October Beach Drive Update

by Peter Harnik of the People’s Alliance for Rock Creek Park

More than 6,500 park lovers who have signed our petition asking the National Park Service to continue keeping upper Beach Drive car-free after the end of the pandemic. Thank you – you have made a huge impact!

More than 2,400 people who filed an official comment with the Park Service over the summer about the best way to manage the roadway for recreation, conservation and health. If so, thank you!

I want to bring you up to date on the status of the campaign for “Rock Creek Park Seven Days a Week.”

The comment period regarding “Concept 1” (restoring weekday commuter car traffic) or “Concept 2” (continuing the current no-through-traffic protocol) has ended. The Park Service is now evaluating the huge number of comments. We know that there was a huge outpouring of interest, but we don’t know the “score” between the options. The Park Service could also choose to come up with a compromise based on time-of-day, day-of-week, season or something else.

NPS stated that it will release its recommended action “this fall,” and we’ve heard that might mean late October. After the announcement, the People’s Alliance for Rock Creek (PARC) – along with everyone else – will have 30 days to comment on the proposal. Then NPS will finalize its decision.

The Park Service says it will maintain the current traffic program (no commuting cars) on upper Beach Drive until any decision is made.

PARC is awaiting the outcome of the formal process, but in the meantime, we do not want this issue to disappear from public awareness. To that end, we are maintaining a three-pronged program:

Getting more petition signatures to show the Park Service how much we care. Our goal is “7,000 Petitions for Seven Days a Week.” Please help! Direct friends and family to our website: waba.org/PARC.

Getting more photographs of happy non-motorized users along upper Beach Drive – in every season, every time of day, using every form of mobility, accompanied by every kind of pet, and enjoying themselves in every possible way. We’ll use some pictures for our website and for our pressure on the Park Service. Send your photographs and your selfies to peterharnik1@gmail.com

Getting the word out about Beach Drive on weekdays – before and after work, during lunchtime and other breaks, and on days off. Schedule some personal events and invite your friends to come along – it’ll be double the fun!

Once NPS publishes its recommended action, all of us will need to be ready to spring into action with either praise or an outpouring of criticism. Once again, you will be an important part of this effort, so please stay vigilant. If we don’t succeed this time, it’s unlikely that we’ll ever get another chance for a 7-day-a-week park.

Support a safer, more sustainable Montgomery County

The Thrive Montgomery 2050 general plan for Montgomery County was recently passed by the Montgomery Planning Board and is now under consideration by the County Council Planning, Housing and Economic Development (PHED) Committee before the Council votes to adopt it.  To lower our carbon emissions and make biking and walking safer,  you can show support for this Plan that calls for enhancing our biking, walking and transit networks and plans for people not cars!

Thrive Montgomery 2050 will reduce the County’s reliance on single occupancy autos and prioritize completing safe bicycle and walking networks, especially for the majority of our trips that are under 3 miles in length.  Use the tool below to email the members of the Council to ask that they support Thrive 2050’s transportation priorities.

The transportation section of Thrive 2050 (read it in full) proposes decreasing our current dependence on single occupancy cars and calls for providing safer and increased options for walking, biking and use of transit.  The Plan calls for a cessation of planning and construction of more highways and road widening, while at the same time creating more space on our roads for biking and walking, especially to reach transit nodes.  This means narrowing car lanes, placing more dedicated lanes for transit, widening sidewalks and putting in protected bike lanes.  50% of trips people make each day are less than 3 miles. Thrive 2050’s Complete Streets approach aims to transition these from most driving  to  biking, walking and transit.

Please email the Council to share your support for the Thrive Montgomery 2050 Plan’s transportation priorities which prioritizes people walking and biking over cars!  You can also call your district and at-large Council Members using the phone contact information here.
To read the full Thrive 2050 Plan, see the Thrive 2050 website and review the  Coalition for Smarter Growth’s summary of the other sections here.

Stop the Expansion of “No-Tent Zones” in DC

Last week, WABA launched our Streets for People merchandise as part of our membership drive. We celebrated Open Streets, and saw what our public space could look like when we take it from cars to give it to people. And we mean that Streets are for People, for everyone: even when their homes look different from our own.

District governments and agencies are criminalizing homelessness and endangering people’s lives by bulldozing encampments. In establishing “no-tent zones,” the District is making it harder for our unhoused neighbors to connect with city services—including housing vouchers—and organizations that provide direct services. This process only further criminalizes their rights as people to exist in public space. 

Yesterday, we witnessed District Agencies forcibly remove people from public space, bulldozing not only many people’s homes, but a person themself, barricading the space with concrete blocks to prevent sleeping. All of these actions were performed under the cover of ‘returning  pedestrian access.’ This is unjust and inhumane. And in the case of M Street NE, it’s totally ineffective. Rather than the agencies providing access via the well-lit sidewalk that already provided space for everyone, people are being forced out of the protected bike lane and onto an on-street underpass. 

When we talk about public space, we are usually talking about streets as places of transportation and recreation, places of community and commerce. However, one of the unfortunate realities of living in an expensive part of the world, a geographic region and society with a deeply imperfect safety net, is that we have neighbors who don’t have permanent housing. That is not a crime nor should it be. 

WABA is joining hundreds of individuals and organizations in signing onto this letter to halt evictions until encampment residents are connected to housing.

Sponsored: Learn About DC’s New Vision Zero Law For Cyclist

The follow sponsored content is provided by WABA Business Member Price Benowitz, LLP.

In September of 2020, The Vision Zero Enhancement Omnibus Amendment Act of 2019 was unanimously passed by Washington, DC politicians. This amendment expands on a new technique to establish protected bike lanes that was initially used in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The premise behind the legislation is to require protected cycling infrastructure anytime road work is done. Washington, DC joined other cities around the country in signing up for the global traffic safety platform known as Vision Zero.

What is Vision Zero?

The Vision Zero law promises to modify the basic DNA of the District’s streets. It states, if a road segment is being rebuilt and has been identified as a possibility for a protected bike lane, bus-only lane, or private-vehicle-free corridor, that feature must be included. The bill prohibits right-on-red turns in areas with high pedestrian traffic. It also mandates the installation of sidewalks on both sides of a street and imposes stiff penalties on contractors who fail to install sidewalks, bicycle lanes, or marked crosswalks after completing work. Additionally, bike riders would be permitted to have rear lights and applicants who want to convert an out-of-state driver’s license must also pass a traffic rules and regulations knowledge test.

The District Department of Transportation Role in the Legislation

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) is still analyzing what constitutes “major repair,” which is the term used by the bill. How they define it might have a big impact on where the law applies and when. The DDOT will also be obligated to analyze the city’s 15 most dangerous pedestrian and bike corridors and junctions ahead of time and report on changes. Supporters argue that this will ensure that the city focuses its resources on the most dangerous areas.

Traffic Fatalities Still Increasing Despite Vision Zero Law

Vision Zero has struggled to achieve its aim of fully eradicating pedestrian and bike deaths due to traffic violence. The DDOT responded to the pandemic by launching bus-only and Slow Streets pilot projects, both of which were included in the bill. Despite fewer cars on the roads, there were 36 total traffic fatalities in the city in 2020, which was up from 27 in 2019. These traffic deaths sparked a season of demonstrations, activism, and support for legislative change to be included in the bill. When the Black Lives Matter protests began in June, racial equity became a major focus of the proposed legislation. Wards 7 and 8, which are mainly African-American communities, accounted for half of the traffic deaths in DC this year. The pandemic revealed systemic inequalities that affect not only health and unemployment, but also transportation and the ability to move about safely in neighborhoods.

A Price Benowitz Bike Crash Attorney Can Help You

Although the District of Columbia is taking steps to better protect cyclists, the government’s efforts will take years to fully implement, even with the help of advocates and DDOT. Pedestrians and cyclists are still vulnerable to crashes and deaths involving cars in and around the capitol. If you have been a victim of a bike crash, you are entitled to file a claim against the negligent parties. A bicycle crash attorney from Price Benowitz can assist you in navigating DC’s complicated traffic rules and ensure you receive compensation for the damages incurred.

Mexico to Canada: Bikepacking, gravel roads, and grit

2,600+ miles of off-pavement biking through the continental divide and unceded traditional territory of the First Nations and Indigenous people of present day Antelope Wells, New Mexico to Alberta, Canada. Talk about an adventure! Join us for a conversation with Shauna and John Dickson who recently completed the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. They’ll spend the first half of this zoom webinar talking about the length, views, and what did and didn’t work. The second half will be dedicated to the nitty-gritty details like gear, accommodations, and average miles per day. Shauna and John will leave time for Q&A after each section. We welcome you to join for all or part of the talk depending on your level of interest. The webinar will have live captions and participants are encouraged to participate by chat or voice. 

REGISTER ON ZOOM

Sponsored: Virginia Bike Laws Make Roads Safer for Cyclists

The follow sponsored content is provided by WABA Business Member Price Benowitz, LLP.

New traffic laws aim to reduce crashes between motor vehicles and bicycles.

More and more Americans are bicycling to commute, to exercise, or simply to take part in the fun. This increasing number of bicyclists on the street has led to more crashes between cyclists and motor vehicles than ever before. As bike safety is of constant concern, Virginia lawmakers passed two new laws to promote safer roads. These laws went into effect on July 1, 2021.

The first law requires drivers to switch lanes if they cannot maintain a proper distance when passing cyclists. This includes moving over double-yellow lines when necessary and to allow for a safe passing distance. Virginia’s roadways and trails are not always friendly and safe for cyclists. Thus, lawmakers want to ensure that cyclists have plenty of space on the road to travel, especially when there is no bike lane, sidewalk, or shoulder.

Furthermore, the second law allows cyclists to now ride side-by-side in pairs along a single lane. Previous law states that cyclists can ride side-by-side but must travel in a single line to let motor vehicles pass. In large biking groups, this law creates a shorter distance for a driver to pass the cyclists compared to the previous single line. The goals of these laws are to promote safer conditions for cyclists and reduce crashes between vehicles and bikes on the road.

What You Can Do To Keep Roads Safe for Bicyclists

Crashes between cars and bicyclists can occur when a biker is brushed by a passing vehicle, struck by a vehicle turning, or hit when a vehicle opens their driver’s-side door. These crashes can also occur at intersections and while bikers are riding against traffic. To avoid crashes between you and a bicyclist, it’s important to take caution and practice these safe driving tips:

  1. Avoid distractions while driving. You should refrain from looking at your phone, texting, playing music too loud, or using anything that can distract you from the road and traffic.
  2. Drive defensively and obey the traffic safety laws. You should obey the speed limit, adjust speed for road conditions, and drive defensively to help avoid a crash with a cyclist.
  3. Use caution when turning, approaching intersections, or at stop signs and red lights. When you get to an intersection, it’s important to look both directions before making any turns. Bikers may not stop or may have to cross the street, so pay close attention to your surroundings before maneuvering. Also, double-check your mirrors and blind spots before turning.
  4. Don’t drive, block, or park in bike lanes. Bike lanes allow cyclists a safe path to travel in. Make sure you are providing them with a clear path.
  5. Check your mirrors before opening your door. If you are parking on a roadway, it’s important to check your mirrors before opening your door to avoid blocking paths and hitting any bicyclists.

As bicycle-related deaths peak in the summer months, cyclists and drivers are encouraged to take precautions and do their part to make roads a safer place for all travelers.

Contact a Car Crash Attorney TodayMotor vehicle crashes can lead to severe injuries and even death, especially when a crash involves a cyclist. An experienced car crash attorney at Price Benowitz, LLP may be able to review your case and help you get the compensation you deserve. If you have been injured in a crash or know someone who has been, contact our team today.

Letter on September 13th Crash

WABA, Greater Greater Washington, and DC Families for Safe Streets sent the following letter to the Mayor’s office on September 14th, 2021 in response to a driver killing a 5 year old. A PDF version is available here if you’d like to send it to your elected officials. We received this letter in response from Mayor Bowser on September 15th.

Mayor Muriel Bowser
Deputy Mayor John Falcicchio
Deputy Mayor Christopher Geldart
Acting Director Everett Lott
Senior Advisor Beverly Perry

September 14, 2021

To Mayor Bowser, Deputy Mayor Babers, Deputy Mayor John Falcicchio, Deputy Mayor Geldart, Director Lott, and Senior Advisor Perry:

Last night, another driver killed another child in our city. Another sudden, violent hole torn through the heart of a family. It did not have to happen. Today, we demand change as we begin grieving this devastating loss. Traffic violence has a profound physical, emotional, and spiritual impact on our lives, families, and communities. It doesn’t have to.

The District has the resources, the tools, and the expertise to make every intersection in this city safe for people—regardless of race, income, age, gender, or ability—to cross on foot, on a bike, in a stroller, or in a wheelchair.

Instead, we see the same grim pattern, over and over again: a violent crash, a public outcry, and a feeble, “tactical” response from the city—some marginal infrastructure changes at the site of the crash, with no plan to address thousands of other similarly unsafe streets and intersections across the District with the urgency that a five-year-old’s death demands.

In the wake of the 185th traffic death in the past six years, we aren’t asking for more funding or more planning for infrastructure. The administration went a long way toward addressing that challenge in the FY2022 budget. We thank Mayor Bowser for her historic investment in transportation improvements and look forward to the release of an updated MoveDC long-range transportation plan. 

We see, however, that on street after street, project after project, the District drags its feet, implementing proven safety measures only reluctantly and after aggressive compromise.

Mobility is a human right. The first section of Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights from the United Nations states, “Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.” But the reality is that most American cities limit that freedom to people in cars. 

The District can do better. We can and should interpret the right to freedom of movement to mean that people have what they need to protect and preserve their wellbeing as they move through the city.

Thus far, however, the District has only demonstrated that level of commitment to people who are driving cars.

We are asking for an ideology of safety from those leading the District: We want to see, and feel, that Mayor Bowser cares more about safety than parking, more about safety than driving fast, and more about safety than driver convenience. We want to see equitable policy and decisive action to create city streets that ensure no one else’s life is lost. 

An ideology of safety will lead the District to do everything in its power to slow traffic through the reallocation of parking and driving lanes to multimodal infrastructure, increase investments in transit to ensure every resident has a reliable alternative to driving, advance automated enforcement, and, overall, to shift its culture to one in which lazy, reckless, and unsafe driving is not tolerated.

This will require constraining the privilege of individual drivers, and will no doubt be accompanied by public backlash. We think saving a person’s life is well worth that unpleasant endeavor.

Sincerely,

Chelsea Allinger, Executive Director
Greater Greater Washington

Kristin Frontiera, Acting Executive Director
Washington Area Bicyclist Association

Christy Kwan, Co-Chair
DC Families for Safe Streets

2021 Lime Connect Century Ride

This annual event brings together passionate riders of all levels for a great cause: resources and scholarships for high school seniors with disabilities. The ride is fully supported with 10, 30, 60, and 100-mile ride options. Fundraise to earn more swag and prizes!

Maryland 2021 Legislative Session Summary

The 2021 legislative session was a busy one, hampered by COVID restrictions but productive nonetheless.  Below are the transportation related bills WABA and other bike advocates from around the State, including BikeMD, followed and worked to pass.  We will renew the fight for the ones that did not pass next January in the 2022 session and also make a concerted effort to significantly increase the level of State funds for all active transportation projects.

Bills Passed

HB 118/SB 293 – Vehicle Laws -Injury or Death of Vulnerable Individual -Penalties text here.  This was the main focus of efforts by the BikeMD advocates and will become effective law on October 1, 2021.  The new Vulnerable Road User law will save lives by encouraging safer driving with stronger penalties for those who hurt or kill pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists, wheelchair users and other vulnerable road users lawfully using or crossing our roads.The law mandates a court appearance by any motor vehicle driver who causes a crash with a vulnerable road user who is killed or seriously injured.  In the past, such drivers usually were issued a traffic citation or ticket.  Now, such drivers must appear in court and face stiffer penalties including higher fines, a driver safety program, community service and license suspension for up to six months.  This will provide greater support to victims and friends of crash victims knowing the driver involved will face a greater penalty.    The law helps fill a gap between traffic citations and higher offenses such as criminally negligent manslaughter by vehicle.

HB 562 – Montgomery County –Speed Limits –Establishmenttext here.  Montgomery County and any local jurisdiction in the County  can now decrease the speed limit on a street down to 15 mph after performing an engineering and traffic study. This seems to include State Highways ( such as Georgia Avenue/MD-97) as long as the change is approved by MD State Highway Administration.  This bill will be effective October 1, 2021.

PEPCO Trail paving fundedmore detail here.  $10 Million was appropriated to Montgomery Parks to pave 7 miles of an existing 13 mile natural surface trail that runs along an electric powerline right of way from South Germantown to Cabin John Regional Park.   The trail goes along a electric powerline right-of-way.

Passed but Vetoed by Governor Hogan

HB 114 – Maryland Transit Administration – Funding and MARC Rails Extension Study – establishes and funds a Purple Line Grant program for businesses along the light rail corridor and funds a study on extending MARC service to West Virginia.  It is likely the veto will be overridden by the legislature in 2022.

Proposed but Not Passed

HB 564 – Montgomery County –Automated Traffic Enforcement – the bill would have allowed Montgomery County to transfer the automated traffic enforcement program (Speed and red light cameras) from the police (MCPD) to the transportation agency (MCDOT), thus placing this program with the agency primarily responsible for Vision Zero and any redesign of the roads.  In addition, removing this program from police responsibility could be an initial step towards removing armed police from traffic enforcement overall and thus reducing friction (often racially motivated) between the police and drivers.  This bill passed the House of Delegates, but failed to get a floor vote in the Senate.

HB 0067 – Maryland Department of Transportation Promises Act – bill would have placed restrictions on public-private partnerships and aimed to hold the Maryland Department of Transportation and Hogan Administration to many of the promises made during highway expansion planning.  The bill would prohibit the Board of Public Works from approving a phase public-private partnership agreement for the I-495 and I-270 Public-Private Partnership Program unless the payment of the toll revenue is transferred to a certain special fund; it also would authorize a public-private partnership agreement for the Program to require a bidder to agree to initiate a community benefit agreement.  This bill did not pass either house.