DC's National Guard was the first in the US to have a separate bicycle corps

Long before space force or bike force, the DC militia became the first one in the country to create a bicycle corps as part of its militia.

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In 1888, shortly after he was placed in charge of the District's militia, General Albert Ordway began looking into ways that the militia could use bicycles. He started a company at the time, but there weren't enough "safety bicycles" around at the time to fill the group out. But by 1891, Ordway was ready to form the first separate and distinct bicycle corps as a branch of a militia in the United States.  

In 1892, he started to promote the idea of bicycle corps nationwide, while the military was taking efforts to study the use of the bicycle in Fort Sheridan, Illinois. That spring he published, with the help of the Pope Manufacturing Company (which just happened to produce a "Soldier's Standard Bicycle" model of their Columbia Light Roadster), a book on Cycle Infantry Drill Regulations.  In it, the owner of Pope argued that if we'd just had the safety bicycle, and a network of good paved roads, the British would have never burned the Capital. 

Content includes charts showing various drill formations, several pages of musical notations for trumpet calls, etc.

The same year he had the Washington Military Cyclists participate in a relay to Pittsburgh and in 1895 organized a messenger relay to New York City to prove the value of the bicycle to those in the military that were skeptical. Unfortunately, they were shortly thereafter disbanded due to a high level of defections. 

The future of dockless bikeshare

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DC recently issued new proposed regulations for dockless bikeshare in DC. A positive way to look at it is that if they didn't want bikeshare, they'd just ban it. But as many, including myself, have pointed out the regulations are more limiting than needed. The problems I see with the regulations are namely:

  1. The 600 bikes initial cap is too low. If we want dockless bikeshare to succeed, we need to let it be big enough that people can reliably find a bike and we need it to be big enough for the network effect to benefit customers. There's no good policy reason for this, it's just a way to placate non-customers who are all aflutter about the bikes. We just had an election, if now is not the time to show a little political courage, then I don't know when is.  Last year we had over 2500 dockless bikes on the street. We could at least start there. And we could speed up the raising of the cap. If we did we wouldn't need to require 6 bikes per ward if we didn't have it. All of this also applies to scooters. This is one of the biggest barriers to bikeshare right now.
  2. The second biggest barrier is the "lock-to" requirement. I get that the goal is to get bikes out of the way of pedestrians and in the place they belong. But instead of prescribing a solution, we should tell dockless bikeshare companies what the goal is and let them figure out how to get there. We can track this (complaints, surveys, tip-over sensor data) and if a company is failing then we can penalize them. I personally don't think this is as big a problem as people make it out to be - at least based on complaints - but I'm willing to work on fixing it. 
  3. The 10mph speed limit for scooters is inconsistent and poorly thought out. It's there because scooters are considered Personal Mobility Devices (PMDs) and the speed limit for PMDs is 10mph. But the PMD classification was set up for electric wheelchairs, and then expanded to include segways. Clearly we need to rethink our vehicle definitions in light of all the new vehicles on the road - and I think that's especially true for scooters. But on top of that, we don't treat other vehicles like this. The segways that tourists rent are required to top out at 10mph. Zipcars aren't required to top out at 65mph, so why limit scooters like this (though forcing Zipcars to top out at 65mph might be a great idea)?
  4. The requirement that operators give every member a free helmet if they ask for it seems like something someone would propose if they don't know a lot about bikes. Most people can afford to buy their own helmet if they'd like one. If we want to provide members who are in need a free or discounted helmet, DC should just do that (and I think they already have a program for that). Maybe the $5 per bike fee can help fund it - and there would be more money for it if we had more bikes. It's odd since we don't require people to wear helmets and we aren't even sure they work all that well. Why not require them to give out free gloves, eye protection and pads? CaBi, BTW, does not give out free helmets to any member who asks for one, so there's a fairness/monopoly issue there too.
  5. The regulation requiring operators to "offer a low-income customer plan that waives any applicable vehicle deposit and....unlimited trips under 30 mins to any customer with income <= 200% of the fed poverty guide" is coming from a good place, but it's onerous. If DC wants to subsidize transportation for those in need, then THEY should do it, just as they do with Metro or CaBi - again with the fee money they're already charging. Are Lyft, Zipcar and others should be required to do this too?

Even with these regulations, I think dockless is going to survive, but I worry about whether it will thrive the way we want it to.

In May, COG hosted a Dockless Bikeshare Workshop with presentation by DDOT, MCDOT, Alexandria and NPS. At the time, there were still 7 companies operating in DC instead of just 1. 

DDOT - which called dockless vehicles DoVe - pointed out how the law, as currently written, doesn't give good guidance to them. For example the section below makes it seem like dockless is illegal. 

Title 24 Section 24-111.1 - No person shall leave any goods, wares, or merchandise either in or upon any street, avenue, alley, highway, footway, sidewalk, parking, or other public space in the District for a period longer than two (2) hours

They also noted that they like what their seeing so far. Like 25% of users report biking more. Lots of trips go across boundaries. 

MCDOT reported on their pilot in Silver Spring. They designated bike parking areas, required operators to remove improperly parked bikes within an hour and charged operators if the city had to move the bike. Nonetheless, and unlike in DC, most of the 77 comments they got were negative. People complained they were an eyesore, that bikes are left in the wrong places, that they took up valuable rack space, that the batteries died in the winter or that the county shouldn't pay for this (they don't. It neither costs money nor makes money). But others thought they did a good job of filling the gaps in CaBi and makes neighborhoods more transit friendly. And others thought they made the city prettier. 

To deal with complaints, MCDOT reduced the number of bikes in the pilot area, adding more bike parking and tried to do more outreach. 

Bike use peaked in February and then started to drop off. The main areas of defects were the solar panels, back light and rear reflector. Surveys they carried out showed that about 8% of bikes were obstructions and nearly 90% were upright. 

NPS - Their main concerns are how the dockless bikes impact the user experience and the regulatory approval of dockless bikes to operate on parkland. They've met with operators and are working with DDOT on how permit dockless on some NPS property, but not near the monuments.

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In October, COG had another workshop - this one on bikes and scooters - and this time DC, Arlington, Baltimore and Montgomery County presented.

DDOT stated that we're in Phase II of a three phase project that will end in 2020. Then -??? There are 5 permitted scooter companies and 2 permitted bike companies, but only 4 and 1 of them are operating. In order to meet the new demand for bike parking, they've added 300 bike racks as part of their on-going "rack attack". Interestingly, Skip has way more inactive vehicles outside of they city. They literally skipped town. They're still working on how to enforce the rules, how to work across the region and how to deal with data.

MoCo reports 18,000 trips in the first 6 months, with only 7% of bikes blocking access. 84% of people want the program to continue, it has expanded bike use, and they need more bike racks. They're looking to expand the program to Bethesda, Wheaton, Viers Mill and other areas.

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Arlington has had dockless scooters since June and approved Lime and Bird in October. but I think they're just scooters so far.

So, the future looks good for dockless, but not great and there is a danger of overregulating them. On the upside there are plans to expand both the number of bikes and the area they can operate in. It would great to see PG County get in on this, at least in the close in areas.

I-395 Express Lanes delay Seminary Road Complete Streets Project

Last month, Alexandria suddenly (and without warning) cancelled a meeting on the Seminary Road Complete Streets Project because VDOT notified them that Transurban, the I-395 Express Lanes concessionaire, is proposing to evaluate the current use of the Seminary Road high-occupant vehicle-only ramp and to consider potential operational changes at the ramp for express lane/high-occupancy toll traffic.

City staff is coordinating with Transurban and VDOT on an analysis (to be conducted by Transurban) of the forecasted traffic changes that could occur from the proposed change. There is not yet a timeline for completing this analysis.
This new information prompted city staff to pause work on the Seminary Road Complete Streets project. As soon as the Complete Streets project team has a reliable forecast of how a potential change in the off-ramp operation could impact Seminary Road traffic, the project team will conduct a revised traffic analysis of the conceptual alternatives. Project work will restart as soon as more information is known about the potential future impacts of the contemplated changes.
Seminary Road is a key corridor in the City of Alexandria’s transportation network. The Vision Zero Action Plan, Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan, and Safe Routes to School Plan Program recommendations, and all identify potential safety and mobility improvements for Seminary Road. The City's Complete Streets Policy recommends that staff use repaving as an opportunity to consider and incorporate changes to enhance the safety and convenience of all users. 
More can be found here.

What's the plan


In2014, Mayor Gray had DDOT lead an effort to create a new transportation plan called MoveDC. MoveDC, finished in May of 2014, included bicycle, pedestrian, transit, vehicle and freight element.  In October of that year they released a two-year action plan. Then Mayor Gray lost re-election.

Now I still point to MoveDC as the District's plan, but when I do government types say "well, yes and no" because it was never officially adopted. Whatever that means. It feels more and more like we don't actually have a bicycle plan. If the MoveDC bicycle element isn't it, and the 2005 Bike plan has run its course, then what is the plan? No one really knows and it would be nice if DC had a new plan, or at least a bike plan we could point to without getting a head tilt and shrugged shoulders and "that's not REALLY the plan."

What's also weird is that they still promote the 2014 2-year action plan on the MoveDC website. If there isn't going to be a new 2 year plan in 2016 or 2018, then it's time to stop putting this on the front page. But looking at we can see how well they did (at least for bike stuff).

  1. Start the Frederick Douglass Bridge - this didn't start until this year, so it happened but 100% late by that time. 
  2. Four major trails
    1. Klingle Trail finished - this was also done but was a year late. 
    2. Kenilworth Anacostia Trail segment - Delivered in 2016. Success.
    3. Rock Creek Trail advanced - Work started in 2016. Success
    4. Metropolitan Branch Trail - There was not a lot of progress until 2017. Gonna call this one late.
  3. Build 15 miles of bike facilities - In 2014 they built 10 miles, but most of that before the plan was adopted. In 2015, they built  4.42 miles and in 2016 they were planning to get 6 miles, but did not build that many.
  4. Study the east side of downtown bicycle facility - Studied it many times
  5. Identify needs and solutions for Crosstown Mutlimodal Study - that part was probably done by 2016
  6. Review bicycle laws and implement changes - Success!
  7. Issue an annual "State of Transportation" report - if so, I can't find it.

There are other items labeled "bicycle element" that seem less important so I skipped them. 

The two-year plan seems like a mixed bag. They did most of these things eventually, but some behind schedule, and this list was a little cherry-picked to hit things they were already planning to do. MBT and Rock Creek represent projects that date back to the 1990's. 

But back to what the plan is now. In addition to MoveDC, there is also the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP). This is the federally mandated multi-year listing of all upcoming projects that will be funded with federal dollars. This is not a plan. But in the short term, it's the best we've got. 

Anyway, I'm not clear on what the Bowser goals are wrt to transportation, what the plan is or she's meeting her goals. I don't know if we're being successful or not, but she must be because she was re-elected.

Greater Lyttonsville Sector Plan Design Guidelines


The Montgomery County Planning Department has been working on plan for Lyttonsville for several years now. In 2017 the county approved the Greater Lyttonsville Sector Plan which amended several other area plans in preparation for the coming Purple Line. Because the Purple Line will upgrade and expand the Capital Crescent Trail - which will pass straight through the area - the plan will have an effect on the trail. The Sector Plan stated that the next steps was to create a Greater Lyttonsville Design Guideline and so the Planning Department recently began work on that

One of the key goals of the sector plan is to improve the walkability and bikeability of the area, and strategies for achieving that include making the area a Bicycle-Pedestrian Priority Area, expanding trails and adding cycletracks and other on-road bike facilities. 

The Design Guidelines will set Streetscape Design guidelines that will determine how roads, sidewalks, intersections and crossings function. In addition the design of Parks will guide future work on what trails and linear parks look like. 

They already have some ideas of what they want to do. For example along south side of the the new trail they'd like to include a linear park. That linear park would open to larger green spaces like a larger civic green connecting to Lyttonsville Place and the
Purple Line Station beyond.

The linear open space will be a green area along the Capital Crescent Trail with landscape and activity areas. The configuration of the open space if the [land south of the trail] redevelops will be guided by the design guidelines for parks and open space.

Just east of there, they'd like a connection across the underdeveloped property on the south and another connection to Garfield Ave on the north side, though that won't be easy.

The area on Fort Detrick property will need to be capped per Maryland Department of the Environment requirements, and there are steep slopes. These landfill, slopes and ownership issues are a barrier, so we cannot say for certain that the trail connection will be implemented. The preferred access point would be the one at the end of Garfield Avenue because it does not have property ownership constraints, but it does have topographic constraints

In December they plan to brief the Planning Board on their work and early next year, they plan to put out a working draft. Even building design guidelines impact cyclists when it comes to parking and shower/changing facilities. 

The picture above is of what a new 16th Street just west of the railroad tracks and a future Purple Line station could look like. 

Holmes Run Trail Bridge opening ceremony on Thursday


Alexandria built a new bridge on the Holmes Run Trail and they're having a celebration for it on Thursday (after they postponed it from today). 

The event has been rescheduled for Thursday, November 8, from 10 to 11 a.m. at HolmesRun Parkway and Ripley Street. Residents are invited to come out to celebrate the new bridge and receive free safety gear.

The old bridge was narrow, just above the water and had no railings so this is quite an improvement - for both the stream (which got some restoration work) and for trail users. 

image from washcycle.typepad.com

Also, in the near future, Alexandria plans to build 2000 feet of trail along the south side of Holmes Run from Ripley - where this bridge is - to Pickett. And there are also plans to improve the tunnels along the trail. 

In the long run, a grade separated crossing of Beauregard would be nice and then looking at how to extend the trail west to connect to the section of the Holmes Run Trail west of Lake Barcroft and north along Tripps Run to Howard E. Herman Park, which is then a short hop from the W&OD Trail. 

ANC candidate changes his mind about the Trolley Trail

Alan Karnofsky, a candidate for ANC rep for 3D-05, running against Heather Gustafson, originally supported an 8-foot wide crushed stone surface along the trolley trail in the Palisades area, but he has since changed his mind. 
I have always been open to the 8 foot crushed stone surface. However, most neighbors I have talked to are not in favor of changing the trail at all at this time and I would have to side with the majority. I know this conversation has been brought up before and it seems a majority do not want it to change.
GGW didn't endorse either candidate, calling them both good. DDOT took public comments on the trail and
About two-thirds or 66% support some level of trail improvements
A small minority want an improved surface. Election is tomorrow - duh.

Bethesda Trolley Trail to be temporarily closed through Battery Lane Park for work on trail and park


From a press release:

Montgomery Parks will be closing Battery Lane Park and the Bethesda Trolley Trail (within the park) for upcoming renovations and improvements. To ensure public safety, the existing basketball and tennis courts will also be closed during construction. The work is expected to begin in late October 2018 and will require heavy equipment to enter the park along the existing trail. The trail area will serve as the main construction access for the contractor during construction.

Detour signage will be posted at both ends of the trail closure prior to construction. Park improvements will include a new playground area, trail widening, fitness equipment, site furnishings, and shade tree plantings. Please follow the detour and use caution around work areas. Please refer to the next page for the Trail Detour Map. Work is scheduled to be complete by the Summer 2019.

The trail, which starts at the south end of the park, will be widened to 10 feet.


2018 Capital Trails Symposim

Join the Capital Trails Coalition for the 5th annual Capital Trails Symposium! (registration)

We'll learn about and discuss the progress of the Coalition's third year, dig into current trail development topics, and look forward to the year ahead.

The Capital Trails Coalition seeks to create a world-class network of multi-use trails that are equitably distributed throughout the Washington D.C. metropolitan region. Over 40 agencies, non-profits, business improvement districts and organizations are part of the Capital Trails Coalition. Learn more about the Coalition here.

Breakfast, coffee and lunch will be provided. Please contact Katie Harris, Trails Coalition Coordinator, with additional questions (katie.harris@waba.org).


Event Location

Trinity Washington University
125 Michigan Avenue NE
Washington, DC 20017

Why Am I Biking in the Dark?

image from farm2.static.flickr.com

Daylight Savings ends on Sunday, and with it the light in the evening. Daylight savings, as many of you know, exists as part of an energy savings program and was last expanded as part of the 2005 Energy Bill. There is some debate as to whether it has led to less electricity use or not. A 2008 study by the Department of Energy said it decreased energy use by 0.03%, but others say it increases energy use by 1% or more. [I don't understand how, in the name of good energy policy, we can literally change time, but we can't get a carbon tax, but that's another issue].

So what does this change do to bike commuting. Next week, most bike commuters will ride home in the dark. And many will bike to work in the dark too. Winter is a more dangerous time to bike commute for this reason. Does daylight savings make it more dangerous? Does it dissuade bike commuters?

One study - based on data from Arlington's bike counters (hooray local government) - showed that changes in light resulted in changes in bike and walk commuting. And that the number of people actively commuting changed significantly near the clock change, with people doing less of it when it is dark. This change was lower for cyclists than pedestrians.

Odds ratios indicated the numbers of pedestrians and cyclists during the case period were significantly higher during daylight conditions than after-dark, resulting in a 62% increase in pedestrians and a 38% increase in cyclists.  

There are large peaks in cyclist frequencies at morning and evening commuter times, and whether the case hour is in daylight or darkness does not alter the timing of these peaks. This supports the suggestion that cyclists may be quite rigid in their travel times, producing a relatively limited spillover effect. 

They also believe that lighting plays a part in this because trail commuting goes down more than on-road commuting.

the transition between darkness and daylight during the case period had a greater effect on cyclist frequencies at trail locations, compared with cycle lane locations.

Meaning that one conclusion is that we need more lighting on bike commuter routes (recognizing that it should be environmentally appropriate) if we want more people to bike commute in the winter. 

Another conclusion the studies show is that it is darkness, more than the cold, that causes bike commuting to drop in the winter (which echoes my opinion that it's the dark that I find more unpleasant than the temperature). When non-cyclists argue that people won't bike all year, they talk about the cold, but this indicates that they're wrong, and may explain why biking commuting doesn't 1) go down when it gets really hot 2) go down more in colder climate cities than warmer ones.

The transition in ambient light condition alone can explain the increase in pedestrians and cyclists during the daylight periods independently from any influence of temperature. In fact, the clock changes that showed no change in temperature generally produced larger odds ratios than those clock changes where the temperature did change significantly. This would suggest the effect of the transition in light conditions was larger when there was no temperature change.

This means that the more that we can move the rush hours into daylight, the more we'll encourage active transportation. Next week, we'll lose light in the evening rush in exchange for an hour in the morning rush, but I feel like it's not a good trade. We give up 5-6pm for 6:30-7:30am and you can see from that bicycle counter data that this is a bad trade. We give up our 2nd (and nearly top) biking hour in the evening in exchange for a mid-level hour in the morning. We're also giving up a time that many kids are being picked up from daycare and aftercare and also more likely to be out and about, for a time when many are still asleep or at home. Like I said, I think it's a bad trade. 

So daylight savings has some impact on how many people commute, but what about safety? Unsurprisingly, this has been studied in the US and unsurprisingly, having light at the time when more people commute is expected to save lives.

Results show that full year daylight saving time would reduce pedestrian fatalities by 171 per year, or by 13% of all pedestrian fatalities in the 5:00–10.00 a.m. and in the 4:00–9:00 p.m. time periods. Motor vehicle occupant fatalities would be reduced by 195 per year, or 3%, during the same time periods.

Same in the UK

operating daylight saving year-round would have a small but tangible effect on the number of serious and fatal road traffic injuries in children in this area.

And of just pedestrians

there was a significantly greater risk of a pedestrian [road traffic collisions] at a crossing after-dark than during daylight.

Other studies indicate that this isn't due to changes in Circadian rhythm. The shift in sleep leads to an increase in accidents in the spring and a decrease in the fall.

The spring shift to daylight savings time, and the concomitant loss of one hour of sleep, resulted in an average increase in traffic accidents of approximately 8 percent, whereas the fall shift resulted in a decrease in accidents of approximately the same magnitude immediately after the time shift.

Though it's not a local issue, we should consider extending daylight savings year round. There's a question about what that does to energy consumption and that might require a trade off; but it does seem it would make the roads safer and encourage more bike commuting and walk commuting (which could offset any energy impacts).

Even if we don't change daylight savings, we need to install brighter and better lighting on bike routes, pedestrian commuter routes and at crosswalks.

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