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Historic DC Bike Lane

This is one of the original bike lanes installed in 1980. It's on 6th SE and it's the only left that only has the diamond Marking on it. But the one on 4th has the diamond marking along with the now standard cyclists profile symbol.

Somewhat related, I always thought the cyclist in the bike lane marking should have a name. Like Karl (for poor, doomed Karl Von Drais).

Historic DC Bike Lane

Facts about crashes in DC

From today's post

Bicycle crashes rose too. While the pedestrian crashes were split almost equally by gender and were distributed across the city, bicyclists involved in accidents were disproportionately male — roughly 77 percent, a figure that was consistent across all three years of the study. And of the 642 crashes involving bikes in 2012, only one happened east of the Anacostia.

The claim that "Most crashes happen through no fault of the driver" is unfortunately stated. There is no ticket issued in most cases, but in almost every case someone* is at fault; and since most crashes involve two drivers there is likely some driver at fault in almost every crash.

The most fatal were crashes involving pedestrians. In the large subset of crashes examined in this table, cars hit people 805 times, causing injuries to 650 victims. Six people died.

*I've heard of crashes that accured because one driver had a heart attack or because a large tree branch fell onto the hood of a car. I'd say no one is at fault in those cases. But they're rare. 

Work underway on the Minnehaha Creek trolley bridge

NPS and MCDOT are going to reroute 800 feet of the MacArthur Avenue Trail onto the Cabin John Trolley right of way near Glen Echo Park, part of which will go over an old trolley bridge over Minnehaha Creek. Work on that project is underway and here are some photos, via Brett of what that looks like.  All photos below the fold.

Continue reading "Work underway on the Minnehaha Creek trolley bridge" »

NoMa BID installs bike pump and repair stand

NoMabikestand

Photo by John

This was installed last week at M Street near the Metro station. 

I've heard varying reports that other pumps, including the one at College Park Metro and another one in NoMa, have fallen apart and so it seems vandalizism and use are going to be an issue. Maintenance will be key to keeping the assets from becoming useless. 

MPD Chief Cathy Lanier sees bike lanes as double-edged sword

At the beginning of the month (aka pre-Milloy), Cathy Lanier was a guest on Ask the Chief and she spent quite a bit of time discussing bikes after a caller, who claimed he'd twice been struck by cyclists, asked what could be done about enforcement.

You can listen to her discussion of this here. The discussion of cycling enforcement starts at 9:00. Below is a poor transcription.

Caller: Chief I'm concerned about being a pedestrian in the city with bicycles all over the roads and not paying attention to the stop lights. I've been hit twice by bicyclists. What can the police do to enforce the laws on bicyclists?

Lanier: yeah, we really had to step up our enforcement with bicyclists. It is not only dangerous for pedestrians and for motorists, I mean I've actually had a bicycle hit my car. So, and the familiarity with the bike lanes because I've seen several very close calls with bicyclists in bike lanes not following the traffic signals that can cause collisions. So we have stepped up our enforcement. We're trying to work with the Washington Area Bicyclists Association to help raise awareness but when you have so many tourists and visitors that are non-residents that are coming here for short visits and renting bikes and hitting the streets our enforcement efforts don't have the same impact as they would in a neighborhood that's not a tourist area.

Host: Are bikes allowed on sidewalks?

Lanier: They're not allowed on sidewalks in the Central Business District...I mean there's literally bike lanes all over the city and bikes are allowed on any roadway and they're not restricted to just the curb.

Host: can they be ticketed on sidewalks?

Lanier: They can be yes.

Host: Pedestrians wish they would be. (laughing)

Lanier: It is a big challenge. It's a big challenge for us. And then the other part of that is, especially during rush hour time when we try and stop and do enforcement - unlike the automated enforcement - when we stop to do enforcement we block up traffic and then Bob [name?] calls me. (laughing)

Host: You do not want that call from Bob (laughing)

Lanier: I don't want that call from Bob (laughing)

Host: The proliferation of bike lanes, has that helped the issue in terms of the number of problems and collisions and that sort of thing, has it reduced it?

Lanier: It's helped, but I think it's kind of a double-edged sword. With some of the bike lanes, so if you think about you're heading as a motorist in the traffic lane and there's a bike lane to your right side and you want to make a right turn at a green light, a bicyclist travelling at a good speed can come up and pass through that intersection before you even see them so while your making that right turn...it creates some hazards, so it really is incumbent on everybody to be extremely aware now where now where those bike lanes are. But I think overall it has helped to y'know help to keep bicyclists and the awareness of bicyclists up for everybody.

Host: Let me just throw in there, and I know you know as a rider as well, bicyclists take an awful lot of abuse on the roads

Lanier: They do.

I have a few comments:

1. Bicyclists - even "bad" ones - do not make it dangerous for motorists, and having a bicyclist hit your car is not proof that it does. 

2. A better answer to the question about the legality of bikes on sidewalks is that "Yes, bikes are allowed on the sidewalk in most of the city. But they are not allowed on sidewalks in the CBD."

3. If you're making a right turn on a street with a bike lane and a cyclist can pass you on the right, in the bike lane, you're doing it wrong (you should merge into the bike lane first) and she should know that. And she should have said that. 

Metropolitan Branch Trail L Street Ramp would be more than a trail

To follow up on last week's posts on the Metropolitan Branch Trail's L Street ramp, below are some images from the conceptual rendering of the ramp for which there are two different schemes. These are not final engineering designs or even proposals, just ideas. I'm not sure why the "trail easement" is shown to be just the trail, as I understand the whole plot to be a trail easement, but perhaps there is some other distinction at play. It's all WMATA owned easement.

MBTLR Longitudinal
 Longitundinal section for Scheme 1

You can see that while the trail is only on the western side of the easement, there are terraced green areas, a walking path and a grand staircase on the east.

MBTLR Scheme2
 Aerial view of Scheme 2

The main difference between the schemes is the space between the trail and the parking lots. In 1, it's a retaining wall, leaving more room for green space on the east, and in 2 it's a grade modified green slope. 

Both designs, I'll note allow for a connection to a future extension of Pierce Street NE (visible in the top left of the 2nd image) and a gate for use by WMATA to access the tracks. They could include an acoustic barrier like along the Wilson Bridge to make it a quiter setting as well. 

MBTLR approachL

View of Scheme 1 from L Street

MBTLR approachL2

View of Scheme 2 from L street

MBTLR viewsouth

View of Scheme 1 toward L Street

There is some "park" space here in the form of benches and trees, but I'm not sure where a playable art installation would fit if it were to be included here. 

MBTLR viewsouth2

View of Scheme 2 toward L

And finally, here's some views of the trail landing at the top of the ramp.

MBTLR landing

How can we be clueless to how much you hate us if you won't shut up about it?

After Courtland Milloy's piece about how cyclists are worse than biker gangs and like terrorists, the Post called for a ceasfire in the war between cyclists and drivers. At the time I thought it odd, since there was only one side shooting. When was the last time you saw a MSM article by a cyclist that called drivers terrorists or noted that drivers were lucky that people didn't try to kill them? It never happens. But I can think of at least a half-dozen such articles written about cyclists that take a bit of an over-the-top attitude. Here's the latest from the Washignton Blade.

While D.C. has a relatively robust bike riding and sharing rate among U.S. cities, it’s possible to count on fingers and toes the number you’re likely to see pedaling to work and home each day on a commute by foot, bus, subway, taxi or car. A near-negligible percentage of residents use a bike as a commuting or transit method.

In DC it's well over 4% and in some neighborhoods it's closer to 10%. I'll let others decide it that's negligible, but it is way more than you can count on your fingers and toes. 

I suspect they may be clueless how irksome many perceive the tiresome whining that biker desires are not being met, there aren’t enough dedicated bike lanes, they’re inadequately lauded as environmental angels, they shouldn’t be subject to common courtesies or city rules.

We do want more dedicated bike lanes. But the other two claims are total strawman. No one asks to be lauded as angels. 

It’s time for bikers to make the transition from roadway rebel to responsibly sharing the same small streets.

Already done. You'll note how few people we kill every year. 

It won’t be easy, alongside all the cars, taxis, buses, someday-streetcars, pedestrians, business delivery trucks and other vehicles crammed on the city’s narrow thoroughfares. It is dangerous out there.

Y'know what would help with that? Dedicated bike lanes.*

Let’s also try to remember that this is not one of D.C.’s most pressing problems.

We aren't the ones who keep bringing it up. 

hyper-sensitive two-wheel drama reads ridiculous.

How does hyper-sensitive four-wheel drama, like Milloy's, read?

Let’s keep that in mind while we finally start acting adult about accommodating mutual access and shared usage. 

You mean like drivers? Like this one? 

*And a little lauding for our environmental belevolence wouldn't hurt either

NoMa Playable Art installation creates a real, if small, risk to the Met Branch Trail ramp (but also makes the neighborhood nicer in the short run)

When work started on the New York Avenue Metro station, property owners in the immediate area made contributions to that project. One of the contributions they made was of an easement for the Metrorail line and another for the Metropolitan Branch Trail (MBT). Most of the MBT easement is currently being used, except for the southernmost portion - the ramp to L Street. Instead a temporary path connects to L Street via a staircase with a bike trough. A neighborhood connection to M Street is being used as the temporary route for the trail, but that connection - with the 180 degree turn - does not meet AASHTO standards.

The easement for the L Street ramp is still there, owned by WMATA, but the ramp has not been built, some 10 years after the Metro station opened. DDOT has said in the past that they want to wait for the development of the lot at 1st and L, behind which the ramp will pass, to begin so that the work can be done contemporaneously. But, with the current owner showing no signs of starting development soon, DDOT began tomove away from that plan and instead wanted to build the ramp independently from any project on the lot. To that effect they created a conceptual design of the trail. That design includes a wide trail with terraced retaining walls, setback lights and trees and all the amenities that a finished trail would need. They've also been negotiating with the landowner to begin work, but issues involving core samples and contaminated soil have slowed those negotiations. So, for now, the ramp is not moving forward.

Meanwhile, people in NoMa need park space and the NoMa BID applied to partner with the DC Office of Planning to design a Playable Art installation to fit onto the currently unused portion of the easement between the current trail and the rail line. The unused portion is about 15' wide on the north end, 25' wide on the south end and about 400' long. There is no design or concept for what that installation will look like, or how much space it will use.

MBTNoMa

That's where things stand right now. DDOT wants to use the easement to build a ramp, but they only have a conceptual design and thus aren't sure how much of the easement they need or when they'll need it. NoMa wants to use some of the easement for a Playable Art installation but has no idea what that will look like or how much space it will take up. So, what that means for the trail all depends on one's perspective.

It's possible that DDOT will have a breakthrough in negotiations and be able to move forward on the ramp design before the art installation is finalized. NoMa BID does not think that is realistic and that a ramp could be 5 or 10 years away (or that it will never happen). Or it's possible that someone - OP, DDOT, NoMa BID or WMATA - will pull the plug on the art installation and it will never be built. WMATA may not want kids playing on an art installation a few feet away from their tracks, for example. 

But if the art is installed it could preclude the future ramp, even while it leaves the current trail untouched. Again, it's all about how one foresees future events.

The pessimistic view for trail supporters is that the art installation creates a constituency for preserving the unused east side of the easement and that DDOT gives in to this constituency by building a narrow trail between retaining walls for a Death Star trench feel or, worse, not build the ramp at all. 

An optimistic view would be that the trail design will leave enough space for the art installation and a trail with all the necessary width to provide for terraced retaining walls, set back lights, set back trees etc... Residents will get access to a playable art installation and cyclists will get the trail they were promised. Everybody wins.

A slightly less optimistic view would be that the art installation would temporarily fill some of the unused easement but, when ramp construction begins, it is moved to a permanent location. 

However, even with those optimistic possibilities in mind, it's naive to think that the installation doesn't add at least some risk to the L Street ramp. It doesn't kill the project for sure, but it does reduce the probability of it happening - or of being as good as it could be - by some amount greater than zero. There is probably no one who will fight to keep the "gravelly/weedy" strip east of the trail, but likely some(one?) who will fight to preserve their kid's play area. 

So that's the question, do we leave a gravelly/grassy strip between the trail and the tracks for years to maximize the chances of the best possible ramp being built; or do we maximize the use of that space sooner, while recognizing that it places the ramp in some measure of jeopardy?

If there were more guarantees that the ramp took absolute precedence over the art installation it would be less worrisome. But, unfortunately, DDOT has shown a willingness to shortchange bike facilities to accommodate local or political interests, and OP - who has the final authority on the art installation (though not the easement) - has stated that they will defer to DDOT on trail matters. So NoMa BID's assurances that they are bike friendly and that they support the ramp are nice, but not too relevant since DDOT and OP are the ones who will make the final decision, and who knows how the community will feel about these things when that time comes? Or how DDOT and OP will react to the community? 

Luckily for everyone, I see a pretty simple way out of this (no charge for my services) - move the art installation onto the lot west of the easement. 

NoMa BID has talked to the property owner and they support the art installation on the easement. The lot is currently a lightly used parking lot and it seems that some space could be found there to add the art installation on a temporary basis. So maybe the owner will support the art installation off the current easement.

There are a lot of advantages to this placement.

  • Moves it off the WMATA easement, which takes them out of the decision-making, while also moving the installation away from the tracks
  • Leaves the easement untouched for future trail construction and removes the risk that the trail could be impacted or precluded.
  • By re-purposing some of the parking lot, it could make for a more environmentally beneficial option.
  • Removes the design constraints of the narrow strip between a trail and a train (though a design not tailored to this strip could not be moved onto it after the ramp is built). 
  • Since it's more likely that the ramp is built before the building than the other way around, the art installation would be able to stay where it is longer before having to be moved. 

The property owner might get a tax advantage from donating the use of the necessary land - and they'd likely also need to be protected from litigation.

But if the installation is to go on the easement, that places the ramp at some risk. Assurances that the installation will not impact the ramp are hard to put absolute faith in since neither the final design of the trail nor the art installation are known. And while current attitudes may be that the ramp is absolutely something people in the neighborhood want, creating a Playable Art installation will likely create a constituency for the status quo. 

DDOT probably shouldn't sign off on another use for the easement until they're sure they won't need it for the MBT ramp. And there is no way that they can be right now. 

Corrected: Bicycle Assistance Programs funded by TPB

The National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB) approved funding this week for nine technical assistance projects that will promote access to transit, support better pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, and foster transit-oriented development throughout the region. Of these, 7 include bicycle relevant elements. Update: the list previously given was from 2013. I apologize. Full refund for everyone. The Central Avenue Connector Trail in PG County would make a nice complement to the Marvin Gaye Park Trail (nee Watts Branch). 

City of College Park – Complete and Green Streets Policy and Implementation Study ($30,000) The City of College Park requests assistance to draft an implementation study for complete and  green streets, with a prioritized list and cost estimates of improvements. The consultant will work with city staff to review existing citywide plans, conditions and recommendations, develop citywide strategies and priorities and prepare a map depicting the target areas for improvement. The plan will help College Park realize its goals in environmental sustainability, promote mixed-use, compact development along Route 1 and at the College Park Metro Station. The study will complement existing city projects with private partners on stormwater management and low impact development.

Montgomery County – Creating Placemaking Non-Auto Infrastructure in the Life Sciences Center ($60,000)
The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission requests assistance in planning the design and coordination of the Life Sciences Center Loop trail system. The trail will serve as a place making feature for the Life Sciences Center and link to the proposed Corridor Cities Transitway in Montgomery County. The final product will be a policy guide to help the County coordinate the participation of public and private partners, and a unique trail system and design. The trail is an identified project in the larger Great Seneca Science Center master plan, which requires development to make contributions towards non-auto driver mode share goals.

Prince George’s County – Central Avenue Connector Trail Implementation Study ($30,000)
The Maryland-National Capitol Park and Planning Commission requests assistance to complete an implementation study on an east-west trail in the Central Ave/Blue Line Corridor. The Route would begin just east of the D.C. boundary and Capitol Heights Metro Station, continuing along residential streets and existing and planned WMATA right of way before ending at the Largo Metro Station, with connections to the Addison Road and Morgan Boulevard stations. The study will help identify preferred and alternative alignments, short- and long-term projects, and opportunities for redevelopment and CIP projects.

Prince George’s County – Town of Upper Marlboro Bicycle and Pedestrian Study ($30,000)
The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission requests assistance to complete a transportation study addressing bicycle and pedestrian access and connectivity for residents and workers in the Town of Upper Marlboro, the seat of government for Prince George’s County. Although the town has a population of about 600 residents, 5,000-6,000 people commute to Upper Marlboro daily for work in government and related services. The final product will include the creation of a prioritized list of transportation improvements with cost estimates for the town, a review of best engineering practices for trails in flood prone areas, and next steps to seek funding and permitting for high priority projects.

Arlington County – Sycamore Street Metro Station Area Complete Streets Design ($80,000)
30% Design Project Arlington County requests design assistance to create a “complete streets” design addressing safety, accessibility, and multimodal connections along North Sycamore Street to the East Falls Church Metro Station, which will be the new transfer point for Orange and Silver Line trains. The project will focus on four intersections along North Sycamore. The redesigned street will have improved connections for cyclists and pedestrians, and provide a model for adapting suburban-style Metro stations to changes in the system.

Arlington County – Lee Highway Multimodal Needs Assessment ($30,000)
Arlington County seeks to create a transportation plan that identifies short-term improvements in the Lee Highway corridor between East Falls Church and Rosslyn. The County has identified Lee Highway as the last mixed-use corridor in Arlington County that has not undergone a comprehensive planning effort. The results of this project will allow the County to document existing conditions along the corridor and create an inventory of projects to be completed.

City of Fairfax – Old Lee Highway “Great Street Multimodal Planning ($60,000)
The City of Fairfax requests assistance to complete a planning process to turn the existing two-lane Old Lee Highway into a “Great Street.” Old Lee connects Old Town Fairfax with Fairfax Boulevard and the Vienna Metrorail station. The project will include a review of existing transportation studies of the Old Lee Corridor, gathering input from the public, creating a conceptual plan, and presenting the results to the City Council.

Another video of the Virginia Avenue Sidepath (and rail tunnel)

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