It’s Time for a Safer 17th Street NW

Even before the pandemic, 17th St. NW in Dupont Circle was not working for the people and businesses that rely on it. Frequent near-misses, long pedestrian crossings, insufficient loading zones, and a narrow one-way painted bicycle lane make getting around the retail corridor challenging and often perilous.

In the last few months more people are walking, bicycling, and running in their neighborhoods. Some cities are already going beyond temporary measures and reconfiguring city streets to make more space for people. Let’s build on this momentum (and existing city plans) and redesign 17th Street NW from T St. to K St. NW. Protected bike lanes, shorter crossings, and loading zones will make 17th Street safer for cyclists, pedestrians, runners, and everyone supporting the many businesses on 17th Street.

Please sign your name to this petition to let Mayor Bowser, DDOT, and Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2B know that you support this project and demand:

  • a reconfigured 17th Street streetscape that provides safer, protected infrastructure for bicyclists, pedestrians, and runners
  • a design that takes into account the needs of 17th Street restaurants and merchants for loading & unloading and pickups & drop offs, while also providing better access to these businesses for bicyclists and pedestrians
  • that the Mayor and the District Department of Transportation prioritize safety improvements for 17th Street NW for completion in 2020

Local residents and commuters, supported by the Dupont Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC), the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA), the Greater Greater Washington community, have been asking for a safer 17th Street NW for many years. 17th Street is subject to frequent near-misses, blocked car lanes, insufficient loading zones, and an unsafe, one-way unprotected bicycle lane.

Draft designs for a safer 17th Street were created in 2017, but did not take into account the unique loading and unloading needs of 17th Street restaurants and merchants. Residents and businesses have provided supportive and critical feedback to the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) to improve the plans. DDOT just issued a Notice of Intent to reconfigure the street with protected bike lanes in each direction, safer crossings and loading zones.

Please sign the petition to show your support!

Safe bike infrastructure on 17th Street is

Read DDOT’s Notice of Intent and see the plan here.

17th Street today
17th Street proposed

Biking on the Sidewalk

Is it legal?

Biking on the sidewalk is legal in most of DC, except the Central Business District, show on this map:

It is also legal in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties, Maryland, and in Virginia except where prohibited by local ordinance.

Is it a good idea?

In a few instances. Read or listen to this WAMU story for a good rundown on the tradeoffs and challenges of sidewalk riding.

Most importantly:

If you ride a bike on the sidewalk, you are the biggest and fastest thing in that space. That means it is your responsibility to make sure everyone around you feels safe. Ride slowly, yield to people walking and running, give plenty of space and warning when you’re passing someone.

Regional Bike Laws

Laws related to bicycling vary slightly in DC, Maryland and Virginia.

We produce a guide to DC Bike Laws in partnership with the District Department of Transportation and the Metropolitan Police Department.

You can find Virginia’s bike laws here.

You can find Maryland’s bike laws here.

Hatred Has No Place Here

As we shared in our statement in response to George Floyd’s murder, WABA is appalled by the violence perpetuated by our long-broken, racist system. We stand in support of Black Lives. We also strive to be anti-racist, to combat the pervasive structural racism in America manifesting in on our streets, bike lanes, and trails. 

Like many of our trail users, we were horrified to learn of the person who attacked several teenagers posting signs, calling for justice for Mr. Floyd, on the Capital Crescent Trail.

Anthony Brennan’s behavior is reprehensible. His actions are contrary to the values we fight for when we call for safe streets and great transportation options for everyone. Part of this effort involves building a community of supportive folks of all skills and abilities, races and genders.

We are angry that a member of the bicycling community behaved this way; we feel terrible for the young people who were harassed and hurt; and most of all, we are heartbroken and furious for the BIPOC who face this behavior on a structural, systematic level that is even farther reaching, rooted in violence, and far too often ends much worse.

Please note: Anthony Brennan has never been a dues-paying WABA member nor made any financial contributions. We will prohibit him from attending future WABA events or joining as a member. Violence and hatred are never welcome in the WABA community.

WABA will continue to share resources about anti-racism and what safe infrastructure really means in the coming weeks. Join us in learning more at waba.org/antiracism.

Give MCDOT Your Thoughts On Shared Streets

In response to lobbying by WABA and other advocacy groups—Coalition for Smarter Growth, Action Committee for Transport, Sierra Club, PBTSAC and others—Montgomery County Department of Transportation has begun steps to create what they are calling Shared Streets, meaning closing off certain streets to only allow local car traffic. One major step MCDOT has taken is to set up a website to solicit suggestions from residents on county roads that should be closed off to through car traffic, allowing for slow and local car traffic, with a priority on bicycle and pedestrian usage. This incorporates the Bicycle Master Plan concept of Neighborhood Greenways.

Please give your feedback here to MCDOT! This includes taking the survey and sending specific ideas for Shared Streets via email to MCDOT.SharedStreets@montgomerycountymd.gov

MCDOT is also soliciting ideas for helping facilitate outdoor dining options by repurposing parking spaces adjacent to restaurants, and by closing off some streets to all cars, such as Norfolk Avenue in Bethesda.

In addition, MCDOT is looking for volunteers near the implementation of Shared Streets to monitor the cones and signs put down to close off streets to non-local car traffic. If you are interested in volunteering to help out, please send an email to peter@waba.org, noting your street address.

Finally, we hope that MCDOT will set up a permit process whereby residents can ask to set up a shared street in their neighborhood. We will keep you posted on when this is implemented by MCDOT.

We could not make such progress without your support! Go to the MCDOT website on Shared Streets, take the survey, send specific suggestions for Shared Streets and help maintain the Shared streets implemented near you.

Strong proposals from Mayor Bowser for safer, slower streets

Yesterday morning DC Mayor Muriel Bowser announced several big changes that affect how people get around as the District reopens, and beyond. 

Those changes are:

  1. Lowering the speed limit to 20 miles per hour on all local streets. This is a permanent change, and takes effect on Monday, June 1.
  2. Creating a network of “Slow Streets,” open to people and local traffic, with a 15mph speed limit, and marked with barriers and signs. The District Department of Transportation has been tasked with identifying which streets will be a part of this network. We’ll keep you posted as we learn more. 
  3. Allowing restaurants to expand outdoor seating options by widening sidewalks and closing parking or travel lanes. 

These changes are a big deal. A really big deal. Slower driving means safer streets, period.

Here at WABA we congratulate Mayor Bowser and the District Department of Transportation for taking these important steps toward a safer city. These measures, and more like them, are critical to keeping people safe as the city reopens.

As these changes go into effect, we call on the Mayor and her agency staff to make certain that they are implemented in ways that advance racial and socioeconomic equity, not hinder it. We see two components of this:

On Slow Streets: This program’s top priority must be safe transportation for our most vulnerable neighbors. If the primary outcome of these changes is to create leisure space for the District’s most privileged, least vulnerable residents, we will consider it a failure. Long-standing economic disparities in DC mean that black residents, in addition to being disproportionately impacted by our deadly transportation system, are also disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Black residents make up 75% of DC’s COVID-19 fatalities. Residents of predominantly black neighborhoods have to travel farther to grocery stores, and fewer than one in five can work from home. The Slow Streets program must create safe transportation connections that serve the District’s most vulnerable communities first. 

On Speed Limits: Unequivocally: WABA does not want more police officers pulling people over. The racially disparate impacts of policing are well documented, and WABA opposes any program whose street safety improvements come at the expense of physical safety for people of color.

This speed limit change can only be successful if it is a precursor to changes to street design, and, in the interim, a program of automated enforcement whose exclusive goal is behavior change, rather than punitive fines or revenue.

More thoughts on Speed Limits:

The distinction between “local” and non-local streets presents a challenge. Many of DC’s most densely populated streets are arterial roads, which also serve as retail and transit hubs. We need slower speeds on these major corridors as well.

All that said, 20 MPH is still a really big deal:

Speed is a contributing factor in more than ⅓ of traffic crashes in DC and it is the single largest determining factor in crash survival and injury. We cannot eliminate fatal crashes without slowing down.

And, while it’s not a complete solution, changing speed limits alone does affect driving speeds. When Seattle lowered the speed limits from 30 to 25 mph on urban streets (without any engineering changes) they saw a 45-65% decline in the worst speeding (40+ mph) and substantial drops in crashes and injuries (link). When Alexandria lowered the speed limit on Seminary Road and Quaker Lane, average 85th percentile speeds dropped between 6-15%.

On Outdoor Cafes:

We hope this new policy brings more folks back to work safely, and see it as a positive step toward a long term shift in the District’s allocation of public space—one that prioritizes the mobility and comfort of people over the movement and storage of private automobiles.

Next Steps

We are still learning the details of this proposal, but stay tuned for ways to get involved in making sure these good ideas come to fruition. In the meantime, take a moment to say thank you to Mayor Bowser (@mayorbowser) and DDOT (@DDOTDC) on your preferred social media platform.

WABA 2020 Ward Council Questionnaires and Forum Recordings

WABA is 503(c)3 nonpartisan and non-political organization. The following information provided as a public service to educate voters about political candidates’ positions on transportation issues. WABA does not endorse any political candidates.

Because transportation is such a critical election topic in DC, WABA wants to inform our members about ward-level candidates’ positions on some of the most pressing issues.

We sent a questionnaire to all primary race DC Council candidates from Wards 2, 4, 7, and 8—which addressed issues such as expanding our protected bike lane network in DC, funding to complete our trail network, open streets, transportation equity and vision zero. We also held virtual candidate forums and invited all the candidates to participate. The forum was an opportunity for our members to listen to the candidates themselves and hear their positions on many questions that were submitted by WABA members. 

You can view those questionnaires and listen to a recording of the forums below. The Primary election is on June 2nd, 2020.

 Ward 2 Candidate Questionnaires 

Patrick Kennedy

Jack Evans

Kishan Putta

Jordan Grossman

Brooke Pinto

Yillin Zhang

Daniel Hernandez

Ward 4 Candidate Questionnaires  

Janeese Lewis George 

Brandon Todd

Marlena D. Edwards 

Ward 7 Candidate Questionnaires  

Vincent Gray 

Anthony Lorenzo Green 

Candidate Forum Recordings

Ward 2 and 4 Candidate Forum

Ward 7 and 8 Candidate Forum

Support more inclusive park trails!

In early April, several federal agencies, including the National Park Service, proposed new regulations for e-bike use on federal lands. Many of our region’s trails are managed by the NPS across the region, and a growing number of people across the region rely on e-bikes for transportation and recreation. 

The proposed rule changes offer a clearer definition of e-bikes, and give park Superintendents more discretion to allow or restrict e-bike to meet the varying needs of individual parks. We support these changes, with a couple of reservations listed below. 

Submit your comments

The proposed rule for the National Park Service:

  • Revises 36 CFR 1.4 to add a definition of e-bikes consistent with 15 U.S.C. 2085 and define the three classes of e-bikes.
  • Excludes e-bikes from the definition of motor vehicle.
  • Allows Superintendents to designate roads and trails that are open to bicycles as open to e-bikes. E-bikes would only be allowed in areas that have been designated by the Superintendent.
  • Requires that e-bike riders comply with the laws that apply to bicycle riders.
  • Prohibits the possession of an electric bicycle in designated wilderness.
  • Allows Superintendents to limit or restrict e-bike use after taking into consideration public health and safety, natural and cultural resource protection and other management activities and objectives.
  • Prohibits the throttle-only use of an e-bike in non-motorized areas (i.e., the e-bike rider must be pedaling at all times). Throttle-only power would be allowed  in areas open to motor vehicles.

The Washington Area Bicyclist Association strongly supports the NPS’ decision to pass order No. 3376 in August 2019. Opening Park Service land to e-bikes increases recreational opportunities for people who may not be able to ride a traditional bike due to physical fitness, age, or ability. E-bikes allow riders to travel farther distances, carry heavier loads (like children), and can reduce greenhouse gas emissions when used as an alternative to gasoline or diesel-powered modes of transportation.

We are in alignment with many of the revisions in the proposed rule, but we would like to see the following amendments:

  1. Specify that e-bikes are permitted on both paved and unpaved trails: “Consistent with the Secretary’s Order and the Policy Memorandum, the proposed rule would state that e-bikes may be allowed on roads, parking areas, administrative roads and trails (paved and unpaved) that are open to traditional bicycles.”
  1. Allow for the use of throttle-only bikes or Class 2 e-bikes. Class 2 e-bikes make cycling possible for many individuals who are unable to pedal. These low-speed throttle-assisted electric bicycles are equipped with motors that can exclusively propel the bicycle, but cannot provide assistance once the bike reaches 20 mph. 

At WABA we believe that the joy and convenience of bicycling should not be limited to the physically and financially privileged. The public has until June 8th to comment on these proposed regulations. We encourage you to support this rulemaking and help improve access for e-bike riders of all abilities around the country. 

Visit this page to read the proposed rule or submit your comments here! To make things easy, you can copy and paste our own comments in the comment field. The public comment period closes on June 8th.

20×20 Campaign May Update

It has been a few months since our last update on WABA’s 20×20 campaign, and so much has happened. The world has been turned upside down and we find ourselves with new rules for getting around and new demands on our streets. For many, this crisis is proving how liberating getting around by bike could be, if only there were a complete network of reliable, safe, and low-stress places to ride across the city.

We are working many angles to build that network, and you can read about them and sign your name in support here. The 20×20 campaign to add 20 miles of protected bike lanes to DC’s network by the end of 2020 remains critical to getting it all done.

Roll Up Your Sleeves & Get Involved

Summer Advocate Training Series

We are excited to announce a new weekly training series to help get community advocates like you fit for a productive summer of fighting for safe streets. Over the next couple weeks, hop on Zoom for a 30-60 minute session on the core skills, background, and tools for moving the 20×20 campaign for more protected bike lanes throughout the city. 

It’s weekly, Wednesdays at 6:30pm starting May 13! Come for as many sessions as interest you. No prior experience is necessary. See the calendar and sign up for a session here.

Join our 20×20 Spring of Action

To keep our momentum and the support for 20×20 projects growing, we are doing a weekly call to action. Each week, you will get a new opportunity to make the case for safer streets to a community stakeholder or elected leader. With your help we can bring new allies to the table, find common ground, and keep putting pressure where it is needed. Sign up for your Ward’s 20×20 group to get started!

Attend a DC Council Candidate Forum

Next week, we are pleased to host candidates for DC Council seats to discuss their perspectives and priorities on transportation, biking, and safe streets in DC.

Tuesday, May 19 at 7pm – Ward 2 and Ward 4 Candidate Transportation Forum – register and submit questions

Thursday, May 21 at 7pm – Ward 7 and Ward 8 Candidate Transportation Forum – register and submit questions

Attend a 20×20 Ward Meeting

We have groups of community advocates working in every ward to build support for the 20×20 projects. Join us for our next meeting! Find dates, times, and join links at waba.org/fun.

Updates

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Meet James Brady!

In March, we welcomed James Brady to the team to lead our 20×20 organizing in wards 4, 7, and 8. You can get to know him in his intro blog post. And if you live in one of those wards, he’d love to get to know you and get you plugged in! To start, fill out this survey and make sure to sign up for a 20×20 group at waba.org/20×20.

DDOT Ramping Up Planning

In August 2019, we challenged DDOT to build 20 miles of protected bike lanes by the end of 2020. That’s nearly 10 times the protected lane mileage the agency has ever built in a single year. By February, the agency  committed to 20 miles by 2022 — not nearly good enough, but still a substantial increase in pace and ambition. We have seen that DDOT is pooling resources from across the agency to plan, design and install more lanes faster. Our organizing and your voices are making this change possible,  so, it’s time to step it up!

Franklin St. NE protected bike lanes

Construction Season Has Started

From winter to spring, short protected bike lanes opened on P St. SW, 6th St. NE, Franklin St. NE, Monroe St. NE, and 4th St. NW adding about 0.75 miles to the network.

Construction started this month on the long-awaited Crosstown protected bike lane connecting Brookland to Park View. It will run one mile from Harewood St. NE to Warder Pl. NW on Irving and Kenyon Streets. The design includes wide curb-protected bike lanes, safer pedestrian crossings, and a handful of changes to make this highway a more pleasant place for people.

Work also starts this month on the 0.3 mile Brentwood Parkway protected bike lanes to extend the 6th St. NE lanes to the 9th St bridge. It will make a new low-stress route to three school campuses and future links into the New York Ave Trail, Brentwood, Union Market, and Trinidad neighborhoods.

And just around the corner, DDOT is on the last step of public input before installation can start on 1.6 miles of protected bike lanes on G St. NW in Foggy Bottom, K St NW in Mount Vernon Triangle, and Water St. NW in Georgetown.

4th St NW protected contraflow lane

Momentum & Major Milestones

Those projects are marching along because community advocates are working with their neighbors, getting decisionmakers on board, and putting pressure on DDOT to deliver. Thanks to that work, in the past few months:

  • ANCs passed resolutions in support of protected bike lanes on West Virginia Ave NE, G St NW, K St NW/NE, and Kenyon St. NW,
  • DDOT drew up preliminary plans for protected bike lanes on 4th St SW, 1st St/Potomac Ave SE, New Jersey Ave SE, 17th St. NW, and West Virginia Ave NE,
  • DDOT began planning protected bike lanes and bus only lanes on Pennsylvania Ave SE from 2nd St. SE to the Anacostia River, and
  • Planners are nearing the final design for the 1.5 mile 20th, 21st St. NW protected bike lanes

Thanks for reading. If you want to keep this work going, this week is a great time to renew your WABA Membership! Join the Bike Anywhere Week fun, grab a bingo card, and order your rad Bike Anywhere Week t-shirt today!

Safety, Public Space and Ahmaud Arbery

On February 23, 2020, 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery was jogging in his neighborhood when two men chased, shot, and killed him. A third person recorded this in a graphic video that shows exactly what happened. Ahmaud Arbery was murdered. 

Brunswick, Georgia, where Ahmaud Arbery lived, is 650 miles from Washington, DC. But this issue hits close to home. Ahmaud Arbery was just out for a run. He was doing exactly what we want people to be able to do during the coronavirus crisis: using the streets around where he lived to get some exercise. 

In our work we talk a lot about the need for safe streets. But what does safe mean?

Privilege means some of us can move freely and without fear in public space. But not all of us have that privilege. In the United States, the deep-seated, ever-present racism built into our structures and systems means that what is safe for one person is not safe for everyone. The fact is, Ahmaud Arbery was killed in Brunswick, Georgia— but it could have happened anywhere. It could have happened in Maryland, in Virginia, or in any quadrant of Washington, DC. 

What Gregory and Travis McMichael did to Ahmaud Arbery is terrifying. Ahmaud’s life was taken from him. His personhood, which was full and real and deserved protecting, was taken. This keeps happening in the United States over and over again.

Racial justice is an essential part of our work for safe and open streets. Systemic racism means that people of color, and particularly young black men and women, are threatened every day by the violence of racial profiling, discriminatory practices, and increased policing while biking, running, walking, and just existing in public space. 

White people who don’t acknowledge their privilege, white people who don’t understand the weight of this on their neighbors of color, white people who call the police on community members for not wearing masks or for gathering in public space or for running or even just existing, are part of this threat. 

To the members of our community who see themselves in Ahmaud Arbery’s story and feel afraid: we see you. We hear you. 

To those who move through public space without that weight: ask yourself if it is because of your white privilege, and how you can divest from that. 

As we call for open streets and access to public space for exercise and recreation, we know: until everyone is safe in public space, our work is not done.