Arlington County Board provides input to Transportation Plan's Bicycle Element, request Vision Zero options

The work of drafting a new Arlington County Master Transportation Plan, and more specifically the Bicycle Element of that continues.  You can see the most recent draft, from late November, here and the last post on the MTP here

Since then, the working group has met, performed a survey of measures and targets from similar community plans and met with other groups including the County Board. 

Some of the highlights:

  • The working group recommended adding implementation statements encouraging and supporting bicycle races as a means to raise bicycling visibility, and creating guidelines for contractors to use when building near or in bikeways. Another policy recommendation is to add a statement that staff resources and expertise be developed for the proper design and upkeep of trails. 
  • The review of measures from other cities show a lot of similar ideas (reducing crashes and injuries, eliminating traffic deaths, increased cycling etc..) with a few unique ones. 
    • Increase the population within ¼ mile of a low-stress bicycle route from 17% to 80% (Ft Collins)
    • Provide an All Ages and Abilities bicycle route with ½ mile of 50% of households, workplaces and destinations by 2020. 100% by 2035. (Austin)
    • Increase percentage of female bicycle commuters from 35% to 50% (Ft Collins)
    • Five new public shower/locker facilities by 2020 (Minneapolis)
    • Target bicycle theft enforcement at 5 locations per year by 2015 (Minneapolis)
    • Annually track the percentage of maintenance requests related to bicycle issues that are addressed (Alexandria)
  • In meetings with other groups, there were a lot of suggestions and comments, all captured here - in no particular order. 
    • Interest in Vision Zero policy. Should be comprehensive, but can mention it in Bike Element.
    • Come back to Board with options and recommendations for VZ.
    • When prioritizing projects need to distinguish between big projects and opportunities like street repaving.
    • Performance measures need to be weighted towards safety and comfort. Fewer injuries. See FHWA guidance on performance measures.
    • Look at what peer cities say about the percent of their total streets that should include bicycle lanes
    • say more about the benefits of bicycling
    • reference recreational bicycling more
    • try permeable asphalt 
    • conduct more safety education

The next meeting is scheduled for January 25th.

It's time to comment on the Southeast Boulevard design

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Comments are open on the Environmental Assessment of Southeast Boulevard until January 24th, You can view materials from the December 2017 meeting here and fill out the survey here

The first question is about the cross-section. The "Max" option has a 12' wide path and 3 sidewalks, 2 are 6' and 1 of 8'.

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A "min" option has a 10' sidepath and two 6' sidewalks. The medium option also has a 12' sidepath and then a 6' sidewalk and an 8' one. They all have the same number of auto lanes. The trade off is for more excess space (for development or parks). I think a 12 foot wide path is a minimum personally.

The survey asks users to prioritize things like separated facilities, a shared-use path, bike & ped intersection signs and markings and low speed traffic with prioritized pedestrian and bicycle flow. It asks about preferred designs for Barney Circle, preferred left turn configuration onto 14th Street, and which bike/ped connections you prefer (you can choose all).

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It also asks about preferred elements in an intersection for pedestrian and bicycle crossings. Elements include crosswalks, traffic lights with ped signals, HAWK signals and stop signs. There also a question about which should greater higher priority, vehicle flow or bike and ped accommodations. 

The project would provide pedestrian and bicycle links to the waterfront via bridges extending from Southeast Boulevard, over the CSX railroad corridor, and down to M Street SE or the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail. These links must meet all railroad clearance and accessibility (Americans with Disabilities Act) requirements, but the location(s) and design features are flexible. While providing connections at all three locations may be feasible, it is important to understand which location(s) are most desirable.

There are also a couple of bicycle maps showing different possible combinations of options, such as different railroad crossings and traffic circles. 

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Pearl District development highlights future trail connection

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A to-be-built 145 foot tall building in Bethesda will be one of the first to go along the future Capital Crescent Trail and the Purple Line. The building will front Pearl Street which is viewed as a shared street and "canopy corridor" with the Capital Crescent Trail on one end a future protected bike lane on the other. 

The concept envisions the proposed building as an eastern gateway to Bethesda with access to the Capital Crescent Trail and future Purple Line from the new Pearl Street “shared street”.  

Pearl Street is a tree ‘canopy corridor’ intended to connect tree cover to parks, bicycle trails, stream buffers, and denser forest networks beyond the Bethesda boundary.  Trees must have a minimum soil volume of 600 cubic feet or greater.

Bicycle access will be from Montgomery Avenue along a planned separated bikeway, and on Pearl Street. The southern segment of Pearl Street provides a connection to the Capital Crescent Trail. Long‐term bicycle parking for residents will be provided in a secure room, accessed from Pearl Street. The final location and capacity of the long‐ and short‐term bicycle parking will be determined at Site Plan.

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The required bicycle parking is located at the ground floor adjacent to the loading area.

Pearl Street/Capital Crescent Trail Connector, the Bethesda Downtown Plan recommends a prominent connection to the Capital Crescent Trail at the southern terminus of Pearl Street

The Project will vastly improve the existing corner, as a result of the quality architecture and improvements to the existing streetscape including adding a needed sidewalk along the Pearl Street frontage, which will begin to develop an inviting pedestrian experience south on Pearl Street toward the Capital Crescent Trail.

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The plan was approved at the January 11th Montgomery County Planning Meeting.

2016 State of the Commute Survey, biking up; and more survey results to come

Late in 2017, the MWCOG released its 2016 State of the Commuter survey results, and biking and walking were up in the region. (which includes Alexandria; DC; and Fairfax, Arlington, Montgomery, Prince George's, Calvert, Charles, Frederick County, Loudoun and Prince William Counties)

  • Bike and walk mode share was at 3.3%, up from 2.2% in 2013. Of that 3.3%, 1.3% is biking. The higher 2016 mode shares for transit and bike/walk, in particular, could be related to different age profiles for the 2013 and 2016 surveys.
  • 22% of commuters started driving alone in the last 5 years, and by contrast 35% of bike commuters started in the last five years
  • Respondents who drove alone and those who rode transit gave lower ratings for transportation satisfaction than did carpoolers/vanpoolers and bike/walk commuters. Only 34% of drive alone commuters, 38% of train riders, and 41% of bus riders were satisfied, compared with 47% of carpoolers and 61% of commuters who biked/walked to work.
  • Nearly one-quarter (23%) of respondents said their employers offered services for bikers and walkers
  • SmartBenefit transit/vanpool subsidies, information on commute options, and bikeshare memberships were the most widely used commuter assistance services, used, respectively, by 59%, 30%, and 25% of respondents who had access to the services
  • People who work a compressed work schedule are MORE likely to bike commute, with the 3.7% of those workers biking or walking to work. 
  • 3% of bike/walk commuters did so as their primary mode, another 1% used it as a secondary method
  • People who primarily bike/walk do so 3.4 days a week, which is lower than all other methods. 
  • 5% of men biked and walked to work, 2% of women did so.
  • 4% of white people biked and walked to work, 3% of Hispanics and 1% of African-Americans.
  • 10% of people who make $80,000-$100,000 bike or walk to work, that drops off to 2% at higher incomes, and to 6% among those making $40-60,000 and 4% of those below $40,0000.
  • Among people who don't own a car 18% bike or walk to work. That percentage goes up as car ownership does. In car-light households it's 3-8%.
  • Bike/walk commuting is higher among District residents (16%). In MD and VA it's 2%. Of those in the "inner core" - DC, Arlington and Alexandria - it's 11%. It drops to 2% in the middle ring and 1% in the outer ring.
  • The average bike commute is 4.4 miles and takes 22 minutes. The average walk commute is shorter (17 min) and all others are longer. 
  • Bike commuters add 7 minutes of extra time to their commute to account for variability, about half that of other commuters. Walkers add 4 minutes.
  • Bike commuters are more likely to have recently switched to biking (with 1/3 doing so in the last 3 years), and 25% of them used to drive alone
  • 5% of commuters considered the location of protected bike lanes when considering where to live or work. 64% of bike/walk commuters considered their access to transportation services at the new location.
  • 97% of bikers/walkers reported high commute satisfaction. 57% of commuters who drove alone and 48% who rode Metrorail said they were satisfied. 
  • The bike/walk share was 5% for respondents who did not have access to HOV/Express lanes, compared with essentially 0% for respondents with access. This difference is explained by comparing the geographic associations of bike/walk commuting and HOV/Express access. Bike/walk commuting is primarily concentrated in the Inner Core, while HOV/Express lanes are located primarily in the Middle Ring and Outer Ring areas.
  • Saving money was a common personal benefit named by all alternative mode users, but particularly so for commuters who carpooled/vanpooled, rode a bus, or biked/walked. And train riders and bike/walk commuters said their choice of commute mode helped the environment.
  • Nearly a quarter (23%) of respondents said their employer offered services for bikers and walkers
  • Bike/walk commuters expressed the least interest in shifting their work day away from prime hours
  • Where employers offered free parking, 3% bike/walk commute; at those that don't 5% do

More Survey information is coming too. MWCOG is currently doing the Regional Household Travel Survey for 2017-2018 and it will have new information in it. 

  • The 2017 RTS will provide insights on multimodal transit travel by asking questions about access modes, egress modes, and integration of walk/bike and transit combinations and transfers (e.g., bike-to-rail)
  • The 2017 RTS will also capture membership and frequency of Capital Bikeshare use, including typical bikeshare use per week. 

Army Navy protected bike lane, some built, some to come

So, I'm a little behind. But here's a photo of the new (in October) protected bike lane on Army-Navy drive


This is the section of Army-Navy Drive between Nash and Lynn. They moved the bike lane to the other side of parking and it got a little narrow, but I think it's better than what was there.


Farther west from there, the concept plan - which was finished in November - has a two-way protected bike lane between Joyce and 12th, and then shared lanes on 12th from Eads to Clark, as well as a two-way separated bike lane from Army-Navy to Clark.


Poplar Point development includes a cycletrack, bike parking and bike sharing

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Redbrick bought the Poplar Point land along both sides of Howard Avenue SE back in 2013 and for the last year they've been working with the Office of Zoning to come up with a design that meets their requirements. They're planning a massive five building project so that includes a lot more than bike stuff, but the project promises to be pretty bike friendly.

First of all, Howard Road will get a protected bike lane (PBL) from the Anacostia Metro entrance to South Capitol Street. In the rendering above, you can see a cyclist a riding in the Howard Road PBL and you can see the PBL again in the rendering below.

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The PBL will be 9 feet wide and separated by a 3 foot wide barrier.


The cycletrack will transition to a sidepath leading to a plaza by the Anacosita Metro Station garage. That plaza will feature a new Capital Bikeshare station and bike racks. 


There will be 672 bicycle spots across two below-grade parking levels, compared to 562 vehicular parking spaces (425 office, 117 residential and 20 retail). That's about 40 more bike parking spaces than required by zoning regs (90 Short Term Spaces and
541 Long Term Spaces). 

And finally, DDOT requested that every resident over 16 be given a Capital Bikeshare membership and an annual car sharing membership, but the developers have asked to instead give either a car sharing or Capital Bikeshare membership because, they argue, "car share memberships are not as popular as they once were" because people would rather use ride hailing. 

This project, when combined with the new Douglass Bridge, should do a lot to make it easier to bike across the Anacostia and into the neighborhoods east of the river, among other things. 

There was a hearing on this last month, and in the transcript there's a humorous discussion about dockless bikeshare. 

[Commissioner Peter May (NPS)] -  first question is, what's with the bike helmet? Is that just a prop? Or did you ride your bike here?

[Tom Skinner (Red Brick)] - Actually that's the Mobike, which I guess are taking over from Capital Bikeshare. So, that's the new way to --

May - So you rode over here on a Mobike and that's your helmet? [WC: I'd like to see this helmet that caused May to comment on it]

Skinner - That's my helmet. I also noticed that you came by bike last time to this down here.

May - And I did tonight. But --

Skinner - And I do appreciate -- I do appreciate it.

[Bill Hellmuth, HOK Architects with Redbrick] - He also lured me into using one of those bikes the other day. And I'm not used to riding around in downtown D.C. So I immediately get on K Street and go under the tunnel on my way back to the office in Georgetown. And I thought I was going to be dead.


MR. HELLMUTH: So, it's a great service. But never go under the vehicular tunnel because of the traffic.

COMMISSIONER MAY: I would agree with that. And also be very careful where you park your Mobike. Because we're having real problems with them showing up in the wrong places. All right. So anyway, I was just curious about that and whether it was like part of the presentation. Or just, you know. Anyway, that's good. I know the Chairman appreciates knowing how much you love riding around the city.

Later, when talking about the Metro plaza improvements

Zoning Commission Vice Chair Robert Miller - Is the Capital Bikeshare though as part of what you're proffering to put on the WMATA property?

MR. SKINNER: Yes. Yes.

Miller: Yes.

MR. SKINNER: And I mean, and we also wonder whether like the orange and the yellow bikes may, you know, take over the city. So, it's subject toward the teething problems they have with where they're left and everything like that. But, whatever is appropriate in terms of bikeshare, we're big advocates and, you know, fans of that.

Dockless bikeshare expands to Takoma Park

I've reported that dockless bikeshare is in DC and Silver Spring, (and by extension other parts of the area), but it's also now officially in Takoma Park, MD too

Four bikeshare companies have signed agreements to operate within Takoma Park.

Limebike, Mobike, Ofo and Spin have signed agreements with MCDOT to expand their current operations in Silver Spring into Takoma Park.

The MoCo DoBi service area can be seen below.

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National Capital Trail, bike/ped Metro access could become regional priorities

At it's January 17th meeting, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments' (MWCOG) Transportation Planning Board (TPB) will vote on whether or not to include two bicycle and pedestrian  initiatives into the Visualize 2045 plan, the long-range transportation plan for the Washington Region. One is completion of the National Capital Trail and the other is bike and pedestrian improvements to high-capacity transit stations. These would join 10 existing initiatives. The recommendation from the Bicycle and Pedestrian subcommittee and the Long Range Plan task force is to make these "unfunded aspirational elements". (See item 7 on the agenda)

Consistent with the Task Force’s discussions related to the ten initiatives currently being analyzed, the TPB’s endorsement of two additional initiatives which focus on pedestrian and bicycle improvements would mean that these concepts have the potential to improve the performance of the region's transportation system beyond what is anticipated by its current long-range transportation plan and deserve to be comprehensively examined for implementation. The TPB’s endorsement would make it possible to include the concepts represented by these initiatives in the aspirational element of the 2018 update of the TPB’s long-range plan, Visualize 2045. The meaning of such an endorsement would not be a mandate from the TPB for its member jurisdictions to alter their own plans, programs, or policies or to design, fund, and implement these initiatives without further study.

The National Capital Trail – Originally called the “Bicycle Beltway,”  is a proposed network of circumferential trail connections circling the core of the Washington region. The full perimeter of the NCT is 45 miles, but it is also divisible into shorter loops. The NCT was originally defined by the National Park Service and the name, concept, and route for the NCT has been adopted by the TPB.

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The above image of the National Capitol Trail is of what was once considered the inner loop. 

In addition to the inner loop route, VDOT and MDOT representatives requested an outer loop that would cross the Potomac at the American Legion Bridge and the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. However, work on an Outer Loop has not advanced, due in large part to the lack of a clear right of way or planned trails.

As finalized in the Paved Trails Plan, the National Capital Trail comprises four connected loops: a 30- mile northern loop, a 10-mile central loop around the monuments and the stadium, an 18-mile southern loop connecting to National Harbor and Old Town Alexandria, and a 45-mile perimeter loop.

There's a list of the projects needed, mostly in DC, to complete the NCT in the Subcommittee report appendix, some like the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail Kenilworth section, have already been completed. Others, like the South Capital Street Trail are still in the planning stage. 

The Metrorail Station Access Project comes started with WMATA. WMATA staff in 2016 completed a study called the Metrorail Station Investment Strategy (MSIS), which highlighted priority projects that would improve non-motorized access to rail stations. Starting with 4,217 unbuilt pedestrian and bicycle projects that have been planned in proximity to the region’s 91 Metrorail stations (!!!), WMATA identified 394 projects, which are around 31 Metrorail stations, that represents the types of station access improvements that can have the greatest impact on walk and bike access to transit. The list was further trimmed to 200 projects that are unfunded and remain unbuilt and are still considered “active” by local jurisdictions. 

These projects solve a litany of familiar problems. Sidewalks do not exist or they are in bad condition. Bike lanes are disconnected. Intersections are inhospitable and crossings do not exist. Signage and lighting are poor.

WMATA staff looked at the pedestrian projects, which were 62 in total, that were included in the priority list. These pedestrian projects were estimated to cost nearly $13 million and the monetized benefit of these projects (in increased ridership and reduced MetroAccess trips) was estimated at approximately $24 million. 

There is a list of the 200 items they identified in the Subcommittee report, but the authors note that these items aren't being approved (as by now some have been completed or overcome by events) but rather the the concept of prioritizing and implementing station access improvements is being endorsed

Including these items in Visualize 2045 is not meant to be a mandate to regional members to change their plans.

The TPB’s endorsement would be a call for future concerted action by TPB members. Staff believe that at a minimum, it would involve a commitment by all TPB member jurisdictions and agencies to collaborate and undertake further examination of the concepts represented by the endorsed initiatives. Such next steps could include a study of the constructability of projects associated with the initiatives. Following such study could be efforts to secure funding to implement them. Funding sources could include future federal TIGER grants, the TPB’s TLC and TAP program, and other funding opportunities in the region.

Visualize 2045 is scheduled for approval in October 2018.

Strange things afoot with the Arlington BAC

Two weeks ago, Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz sent a letter to the Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC) announcing that he was removing  members from the BAC, assigning a new member and making him chair. This seemingly prompted one long-term member, Randy Swart, to resign. Then the January meeting was cancelled one working day before it was to occur when the BAC was locked out of their usual, and official, location.

Swart didn't say the letter from Schwartz is what led him to resign, but his resignation came the next day and thanked the Manager for the letter, so it certainly seems that way.

Schwartz said that he intended to remove members who had "rarely or never attended,” which doesn't seem like an unreasonable position to take; but no one on the BAC was consulted or informed of this before hand. And the members to be removed weren't listed in the letter. This seems a little bit sloppy and treats the BAC (my opinion here) with a lack of respect - not so much as volunteer partners with the County, but as something more like contractors. 

Regardless, Schwartz isn't allowed to appoint the chair. The charter says that the members choose their own chair (this is true in DC too), though there are reports that the Manager intends to change the charter too. Again, the BAC has had no discussions with the Manager about this. 

Further complicating things is that the person Schwartz named in his letter to be appointed and made chair, Edgar Gil Rico who is well regarded by the BAC, reportedly declined the appointment. 

Almost all of this, the dismissal of half the BAC, change in chair, change in charter, cancellation of the January meeting has been done without communication before hand, without explanation after ward and without answering any of the BAC''s questions. It's all a bit odd and discouraging. 

The shocker is that I've always thought the Arlington BAC was the best run one in the area - and I run the DC one! So I'm not at all sure what is going on. The goal of getting active members who represent a diverse set of people is certainly a noble one, but I feel like the execution here is lacking. 

Hopefully this will all get squared away in short order. 

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Arlington BAC leaders Megan Jones and Gillian Burgess

The Long Bridge Project bicycle element lacks ambition

So Last month, DDOT and the FRA presented the proposed alternatives for the replacement to the Long Bridge, which is the railroad bridge across the Potomac just downstream from the 14th Street Bridges. The 2013 Long Bridge study created several alternatives, many of which included a bike/ped path, but last spring they decided that such a facility was "out of scope" and that the bridge would focus on railroad needs with any bike facility to come afterwards. This remains a foolish decision. And you can comment on it by sending an email to until January 16, 2018.

At last month's presentation, they stated that the feasibility of a bike-pedestrian crossing will continue to be evaluated, but that they were not screened as part of the Level 2 Screening. They add that a bike/ped crossing must 

– Provide 25 feet clearance between bridges over the river
– Avoid DoD Facility
– Connect to the existing bike-pedestrian network
– Have less than 5% slope on the ramps from the crossing to the existing trails

Which they note is potentially feasible, but the three options they show are drawn to go from shore to shore and nothing more. 

Screenshot 2018-01-08 at 1.01.20 AM

The Long Bridge is over 100 years old, so it's important that we make the right choices now, but this current set of options are all lacking in ambition. In fact this is the bare minimum (I guess they could end it just feet away from the shore and you could bunny-hop that last bit, but that won't appeal to some cyclists). 

I've said it before, but the ideal design goes from Long Bridge Park in Arlington to Hancock Park in DC, which I admit has a lot of barriers to it, but would be worth it. 

These alternatives would all connect the Mt Vernon Trail to Ohio Drive, which is good, even though it's not much of an improvement over the current sidepath on the George Mason Bridge. But for some users it would be the preferred choice.

But, below are some other connections that would make it even better.

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Long Bridge Park

Arlington already plans to build a connection from Long Bridge Park to the Mt. Vernon Trail. Since this area is included even in the new, smaller project area (below), it would make sense to this all together at once. Then we can avoid a bridge crossing that ends at trail level and a Park connection that ends at trail level somewhere else. What I think we'd want is a crossing that stays at rail level all the way, with one bridge down to the trail.

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The other Ohio Drive, SW

 After getting to East Potomac Park and crossing the island the railroad again goes over Ohio Drive. A small ramp could easily be added that would drop it down to street level. A path to here wouldn't add much (but slightly more grade separation) but a ramp from a trail going across the channel wouldn't cost much.

The Anacostia Riverwalk Trail

This seems like a no-brainer, but by continuing a path - at rail level - across the Washington Channel and then connecting it to the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail at Maine Avenue would have a lot of utility. I suspect that most cyclists and pedestrians who cross the Mason and go south on Maine would prefer it. And it could naturally connect - at least for pedestrians to the existing adaptively reused bridge over Maine Avenue which, if memory serves me correctly, was named the Rosa Parks Bridge when it opened in 2008


This is where it starts to get tricky, but continuing the path across Maine Avenue. There isn't room between the railroad bride and the Rosa Parks Bridge (just go with it), and I think cycling is not allowed on that bridge, so that rule would need to change. But currently, that bridge only connects to the Portals I building. A bridge from the north side of the east end of that bridge would need to be built over the existing track and then come down to rail level on space on the north side of the tracks. Currently construction (on Portals V, I think) is going on there, so I'm not sure there is space on the north side and if there is, I doubt it is just "extra" space. So, this may be where the idea dies, but if there is room, the trail could then connect to the Portals V project as well. In the image below it would have to go to the right of the tracks somewhere.


L'Enfant Plaza

If the path could make it through that part, then it gets interesting. There appears to be an unused rail line from just east of L'Enfant Plaza to the Portals. I think it used to be used to deliver coal to the building that used to be down there. Maybe the railroads use it as sidling. But if not - trail. You can see it on the left in the image below. The tracks are clearly more rusted than those to the right. Anyway, the idea of turning this into a trail is included in the DC Rail Plan, though it would likely require some expensive separation and bring a lot of opposition from CSX/VR/Amtrak. If so it could connect to the parking lot at 1000 Independence Ave SW, which is - behind a security barrier. Sigh. 


Hancock Park

Here it gets harder again. There's a crossover from the unused line to the mainline just east of L'Enfant plaza, and VRE uses the part east of that to access their L'Enfant station. So the only way to continue the trail would be to do so on the extra ROW north of the tracks. Which CSX would probably not be too keen on. 


But, that would get you to the very sad Hancock Park on C Street between 7th and 9th, SW where there's a Capital Bikeshare station. The park itself looks a little abandoned an unused, except for the area where CSX is obviously driving vehicles across to access the ROW at the spot above where I leaned out over a plastic fence to get this photo. 

Getting to Hancock Park might be too difficult and/or too late (but DDOT should still study it to make sure) but not building a path from Long Bridge Park to the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail is almost malpractice. If you think so to, again I'll mention that comments can be provided to until January 16, 2018.

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