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Other Maryland Trails news

From the newsletter mentioned in the previous post. 

DNR Trails Team is working with PG County Recreation & Parks staff to develop a trail through DNR land (Uhler Farm NRMA) to connect the Bowie Heritage Trail and the WB&A Trail, beginning at Bowie State University.

Spur Trail to Future Upper Chesapeake Rail Trail at Tuckahoe State Park –  DNR has begun work on the spur trail in Tuckahoe State Park that was originally part of the Easton-Clayton abandoned rail line.  The trail will also connect to the Adkins Arboretum.  The Department of General Services has agreed to allow the Tuckahoe bridge replacement work funded under the Maryland Department of Transportation’s Maryland Bikeways Grant to be handled as an amendment to the current trail project undertaken by DNR, which will significantly speed up the project.

Good news (and bad news) about the Western Maryland Rail Trail

I was in Berkely Springs, WV over the weekend and we stopped in Hancock, MD - along the Western Maryland Rail Trail - for lunch. I haven't been in probably 7-8 years so it was interesting to see how much the town has developed along it. There were new lights and plantings, the restaurant we ate at was not there last time and was designed to open up to the trail and the street. There was at least one B&B along the trail. And there were signs calling it a "trail town." [The C&O Canal path also passes through town].

Anyway it got me interested in what was going on with the extension to Paw Paw, WV. So I'll give you the bad news first. It's not happening. As the railroad right-of-way gets farther west it starts crossing back and forth across the Potomac from Maryland to West Virginia and back. It also starts passing through tunnels, three of which; Indigo, Stickpile (or Stick Pile) and Kessler, are on NPS property Due to the presence of bats in these tunnels, it was decided several years ago to not use these tunnels for the trail starting with the Indigo.

In addition to the biological hazards posed by bat droppings, the past five years have seen numerous bat colonies in the northeastern U.S. become infected with White-nose Syndrome, a serious fungal infection. In an effort to halt its spread, the National Park Service has severely restricted access to the tunnel.

Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) biologists have confirmed that bat carcasses collected from a cave near Cumberland on March 5, 2010 were infected with White Nose Syndrome (WNS). In partnership with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, DNR biologists are following strict protocols established by the Northeastern WNS Working Group to close Maryland cave access to all human activity except for approved research.

Maryland worked out a bypass for the Indigo that will use the C&O Canal to get to Little Orleans, but just west of there, the trail passes into West Virginia for the first time, and Maryland has announced that

West Virginia is no longer a partner in the trail project.

Screenshot 2016-06-30 at 12.08.02 AM

So it won't be extended to Paw Paw.  In the Maryland Department of Natural Resources March-May 2016 Newsletter they announced that

DNR hired the design firm of A Morton Thomas and the design is complete.

The Cooperative Agreement between DNR and the National Park Service regarding Operation & Maintenance and Law Enforcement for the trail has been signed.

DNR is currently in the process of obtaining an Access Permit from Allegany County for the crossing of Little Orleans Road.

All of the required environmental permits have been obtained other than Erosion & Sediment, which the Maryland Department of Environment (MDE) can not approve until they have seen the final drawings.

If the project is ready to advertise in by April 2016, then the Maryland Department of General Services will take 90 days to hire a construction firm. A Notice to Proceed would be sent out in July 2016.  Given the extreme weather conditions in Western Maryland, the construction firm would be given one year to complete the project.

The contract will be awarded and the contractor will be on-site in July 2016 and the trail will open in July 2017.

I can't find any evidence that they advertised the project, so it may be that April was too ambitious, but it seems like they are very close to starting work on the next section. Which is good news.

Maybe someday West Virginia will get back involved and/or Maryland will look to build on more of the right-of-way west of Paw Paw to Cumberland.

If you really must bike through a tunnel of the WM Railroad, there is a small section of the right-of-way that has been turned into the Carpandale Rail Trail in Carpandale, WV. This 0.8 mile long trail crosses over the North Branch of the Potomac River between Carpendale in West Virginia and Cumberland in Maryland and through the 1,500-foot-long Knobley tunnel. 

Council Passes the Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Act of 2015

Yesterday, in addition to the kerfuffle over the contributory negligence fix bill, the council quietly passed the Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Act of 2015 in a unanimous vote.  I expect Mayor Bowser to sign it. 

this bill makes changes to District law regarding motor vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians. It requires the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) to publish certain statistical and geographical data on its website, establishes a safety program called the Bicycle and Pedestrian Priority Area Program, orders DDOT to adopt an inclusive policy for accommodating all users of the District's roadways, and amends existing public safety laws by creating new motor vehicle, pedestrian, and bicycle regulations.

Here is what the bill originally contained, and what it was later modified to contain. There's a lot of good stuff in this bill (even if that doesn't include the Idaho Stop or increased fines for repeat offenders). The mandatory use of interlock for everyone convicted of drunk driving and the revocation of licenses from repeat drunk drivers being among the most noteworthy.

Is the New York Avenue Trail in trouble? (short answer: yeah, it is)

For a few years now, DDOT has been looking at building a rail-trail parallel to New York Avenue from the Union Market area to West Virginia Avenue (and possibly on to the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail). In fact, earlier this year they released a rails-to-trails produced feasibility study of such a trail.

But recently it was announced that VRE had its eye on the same space, including the rail tunnel beneath New York Ave. 

image from

The concept map of it shows VRE using the old rail right of way to navigate to the tunnel, pass under NY Ave through it and then to the new "Broccoli" rail yard on the north side of New York Avenue.

Screenshot 2016-06-28 at 11.48.42 PM

But that is also space planned for use for the trail.

Screenshot 2016-06-28 at 11.54.15 PM

And it doesn't get much better on the north side of NY Avenue. Drawings show the tracks and adjacent access road extending all the way over to the existing sidewalk, with just a retaining wall separating them. It even needs the footprint the Howard Johnson's Motel sits on. 

Screenshot 2016-06-28 at 11.58.29 PM

So if you support the trail, it's more than reasonable to be worried. As presently configured, there's no way to fit both the trail and trains through the tunnel and as shown in the image above there isn't room for both the rail yard and the trail north of New York Avenue. This design is incompatible with the trail.'s possible the tunnel could be widened and space made for the trail, either by sharing the service road or decking over the rail yard. For a little hope, a task identified in the design RFP is:

the Consultant shall examine the engineering feasibility of decking over the propose storage facility for the purposes of joint development. Possibilities to be examined shall be determined in consultation with the District of Columbia government. The work product for this task shall consist of a draft and final Ancillary Development Report that describes potential solutions, provides additional descriptive details for potential uses for air-rights development, potential NEPA implications, and rough-order-of magnitude cost estimates for the feasible solutions.

All things considered, I'm certainly less confident about the trail being built now than I was before. And if you tell me the rail yard is a done deal, then I'm going to be significantly less confident. It's possible the tunnel could be widened and a deck built for the trail or some other accommodation, but I'm pessimistic about it happening. I'd say the chance the trail is built now is at about 20%, and the chance that the rail yard and trail are built is about 2%. But maybe I'm just grumpy today.

How is AAA's John Townsend Lying today?

From the City Paper

In an email, John Townsend, an AAA Mid-Atlantic manager, said many had concerns since "there was never a public hearing on the measure, short-circulating the democratic process."

That's odd, because when you read the Committee Report on this bill it reads

Screenshot 2016-06-29 at 12.23.49 AM

That bill is the predecessor to the one that is being considered now, and in most ways is the same. No one from AA, including John Townsend, bothered to show up to that hearing. I guess it wasn't that important to him. 


Contributory Negligence fix bill is reportedly in big trouble

This post has been updated to reflect what McDuffie is proposing.

With a vote scheduled for today, the Motor Vehicle Collision Recovery Act of 2016 (aka: the bill that will end the use of contributory negligence to deny coverage to a vulnerable road user (VRU) who was 50% or less responsible for her injuries) which seemed to be sailing along is now in trouble according to Martin Di Caro. 

In a series of tweets yesterday, Di Caro reported that Councilmember McDuffie "would rather not see [the] bike safety bill taken up without his amendment tomorrow. Could he move to table?" and that he would propose an amendment during the Council's legislative session, which Mary Cheh would oppose. 

The amendment, Di Caro reported today, would change the standard from the one Mary Cheh proposed in 2015 to a hybrid between that and what was proposed when Tommy Wells tried to fix this in 2014 (the bill Cheh helped kill). Here's that explained in one chart.


The red line is what is currently in place. The blue line is what Cheh's law would propose and the green line is what was proposed in 2014. McDuffie is proposing the purple line such that when the vulnerable road user (VRU) is less than 50% at fault they get a payment in proportion to the driver's fault, but when they're more than 50% at fault they get nothing. This is what the committee report calls the Modified Comparative <50%. [Update: The committee report does recommend that DC law institute a modified comparative negligence standard in the District, even though it passed the bill as written by Cheh. That report comes from McDuffie and I have no idea who writes them.]

This is a definite downgrade and Mary Cheh is right to fight the amendment. It means that when drivers are less than fully at fault but primarily at fault, they get to use comparative negligence, but when they're somewhat at fault but not primarily at fault they pay nothing. 51% at fault - only pay 51% of the damages. 49% at fault, pay nothing. It's definitely to the advantage of the drivers (if you doubt that ask yourself if they would be willing to reverse it). 

It's true that the standard the current bill is proposing would be novel and that no one in the country uses it (while 34 states use the Modified Comparative <50% standard), but that doesn't mean it isn't less fair. If the proposal is to go to pure comparative - that would be acceptable, but despite being better than the status quo, modified comparative still puts an undue burden on vulnerable road users.

Of course one could argue that even pure comparative (PC) isn't quite as good. If every VRU who is injured sued under both formats (PC and Cheh's) than - on average - you'd expect the same amount of money to flow from drivers/insurance companies to  (assuming that fault is evenly distributed) because the area under the curves is the same. It would just that more would go to VRUs who are a little bit at fault and none to VRUs who are a lot at fault. But not every VRU would sue under PC. VRUs who are primarily at fault wouldn't sue to get 5-10% compensation, since they'd be at higher risk of getting nothing. So the curve for comparative payouts would taper out at the lower numbers. This would mean that under PC, less money would flow from at-fault drivers to injured VRUs than under Cheh's bill. Driver's who were primarily at fault would only pay for some of the damage, and drivers who are little at fault would pay nothing - much as is the case in modified comparative. 

WABA had a rally this morning outside of the Wilson Building from 8:30 to 9:15 am.If you couldn't make it, write your CM 

Bicycle house calls


Brick-and-mortar retailer Bike Doctor has operated a franchise business for 24 years. Now the Maryland retailer is looking to take the franchise model to the road with mobile bike repair, called Bike Doctor Mobile.

Bike Doctor hasn't sold any franchise vans yet, but Ruck said he's talking to several interested parties and getting them set up.

Bike Doctor has a web portal through which customers can book service appointments, and Ruck said it's a turnkey operation. "Once we meet the franchisee and do the whole process, we turn them over trained and ready to operate on their own with a vehicle built out and inventory in place," he said.

From the Archives: The Palisades Citizens Association 1979 Recreation Master Plan

From the May24th-June6th, 1979 Northwest Current

Screenshot 2016-06-25 at 9.17.45 AM

If you haven't already, it's time to cancel your AAA membership

AAA is fighting the Motor Vehicle Collision Recovery Act that will end contributory negligence for cyclists and pedestrians on the grounds that it will raise insurance rates (which is what one would expect when drivers are required to reimburse cyclists and pedestrians for crashes in which the driver was primarily responsible).

AAA would like to keep insurance rates low by making non-motorized victims of motor vehicle crashes pay for their own surgeries and physical therapy. Why should drivers have to pay for the hips they crush through distracted driving, they figuratively ask?  

They claim that insurance rates could go up by 24.4% - according to a study done by the Insurance Industry. [Here's my bet that it won't go up by anything near that amount]. But if that's true, then drivers are walking away from a lot of shattered tibias and traumatic brain injuries, that they have primarily caused, without the inconvenience of paying for them. It is a sweet set-up, and AAA, which is just looking out for drivers, doesn't want them to have to stop putting Moms in the hospital. 

But they're all about safety.

Here's Jon Townsend's email - - just in case.

Cyclist killed in hit and run in SE

This morning around 1am, an adult male cyclist riding along Minnesota Ave SE was struck by a car after which the driver left the scene. Later, the cyclist died. The police haven't released much information, though they promised they would later today.

Few details were immediately available. Aquita Brown, a D.C. police spokeswoman, said the victim had not been identified as of 9:30 a.m.

The incident happened around 1 a.m. in the 2700 block of Minnesota Avenue SE.

The cyclist was in critical condition for much of the day, which makes the running part of the hit and run all the more infuriating. A few more seconds or minutes - might have made all the difference (I don't know that for a fact, I'm just speculating). 

Here's an updated link to my ever more depressing map.

Statistically speaking, few hit and run drivers are caught unless there is an eyewitness, but DC does have a lot of cameras around (though not an MPD CCTV one) so perhaps something can be found.

Not the most recent bicycle fatality in DC, but the one before that was also a hit-and-run, and that driver was caught, convicted and sentenced to 17 months in jail.


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