Newsletter: The legacy of Stan the Sinkhole

Happy Friday, I hope everyone gest to spend some time on your bike this chilly weekend. 

Welcome to WABA’s newsletter! Don’t forget to subscribe! Please share it with your friends and colleagues who might find it useful. And be sure to follow us on Mastodon, if, like us, you’re looking for ways to kick the Twitter habit (more on that next week).

A trail in a state of disrepair next to a busy highway. A bicycle is shown with a wheel in a sinkhole, demonstrating the hole's size.

Stan

If you rode the Suitland Parkway Trail between 2011 and 2020, you probably encountered Stan the Sinkhole. A persistent, yawning chasm that defied many attempts to fill it. In 2020, DC Water finally repaired the water main break that brought Stan to life, but Stan’s legacy lives on: The Suitland Parkway Trail remains a bumpy and unwelcoming place to ride, squeezing anyone biking or walking between lesser potholes, encroaching vegetation, and 50mph traffic. The good news is that after years of pressure from community members and the Capital Trails Coalition, DDOT is launching a project to rehab the trail. The (virtual) kickoff meeting is on February 15th.

In other trail improvement news, The Trail Rangers are hosting a whole bunch of cleanups this month. Come on out! We’ll bring snacks and cleanup gear.

  • Hayes Street Cleanups: (the protected bike lane section of the Anacostia River Trail): February 5th, 12th and 19th.
  • Monthly Trail Cleanups: 
    • Anacostia River Trail Cleanup: February 8th (and the second Wednesday of every month) 
    • Marvin Gaye Trail Cleanup: February 9th (and the second Thursday of every month)
    • Oxon Run Trail Cleanup: February 10th (and the second Friday of every month)
Two broken ATMs submerged in Watts Branch

The Trail Rangers haul a lot of trash, but some things you just can’t haul out by bike. The team counted eight (8!) update: THIRTEEN ATMs in Watts Branch along the Marvin Gaye Trail last week. 

Things to do:

Join the Citizens’ Climate Lobby for Transit Equity Day at the Anacostia Community Museum. 

Speak up for protected bike lanes on 11th St NW

WMATA wants your feedback on the future of Metrorail and Metrobus. Comments due 2/14. 

Speak up for park space for people on Little Falls Parkway on 2/15.

What do you want from the new (and newly funded) Long Bridge project? Tell the design team on 2/13.

Come to our annual Member Meeting on 2/15.

Have you heard of Streets Calling DC? They’re a Black-owned bike club with a majority-Black membership focused on social activism, entrepreneurship, and social engagement. They are launching a cool after-school program designed to teach high school students about the importance of cycling, health and wellness, and other important life skills. Learn how you can join their club or support their programming.

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A fun route idea for the weekend: 

Take the Red Line to Glenmont, head north on Layhill Road and pick up the Matthew Henson Trail west to Rock Creek. From there you can ride south back into the city on the Rock Creek Trail and Beach Drive, or north on the trail to Lake Needwood and the Shady Grove Metro Station. Just be sure to bundle up and find a spot for a hot cup of cocoa or tea along the way. 

Thanks for reading!

Support Low Stress Biking on 11th St NW

After Advisory Neighborhood Commissions up and down 11th St NW urged DDOT to plan safety upgrades and protected bike lanes for 11th St NW between Pennsylvania Ave NW and Spring St NW and on Vermont Ave NW. DDOT has added the street to its 2023 workplan and begun developing plans.

In December ’22, DDOT presented options for the narrower stretch of 11th between S St. and Florida Ave and asked for feedback. Use the form below to email project manager Victoria Caudullo to show your support for a low-stress bike lane design that makes everyone feel safe. Read on for more details.

Between S St and Florida Ave, 11th St. NW narrows from more than 50′ between the curbs to just 33′. Today, these five blocks have curbside parking on both sides of the street and a driving lane with a shared lane arrow in each direction. But “sharrows” do not make a street safe or low-stress to bike on, so a different design and tradeoffs are needed. We support both options A and B because they both would deliver a low-stress biking experience that works for people of all ages and abilities. 

The Options

Option A would add curbside protected bike lanes in both directions and maintain driving lanes in each direction. This design would remove parking on both sides of the street.

Option B converts 11th St. to one-way for auto traffic, which frees up 10′ for other uses. This design adds slightly wider curbside protected bike lanes in both directions and allows for parking or loading zones on one side of the street.

Converting to one-way operation does potentially complicate the road network, but it may come with additional traffic calming opportunities. Since the 64 bus line already diverts to Florida Ave and Vermont Ave, one-way conversion would not affect bus lines. This option also provides the most flexible space for the design to accommodate the existing streatery at 11th and U St.

Option C converts 11th St. to one-way for auto traffic and retains curbside parking on both sides. However, under this option, the bike lanes are unprotected and positioned in the “door zone” so people on bikes will risk being doored on one side and passing car traffic on the other. It may be prohibitively stressful for less confident bicyclists and children. Additionally, because the parking lanes are very narrow, sloppy parking or larger vehicles will make the narrow bike lanes less usable.

For more details and background, you can view the full presentation here.

Take Action

Use the form to share your feedback with the project manager and show your support for a low-stress bike lane design that makes everyone feel safe. You may edit the message to make the message yours. Be sure to state your preferred option and why you prefer it.

The full project will upgrade 11th St. from Spring St to Pennsylvania Ave and Vermont Ave from Logan Circle to Florida Ave NW.

Help Shape WMATA’s Future Goals

Tell Metro: bikes love transit

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which operates Metrorail and Metrobus, is taking input on the agency’s “draft multi-year strategic transformation plan.” You can provide comments in a survey until Feb. 14, or testify at a public hearing on Feb. 9.

Take the Survey

Transit loves biking, and vice versa! A strong transit system can deliver the middle leg of long bike commutes, provide access to trails and recreational rides, and offer an alternative option for bike commuters on bad weather days. In the other direction, bikes, including bikeshare, and other micromobility options, support transit ridership by providing a key last-mile connection. And notably, both transit and bikes — often in combination — are crucial transportation services for vulnerable communities such as lower-income residents.

Thankfully, Metro’s draft plan includes some ideas to foster the win-win relationship between bikes and transit. The draft sets a goal to increase the percentage of Metro riders using a bicycle as their primary mode of access to transit. And it includes some plans for how to get there: by improving safe bicycle access to Metro facilities and expanding amenities for bicyclists, such as secured parking and more bikeshare stations on Metro property.

That’s a great first step. As bike advocates, we can encourage Metro to turn those ideas into priorities by commenting about the importance of aggressively pursuing those improvements.

You can read the full plan here.

Suggested comments

The survey asks a few simple questions about the draft plan. We suggest responding to the questions below with these points; you can skip the other questions if you like.

What do you like MOST about the Strategic Plan?

  • Initiative to expand last-mile connectivity options and amenities for bicyclists
  • Goal to increase the percentage of Metro riders using a bicycle as their primary mode of access to transit

In your opinion, what initiatives should Metro prioritize to achieve the goals and objectives in the Strategic Plan?

  • Provide safe and comfortable routes for bicyclists on Metrorail station grounds, with connections and wayfinding to nearby bike facilities
  • Expand free and paid bike parking (e.g. a sufficient number of covered, clean, well-lit, secure bike racks and lockers)
  • Partner with Capital Bikeshare and other micromobility providers to expand offerings at Metrorail stations
  • Regularly consult with bike users and advocates such as WABA about the best ways to achieve Metro’s goals to improve access to transit for bike users

Please share with us any final thoughts or comments you may have about the Strategic Plan

This is a great place to share your personal story about biking and transit!

  • Do you bring your bike on Metrorail or Metrobus?
  • Do you take bikeshare to or from Metro?
  • Do you rent a bike locker at a Metro station — or wish you could?
  • Does your Metro station have enough bike racks, or could they be improved?
  • Do you feel comfortable biking at your Metro station?

Take the Survey

Author: Gavin Baker is a community advocate in DC’s Ward 4.

Support Safer Intersections in Virginia

On Wednesday, the full Virginia Senate will vote on Senate Bill 1293. The bill would authorize jurisdictions to allow the Safety Stop, which allows bicyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs and  treat red lights as stop signs. The Safety Stop is a proven safety measure, recommended by the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHTSA) and adopted in ten other states, including the District of Columbia just last year.

The Safety Stop will make for better, safer bicycling in the Commonwealth but the bill faces an uncertain outcome on the Senate floor on Wednesday, February 1st. We encourage you to reach out to your State Senator before Wednesday and encourage their support for the bill. 

The Safety (or Idaho Stop) is on a roll. Last year, the District of Columbia became the tenth jurisdiction to authorize the safety measure, going into effect this past January 1st. We wrote then about the safety implications here and vocally advocated for the policy change in the District. Now Virginia has the opportunity to join the fast-growing ranks of states recognizing the unique needs of bicyclists and prioritizing safety. 

SB 1293 is enabling legislation that would authorize jurisdictions to allow bicyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs and/or treat red lights as stop signs. A 5-year study of the Safety Stop in Delaware was shown to contribute to a 23% reduction in bike crashes at stop-sign controlled intersections. Data like this is the reason Senator R. Creigh Deeds, who helped nix a previous Safety Stop bill for further study in 2021, is not only supporting this bill now but serving as its lead sponsor

The Safety Stop works – encourage your Senator to vote yes TODAY. [button]]

But this isn’t the only safety-focused policy change in the works. Senate Bill 847 would allow bicyclists to proceed with the pedestrian walk signal at crosswalks. This is common sense, bipartisan legislation. Like the Safety Stop, allowing bicyclists to cross with pedestrians helps maximize their  visibility to drivers and minimize exposure to vehicles in the intersection.

The Virginia Senate is expected to vote separately on SB 847 this Friday, February 3rd. Tell your State Senator that bicyclist safety at intersections is a priority for you and to vote YES on both bills this week. 

Weekly Newsletter: January 27th, 2023

Welcome back to WABA’s weekly newsletter. Don’t forget to subscribe, and be sure to email me if you’ve got a tip I should include next week. Read to the end for a fun route recommendation for the weekend.

Moar e-bikes 

Earlier this month, DC Councilmember Brooke Pinto introduced a bill to provide a rebate on e-bike purchases from bike shops in DC. My wife and I bought an e-assist cargo bike a few years ago, and, look, I know the word “transformative” gets thrown around a lot, but it’s real! If you’re looking to go car-lite or car-free—for climate reasons or just because it’s easier to park—go test ride an e-bike. They’re convenient and green, but they also bring a lot of unexpected joy to tedious parts of your day. My absolute favorite biking experience around here is probably the Seneca Ridge Trail while the redbuds are blooming. But a close second is definitely puttering home from the store on the Anacostia River Trail with the week’s groceries, my daughter sitting behind me singing Frozen loud enough to scatter trailside waterfowl. And I get to do that one every week.

All this is to say: creating more accessible, affordable alternatives to driving and car ownership are great policy goals. Also in e-bike news, DDOT has clarified its rules about e-bikes on trails. Short version: you can still ride your Class 1 or Class 2 e-bike on DC’s trails. 

WABA out and about

Have you met sangam ‘alopeke, WABA’s new Vision Zero Outreach Coordinator? They’re out and about across the city, helping folks speak up for safer streets. 

a WABA instructor encourages three students to practice gliding their bikes

DC Public Schools now teach every second grader to ride a bike, but DC Charter Schools don’t have the same universal curriculum. But WABA can help—we have a contract with the District to provide bike and pedestrian safety education to students in grades 2 through 8 at no cost to any DC Public Charter School! So if you have kids in a charter school, send this link to your administrators or teachers, or have them get in touch with us at youth@waba.org

an overflowing trash bin on the Marvin Gaye Trail

Last week, the Trail Rangers teamed up with the Deanwood Citizens Association to host a cleanup on the Marvin Gaye trail. They hauled out 50 bags of trash!

Things to do:

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Montgomery Parks is hosting a meeting on February 15th to lay out the next steps for the Little Falls Parkway linear park—reclaiming two traffic lanes for walking, biking, picnicking, and all sorts of fun space activation. Nextdoor will surely respond with equanimity. Show up on February 15th to support the project.

Don’t forget to speak up for the proposed Cemetery Wall Trail on Route 110 in Arlington.

Support Protected Bike Lanes on Q&R St NW.

Come talk to WABA’s staff and Board of Directors at our Annual Member Meeting on Feb 15th. 

If you live or work in Virginia, go meet Kevin.

Things to look forward to:

Coworker Jeff reports that the bike signals on the Kenyon St NW protected bike lane are being installed this week. This will make crossing Georgia Ave a bit less stressful. 

Word in Fairfax County is that the new trail along Grist Mill Road will be complete this spring. This trail closes a gap between the southern end of the Mt Vernon Trail and the new-ish trail along Route 1. It means you’ll have a relatively low stress connection from Mt Vernon to the Fairfax County Parkway trail, the Franconia-Springfield Metro station, the Meadowood mountain bike trails, Pohick Bay Regional Park, and Mason Neck State Park. If you’ve never ridden in that area, I’d recommend it, it’s beautiful.

Enjoying this so far? Subscribe!

Starting in February, you’ll need to be a member to subscribe to this weekly newsletter, so sign up now while it’s free! Though, membership is pay-what-you-can, so you can get all this content directly in your inbox for a few bucks a year, if you want.

Construction is underway on the protected bike lane on Route 1 that will connect the Northwest Branch Trail to the Hyattsville Trolley Trail. This will create a seamless, low stress connection between Mt Rainier, Hyattsville, Riverdale, and College Park. Also a critical connection for anyone who’s ever needed a neon hula hoop or novelty fly swatter from Franklin’s. 

DDOT’s overhaul of C Street Northeast (pictured above) isn’t quite done yet, but it’s looking incredible. Go check it out if you’re in the neighborhood.  

DDOT also issued a Notice of Intent for a new protected bike lane on M St SE, from First Street to 11th Street, and they’re looking for feedback. If you ride in the Navy Yard area, take a look and use the email on that page to share comments or just a note of support.

Here’s a fun route idea for the weekend: 

Cross the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge, take the yet-unnamed new trail along 295 to Blue Plains and pick up the trail into Oxon Hill Farm. If you’re feeling ambitious, head south from there towards National Harbor and take the Wilson Bridge into Alexandria for some coffee before getting back on the Metro.

Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to subscribe!

-Colin

Most e-bikes are now allowed on DC’s off-street trails

The District Department of Transportation recently finalized a much needed update to the rules of the road for e-bikes in DC. Most of the updates clarify that a person riding a “motorized bicycle” (aka most e-bikes)  has the same rights and responsibilities as a person on a standard bike. But the biggest change is that the rules no longer prohibit most e-bikes on DC’s off-street trails!

As of December 2022, Title 18 subsection 1201.18 of the DC Municipal Regulations is repealed, so it is now legal to operate a motorized bicycle on any sidewalk, off-street bikepath, or bicycle route within the District. The change is more of an update to reflect reality than a policy shift. After all, most e-bike owners and e-bikeshare users have been happily riding their bikes on DC’s off-street trails unaware for years without issue. And while we are not aware of any instances of ticketing or enforcement, we welcome the update.

E-bikes are fun and an incredible option for replacing some car trips. They allow people to travel longer distances, climb steep hills, carry heavy loads or children and generally reduce some of the barriers to making trips by bike. Most e-bikes are just normal bikes that offer a little help, so they absolutely belong on off-street trails like the Met Branch, Anacostia River, Oxon Run, Klingle Valley and Marvin Gaye Trail. Read more on WABA’s philosophy around e-bikes here.

Why were e-bikes ever prohibited on trails in the first place? 

DC’s laws and road rules are behind other states when it comes to electric bicycles. Over the past 7 years, with leadership from People for Bikes, 40+ states, including Maryland, Virginia, and the federal government have updated laws to classify and regulate the modern electric bicycle. Most adopted similar definitions for Class 1, Class 2, and Class 3 e-bikes, which make it far easier to describe where and how those bikes may be used.

So far, the DC Council and DDOT have relied on existing legal definitions for “motorized bicycle” and “motor-driven cycle” which were first introduced into DC law in response to the rise in popularity of mopeds in the 1970’s. At the time, that often meant internal combustion engines, significant weight, and other safety concerns that put them in a very different category than a typical bicycle. 

So it was natural to prohibit them from sidewalks and trails. Over the years, DC has tweaked definitions and requirements to account for new technology. But, compared to the Class 1, 2, 3 system, it is a messy situation that barely accounts for the e-bikes on the market.

What is a Motorized Bicycle?

Today DC law defines, a “motorized bicycle” as a vehicle that has: 

(a) A post mounted seat or saddle for each person that the device is designed and equipped to carry;

(b) A vehicle with two (2) or three (3) wheels in contact with the ground, which are at least sixteen inches (16 in.) in diameter;

(c) Fully operative pedals for human propulsion; and

(d) A motor incapable of propelling the device at a speed of more than twenty miles per hour (20 mph) on level ground.

A motorized bicycle shall be a motorcycle when operated by motor at speeds in excess of thirty miles per hour (30 mph) and the operator shall be required to have on his or her possession a valid motorcycle endorsement. A motorized bicycle shall be a motor-driven cycle when operated by motor at speeds in excess of twenty miles per hour (20 mph) and the operator shall be required to have on his or her possession a valid driver’s license. (D.C. Law 19-290) Title 18 DCMR 9901.1

Comparing this definition to the e-bikes sold in most bike shops today, most Class 1 and Class 2 e-bikes fit the “motorized bicycle” definition because their electric motors are limited to 20mph. Class 3 e-bikes, which can reach 28mph under motor power, poorly match the definition of motor-driven cycle.

As DC considers implementing an electric bicycle rebate program to support residents and businesses in purchasing e-bikes, it may be time to bring DC in line with other states’ definitions.To read the official notice of rulemaking from the DC Record, click here.

Meet sangam ‘alopeke, WABA’s new Vision Zero Outreach Coordinator

Hi y’all! My name is sangam ‘alopeke – I’m the new Vision Zero Outreach Coordinator here at WABA and I am very excited to be joining the team!

I am coming to WABA from a background of activism at the intersections of disability justice and healthcare. I have helped organizations develop tools to put their values into action; I have spearheaded campaigns for more equitable healthcare access; I have worked extensively as an educator giving people the skills to take control of their own health.

My work has focused heavily in the past on the way inequitable systems affect marginalized communities, and joining WABA is for me a logical extension of that work. Disabled communities, together with poor communities and communities of color, are disproportionately impacted by inadequate and unsafe transit access. Especially in the past few years as fatalities from traffic violence have spiked, the need for radical change in the way we look at safe streets has become more and more pressing to me.

I’m very glad to be joining WABA’s advocacy work towards safer streets in our city. If you want to connect, I can be reached at sangam.alopeke@waba.org.

New: Get our weekly newsletter!

Welcome to WABA’s new weekly newsletter! What’s it about? Read on to find out. If you like it, click here to subscribe. Got a tip I should include next week? Email me. Read to the end for a fun route idea for this weekend.

What’s new?

The Bicycle Stop-As-Yield is now legal in the District of Columbia, meaning you can (carefully!) roll through a stop sign, as long as no one else is at the intersection. Which is to say, go ahead and, uh, continue to do what pretty much everyone already does on a bike. Do note that this only applies to stop signs. You are still required to come to a stop at stop lights, and you have to wait for a green before proceeding. Read Garrett’s detailed explanation here

This is one of several major legislative wins in the District from last year. You can read more about them all in Jeremiah’s quarterly Advocacy Roundup

In other wins, the Eastern Downtown protected bike lane on 9th St NW, just, like, exists for real now? And you can ride on it? The first public meeting for this project was way back in 2015, and it’s been a real roller coaster of progress, public outrage, and political delay. For me, and probably many of you who’ve been plugged in to safer streets advocacy for a while, the Eastern Downtown project took on a sort of mythological status, a big reminder that a lot of powerful people still just don’t want bikes around. But now, thanks to sustained support from folks like you, as well as hard work from Councilmembers and agency staff,  it’s built (mostly), and it’s great! I recommend checking it out. While you’re at it, take a spin in one of the several other great new bike lanes that opened in 2022

Speaking of monumental shifts and welcome changes, The Washington Post Editorial Board has changed its tune on bike lanes. 

And, in case you missed it, the Maryland State Highway Administration, which has resisted installing protected bike lanes for years, finally installed one on Old Georgetown Road in Bethesda after drivers killed two young people on bikes. Unsurprisingly, the ensuing mild delays for drivers at peak times have triggered an explosion of externality-ignoring rage on Nextdoor. You can read our statement on the project here. And if you live in Montgomery County, be sure to use this form to tell the Montgomery County Council, State legislators and the SHA that you support the project. 

Does it ever seem like otherwise nice, rational people lose any sense of perspective when faced with inconveniences to driving or parking? Well, the science is in, and you’ll be shocked to learn that, yep, Car Brain is real and pervasive. The title of the study is Motornomativity: How Social Norms Hide a Major Public Health Hazard, and, well, yeah. Obviously. 

Enjoying this so far? Subscribe!

Starting in February, you’ll need to be a member to subscribe to this weekly newsletter, so sign up now while it’s free! Though, membership is pay-what-you-can, so you can get all this content directly in your inbox for a few bucks a year, if you want. 

How do we overcome this massive societal bias to make streets safer for everyone? We get organized and keep speaking up and showing up. To that end, WABA is expanding our capacity in Maryland and Virginia. Kevin O’Brien, who’s been supporting the Capital Trails Coalition for the past year, is now WABA’s Virginia Organizer. Grab a coffee or a beer with him in the coming weeks, share your stories, and chat about what’s coming up in the Commonwealth. We’re also hiring a full time Maryland Organizer. If that might be you or someone you know, get that application in! 

This additional staffing in Maryland and Virginia is possible in large part by support from people like you. You made our year end fundraising campaign a success, and that has a direct impact on our ability to spend more time out helping folks get organized to win safer streets. Thank you!

Other job opportunities at WABA: Education Program Coordinator, Outreach Director (closes soon!)

Also on the Calendar:

Click These Things to make biking better:

Talking Point of the Week: Dangerous roads are a policy choice.

Part of my job is talking to reporters. Here’s something I find myself saying a lot. Maybe you’ll find it useful too:

Deadly road design is a policy choice. The tools for making streets safer for everyone—people walking, rolling, biking, taking the bus, driving—exist, and they are in use in cities all over the world.  The barriers to safer streets are not technical, they are political. They’re political because we have a limited amount of public space available to move people, and for most of a century, nearly all of that space has been designed to move people in cars. To make that space safer for everyone, including people in cars, we often have to reallocate some of it to move people who are not in cars. 

Hundreds of people die and thousands suffer life-altering injuries on our region’s roads every year, not because we don’t know how to prevent it, but because too many of our elected officials and agency leaders are still afraid to make driving and parking marginally less convenient.

*steps down from soapbox*

Here’s a fun route idea for the weekend: 

The Red Line is operating on a mostly normal schedule this weekend. Take the train to Shady Grove and pedal out to one or two of the many breweries in Olney and Brookville. Don’t miss Gregg Road, which is a beautiful twisty roller coaster. 

Thanks for reading. If you’ve got this far, you should definitely subscribe so you don’t miss the next one! 

-Colin

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