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Sherwood Forest section of Richmond's Virginia Capitol Trail is now open

There was a ribbon cutting earlier this month on a 13 mile long section of Richmond's Virginia Capitol Trail, with Virginia's First Lady giving the keynote speech. The whole trail will be completed within a year. 

In related news, East Coast Greenway volunteers and staff rolled through the District and surrounding areas this year as part of the "Week a Year" tour by which they attempt the ride the whole East Coast Greenway in pieces every year. This year, they rode from Philadelphia to Fredericksburg, VA.  They stopped in Perryville, MD as part of their campaign to get a pedestrian and bicyclist crossing over the Susquehanna River.

Amtrak is in the process of replacing the 108-year-old railroad bridge. With construction likely 10 years away, Maryland received a $22 million grant to study how to best to proceed with the project. At an open house in August, Amtrak project designer Craig Rolwood said the current thought is to raise the height of the bridge 8 feet, removing the need for a drawbridge in the shipping channel. Replacement was the prominent proposal along with four lanes of track, replacing the current two-rail system.

And then in Annapolis and later met with several leaders in Alexandria.

Sharing the Road on Diane Rehm Show today

Your local NPR station

DDOT installs new cycletrack on 6th Street NE

DC's latest cycletrack is on 6th Street NE, between Florida and Brentwood Parkway next to Union Market.

  6thNEcycletrack

Is the L Street underpass upgrade a downgrade for cyclists?

In 2008 DDOT completed work on stairs from the New York Avenue Metro Station section of the Metropolitan Branch Trail to L Street NE, a trail in the L Street underpass beneath the railroad tracks and a one block portion of the trail along 2nd Street NE. The section of trail beneath the underpass was intended to be the city's first cycletrack (albeit a short one) with one section, closer to the road, for cyclists and a sidewalk closer to the wall. They even used different colors of concrete to differentiate which area was to be which.

Of course things didn't work out that way and the trail has remained unchanged here since 2008. 

The NoMa BID is holding a contest to improve the underpasses in the area, which are currently dark and a little foreboding, and most of the designs for the L Street Underpass move away from this design. Several of the proposals add poles or hanging art that would get in the way of cyclists or divert trail users and seem to abandon the idea that the trail even utilizes the sidewal  (although the one from Narduli doesn't).

While it's a good goal to see about improving these underpasses from an aesthetic standpoint, some of these improvements seem to come at the expense of the trail/transportation design rather than embracing them. DDOT should step in and make sure that the trail design elements they added in 2008 are not only protected, but enhanced. Perhaps it's time to more definitely partition the underpass for cyclists and pedestrians. 

CaBi operations company Alta now owned by Bikeshare Holdings (nee REQX)

From Streetsblog

It’s official: Alta Bicycle Share, the company that runs Citi Bike, has a new owner, an infusion of cash, and a fresh face at the top — longtime transit executive Jay Walder. 

What about the other Alta bike-share cities? “Look, it’s the first day for me. We don’t have all the answers,” Walder said. “Arrangements in each city are a little bit different.” Walder said he will be traveling to each of the cities where Alta does business to work out a plan for each system with local transportation officials.

For a more local take, here's Aaron Weiner of City Paper

But for Capital Bikeshare, the deal can probably only be good news. Bikeshare's expansion ground to a halt this year after Alta's main equipment supplier filed for bankruptcy, leaving D.C. without a way to procure new bikes and docks.

David Catania on Bicycles

From the GGW interview/live chat

There are many core elements of moveDC that I embrace, including 200 miles of bike lanes. When I go back to the issues of education and enforcement, I think we've done a really terrible job of educating the public on what bikes contribute to our community. Obviously, there are huge environmental benefits from cycling. It also helps dramatically reduce demand for existing roadways—we're up to 14,000 cyclists.

The third area which is rarely talked about is how cycling contributes to the economic development of our city. Many people bike out of economic necessity. But for others—the cost of operating an average medium size sedan in our country is between $8,000 and 9,000 per year. If we can convince more of our residents to forgo that investment and instead use bicycles, they'll spend those thousands of dollars here locally in housing, retail and supporting our local economy. This may be overly simplistic but if you look at 14k cyclists forgoing that 8k a year, there's over $100 million in economic opportunity for our city when we're not buying cars and fighting wars overseas but instead investing in our communities. It's a very powerful economic development tool and we've never communicated that importance to the population.

Long story short, count me in. There are very important tools for our city. The better opportunity is to educate our city as to where they're located.

We can get really into the weeds about how some of our streets are better for bike lanes than others. Our one-way streets that are 30-feet wide provide great opportunities for one lane of traffic, one lane of bikes, and one for parked cars.

I prefer to look at things where we can have win-win instead of zero sum. The bike plan isn't taking anything away from drivers but is in fact is a traffic calming device.

GHSA's sensational report

Taking an incredibly liberal definition of the meaning of "news", much of the main street media was reporting on a report released by the Governors Highway Safety Association report that included the fact that cyclist deaths are up 16% over the last two years. This, of course, has been known since the NHTSA reported the 2012 fatalities nearly a year ago (some of the data has been updated since then causing a change of 4 fatalities).

There are a few facts that are being widely reported, and a lot of the context is being left out.

The number of bicyclists killed in motor vehicle crashes between 2010 and 2012 was up 16 percent 

That's true. But 2010 had the fewest number of bike fatalities on record. So the first thing to note is that there is some reversion to the mean. 2011 was basically on the trendline, and while 2012 is above it, so were the years 2004-2008. 

Bikefatalities

This two year increase is similar to ones seen from 2003-2005, 1992-93 or 1984-86. When you have an outlier, like 2010 was, it's not unusual to see a short term rise. Unscrupulous people can use that to hide the longer trend as did global warming denialists who liked to claim for many years that, because 1998 was such a warm year, "there has been no recorded global warming for more than a decade," but then 2010 came along and ruined that.  Similarly in each of the earlier cases where deaths went up, the number of deaths eventually reverted to the overall trend down. That doesn't mean this will happen again, with more people biking, it's possible we will continue to get more crashes and more deaths, but it isn't yet reason to panic. 

Three years isn't much of a trend. 

Furthermore, over the same period, injuries were down from an estimated 52,000 to 49,000, a fact which should conteract some of the worry. 

I'd be willing to bet even money with anyone that the number of bike fatalities in the US will be lower in 2013 than they were in 2012. 

Lack of helmet use is a major contributing factor in fatalities. 

This paper is very pro-helmet.

The lack of universal helmet use laws for bicyclists is a serious impediment to reducing deaths and injuries, resulting from both collisions with motor vehicles and in falls from bicycles not involving motor vehicles.

But some of the sources it cites are dubious. For example, Haworth isn't a study, but a report that looks at many other studies including several [Thompson, Rivera, etc...] that have been discredited

In the paper, Dr. Williams notes that 65% of cyclists were reported to not be wearing a helmet (with another 18% unknown) and that 46% of cyclists reported that they never wore a helmet. Certainly the other 54% only sometimes wear a helmet, which means that the rate of actual helmet wearing isn't too far from 65%. The 65% comes from FARS data, which while significantly better than before 2010, still has some flaws (The form gives those filling it out a choice between several safety features like helmets, lights, etc...And though it instructs them to choose "all that apply" in reality they only choose one.) In addition those that are killed are biased towards those who take bigger risks. So while there is likely a correlation between not wearing a helmet and dying in a bike crash, some of it probably comes from taking higher risks and not wearing a helmet. 

Which is not to say that helmets don't save lives or reduce injuries. They likely do. But I suspect the lack of universal helmet use is a minor contributing factor to bike fatalities. [I'm working on a post about helmet use coming from my review of FARS data and I don't want to put in any spoilers here, but I have more to say on this]. And it is another jump from saying that helmets save lives to saying that universal helmet use laws save lives, for which the evidence gets even more contentious. 

Despite the association of biking with healthy lifestyles and environmental benefits, a
surprisingly large number of fatally injured bicyclists have blood alcohol concentrations of
0.08% or higher.

It's higher than it should be, but not surprising unless you think that all cycling is for recreation. It's 28%*, which is lower than the percentage of driver fatalities (31%) and pedestrian fatalities (36%). I'm not sure why anyone would expect cyclists to be significantly better behaved. If anything, the fact that many repeat DWI offenders lose their licenses would cause me to expect cyclists to have more alcohol related fatalities. My analysis of DC area bike crashes shows that cyclists killed in traffic crashes are slightly more likely to be killed by a driver who was under the influence than to be under the influence themselves.

Drunk biking is a bad idea, and we should do more to educate cyclists about it, so this study is good in that regard. But there's nothing unique about their bad behavior. 

The media has done a less than stellar job of reporting this, focusing on the more sensational details mentioned above - none of which is "news" but rather regurgitated stats from NHTSA and IIHS. 

Martin Di Caro nails it on the fatality rate, which Dr. Williams sort of breezes over, as a critical fact in all of this. Di Caro quotes an advocate from the Alliance for Biking and Walking.

“As the rate of bicycling increases, the rate of fatalities actually decreases,” said Jeffrey Miller, the advocacy group’s director. “As more people are bicycling the overall number of crashes does not keep pace and actually decline in many cities.”

But then he misses it here.

Among the factors the GHSA blames for the increase in deaths (from 621 in 2010 to 722 in 2012) are alcohol and helmet use. 

Actually the paper never blames those for the increase, as helmet use and BAC levels in cyclists remain pretty constant over the time period. The only cause for the increase the paper brings up is increased exposure. 

And another misleading statement come from Kara Macek, a GHSA spokeswoman.

“We have to look at the numbers. We have to look at where the problem exists. And it exists in urban areas such as D.C.”

That's not what the report says. It says that urban areas have become a larger percentage (69% up from 50% in 1975) of total fatalities. But the total fatalities in urban areas have gone down in the time, even as the population has gone up (and so has cyclist exposure). 

NPR has a bad line too.

 And a lot of those bikers are male, drunk and not wearing a helmet.

No. A lot of them are male, and a lot of them are not wearing a helmet, but only ~30% are drunk. Fewer than that are all three. 

Anyway, the whole thing might result in a good conversation, and many of Dr. Williams recommendations like education, better enforcement, separated bike facilities, slowing down cars and getting fewer road users to get on the road after drinking (and yes, encouraging cyclists to wear helmets) are things cyclists can support, but there's nothing really new about it and a lot of the statistics are presented out of context. 

* Williams makes a reporting error here. He says that it's 28% for cyclists 16 and over, but the IIHS says that's for cyclists 20 and over. This is also how FARS reports the data, so it's likely that is what is meant. It's also an estimate done by imputation. "Imputations for missing BACs were provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation's multiple imputation model beginning in 1982." Actual data actually shows a lower rate. For all cyclists 16 and over, only 16.2% have a BAC of 0.08 or higher. For those who are tested, 27% are that high. But there are many where no test is given, it's not reported, it is positive but too low to be measured or blank. I'm not sure how that imputation model works.

Gearin' Up has a new location

Gearin' Up Bicycles, a used bike store, repair shop, and training center for D.C. youth, is moving to Eckington next month.

Previously headquartered outside at Bardo Brewpub, 1200 Bladensburg NE, the new space at 314 Randolph Place NE is an improvement in a few ways, the largest of which being that the shop is now indoors, rather than in a lot. It's also right off the Metropolitan Branch Trail, a fantastic location for anyone involved in bicycles.

Gearin' Up will go from being open four days a week to six. Tuesday nights will be Build Your Own Bike night for adults, and Lupo is envisioning the first Wednesday of every month as a free basic maintenance clinic open to the community.

Gearin' Up also sells donated used bikes, often after the bikes have been refurbished by its techs or techs in training. The funds from the bikes, priced between $100 and $300, go straight back into its youth programs.

Maryland Bicycle Friendly University Summit

There's a nice review of this at BikeMaryland

As planners, we are noticing an uptick in master plan RFPs (Requests for Proposals) to include bicycle planning so it was great to sit and chat with the people responsible for creating and administrating bicycle plans on their campuses. It should be noted that College Park is the only Maryland University which has achieved the Bike Friendly University designation.

Details on Tonya Reaves Murder come out

The orginal story is here:

There's more here:

By her mother’s account, 53-year-old Tonya Reaves rode her bike everywhere, no matter the time of day. Donna Hill said her daughter used to pedal home when she got off late from her former job at Pizza Hut, and she would frequently bike to her boyfriend’s house or even just for fun.

Although witness accounts in court papers have shifted and are contradictory, two people said that the young woman studying to be a surgical nurse or nursing-home worker ran over Reaves slowly after striking her, inflicting gruesome and fatal injuries.

And about the investigation.

The investigation proved complicated, as witnesses’ stories to police shifted in the days that followed, court papers show.

When police arrived at Eighth and S streets NW, they found Reaves’s bicycle in a crosswalk and two apparent witnesses, one of whom claimed to have been on foot while observing a sport-utility vehicle hit Reaves, according to a police affidavit. Both people would later admit to being in the vehicle that hit Reaves and claim that Thomas was driving, although one first pointed to another person as the driver, according to the affidavit.

Investigators tracked down four people who claimed to be in the car during the crash, and all four alleged that Thomas was the driver, according to the affidavit. One person told investigators that the group had just left the New Town bar on U Street and that Thomas had been drinking, according to the affidavit.

But that account was backed up by only one person, who claimed that Thomas was drinking vodka and lemonade and smoking marijuana, according to the affidavit. The two others in the car said that Thomas was neither drinking nor smoking, according to the affidavit.

When police searched the car, a Ford Focus, that they believe was involved in the crash, they found a nearly empty bottle of vodka, according to the affidavit. Police said Thomas did not have a driver’s license.

It's hard to follow, but as I read it the idea is that Thomas hit Reaves by accident. But then intentionally drove forward over her, and that's why it's murder. I'm so lacking in confidence on that that I should possibly end that statement with a question mark . 

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