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Anacostia Trail expansion - Maryland side

Someone sent along these photos and I thought I'd share. This is the new section of the Anacostia Trail/Anacosita Riverwalk Trail from its current dead end north of New York Avenue in Maryland to the bridge over Lower Beaverdam Creek. This starts at the DC side and continues these photos. This project should be open by the end of 2016.

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South side of Lower Beaverdam Creek bridge


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Lower Beaverdam Creek Bridge, now with railings.

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Lower Beaverdam Creek Bridge from the north


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Boardwalk between the Amtrak Bridge and the New York Avenue Bridge

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Looking south from the boardwalk at the Amtrak Bridge

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Underneath the New York Avenue Bridge

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Looking south at the New York Avenue Bridge from the Boardwalk

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North end of the boardwalk


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In Maryland


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Bridge over stream (name?) north of New York Avenue


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Register Now for the Sixth Annual Metropolitan Branch Trail 5K Run/Walk

Save $10 by registering now for the 5th Annual Metropolitan Branch Trail 5K Walk/Run, to be held this Saturday, April 30th at 9:00 a.m. (on race day registration increases to $35). Race proceeds benefit the community with activities along the trail, like free yoga and fitness classes. We could also use a few more volunteers on race day.

WHERE: The start/finish is at the trail entrance at the Rhode Island Avenue Shopping Center (near the Metro Station and 4th Street, NE). Race course is along the off-road portion of the MBT.

PACKET PICK-UP: Friday, April 29, 1200 First Street NE (in the lobby), 5 - 7 p.m. and on race day at the start location, beginning at 7:30 a.m.

WHEN: Race start is 9:00 a.m. Race day registration starts at 7:30 a.m. Warm-ups provided by Chickaro Martin of Project Fitness.

Prizes and giveaways:
Platinum sponsor NoMa BID is providing race bags and the services of the Clean Sweep team.
Silver sponsors CPDC and Edgewood Commons are donating race bag goodies for participants.
Healthy snacks are being offered by Bronze Sponsor, Yes! Organic Market.
Sunscreen will be provided by Bozzuto/Monroe Street Market, also a Bronze Sponsor.
Raffle prizes available from Dance Place, Friends of Edgewood, Stuff't, Washington Area Bicyclist Association, and Back on My Feet.
Free caricature drawings by artist Rajan Sedalia--for early birds only (7:30 - 8:30 a.m.).
The race is powered by the DC Road Runners Club and organized by local volunteers.

Free registration for runners under 18. Register now at www.gometbranch.com to run, volunteer, or sponsor the event. "Like" us on Facebook for updates and announcements, www.facebook.com/mbt5k

Thanks and see you on April 30th!

There will be closures

The National Park Service recently released the Environmental Assessment (EA) for the Arlington Memorial Bridge Rehabilitation Project. The good news is that all of the alternatives, including the preferred alternative, will keep the bridge open for another 75 to 100 years (so go ahead and commit to that bike ride in 2091). The bad news is that the bridge will be closed a lot during the 2-3 year repair project and there won't be much done beyond fixing the structural problems.

Memorial Bridge is an important connection for cyclists travelling between Virginia and DC.  

A high volume of pedestrians and bicyclists use the Arlington Memorial Bridge and connecting pathways. Pedestrian and bicycle counts obtained in October and November 2012 indicate that approximately 2,000 bicyclists and pedestrians used the sidewalks on the Arlington Memorial Bridge each day. The bridge and its connections support both commuter and recreational uses. Sidewalks and crossings at both ends of the bridge connect with regional trail networks. On the west side of the bridge, access is provided to the Mount Vernon Trail (MVT), and on the east side of the bridge, access is provided to the Rock Creek Trail.

But it has some well documented issues - mostly on the western Columbia Island side, where the north sidewalk doesn't connect well to the MVT and trail-users are expected to make numerous at-grade crossings of the GW Parkway, and Washington Boulevard.

Highly visible road markings and signs are in place to enhance safety at road crossings. However, based on a 2011 road safety audit conducted by the National Park Service and Federal Highway Administration, collisions between pedestrians and vehicles are a concern on the west side of the bridge (NPS 2011b). Observations described in the road safety audit involved driver aggressiveness and driver confusion at the approaches to Memorial Circle. To reduce the likelihood of collisions, a range of recommendations were presented including additional warning signs, restriping, and realignment of the existing ramps.

There was a spate of car-trail user crashes at these crosswalks that prompted NPS to make some of those recommended changes - and they appear to have made it safer, but it still doesn't create an appealing experience for more cautious cyclists; and no work on this safety issue is expected as part of the rehabilitation.

Unfortunately the two previous bicycle-relevant plans called out in the EA don't offer any strong guidance. The 2005 DC Bicycle Master Plan recommends "access improvements" from both sides of the Potomac River (or more accurately from one side of the Potomac to the island in the Potomac, but let's not quibble) and the MoveDC update reiterates that without any detail. Meanwhile, NPS's Memorial Circle Transportation Plan doesn't seem to have progressed beyond a bunch of photos of charrette drawings. [I recall a document, created by Toole Design, used as input to the 2005 plan in which they listed the specific problems and recommendations for each bridge in DC, but I can't track it down. That would be a good place to start to identify the known issues.] It may be a missed opportunity, not having some specific improvements identified. The bike plan has been successfully used before to force the federal government to build good bike facilities.

Anyway, instead, trail users can count on the bridge not falling into the river and a slight modification of the sidewalk surface. The current exposed aggregate sidewalks would be replaced, which I think is good because I find exposed aggregate gets slippery when wet. But it's being replaced with an exposed aggregate concrete/polymer concrete sidewalk, and I don't know how that's different.

 

Also Arlington County requested that the bridge rehabilitation include permanent bicycle and pedestrian counting equipment and DDOT requested permanent traffic counting equipment. Those requests were noted, but there is no indication they will be included. 

Closures

It's  a choice of catastrophes here for bridge users. There are four alternatives, which are basically choices about the kind of bridge that will replace the Bascule Span, although alternative 3 is to repair the existing span. There is also a no-build option, which involves maintenance and further weight restrictions until such time as the bridge has to be closed. The preferred alternative is to replace the span with a new span comprised of variable depth steel girders. This is due to reasons of cost, safety, ease of painting, and the opportunity to preserve things like the guard’s cabin, the overseer’s cabin, and the machinery rooms.

Then, there are two construction methods. Construction Method A is called "Temporary Full Closure of the Bridge, Sidewalks and All Vehicular Travel Lanes." It involves complete closure of the bridge for 70 consecutive days and then closing half the bridge, including either one sidewalk of the other, for 245 days each. Construction Method B is not much better. Entitled "Partial Bridge Closure with Closure of Three Vehicular Travel Lanes."It would close one half of the bridge for  280 days and then the other half for another 280 days. They don't appear to have a preference on the construction method. Other alternatives involve similar combinations of temporary partial and full closures of the bridge.

During periods of full closure, the pedestrian/bicycle detour would add approximately 2.5 miles to the normal 1.1 mile trip

but that's from Memorial Circle to the Lincoln Memorial, and most people will be able to find a shorter detour.

In  addition to the closures, they might build one or two barge staging areas along the river north and south of the bridge. To access the barge staging areas, they'd need to construct access roads from the George Washington Memorial Parkway, which would mean cars crossing the Mount Vernon Trail at times and that those parts of the trail would have to be changed to handle the traffic.. These areas would be restored following completion of construction. 

NPS is accepting comments until May 16th although the EA itself says May 9th, so don't dilly dally. Personally, I'm going to ask them to look at a material other than exposed aggregate for the sidewalks, and to consider taking the opportunity to make access and safety improvements on the west side of the bridge. Perhaps they could finish their Transportation Plan as a precursor to this project and incorporate those recommendations into it. 

Detour

First Annual Blessing of the Bicycles - May 7

To show their support for the cycling community in DC, the Church of the Ascension and St. Agnes (1217 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington DC 20005) will host the first annual "Blessing of Bicycles" on Saturday, May 7 at 11am and all are invited to join in.
The blessing will be a short service in which our priest-in-charge, Father Dominique, will say a prayer over all the assembled bikes, asking for protection and joy for cyclists as they ride. While the service comes from the Anglican tradition, no religious affiliation is required! Blessings are a way that the Anglican church shows love and support for various groups so please allow us to bless you regardless of your stance on faith.
 
The blessing will last just under 30 minutes and will be followed by a group bike ride led by Bishop Mariann Budde, Bishop of the Washington, DC Anglican communion. This will be the first bike blessing in DC but similar events have been held in New York and San Francisco since the mid-1990s. 
 
During the mingling time, we will be selling pizza, baked goods and drinks as well as t-shirts bearing the image of the Madonna de Ghisallo provided by Cycology Gear. All proceeds from this event will go towards making the church more handicap accessible. Donations are also appreciated and accepted. Spoke cards and stickers will be provided to all participants free of charge.
2016 DC Blessing of the Bicycles

From the Archives: Capital Bicycle Club

In a post many years ago, I copy/pasted a large article on the history of the Capital Bicycle Club which was founded in DC in 1879 and continued to operate until sometime during the 1920's. But this Feb 4, 1879 article about that founding day adds one other tidbit.

Screenshot 2016-04-24 at 10.52.50 PM

which is that the English bicycle, which I'm taking to be the "Safety Bicycle" invented in England in 1876, had been introduced to the city in 1878. If true, this bicycle wouldn't have had a chain, but treadles (the chain not being added until 1879).

It doesn't look like it became the dominant choice among club members, as photos mostly show them riding penny-farthings.

image from americanhistory.si.edu

image from americanhistory.si.edu

image from s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com

And then here is Will Robertson riding an American Star Bicycle down the Capitol steps in a promotional photo for the bike. [He was not the first person to do this, apparently that honor belongs to Burt Owens].

image from upload.wikimedia.org

They also ran a camera club.

Things to bike in Denver when you're dead

I'm going to be in Denver for one day. There are a lot off places to bike. Where should I ride? What are the best trails, bike routes etc... And where should I eat, drink beer*, etc...? I have never been there before.

*420 is not a selling point for me, FYI.

Work on the Rock Creek Park Trail will fulfill a long-ago promise

Two complimentary projects starting in the near future promise to completely change the bike trails in Rock Creek Park. Both will address trail issues first raised over 20 years ago.

The first project will rebuild Beach Drive and 1.5 miles of the 5.9 mile trail that runs alongside it. It will reconfigure the part of the trail that runs through the tunnel that goes under the National Zoo, build a new bridge over Rock Creek, and reshape the trail's intersection with Shoreham Drive. It should start this year, and finish in 2018.

Meanwhile, the District Department of Transportation wants to start a complimentary project in the spring of 2017 that will build one new mile of trail within Rock Creek Park and rehabilitate another 3.5 miles of trail.

(Read the rest of the post at GGW)

Montgomery County's MBT plans are ready for review and comment

The Montgomery County Department of Transportation has completed designs for the remaining northern section of the Metropolitan Branch Trail. That section will fill the gap between the stub built as part of the Silver Spring Transit Center and the Takoma Park section from New York Avenue and Fenton to the DC Boundary that was built in 2004 and 2006. The trail section will feature both a bridge over Georgia Avenue and an underpass beneath Burlington Avenue.

The project has two phases. In phase I the existing sidepath along the west side of Fenton will be extended north from New York Avenue to King Street and then along the south side of King Street to the end of that road. This basically consists of widening the existing 10 foot wide sidewalk to about 16 feet with modifications of driveways, pavement, signs and lights. The final design of this is being submitted.

PhaseI

Phase II will continue the trail from King Street to the Silver Spring Transit Center as a 10 foot wide, separate multi-use trail. For this portion the 35% design is being submitted. 

From the end of the Phase I section along King Street, the trail ill swing north along the railroad tracks and under Burlington Avenue through an underpass, and then between the tracks and Selim Road. The slope in this area is pretty steep. so the trail will have to built into the slope with retaining walls and built up platforms. 

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 It will continue between Selim Road and the RR tracks.

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The Trail will continue alongside Selim Road and then cross over Georgia Avenue on a new bridge before passing between the B&O Railroad Station and Georgia Avenue. The bridge over Georgia Avenue an the "tunnel" under Burlington (which is also East-West highway) were once deemed too expensive and it took a lot of groundwork to get these funded. The trail was also originally to pass to the rear of the B&O Station and extend under the rear canopy of the building, but MPI, the group that manages the historic station, opposed this alignment because they used the rear of the station for parties and events. It appears they have won.

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The trail will then cross along the north side of the B&O Railroad Station property, including a crossing of the driveway, and move to the gap between the railroad tracks and the properties that front on Georgia Avenue and Silver Spring Avenue.

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The trail will continue through the gap between the railroad tracks and the properties that front on Georgia Avenue, Ripley and Silver Spring Avenue to the existing trail build as part of the Transit Center. The path of the trail goes right through an existing 1-story building, part of Progress Place, that will be razed. There doesn't seem to be a direct connection to Silver Spring Avenue yet.

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Here's what the cross-section of the undepass looks like.

Underpass

The plans will be presented to the Planning Board on May 19, 2016. They will be accepting comments in-person or in writing until then. You may sign up online to testify at the hearing. Written comments may be sent by email to mcp-chair@mncppc-mc.org or via mail to "Montgomery County Planning Board, 8787 Georgia Ave, Silver Spring, MD 20910." Comments must be submitted at least one full business day before a scheduled hearing (i.e. by 9 a.m. on Wednesday morning before a Thursday hearing).

Update: I missed it at the time of writing this, but WABA also had an update on the MBT recently. On the Montgomery County section they add some input on MPI

Montgomery Preservation Inc (MPI), the nonprofit that controls this site, has spent years resisting proposed solutions, rejecting compromise design alternatives, and declining the County’s attempts to compensate them for the space the trail requires.

MPI’s insistence on replacing a proposed bridge over Georgia Ave—a solution that will keep bike riders and pedestrians far away from that corridor’s heavy traffic—with an at-grade crossing shows that the safety of trail users is low on their list of priorities. It has become increasingly clear that MPI is not interested in being a good neighbor and is not interested in public safety.

The Montgomery County Council’s Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment (T&E) Committee has the ability to put an end to MPI’s antics. Reassuringly, during a budget work session last month, members of the committee expressed frustration with MPI’s obstruction. The Committee understands the importance of the completion of the trail—not just for Silver Spring, but for the regional connections that the trail will provide, and for the many residents that will benefit from the closing of the gaps in the MBT.

And on the DC portion

The  30 percent engineering designs for [the Bates Road to Fort Totten Metro Station] segment are completed. DDOT should be issuing a final design and building contract soon, with construction anticipated to begin in 2017.

DDOT is still working on the 30 percent design for [the Fort Totten to Takoma Park] segment, but anticipates that that design process will be completed in June of 2016.

And that DDOT is working on new lights, having completed the new install from Franklin to T street.

 

Mikael Colville-Andersen calls the Pennsylvania Avenue bikeway a failure because he doesn't like it

Today, GGW pointed to a post on Mikael Colville-Andersen's Copenhagenize blog in which he called the Pennsylvania Avenue bikeway a failure, and called on whoever built it to be fired, after he saw a picture of it.

My main problem with this is that he doesn't bother to consider what "fail" means. Fail in what way? Does it fail to achieve its goals? What were the goals? Does it achieve its goals but create some large unintended negative consequences? We don't know, because he never bothers to ask those questions. He actually dismissed facts and numbers as "engineering" and thus beneath him. He's a planner - an artist - and he doesn't give a flip about what the numbers say.

But let's take on his reasons for thinking it fails.

Who would ACTUALLY choose to put cyclists in the middle of a street with speeding cars on either side?

Well, that's not what happens. On one side cyclists have "speeding cars" and on the other they have opposite direction cyclists. If being next to speeding cars is such an issue, why is this:

image from www.flickr.com

His example of good design. Good God, they're right next to a speeding car!

But to answer his question - lots of people. In fact, use of Pennsylvania Avenue more than tripled after the bike lanes were installed. 61% of surveyed cyclists said they thought it made them safer and according the Danish (yeah Danish, motherfuckers) Bicycle LOS scoring system, that section of Pennsylvania Avenue went from Unsatisfactory to Satisfactory after installation. By the way, increasing use was one of the main goals of the installation. So in that sense, it was not a failure. 

But that's just facts and numbers. What about how a far-away filmmaker feels after looking at the photo of it for about 8 seconds? Did any of these engineers even think about that?

Looking at the photo from Washington, DC, my first thought is, "how am I supposed to get to a destination in mid-block"? Do I go up to the next intersection and walk my bike back?

Gosh, I don't know. It seems like an insurmountable problem. How do you get to a mid-block destination on the opposite side of the street in Denmark? I guess you could stop at the earlier intersection and then either merge into traffic or cross over to the sidewalk and then ride up to your destination. Or yeah, you could go the long way, inexplicably ride up to the next intersection and walk your bike back. It's not rocket science. He sounds like my kids when they don't want to get dressed so they pretend that getting their pants on is just too hard and fake fall down while grunting.

Why would I want to cycle with my kids or my grandparents on a barren wasteland as cars fly past?

Isn't that exactly happens in every single one of the 4 designs presented as the gold standard. In each case you have to ride your bike next to traffic. And, a "barren wasteland"? Please. It's one of America's most iconic streets. The Capitol on one end, beautiful architecture up and down it, plenty of bike and pedestrian traffic, trees etc...

One of the primary reasons why he calls it a failure is that it doesn't match what he considers best practices. What are best practices? Coincidentally, it is the practices identified in the Copenhagenize Design Co. produced Copenhagenize Bicycle Planning Guide. Well, that's not arrogant at all. But in that guide, it states that streets with a 25 mph speed limit (like Pennsylvania Avenue has here) need painted bike lanes on the right hand side. Now, it's not clear what's so magical about the right hand side, but it would seem that curb-and-flexpost-separated lanes on the left hand side would be just as good.

To make his point about how silly center bike lanes are, he shows this photo

image from www.flickr.com

Of course, we would never sit and drink wine in the center of the street. How absurd. So why would we ride our bikes there. Like that guy riding a bike just to the right of him - what an idiot.

Of course that does discredit one of the Four Acceptable Forms of Bike Infrastructure as handed down to us by the Copenhagenize Bicycle Planning Guide which has sharrowed lanes as the slow speed option (Why would I want to cycle with my kids or my grandparents on a barren wasteland as cars fly up from behind me?) But, the guy has a point and he's not going to let consistency or facts get in the way.

His real beef with the design is this.

One rule of thumb to consider is a simple one. If you don't see an infrastructure design in the Netherlands or Denmark, it's probably a stupid infrastructure design.

My Dad used to say that if you think the answer is simple, you probably don't understand the problem. The arrogance in MCA's statement is flooring. If an American were to say the equivalent they'd be roundly criticized. He reminds me of the westerners who would come in to Cameroon when I was in the Peace Corps there and say "Why don't they just do things like we do in France." [Oh, I don't know, about a million cultural and institutional reasons that you haven't bothered to understand and which I only barely grasp].

Colville-Andersen completely ignores several very important issues - like politics, path dependency and the unique qualities of this road.

The bike lanes are currently in a space that was a median. That's why DDOT was able to build them there. It is also a major parade route every four years and a National Park in its own right, so they were severely hamstrung as to what they could do.  Originally they were to take out part of the center traffic lanes and make them larger, but AAA organized a community wide shit-fit over that and the Mayor felt the need to back off. So the choices were what we have or what we used to have. I don't see how that is the fault of the planner or engineers. If he has a bone to pick it is with the politicians and the voters. Calling, as he does, for Mike Goodno to be fired is stupid management. I can't imagine how that would make us better off.  

Collville-Anderson's prescription is for DC to fire people who are very concerned about making DC streets more bike friendly and then fight for infrastructure that no decision-maker will agree to build. Maybe he should stick to taking creepy photos of young female cyclists in short skirts. 

Anacostia Riverwalk Bridge over Beaverdam Creek and Boardwalk

Someone recently sent me these photos of the "completed" Anacostia Riverwalk Trail bridge over Beaverdam Creek and the boardwalk that connects from the north side to Maryland under the railroad and New York Avenue bridges. 

DC Side ART Bridge

I put "completed" in quotes because obviously it isn't really completed yet. There are no railings and it's not open.


DC Side ART Bridge

Here you can see the railings being installed.


DC Side ART Bridge

That way be Maryland.

I saw where someone had been in from the other side and posted photos on Twitter, but can't find them now. 

Here's what it is supposed to look like when finished. 

image from i.ytimg.com

image from www.anacostiawaterfront.org

image from cdn2.vox-cdn.com

Still reportedly on schedule to open by the end of the year.

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