Some things we need to know about what’s happening in DC.

Tired of seeing bike lanes closed by construction?

There have been a lot of new conversations in the past year about better bicycling in the District. Through a series of announcements, organizational restructuring, and some strategic hires, the District has shown a new level of commitment to ending traffic fatalities and building the environment necessary to make that happen.

But the job has just begun. In most neighborhoods, making streets truly safe requires changing the design of the street with concrete, new geometry, and more. Too many of those critical projects are chronically overdue and they need to get back on track to give the District a fighting chance at meeting its commitment.

So today, we sent a letter to Mayor Bowser, DDOT and every councilmember to request an expedited path forward for nine projects (there are many more, but we are starting with nine) and the H Street streetcar track flanges — the continued absence of which flies in the face of safety.

Stated simply, we need to build these projects. We need to build them now.

We look forward to the conversation with the new Vision Zero Director at DDOT and Council to make sure that these projects are completed.

There is a lot of work to do between now and getting to zero traffic fatalities, but building this infrastructure in 2019 will go a long way towards making the commitment a reality.

Stay tuned for more updates on these and many more projects we are tracking.

You can read the letter here.

Victory! Metro to allow bikes on trains

WABA advocates in the 1970s taking a bike-sized cutout onto a Metro train. Starting Monday, January 7th 2019, bikes are welcome on all on trains, at all times.

In September 2018, we learned that Metro was floating a new policy that would allow bicyclists to bring their bikes on Metro “during all hours.” We were understandably interested. But we needed to know more about how this policy might impact transportation options throughout the region.

So, we decided to petition our members and the results were overwhelming. We received nearly 1500 responses with plenty of feedback on how riders would navigate this new policy.

Overwhelmingly, WABA members said they would ride Metro more if they could take their bikes on during rush hour.

We followed up with Metro, urging them to look at the policy and move towards a more inclusive stance towards bicycles on Metro trains.

And Metro heard us.

Starting Monday, January 7th, “Metro customers will be able to bring their bikes with them on the train – at any time – as Metro ends a longstanding restriction that prohibited bicycles during rush hours.”

This is the culmination of decades of work by WABA members and advocates throughout the region. This policy change represents an opportunity for people and places to be more connected.

And that’s a good thing.

To be clear, this policy would not have happened without the advocacy of WABA members throughout the region. Quoting the press release, “(w)e received requests from Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) and others in the bicycle community asking us to take a fresh look at our policy,” said Metro Chief Operating Officer Joe Leader. “We believe this change supports ridership growth by Metro a commuting option for those who want to have a bike with them.”

This is really good news for the region. However, we can’t stress just how important it is for bicyclists to use good judgment and only board cars that can comfortably accommodate you and your bicycle. WMATA is creating new rules—like using doors at either end of the car and not the center doors, and to avoid blocking doors or aisles—that will help in implementation of the policy.

We will be following up to discuss best practices, how to navigate the new procedures and road testing this policy. To learn more, read WMATA’s press release here.

Guest Post: Merry Christmas, DDOT.

Editor’s Note: This letter is written by Laura Montiel, grieving mother of Malik Habib. Malik was killed on H Street NE in a traffic crash in June 2018. This is hard to read, and a heartbreaking reminder of why WABA’s work matters. Hug your loved ones. Be kind to your neighbors. Drive slowly.

Dear DDOT,

As many folks are hustling and bustling about this holiday season, my thought as a grieving mother is “All I want for Christmas is YOU.”

I will never eat pancakes with Malik on Christmas morning again… Wow, how he loved eating stacks and stacks of pancakes drowned in syrup. I will never receive that big Christmas present he joked about giving “when I make it… because I will.”

Malik and his brother Cyrus, Christmas 2003. Photo courtesy of their mother Laura.

I used to identify myself proudly as a single mother of two, Malik and Cyrus Habib. My son Malik was killed on June 23rd while riding his bike near the streetcar tracks at 3rd and H Street NE.

After the tragedy, folks commented on social media and in the news how the tracks of the streetcar have been a concern since 2014. I have stood at that corner and witnessed Transportation Madness: buses are coming down the hill at racing speeds, pedestrians are crossing the roads with construction going on behind them, there’s a lack of signage, and scooters and bikes have no place to ride. The streetcar tracks add more danger to this intersection. My son was a victim of this poorly planned infrastructure.

Reports indicate that you, DDOT, knew about the dangers and streetcar tracks and did nothing. Six months after my son’s death the only changes made were the installation of a bike lane that begins mid-route, painted green and flex post to guide bicyclist to nowhere… because there is no continuation of that bike lane on the other side. If I were new to the city like Malik was, I would still be unsafe with the addition of this new colored green bike lane. It insults me.

To add onto my grief, I am frustrated. I have spoken out many times and relived my son’s tragic crash again and again in hopes that my story can somehow make a difference. Are you listening?

As we are here at the end of 2018, entering a New Year, I try to see how many changes have been made to make Vision Zero a reality in DC. Sadly, I don’t see much.

DDOT, my wish for Christmas is that the city reevaluates the safety of that intersection at 3rd and H Streets NE. It needs additional signage, enforced speed limits, a well-lit bike crossing, and parking enforcement. Another idea is to take away street parking on one side of the road to make way for a safe bike route, one that doesn’t start and end and actually provides a safe route. And can DDOT please address the streetcar flange fillers that supposedly were being researched? We were supposed to have an update by now. 

Malik’s ghost bike memorial on H St NE.

So was Malik’s death preventable? You ask yourself that on Christmas morning.

If you were part of the administration that has ignored bike safety, I forgive you. I just ask that in 2019, you do a better job of making Vision Zero a reality.

Malik loved playing football, writing music, debating politics, reading, eating, and most of all, being with his family. I know he is with me always, so I believe that my strength to write these words come from him.

I am his mother and gave him birth, but he gave me life! I miss his humor, his free spirit, and kindness so much. Merry Christmas, Malik.

Love,

Mom

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.