Thanks to You, WABA Earns $10,000 in CLIF Bar 2 Mile Challenge

Thanks to our dedicated WABA members and supporters, we have reached 10,000 trips today on the CLIF Bar 2 Mile Challenge. This means we’ll receive the full $10,000 donation from CLIF Bar that will go to support our local advocacy work. We are so thankful to our members and other riders who dutifully logged an average of 550 trips every day over the first 18 days of July. Even through two record-setting heat waves, floods, thunderstorms, downed trees, and massive power outages we proved that getting around by bike is happening in DC, even in less than favorable weather conditions. Now we’re going to help our fellow bike advocates in Kansas City and Los Angeles. Since they didn’t quite make it to the maximum donation, CLIF Bar has graciously agreed to allow us to continue to log trips after we reach 10,000 and split the difference between those two groups. We still have 13 days to help BikeWalkKC and the Los Angeles County Bike Coalition make it all the way to 10,000. They need a combined 4519 trips logged to help each organization reach the $10,000 mark. That’s only 347 trips per day. We know we can do it thanks to the amazing response we’ve already seen from all of the WABA 2 Mile Challengers. There’s 13 days left in July to keep logging those trips and make a difference for bike advocacy in two other great cities. Let’s do it!

Track Your Trips in July to Help Raise $10K for WABA

WABA is thrilled to announce that we’ve been selected as the July beneficiary of the CLIF Bar 2 mile challenge!  Each month, CLIF Bar picks a different bicycling non-profit as beneficiary of its nationwide challenge to get people out of their cars for trips under 2 miles.  For every trip logged on 2milechallenge.com during the month of July, CLIF Bar will donate $1 to WABA, up to $10,000!  With thousands of WABA members and dedicated cyclists throughout the region, we are confident that we’ll hit that 10,000 trip mark! We only need 165 cyclists to log 2 trips a day in order to reach 10000 trips by the end of July.  And since this contest is nation-wide, cyclists in other states and cities can log their trips as well to benefit WABA.  So call your sister in Chicago, your brother in law in Nashville, your nephew in Ann Arbor and ask them to register! Create an account at 2milechallenge.com by clicking “Join the Ride” and filling out your information. Then you can easily enter your trips each day. So please, today, go to 2milechallenge.com and register to begin logging your bike trips!  Every trip logged now will help the Los Angeles Bike Coalition reach their goal of 10,000 trips by the end of June.  And it’s good practice for July, when we’ll need every trip duly logged to raise funds to support our advocacy and outreach efforts in the Washington area. (The GPS smartphone version is a bit more complicated, but provides a ton of additional features for those who want to map and share routes and track training statistics.  You can create an account on Bike Brain by downloading the app onto your iphone or Droid and entering your information. Then, when you start pedaling, click START TRIP.  After each trip, click FINISH TRIP, ensure “Log Miles to 2 Mile Challenge” is checked, and click SHARE.)  

FCC wins Bicycling and Active Commuting Champion of the Year award!

With Bike To Work Day happening tomorrow, it seems fitting that WABA  shares the news that the Federal Communications Commission has won the first annual Bicycling and Active Commuting Champion of the Year award.  Reinvigorated last year by WABA member, Ed Fendley, FedBikes created a scorecard to evaluate federal agencies on their bicycle commuter friendliness.  FedBikes members then collected the scorecards and compiled the data, determining a winner and honorable mentions.  WABA is thrilled to have this resource available for all federal agencies and hope that it will inspire other agencies to accommodate, encourage and thereby tap the unlimited potential of bicycle commuters to their offices. Read on for more details and information on how your agency can participate! FedBikes Press Statement – FCC Named 2012 Bicycling and Active Commuting_ Champion FINAL 5-16-12  

What a 12-Year-Old Can Teach us About the Importance of Bike Lights

WABA will be hitting the streets tonight to begin our “Got Lights?” program for 2012, giving away 1,000 free sets of front and rear lights (provided by DDOT). The program is designed to target bicyclists riding after dark without lights. This post is a personal story from Gina Arlotto, who handles WABA’s Planning and Organizational Development, about teaching her kids about bike safety and the importance of having lights (and other safety equipment) on bikes.

WABA's branded bike lights for the Got Lights? giveaway

One Parent’s Perspective

It will come as no surprise to you to learn that kids really don’t like being told what to do. And they dislike it even more when they hit adolescence. Trust me, having to repeat the same lessons (pick your battles!) a million times gets old from a parent’s perspective, too. Happily, teaching and practicing safe bicycling habits is one of those battles that we pick. It’s how I combat the anxiety I feel about them riding to school alone every day. I know they have the skills to control what they can–by following the rules of the road, by signaling, by stopping at stop signs and red lights–and the proper safety equipment. And I hope they can handle what they can’t control, especially the drivers commuting through our neighborhood without regard for bicyclists.  My kids know that following the rules of the road and having the proper bike safety equipment is not only the law, it’s also the safest way to ride. My son (15) has taken many of my lessons to heart, but he takes the Metro to school (and as a teenage boy, will be a safety work-in-progress for some time regardless). I usually ride with my daughter (9) to school before I head into work, so I am able to observe her bike behavior closely.

A Bike Safety Prodigy

But for my 12-year-old daughter MaryGrace, it is imperative that she follow our safe cycling rules as she rides the 10 blocks to Stuart Hobson Middle School alongside car commuters. If you’re at all familiar with middle schoolers, you know they especially don’t like being told what to do, and my daughter is no exception. For a long time, I couldn’t be sure if all our lessons on bike safety were sinking in. Thankfully, I periodically get reports from neighbors complimenting her for stopping at red lights and riding safely around the neighborhood. And if I needed any more reassurance, I only have to think of her response when I praised her on a long ride about how well she was doing. “Mom, I’m a bike safety prodigy,” she said with all the attitude of a typical 7th grade girl. Nevertheless, I could tell she was proud of herself. Bike lights as critical bike safety equipment is a common theme in our house. We installed lights on the kids’ bikes before they rode them for the first time, so the conversation mostly consists of reminding the kids to turn the lights on, even during the daylight hours. When we’re out and about on Capitol Hill we see a lot of bicyclists riding around without lights, and my kids are often the first to point them out.  “Wow. That’s not safe,” they say, “You can’t even see them!” Needless to say, I was thrilled when, a few weeks ago, I came home to find MaryGrace out on the sidewalk installing a set of lights on her friend’s new bike. When MaryGrace saw the bike, she said the first thing she told her friend was that she needed a set of lights.  After school let out they rode to our house and, after rummaging around in my husband’s basement work bench, fortunately located a spare set.  Not content to just give the lights to her friend to mount on the bike later, MaryGrace had grabbed a screwdriver and they worked together to get everything attached for the now-dark ride home. A “bike safety prodigy” indeed!

Visibility is Your First Priority

All of this is to say that if a slightly stubborn (but always adorable) 12-year-old middle school girl can recognize the importance of a set of bike lights, then you probably should too. And to any other parents out there, sometimes you really do have to repeat an important lesson a million times before it sticks. If you’re very lucky, you’ll be there when it does. WABA’s “Got Lights?” project begins today and will continue in various locations throughout the District until we’ve given away all 1000 sets.  We are committed to giving each and every light set to cyclists who are riding without lights when we find them. If you already have lights on your bike, please consider helping us put these lights on the bikes that need them. Call 202-518-0524 or email advocacy@waba.org to help out!

Federal Cyclists – Let’s Organize to Make Bikes Belong!

Recently we invited Ed Findley, a daily bike commuter and employee of the EPA, to write about his efforts to expand the network of federal cyclist commuters in and around Washington DC.  Read on to hear about an exciting opportunity for this important commuter cycling group.
As a civil servant and activist cyclist for nearly 20 years, I’ve seen a number of DC-area Federal facilities improve bike access. But we’ve got a long way to go before every Federal office recognizes the economic, environmental and health benefits of cycling — and further still until the Federal government is the model employer for making bikes belong. So, my fellow Federal cyclists — here’s your chance to help! Along with several other Feds, I’m helping to reconvene an interagency task force to promote cycling among Federal offices throughout the DC region. We’ll be meeting on February 8 at 3 p.m. at the EPA West Building, and if you’re a Federal employee or contractor interested in promoting active transportation, we’d love for you to join us! Among the things we can consider are the 2010 guidelines, “Implementing a Successful Bicycle and Active Commuting Program in the Washington, DC Metropolitan Area.” http://www.fedcenter.gov/_kd/Items/actions.cfm?action=Show&item_id=15046&destination=ShowItem These were an important step forward, and we need to find out what agencies are doing in response, hold up the positive examples and coax the laggards. We could work with OPM and other agencies to consider o Bike share participation at the agency level o Health and wellness among Federal employees and links to cycling. o Sharing information on commuter cycling benefits. o Working with the National Capital Planning Commission and the National Park Service – two agencies of particular importance for cycling in our area. We can also talk about how to move the conversation on cycling facilities beyond us activists and ensure that Federal facility managers and human resource offices are working to make bike programs and infrastructure an integral part of their work. Who’s in? Ed Fendley Fendley.ed@epa.gov

Safe Routes to School Moving Forward in Fairfax County Public Schools!

IWTSD 026The Safe Routes to School (SRTS) regional network is ending the year with several major successes in Fairfax County. After convening a special SRTS working group within Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) Transportation and Safety division in June, FCPS has agreed to several initiatives that will highlight SRTS activities and increase the numbers of students walking or biking to school everyday. FCPS will add SRTS specific language to their “Golden Wellness Award” scorecard, which is used to determine how closely the individual schools are implementing the FCPS Health and Wellness Policy. This sought after award will now include specific recommended activities, like Walking Wednesdays, Bike Trains, Walking School Buses, participation in International Walk to School Day (IWTSD) as well as Bike to School Day. In addition, delivery of bicycle and pedestrian safety education at the individual school will be a required element in order to win the award. The schools system’s 95210 A Day (9 hours of sleep, 5 fruits and vegetables, less than 2 hours of screen time, at least 1 hour of exercise and 0 sugary drinks) will be updated to include walking or bicycling to school as a suggested activity to get to the 1 hour daily activity goal. FCPS has also agreed to create and host a SRTS focused webpage with resources for school administrators, parents, community champions and children who would like to see more SRTS activities at their school. This site will include policy, curriculum standards and sample lesson plans, state and local contacts, grant application resources, sample newsletter articles and resources for planning walking and bicycling events. FCPS will also prepare scripts and create videos specifically geared to youth bicycling and safe pedestrian practices for the Fairfax County public access television channels as well as the internal FCPS channels. An annual survey of schools will be continued (modeled after the first one in May 2011) in order to adequately account for how every student is transported to and from school. Counts will be made of bus riders, walkers, kiss and ride users as well as data collected comparing those numbers to the assigned mode. The survey in May proved invaluable, allowing us to create a list of the top ten schools where with a little encouragement, FCPS could see an increase in the numbers of students walking or bicycling to school, thereby alleviating the extreme traffic jams due to the kiss and ride queues. Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling (FABB) is contemplating creating a “Green Transit” award for the top schools in Fairfax Co who increase their assigned mode numbers, whether it is by bus transportation or walking or bicycling. A survey of the 27 schools who participated in IWTSD will also be completed to determine their strategies, success and participation rate. FCPS officials also committed to working in tandem with Fairfax County transportation planners to submit an application for a SRTS non-infrastructure grant in the spring and also agreed to begin the process of determining which school locations would most benefit from an infrastructure grant, when the application is revised and those grant opportunities announced. The FCPS SRTS Working Group will continue to meet quarterly throughout 2012 to update partners on progress, monitor initiatives and strategize for system wide events, including Bike to School Day (in conjunction with Bike to Work Day) in May and International Walk to School Day in October. Author’s Note:  This article inadvertently left out those on our Fairfax County SRTS Task Force who have worked tremendously hard to achieve this progress in the County.  Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling (FABB), Trails for Youth as well as Wolf Trap Elementary parent, Jeff Anderson and the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ Transportation Advisory Committee member Jenifer Joy Madden were central to this effort.

What are those kids doing?

On your way into work tomorrow, you may notice vast hordes of children walking, bicycling and making their way down the street. It’s quite likely that they will be pretty loud and boisterous, making you look out your window to see what the commotion is. Have no fear-it’s just International Walk and Bike to School Day! Seeing kids walking or bicycling to school used to be as common as butterflies in your stomach on the first day. Now however, not so much. Parents’ work schedules, ultra heavy backpacks, speeding commuter traffic and worry that your child is not safe on their walk to school have all contributed to the decline of walking to school from nearly 50% in 1969 to only around 13% in 2009. Walking or bicycling to and from school every day shows children that incorporating an active lifestyle into their daily routine is easy, and as a bonus, it’s fun! This year the District of Columbia has a record number of schools participating-22 spread out all over the city. WABA, DDOT and Children’s Hospital representatives plan to celebrate the day at our main event at Anne Beers Elementary in Ward 7 where US Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood is going to lead one of their four “walking” school buses. So join us by starting your day off with a nice brisk walk or an invigorating bike ride with your child tomorrow, to school, to your bus stop, or even around the block. And if you have to drive, be extra aware of those roaming bands of children and parents making the most of their morning by walking to school.

International Walk (and Bike!) to School Day Embraced by Fairfax County Public Schools!

This year, for the first time, Fairfax County Public Schools are embracing International Walk to School Day on October 5 system-wide.  In the past, participating in IWTSD was suggested, but not strongly encouraged by the administration, so few schools participated. A positive, strong message was sent by Superintendent Dale to lend his words of encouragement and support in a press release last week  (see below). With the support of Superintendent Dale we are hopeful that more schools than ever before will join in a celebration of healthy daily activity and walk or bike to school on October 5!  Fairfax County Police will join in on the action by coordinating their pedestrian safety initiative to occur in the last week of September. In addition, the Fairfax County Council of PTAs drafted their own statement of support in an email to all members and praised Superintendent Dale’s initiative. This exciting development came about thanks to months of work by our Fairfax County Safe Routes to School task force, made up of WABA staff, FABB, Trails for Youth, parents and concerned Fairfax County Board of Supervisor members.  It’s not to late to register YOUR school for IWTSD!  Please see walktoschool.org to register! Gina Arlotto is the DC and regional Safe Routes to School Network Coordinator.  Her work focuses on making it safer for children to walk or bike to and from school. ++++++++++++++++++ FCPS embraces International Walk to School system-wide in 2011 – Make sure your school is part of October 5th. Over the past year, interested parents, citizens and representatives of Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling (FABB), Washington Area Bicycling Association (WABA) and Trails for Youth have been meeting with leaders from Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS), the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, the FCPS School Board, the FCCPTA and the Fairfax County Education Coalition (FEC) to encourage FCPS to address the decline in children walking and biking to school. As a result of these meetings, on October 5th FCPS is embracing a system-wide promotion of International Walk to School Day – an effort to promote physical activity and reduce traffic congestion and pollution near schools. Superintendent Jack D. Dale and Fairfax County Executive Tony Griffin are joining forces to encourage county residents to take part. “Walking is a simple way to incorporate physical activity into your day,” said Dale. “We encourage all FCPS students and families to participate in this day and to use walking or biking as a means of getting to school whenever possible.” Students at all school levels are encouraged to walk or bike to school or walk to their bus stop on October 5. Parents are encouraged to accompany their children to school and to work with their school and PTA or PTO to assemble walking groups for the event. Schools that want to participate can register online at the Walk to School website. We need your assistance in getting the word out so that local schools can join with the SIX that have already signed up and started their planning for International Walk to School Day. In addition, the FCCPTA passed a resolution earlier this year in support of Safe Routes to School. In 1969, approximately 50% of children walked or bicycled to school and 87% of children living within one mile of school did. Today, fewer than 15% of school children walk or bicycle to school. As a result, kids today are less active, less independent, and less healthy. So as to better understand how to find solutions to this 35% decrease, FCPS has created a Safe Routes to School working group made up of FCPS and County employees, members of the community from the groups mentioned and the Fairfax County Police Department. Wolftrap Elementary School and Vienna Elementary School are two of several Fairfax County public schools which have established bike and walk to school initiatives. Wolftrap began its program with general bike and walking education for all students in addition to establishing a monthly run Wolfie’s bike train where students bike to school together when weather permits. The school also moved its Kiss and Ride drop-off and pick-up spots in order to separate automobile traffic from pedestrian traffic. Vienna Elementary is embarking on a plan to create Walking Wednesdays and has applied for a grant to install missing sidewalks along many of its walking routes. Both schools joined Cunningham Park Elementary School in May 2011 to have a Bike and Walk to School Challenge between the three schools. Over the course of the week, 400 children biked and 2100 walked to school and each school saw parent use of Kiss and Ride drop by nearly 50%. Several public officials joined in during the week and some shared their perspective on walking to school. In addition, you can read about how the installation of a bridge near Kilmer Middle School ultimately led to so many students bicycling to school that the PTA had to install new racks. For more information, read up on Safe Routes on the FABB site or contact srts@fabb-bikes.org.

Another Important Benefit to the R Street NE Improvements

DDOT’s plan for improving R Street, NE by connecting it to the Met Branch Trail and improving the road for bicyclists, has an important ancillary benefit: the improved route for children attending the numerous schools located in close proximity to the MBT, but not able to reach school via the trail, due to an incomplete trail to street grid connection. The current conditions of this area illustrate the barriers that school children face if they were to come down the MBT: a trash strewn, overgrown, abandoned lot to cross through with concrete barriers and illegal parking blocking the sidewalk on R Street. McKinley Tech, Ideal Academy PCS, City Lights PCS, and Friendship Academy PCS are schools which draw hundreds of children from beyond a neighborhood boundary, due to the fact that they are a DCPS application only science and technology magnet school (McKinley) or public charter schools, which by definition, have no neighborhood boundary that they serve, drawing instead from the entire city for enrollment. In addition, Langley Education Campus, a DCPS pre-k through 8th grade school, is also located next to McKinley. And while Langley is a DCPS school with a traditional neighborhood boundary from which it draws, they are also a Science and Technology magnet school offering Chinese language instruction which is a very attractive curriculum for out of boundary families. Many of these students are already taking the Metro to school every day and exiting the Metro system at the New York Avenue station. The connection of R Street to the Metropolitan Branch trail would enable these students the ability to walk up the trail and cross directly onto their school grounds, rather than attempting the extremely dangerous crossing of Florida and New York Avenues from the Metro, which is the current route most students take. This intersection is bad almost any time of day, but at school arrival and dismissal times, when it sits squarely in the middle of rush hour, children and parents are traversing a dangerous path in order to get to school. These R Street improvements would eliminate the need to cross New York and Florida Avenues at street level entirely, since they could walk up the stairs to the MBT and proceed to their schools. The improvements to R Street and the connectivity of the Met Branch Trail into Northeast Washington are welcome improvements from DDOT. Not only would the R street improvements help pave the way to make it safer for bicyclists to ease off the MBT and onto a cross town route, but it will also make it easier for many hundreds of students get to school without the anxiety and potential harm of a dangerous street crossing. Gina Arlotto is the DC and regional Safe Routes to School Network Coordinator.  Her work focuses on making it safer for children to walk or bike to and from school.

WABA Proposal for Alabama Ave., SE Health Impact Assessment Clears First Funding Hurdle

(For a description of the HIA project, CLICK HERE.) On July 1, WABA received the exciting news that we have been chosen to move forward to the next round of the Pew Trust/Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Impact Project.  Out of nearly 250 applications nationwide, only 40 were asked to submit a full proposal.   If chosen, this grant will fund a comprehensive Health Impact Assessment on WABA’s push to add an on-road bike facility on Alabama Avenue SE, from Martin Luther King Avenue to the Suitland Parkway.  Ultimately, the Pew Trust and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will choose and fund just ten HIA proposals for this coming year. The HIA is another piece of our outreach efforts in Wards 7 and 8, an area of the city underserved by bicycling infrastructure.  WABA assisted in the completion of a “rapid” HIA with our partner Dr. Keshia Pollack at Johns Hopkins University and her HIA graduate students this spring, and those results formed the base of our Pew trust HIA proposal. The graduate students’ work provided a tantalizing glimpse into what could be discovered if a full HIA can be completed. More research to fully inform future bicycle policies and plans for Wards 7 and 8 is desperately needed. This past weekend a teen bicyclist was struck and critically injured by a hit-and-run driver while attempting to cross Alabama Avenue in the immediate HIA area of study. With more cyclists taking to the streets daily, our road infrastructure has to do a better job of protecting them, throughout the city and in every ward. Our full proposal is due to the Pew Trust on September 15th and they plan to announce the winning projects by the end of the year. If chosen, we will begin work immediately in January of 2012.