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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

Ways to Volunteer in your Community

Hey! We appreciate you existing and doing your best, whatever that means right now. We are so glad that you are here.

A number of us here at WABA have been doing what we can to help our neighbors out, and we wanted to share a few ways to get involved if you have the capacity and interest. 

We hear from our network of community organizations and mutual aid groups that their primary need is for dependable, problem-solving people. We’ve worked with many of you, and we know you’re awesome. Event after event, WABA volunteers have blown us away with your initiative, creativity, and ability to self-delegate when needed. Because of this, we think you could help!

We think this is important! Volunteer three times in your community for a WABA membership. Email membership@waba.org with subject heading “Community Support Membership” and a short list of what you did.

Regional Volunteer Efforts

The pandemic looks different in different communities across our region. It has brought longstanding inequities into stark relief: deaths from the disease are disproportionately African American, Latinx and Indigenous residents. Stay-at-Home orders have highlighted the unequal access to basic services—grocery stores, parks, public transit, internet—along race, gender and socio-economic lines. If you are able to travel safely outside of your neighborhood, these groups could use your help: 

Montgomery County

Prince George’s

District of Columbia

  • Martha’s Table is looking for volunteers for food packing and would love any donations of unopened PPE and cleaning supplies. 
  • Every DC Ward is organized within DC Mutual Aid, join your neighbors through ward signup. All links can be found here. Grocery delivery and mask productions are two major needs. 

Arlington

  • La ColectiVA is looking for food donations and some roles for grocery delivery (you must prioritize safety and privacy of many undocumented recipients). 
  • SURJNoVa is part of mutual aid coordination and also have connections to La ColectiVA, the Mayan League and NASEK. The coalition is also doing work in Fairfax. 
  • Arlington Magazine has a great compilation of community efforts (including masks) here

Alexandria

Fairfax

Self-Directed and Informal Things You Can Do

  • Reach out to loved ones and friends, mail postcards, send emails, give them a ring! People need human interaction and it can feel awkward to say hey, I’m kinda lonely right now.  Bonus: There are a variety of pen pal and mailing opportunities, including this senior home in Rockville
  • Watch your local neighborhood listservs for requests or post your own offer. Many existing neighborhood groups have requests and offers, including requests from groups and service agencies. Supply lines are disrupted right now and different routines have shifted what people use. Crayons, board games, bingeable romance books, food, clothes – you might have something to gift or loan.

TIP: Be proactive, specific, and actionable
One great model for support is making proactive offers based on efforts others are doing. “I saw you are starting some community meals, I have too much kale in my garden, would you like me to harvest some and walk it over tonight?” Concrete offers with details and an easy option to say “no thanks” reduces decision fatigue and require less emotional labor.

  • Check in with your neighbors. Going to the grocery store and have extra cargo space? Consider asking if anyone needs anything. There are 10 million immunocompromised people in the United States and 26% of US residents are disabled so it is quite likely you know someone who does not want to risk an errand trip right now. (Note: not everyone will be comfortable sharing why they don’t want to risk going out. That’s ok.)
  • Organize with your neighbors. Consider starting a neighborhood pod to support and coordinate with each other. It could be everyone on your block or apartment building. Direct Services agencies and nonprofits are overwhelmed – informal neighbor to neighbor mutual aid is one way to build community and spread work from formal networks. 
    • Here’s the handbook for DC Mutual Aid neighbor pod organizing
    • Vice has a good roundup of a few general neighbor organizing templates. 
    • Here’s a great guide to do the work safely
  • Sew masks. Especially if you have the supplies (sewing machine, cotton quilting fabric, thread, and a few other things), this is a great way to help. The need for them extends far beyond healthcare facilities—people who work in other essential businesses, frontline food support, immunocompromised people.  Each fabric mask takes ~30 min and the need is never-ending. (Note: if you have capacity and you are receiving/buying masks, pay a fair price for them! Sewing takes skill & time, and materials are not free).
  • Listen, read, and be patient. Volunteer management takes work! A lot of organizations have been flooded by offers to help and requests for support. Sorting, connecting and responding takes time. Many groups and organizations have clear requests they have posted on social media, newsletters and/or their websites. Help them by researching what they’ve already communicated before sending a general email about volunteering. 

Giving money is good too! 

Your local food bank, the Capital Area Food Bank, local fundraisers for service industry workers, local businesses, very large tips on deliveries, local restaurant fundraisers for donated meals and individual people in your networks – all excellent options. Here are some frontline organizations doing amazing work:  

What is Mutual Aid?

Mutual Aid is based on the principle and a long history of practice that everyone has something to give and receive, and that we all must work together for long-term structural change so that everyone can thrive. It is work that values the well-being and dignity of everyone. Many practitioners use the phrase “Solidarity, not charity” to describe it. Learn more about the history and practice of mutual aid in this webinar organized by the Highlander Center. If you are new to this framework, do a lot of listening and be mindful of how you take up space in conversations. 

And remember:

We appreciate you existing and doing your best, whatever that means right now. We are so glad that you are here.

WIN: Capital Crescent Trail Tunnel Funded.

Update: The County Council heard you and voted unanimously to fund the tunnel! Construction is expected to be complete in 2026, which is a couple of years later than we hoped, but still a success.

We’ll have more analysis soon. In the meantime, read more at Bethesda Magazine.

February Action Alert:

In 2017, the Capital Crescent Trail tunnel under Wisconsin Ave in Bethesda permanently closed to make way for the Purple Line’s station and tracks. At the time, Montgomery County leaders assured the public that a new tunnel for the trail would be designed and built to take the county’s busiest trail under Wisconsin Avenue. Now, the design is nearly done but County Executive Marc Elrich proposes no funding to build it.

When trains begin carrying passengers on the Purple Line, a new extension of the Capital Crescent Trail will open too, connecting Bethesda to Silver Spring. It will fly over Connecticut Ave, Colesville Rd and Rock Creek Park on new bridges. But when it enters Bethesda you will not see the old trail tunnel. Instead, it will hit a stop light and Wisconsin Avenue’s 40,000 daily cars and trucks.

The County must finish the tunnel by the time the Purple Line is complete. Contact your Montgomery County Council members using the form below to urge them to provide full funding for the construction of the Capital Crescent Trail tunnel under Wisconsin Avenue to be completed by the end of fiscal year 2023.

While the CCT tunnel is WABA’s #1 priority in this budget, we need your help to restore funding for other important projects too. When you’re done, you will be automatically redirected to weigh in on those too.

Protect Safe Streets funding in DC’s Budget

A bicyclist rides in front of the Wilson Building

In two weeks, Mayor Bowser will send her budget proposal to the DC Council laying out the administration’s funding priorities for next year and major projects for the next five. Unfortunately, due to the economic effects of the Coronavirus, we are expecting steep spending cuts across the board. Funding for safe streets cannot be on the chopping block.

For years, community advocates have fought to make sure agencies have the resources they need to make DC’s streets safe for everyone. Use the form below to email the members of the DC Council Transportation and Environment Committee and ask them to make sure those hard-won, life saving budget lines don’t get cut.

Personal messages have a greater impact, so please take a moment to share your perspective in the email below. 

  • Explain or tell a story that shows why safe streets, traffic calming, or protected bike lanes and trails are important to you during this crisis
  • Thank them for their service
  • Be concise and respectful

COVID-19 Policy Recommendations for Biking and Walking

With COVID-19 cases still rising and experts indicating that the end of the crisis is still months away, most people are looking at a lot more time at home.  But “stay indoors until August” is also not a viable option. People need groceries, medical care, and other essential services. And public health experts agree that people also need access to outdoor space, fresh air, and exercise to maintain mental and physical health. 

Currently, all across the region, people are awkwardly navigating narrow sidewalks and trails, trying to maintain a safe distance. As the weather improves and the weeks stuck at home wear on, this is not tenable. 

In order to make space for essential movement and safe, essential exercise, WABA proposes the following policy changes be implemented by all regional governments.

We support WABA’s COVID-19 policy recommendations for making walking and biking safer during the pandemic. We applaud our elected officials for implementing some but strongly encourage them to go further and employ more policies critical to the safety of communities across the region.

These policy changes are equally applicable to urban and suburban spaces but, it’s important to note that the places people need to access vary from neighborhood to neighborhood. Not everyone has access to a walkable grocery store or pharmacy. Crises like this one exacerbate existing inequities in our transportation system and social services, so government actions should be responsive to community needs.

Immediate Actions Needed for Shelter-in-Place and to Prepare for Reopenings

The Washington region is under shelter-in-place restrictions by order of the DC Mayor, and the Maryland and Virginia Governors. Restrictions will be lifted when public health data of the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates the peak of cases, hospitalizations are in a sustained downward trend. Right now, each state is creating detailed plans for reopening elements of the economy and society, including what physical distancing will mean for the foreseeable future until a vaccine is widely available. The following recommendations apply to the duration of the shelter-in-place restriction and the different phases of physical distancing which may last months to more than a year.

Agency Actions

Sidewalk expansions around high-traffic essential goods and services: Our region’s sidewalks are not wide enough to accommodate safe social distancing in busy, essential places. Metered parking or full travel lanes should be closed to motor vehicles on blocks with grocery stores, healthcare providers, and other high traffic essential services. This can be accomplished with cones, signage, and temporary ADA ramps.

Slow Lanes for essential exercise connectivity: Social distancing requirements have exposed a host of connectivity gaps and choke points in the region’s network of outdoor spaces. Park roads, travel lanes and metered parking adjacent to high traffic parks & trails should be closed to motor vehicles to make space for people to run, walk and bike safely. Similar treatments should be applied to streets that contain on-street or on-sidewalk segments of existing trails — The W&OD Trail at the East Falls Church Metro Station, The Anacostia River Trail on the Benning Road Bridge, The Hyattsville Trolley Trail on Rhode Island Avenue.

Speed management: Lower traffic volume has led to an increase in the frequency and intensity of drivers speeding on many roads. Speeding makes severe crashes more likely, and makes roads and public spaces less safe for the people walking and biking through them. Agencies should use every engineering, education and automated enforcement tool available to mitigate this problem: changes in light timing (such as Sunday timing or sequencing signal timing for lower speeds such as 15-20mph), temporary speed limit reductions, deployment of automated enforcement and driver feedback signs (radar speed signs), lane closures, temporary stop signs, roundabouts and other tactical urbanism interventions.

Temporary Protected Bike Lanes: There are dozens of protected bike lane projects in various stages of planning, design and pre-construction in the region. Where appropriate and possible, transportation agencies should establish temporary pilot protected bike lanes using low-impact tactical interventions such as cones, traffic barrels, lane marking tape and other readily available materials. These pilot projects should not seek to circumvent the public engagement for their permanent installation.

Enforcement: Racially biased enforcement by police officers is well documented and in times of crisis this bias can result in discriminatory patterns of enforcement. Additionally, some local jurisdictions activated additional personnel to support police departments through the National Guard or similar reserve forces that often lack training in community engagement and de-escalation techniques. Attention to these details as they apply to community-based policing by any officers is critically important.

Increase shared public and private bike fleets: The reliance on bicycles will increase over the coming months and access to free or affordable, shared bikes will be necessary. Cities and counties should increase available fleets, especially electric bikes for longer trips (2-3 miles). Bikeshare systems should be regularly cleaned and disinfected, and safety supplies (hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, etc) made available to users and employees.

Community Led Changes

Given staff and funding constraints at implementing agencies, individuals and communities must be empowered to make changes to neighborhood streets to foster safe mobility and essential exercise.

Turn any residential block into a “Local Traffic Only” block: Residents should be empowered or sanctioned to temporarily convert a residential street into a “Local Traffic Only” block for extended periods. Residents, through existing formal or informal networks such as Civic Associations or Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, could self-organize days and times for street reprogramming. Traffic cones would be placed at the each end of the block with signs stating “Local Traffic Only” and warning drivers to expect people in the street. Streets must be available for emergency vehicle access, US Postal Service and other deliveries, and vehicles of residents and visitors.

Create sidewalk expansions wherever needed: Sidewalks are crowded near essential businesses such as grocery stores, pharmacies and medical offices with people accessing entrances and waiting in queues. Cities and counties should create a temporary permit process to create expanded sidewalk space in the adjacent parking lane or curb-lane on a multi-lane street. The additional space should comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as much as is practical to ensure that these expanded spaces are accessible for everyone.

Long-Term Vision

Crisis planning: One lesson we have learned during this crisis is we need to be better prepared in the future.  During a crisis or long term-emergency our regional governments should have a plan to increase capacity and direct more resources to expand sidewalks, keep open our parks, and ensure we have multimodal transportation options for essential workers and our most vulnerable populations. 

Whether it involves updating an existing disaster plan or creating a new one, our regional governments should have the implementation strategy, guidelines, and resources so we are never caught off guard in a crisis. Transportation needs and consideration will be different during an infectious disease pandemic compared to a threat of terriorism, natural disaster, political unrest or other major disruption

Therefore, we are calling on all local governments in the region to examine the capacities and resources that are necessary to execute open space and emergency public transportation policies during a crisis. We will be following up with our regional leaders to inquire about next steps to move this forward.

Environmental Impact: Nitrogen dioxide levels are lower in our region because people are driving less, walking more, biking more, or staying home, therefore, when this crisis is over we must continue to transform our systems to reduce the causes of climate change. We can’t go back to the old ways of doing things.

Going forward, we call on our regional governments to speed up the process and commit more resources to completing protected bike lane networks, our regional trail network, as well ensuring we have increased public transportation options that are run on clean energy. 

Climate change exacerbates existing social injustices and creates new ones. A Harvard University study of those sickened in the covid-19 pandemic also showed that people living in polluted environments are far less able to fight off the disease. Communities of color disproportionately are relegated to areas with the greatest amounts of pollution and other environmental contamination, making them more vulnerable to the health crises like the current pandemic. 

If our regional governments commit the resources to create a transportation and infrastructure  system that allows people to drive less, then we create cleaner and healthier environments, which means our communities, especially our most vulnerable communities are less likely to succumb to diseases.

We need to act now, before the next crisis.

While we need to strengthen our healthcare systems for the future, according to Allison Arwady, Chief Medical Officer at the Chicago Department of Public Health, “even if we had a perfect healthcare system in which anyone could access a doctor, we would still see significant health disparities because of food deserts and lack of walkable streets.”

Once this crisis has passed, our regional elected officials need to start the future resiliency and crisis management planning process right away. A process that must include expanded sidewalks, open parks, transportation options for our essential workers and our most vulnerable populations. They must also commit the resources to expanding our protected bike and trail networks with a new sense of urgency.

Safe infrastructure in a crisis matters and we need to plan like it.