Connecting Virginia and DC via the Long Bridge

2018 has been quite the year for mobility in the region. We’ve seen some highs and some lows — the rise of scooters and e-bikes (CaBi plus is fire…) has been pretty great for the region. For lows, well…Vision Zero hasn’t exactly gone super well and, of course, the all too frequent Metro shutdowns have really not been good.

And yeah, there are too many cars doing terrible things. Like killing and maiming people.

But, sneaking in during the last month is some surprising and absolutely necessary news — we are going to get a dedicated bike and pedestrian bridge from Long Bridge Park in Arlington east to DC.

Make no mistake, the Long Bridge Project represents a once in a generation opportunity to transform our regional transportation network by adding freight and passenger rail capacity, connecting major regional bicycle and pedestrian trails and providing new, direct links to two of the fastest growing areas of our region.

Regional density is increasing and roads are becoming more crowded. Demand for non-motorized modes of transportation that are safe, accessible and convenient to employment hubs is on the rise, too. Long Bridge could be an answer, resulting in a better connected regional trail network.

So, what does this new crossing actually look like?

Well, we don’t know yet.

A few facts:

  • The existing Long Bridge, built in 1904, requires significant upgrades in order to meet rail capacity projected in the coming years;
  • It is significantly less expensive — both in dollars and environmentally — to keep the existing span and build another rail bridge upstream;
  • To mitigate (called 4(f) mitigation) any existing impacts to National Park Service (NPS) land, the project team will have to design and build a bike/pedestrian bridge upstream of the proposed rail bridge (in between the existing rail bridge and WMATA’s yellow line);
  • Current plans call for connecting Long Bridge Park to the south to East Potomac Park to the north — and we don’t know exactly what the connection will look like in DC;
  • We still have a long way to go until this is built (current plans are shooting for 2025) and there is no project sponsor — so, we don’t know who will own this bridge.

What will the bike/ped bridge look like?

This is the million dollar question. Currently, the bridge is slotted in between the proposed upstream rail bridge (passenger rail) and Metrorail’s Yellow Line. As you can see in the image below, we don’t have more detailed renderings (or a proper design) yet. This will be particularly important for users moving between points south and the District, as the plans don’t take people all the way to Maine Avenue (and to L’Enfant), but would drop people off just north of Ohio Drive. That’s not ideal — and will require DDOT to upgrade the existing network to safely move people over East Potomac Park into the city.

Where do we go from here?

There is a lot of work that needs to be done to get this project over the finish line. Notably, nobody really knows who will own the bridge (let alone pay for the bridge). That’s important. Bottom line: without building the next upstream bridge, there will be no bike/ped bridge. The project steps below (from DDOT’s presentation) show that until pen goes to paper in Spring 2020, this project is still in flux. So, we will have a lot of work to do to make sure that this project stays on course.

Image from Long Bridge Public Meeting on Nov. 29.

So, there you go. We have lots of meetings and conversations (with Federal Railroad Administration, CSX, VDOT and DDOT) to determine exactly what is ahead. There will be lots of opportunities for public input (especially after the draft Environmental Impact Statement happens in Summer 2019).

Stay tuned. There is so much work left to do, but right now things are looking good for those of us moving between Virginia and the District.

A realistic path to Zero.

Last week, the Mayor released a call to the community: What would you do if you weren’t afraid to fail?

We have a few thoughts.

Look, it’s no secret: DC’s commitment to Vision Zero has been an open question in 2018. With traffic fatalities up 19% this year over the same time in 2017, advocates across the city have been asking for a reinvigorated commitment from Mayor Bowser and the city government.

And the Mayor has heard us—well, kinda.

In November, Mayor Bowser unveiled a series of proposals—both procedural and substantive—designed to jumpstart Vision Zero and move towards making that vision a reality.

Though we applaud these steps as necessary, we still believe that the city has a long way to go. There are as many questions as there are answers.

So, with the Mayor’s call for big proposals ringing in our ears, we’ve been discussing what needs to be done to actually get to zero traffic fatalities in the District.

“Big ideas. Not afraid to fail….”

So, we’ve taken a hard look at the city’s commitments, what works, what hasn’t…and what do we actually need. Not what is politically feasible, but what do we need?

To that end, we’d like to offer a series of policy recommendations to transform DC’s transportation system for the 21st century.

read the report

Some recommendations have been taken on board by the city, and some we hope that they will look at in 2019. Transitioning the District of Columbia’s transportation system to be safer, more equitable and sustainable demands overarching and comprehensive strategy—we think we’ve captured the beginnings of exactly what that will take.

Since the Mayor asked, we’ve decided to give it a go.

We hope you’ll take some time to head to https://www.dc2me.com/ and tell the Mayor all about your own big ideas for transformational change in the region.

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 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.

(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.

Your Chance To Be Heard About Safe Streets in DC

It is no longer up for debate: the DC Government hasn’t been fulfilling its commitment to Vision Zero.

But because of your work, they have decided to move towards getting back on track. We’ve written letters, we’ve testified, we’ve ridden in memoriam—and last July, we rallied in front of the Wilson Building.

We are pleased to report, that since that time, WABA and advocates in the community have followed up—and they have heard you! Below is a partial list of commitments that the city is making right now:

  • The city is going to create an Office of Vision Zero, staffed by career professionals and safety experts, and focused solely on Vision Zero implementation. This is a great step!
  • The city is going to establish a Vision Zero working group of agency Directors to focus on implementation of commitments. This actually bumps Vision Zero up from a department commitment, to a city wide commitment. That is a good thing.
  • As a first step to address safety on H Street NE, the city will expand its signage and pavement markings at 3rd and H Streets and is doing testing to fill the streetcar tracks—which is good news, but unfortunately, that comes without a firm date for installation on the entire corridor.

Make no mistake: this is a win! But this is only one step. We’ve got to keep our voices high!

Adding to that list above, Councilmembers Allen and Cheh are holding a joint hearing on the city’s implementation of its Vision Zero commitment. Importantly, these are two DC Council committees with oversight over dozens of city agencies. It shows a key recognition that for the city to reach Vision Zero, it requires the efforts of the entire Wilson Building, not just DDOT.

And we are asking you to show up and let the city know how it’s doing.

Will you join us?

Who: Committee on Transportation and the Environment and the Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety

What: Hearing on the Implementation of the Vision Zero Initiative and the Bicycle Pedestrian Safety Amendment Act of 2016 (full notice here)

When: September, 27th, 2018 at 1:30 PM (show up early as you have to go through security)

Where: John Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue NW (Room 500)

Why: Because you deserve to be safe in the city

Let us know you’re coming

Let’s show up for each other. Let’s show up for those that have been in crashes. Let’s show up for those that have been killed on our streets.

How to Testify

If you wish to testify (and you should), email Ms. Aukima Benjamin, Staff Assistant to the Committee on Transportation and the Environment, at abenjamin@dccouncil.us (and cc Advocacy@Waba.org so we know you’re coming!). Witnesses should bring eight copies of their written testimony and should submit a copy of their testimony electronically. You will have three minutes to speak.

Not sure what to say? Read through our talking points to get you started. Talk about your experience on DC’s streets. Keep it personal.

    1. What do you think is unsafe about the city’s roadways?
    2. Have you been in a crash? Do you know someone who has been in a crash? What about near misses? What was that like? How did it make you feel?
    3. What are some things that the city could do in your neighborhood on your commute that would make you safer?

If you can’t make it,  we still want to let council know your thoughts. Email Ms. Benjamin at the email address above and cc us by October 11, 2018.

This is your chance to be heard!

Together, we can move this city forward.

Take your bike on Metro during rush hour?

Ever get off work and it’s raining? You rode your bike in, but you’re tired and you want to go home on the Metro. There’s the problem: you have your bike, so Metrorail at peak commuting hours isn’t an option.

Your choices? Brave the elements (and the dangerous streets…), wait for the bus or just leave your bike at the office (or you just don’t bike in the first place…).

Honestly, that kind of sucks.

Earlier this month, we learned that Metro is floating a new policy that would allow bicyclists to bring their bikes on Metro “during all hours.” This idea and language comes from a survey Metro sent out recently.

You would still have to “use your good judgment and only board cars that can comfortably accommodate you and your bicycle.” And of course, “yield priority seating to seniors and people with disabilities, yield to other passengers, and not block aisles or doors.” So, basically, be respectful.

This is great news!

But changes like this aren’t made lightly. WMATA needs to hear from you.

Support bikes on Metro at all times!

WMATA still has to figure out how bikes can go on their trains without blocking aisles and/or the doors. So, eventually they will have to redesign their trains. But until then, this is a great first step.

To show your support for this possible change in policy, sign on to our letter to Lynn Bowersox, Assistant General Manager, Customer Service, Communications, and Marketing at WMATA.

Sign the letter!

To complete the survey, you’d need to sign up with WMATA, find the survey, and then complete it. (You can do so here).

Visualize 2045 should envision a more bike-friendly future.

On a map, our bike network is pretty wide, but not totally connected. We want to challenge the Transportation Planning Board to think bigger for Visualize 2045.

Imagine our region in the year 2045. What will transportation look like in this region for people who bike and walk? What types of infrastructure will we have?

WABA has spent a lot of time thinking about this. Our vision is one including hundreds of paved trails, interconnected networks of protected bike lanes, and safe and accessible places to bike for transportation, recreation and fitness.

Regional transportation planners are also asking this same question for all modes of transportation. Through the Transportation Planning Board (TPB, the Washington DC’s federally designated metropolitan planning organization), regional planners have created Visualize 2045, a long-range transportation plan.

The intent of this long-range plan is to chart the course for the next 25+ years, and include aspirational elements that will help push our region in the right direction.

While there are some positive elements within Visualize 2045, the plan doesn’t go nearly far enough for people who bike and walk.

Of the seven aspirational elements, only two directly address biking and walking. In addition, the trail initiative, known as the National Capital Trail, is just a small sliver of a much broader, visionary future trail network called the Capital Trails Network.

Submit feedback to Visualize 2045

The network has been researched, defined, and mapped by a coalition of public agencies representing TPB member jurisdictions, non-profit organizations, and other stakeholders focused on completing the Washington DC regional trail network.

The TPB needs to fully adopt the Capital Trails Network as a key part of the long-range transportation plan, and invest in trails and bicycling and walking projects.

If our Transportation Planning Board refuses to be bold, to think big, and to develop new transportation solutions, then we will be stuck with the same transportation problems (congestion and traffic fatalities to name a few).

Submit feedback to Visualize 2045

Tell the Transportation Planning Board that you want a brighter future for biking in the region! Let them know that the entire Capital Trails Network should be adopted in the long-range plan, and that more extensive planning should be done for our future regional bike networks.

August Advocacy Roundup

What a summer this has been for the region’s bicyclists!

This roundup would be incomplete if we didn’t mention the fact that the District’s commitment to zeroing out traffic fatalities, known as Vision Zero, has gone pretty poorly. Unfortunately, we lost two of our own—Malik Habib and Jeffrey Hammond Long—far too early. To prevent this from happening again, together, we’re going to keep fighting for more devoted bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, better laws to protect us all, and so much more.

That said, I want to be clear that your work has made all the difference. By showing up for bicyclists—at rallies, online, petitioning, action committee meetings—we are turning the tide in the city. This summer was one of our most productive to date, with big wins throughout the region. But we still have a long way to go before we can rest.

If you’re reading this and haven’t come out to a training, action committee or event, come on out! We don’t bite! We’d love to hear from you. We have a lot planned for Fall and Winter 2018 so there are a ton of different ways to get involved!


“Enough is enough.”

Cyrus Habib and Laura Montiel, the brother and mother of Malik Habib, speak at the Vision Zero Rally last month.

Following the deaths of two cyclists on D.C. streets, more than 120 of us rallied on Freedom Plaza to let Mayor Bowser know that enough is enough. We deserve safer streets for all road users. And no more lives should be lost before D.C. truly makes Vision Zero a priority.

The Capital Trails Coalition released a new map!

A vision for the regional trail network.

Earlier this month, WABA and the Capital Trails Coalition announced a new vision for transportation in the region with a brand new map! The map visualizes the region’s Capital Trails Network, which currently has 436 miles of existing trails, with 206 miles of planned trails to go. Check out the map and learn about WABA’s work with the Capital Trails Coalition here.

New construction on the Metropolitan Branch Trail

It’s been a long time coming! This MBT segment, which will take about 18 months to complete, will connect Fort Totten to Brookland.

Last month, DDOT broke ground on the next phase of the Metropolitan Branch trail, which will connect Fort Totten to Brookland! Once complete, the MBT will connect Silver Spring to Union Station. Read more on the trail’s progress here.

Movement on Eastern Downtown protected bike lanes

We held an advocate training in early August in preparation for the Eastern Downtown protected bike lanes. A decision could be coming soon, and we want to be ready.

Montgomery County to adopt nation’s most comprehensive bike master plan

Montgomery County is on the cusp of adopting the most comprehensive bike master plan in the entire country. After the comment period closed on August 24th, the comments and plan will be reviewed one last time. Read more about the plan’s bold vision for Montgomery County here.

Long Bridge updates

In mid-June, DDOT noted that because of tremendous public support (from you!), a bike/ped trail will be included in alternatives moving forward on Long Bridge. And as great as that is, it’s still not quite enough. Read more about Long Bridge updates here.

A permanent, safer crossing for the Capital Crescent Trail

After Ned Gaylin was struck and killed while crossing the Capital Crescent Trail at Little Falls Parkway in 2016, Montgomery Parks moved swiftly to make that intersection safer. Now, the county is looking for feedback from the community on how to make the intersection safer, permanently. Read more here.

A new team focusing on Ward 8 bicycle infrastructure!

I think everyone knows about the hills East of the Anacostia River. Or maybe you’ve ridden to Oxon Cove or the Riverwalk Trail. However, on-street bicycle infrastructure to Ward 8 is almost non-existent. That’s dangerous. With our organizer, Hannah Neagle, we’ve launched a group that meets to discuss problem intersections, poorly designed roadways and other bicycle and pedestrian challenges. Email Hannah to learn more!


Are you on your local WABA Action Committee?

All across the region great people are working to fix our streets to make biking safe and popular. They meet each month to share ideas and work together for better places to bike. Whether you’re looking for a fun group, a new cause, or a wonky policy discussion, our Action Committees have it covered.

See what we’re doing in your community and join us for the next meeting.


WABA in the News:

REI Tops $1 Million to ‘Rewild’ 5 Major US Cities – Gear Junkie, June, 25, 2018

Cyclist in Bike Lane Killed in Downtown DC Crash – NBC4, July 10, 2018

A cyclist’s death, a dangerous crossing, a D.C.’s struggle to reduce road fatalities – The Washington Post, July 14, 2018

Bike And Pedestrian Advocates Plan To Protest D.C.’s Failure To Prevent Road Deaths – DCist, July 18, 2018.

Forget Vision Zero. Demand Streets That Don’t Kill People – Treehugger, July 18, 2018

‘We are just vulnerable’: Cyclist demand DC prioritize road safety after 2 deaths – WTOP, July 19, 2018

‘Dear DDOT’: We want 20,000 dockless bikes – The Washington Post, July 30, 2018

Dockless bike companies Ofo, Mobike, pull out of DC, but others remain – WTOP, August 1, 2018

Bike Advocates Draft New Map of DC Region’s Cycling Trails to Promote Holistic Thinking – ARLnow.com, August 13, 2018

Under rules of the road, it’s car vs. bike. Or maybe the rules make losers of both. – The Washington Post, August 14, 2018

Our streets make us unhappy. They don’t have to. – The Washington Post, August 26, 2018


P.S. Your membership dollars directly fund our advocacy work, which makes our region a better place for bicycling.

Donate

Yesterday was an emotional day.

Yesterday afternoon, more than 120 of us gathered across from the Wilson Building to demand that Mayor Bowser deliver on her 2015 promise to put an end to traffic deaths on DC’s streets.

Together, we mourned the loss of more than 100 members of our collective community — mothers, fathers, children, grandparents, recent high school graduates — who were taken from us since that promise was made. We heard from the mother and brother of Malik Habib, sharing a story no family should have to tell.

And together we said enough is enough. “We’re doing the best we can” isn’t good enough. Mayor Bowser has the power to stop this, if she makes people not dying her priority.

Following the rally, we took our message to the Mayor’s office, where we met with Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice, Kevin Donahue. We hope to report more concrete updates from the Mayor and Council in the coming days.

Can we count on your to get involved in next steps? Join our DC Advocates email group and keep the pressure up!

Count me in!

Thank you to everyone who rallied with us, to our speakers, and to all who will continue to hold our elected leaders accountable to their promises.

Thank you for joining us in this fight.


A Memorial Ride for Malik Habib will be held on Tuesday, July 31 at 5:30pm.

If you missed the rally you can find video coverage on WABA’s Facebook Page and media coverage from WAMU, Greater Greater Washington, WTOP

To stay in the loop on WABA’s Vision Zero work and do your part to make streets safe for everyone, sign the Vision Zero Pledge.

Sign the Pledge


Here’s a gallery from yesterday’s rally:

Enough is enough

join the rally

It’s been a tough few weeks for the DC bike community. Two preventable deaths in less than a month have sent a shudder through the city. These deaths were preventable. Let that sink in.

Every single bicyclist has a story of a near miss; a sketchy situation in which a driver almost forced a crash. Every bicyclist knows about the streetcar tracks on H Street (but unfortunately, alternatives only get us so far to avoid the corridor); every bicyclist should feel secure in a protected bike lane.

What is the city doing to prevent these deaths?

Not enough. In 2015, Mayor Bowser committed to Vision Zero, a plan to eliminate all traffic fatalities in DC by 2024. Great start. But it takes hard work and tough choices to make this commitment a reality—engineering, outreach, expenditure of political capital, inter-agency coordination and more. You’d think the situation for all road users would be getting better year after year. It’s not.

join the rally

To be frank: more people are dying, not fewer.

As of this writing, there have been 21 traffic deaths in the District. That means there have been three more deaths in 2018 than there were by this time in 2017. Below are MPD’s numbers on traffic fatalities.

Year ’13 ’14** ’15 ’16*** ’17 ‘18
Fatalities 29 26 26 28 30 21 (+3 YTD)

Source: MPD, July 15, 2018

The numbers are going in the wrong direction, meaning that more people are being killed on our roadways every year. But why?

Well, to start, the government of the District of Columbia is not doing what it said it would do. The Vision Zero Action Plan, finalized in December 2015, laid out 67 strategies and projects to complete by 2017. Only 32 of 67 deadlines have been reported complete. In 2017, the Mayor didn’t even release a progress report. It’s clear why the numbers are going in the wrong direction: the District government just isn’t doing enough.

And that’s just not ok.

This Thursday, July 19th, we’ll be meeting at noon on the steps of the Wilson Building to rally for safer streets.

join the rally

We are rallying because people continue to die because the Mayor won’t act. Because the city prioritizes cars over people. Because failing to protect the lives of citizens of the District is unacceptable.

No more politics. The time is now.

We’ll see you on Thursday.

join the rally

 

MEDIA CONTACT at the rally: Colin Browne, Communications Director. Cell: 802-633-0281. colinbrowne@waba.org

He looks like this but has glasses now:

You can find our follow-up from the Vision Zero Rally here.