lowered the speed limit. It has worked incredibly well, and Montgomery County should make the changes permanent.

Since these changes were introduced, there has been a 67% reduction in crashes without any fatalities. Traffic has only decreased here by 3%, and drivers have only had to wait for an additional seven seconds on average. The response is well-aligned with the county’s Vision Zero commitment and its Two-Year Action Plan to have zero road deaths and serious injuries by 2030.

Current temporary road diet at the intersection. Center lanes are travel lanes while outer lanes are blocked by temporary flexible bollards. Image created with Google Maps.

In June, 2018, the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) Parks Service presented a large range of possible permanent alternatives for this trail crossing. Based on data assessment, modeling, and public input, they have narrowed these down to three preferred alternatives which were presented at a public meeting on October 9, 2018. The goal is to eventually present a single preferred alternative to the Montgomery County Planning Board over the coming winter.

Here’s an overview of the three options.

Alternative A:

This plan will continue the current road diet but add beautification and design improvements. It would improve lighting, return excess pavement to grass and landscaping, and implement safer and more welcoming pedestrian trails, including a raised crosswalk. This alternative is the most cost-effective (estimated $800,000), has the least environmental impact, and has proven to be safe over the last two years.

Under the current conditions, very little traffic has been diverted to nearby streets. Montgomery County Department of Transportation’s (MCDOT) plans for Arlington and Hillandale Roads will mitigate these impacts further, as will plans for the adjacent Bethesda Pool, which includes road diets and other traffic calming measures.

With this design, trail users will be safer with minimal crossing delays, and drivers will continue to only wait an average of seven extra seconds over pre-road diet conditions, with no change from the previous two years.

Preferred Alternative A: Continue the existing road diet along with beautification, improved lighting and safety, and regional safety measures such as road diets and traffic calming. Image from the M-NCPCC Project Plan Website.

Alternative B:

This plan diverts the CCT to the intersection of Arlington Road and Little Falls Parkway, and implements a three-way signal to give dedicated crossing time for vehicles (in two phases) and trail users (in one phase).

This design would keep a single travel lane in each direction to decrease vehicle speeds and improve safety. There are many complicating factors with this proposal, however. It is more expensive (estimated $1,500,000), has greater environmental impact, both trail users and drivers will have to wait longer on average (30 seconds and 13 seconds respectively), and there’s more diverted traffic is expected over current conditions (an estimated 6%).

This plan also makes it more challenging to connect the CCT to the nearby Little Falls Trail and Norwood Park, and the complex trail plan from the separate Capital Crescent Trail Connector project would likely have to be resurrected.

Most concerning, it’s likely that both drivers and trail users would be tempted to ignore the signal by either turning right on red or crossing against the signal entirely. Both actions would introduce greater risk.

Preferred Alternative B: Divert the Capital Crescent Trail to the intersection with Arlington Road and install a signalled crossing. Regional road diets and calming measures are also proposed. Image from the M-NCPCC Project Plan Website.

Alternative C:

The most expensive plan (estimated $4,000,000) but arguably the safest is to build a trail bridge over Little Falls Parkway. In this scenario, trail users and vehicles are completely separated and delays are minimized for both. However, the cost is highest, ongoing maintenance costs will likely be far greater, and the environmental impact is the greatest.

Given the minimal impact to drivers and the dramatic safety improvements demonstrated over the last two years of the temporary road diet, it seems hard to justify the financial cost and environmental impact of this solution.

Preferred Alternative C: Build a completely separated trail crossing in the form of a bridge. Regional road diets and calming measures are also proposed. Image from the M-NCPCC Project Plan Website.

The project planning team has presented an informative table comparing the three alternatives along with a default “no-build” option, which highlights many of these points. You can also see a simulated rendering of the plans, courtesy of WTOP.

Some neighbors are worried about traffic, but the data doesn’t bear that out

Feedback at the recent meeting was generally positive, but some people had concerns. Some were worried that traffic is being diverted into area neighborhoods, and others wondered how to accommodate predicted regional growth.

However, data shows that there was only a 3% decrease in traffic at the intersection during the current interim road diet, and it’s likely that even less of it was actually diverted.

No measurable increase in traffic has been observed on the nearby Dorset Avenue. The project plan has indicated that traffic may be increased on Hillandale and Arlington Roads, but both will be mitigated by parallel MC-DOT plans for road diets and other calming measures. Traffic in the adjacent Kenwood neighborhood has already been addressed by one-way streets, speed bumps, and rush hour restrictions.

Traffic from regional construction and population growth can be addressed by the incoming Purple Line, county plans for bus rapid transit, and improving trail safety as an important transportation corridor.

Tell the county to prioritize vulnerable road users’ lives

Increasing capacity for predominantly single-occupancy vehicles in the era of Vision Zero and increasingly alarming environmental reports is simply the wrong direction for the county. Ultimately, a seven-second delay is not worth returning to unsafe conditions and potentially having another person killed at this location.

This is an excellent opportunity to solidify a positive step towards embracing Vision Zero and improving safety and environmental impact for this area and the county. Alternative A is a safe, cost-effective, and minimally disruptive solution that has been proven to work well over the last two years.

Full details including plans can be viewed at the project website. Comments can be submitted by email to the project manager, Andrew Tsai and via an online public forum.

Submit Comments

This blog was cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington

Author Ross Filice lives with his family in Chevy Chase and commutes by bike to Georgetown, downtown, and several other office sites in Washington, DC. He is a strong advocate of improving bicycle and transit infrastructure throughout the Washington area.

Top 5 Reasons to join us for the Cider Ride

The Cider Ride is one WABA ride that you absolutely don’t want to miss out on. With three routes (10-, 28-, and 55-miles) there is something fun for everyone. Get outside and enjoy all the good stuff happening on this ride:

Register

  1. The Ride: Nothing beats a cool, clear fall day on trails and calm roads. Explore the Anacostia Tributary Trail system, dive deep into Prince George’s County to see the agricultural and wildlife preserves, and enjoy the beautiful fall colors the way they were meant to be seen: from your bike!
  2. The Treats: Donuts, cider, pie, and hot chocolate are a delicious way to celebrate fall bicycling, and they’ll warm you right up when you’re feeling chilled from the ride. (If you aren’t into sweets, don’t worry; we’ll have fruit, water, and salty snacks around as well.)
  3. The Friends: 700 bicyclists from around the region come out to ride and support WABA. Cider Ride is a great place to see old friends and make new ones—you already have one thing in common: you love biking!
  4. The Progress: Every year, we see the region get better for biking. If you’ve done the ride before, note the progress we’ve made, like new trail connections near College Park. If you’re new, join us in pushing for more! By doing Cider Ride, you are directly supporting our advocacy work to move the needle.
  5. The Celebration: The Dew Drop Inn, voted DC’s bike friendliest business in earlier this year, is hosting the post-ride celebration. Stay and hang out for awhile: there will be live music, food, drinks, and lots of good cheer!

Register

See you there! If you have any questions, check out our FAQs or get in touch with us: events@waba.org or 202-518-0524 x218.

Of course, we want to say a huge thank you to our sponsors for supporting better bicycling in our region:

Celebration Sponsor:

And for additional support from:

Let’s talk about Louisiana Ave Protected Bike Lanes

Louisiana Ave in red is a missing link in a much larger protected bike lane network in green

After more than three years working to fill a gap in Downtown DC’s protected bike lane network on Louisiana Ave, the project is moving forward. Better yet, preliminary plans are done and ready to share!

On Wednesday, October 24, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton is hosting a community meeting and panel discussion with the District Department of Transportation to introduce this project to the public and get feedback on current plans. This is our chance to stand up as a community and say “we want this project!” Will you join us?

Yes, I’ll Be There!

Louisiana Ave Protected Bike Lane Community Meeting
Wednesday, October 24
6:00 pm – 7:00 pm Open House
7:00 pm – 9:00 pm Community Meeting & Panel Discussion
Rayburn House Office Building
45 Independence Avenue SW (Room 2253
Click here to RSVP

Bringing this project to this point has not been easy. It has taken the combined will of neighborhood commissioners, councilmembers, members of Congress and hundreds of people like you. So join us on Wednesday to see the plan and keep the pressure up!

See you on Wednesday.

It’s the Membership Drive!

Who is ready to talk about WABA membership this week? We are!

Join our community of invested, enthusiastic people committed to making our region more bike-friendly and accessible.

Biking is a great way to be a part of your community.

What’s your favorite part of biking in your neighborhood? Do you wave hello to the same people on your commute every day? How does biking affect your view of your community and the spaces you navigate every day?

Every day, we’re working to make our shared spaces more friendly and more bikeable for everyone. But we can’t do it without you!

Join today

For this week only, grab our Membership drive “I Bike Here” shirt when you join for two years!

Join today

 

Come say hi this week!

Phone Bank for WABA

Join us for an evening – tonight! –  of calling fellow WABA members and supporters to get the word out about our the Membership Drive! We’ll provide a script, refreshments, and good company.  Bring your phone and get ready to chat about WABA’s work in the region. In exchange for two hours of calls, we’ll give you a year’s membership and the newest WABA t-shirt! More details here.

 

WABA Open House

Visit the WABA office this Wednesday, October 17th from 5:30pm – 7:30pm to mingle with other members, get updates from WABA staff, and order your membership drive t-shirt! The informal open house will be a chance to connect with WABA leadership and enjoy snacks and drinks with fellow members working to make biking in our region better. Please RSVP here.

Show up for Biking in Bethesda on Oct 9

Big improvements are in the works for low-stress and safe bicycling in downtown Bethesda. Following public outcry from bicyclists and Georgetown Branch Trail neighbors over the trail’s closure and worsening bicycling conditions in downtown Bethesda, Montgomery County committed to fund and build a core, low-stress bicycle network.

On Tuesday, October 9, residents and advocates can finally see plans and give feedback on a slate of protected bike lanes, intersection upgrades, and trail improvements.

RSVP Here

Network map.

With only a few painted bike lanes, several multi-lane road barriers, and increasingly disruptive construction, Bethesda is a challenging place to bike, and a non-starter for parents with kids. The core bike network, pictured above, will significantly improve options for bicyclists of all abilities, correct some of the flagrant deficiencies in the interim Georgetown Branch Trail, and lay the groundwork for other improvements coming later with the completion of the Purple Line and Capital Crescent Trail.

The following projects will be discussed at the meeting:

Woodmont Ave. Protected Bike Lanes – a north-south two-way protected bike lane from Wisconsin Ave. to Norfolk Ave.

Capital Crescent Surface Trail – a protected bike lane crossing of Wisconsin Ave. on Bethesda Ave. and Willow Ln. This project will rebuild the Bethesda Ave. & Woodmont Ave. intersection into a safe, intuitive, protected intersection.

Capital Crescent Trail crossing at Little Falls Parkway – Parks staff will present three designs for permanent fixes to this high-conflict trail intersection. See the original 12 alternatives here. WABA opposes any plan that restores Little Falls Parkway to four lanes because this would restore the perilous conditions that contributed to a fatality and multiple crashes. Read our letter for the full reasons.

Montgomery Ln/Ave Protected Bike Lanes -an east-west two-way protected bike lane from Woodmont Ave to Pearl St.

Capital Crescent Trail Tunnel – a new trail tunnel underneath Wisconsin Ave. to seamlessly connect the Purple Line, secure bike parking, and the trail to Silver Spring.

Pearl St. Norfolk Ave. and Cheltenham Dr – bike lanes, traffic calming, and intersection improvements.

We need you there

Continued pressure and support are what make these projects possible. Will you show up to give county staff the support they need to get these projects in the ground? We need your voice to insist on safe streets for people who walk and bike. We need your help to counter those who will be there to insist that moving cars quickly is the only priority. Together, we can reshape Bethesda into a great place for biking and walking.

I’ll Be There!

(Re)Introducing Crash Tracker

What do you do after a crash?

The adrenaline is racing. Maybe you’re injured? Maybe the driver of the car just wants to leave without showing you their insurance? Nobody is happy.

It’s not fun.

Unfortunately, this happens. A lot. We know because we’ve been collecting data on crashes throughout the region for years.

This link will tell you exactly what to do directly after a crash (hint: you’re probably going to want to call the police). Read it now, so you can have every tool in your toolbox and be prepared to help out a fellow bicyclist.

What then?

That’s why we’ve created Crash Tracker.

We originally created this unique tool because data on crashes in the region was scant. Public data has improved, but there are still inconsistencies and we want to make sure our advocacy and outreach efforts are in the right places and have as much data informing them as possible.

Crash Tracker seeks to not only gather information regarding bicycle crashes, but also make sure that bicyclists are treated fairly by local law enforcement officials when they are involved in a crash.

We’re here.

Experiencing a crash can be traumatic, and sometimes it’s helpful to talk it through with someone. We can’t provide legal advice, but we can help you feel a little less alone.

If you do want a lawyer, using Crash Tracker can connect you—if you so choose—to one of our supporting local attorneys who have expertise representing crash victims:

Consultations are always free, and WABA is here to help you however we can.

The information you submit on the Crash Tracker is NOT passed on to any police department, government or corporation and any names and email addresses will be kept strictly confidential.

Note: WABA does not endorse companies, products or services. Contributions from Supporting Attorneys supports our not-for-profit mission.