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MPD Ticketing counterpoint

Last week I wrote about some questionable ticketing decisions by MPD (and frankly there are a couple of other stories I could share along those lines) but in the spirit of fairness here's a case where MPD making better choices.

Carol Calhoun reports that after the crash seen in the video below (crash is at 10:50:59 camera time, or 3:07 on the video): 

She reported it to MPD, with the videos, and she thinks they're going to cite the driver. 

It's not quite as satisfying as "the police showed up, and after interviewing people, DEFINITELY cited the driver, which was Lou Dobbs, who then soiled himself" but you take what you can get some times. Still, we shouldn't all have to have cameras on our bikes to get justice.

It's, of course, highly likely that I only hear the stories of bad interactions (because people are angry) but not the ones about good interactions. Does anyone have any "MPD done me right" stories to share?

From the Archives: Washington and Great Falls Electric Railway

Here's an August 1897 ad for the Washington and Great Falls Electric Railway that once ran from Georgetown to Cabin John. The ROW has been eyed for a trail since the 1970's and the trestle over Foundry Branch was the subject of a post earlier this week. The structural condition report states that the trolley along this line started running in 1897, but actually it was running as early as November 1895, though only to the District line at first.


Mayor proposes modifying the Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Act's reporting requirements (and more)

Mayor Bowser has submitted a bill, the Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Technical Amendment Act of 2016*, for council consideration which amends the Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Amendment Act of 2016. Most of the changes are trivial or semantic, such as replacing the word "accident" with "crash" or "rate" with "frequency". Others seem to be clearing up an oversight such as changing a requirement about reporting on pedestrian crashes to also include bicyclists. But there are some other, more substantive changes as well. 

Perhaps most relevant to cyclists is a change in the frequency and type of moving infraction data that the DC government must report. The new act will reduce the reporting from once a month to once a quarter, and it will remove the requirements that the District report the date and time of the infraction, the Police Service Area where it happened, the age of the driver and the jurisdiction in which the driver was licensed. The justification for this seems to be that the District is incapable of providing this other data. 

The loss of PSA data is not a big deal, but the loss of the information about ticketed drivers is unfortunate. 

It also changes a requirement related to the issuing of permits for the occupation of public space. The original law required that all permits be published with either a description of the safe accommodations provided for pedestrians and cyclists as required by law, OR an explanation for why accommodations can't be made. The new bill would only require that permits be published with a description of any safe accommodations provided for pedestrians and cyclists as required by law; but if none are provided than nothing needs to be reported. 

In addition to this, the new law would make it illegal to park, stop, place or stand an all-terrain vehicle or dirt bike on DC public property (except when transferring it between vehicles for lawful transport elsewhere); increase the fines and penalties for moving infractions in a work zone - even when workers are not present; and add to the list of infractions for which a driver may be required to participate in an ignition interlock program, any offense for which a driver's license has been revoked for driving while impaired or intoxicated.

A public hearing is scheduled for this bill on December 12th

*Yes, I'm aware that the Mayor inverted Pedestrian and Bicycle in the name of this bill

The State of the Foundry Branch Trestle is Poor

For some time now (and even longer really) biking and hiking advocates have supported transforming the disjointed Glen Echo trolley right-of-way into a trail. One part of that vision involves taking the trail over Foundry Branch Valley Park on the old streetcar trestle, the only remaining trolley trestle in DC. The trestle and the short length of right-of-way east of Foxhall Road is owned by WMATA, while the rest of the right-of-way, running for a few miles, west of Foxhall is owned by DC. WMATA is required by law to sell the land it owns, which it got from taking over the old transit companies it replaced, to support the bus program, but before they can sell the trestle and land it sits on they needed to assess how much its worth, sot they hired a contractor to give an estimate of what repair and restoration would cost

This study seeks to assess and determine the soundness of the existing structure through a visual examination of the framing and selective testing of structural components. In addition, it is also intended to determine the level of effort that may be necessary to stabilize and restore the framing to adaptively reuse the structure as a potential pedestrian trail.

No one should be surprised to find out that the trestle, which was last used more than 50 years ago, is in bad shape. 

Based on our review of the existing trestle, it is our opinion that the structure is in poor condition. The level of deterioration of many of the members present significantly affects the structural stability of the assembly.

I always figured the trestle and land together had negative value and if you believe that WMATA will be responsible for maintaining the trestle, the study seems to support that. Just stabilizing the bridge was estimated to cost ~$350,000 and restoring it would be more than $2 million. No estimate is given for demolition. 


If DDOT is willing to take on this project, or WMATA is willing to unload this property at a workable price, they're both being pretty tight-lipped about it. In addition to the trail and it's benefits to cyclists and pedestrians, there's a historic preservation element to this project as well. In addition NPS surely wants to see this structure, at the very least, made safe

Drain the swamp by killing Capital Bikeshare

image from

Local bike lane nemesis F.H. Buckly is perhaps the only person who sees a connection between Trump's promise to "drain the swamp" and the efforts of local governments to make cities more bikeable, but Buckley thinks Trump won't have gone far enough to do so unless he strangles small-d democracy and civic activism. Especially as it is utilized by bike advocates.

The muck goes deeper, however, as I discovered in my own little battle with the bicycle mob of Alexandria, Va. The federal government offers states and local governments about $900 million a year for bicycle and pedestrian improvements, and a fair chunk of this goes for bicycle lanes and subventions for the Capital Bikeshare program, with its rental stations of red bicycles.

Let's just stop right there. Capital Bikeshare has gotten a tiny share of that $900 million and I think that was only a couple of times (DDOT used CMAQ money early on, and Montgomery County used a one-time FTA grant (as part of the Job Access Reverse Commute program, which might not even count as part of that $900m)

With the feds providing as much as 90 percent of the money for some programs, it’s hard for a city to turn this down.

In my case, the bicycle lanes were going to run down a very steep highway that saw 14,000 cars and large trucks pass by each day.

He's talking about King Street, which is technically a highway (State Route 7), but certainly isn't what most people think of when they hear the word "highway." Columbia Pike and Glebe Road are also technically highways. But people who live on that section of King Street probably don't say they live on a highway. It's semantic obfuscation and so Buckley has already started to bring his honesty into question.

As safe alternate routes were available, it seemed the height of craziness, but what it had going for it was an energized lycra-clad lobby group that had the ear of the city government.

...and the opinion of the experts the city hired to plan and design the bike network. The presence of alternate routes is not a reason to avoid making the best route better, no matter what the energized underwear-clad NIMBYs say. 

BTW, since the bike lanes have been installed they've been determined to be a success "As with all major projects, the City collects "before" and "after" data to monitor the impacts of the project.  Speed and crash data were collected to determine if safety was improved for all roadway users.  Both speeds and crashes decreased after this project was installed." Biking in the corridor was up 27% and pedestrian use up 50%. 

When not actually bicycling, members of the group seemed to live for meetings at city hall that ran for six or more hours, often past midnight. They had their votes, their hatred of cars — and more importantly, they had federal money on their side.

Here Buckley seems to actually be belittling civic activism "Only losers would actually go to meetings and be involved." He also seems to be implying that supporters are some sort of minority, while survey results show most locals support bike lanes. 

The federal grant to the bicyclists had done three things. Through the bicyclists’ message (from “Cabaret”) that “tomorrow belongs to us,” it might have gotten some people on bikes for the first time.

That is one of the goals, so that's good.

Second, by taking away two-lane streets for bike lanes and parking spots for bicycle stations, it had done its bit to ban fossil fuels and save the planet.

The parking lane that was removed was only be used 8% of the time. Very few parking space are removed for bicycle stations. But when they are, they likely see more use than the spots they replace. But yeah, reducing the carbon footprint is a benefit (though not an explicit goal) of federal funding for biking.

Third, it had created a local, progressive interest group and given them an in with city hall. And for the federal regulators who designed the programs, that was perhaps the most important thing of all.

Here, Buckly has the cause and effect backwards. The "interest group" for cycling has existed since the late 19th Century, when bicycle advocates first organized to pave streets, which is long before there was federal funding for such things. Even WABA (established 1972) predates CMAQ (1990), Transportation Enhancements (1992), recreational trails (1993) and Safe Routes to School (2005) and all other federal bicycle funding. 

The bike program isn’t a big deal in itself. But littered throughout the federal government are scores of similar programs, aimed at empowering the community organizer, the village radical, the smarmy city councilman. And that’s what the new administration has to take on.

Heaven forbid that people actually get involved in their community and have power to make things better. By all means, let's crush that. 

Buckley is still smarting from the way he lost. I know what that feels like, but the solution to losing is not to weaken democracy, it's to build a more compelling argument or to accept that the one you have stinks. And "I don't want to give up on street parking" just isn't a winner in Alexandria right now. 

MPD still making questionable ticketing choices

File this under unsubstantiated, but shocking reports. From a local listserv:

I was biking home Saturday afternoon around 4pm and was in the middle of the intersection at 16th and C St SE when a police SUV blew through a stop sign at high speed, with no lights or siren on, and struck me, knocking me off my bike. Thankfully I wasn’t injured too badly, and the officer who hit me immediately took responsibility and was very polite and apologetic, stating that he didn’t see me and offering to pay for any damage to my bike.

The sergeant who responded to the scene and will be filing the police report took a brief statement from me, then told me to leave my bike at the scene and go home. After waiting around my house for longer than I would’ve expected, he came to my door with another person to photograph my injuries and return my bike, then told me he would be citing me for running a stop sign, despite neither officer claiming to have witnessed this. I was told that the incident would be referred to a “Crash Response Board” to determine if the officer involved would face any administrative penalty, but that he would not be immediately cited for running the stop sign or hitting me.

If anyone in the neighborhood witnessed this accident I’d appreciate you getting in touch with me directly.

Somewhat related, Megan Odett, the heart and soul behind Kidical Mass in DC, was recently hit by a car and ticketed by the police - in the hospital for "failure to pay full time and attention." This was based on security footage that reportedly showed she didn't turn her head.

I can't tell if Megan came to a complete stop, as the footage hasn't started yet, but it's clear the driver doesn't. And that Megan was in the intersection before the driver was. And that it was her "turn" to go meaning that she had the right-of-way. And that the driver just wasn't paying attention. And remember, the police saw this footage. It's not like they made the wrong call based on the drivers testimony.


Oxon Run Trail Rehabilitation has begun

Perhaps I missed the press release* but in the last few months, DDOT began work on the Oxon Run Trail Rehabilitation Project in Ward 8.


Oxon Run is a Potomac River tributary that starts in District Heights, MD, crosses into DC just north of the Southern Avenue Metro, runs through southern DC, then back into Prince Georges Count at 1st Street SW and finally empties into Oxon Cove. There is a system of trails on both sides of the stream through much of DC, and that system is being rebuilt, improved and expanded.

Screenshot 2016-11-27 at 2.03.29 PM

Map of the current trail system

It appears that the rehabilitation is being done in phases and that the phase currently underway extends from the Winkle Doodle bridge at South Capitol and Southern to Atlantic Street, SE. 

The trail was in terrible condition. Though I don't have any photos of the section being rebuilt now, I did get photos of the trail sections north of Atlantic which are indicative of the state of the trail south.


The existing trail is being removed and replaced with a wider trail, routed along lines that make more sense and with more connections to the nearby streets. It will also be extended from its current terminus at South Capitol along South Capitol to Southern. Along South Capitol the trail will become a sidepath, which will replace the sidewalk and be set farther from the road.

Screenshot 2016-11-27 at 2.20.20 PM

Plan for trail along South Capitol


Trail under construction along South Capitol

The Concept Plan recommended extending the trail south along the east side of Oxon Run, crossing Barnaby Run in Maryland just before it meets the Run and then meeting up with, and repaving, the existing "trail" at Audrey Lane in Maryland. It also recommended a trail connection from MLK Avenue and Joliet Street to DC Village, but it doesn't appear that those sections are being built at this time, if they ever will.

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The Concept Plan also recommended a separate trail bridge over Oxon Run at South Capitol, but instead the trail will utilize the narrow sidewalk.

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Concept plan for Oxon Run Trail at South Capitol

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Paving Plan for  Oxon Run Trail at South Capitol

North of South Capitol the trail will be greatly improved both from a state or repair standpoint and for its utility. 

North of 13th Street, the Concept Plan called for the trail to connect to Southern Avenue - and thus Maryland - via side paths and bike lanes, but the Paving plan does not extend beyond 13th. 

Screenshot 2016-11-27 at 2.41.57 PM

DDOT is doing most of what it can to improve this forgotten trail. But the trail's value will reach full potential once it extends south to the Oxon Cove trail (and thus to the Woodrow Wilson Bridge) and north to the Naylor Road Metro and an extended Suitland Parkway Trail. But all of that depends on Prince Georges County making some progress on those efforts.  

Another future project that could improve the trail is the restoration of Oxon Run itself. About 40% of Oxon Run and its tributaries within the Oxon Run watershed have been relegated to either pipe or concrete-lined channel (like the Los Angeles River).

As a result of this reduction in natural channel and the high percentage of impervious surface in the watershed, the stream tends to witness flashy, intense flows.

Most of the unnatural portions are in DC. Seeing the stream restored and daylighted would make the trail more pleasant while bringing many environmental benefits as well. DC would like to do so, but it won't be easy.

The concrete lined portion of Oxon Run, running between South Capitol and 13th Streets, SE, a 7,920 foot long stretch, is perhaps the most difficult section to restore.

Stream restoration of Oxon Run to help accommodate the urban hydrology regime is extremely ambitious. Yet, as already mentioned, stream restoration may be the only way to meet the spirit, if not the rule, of the Clean Water Act. Restoring Oxon Run, and in the process Oxon Run Park, would improve the both the environmental and social aspects of the stream corridor. Stream restoration, would allow for the reestablishment of benthic communities in the stream. It would also provide a tremendous educational, recreational, and ecological resource for the communities of South East DC. Stream restoration would be a capstone to the long positive trend of redevelopment in this once forgotten, but still underserved area. The monetary costs associated with this project, however, will be high. The USFWS, in 2004, estimated that stream restoration in the DC portion of Oxon Run would cost $6,888,888 and stormwater treatment wetlands would cost an additional $1,094,000. This is a rough estimate and may be low, the rising cost of materials, and the technical difficulty of this project will likely inflate the cost.

*The project website also makes no note that work has begun, but they were putting the project out to bid this summer. Perhaps people noticed that work had begun while on the 50 States Ride.

From the Archives: A Brief history of WMATA's "Bike-on-rail" program

Washington's Metro was one of the first transit systems in the US to allow bicycles on board, but not the first. Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) in New Jersey, started its bike-on-rail program in 1962 and BART started its sometime prior to 1980

BART's program enjoyed strong public support; by 1980, BART had issued more than 9,000 bike-on-rail permits. Community support and the excellent safety record of the program prompted BART to relax restrictions on the bike-on-rail service and permits were made available through the mail. By 1984, the number of permits had more than tripled to 28,000; this had grown to 71,000 permits by 1992. BART's success prompted other rail systems to institute bike-on-rail programs.

A 1988 Washington Post article claimed that 1980 is when Metro started it's Bikes-on-Rail program, which would make them the 3rd system to have a "Bike-on-rail" program. 

Since 1980, Metro has allowed bicycles on the subway system, under numerous restrictions that favor local adult residents, discourage tourists and keep out children.

Metro decided "for safety reasons to limit participation" in its "Bike-on-Rail" program, said bicycle coordinator Randy Howes.

But according to a contemporaneous article in the DC Gazette it actually started in mid-1981, as a six month pilot. It was made permanent in January of 1981. At that time, cyclists needed a $10 permit that was good for 2 years, and that would allow them to use the system on weekends and some holidays. Getting a permit required a 30 minute training and passing a test. I'm not sure if that was still early enough to be 3rd or not. 

By 1988, Bikes were allowed on the trains on weekends and holidays (except July Fourth), and after 7 p.m. on weekdays. Back then, you had to have a permit, which required learning the rules and taking a simple 17-question test (By 1992, only 3 people had ever failed it, one because he didn't speak English and one because he couldn't read). And only one person had ever had their permit revoked (for riding on the platform). Permits cost $15 and were valid for 5 years. Kids under 12 couldn't bring their bikes on and you had to use the last car in the train.

In 1994, the hours were expanded, which is something Jack Evans takes credit for

Metro board members voted to allow bicycles on trains between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. weekdays for a six-month trial beginning Aug. 1.

The more liberal policy reflects the influence of General Manager Lawrence G. Reuter. Previous Metro general managers have been cool to the idea of extending subway access to bicyclists. Reuter came to Metro from the San Jose transit agency, which allows bicycles on trolleys and some buses for most of the day.

[Sidenote: From this article, I learned that MARTA allows bikes on its trains all day, every day, and it still does 22 years later. In case that's ever relevant].

In 1998, after another six-month trial, they got rid of the permit system.

In 2001, the hours were extended again. This time allowing bike on before 7am, and until as late as 4pm. This is the system we have today. 

[In 2003, they added bike racks to their buses]


A new trail connection and on-street facilities could make Far SE more bikeable

The Far Southeast III Livability study presented some results of the ongoing study and some concepts for making the area more livable last week, and they include some long needed bike facilities in the area. 

The study identified issues for cyclists trying to get to/from the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail, getting across the Anacostia and crossing East Capital Street. The general solution to these issues were to complete the bike network, consider alternative designs and to create new connections. In specific, the proposed bicycle improvements (seen on the map below) include protected bike lanes on portions of East Capitol Street, Ridge Road and Burns Street; sharrows on Texas Avenue and Ely place, and a new connection between the Greenway neighborhood and the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail. These do not completely address all the issues identified.

Screenshot 2016-11-25 at 1.21.17 PM

The most important part of this may be the connection to the Anacostia Trail, which addresses two of the issues - getting to the trail and crossing the river. 

It would connect to the existing trail at the southern base of the bridge over the railroad tracks. It would then use the existing road to the point where it crosses the tracks at grade, but instead of crossing the tracks it would continue on a new trail on the south side of the tracks, under DC-295 and connecting to Greenway at either E Street or D Street (why not both?). In so doing it would also cross the unused Shepherd Industrial Spur railroad that may become a trail of its own in the future.

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This is a pretty common sense connection and one that is well overdue. 

A less fleshed-out idea is to put eastern East Capitol Street onto a road diet and use some of the newfound space to create protected bike lanes. 

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The area would still be short on bike facilities, and no doubt some will find fault with the E-W route being a signed and sharrowed on-street route, but nonetheless there are real improvements here. You can send comments here.



Lee Highway Vision and Planning

In 2012, leaders in North Arlington decided that Lee Highway needed to be re-planned. Eventually forming the Lee Highway Alliance, they developed a visioning document for the Arlington County section of Lee Highway and the areas adjacent to it. That document was released last May.  Part of that vision was providing safe and appealing biking facilities. 

Today, only highly experienced riders travel the corridor on bike, and they report feeling unsafe. There is a desire for families and riders of all abilities to be able to travel comfortably by bike in the future. However, there was not consensus on how this should be achieved. Some participants want a focus on improvements to parallel routes such as 22nd and 26th streets, citing limited right of way width as a constraint. Others want improvements on Lee Highway itself; ideas explored include introducing protected bike lanes (lanes separated from moving vehicles by landscaping, striping or other barriers to increase comfort and safety) or shared bus/bike only lanes (restricting travel lanes for only bus or bike use, reducing the number of conflicts for cyclists while also enhancing transit efficiency). Both approaches -- improving parallel routes and making changes to the Lee Highway street design -- should be analyzed further for feasibility.

While not a planning document, they did propose additional bike lanes, trails and bikeshare stations, as seen in this map of the eastern section.

Screenshot 2016-11-22 at 11.08.18 PM

 One retrofit of Lee Highway envisioned by the plan would include a bike/bus lane as the outside lane.

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The visioning document is not an adopted plan, but rather a compilation of ideas that provide a framework for the formal County planning process that will kick off in 2017. Before that starts, the County is hosting community open houses on November 29th for people to learn about the project, express their opinions or learn how to get involved. 

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