Tell the DC Council to Fund Key Priorities in the Vision Zero Bill

This past year, people were killed because we failed to invest in a solution that is currently law. People were killed because we failed to implement a solution that is currently law. That law is the Vision Zero Enhancement Omnibus Amendment Act. And as it stands now, a law that can potentially save lives is not a priority in the Mayor’s budget, therefore the DC Council must show leadership and make it their priority. 

It has been well-documented that the District has seen an increase in speeding during the pandemic, and in 2020 we saw an increase in the number of people who lost their lives to traffic crashes compared to 2019. And these numbers could get worse if we don’t make significant investments in moving forward with funding and implementing the Vision Zero Enhancement Omnibus Amendment Act. 

In this year’s budget the Council can take the step to fund budget items in the Vision Zero Act that only require one-time funding. We specifically would like to highlight sections 3, 4, 5(b), 7(), 7(b), 7(c), 7(d), 7(e). 8, 9, 10, and 12 of the legislation for funding in the FY22 budget. Additionally, the Council should re-purpose $250,000 in the Mayor’s budget for vision zero public outreach and align it with the public outreach requirements of section 7(d) in the Vision Zero Act. 

We want to clearly state that is just part of what needs to be done to fully fund and implement the Vision Zero Act. Until the act is fully implemented, the Council must hold DDOT accountable, by requiring DDOT to be publicly transparent with how they plan to fully implement this act over the next few years. 

Rock Creek Park Trail Construction!

After more than 20 years of advocacy, the Rock Creek Park Trail is finally getting a much needed makeover! The District Department of Transportation just broke ground on the first phase of construction to rebuild and widen 3.7 miles of trail in Rock Creek Park, including a new access trail on Piney Branch Parkway and a new trail bridge south of the tunnel. This project compliments the trail rehabilitation and reconstruction of Beach Drive that finished in 2019.

Decades in the making, the improvements will be worth the wait. DDOT, in partnership with the National Park Service, is completely rebuilding the trail west of the creek. Among the highlights are:

  • A new trail on Piney Branch Parkway – the well-used dirt trail alongside Piney Branch Parkway will be turned into a paved, ADA accessible trail to help neighbors east of the park safely access it. Until very recently, there was no sidewalk or low-stress bicycle connection to Beach Drive between Klingle Road and West Beach Drive at the Maryland Line.
  • A new bike / ped trail bridge – a new 110 ft trail bridge will span the creek immediately south of the Zoo tunnel, a huge improvement from the current narrow sidewalk adjacent to car traffic
  • Reopening the Zoo Tunnel Bypass – For decades, the trail around the tunnel has been slowly falling into the creek. (a 2013 photo)). After a large storm in 2018, three sections of this trail collapsed into the creek, forcing the closure of the tunnel bypass trail. This project will finally rebuild the creek banks and replace the trail. This work is expected to begin in 2021. Unfortunately, this fix will not change the nighttime closure that routes trail users into the tunnel because this trail is still within the National Zoo’s security perimeter and subject to it’s operating hours.
  • Widening & pavement improvement – The existing 8-foot crumbling trail will be rebuilt to modern trail standards with improved foundations and drainage. Most sections will be widened to 10 feet plus a gravel shoulder except at some environmentally sensitive pinch points. 

The National Park Service also recently started construction on repairs and upgrades to the 1.5 miles of trail along the Potomac River including the Rock Creek Trail south of Virginia Ave NW and the West Potomac Park Trail between Ohio Drive and the Tidal Basin inlet bridge. Both will be widened to 8-10 feet, repaved, and re-aligned for a more comfortable ride. The work includes some intersection safety improvements, more green space, and a new trail tunnel through the supports of the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge for more room and comfort! Learn more here.

What to Know About Construction and Detours

Construction started in Spring 2021 and will continue through 2023 in phases. Detours for trail users will be set up and signed.

See the DDOT project page for more information and detailed detour maps.DDOT made a quick video about the changes here.

Police aren’t the solution to traffic safety

On Thursday, May 20th, the DC Council held a hearing on “The Recommendations of the D.C. Police Reform Commission”. WABA submitted the testimony below:

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today. My name is Jeremiah Lowery, and I am the Advocacy Director at the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA). I am submitting testimony on behalf of Defund MPD Coalition’s Police out of Traffic Enforcement working group. 

I would like to first and foremost state the main point of my testimony: the Police have not been and will continue to not be the solution to traffic safety. 

As the policy director at WABA, part of my job is to examine best practices to ensure everyone in the region has an opportunity to safely commute. From our perspective the best way to ensure walkers, bikers, and bus riders have safe commutes is to fund safe infrastructure to change driver behavior, and to educate drivers on safety rules and regulations. The police are not a sustainable solution.  

Therefore we agree with the police reform recommendations to remove MPD’s traffic enforcement duties. Our Defund MPD working group of lawyers, research fellows, and advocates have combed through the DC Code and the DC MR. Based on this research, we propose the following changes:

We propose that the following responsibilities be moved to DDOT or DPW (with a strong emphasis on ensuring DDOT or DPW staff are properly trained and resourced):

  • Make secondary only (can’t pull over for it, but can ticket if there’s a basis for a stop) 
    • Operating Unregistered (18 DCMR § 411.1)
      • Operating a vehicle without proper registration may be a secondary violation but cannot be used as the primary grounds for initiating a traffic stop.
    • Light Violations (18 DCMR §§ 703-706)
      • Violation of proper headlight (§ 704), taillight (§ 705), turn signal (§ 706), or other lighting equipment (§ 703) shall not be justification to initiate a traffic stop.
  • Failure to Wear Protective Equipment While Riding (18 DCMR §§ 2215.3, 2215.4)
  • Failure to Wear a Seatbelt (D.C. Code § 1802)
    • Failure to comply with District seatbelt laws shall be enforced by an alternative government agency.
  • Amend (narrow to dangerous driving)
    • Littering (18 DCMR § 2221.6)
      • Littering should only be a primary infraction justifying a traffic stop if the driver throws something out of the vehicle which will pose imminent danger to other drivers. 
    • Distracted Driving (D.C. Code § 50-1731.3)
      • Overlaps with other provisions governing texting, talking, etc.

We believe that the following could still be retained by MPD (violations that pose a serious danger to persons or property), until adequate alternatives are found. Violations such as:

We also completely support the repeal of the Window Tint Prohibition (D.C. Code § 50-2207.02(c) prevision. 

We also want to state on the record, that we also believe that automated traffic enforcement is not a sustainable long term solution. DC fines residents more than any other city, yet at the same time the problems with traffic violence still persist. Also, the burden of traffic fines falls disproportionately on poor and Black residents, while at the time the money from traffic fines are not being fully invested in implementing  infrastructure changes to dangerous corridors and intersections.

Long term, if we want to see traffic violence then we must change infrastructure, to give residents more safe locations to bike and walk in the city, away from cars. We must also change the roads to reduce speeding, which would lead to changed behavior. 

Lastly, for the record we support the Law Enforcement Vehicular Pursuit Reform Act of 2021. 

Today, we testify as a part of a growing number of people in the transportation advocacy community, we stand alongside the chores of voices who will submit testimony on this matter, voices who state that we must divest from dated models that don’t work and invest in sustainable solutions. The time is now.

Funding the Vision Zero Enhancement Omnibus Amendment Act

On May 13th 2021, WABA testified at the D.C. Council Roundtable on “The Surge in Traffic Crashes, Fatalities, and injuries in the District and the urgent need to fully fund The Vision Zero Enhancement Omnibus Amendment Act”.  Below is our testimony:

Good afternoon Councilmember Cheh and Members of the Committee,

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today. My name is Hannah Neagle, and I am the Vision Zero Manager at the Washington Area Bicyclist Association. I am submitting testimony on behalf of our 5,000 members in DC and across the region. 

Our mission is to empower people to ride bikes, build connections, and transform places. We envision a just and sustainable transportation system where walking, biking, and transit are the best ways to get around.

Yet the past few months, DC has experienced a deadly uptick in traffic violence. In the aftermath of these crashes, mothers have raised their voices for safer infrastructure, and friends of lost loved ones have protested the District government’s glacial and inadequate response to this crisis. Civic leaders have sent thousands of letters to Mayor Boswer, the Department of Transportation, and the DC Council asking for bold action to fix unsafe streets. 

Therefore, we strongly support fully funding and implementing the Vision Zero Enhancement Omnibus Amendment Act of 2020. 

The bill has more than a dozen traffic safety provisions that align with DC’s Vision Zero goals. However, funding and implementing the bill is just a first step forward. It will take this action and many more like it to prevent death on our streets by 2024. 

While we are requesting full funding of the entire Act, we would like to highlight the following six key provisions. These must be fully funded in the upcoming budget and implemented without delay: 

  1. Sections 5 and 7 – Pass and implement MoveDC, Complete Streets and the mandatory protected bike/bus lanes requirements. 
  2. Section 3(a) – Create mandatory sidewalk and crosswalk construction with DDOT capital projects. 
  3. No Turn on Red – Prohibit right turns on red at 80% of signalized intersections where vulnerable road users are most likely to be. 
  4. Speed Limits – Lower speed limits on local and collector roads (~13% of DC streets) to 20mph to fall in line with the recent new default limit for unsigned streets and local streets. 
  5. Section 7(e) – Enhance Fatal Crash Response to inspect the site 30 days after a fatal crash, require DDOT to inspect site and publish interim design installed and include permanent or interim design planned for later installation within 30 days of inspection. Additionally, add Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to the Major Crash Review Task Force. This will ensure crashes receive the same amount of attention and intervention. 
  6. Section 8(b) – Establish a public outreach program to educate on traffic safety, dooring, and emphasizes zero-tolerance for automobile-bicycle related injuries and fatalities including an education forum in each ward aimed at educating the public and raising awareness about automobile-bicycle injuries & fatalities. 

We know strategies like lowering vehicle speeds and improving infrastructure will make DC roads safer for vulnerable road users and drivers. We must take the first step in fully funding and implementing the Vision Zero Enhancement Omnibus Amendment Act of 2020 without delay.

Thank you for your time and continued commitment to street safety issues.

2021 VA Elections: Candidate Questionnaires

It is election season in Virginia! So where do the candidates stand on issues such as expanding bike and trail networks, transportation equity, and vision zero?

To find out where the candidates stand, WABA, Virginia Conservation Network, and Virginia Bicycling Federation sent a candidate questionnaire to all the registered Northern Virginia House of Delegate candidates (for strictly educational purposes only, no endorsement will be made)

Candidates who have registered as a Democrat, Republican, Independent, or 3rd party received a questionnaire. You can view the questionnaires submitted by candidates here: 

38th District, Holly Hazard, Northern VA 2021 Transportation Election Questionnaire For House of Delegate Races

38th District, Kaye Kory, Northern VA 2021 Transportation Election Questionnaire For House of Delegate Races

39th District, Vivian Watt, Northern VA 2021 Transportation Election Questionnaire For House of Delegate Races

44th District, Paul Krizek, Northern VA Transportation Election Questionnaire For House of Delegate Races

47th District, Patrick A. Hope, Northern VA Transportation Election Questionnaire For House of Delegate Races

49th District, Karishma Mehta, Northern Virginia, Election Questionnaire For House of Delegate Races 

50th District, Alfonso Lopez, Northern VA Transportation Election Questionnaire For House of Delegate Races

86th District, Shaun Daniels, Northern Virginia, Election Questionnaire For House of Delegate Races

86th District, Ibraheem S. Samirah, Northern VA Transportation Election Questionnaire For House of Delegate Races

87th District, Suhas Subramanyam, Northern VA Transportation Election Questionnaire For House of Delegate Races 

87th District, Gregory Moulthrop, Northern VA Transportation Election Questionnaire For House of Delegate Races

The following graphs include the collective data from questionnaire questions that only required a yes/no response. This does not include data from questions that required a written response. 

Also, as part of our 2021 VA General Session wrap-up, WABA  hosted a virtual town hall for WABA members. 

Speakers included Wyatt Gordon, Policy & Campaign Manager for Land Use & Transportation, Virginia Conservation Network; and Brantley Tyndall, President, Virginia Bicycling Federation.

During the Post-VA General Assembly town hall, our speakers reflected on the successes and lessons learned from this past session. We also discussed upcoming policies and initiatives that advocates should be pushing in upcoming general assemblies. You can view a recording of that town hall here.

What’s next?

by Joanne Neukirchen, President, WABA Board of Directors 

This is a follow up to Greg’s announcement of his departure from WABA.

First, I hope you’ll join me in thanking Greg for his 11 years at WABA. Biking has changed a lot during that time, and WABA has too. If we weren’t in a pandemic, I’d be inviting you all to sunburnt rooftop happy hour in Adams Morgan to share stories and hopes for the future. Instead, we’re putting together a short, socially distant ride and gathering in a park. Details to follow soon. 

So what’s next? The Board is delighted to appoint Kristin Frontiera as Interim Executive Director. Kristin has led WABA’s development team for the past four years. We have the deepest confidence in Kristin’s ability to shepherd WABA’s mission, vision and values through our Executive search and hiring process. Kristin will take on this role on June 1.

We expect this search to take some time, likely 5-6 months. The Board is committed to a hiring process that reflects WABA’s values, with a particular emphasis on justice. WABA’s work contains an inherent duality: riding a bike is a joyful, freeing experience, but the transportation system we exist in is unjust and deadly. We can’t fight those injustices if we’re perpetuating them as we hire a new leader. Our intent is to conduct a broad, nationwide search for a new Executive Director who can help WABA build a just and sustainable region where biking, walking and transit are the best ways to get around.

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me at this email address (joanne.neukirchen@waba.org). Nick Johnson is leading the Board’s Executive Search Committee. You can also reach out to  him at nick.johnson@waba.org with questions about the search and hiring process.

Thank you for all of your support, Joanne Neukirchen
President, Board of Directors

Thank you, and some news.

Dear Members and Friends,

Thank you for the opportunity to serve as the Executive Director of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association for nearly six years. I’ll be stepping down as the Executive Director and my last day at WABA will be May 31, 2021. It’s been a true honor and privilege to work everyday to make our streets safer for people on bikes.

A lot has changed in the past decade since I first started at WABA. Ten years ago, I could attend public meetings for the next street project and recognize most of the people in the room there to advocate for biking. Now those (virtual) rooms are packed with neighbors, business owners, and civic leaders speaking up for safer streets. Years ago, a cargo bike with kids would roll by, I would wave as it could be one of only a few local families. Now, I see dozens of families riding with kids every day. And, back then there were a few champions of biking serving in elected office that carried the flag for better biking. Today, there are leaders at all levels of government working to make biking better for everyone.

WABA is a community of people dedicated to creating a more just and sustainable region by making biking available to everyone who wants to ride. It’s really about the people. I have had the opportunity to work with so many inspiring, passionate, and caring people to improve bicycling — you, our neighbors and community members, civic leaders, staff, and board members.

The collective hard work by so many of you has yielded new miles of trails in the trail network, a growing network of protected bike lanes, the launch and expansion of bikesharing, passage of important legislation that protects the most vulnerable road users, and many more improvements that are making biking safer and more joyful.

And yet, there is work left to do. The past few weeks have been incredibly painful as people walking and biking are being injured and killed at alarming rates by dangerous driving on deadly streets. Each person killed leaves behind a grieving family and community. Every survivor faces a long road to recovery and will never be the same afterwards. Elected leaders across the region have made commitments to eliminate traffic deaths and injuries, but progress toward safe streets is too slow, too often bogged down by politics. We are tired of demanding change from people with the power to fix a broken system. We must continue demanding changes as lives are depending on us. 

The movement that you are a part of is bigger, more diverse and inclusive, and powerful than it has ever been. The calls for safer streets for better walking and biking are louder, more effective, more frequent and throughout the Washington region. The pandemic has brought into focus the need for more places for people to get outside on foot and bike to recreate and exercise, to promote their well-being, physical and mental health, and to live more sustainable lives. The growth of biking right now rivals historical bike booms and it’s the time to invest in long-term improvements that makes bicycling truly accessible and available to all who want to ride.

I am particularly proud of our work to advance diversity, equity, inclusion, and antiracism (DEIA) as an organization. Staff, board, WABA members, and volunteers intentionally work to center DEIA in our advocacy, education, and outreach efforts to better represent our diverse community and address historic and current inequity. 

On a personal note, our family welcomed a baby girl a few weeks ago. I will be taking some time in the short-term to be the primary caregiver for our two young kids before taking on my next professional role. Fortunately, we planned ahead and our family cargo bike has a spot for a second seat when the time is right. 

Here is an update from the Board President Joanne Neukirchen shortly that outlines the transition and search process for WABA’s next Executive Director. I have complete confidence in the members of the board and staff to advance our mission and represent the diversity within our organization.

Again, thank you for your support of WABA. I will soon join you as a member and look forward to WABA’s next chapter.

Sincerely,

Greg Billing


PS: We can’t do a happy hour safely yet, but join us on Thursday the 27th for a socially distant ride to a neighborhood park.

Capital Trails Coalition Testifies about ActiveFairfax Transportation Plan Budget

On April 15th, Fairfax County held their public hearing on the County Executive’s Proposed FY 2022 Operating & Capital Improvement Plan Budgets. This was one of three opportunities for community members to comment and testify on the proposed budget. (To read and learn more about budget hearings, visit our post about them here!)  Our Trails Coalition Manager, Stephanie Piperno, represented the CTC and testified at the hearing to verbally support adding funding for Phase Two of the ActiveFairfax Transportation Plan as well as to advocate for funding working toward filling in gaps on the Arlington Boulevard Trail. 

Fairfax County is working on updating their active transportation network by combining the Bicycle Master Plan and the Countywide Trails Plan into the ActiveFairfax Transportation Plan. The goal of this project is to establish and implement safe, convenient, and enjoyable streets and trails in Fairfax County for users of all ages and abilities. The ActiveFairfax Transportation plan will combine the vision for bicycling from the Bicycle Master Plan created in 2014, together with infrastructure, benefits, and highlights of the Countywide Trails Plan map that was last updated in 2018. Combined, these two plans offer the blueprint needed to create a connected and seamless network of on-street facilities and trails.

The ActiveFairfax Transportation Plan launched in the summer of 2020 and has an expected completion date of Winter 2022. It has been split into two distinct phases with Phase One including the development of a vision statement, goals, and objectives, as well as a thorough inventory and assessment of previous planning efforts and existing conditions. The development of a Systematic Safety Program Plan was also included in Phase One. Phase Two, and our focus, includes the development of active transportation network recommendations and facility selection toolkit, coordination with potential updates to the current Comprehensive Plan, and an implementation approach that includes policy, program, and strategies on project prioritization. Phase Two really comes down to implementation. We urged the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors to fund Phase Two of the plan during this budget cycle as we do not want to see the momentum slow and the safety improvements proposed in Phase One shelved. We need these safety improvements implemented as soon as possible, especially as our region is seeing an unprecedented increase in traffic fatalities despite there being fewer cars on the road.   

Additionally, to further our mission of creating an expansive, accessible, and safe trail network, we also encouraged the completion of the Arlington Boulevard trail, as its current state—riddled with significant gaps in pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly facilities—proves to make for an unreliable route for trail users. In connecting existing trail segments and creating new sections, we can create a 22-mile trail from Fairfax City all the way to the National Mall! One major gap is in the Merrifield area where there is no trail connection over I-495 (the Capital Beltway). 

 We proposed that Fairfax County include funding in the FY 2022 budget to study the best locations for two trail crossings along the I-495—one north and one south of Arlington Boulevard. Funding this study is the first step needed to complete the Arlington Boulevard Trail. Arlington Boulevard crosses several jurisdictional lines and connects people living in adjacent neighborhoods to offices, retail, parks, schools, and government services. But, it currently lacks a consistent, safe place for people to walk and bike. The Arlington Boulevard Trail will connect dozens of neighborhoods along Arlington Boulevard which will significantly increase pedestrian and bicycle trips by the people living near the route including the 202,320 people residing within just one mile of the trail. Connecting the gaps will lead to a continuous route that will create access from the trail to 17 activity centers, 30 different schools, 20 different parks, and much more. Funding the completion of the Arlington Boulevard Trail is a no-brainer!

You can find our full testimony here

Petition – Rock Creek Park—Seven Days a Week!

Rock Creek Park—Seven Days a Week!

In April 2020, with the encouragement of District government officials, the National Park Service set aside three sections of upper Beach Drive for the use of bicyclists and pedestrians during the coronavirus pandemic. Rather than managing upper Beach Drive as an auto thruway, NPS has been able to manage it as the center of D.C.’s largest park.

Reserving these sections for recreation has been enormously popular. Although this arrangement is temporary during the pandemic, the People’s Alliance for Rock Creek (PARC), has requested that the Park Service make it permanent. We welcome your support in this important effort.


Petition from the People’s Alliance for Rock Creek (PARC)

We, the below-signed residents of Washington, D.C. and surrounding jurisdictions, hereby acclaim the recreation, wildlife conservation and environmental benefits of upper Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park. We endorse making the current uses there permanent.

This action would continue the overwhelmingly popular traffic management scheme—in place since the pandemic began in Spring, 2020—that provides for full-time car-free recreation zones on three sections of upper Beach Drive between Broad Branch Road and the Maryland line. This is the traffic practice that has been in place on weekends since the 1980s.

Making these upper Beach Drive car-free zones permanent would maintain a safe, quiet and low-pollution greenway in the city’s largest park for hundreds of thousands of families, walkers, runners, bicyclists, wheelchair users and other outdoor enthusiasts—seven days a week. It would also promote regional goals for climate mitigation, air quality improvement and wildlife conservation.

Restricting automobile traffic between the Maryland line and Broad Branch Rd. would not preclude automobile access to the Horse Center, Nature Center, Golf Course, Peirce Mill, National Zoo, Zoo Tunnel, Rock Creek Parkway, Georgetown, Downtown, the Kennedy Center or the Mall. Moreover, it would retain automobile access to all but five of approximately 130 picnic tables in the park, including all the reservable group sites along Rock Creek. Inconvenience to motorists has been slight since alternative routes and access points exist inside and around the Park.

Because Rock Creek Park is a national park in the heart of a city, we urge close cooperation between the National Park Service and the District of Columbia government in implementing this permanent scheme to prudently manage transportation, recreation and conservation of natural resources.

Ask your elected officials to support the Capital Trails Network!

We know that trails are good for our health, the environment, and the economy. But how good? 

The Capital Trails Coalition quantified these benefits in its recent Impact Report. Completing the 881 mile Capital Trails Network will:

  • reduce vehicles miles traveled by 49 million miles each year; 
  • generate more than $1.02 billion in economic investment each year; and 
  • save residents $517M on public health costs annually.  

We’ve got about 400 miles to go to complete the Capital Trails Network! Write to your elected officials and ask them to fund and complete the remaining top 40 priority projects identified by the Capital Trails Coalition by 2025. These priority trail projects (91 miles of trail!) will give another 231,00 residents access to trails and open space.

* Note: We know the “Title” field is all kinds of problematic! Unfortunately, the contact forms of many legislators require it, so if we don’t include it, your messages won’t go through.