Cyclists are the worst - if you ignore drivers

I know that it's lazy to knock down anything but the best counter-arguments to your beliefs, and so at first glance this letter to the editor calling cyclists the "worst" might not fit the bill. But sadly, as weak as it is, I think this is the strongest argument out there being made that "cyclists are the worst", an argument made difficult by the fact that it's clearly not true. 

The author of the letter said that he was "incensed" by an earlier letter published in the Post. That letter from a cyclist described a crash that he was involved with because a driver violated his right-of-way. Even the driver accepted that he was at fault. The cyclist then asked that drivers follow the rules so that everyone can make it where they're going without dying. Seems pretty innocuous, and not like something to get incensed about, but that's what happened. 

Before anyone cautions automobile drivers about bicycle safety, they should examine the habits of bicycle riders.

I'm not sure these things need to be done in series and if they were, I think the relative danger that cars present to everyone would put them first in the queue. The author then describes two close calls between her husband and a cyclist. 

One came out from between two buses to cross the street in the middle of four lanes of traffic as we approached from the opposite direction.

It's not a very good description, but it's not clear that the cyclist did anything that was illegal. 

The other, who was in the road, following the rules of vehicular traffic, came to a red light at a four-way intersection and decided to cross on the pedestrian crosswalk, thereby following the rules of pedestrian traffic. We were making a right turn on red after stopping but nearly hit the bicyclist. 

Again, there's some information missing, but it seems like the only person who nearly broke the law was the husband who almost didn't yield the right-of-way. And that's it. It's not a particularly compelling case that cyclists are the worst. 

I’m just amazed the fatality rate is not higher.

It takes a lot of near misses to raise the fatality rate. 

Bicyclists are the worst offenders because no one can anticipate what they’re going to do,

And yet, the crash rate for adult cyclists is likely lower than for drivers (A 1975 study for cyclists put the crash rate at 114 per million VMT on major roads*, lower for other facilities; for drivers it's at 223 [Figure 2-7]). 

Crash rate

And of course a recent study showed that drivers break the law more often than cyclists do. Another that cyclists usually break the law in the interest of safety, but that drivers break it to save time. 

and if there’s an accident, guess who’s going to be held responsible?

Likely not the driver, especially if they get "lucky" and kill the cyclist - drivers are less often found at fault when the cyclist isn't around to tell their side of the story. If they drive away, odds are they won't get caught. And if they stay, odds are very high that either they won't be at fault, won't be found at fault even thought they are, or won't get anything worse than a traffic ticket or a misdemeanor. 

With staggering repetition, motorists who kill cyclists with obvious negligence—manic speeders, drivers who are shown to be using their phones during or right before a crash, people who willfully leave someone to die on the side of the road—often slither through the judicial system with seemingly ridiculous charges and convictions.

If the cyclist lives, they have a good chance of not being found liable thanks to car friendly negligence laws (in MD and VA) and police bias. 

By no measure - danger, lawlessness, congestion inducing, pollution causing or rudeness - can one credibly claim that cyclists are the worst. There is only one king of that mountain - Autosaurus Rex.

*Crash rates per million miles on major streets = 114, minor roads = 105, on-road bike routes or lanes = 58, and off-road = 292

Hearing on Trestle raze permit next week and other trolley trail news

Last month Metro applied for a permit to raze the streetcar bridge over Foundry Branch. DDOT is interested in using the bridge as part of a trail that would follow some portion of the streetcar ROW between the Palisades and Georgetown, so razing it would force them to consider something else. WMATA has been warning for some time now that the trestle is in bad shape.

Since then advocates for saving the trestle for a trail crossing, such as the Palisades Citizens Association Trail Committee, have been busy getting support from local ANCs and Community organizations. ANC 3D has sent a letter to the Historic Preservation Office opposing the raze permit, and as they point out they're not the only ones. Their support was unanimous. 

ANC 3D supports preserving the Foundry Branch Trolley Trestle (the “Trestle”) as an enduring example of local rail history of the late 19th Century and for use by the public of a renovated/rebuilt bridge as a multi-purpose pedestrian trail and transportation corridor east of Foxhall Road.

ANC 3D joins the D.C. Preservation League, the Rails to Trails Conservancy, the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, the D.C. Recreational Trails Advisory Committee, the Foxhall Community Citizens Association, the Palisades Citizens Association, the Community Association of Georgetown, and the Georgetown BID are all in favor of preserving and restoring the Trestle.

WMATA's actions are confusing since District Department of Transportation has stated that they plan to undertake a feasibility study starting this spring or summer, to determine the Trestle's reuse potential.

The Trestle is one of only two remaining bridges along the former trolley line linking Georgetown and Glen Echo, Maryland. This line, constructed around 1900, provided the transportation to a ‘trolley’ park and thousands of Washingtonians used the line annually to access the Glen Echo Amusement Park. The tracks have been removed, but the right-of-way continues as a trail along the Potomac River overlook through the Palisades neighborhood in Northwest DC. The steel bridge span crossing Foundry Branch in the park is an excellent example of one of the few remaining early transportation bridges in the city. Weathering and a lack of maintenance have seriously damaged the structure, but it may have some life in it yet.

CALL TO ACTION:

Help save the Foundry Branch Trolley Trestle by sending a letter or email (by May 22nd) opposing the raze application to:

Chair Marnique Heath
Historic Preservation Review Board
1100 4th Street, SW, Suite E650
Washington, DC 20024

or

Marnique Heath, Chair, Historic Preservation Review Board at historic.preservation@dc.gov

If you are interested in testifying in person, please join us at 441 4th Street, NW, 2nd Floor for the hearing on May 24th. There is no need to sign up in advance.

The Post ran an article recently about this trestle, two others in Maryland along the same ROW and how WMATA ended up with all them. The Walhonding trestle would be useful if the ROW in Maryland were made into a trail, but the Wilson one is probably not worth it. 

Arizona Avenue

In a related matter, DDOT is in the early stages of redesigning the 110 foot long bridge over Arizona Avenue along the old ROW. That project, as currently envisioned, will also improve the trail from Galena Place to Sherrier Place. 

Screenshot 2018-05-16 at 12.37.49 AM

The improvements being considered include rehabilitation and reconstruction of the bridge and its ramp, create a more accessible multi-use trail and add stormwater management and green infrastructure. Community leaders want the bridge replaced, a natural-looking, all-weather trail made level with the bridge with minimal impact on adjacent landowners. 

The current bridge was built in the 1980's and has clearance and structural issues as do the abutments. A new prefabricated steel box truss could be built in its place on modified and improved abutments. 

Screenshot 2018-05-16 at 12.49.48 AM

The existing ramp on the west side would be replaced, and a new ramp added on the east side. There would also be a new sidewalk on the west side heading back down the hill to Dorsett Place (and maybe farther?)

Screenshot 2018-05-16 at 12.49.12 AM

The east ramp and west ramp would differ from the current west ramp in their aesthetics. The railing would be lower than the current fencing for example. 

Screenshot 2018-05-16 at 12.51.10 AM

There would be plantings beside Arizona Avenue as well.

The trail surface along the ROW would also be improved. A decomposed granite layer, similar to the crushed limestone along the C&O Canal, would sit atop a stormwater layer with a perforated drainage pipe running through it. 

Phase I, which includes the environmental documentation and preliminary design, could wrap up this month. 

 

Delaware's Jack Markell Trail between Wilmington Riverfront to Old New Castle, is scheduled to open in June

The Jack Markell Trail, an 8 mile long bike trail  in Delaware between the Wilmington Riverfront and old New Castle is scheduled to open in June with a ceremony celebrating it on July 14th. The trail will be part of the East Coast Greenway, a trail from Calais, Maine, to Key West, Florida, that passes through the DC area. It will feature a 345 foot long bridge over the Christina River.

Screenshot 2018-05-15 at 12.35.03 AM

The 345-foot bicycle and pedestrian bridge is the longest bicycle and pedestrian bridge to be built in the state. The new span completes a seven-mile segment of the [East Coast Greenway] from Wilmington to New Castle.

“It’s a pretty dramatic improvement to our route,” says Mid-Atlantic Coordinator Daniel Paschall. “The Northern Delaware Greenway is a gem, and that brings you into Wilmington and the Riverwalk. Now you’ll pass through the beautiful Russell W. Peterson Urban Wildlife Refuge, cross the Christina, and travel on the Jack Markell Trail to New Castle, which is an extraordinary colonial town.” The bridge opens to the public this summer and will be celebrated officially on July 14 with Trailfest. Funding for the bridge and miles of new trail has come from a collaboration of regional, state, and federal sources and was championed by the new trail’s namesake, former Governor Jack Markell.

"We joke that during times when traffic is so bad on 95, you might be able to bike from Old New Castle to Wilmington much faster than you can make it in a car," said Jeff Niezgoda, DelDOT's assistant director for local system improvement programs. 

It's funny because it's true. The $23 million project built on the ROW of the old Delaware Division of the PW&B Railroad also includes a 2,300-foot boardwalk across marshland, and a smaller bridge on Little Mill Creek that leads to the DuPont Environmental Education Center and the Riverfront.

Further south, the trail will connect with an existing 1.4-mile path that stretches to Old New Castle.

Eighty percent of the bridge and trail costs were covered by the U.S. Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program

Screenshot 2018-05-15 at 12.49.17 AM

By summer 2019, another bridge across the Christina River will be finished further down the riverwalk. 

This new 470-foot multi-modal bridge over the Christina River will include two (2-12’) travel lanes and shoulders, as well as a 14’ wide bicycle/pedestrian path. The path will connect to the Riverfront walkway as well as other bicycle/pedestrian facilities in the area. The project extends from the area near Frawley Stadium across the Christina River to its east bank in the vicinity of Market Street/Walnut Street split of Business US 13.

MTA to save part of the Talbot Ave Bridge along CCT

image from washcycle.typepad.com

As mentioned a couple of months ago, Maryland is planning on knocking down the Talbot Avenue bridge as part of the construction of the Purple Line. Shortly after that last post was written, MTA committed to preserving part. 

The Maryland Transit Administration has agreed to save the steel girders from the Talbot Avenue bridge, a 100-year-old span in the Lyttonsville area of Silver Spring, when it’s torn down to make way for the light-rail line, the county said.

The girders will be installed on a vacant state-owned parcel about two blocks from the bridge, near Talbot and Michigan avenues. They will form short walls on both sides of the Capital Crescent Trail to give runners and cyclists the feel of crossing a bridge.

Tim Cupples, Montgomery’s coordinator on the state’s Purple Line project, said the county and state are still discussing how much the preservation project will cost and who will pay for it.

But this part is confusing. Above it says MTA will save the girders, but then the Post article says they'll use replicas. So which is it?

In a statement, MTA spokeswoman Veronica Battisti said the state will use “replica girders” in the bridge-themed artwork chosen for the Lyttonsville station.

Anyway, this could be bad news for bike commuters in the area.

With the Talbot bridge’s future resolved, local residents say they’re still concerned about how they’ll get out of their community when another bridge, the Lyttonsville Place bridge, is also replaced during Purple Line construction.

Lynchburg, VA awards contract to design Blackwater Creek Trail extension across abandoned trestle

LVTrestle

Lynchburg, VA has several miles of abandoned railroads, and much of it has been turned into several miles of rail trail. There are still some opportunities that they may take advantage of in the future (extending the riverwalk trail to Concord, VA or the Kemper Station Trail to Seminary Hill) but there's one opportunity they might take advantage of in the near future - rehabilitating the Langhorne Road Bridge which can be seen above. 

Last month, they awarded a $200,000 contract to provide engineering design services for stabilization and renovation of the abandoned railway trestle, and to continue the Blackwater Creek Trail from it's current terminus. They want to convert the trestle into a utilitarian pedestrian/bicycle bridge including 2,200 additional linear feet of trail (10 feet wide with 2 foot shoulders). Once complete the new trail section would extend from the current trailhead and parking lot to Linkhorne Middle School. A separate trail is being considered that goes along Ivy Creek to Peaks View Park. 

They did an assessment of the bridge in 2004 (page 41) that found it to be in good condition despite years of disuse and non-maintenance. The estimated cost of retrofitting it in 2004 was set at $235,000, but a 2016 update that included all of the trail put it at just over $1M. (the 3 mile Ivy Creek Greenway would be $3.2 million and a connector trail between them would be $95,000)

Plan

What the Met Branch Trail Extension will look like

I didn't include them in the last post, but here are some plans that will show where the new trail section will be built. The yellow lines show the trails and south is to the left. 

FortTotten

And a rendering

Totten Rendering

And of the retaining wall.

Wall
Wall

Met Branch Trail Brookland to Fort Totten section to break ground next month

At the last BAC meeting, DDOT stated that they would break ground on the next section of the Met Branch Trail in June. That's the Brookland to Fort Totten section and it will be finished by this time next year. 

image from washcycle.typepad.com

In addition, construction of NoMa Green Park - which will replace the Z-curve at R Street with a straighter trail (which will require temporary trail re-routing during construction) and replacement of all overhead lights between Florida Ave and Franklin St, is expected to begin this summer.

Furthermore, they anticipate awarding a contract to build design the section north of Fort Totten - a section that will go all the way to the Maryland boundary, by the end of the summer. 

But that's not all!

Widening and resurfacing of the Rock Creek Park Trail between P Street and Tilden, including construction of a new segment along Piney Branch and a new bridge south of the Zoo tunnel, is going out to bid soon, with construction expected to begin in Fall 2018. Detour information can be found here

RCPbridge

DDOT is also finalizing the design of the bike trails around the new Frederick Douglass Bridge and expects to start designing the improvement of the existing Suitland Parkway trail in Fall 2018.

 

New York City bicycle safety report: ridership up, fatalities flat. Cyclists responsible for just 0.4% of pedestrian fatalities

As part of Vision Zero, the New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT), the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYC DOHMH), and the New York City Police Department (NYPD) have undertaken the city's first comprehensive analysis of cyclist safety since 2006. I would recommend that anyone interested in safer city cycling look it over.

What they've found is that as their bicycle network has massively expanded,

NYC

so has ridership. 

There were an estimated 164 million bicycle trips in 2015, up from nearly 66 million trips in 2006, an increase of 150%.

And, as ridership has increased, the fatality rate has plummeted.

Fatalities per 100 million bicycle trips are down 71% over a 15 year period. The number killed or severely injured (KSI) was down 73%. 

So, what you've always known was true is true. If you want more people to bike and for fewer of them to die, you need to build more and better facilities and add more bikeshare. 

The reasons for the improved safety seem to be tied directly to the bicycle facilities. Fatalities have dropped, in part, because more people are riding and few (11%) of those fatalities are on streets with bicycle facilities. Interestingly,

Cyclist KSI declined by 17% within the bike share zone after one year of operation

While it dropped only 4% outside of it, which indicates that the mere presence of bikeshare makes biking safer. 

Other takeaways:

  • The majority of cyclist fatalities (65%) and an even greater percentage of cyclist KSI (89%) occurred at intersections.
  • A high percentage of cyclist fatalities (27%) involved trucks, when compared to cyclist KSI (5%)
  • KSI was down way more in the summer (28%) than it was in the winter (3%) "This seasonal variation in the reduction of cyclist KSI may provide further support that the safety in numbers dynamic is occurring in New York City. If the growth in cycling has been occurring disproportionately during the warmest months of the year—a reasonable assumption—this may help explain why the greatest drop in cyclist KSI between the two periods occurred in the summer."
  • Cyclist KSI is higher in the outer boroughs than in Manhattan

The next one is really interesting, because it shows that in a crash between a cyclist and a pedestrian, the cyclists is about 50% as likely to die as the pedestrian is. I've never seen it quantified before. 

  • From 2006 to 2016 of the 1,677 pedestrian traffic fatalities, seven occurred as a result of pedestrian-bicycle collisions, accounting for 0.4% of all pedestrian traffic fatalities in New York City.  During this time period, three cyclists were killed as a result of a crash with a pedestrian. Interestingly, 1.4% of cyclist fatalities (3 out of 214)* were from bike-pedestrian crashes, so pedestrians are a bigger threat to cyclists than cyclists are to pedestrians. (Bike-bike fatalities were 0.5% and single-bike fatalities were 5.1%. The other 93% involved motor vehicles)

Their plan to make things even safer is to build more and better facilities and expand bikeshare (Duh), focus enforcement at high KSI intersections and tailor it to the most dangerous behavior. They also plan education, a possible 3-feet law (like we have in DC), mandatory truck side guards (required in DC) and more data collection. 

* 214 is the number of total bike fatalities, which includes 199 bike-motor vehicle crashes, 11 single-bike fatalities, 3 bike-ped fatalities and 1 bike-bike fatality

Montgomery County has developed three designs for the Capital Crescent Trail tunnel

image from washcycle.typepad.com

In late March, it was revealed that the Montgomery County Department of Transportation is working on three designs for the county portion of the new Capital Crescent Trail tunnel in Bethesda. 

The old Air Rights Tunnel was closed last year, and the new tunnel there will only have the Purple Line in it. So the county is building port of a new trail tunnel that will connect to a part beneath the Carr Properties project on the site of the Apex Building

image from washcycle.typepad.com

Tunnel beneath the Apex Building

The department plans to present its recommendations on the project to the council in about a year and a half. The county has budgeted $3.8 million to design the tunnel and estimates the project would cost $15 million to $25 million to construct.

Orlin told the council the design should be finished in time for the council next year to set aside the construction funds that would allow the tunnel to be built by the scheduled opening of the 16.2-mile line in 2022.

Option 1 has a tunnel that emerges on Elm Street, where there's currently parking,  and then connects to the Willow Lane cycletrack to the west of 47th. It has the shortest tunnel, and the lowest price, but requires taking a lot of road space. It also has the most direct connections. 

Option1

Option 2 has a longer tunnel coming up in Elm Street Park and then splitting to go to the trail or turn back south to the WIllow Lane Cycle track. 

Option2

Option 3 has a tunnel that goes farther down Elm Street and under the portion that is bike/ped only before coming up on the far side of Elm Street Park. It doesn't appear to connect to the cycle track.

Option3

Right now, I like option 1 the best. It makes for direct connections and will involve less biking in the tunnel. 

Jerusalem opens a bike path in a sewage tunnel

Check out this new 2.1km bicycle tunnel in Jerusalem. The tunnel was built for a sewage pipe with a one-lane road next to it for the water company to use to maintain the pipe. But they've recently modified it to now have a two way bike path.

he tunnel is three meters wide, and although it contains a large sewage pipe, it is well ventilated and there is no bad smell. Air-quality monitoring has shown that there is no exceptional pollution in the tunnel.

The path is being opened for a bike race, then closed for safety inspections and reopened in a few months. (Video) This is some great adaptive re-use - or adaptive better use or something.... It's awesome regardless of what you call it. 

Two years ago, Eyal Haimovsky, CEO of the Jerusalem Development Authority decided to pave a track through the tunnel, above the water passage, and add it to the Jerusalem circular biking trail, a 42-kilometer-long route that passes through several parks and nature reserves around the capital

It's a little close to this April Fool's Day post from 5 years ago.

image from images.haarets.co.il

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