Rock Creek Far West Livability Study

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See you tomorrow!

Don’t miss Public Workshop #2 for the Rock Creek Far West Livability Study on Saturday, May 18th. Join the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) Project Team to review preliminary recommendations and provide input for final recommendations.

Public Workshop #2: Preliminary Recommendations and Public Input Saturday, May 18, 2019 11:00AM – 1:00PM Short presentation at 11:30AM Stoddert Elementary School, Multipurpose Room 4001 Calvert Street NW, Washington, DC 20007

RSVP https://rcfwworkshop2.eventbrite.com

Section of Capital Crescent Trail temporarily closed in Bethesda, South Shore ribbon cut

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A section of the Capital Crescent Trail near the Bethesda trail head will be closed for about 10 weeks while Ourisman Honda finishes construction of a 1300 foot public plaza, and some other work related to their new garage. The plaza is retroactive compensation for the garaged that encroached on trail space. 

Ourisman...agreed  to construct and maintain a 1,300-square-foot public plaza near Bethesda and Woodmont avenues as well as move its driveway farther from the trail’s Bethesda Avenue entrance [and] to install decorative screening around the expanded garage to create a more appealing facade facing the trail.

At the same time, crews will widen about a quarter-mile section of the trail about two feet to 16 feet.

While construction is ongoing, the trail will be blocked and Ourisman has created temporary paths to get past the construction, one for pedestrians and one for bicyclists. Signs will direct trail users the correct way, Kandel said.

Some police may be present intermittently to enforce correct use of the alternate trails.

image from washcycle.typepad.com

This whole thing has been a mess, but maybe this plaza will make it all worthwhile. 

Also, Anne Arundel County officials cut the ribbon on phase I of the South Shore Trail this week.

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The original groundbreaking on this section of trail was held back in, checks notes, 1990. Let's just say things didn't go as planned. Land was harder to acquire than they thought and so was money, there was some nimby fear about "thugger-mugger trails" and about the plans to connect it to the Elementary School it passes by because of the bad people it would bring (Unlike the road) and they eventually had to detour around wetlands. 

Anyway, the 1.65 mile section is finally opened and it looks great. See you at the opening of Phase II in 2048!

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Also, Happy Bike to Work Day.

Funds provided to study improvements to the W&OD, Dave Thomas Circle and elsewhere

The MWCOG's Transportation Planning Board recently approved $680,000 in funding for 13 Transportation Land-Use Connections (TLC) projects. The TLC Program provides short-term consultant services to local jurisdictions for small planning projects that promote mixed-use walkable communities and support a variety of transportation alternatives. These projects could lead to improved biking in DC, College Park, Gaithersburg, Greenbelt and elsewhere. The K Street/Water Street protected bike lane started out as a TLC project back in 2016. Here's the post on last year's approved projects, which are underway right now.

Here's a rundown of the bike projects:

District of Columbia - Public Life Study at Florida and New York Avenues ($60,000)
The District is committed to addressing the chronic mobility and safety issues at the New York and Florida intersection (Virtual Circle) but lacks existing conditions data for how pedestrians and cyclists use the space, including their use patterns and preferences. Through this project, the D.C. Office of Planning will lead a public life study of the Virtual Circle to gather observational data to better understand how people currently use and would like to use the study area both for mobility purposes and as a public space.

Greenbelt - Cherrywood Lane Complete and Green Street Retrofit Project ($80,000)
The project will provide technical assistance to develop 30% design for a complete and green street retrofit project to reconstruct a 3,500 ft segment of Cherrywood Lane. This 1.5-mile-long collector street provides direct access to the Greenbelt Metro and MARC Stations. This project will serve to provide safe and convenient access for multiple modes of transportation for pedestrians, bicycles, buses and motorists.

Arlington County - W&OD Trail East Falls Church Connection ($55,000)
The W&OD Trail is a regional pedestrian and bicycle trail with 3,000 plus daily users that is used for walking and bicycling to the East Falls Church Metrorail Station and for longer-distance bicycle commuting across the area. The only gap in the 45-mile long W&OD Trail is in East Falls Church. The trail gap leads to on-street conflicts involving trail users and area motorized traffic. This project will use technical assistance to identify conceptual alternatives for constructing an off-street connection of the trail sections in the East Falls Church area. The results of the study would contribute to the work needed to initiate the design and construction of a trail construction project.

City of Gaithersburg - Concept and Feasibility Study: Industrial Drive to West Deer Park Road – Filling in a Bicycle Gap ($45,000)
Bicycle connections in the City of Gaithersburg’s bicycle network are needed to address bicycling on heavily travelled MD 355 Frederick Road. This project will conduct a concept and feasibility study to connect Industrial Drive to West Deer Park Road. This connection would provide a low‐stress alternative route for many bicyclists.

Outside my coverage area:

Fairfax County -- Bike/Ped Spot Improvement Projects - Trail to the Van Dorn Metrorail Station
($70,000)
Fairfax County will receive technical assistance to complete 30% designs and create cost estimates for a series of projects to improve the trail connections to the Van Dorn Metrorail Station. The work will include several spot projects (i.e. path widening and neighborhood connections), as identified in the County Wide Bicycle Master Plan. These improvements will ease access to high capacity transit, creating a more continuous and viable network of bicycle and pedestrian facilities, and support multimodal travel

Frederick County - New Design Road Side Path Phase 1 ($80,000)
This project is the first of three phases for a side path along New Design Road. Phase 1 seeks design work in order to achieve thirty percent design. This side path will eventually tie the City of Frederick with the C & O Canal National Park which in turns connects to the National Capitol Trails Network on a protected path. The project is part of Frederick County’s larger goal to develop a coordinated multimodal transportation system by integrating transit, pedestrian, bicycling and ADA accessible facilities into the county’s existing roadways and communities.

City of Manassas - Wellington Road Shared-Use Path Gap Conceptual Plan Development ($60,000)
The Wellington Shared Use Path is a major connection to regional and national bike connections within Prince William County. This project will address safety, connectivity and access by providing a safe connection over the railroad tracks, improving connectivity of the overall bike network, and providing greater access throughout the City of Manassas. The project will develop a conceptual design for a 0.35-mile section of the Wellington shared-used path between Nokesville Road and Prince William Street. The City of Manassas has identified safe pedestrian and bicycle connections as a priority.

Prince William County - Safe Routes to School Planning for Regional Activity Centers ($40,000)
This project will address the pedestrian and bicycle facility gaps in three Regional Activity Centers, and identify priority routes, and potential infrastructure improvements within a one-mile radius of the schools. The project will be coordinated with Prince William’s ongoing development of Small Area Plans. As new housing and jobs are focused into Regional Activity Centers, Prince William County must plan for safe and convenient walking and biking routes to schools. Local and regional congestion, exacerbated by commuter trip-chaining that includes a school pick-up or drop-off, can be improved by shifting school trips to walking and biking on safe and protected facilities.

While I'm on the subject of MWCOG funding, there's this item from last year that I missed. The TPB approved more than $1.2 million in funding for four bicycle and pedestrian projects in Maryland through the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP).

  • Expand Capital Bikeshare in Prince George’s County – $222,841
  • Develop a sidewalk along Forest Glen Road to connect to the Forest Glen Metro station in Montgomery County – $248,000
  • Design a trail to improve safety for pedestrians and bicyclists along US 40 (Golden Mile) in the City of Frederick – $686,309
  • Study the feasibility of developing a path along Scott Drive and Veirs Drive in the City of Rockville – $60,000

And here's the bike projects for Virginia

  • Arlington County: Four Mile Run Trail Connection – $241,000 - Construct a paved bicycle and pedestrian trail connection between Arlington County's Four Mile Run Trail at stream level and the street level network of Crystal City at Potomac Yards.
  • City of FairfaxJudicial Trail Connection – $174,800 - Construction of 500 linear feet of missing link of trail
  • Fairfax CountyVienna Metro Bike Connection Improvement – $800,000 - Enhance bike access to the Vienna Metrorail and Metro West Town Center along Virginia Center Boulevard and Country Creek Road.
  • City of Falls Church (Northern Virginia Regional Parks Authority): W&OD Trail Mode Separation – $274,250 - Project will replace 0.5 mile of 10 foot wide shared use trail with 11 foot wide bicycling trail and 8 foot wide pedestrian trail separated by a 2 foot wide median. Project improves failing levels of service, mitigating trail congestion.

495 Express Lanes will definitely make everything worse - but could include a parallel bike path.

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In January Virginia Governor Northam signed a deal with Transurban to extend the 495 express lanes 3 miles from the Dulles corridor to the American Legion Bridge.

“These four significant projects on I-495 and I-95 will reduce congestion, improve safety and will be catalysts for economic growth,” Northam said at a morning news conference.

I personally doubt the new express lanes will do any of those things, but they will hasten the destruction of the Hampton Roads area with rising oceans. 

FABB notes that

VDOT will host a public hearing on the project on May 20, 2019, from 6:30 to 8:30 pm at the Cooper Middle School Cafeteria, 977 Balls Hill Road, in McLean. This will be an excellent opportunity to learn more about the project and ask VDOT staff about including bicycle facilities in the project.

FABB heard that VDOT will be sharing conceptual plans for a parallel trail and improved bike/pedestrian crossings as part of this project. Which is good. Not as good as not widening the highways and building trails and transit instead. This is more like getting chocolate donut with your pink slip. I discussed bike plans in the area back in January and of course any project here should build the best bike facilities they can muster.

If unable to attend, you can still submit comments by June 10, 2019 to Abi Lerner, P.E., Virginia Department of Transportation, 4975 Alliance Drive, Fairfax, VA 22030, or email 495NorthernExtension@VDOT.virginia.gov. Please reference “I-495 Express Lanes Northern Extension Study” in the subject line.

This is the 2nd meeting on this study, the last coming almost a year ago on June 11, 2018. Anyway, this and other projects like it are going to kill us all, but it'll be nice to bike on a trail until that happens. I guess that's the difference between a Democratic governor in Virginia and Republican one in Maryland. Maryland's not going to get a trail.

Montgomery County trying e-bikes on trails

The Montgomery County Planning Board approved a plan to allow e-bikes and e-scooters on some hard-surface trails as part of a 6-month pilot. A pilot for e-bikes and e-scooters was first announced in February and this will be related to, but not necessarily a part of, that pilot 

The 2019 MCDOT pilot will involve up to four commercial companies, last six months, and could be extended for an additional six months. While MCDOT’s pilot areas are still being finalized, they are mostly focused at Central Business Districts (CBDs) and in emerging Transit Oriented Development Areas. MCDOT is in the process of finalizing an MOU with these companies that spells out boundaries, hours of operations, safetytrainings, preferred docking and parking areas, data collection, etc. The date of MCDOT’s launch is still being determined but is currently planned for May 2019.

The program will not be county-wide and it appears that Bethesda and some other areas inside the Beltway will not be part of the service areas.

Screenshot 2019-05-13 at 11.07.03 PM

Parks’ pilot will launch on June 1, 2019 and have two phases. Starting June 1, Phase 1 will allow for the use of personally owned e-bikes and e-scooters of certain types on certain hard-surface trails. Phase 2 will commence as soon as Parks has entered into contractual agreements with vendors to allow commercial e-scooters and e-bikes on the same hard-surface trails. It is Parks’ intention to tailor the Phase 2 portion of Parks’ pilot to match that of the County as much as possible, and it is anticipated that Parks will enter into an arrangement with the same vendors as the County. Parks also may request a six-month or similar extension to continue to evaluate the Pilot. As much as possible, Parks’ program will run in tandem with MCDOT’s. As an example, Parks’ extension might match the termination date of MCDOT’s pilot.

The pilot trails will be Rock Creek, Matthew Henson, Sligo Creek and Northwest Branch (within MoCo) and Long Branch. The Capital Crescent Trail will not be included. In the WTOP story they claim that 

The pilot does not include the Capital Crescent Trail, because the National Park Service controls the portion of that trail in the District, so users would be violating the rules if they continued their commutes on the trail in or out of the city

But since 3 of the 5 trails chosen also cross into jurisdictions that don't allow e-bikes I suspect the real reason is the the CCT is not in one of the service areas.

Screenshot 2019-05-13 at 11.21.00 PM

It will only allow Class I e-bicycles and e-scooters that operate by rechargeable battery and scooters will likely be capped at 15mph. 

Capital Bikeshare has had e-bikes since September, in coordination with DDOT, but I'm not sure if they were allowed in Montgomery County or not. Regardless, they're currently out of service

The Capital Bikeshare operator is continuing to test the ebikes and we have every intention to bring them back to the fleet. Safety comes first and will let you know as soon we have more information.

I'm generally in favor of allowing e-bikes on trails and so far the trend is that park authorities and other rulemakers are allowing them. NoVa Parks just changed their rules to allow them on  their trails, on Fairfax County quickly followed suit. Virginia law allows the use of e-bikes wherever regular bicycles are allowed and DC is looking into changing their rules as well. 

Arkansas passes the Idaho Stop and Oregon is thinking about it

In April, Arkansas became the 2nd state in the US to pass a true Idaho Stop law that allows cyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs and stop lights as stop signs (one guess who was first). Delaware passed a "stop-as-yield" law in 2017 that allows cyclist to treat stop signs as yield signs as have a few towns and counties in Colorado, but Arkansas went Full Idaho making them 2nd. 

I'm surprised it was Arkansas. Serious efforts have been made in Oregon, California, Arizona and even here in DC, but Arkansas just went and did it (and by overwhelming margins). That means the two states that have passed it are both red states. Go figure. 

The new law was first recommended by the Governor’s Advisory Council on Cycling. It was later sponsored by Sen. Missy Irvin (R-Mountain View) and Rep. Jay Richardson (D-Fort Smith). Irvin called the new law “a win for everyone in the state.”

"This will also allow for better traffic flow in our cities as cyclists will no longer need to hold up traffic at the lights or stop signs. Cars and trucks won’t be stuck behind them as they start moving and will be better able to make the next timed light.”

Meanwhile, Oregon's legislature is considering stop-as-yield again. It passed one committee vote in the senate, but is held up in the Rules Committee. As usual some people are opposed to it because they believe it is unsafe or makes cyclists unpredictable. This is the 3rd time the bill has come up in Oregon and Jonathan Maus of BikePortland thinks there is now less freaking out

An Idaho Stop bill in Utah passed the house this year, but then failed in the senate.

And there was another type of success in Quebec, where cyclists were granted the right to cross intersections on the pedestrian walk signal rather than wait for the traffic light to turn green, just like here in DC. 

Fletcher's Cove makeover will create separate entrance/routes for pedestrians and cyclists.

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Earlier this month, NPS held a meeting about a ideas to redesign the Fletcher's cove entrance, roads and parking lots. The project will have a small impact on the Capital Crescent Trail (CCT) and C&O Canal towpath and comments are due May 15th, so if you feel strongly, I suggest you get on it quickly. 

The purpose of the proposed project is to provide more direct and safer transportation connections between Canal Road and the Fletcher’s Boathouse, the C&O Canal towpath, and the Capital Crescent Trail. Some of the problems they've identified are that the single-lane entrance isn't safe; the culvert under the canal has a low clearance that doesn't allow for large work trucks, firetrucks, ambulances or river rescue vehicles to pass through, and it is hard for pedestrians or those with ADA needs to get through the area. 

They've come up with 4 Alternatives with some sub-options for 5 total different designs, with some similar designs and some differences. All five will build a new motor vehicle entrance and make the existing ramp into a bicycle/pedestrian only entrance. All five build a new bike/ped crossing from the ramp, over the road to the lower parking lot, to the bike/ped bridge over the canal to the towpath and the trail. They all update the culvert bridge over Maddox Branch to the latest standard. But then after that they have various differences.

Alternative 1A

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Alternative 1 sends vehicles that can't use the culvert, across the existing bridge over the canal with a modified landing for the bridge. The CCT will then be modified to create ramps up and down to that landing. It uses the existing road culvert (tunnel) for vehicles, pedestrian, and bicycle access between the upper and lower parking lots. It removes the stairs on the river side of the CCT and replaces it with a new ramp for pedestrians, cyclists and emergency and maintenance vehicles.

Alternative 1B

Screenshot 2019-05-09 at 11.07.29 PM

Alternative 1B also sends vehicles that can't use the culvert, across the existing bridge over the canal with a modified landing for the bridge. But then those vehicles would drive down the CCT to a ramp to the lower lot that is further south. It uses the existing road culvert (tunnel) for vehicles, pedestrian, and bicycle access between the upper and lower parking lots. 

Alternative 2

Screenshot 2019-05-09 at 11.12.03 PM

Alternative 2 also sends vehicles that can't use the culvert, across the existing bridge over the canal with a modified landing for the bridge then down the CCT to a ramp to the lower lot. But then the existing road culvert (tunnel) would become a pedestrian and bicycle only facility. Drivers would get a new bridge over the canal, towpath and trail.  

Alternative 3

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Alternative 3 would build the motor vehicle bridge over the canal, towpath trail but it would serve all motor vehicles (keeping the large ones off the trail and existing bridge). The existing road culvert (tunnel) would become a pedestrian and bicycle only facility as in Alternative 2.

Alternative 4 

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Alternative 4 would build a bridge over the canal, towpath and trail, but do so farther south. That new bridge would not serve emergency or maintenance vehicles, and they would instead use the existing bridge and a new ramp down to the lower parking lot, as would cyclists and pedestrians. The stairs would be removed, and the existing road culvert (tunnel) would become a pedestrian and bicycle only facility as in Alternative 2. The CCT will, like in 1A, then be modified to create ramps up and down to the new landing. 

There are some good things and bad things here. The improved entrance off of Canal Road is a big improvement for vulnerable users, and the possibility of getting exclusive use of the culvert is nice. It will be inconvenient to have vehicles on the trail, but it will be a worthy sacrifice to make sure people get the emergency help they need. The bridge over the trails, and the ramps will be disliked, for good reason, but have small impact. 

One opportunity here has to do with the culvert bridge over Maddox Branch. There has often been talk of continuing the Battery Kemble hiking trail under Canal Road through the tunnel Maddox Branch uses, and some have even wanted to use it to connect the Palisades Trolley Trail to the CCT and C&O. If there is any real interest in doing that, then THIS is the opportunity to make it possible. Building the bridge with a plan to accommodate a trail connection will make the whole thing more doable. 

DDOT wants to bridge the Anacostia at the Arboretum

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DDOT is hosting a pair of public meetings this month on the proposed Arboretum Bridge. The bridge, a part of the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail would connect Kenilworth Park to the Arboretum. It will also include a few hundred feet of trail from the east side bridge landing to the existing East Bank Trail of the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail, and a smaller section on the east side to connect to paths in the Arboretum.

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The project will improve access for all users including pedestrians, bicyclists, kayakers, canoers, rowers, fishers and wildlife observers

The bridge is slated to be completed in 2021. CM McDuffie announced in March that he was seeking funding for the project.

Here's a presentation of how the bridge impacts the navigation of the river.

The meetings are later this month

WARD 5

When: Tuesday, May 21, 2019
Time: 6:30pm – 8:30pm
Where: United States National Arboretum
3501 New York Avenue NE
Washington, DC 20002

WARD 7

When: Wednesday, May 22, 2019
Time: 6:30pm – 8:30pm
Where: Department of Employment Services
4058 Minnesota Avenue NE
Washington, DC 20019

The Needwood Road Path is complete

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Montgomery County announced this week that phase 2 of the Needwood Road Bike Path, and thus the whole project, is now complete, but for some signal and landscaping work.

The Needwood Road Bike Path, which is not just for biking by the way, creates a 1.7 mile connection between Shady Grove, the Rock Creek Trail, the ICC Trail and Magruder High School. 

The key portion, from the Westside Trail to the ICC Trail was completed in late 2017. Via the unpaved Westside Trail, one can connect to the Rock Creek Trail. That section was paid for by a MDOT grant, but to get that money the county had to pull money from the Met Branch Trail, delaying that project. The sections completed this week extended the trail west to Deer Lake Road and east to Muncaster Mill Road (MD 115). On the western end at Deer Lake Road it connects to a 1300 foot long path from Deer Lake to Redland Road completed in April, 2016. There it connects with existing bike facilities west of Redland and south along Redland to the Shady Grove Metro Station, thereby tying it all to Metro on its west side.

In addition, Phase II provides a 6-foot wide sidewalk over approximately 800 feet of length along the east side of Muncaster Mill Road from the intersection with Needwood Road to the northern entrance of Colonel Zadok Magruder High School.

Phase I didn't go all the way to the Westside Trail, it went to an existing sidepath along Needwood Road. That path is narrower than what was built, and wasn't upgraded during this project. 

It's great that this project is complete and will certainly improve mobility in the area. It's unfortunate that it came at the expense of the MBT and that it completed late (it was to be finished in Summer 2018).

Needwood

People For Bikes ranks Arlington ahead of DC in their annual city rankings. Alexandria stumbles

Last year, People for Bikes created a new system for identifying and ranking the best U.S. cities and towns for bicycling. In that list, DC came in 8th and Alexandria came in 5th for medium sized cities. Arlington came in 70th. 

But a lot can change in a year.

In the new rankings, Arlington moved up to 5th, while Washington slipped to 13th.  Part of the explanation for the rankings changes is that they had better participation this year, and had better data than in 2018.

The People for Bikes rankings different from the LABs or Bicycling Magazine's because it's 100% data driven and tries not to give credit for things done many years ago, thereby following the Janet Jackson "what have you done for me...lately" rule.

Meanwhile, other cities in the area changed their rankings as well. They've ranked 110 more cities this year, so some slippage is expected, but Alexandria really fell. 

 #136 Alexandria (1.9)

 #203 Silver Spring (1.7)

 #266 Vienna (1.6)

 #330 Rockville (1.5)

Two cities in Colorado ranked at the top - Boulder and Fort Collins -  of the Boulder, Colorado-based organization's rankings. (In related news, South Carolina is once again determined to have the best looking cities according to the South Carolina tourism bureau).

I didn't dig through the data (and can't find it from 2018 anyway) to see why each city moved up or down, but DC's going to need to bring their A game if they want to move into the top 10 next year. 

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