ANC 1C Tables Vote on Columbia Road Bike Lanes

Street striping plans for the Columbia Rd., NW bike lanes (click to download PDF version)

Last night at the July meeting of the DC Advisory Neighborhood Commission 1C tabled its vote on the  proposed Columbia Rd., NW bike lanes.  These proposed bike lanes would extend from Connecticut Ave. NW to Harvard Rd. NW. This 1 mile section of bike lanes creates a continuous on-street bicycle facility through Adams Morgan and it connect various disconnected sections of bike lanes along Columbia Rd.  Furthermore, the Columbia Rd. bike lanes would complete the connection to bike lanes / sharrows on Adams Mill Rd to Woodley Park and the sharrow bike route on the new 18th Street (once the Adams Morgan Streetscape Project is completed). Representatives from the DDOT bicycle program were on hand for the meeting with the most up-to-date street striping plans (pdf) for the Columbia Rd., NW bike lanes.  The plans reflect multiple, minor changes after two meetings with the ANC’s Planning, Zoning and Transportation subcommittee over the past few months. Kristen Barden, Executive Director of the Adams Morgan Partnership, voiced support for bicycling by mentioning the Partnership’s sponsorship of a Bike to Work Day pit stop.  However, this support was tempered over concerns of lost of parking spaces–especially in the 1700 block of Columbia Rd in front of Safeway–and the inconvenience and disruption of traffic for the construction of the bike lanes. Some parking space (total exact number unknown, best guess was near four) will need to be removed to create loading zones for delivery trucks on the 1700 block of Columbia Rd. for Safeway.  Currently, delivery trucks illegally park in the center median.  To legally accommodate trucks, the new loading zone must be created which require the removal of parking spots.  The connection of a loss of business with the loss of car parking was made many times.  However according to DDOT, bike counts on Columbia Rd. often exceed 150 bikes per hour making one of the busiest bike corridors in the city which brings high numbers of customers to Adams Morgan’s businesses. The other major concern of the bike lane project was centered around the inconvenience of the construction while the 18th St. streetscape project is underway.  DDOT estimates the 1 mile section of bike lane striping will take only a few days.  They have an outside contractor lined up for the work with a larger crew than the city’s striping crew.   The inconvenience should be minimal. ANC1C’s subcommittee on Planning, Zoning and Transportation will most likely discuss the bike lane project at their August 1st meeting at 7 p.m. at the Kalorama Recreation Center. WABA will continue to track this project and keep you up-to-date on it’s progress. But please remember that WABA’s presence at community meetings is not a full substitute for the cycling community’s presence. (And in the interest of full disclosure: Yes, this bike lane would run past our office.  And our office is located where it is largely because of the high concentration of cyclists in the area.)

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Security Planning, Like Construction Planning, Must Consider Bicyclists

From Greater Greater Washington:
Event planners need to be mindful of common bikeway access points when setting up street closures. It is not appropriate to use a one-size-fits-all security approach anymore where people are treated as cars or non-cars. Fine, close off the Mall. Set up a perimeter. But take into consideration those of us who bike and go about our daily lives as residents of this city. There is no need to close off bike access on 15th Street. This is how cyclists, including many tourist cyclists, access some of the area’s best trails. Moreover, there is no security interest that is being protected by closing this street. When setting up a security perimeter, please look closely at these locations instead of blankly eyeing a map and setting up roadblocks. There are freeways and overpasses in this area not just a flat street grid. Many of these roads are dangerous for pedestrians and bikers, both of whom will be forced to use these areas when left with no choice but to wait in a security line.
WABA is attempting to work with Park Police on a number cycling-related issues including clarity of signage, authority for bicycle prohibition/access on NPS property, and treatment of cyclists post-crash.  We will also specifically focus on bicycle access during periods of heightened security. Did others experience similar access issues at any other locations over the holiday weekend?  Let us know in the comments so that we can adequately express the detailed areas of concern.

Jack Evans states Support for L & M Cycletracks

Thanks to the many cyclists and cycling supporters who have emailed Mayor Gray, Director Bellamy, and Councilmember Wells in support of the L & M Street cycletracks.  We have gathered well over 1,000 signatures. These proposed cycletracks will fall entirely within the District’s Ward 2, so we are grateful for the support of Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans, who today stated:
I continue to support alternative transportation options in Ward 2, including the expansion of cycletracks to L & M Streets.  A solid bicycle infrastructure is key to getting cars off of the road and meeting the needs of the ever-growing number of cyclists across the Ward and city.
If you have not yet signed/emailed in support of the completion of the L & M Street, NW cycletracks, you can do so HERE.

Take Action: DDOT Backtracking on L & M Street Cycletracks

Much of last week’s confirmation hearing for DDOT Director Terry Bellamy went smoothly.  He said the right things, including stating support for improved bicycling.  But when asked about specific projects, things went less smoothly. Specifically, Director Bellamy said that the L and M Street cycletracks were “on hold” and that “we may not do them” due to concerns over parking removal. CLICK HERE to email the District leaders responsible for the future of the downtown cycletracks. In recent months, we have seen little progress in improving the District’s cycling infrastructure.  This is especially disappointing given the success, obvious even to the most casual rush-hour observer, of the 15th Street cycletrack and the Pennsylvania Avenue lanes (which are frequently characterized as a cycletrack as well). The L & M Street cycletracks are crucial to providing a much-needed east-west connection through downtown that is safe and accessible–not only to experienced cyclists but also to the many novices who cycle downtown, encouraged by the success of Capital Bikeshare and other infrastructure improvements. For many, these cycletracks are seen as a litmus test for the Gray administration’s support of cycling.  While District cyclists have been consistently reassured that Mayor Gray supports cycling and shares our vision of a bike friendly District, we have seen extremely limited improvement in bicycle infrastructure or enforcement during his tenure to-date.  This project provides the Mayor and DDOT Director Bellamy the opportunity to continue the progress in improving the District’s downtown for cyclists. Please take a moment to email Mayor Gray, DDOT Director Bellamy, DDOT Bike & Pedestrian Coordinator Jim Sebastian, and Councilmember Tommy Wells stating your support for the L and M Street cycletracks.

Integrating the Metropolitan Branch Trail with Neighborhoods, Starting with R Street NE

Yesterday, Greater Greater Washington and The WashCycle initiated a discussion of the proposed R Street bicycle accommodations in Eckington.  Neighborhood listservs lit up on the topic, with many focusing on the details of the plan.  While the details of such a plan are always important, it is equally important to take a step back, look at the wider view, and recognize that the inclusion of bike facilities on R Street, NE is part of a much-needed effort to integrate the Metropolitan Branch Trail (MBT) into the communities that surround it as well as the regional transportation network. For many years, the train tracks and Metro’s red line presented a significant barrier to east-west travel across the District, and thus the roadway network was designed to filter people out of the local communities that bordered the railroad and onto the major east-west routes.  In the case of Eckington, this means Rhode Island Ave. (often via Lincoln Rd.), Florida Ave. or New York Ave. (often via Eckington Place).  But in all of these neighborhoods, the evolving transportation network did not easily accommodate travel toward the train tracks. Today, after decades of work by DDOT, Rails to Trails, and WABA, significant portions of the completed MBT are open, creating a vibrant recreational and transportation space for residents to enjoy. Consequently, there is much greater demand from pedestrians, joggers, bicyclists and others for easier access to this area–the same area that the local roads are designed to get people away from. It is clear that the existing road network will require tweaks to adjust to these new patterns of demand.  In some cases, one-way streets may no longer be the best means of serving travel.  In others cases, one-way travel for automobiles not seeking access to the trail may remain appropriate, but adjusting roadways to allow opposite-direction travel for cyclists and pedestrians will be needed.  For cyclists, this means contraflow facilities such as the one proposed on R Street NE. As the Metropolitan Branch Trail is completed and the adjacent neighborhoods develop, there will be increased cyclist and pedestrian traffic in these communities, and the roadway network must be adjusted to allow for safe access to the trail.  The failure to provide such facilities will only lead to cyclists taking less safe or illegal routes to get there, and that serves no one. The MBT is a significant development that has the potential to bring numerous transportation, recreation, and economic benefits to the District and the communities that surround it.  But the District cannot simply replace a neighborhood-dividing rail line with a multi-use trail without adapting the surrounding roadway network to the change.  This segment of R Street is the first example of many small but important changes to adjust nearby roads to accommodate the trail itself, to integrate it into the surrounding communities, and to maximize its utility to both local residents and trail users across the District. WABA hopes that the residents and leadership in Eckington will see this as part of a larger, necessary process to bring the benefits of an improved transportation network to these neighborhoods, and that others along the trail will see the benefits of improved trail connectivity for cyclists.  There remains much work to be done to improve wayfinding, signage, and access.  But not all of the changes must be big or difficult. The MBT is there.  That was the big and difficult part.  Now, we simply need communities to work together to make it safely accessible to those it was designed and built to serve.  Eckington, by going first, has the opportunity to lead the way in embracing these minor changes to make the streets safer for everyone, and to demonstrate the community’s readiness for the sorts of significant investments the MBT represents.  That was the focus of the speech by Councilmember Thomas at the “Meet the Met” celebration almost exactly a year ago today.  Now that  Thomas is both the Council’s steward of economic development and representative of Ward 5 residents, we hope to be able to count on his support in maximizing the District’s investment in the MBT by making it safely accessible to as many residents as possible–including cyclists living in and connecting through Eckington.

Updated 15th St. NW Cycletracks Almost Finished

The northern terminus of the cycletracks (V St NW)

The northern terminus of the cycletracks (V St NW)

The redesigned 15th Street NW Cycletracks are quickly nearing completion in downtown DC. When the project is finished, the two-way cycletracks will connect the new Pennsylvania Ave. bike lanes to V St. NW, adding roughly 1.7 miles of physically separated bicycle facilities to the DC network. The pilot project began last year with a single contra-flow (or counterflow) lane for southbound bicycles separated from motor vehicle traffic by a parking lane. Northbound cyclists were encouraged to utilize the rightmost travel lane with sharrows, pavement markings that direct drivers to be more aware of cyclists sharing the lane. A study of usage patterns by DDOT found 14 percent of traffic in the contraflow lane was in the wrong direction and 81 percent of riders favored a two-way cycletrack configuration. Updated plans for the cycletrack were drawn up and made public this summer.  Curiously, the northbound sharrows in the rightmost travel lane were removed as part of the project.  We understand that this was because DDOT wants to encourage cyclists to use the new facilities rather than riding with traffic in the rightmost lane.  However, DC law does not require cyclists to use bike lanes, paths, cycletracks or trails where they are provided, and cyclists should feel free to ride northbound by whichever method–travel lanes or cycletrack–they prefer. During an exploratory ride by WABA staffers last week, the painting or striping of the project seemed nearly complete, while much of the details–such as signage–still needed to be added. The northernmost section (V St. NW) was the most complete and had new, shorter bollards.  As we headed south, the bollards disappeared (as of Tuesday 12/6) but lane markings continued to the original cycletrack’s endpoint at Massachusetts Ave. NW. Between there and Lafayette Park (at H St. NW) was a brand new cycletrack along 15th St. NW and a block of Vermont Ave. NW, though it too lacked bollards.  There was also a significant number of cars parked in the cycletrack and it seemed as though the parking meters were still operating. Parking signage was also still in place, no doubt adding to the confusion for both drivers and cyclists. East of Lafayette Park, the cycletrack reappeared on the west side of 15th St. NW opposite New York Ave. NW and continued south past the Federal Reserve.  Again, the lane markings looked great (but still no bollards). The final block of the planned cycletrack on 15th St. NW between Pennsylvania Ave. NW and E St. NW had yet to be striped.  Lastly, the “missing” block where the Pennsylvania Ave. NW bike lane would have extended onto E ST. NW between 14th and 15th Streets NW has been completed! Our observations were made on Tuesday, December 6th and we realize that more work has been done in the past week. On the Washington Area Bike Forums there was an update today about more work from the past weekend. There are of course some issues that still need to be worked out.  We are hopeful that DDOT and parking enforcement will help us with cars, trucks and postal workers who insist on illegally using the cycletracks for parking. Another issue will be the routing bicyclists through Lafayette Park. There are currently no signs or pavement markings to help cyclists navigate through the park to the rest of the cycletrack.  There is one lonely turn arrow. More bicycle wayfinding–to direct cyclists to the E St. NW or G St. NW bike lanes, for instance–would also greatly improve the experience of riding in the new cycletrack Originally, the project was slated to be finished by the “end of the fall”.  With the fall officially ending next week, we are hopeful the end of construction is imminent, and will post here and on our facebook page as soon as the official opening is announced.  On a brighter note, the cycletracks will almost certainly be finished and ready for the spring 2011 riding season, with plenty of time for “discovery” by casual riders. Of course, we’ll do our part to let bicyclists know about this addition to the city’s bicycle infrastructure.  Now, how about those L & M Street NW cycletracks

Bradley Boulevard Meeting Notes

Wednesday night’s Bradley Boulevard Public Meeting was fundamentally about the potential configurations of 4 items in a redesign of Bradley Boulevard from Wilson to Goldsboro: 1. an 8′ shared-use trail; 2. a northern sidewalk; and 3. a southern sidewalk. Roughly a year after the last presentation of design alternatives (numbered 1, 2, and 3) to the public, MCDOT presented 3 revisions (4a, 4b, and 4c).  These revisions were various combinations and/or moderations of the original 3 alternatives.  All variations  include bikeable shoulders and a vegetated bioswale to meet the County’s environmentally sensitive design requirements, as well as stormwater quality and quantity regulations.
  • Alternative 4a:
Includes an 8′ shared-use path, bikeable shoulders on both sides of the roadway, and a sidewalk on both sides of the roadway.  The 12′ path from the original alternatives has been reduced to 8′.  And this is the only alternative containing any shared-use path.
  • Alternative 4b:
Includes sidewalk on both sides of the roadway with bikeable shoulders, but no shared-use path.
  • Alternative 4c:
Includes sidewalk on the north side of the boulevard only, with a bikeable shoulder on both sides. After a brief introduction of the project team by project team leader Pat Shepherd, the community took a few moments to ask general questions before breaking up into smaller groups to review the individual cross-sections.  The primary concerns expressed during this period related motor vehicle volume and whether this project would increase traffic along the roadway.  Concerns were expressed about the roadway being widened. Ms. Shepherd clarified that the roadway was not being widened, but that a left turn lane is proposed to be added at Wilson Lane, where the level of service is currently “F” and there are frequently rear-end collisions with drivers trying to turn left, as well as  increased maintenance needs and significant dangers to cyclists from motorists passing left-turning vehicles on the right shoulder. Given the existing high volume of bicycle traffic along this stretch of Bradley Boulevard, as well as the potential that exists to link this neighborhood to the CCT, the Bethesda Trolley Trail, the C&O Towpath, and the retail and job opportunities in Bethesda, WABA supports the alternative that includes the shared-use path.  While all options are likely to improve conditions for cyclists, shared-use paths are more accessible for many. Thus, WABA supports alternative 4a.  It provides the greatest improvement for bicyclists and pedestrians, and does the most to contribute to a truly multi-modal, walkable, bikeable neighborhood. All are encouraged to send comments to Aruna Miller and Pat Shepherd.  (And they do count and consider them.  They noted that they received 140 comments after the last public meeting.) You can send an email supporting Alternative 4a, which includes the shared-use path, HERE. Further information about the project can be found HERE under “Bradley Boulevard Bikeway.”

DDOT now has a Complete Streets policy

On Monday, DDOT Director Gabe Klein signed a Complete Streets policy. The policy, effective immediately, states in part that DDOT projects “shall accommodate the safety and convenience of all users.” When it comes to DDOT projects, bicyclists and pedestrians are now officially on equal footing with other modes. Please thank Director Klein, Mayor Fenty and Council Chairman Gray for this policy. While certain corridors will continue to give priority to some modes over others, and some facilities, such as interstate highways or non-motorized trails, exclude certain modes by law, the policy emphasizes that “connectivity throughout the network for users of all modes is essential” and requires that “all transportation and other public space projects shall…ensure that all users, especially the most vulnerable, can travel safely, conveniently and efficiently within the right of way.” While it won’t lead to a bike lane and a sidewalk on every street, this policy requires DDOT to do more than simply consider the movement of automobiles, and gives residents and advocates another tool if the agency’s projects don’t live up to its own standards. Most importantly, the policy requires that pedestrian, bicycle and transit Level of Service (LOS) measurements be used to ensure that projects provide sufficient accommodation for all users. It also requires that projects “consider environmental enhancements” such as stormwater runoff, tree space and planting areas, use of recycled materials and energy efficiency. Continue reading

International Walk (or Bike!) to School Day!

Tomorrow, October 6th, is International Walk and Bike to School Day. Thousands of schoolchildren in Maryland, DC and Virginia will be gathering in parks, school yards and cul-de-sacs and then walking or biking to school. In the District of Columbia, 13 schools are hosting events. They include: Payne Elementary, Tyler Elementary, Watkins Elementary, Whittier Elementary, Peabody Early Learning Center, Maury Elementary, EL Haynes PCS, Brent Elementary, Janney Elementary, Eaton Elementary, Kimball Elementary, Leckie Elementary, Stuart Hobson Middle School and the Lowell School. WABA has supported all of these schools with Safe Walking and Biking classes and bike rodeos to encourage more children to walk or bike to school. In an era where childhood obesity has become a national epidemic, WABA has embraced and promoted the Safe Routes to School Program as a very effective tool in what should be an arsenal to combat this troubling trend.  DDOT has won federal funds to repair or install sidewalks, install traffic calming measures, paint crosswalks, and make many other hardscape improvements to make the roads and sidewalks around schools much safer for children to walk. WABA’s role includes the encouragement and education portion of Safe Routes and we’ve been a proud partner with DDOT since the inception of the Safe Routes to School program. With Safe Routes to School in place, WABA hopes that children and adults will view walking and biking as a lifelong healthy habit.

The District Deserves Complete Streets

Numerous cities, counties, states, and regions throughout the country have taken a stand to state formally that their transportation dollars should be spent in a manner that serves communities as a whole, accounts for the needs of all, and does not advantage one mode of travel to the detriment of others.  The District has not. These Complete Streets policies are varied in their nature and legal authority, but all share the common goal of enabling safe access and operation for all users.  That means appropriate accommodation of our children, our elderly, our disabled neighbors, our cyclists and pedestrians, as well as our motorists. Despite its world-class Metro system, its renowned L’Enfant streetgrid, its forward-thinking transportation leadership, the District of Columbia has no such policy.  In the District, there is no law, rule, or even publicly stated commitment to ensuring that our roadways and streetscapes—our most basic public spaces—serve all users. Maryland has a Complete Streets policy statement.  Virginia has a Department of Transportation policy.  Yet, the closest thing to such a commitment from the District is the statement from DDOT’s 2010 Action Agenda that the agency would: “Adopt an implementable Complete Streets policy to provide safe accommodation for all modes on all streets.” To date, this action remains unfulfilled.  And as new leadership comes to the District and we continue in our daily travels to see dangerous intersections, near-misses, and disconnected sidewalks and bike lanes, we need to show DDOT and the District’s leadership that while we appreciate the individual projects and upgrades, we believe this holistic change in approach is important and that public space should be serve the entire public—not just motorists or just cyclists or just the able-bodied.  Everyone. That is why we at WABA are launching a campaign for Complete Streets in DC, and we want your support from the outset.  Below, you will find a link to a petition supporting Complete Streets in DC.  This is an initial petition that we intend to use to show elected officials in DC the level of support for such a policy, as we know that there is some resistance.  But, we believe that is because our elected officials have not yet understood the importance of this policy to the 600,000 residents of the District and the many more who travel our streets daily. If you drive, walk, bike, or use public transit in the District, a robust Complete Streets policy impacts you by ensuring that the various travel modes in competition for space can be tempered with design that accommodates all and encourages systemic cooperation. Please take a moment to sign the petition, and please help us to circulate it to as many users of District streets as possible.  While WABA is willing to start the movement, this is not just a bike issue.  We need the support of advocates for transportation improvements, urbanism, public safety, public space, and safety for the young, the old, and the disabled. Complete Streets benefit all.  Join the campaign and help us by signing and circulating the online petition.

Sign the Petition