Last month, the Montgomery County Planning Board made a hasty and very bad decision on the permanent design for the Capital Crescent Trail’s crossing of Little Falls Parkway in Bethesda. While perhaps made with good intentions, this decision will create unacceptable daily safety risks for the thousands of people who use the trail. The board has started a new term and has a new member.
In the letter below, we call on the board to reconsider its decision and to put its park users and people first. Use the form below to sign the letter.
Members of the Montgomery County Planning Board,
On June 13, the Planning Board voted 4-1 to reject the analysis and recommendation of Montgomery Parks staff to implement Alternative A including retention of the road diet already in place, and placement of a speed table forcing cars to slow at the crossing. We are deeply concerned by the Planning Board’s recent decision to not only reject Alternative A as recommended by Parks but to also disregard all other carefully proposed alternatives. The decision to eliminate the road diet put in place after a cyclist died in 2016 runs directly counter to Montgomery County’s core Vision Zero principles, ignores all objective data regarding this intersection, and will endanger vulnerable trail users on the most popular trail in the region. The Planning Board should reconsider this decision, retain the road diet and endorse the Alternative A approach that has the Trail cross at-grade with Little Falls Parkway.
Montgomery County’s Vision Zero commitment is grounded in just a few core principles.
Traffic fatalities are preventable.
Human life takes priority over moving traffic quickly and all other goals of a road system.
Human error is inevitable, so the transportation system should be designed to anticipate mistakes and reduce their consequences.
People are inherently vulnerable and speed is a fundamental predictor of crash survival.
While straightforward in theory, designing intersections and roads that follow these principles often requires different tools and different priorities than have been traditionally used. Relying on old auto-oriented values will not help the county eliminate all traffic fatalities.
The board’s chosen intersection design contradicts every one of these (Vision Zero) principles. Restoring Little Falls Parkway to four lanes prioritizes moving cars quickly over the safety of people on the trail. More travel lanes encourage speeding, especially at off-peak times when the road is empty. And doubling the crossing distance increases a person’s exposure to traffic. If everyone follows the rules precisely, the intersection may work. But everyone makes mistakes.
Unfortunately, diverting the trail to the traffic signal and widening the road makes everyone wait much longer. More waiting will bring more cut-through traffic on Hillandale and encourage an increase in frustration, bad choices, and dangerous behavior. Frustrated drivers may run the light or turn right on red. Trail users may cross the Parkway against the light. When someone makes a mistake or a bad choice, it will be more likely to end in a crash and a severe injury or death under the Board’s chosen design.
Montgomery County and Montgomery Planning have committed to Vision Zero with the goal of eliminating traffic fatalities and serious injuries in just over 10 years. If we are to achieve this goal, we must be consistent throughout the County. The plan Parks recommended for this intersection is consistent with Vision Zero and putting a road diet here has been proven safe and effective with minimal impact on cars. The decision you made on June 13 is just the opposite, makes human life and safety the lowest of priorities, and will set us back in achieving our goals of protecting Montgomery County residents.
We implore you to reconsider this decision and choose a path forward that puts your park users and their safety, first.
It’s been a long time since we wrote this round-up and it’s been a very busy 2019. In writing this, I want to give my sincerest thanks to those of you who have taken action, shown up, and fought for safer streets, more trails, and better bicycling. I know that it seems like an uphill climb at times, but the effort put into this year has already shown to be powerful. Between pending legislation, refreshed infrastructure planning (DC, Arlington, and Montgomery County), and organizing momentum—we are on our way to better biking in the region. For everyone.
If DC is serious about making streets safer, the DC Council needs to hold a hearing on the four bills presented this spring before July recess. Read more about the four bills presented by DC Councilmembers Cheh, Allen, Grosso and Todd here.
The Arboretum Bridge and Trail will not only connect Wards 5 and 7, but it will bring the Anacostia River Trail one step closer to completion! The bridge will serve a transportation function, connecting residents to jobs, local businesses, and much more. It will also connect the Arboretum to Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, uniting two of DC’s most unique outdoor spaces. You can submit your comments on the project by July 31 here.
In a surprising and deeply disappointing decision, the Montgomery County Planning Board voted 4:1 to restore Little Falls Parkway to a four-lane road and detour the Capital Crescent Trail to cross at the traffic signal at Arlington Road. They rejected all three options, including the staff recommended one, which were thoroughly studied over the past 18 months. Removing the road diet contradicts county policy, best practices, staff expertise, and parks data, which showed that the road diet substantially reduced crashes and speeding. Read more about the Board’s decision and our thoughts here.
Fenton Street in downtown Silver Spring has almost everything it needs to be the Silver Spring’s main street. It is lined by cafes, shops, entertainment and community spaces kept bustling by the tens of thousands of people who live and work nearby. But step off the curb and it’s chaos—unsafe crossings, aggressive drivers and a car-centric road design. Sign the petition to let Montgomery County leaders know that Fenton needs to change, for the better.
At a public meeting on June 25th, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) announced that protected bike lanes were not in the immediate future for the Connecticut Avenue Streetscape and Deckover Project. This came as a shock, as ANC 1B and 2C passed resolutions in support of the PBLs in this project. Following backlash from residents, 22 hours later, DDOT Director Jeff Marootian announced on Twitter that the protected bike lanes will be reinstated into the Connecticut Avenue NW project plans. Read a full recap of the second public meeting here.
On May 8 and May 29, WABA supported Safe Kids DC’s Bike to School Day Events at Garfield Preparatory Academy with Safe Routes to School National Partnership, the Metropolitan Police Department, DDOT, and Safe Kids World Wide. 301 youth riders from grades PreK to 5 rotated through three stations: a helmet fitting station, a bike obstacle safety course, and a bicycle license plate art project. Find pictures from the events and a quick recap here!
On Thursday, June 20, DDOT staff hosted a meeting to share their plans for immediate changes to Florida Ave NE to calm traffic, improve intersection safety, and add protected bike lanes on the corridor. Florida Ave NE has long been a dangerous corridor due to rampant speeding and outdated road design. More than 150 people attended to see the plans, ask questions, and share their stories about their ongoing experience with traffic violence.
DDOT’s plan will remove one or more travel lanes from the Avenue from 2nd St. NE to 14th St. NE, narrow travel lanes, and add dedicated turn lanes at intersections. New protected bike lanes, separated by paint, rubber wheel stops, and a new, more imposing kind of bollard, will run from 3rd St. to 14th NE. Changes are also coming to intersections, with new markings and turn restrictions, and to 6th St. NE, where it will become one way north of K St NE. Review the full plans here. DDOT staff will collect comments over the next month and start work in July. Planning continues for the complete reconstruction of the corridor.
On Monday, June 24th, the City of Alexandria’s Traffic and Parking Board voted 3 to 2 to prioritize cars over people on Seminary Road. The vote was a surprise given that 46 of 68 speakers spoke about the need for safe accommodations on Seminary Road for pedestrians, bicyclists, and people of all ages and abilities. Despite overwhelming support for slower speeds and more people-focused design, the board voted (with little discussion) to recommend that City Council maintain four lanes for cars on Seminary Road between N. Howard Street and N. Quaker Lane. City Council will make the final decision about Seminary Road after a public hearing on Saturday, September 14th.
In November 2018, Montgomery County adopted a new Bicycle Master Plan, concluding more than three years of intensive analysis, public engagement, and advocacy. By adopting this plan, the County Council endorsed a dramatic shift in the County’s goals and approach to growing bicycling, committing MoCo to a convenient, inclusive, and low-stress bicycling future!
In April 2019, Advocacy Team members Katie and Jonathan presented at the East Coast Greenways Mid-Atlantic Trails and Greenways Summit in a session titled, “Public Engagement in Ways That Count”. Katie and Jonathan presented their unique approaches to engaging community members in their work. Watch their session presentationshere!
The third Vision Zero Summit was March 25 at the Milken Institute of Public Health. This year’s Summit had a new component: a Community Listening Session on Traffic Safety, held the evening prior to the Summit at the Anacostia Playhouse. Find the recap of this year’s Summit here. And browse the hashtag #VZSummitDC on Twitter for a full look at Summit highlights.
Rock Creek Far East 1 Livability Study – Public Workshops
DDOT has hosted two of three public events for the Rock Creek East I Livability Study. WABA staff and supporters have been in attendance to share their perspective on improvements to transportation safety in the area of the study. connections to destinations for all modes. At the first public workshop, DDOT introduced the project, shared data collection, and provided opportunities for participants to share existing concerns. In the second meeting, DDOT introduced the corridors that have been identified as focus areas, but are continuing to gather community input. Interested in attending a Ward 4 Community Meeting? Email email@example.com.
Ward 8 Traffic Safety Meetings
WABA holds monthly Ward 8 Traffic Safety Meetings with community members, ANC commissioners, Safe Routes to School National Partnership, Safe Kids DC, DDOT, MPD, Mayor’s Office Representatives, Capitol Bikeshare, private sector companies, and local businesses. The group discusses Ward 8 transportation trouble spots, shares ideas for how to make travelling on foot or bike safer, and advocates for safe walking and biking.
Recently, the group met with DDOT and community members for a High Crash Site Visit on South Capitol Street SW. DDOT data shows South Capitol Street to be one of the most dangerous corridors for pedestrians and bicyclists in Ward 8. The group identified safety issues including high speeds, missing signage, and crossing difficulties (to name a few). Interested in attending a Ward 8 Traffic Safety Meeting? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are you on your local WABA Action Committee?
All across the region great people are working to fix our streets to make biking safe and popular. They meet each month to share ideas and work together for better places to bike. Whether you’re looking for a fun group, a new cause, or a wonky policy discussion, our Action Committees have it covered.
In an unprecedented move this week, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) removed southbound bike lanes on Alabama Avenue SE between Stanton Road SE and Bruce Place SE. The lanes, which were installed less than a month ago, are a small portion of the larger Alabama Avenue Corridor Rebuild through Wards 7 and 8. In 2019, half of the traffic fatalities in DC have happened in Ward 8. A safer, slower Alabama Avenue is critical to achieving the District’s Vision Zero goal—ending fatal crashes by 2024.
This project has been in the works for many years. It is part of the City’s long range transportation master plan MoveDC, which calls for protected bike lanes for the entire Alabama Avenue SE Corridor. WABA submitted public comments on the Alabama Avenue study more than two years ago. Our concern then, as now, was that the agency was compromising safety and to accommodate faster driving and more car parking.
Last year, DDOT hosted a community meeting to discuss the proposed design for this section of Alabama Ave. At that meeting, some community members raised concerns about lost parking spaces. Agency staff responded by further compromising and an already compromised design in order to decrease the impact on parking (with a corresponding decrease in safety for bicyclists and pedestrians).
Because the paint used to mark streets requires warm weather, DDOT could not install the bike lanes immediately after that meeting and waited to paint them until this spring. The delay meant that by the time construction started, newly elected ANC commissioners were not part of the agency’s initial ANC outreach process, and a number of complaints got picked up in the press.
DDOT, rather than making the case for the safety improvements it had just built, simply removed half of them.
“When I first saw this modification I was in the car with my 11 year-old,” Beale said. “When I saw it I was excited. I said it’s great they are taking multi-model transportation in Ward 8 seriously.”
Beale, who had been attending meetings since the initial study in 2017, knew the modifications would take time. So would the time it takes for the community to adjust to the changes.
“I’m always saying there is no difference between a dude on a bike and a cyclist. We have to stop believing that cycling is a white thing or that making traffic improvements are a white or gentrification issue,” Beale said. He does hope the bike lanes will be get a barrier to protect them from cars though: “I feel in order for it to be adequate it needs to be protected,” he says.
At monthly Ward 8 Traffic Safety meetings, many community members have shared their support for the bike lanes and some expressed disappointment that better safety measures like protected bike lanes weren’t implemented in the first place.
Throughout this process, one thing that most everyone can agree with is that speeding is a huge problem.
DDOT’s speed and crash data confirms an alarming pattern of speeding and crash frequency. On some blocks, 85th percentile vehicle speeds reach 42 mph, meaning that 15% of vehicle traffic is traveling faster than 42 mph.
As we know from considerable research, 90 percent of pedestrians hit by a car traveling at 40 mph will die, whereas 90 percent of pedestrians hit by a car traveling 20 mph will live. And crashes happen every week: between 2013 and 2015, there were 875 total crashes in the 4.2 mile corridor (8.5 per week). 312 involved injuries (3 per week) and 4 resulted in a fatality. In a similar period, 45 pedestrians and 5 people on bikes were hit by cars.
Alabama Ave has an unacceptable speeding problem and it stems from bad road design. As an agency committed to eliminating traffic deaths and serious injuries on DC’s roads by 2024, DDOT must make safety the priority on Alabama Ave.
Stay tuned for opportunities to get involved with this project.
Fenton Street in downtown Silver Spring has almost everything it needs to be the Silver Spring’s main street. It is lined by cafes, shops, entertainment and community spaces kept bustling by the tens of thousands of people who live and work nearby. But step off the curb into the street and the bustle turns to chaos. Aggressive driving, unsafe crossings and a car-first road design make biking too stressful for most and walking, especially with kids, harder than it should be.
It’s time to make Fenton Street work for everyone. Protected bike lanes, safer crossings, and traffic calming can help make Fenton the community main street it should be. Sign our petition to ask our county’s leaders to get started planning protected bike lanes and pedestrian improvements on Fenton Street!
In 2016, WABA’s Action Committee for Montgomery County kicked off a campaign to Create the Silver Spring Circle. We envisioned a network of protected bike lanes around and through Silver Spring’s downtown core to connect people with the places they want to go. Three years later. that network is taking shape. Large pieces are complete and even more are under construction and in design. Together, they form a low-stress bicycle loop around Silver Spring’s busiest attractions. But the last piece of that network — a protected bike lane on Fenton St from Cameron to King which would get people to those busy places — is still just a concept.
Biking is a great way to get around downtown Silver Spring, but most people will not consider it unless it feels safe and convenient. With protected bike lanes and traffic calming on Fenton Street, people of all ages could comfortably bike to Veterans Plaza, the Library, and Montgomery College. Nearby residents would gain a new option for visiting local businesses and restaurants. Walkable, bikeable streets, where everyone feels comfortable, will help attract new residents to our community, patrons to our businesses, and locals to our events. A protected bike lane on Fenton Street would bridge a substantial gap in the Silver Spring bicycle network, linking Spring Street to Cameron to Wayne to the Metropolitan Branch and Capital Crescent Trails.
Join us urging Montgomery County to move ahead on continuous, direct, protected bike lanes, safer crossings, and traffic calming on Fenton Street. Sign our petition today!
Frequently Asked Questions:
Why protected bike lanes?
Busy streets work best when people driving, walking, and biking have their own space. Protected bike lanes give people on bikes a space free of the stresses of traffic. Pedestrians can walk freely without competing for sidewalk space. And drivers have fewer interactions with people on bikes sharing the lane. Studies show that protected bike lanes reduce both the frequency and severity of crashes.
Why Fenton Street?
A protected lane on Fenton St is the only solution that provides bicyclists of all abilities with a safe and convenient way to go from Cameron Street on the north end of the Central Business District to the Metropolitan Branch Trail near Montgomery College on the south end of the CBD. Fenton St. is well-used by confident bicyclists today specifically because it connects dozens of businesses, housing, and civic destinations. Yet, without a protected bike lane, it remains too stressful for most people to bike. Aside from the planned Metropolitan Branch Trail, which deliberately avoids commercial areas, there is no continuous route the length of the CBD, particularly on the Eastern side of the Georgia Ave.
How does this help pedestrians?
By narrowing the crossing distance, protected bike lanes can make it easier to cross a street on foot. They also slow down the speed of traffic and provide a buffer between moving vehicles and the sidewalk, making more pleasant places to walk.
Why not use the existing Grove St. bike route?
The existing bike route along Woodbury Dr and Grove St is a wonderful, low-stress neighborhood bike route which is slated for some minor improvements soon. However, it is not a reasonable substitute for a protected bike lane on Fenton St. The route requires multiple turns, frequent stops, a short hill, and serves neighborhood, rather than commercial destinations. It is important to have options in a bicycle network and at least one of them should be direct.
This summer, Arlington’s transportation department is repaving half a mile of North Quincy Street which means an opportunity to finally link the Custis Trail to Ballston with continuous, low-stress, protected bike lanes! Do you have five minutes to help make it happen?
North Quincy Street is an important bike route from the Custis Trail to the Central Library, Washington Liberty High School, parks, shops, and thousands of homes and offices in Ballston. Last year, protected bike lanes were installed from Glebe Rd to Fairfax Drive.
But the painted bike lanes between the trail and Fairfax Dr remain. And they are just not enough to make most people who bike feel comfortable. Riding here puts you right next to car traffic and even dumps you into traffic at Washington Blvd. It’s stressful, It’s dangerous, and it shouldn’t be.
Update: The DC Council did not hold a hearing before its summer recess. We’ll keep you posted when we know more about the fall hearing schedule.
In a flurry of activity this spring, the DC Council announced four different bills (details below) to promote safer streets and a better bike network. We need your help to make sure these bills turn into laws.
The Council’s next step is to hold a hearing. If a hearing doesn’t happen before the Council’s summer recess that starts in July, the bills are unlikely to move through the legislative process in 2019.
We can’t afford to wait another year for laws that make our streets safer.
Use the form below to contact your Councilmembers and ask them to hold a hearing on street safety bills before the summer recess.
Note: your messages are more effective if you include a personal story about why this legislation is important to you.
About the bills:
Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh (Ward 3) introduced legislation, called the “Mandatory Protected Cycling Lane Amendment Act of 2019” which would essentially mandate that DDOT build a contiguous protected bicycle lane whenever the agency does significant reconstruction or repair work on a street. While we have some serious questions about definitions in the legislation, we think this is an important start.
Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen (Ward 6) introduced two pieces of legislation. First (which passed on Tuesday, May7th, 2019) is the “Florida Avenue Multimodal Project Completion Temporary Amendment Act of 2019”— this act specifically requires DDOT to fast track their existing plans to redesign Florida Avenue NE into a safer space for pedestrians and bicyclists (including adding dedicated bicycling infrastructure) or face a procedural hurdle before spending money over a certain dollar amount.
Councilmember Allen’s second piece of legislation, the “Vision Zero Enhancement Omnibus Amendment Act of 2019” is much more comprehensive than a previous 2018 version. This bill bans right turns on red, reduces residential speed limits to 20 mph across the city, and holds contractors/development companies more responsible for the disruptions they cause in the bike and pedestrian networks, among other things. Perhaps most importantly, the bill codifies the modeshare goals of the Sustainable DC 2.0 plan in law (25% of trips on foot or by bicycle, 50% by transit, and a maximum of 25% by car) and required DDOT to produce city-wide plans to meet these goals.
Councilmember David Grosso (At-large) introduced legislation, the “Curb Extension Act of 2019” (B23-0292), mandating curb extensions, which improve sightlines and reduce crossing distances for pedestrians, in all future DDOT road improvement projects.
Councilmember Brandon Todd (Ward 4) also introduced legislation, “Cyclist Safety Campaign Amendment Act of 2019”,to add a “bike-related rules” test on the DMV application. The idea behind this is to “re-enforce good habits early on” when someone goes to get a license.
For a more in depth look at these bills, read Greater Greater Washington’s analysis here.
UPDATE: The comment period for this project has been extended to July 31. We encourage you to share your thoughts with the project team! Give your opinion on the Arboretum Bridge and Trail by emailing email@example.com before July 31.
The Arboretum Bridge and Trail is a project that will connect Wards 5 and 7 in DC for people who walk and bike. It is an incredible opportunity to improve access to some of the District’s most unique outdoor places, and it’s an important step to a better connection across the Anacostia River for everyone.
This project is one of the final pushes in a much larger vision called the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative. Started in 2003, this initiative created the blueprint for the Anacostia River Trail, which is nearly complete. This bridge will be one of the final segments in the larger plan.
Connection is the main focus of this project. Currently, to cross the river without this bridge, people have to travel from Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens either 1.5 miles south, to Benning Road, or 2.5 miles north, to the pedestrian bridge at Bladensburg Waterfront Park. These distances make it impractical and difficult for residents of Eastland Gardens, Kenilworth or Deanwood to walk or bike across the Anacostia River. It’s important that we aren’t placing an undue burden on the communities adjacent to the trails if they are trying to cross the river.
National Park Service and DDOT have revisited and modified the plans for the bridge to accommodate the concerns of the rowing community, and maintain the navigability of the deepest part of the channel. While the compromises made have slowed the project a bit, we think that the redesigned bridge is a winning design that serves all users.
Thank you to everyone who joined us in person or in spirit last Friday as we rallied for safer streets. You can read a write up of the rally at Greater Greater Washington.
Here are several things you can today to keep the momentum going:
Immediate fixes to Florida Avenue NE
Ask your Councilmembers to support emergency legislation that will require DDOT to take immediate action to make this deadly road safer.
Big Picture Meeting
If you are interested in systemic fixes, Councilmember Charles Allen is hosting a meeting this evening (Monday, 4/29) seeking input on how best to use legislation to make DC’s streets less deadly. Details here.
If you like to get into the nitty-gritty, DDOT is hosting an open house to discuss proposed changes to “Dave Thomas Circle”—the intersection of Florida Ave NE, 1st St NW, Eckington Place NE, and New York Avenue NE. Previous proposed changes to this dangerous intersection were underwhelming—the designs omitted key crosswalks and biking connections to minimize delay for drivers. Details here.
Arlington County is just one step away from adopting a new bicycle master plan and a new parks and trails plan for the county. Once adopted, these plans will guide the next ten to twenty-five years of bike network expansion, trail planning, and overall county policy supporting bikes as transportation, recreation, and more. On April 23rd, we have one final opportunity to suggest changes before the County Board reviews and adopts the plans.
Overall, both plans are a positive step, but we believe some important changes should be made before adoption. Read on for a summary of what is in the plans and our proposed changes and use the form below to urge the County Board to make some important changes.
Take action now:
What’s in the Bike Element?
The Bicycle Element of the Master Transportation Plan was last updated in 2008. Since then, bicycling has exploded in Arlington and best practices have evolved substantially. So, over the past two years, county staff and a group of stakeholders crafted a major update to the plan. For more on the development process and to read the final draft plan, visit the project website.
The plan is broken into a few major sections. The goals and policies section outlines broad approaches to make bicycling more accessible, popular and safe. It lays out dozens of actions to implement each policy and specific metrics to measure success. The implementation section maps the proposed bicycle network, defines thirteen Primary Bicycling Corridors, and explores the process to implement them. Finally, Appendix D lists all bicycle projects to be built by 2040.
For the most part, The policies are excellent, detailed and worthy of praise. They could be made even better with some tweaks, but they present an overall visionary direction for bicycling in Arlington. The implementation sections and project descriptions, however, need attention and changes.
Overall, we see three major issues:
Specificity. The plans use vague terms like “enhanced bicycle facility” rather than calling for specific infrastructures, like protected bike lanes and trails. This language leaves the door open to installing subpar facilities which will not meet the plan’s goals. Specific improvements should be called out as a starting point for future planning.
Prioritization. The plan needs to place low-stress bicycle networks at the top of the County’s priorities for public space. A network doesn’t work if it gets chopped into pieces to accommodate concerns about parking or trees.
Funding. Without funding, this ambitious plan is just lines on paper. The County needs to commit to funding the plan.
And we are urging the following changes through specific changes in language and priorities in the plan:
Build a low traffic stress bicycle network
Reference important, new FHWA Guidance for facility selection
Build a solution to the Four Mile Run Trail’s Shirlington Road Crossing
Build a solution for the W&OD at East Falls Church
Build a solution for Alcova Heights
Provide access through nature on the Glencarlyn/hospital site
Connect the W&OD to Carlin Springs
Provide a bicycling route along the entirety of Army Navy Drive
Address parking in bike lanes
Address under- and misreporting of crashes
For the full details of our proposed changes, see our detailed comments here.
The Public Space Master Plan
This plan is a similarly ambitious document that attempts to guide the planning and management of the County’s public space system, including all of the parks, trails, natural resources and recreational facilities. It contains a chapter on trails and includes many promising additions to the County’s trail management practices and planning priorities. For more on the development process and to read the final draft plan, visit the project website.
Our suggestions for improvements highlight areas where the Public Spaces Master Plan and Bicycle Element overlap, but could be harmonized and made stronger. Specifically around land acquisition, trail design, trail maintenance, space to learn to ride bicycles, and consistent trail signage across jurisdictions. For the full details of our proposed changes, see our detailed comments here.
Ask the County Board for Changes
Use the form on this page to send a message to your County Board members. Let’s make sure that Arlington’s Master Plans are setting the County up to become a truly world-class place to bike.
On April 23rd, the Board will hold a public hearing to collect input on the plans starting at 3pm. This is an important opportunity to make sure your voice is heard. Take action using the form above and we will be in touch with details on attending the hearing.
DC Mayor Muriel Bowser’s budget came out a few weeks ago, and it is packed with details on what the administration wants to do, including plans to spend billions of dollars on transportation over the next six years. Before we jump in, we have two overarching questions:
Will this budget achieve DC’s signature transportation goal of zero traffic fatalities and serious injuries by 2024?
Does it support the timely buildout of the safe, low-stress bicycle network DC needs?
While there are many great things about this budget, the answer to both of the questions above is probably not. Fortunately, there is still time to change that. The DC Council holds its DDOT budget oversight hearing on Thursday, April 11—and to get where they need to get, they need to hear from you. You can take action to tell the Council what you want to see changed in this budget.
What’s in the Budget
The proposed 2020 Operating Budget lays out a plan for spending on staff and programs for each agency in Fiscal Year 2020 which begins in October. Also released is the Capital Improvements Program, which is a long-term plan for major construction projects and purchases from 2020 to 2025. This budget is a proposal. The DC Council may add, remove, or change it substantially.
The District Department of Transportation’s (DDOT) Capital Improvements Program includes hundreds of millions of dollars for transportation projects over the next six years. Here are some of the highlights we are excited about in the DDOT budget:
$63 million for safety and mobility projects including protected bike lanes, trails, bike/pedestrian planning, high crash corridors, and Vision Zero improvements;
$167 million for major street rebuilds including (potentially) great bike projects like C St. NE, Florida Ave NE, Connecticut Ave in Dupont, the New York Ave Trail, Dave Thomas Circle, Pennsylvania Ave west of the White House, and Broad Branch Road;
$10 million for 100 new Capital Bikeshare stations and 1000 bike;
and $110 million for new and replacement sidewalks.
While there are many laudable projects within this budget, we see too many cases where DDOT will spend tens of millions of dollars to deliver streets that are still hostile to biking and walking and dangerous by design. We are concerned that while there is a lot of money being spent to make the District’s streets safer, DDOT lacks sufficient safeguards to ensure that these expenditures are directly addressing its Vision Zero goals.
DDOT Needs a Complete Streets Policy
One of the missing safeguards is a stringent Complete Streets Policy, which would ensure that all streets are designed, operated, and maintained to accommodate safe and convenient access and mobility for all users. DDOT adopted such a policy in 2010, but it left far too many exceptions to the rule. The Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Amendment Act, adopted in 2016, required DDOT to adopt a far more stringent Complete Streets Policy by 2017. So far, the agency has not.
Included in this budget, therefore, are dozens of high-cost projects that will maintain the unsafe status quo and do very little to make DC’s streets safer or more approachable for people on foot and bike. Far too many road projects are still fixated on moving as many cars as quickly as possible, designed for the busiest hour of car traffic instead of being designed for the safety, access, and health for DC’s people. These projects’ core values should be reevaluated through a Vision Zero and Complete Streets lens and designs changed before moving forward (eg. Rhode Island Ave NE, Pennsylvania Ave SE & Potomac Ave Circle, Southern Ave, Ward 8 Streetscapes, Massachusetts Ave, U St NW, Local street repaving).
DDOT’s bicycle and pedestrian planning staff work wonders with the resources they have at their disposal. But given the multi-year timeline and immense quantity of work required to steer even small projects through the community input process, adding 10-15 high-quality miles to the bicycle network each year is infeasible without substantially more resources. DC’s sustainability, transportation and Vision Zero goals require that this agency is capable of building the bicycle network more quickly.
Additionally, safe accommodations staff are sorely understaffed. They need sufficient people to review permit applications (around 50k plus a year) and time and attention to keep the public safe. This includes enough inspectors to actually inspect sites (creating the expectation that an inspector will be on site). Additionally, this includes enough staff to proactively educate permit applicants concerning the rules and regulations that such applicants must operate under in the District.
For this budget, we are pushing for the following.
Fully fund DDOT’s Vision Zero and bike/ped initiatives and ensure that projects on C St. NE, Florida Ave NE, and Pennsylvania Ave NW move ahead without delay;
Do not fund major road projects unless they make streets safer for everyone. They must meet the criteria for Complete Streets as defined in the Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Amendment Act of 2016;
Demand that DDOT adopt and follow the Complete Streets policy required by this act and ensure that all projects contribute to building complete streets, including local street repaving;
Add staffing and resources to DDOT’s active transportation planning team to support an impactful expansion of DC’s low-stress and protected bicycle network by at least 15 miles each year;
Add staffing and resources to DDOT’s public space team for a comprehensive approach to safe accommodations around construction sites;
Reconsider the allocation of Local Streets and Sidewalk funding with an eye towards transportation equity to ensure that resources and safety investments go where they are most needed, rather than equaly across all eight wards.
The DDOT Budget Oversight Hearing is Thursday, April 11 at the Wilson Building. If you are able, consider testifying. To sign up to testify, contact Aukima Benjamin (firstname.lastname@example.org) or call 202-724-8062.