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From the Archives: Recent history of biking in Arlington

From the Baseline Report – The State of Bicycling in Arlington

In September, 1967, Arlington County constructed its first bicycle facility, a paved multi-use trail along about three miles of the Four Mile Run stream valley

Development of this ever-enlarging network of bicycle facilities has been directed by a series of bicycle planning documents beginning with the May 1974 Master Bikeway Plan. That plan called for an 80-mile network of interconnected trails for commuter and recreational use, established overall goals and objectives, and presented a design guide.

Currently there are "50 miles of off-street trails, another 77 miles of on-street facilities such as bicycle lanes, bicycle boulevards and routes"

In 1977, the plan was amended to expand the proposed system to include a trail along the route of I-66 and bicycle parking for the new Metrorail stations.

In 1986, a comprehensive update of Arlington’s transportation policy, to be known as the Master Transportation Plan – Part I (MTP) was adopted. The document brought the streets and thoroughfares and the bicycle facilities plans together into a unified document. Transportation goals and objectives were presented to encompass all forms of transport in Arlington and established policy principles for travel modes such as hiking, biking and jogging. The 1986 document built upon the planned network of facilities in the prior plans. In April 1994, the Arlington Bicycle Transportation Plan was adopted as a revision to the prior MTP. The 1994 document placed more emphasis on bicycling as a separate transportation mode, setting out design and policy principles to enhance the street network for safer bicycle travel. The 1994 plan and updates in 1999 and 2003 introduced the use of bicycle lanes and reallocation of roadway space for bicycle use. New standards for significant site plan developments required secure bicycle parking, and showers and lockers for commuters.

CaBi's got a brand new app

I've been using Spotcycle since CaBi came on line, but last week I downloaded the CaBi app. I'm probably not using all the features it presents because, y'know, I'm in my 40's, but I do like being able to see my all-time stats (coming up on 1000 Rides!) And I can unlock a bike with the app, which is cool even if I haven't yet used it. 

heck out some key features highlighted below!

  • Find bikes and docks: Use the color-coded map for easy viewing and real-time bike and dock availability, special icon for valet service locations and favorite station designations to help you plan your ride.
  • Purchase a pass: Purchase a 4-Hour, 3-Day or Single Trip Pass easily through the app. You can even unlock bikes using only the mobile app and avoid the kiosk all together!
  • Get ride notifications: Enable push notifications to get important updates on your ride, including a timer for your current ride and confirmation that you docked your bike successfully!
  • Rent a bike: Log into your account to get a code and you'll be on your way.
  • See your ride stats: Use the pull down drawer to see your stats, including your last ride, your all-time stats, number of rides and total miles ridden.
Want to get started? Download it now! The Capital Bikeshare mobile app is available on the App Store or Google Play!

One part of Palisades Trail Project moves forward, while other slowly falls down

A couple of stories about the Palisades Trail have popped up this week: DDOT has started the Palisades Trail Project Over ArizonaAvenue, NW study and the Post wrote an article about the decaying Foundry Branch Trestle and the effort to save and reuse it. 

DC owns the ROW from Foxhall Road all the way to Norton Street. They bought it back in the 70's to build a water main, but after insisting that the water main come with a trail, neighbors changed course and decided they didn't want it.  So it has pretty much sat untouched with DDOT occasionally saying it would make a good place for a trail and putting it into long range planning documents. Last summer, DDOT proposed upgrading the section from Nebraska to Galena as part of the upgrade to the recreation center, but when the final design was presented last spring, it did not include the trail other than to note it as a "proposed pedestrian path".

image from washcycle.typepad.com

But now they're going to study a larger section of the trail as part of a project to rebuild the Arizona Avenue pedestrian bridge.

This study will consider the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the superstructure and substructure of the approximately 110 ft. long existing pedestrian bridge across Arizona Avenue NW and the related existing connecting trail.

The study consists of two phases. This first phase will generate a preliminary design for the bridge, trail alignments and widths, storm water facilities, and other amenities along the trail. The timing and schedule of the second phase will be determined once the scope is determined and the first phase of the work is completed.

Both phases of the study incorporate multiple opportunities for community input. The first community meeting will share existing condition information and is anticipated to occur in the fall of 2017. Meeting details will be provided as they are available.

I've been told the Arizona bridge is in bad shape and also needs to be raised because it has insufficient clearance below. I don't see how this is worth the cost if a more formalized trail isn't built as part of it. I think either the people of the Palisades should get a trail from Galena to Nebraska (or Canal) or they should just have the bridge removed. 

The trestle over foundry branch is a little more complicated. That still belongs to the Rider's Fund/WMATA

But the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which inherited the structure after the trolley closed in 1962, has signaled only a desire to demolish it. Only recently, faced with the difficulties of bulldozing a designated historic structure, has Metro grown more receptive to ceding the property to the city for use as a trail.

Metro spokesman Richard Jordan said the transit agency is in discussions with various agencies to determine the best solution moving forward and is working with the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) “to gauge their interest in taking over responsibility for the bridge and advancing repairs. These discussions are ongoing and no decisions have been made.”

[WMATA didn't get the bridge in 1962, but rather in 1996] 

“The bridge is a historic resource,” DDOT spokeswoman Maura Danehey said. She said the city is interested in the restoration of the bridge if it could potentially be reused as part of the city’s growing trail network. But before assuming responsibility for the structure, DDOT would first need to conduct a trail feasibility study to determine costs and benefits, Danehey said. The agency plans to launch that study this year.

But there’s no clear timetable when the agencies involved will determine if the restoration is feasible, how to fund such an effort and what would it take to rehabilitate it. A push from Metro to seek demolition isn’t completely off the table.

DDOT is reportedly starting a study to determine if the bridge has any transportation value. If that comes up positive, then it would be followed by another study to determine what would be needed to rehabilitate the bridge or if that's even possible. 

This trail still has considerable obstacles to overcome, but if the north section is built and the bridge preserved/rehabilitated, that would represent huge steps forward. 

Arlington County is updating its Bicycle Master Plan

Montgomery County isn't the only county in the area updating their Bicycle Master Plan, Arlington is getting in on the fun too

The current Master Transportation Plan Bicycle Element was adopted in July 2008.  While many of the goals and policies of the plan remain relevant, there have been significant changes in technologies, facilities and best practices that warrant a comprehensive update of the plan.  The plan update will incorporate input from people with a wide range of abilities and backgrounds from civic and business organizations. 

Since 2008, bike commuting in the county has more than doubled. 

A working group started meeting in May of this year and will continue for 10-15 months to help county staff to work on final recommendations to be adopted by the board. At the first meeting they reviewed a baseline version of the report which included this map showing the intersection of Arlington and Washington Boulvards as the crashiest in the county

Crash map

And a status on projects from 2008

  • 50 (46%) of planned projects listed in Appendix B are complete or partially built/implemented. 29 (27%) projects are funded and in process of implementation. 30 (28%) have not been funded, are to be built by others (state or federal) or have been cancelled.
  • A Significant number of bike lane projects have been implemented that were not in 2008 plan
  • 25 miles of bike lanes with 1 mile of buffered bike lanes and 1 mile of protected bike lanes now in place. Sharrow use is limited to a few locations with insufficient room for a bike lane

At the last meeting they worked on an updated framework that defined goals and sub-goals. New goals dealt with bike-sharing, e-bikes, bike parking that accommodates cargo bikes, etc...

For the next month, they're seeking public input at meet and greets.

Throughout this month and mid-September, you’ll have the opportunity to offer feedback—via a survey from the group— and learn more about the Bike Plan Update process. They’ll have the answers on all your questions about the why and how of overarching policies and what types of projects are gaining focus. Visit any of the below events to participate:

Car Free Day 2017


Take the free pledge to go car free for a day at www.CarFreeMetroDC.org.  Telework, bicycle, walk, take transit or carpool/vanpool (car-lite).


Friday, September 22, 2017 – Take the online pledge now!


Washington D.C., Suburban MD, and Northern Virginia.


Drop your keys for a day on Friday, September 22 to reduce traffic congestion, save money, and clean the air! 

Everyone who takes the free pledge earns a buy-one-get-one-free offer from Chipotle Mexican Grill! Plus, every person will be entered into a raffle for great prizes including a Kindle FireCapital Bikeshare annual memberships, $25 SmarTrip cards, gift cards to shops and restaurants, and more!


To take the pledge to go car free or car-lite, or to find out more information, visit www.CarFreeMetroDC.org.

Advocates attempt to resurrect the Civil War Railroad Trail

Screenshot 2017-08-11 at 12.25.46 AM
Advocates in Washington County are attempting to resurrect what is arguably the best remaining rail trail opportunity in the state of Maryland. The Civil War Railroad Trail would run for 23 miles from the C&O Canal Towpath at Weverton (near the Appalachian Trail) to Hagerstown, passing through Keedysville on the way. It would run on the abandoned portion of the old Washington County Railroad to Roxbury and then adjacent to the still active portion to Hagerstown City Park.

The project will create tourism, economic development and healthy lifestyle opportunities for the Hagerstown and Washington County area.

Connectivity will be established, via the trail, between Hagerstown and Washington DC; Pittsburgh, PA., Northern, VA and could augment commuter traffic to the MARC rail line in Brunswick, MD

The project has already been killed twice. First in 1994, due to strong opposition "from south county residents and other groups" about property rights and fear of imminent domain issues. The project was revived again in 2012 and renamed the Civil War Railroad Trail.

The Washington County Board of Commissioners agreed... to reopen talks about building a “Civil War Railroad Trail” that would follow the former Baltimore and Ohio Railroad line from Hagerstown to Weverton.

Advocates were hopeful the environment had changed. 

[County Public Works Director Joseph Kroboth III] said the opposition in the 1990s came before rails-to-trails became common and their value was widely understood. Since then, the Western Maryland Rail Trail has been built from Fort Frederick to Pearre Station, passing through Hancock, Md.

“I think we will work diligently to try to ensure the property owners’ rights are protected,” Kroboth said. “We’re trying to create an amenity to our community that creates ... tourism opportunities and also possibly some small business development.”

There was some early support. But of course one way things had changed was the rise of the Tea Party and Agenda 21 fears.

These ribbons of trails that Washington DC environmentalists are threading throughout America are called GREENLINING (or greenways).   Back in the early 1970’s when the likes of Rep. Mo Udall (also the guy who locked up Alaska, btw) tried to get national landuse planning into federal law (and failed), the environmental statists switched to the concept of ‘greenlining’ to put national landuse in place piece by piece.

Rail-trails are one of the mechanisms they use.  Some local people may see the trail as innocuous (or as a boon to the local economy which will not be true in Washington County!), but what follows will be a clamoring for controls on the land in the VIEWSHED of the trail.   It won’t be long and the county will be pressured into re-zoning land along the trail, or the state will come in to buy more land.  Some yuppies from Washington, DC will say NO hog farms where I want to ride my bike!  And, damn, I don’t want to see old farm machinery or a lot of laundry hanging on peoples’ clotheslines!

And a lot of adjacent property owners tried to claim ownership and raise fears of crime

“Several of the neighboring landowners have been talking and we question whether the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) actually owns the land that it claims,” Daly wrote. “Some of the landowners have documents that they believe mean that when the railroad was abandoned in 1978, the land reverted to them and so does not now and never did belong to the State.

“Other landowners have used and occupied the former B&O rail bed for more than the statutory period of 20 years and therefore under Maryland law they, not DNR, own the land.”

critics had a long list of reasons against the rail trail, such as the high price tag and the possible crime and noise it could bring. 

By July of 2012, after it drew strong protests at a public meeting in Boonsboro, the trail was cancelled again. They even refused state money for a feasibility study.

“That’s the end of it, as far as we’re concerned,” said John F. Wilson, the associate director for stewardship within the Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ land acquisition and planning unit.

During a discussion Tuesday about Maryland Department of Transportation’s offer of $100,000 for a feasibility study for the trail, Commissioner William B. McKinley moved to end the county’s participation in the project entirely. McKinley said there were too many unanswered questions, so accepting feasibility study money “would be wrong.”

BTW, here's a statement from Commissioner Jeffrey A. Cline in January of 2012

"I think it’s a good project, I really do,” 

And here he is in July

“I have no support for this trail whatsoever,”

Anyway, the project is such a good idea that supporters are reluctant to let it go. 

Retired consulting environmental engineer Chip Wood's presentation promoting the recreational trail was scheduled on the Washington County Board of Commissioners' meeting agenda.

Wood asked commissioners to consider the "rights of the public majority" who want the trail rather than the few who want to bar access.

He said the Washington County Department of Planning and Zoning has said there is a countywide deficit for walking and jogging trails, especially in south county, that the rail trail would address.

Wood referred to a letter county resident William Daly wrote five years ago to an attorney about several neighboring landowners questioning whether the Maryland Department of Natural Resources actually owns the land.

Some landowners had documents they believed indicated the land reverted to them after the railroad abandoned a large stretch of the proposed trail, according to Herald-Mail Media archives.

Wood asked the commissioners to have the state review the matter.

Opponents continue to claim they have deeds to the land and that they're concerned about "crime and safety."

Anyway, not to get too far out ahead of things, since even this seems unlikely right now....but if the trail were built, they could then build a trail along the 3.7 mile Antietam Branch that goes around to the east side of Hagerstown past parks and the baseball stadium. And that could connect to a trail built on the ROW of the old Hagerstown and Frederick Electric Railroad which connects all the way to Frederick. Ah, to dream.

Why aren't we helping students ride Capital Bikeshare to school?

image from bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com

Capital Bikeshare is an important piece of DC's transportation system, and one that is found in every ward in DC, but we've made it harder for high school students to use it to get to and from school than we need to. As a story on CNN highlighted, for a lot of kids taking bikeshare to school is illegal, because the age limit is 16 years old. 

The age minimums for U.S. bikeshare systems are generally 16 or 18 years of age, restricting most highschoolers from riding. How to best set these age minimums is an afterthought. A Boston department of transportation spokeswoman told CNN the department wasn't even sure why its bikeshare's age minimum had been set at 16. Many defer to the company that operates their bikeshare system. These companies are inclined to set high age minimums rather than pay additional insurance costs.

The insurance costs is a reason I have not heard before. I thought they set it at 16 so they could avoid the helmet requirement - kids under 16 are required to wear a helmet. I wasn't even aware CaBi had insurance, but I suppose they do. 

Research shows that children who exercise in the morning concentrate better in school. When more people rides bikes, air quality improves, aiding everyone's health. Having a bicycle also teaches responsibility and confidence.

So one thing we could do is lower the age limit to 15 or 14. We could do it only for DC residents if we're worried about a bunch of 14 year old tourists tearing the roads up. We could also lower the required helmet age, but that wouldn't be necessary, just easier and it would encourage more riding. I'm not sure what the science is on helmet benefits as it relates to age. 

"We should absolutely be giving these kids memberships or reduced-fee memberships because it lowers our costs," said Gabe Klein, co-founder of the transportation consultancy CityFi and former transportation commissioner in Chicago and Washington, D.C.

The second thing we can do is give high school kids free bikeshare memberships. We could make them free only during the times when the Kids Ride free program operates (which, admittedly is "all day, every day (including weekends)"), but it wouldn't save us much money over just making it free all the time. It will still be cheaper then letting them ride transit for free.

In addition to all the other benefits of biking for transportation, it could help reduce truancy.

Even though students in the District can ride public transportation for free, some said their commutes are long and public transit isn’t always reliable.

“I have to catch two buses to get to school,” said Lloyd Hardy, a rising senior at a local charter school.

“Sometimes the bus is not there on time or there’s a delay. And during winter and daylight saving it’s dark in the morning. Georgia Ave. is a nice place but sometimes there’s some shady things going on so it’s hard to get to school on time,” Hardy shared. If you’re late, Hardy says his school gives you detention. “So If you miss the bus, just don’t even go.”

CaBi's not always available either. But if transportation problems are a reason for skipping school, then we should give them as many options as we can. 

We don't have to do all of these things. We could give free CaBi memberships to kids 16 and over and not lower the CaBi age. Or we could lower the CaBi age but not change the helmet age. But the more of these things we do, the more we can give students more choices. Choices that will save them time, help them learn and make it easier for them to get to school in the first place.

NACTO webinar on cycling equity

Cities across the U.S. are building more, and higher-quality bike lane networks - resulting in more riders, and increased safety for those taking to two wheels on our cities' streets. However, this increasingly-popular mode for getting around is not equally accessible to all communities, with Black and Hispanic populations facing both social and infrastructural barriers to cycling.

Join Senior Researcher Charles Brown for an overview of his recent study, focused on understanding and identifying barriers to Black and Hispanic bicycle access and use in New Jersey, the most densely populated state in the U.S. Brown's study indicates that while Black and Hispanic communities have a strong interest in bicycling, infrastructure investments such as bike share and dedicated bicycle facilities are more likely to be directed to non-minority neighborhoods and communities.

Tue, Aug 15, 2017 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM EDT

Greenbelt (Almost) Gets a Great New Bike Trail

By Jeff Lemieux

Greenbelt is putting the finishing touches on a great new bike trail that connects Cherrywood Lane, a key bike route that goes past the Greenbelt Metro station, with Branchville Ave, which is the main access road to Lake Artemesia and and an entry point to the extensive Anacostia tributary trail system. The new connector trail allows cyclist to avoid a congested shopping mall entrance and the hairy intersection at Cherrywood Lane and Greenbelt Road. The new segment is marked by the box in this map:

Screenshot 2017-08-09 at 12.48.35 AM

The good news is that the trail is quite lovely, and passes a pond with lots of wildlife. Here is a picture:

Screenshot 2017-08-09 at 12.52.15 AM

What’s the bad news? Well, apparently the county, which controls Branchville Ave., has decided that it would be too dangerous to allow the trail to connect to the street. So Prince George's County has mandated a full curb where the trail meets the street.

Screenshot 2017-08-09 at 12.54.26 AM

Note that the sidewalk is also not connected to the street – it just ends a at either end of the lot. If you look closely you can even see a utility pole blocking where the sidewalk would go!

Screenshot 2017-08-09 at 12.57.35 AM

So now this trail entrance requires bike commuters and disabled people to cross the grass and climb the curb, or else just give up and go back to riding through the congested (and truly dangerous!) shopping zone. No wheelchairs allowed.

Greenbelt city planner Jessica Bellah reports that the City is trying to get the county to relent, if for no other reason than that now our City maintenance vehicles can’t get to the site they’re supposed to maintain.

I presume the county planner who made this decision is the same person who has decided to keep the newly completed College Park/Riverdale Park trolley trail closed at the new Whole Foods development for so long, also for our safety. Because in that case, it’s so much safer to ride a bike or push a stroller out on Route 1 (which has no sidewalks on the east side toward College Park).

We’re making lots of great progress on trails and pedestrian infrastructure in many places in Prince George’s county, but there are still some real impediments in our county government.

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City Paper's Best Local Bike Blog 2009


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