Summer Advocacy Roundup

Exploring a missing trail connection along Route 1 in Hyattsville

Exploring a missing trail connection along Route 1 in Hyattsville

 

Low-Stress Bike Network

Prince George’s County Trails Master Plan

Brief Explanation: The county’s Trails Master Plan (still in draft form), identifies how Prince George’s County intends to build and manage nearly 400 miles of new trails. The plan takes the mileage of primary trails (trails that are mostly paved, with high-quality design features, a park-like experience, and used for both recreation and transportation) from 65 to 293 miles, and secondary trails (connectors, along roads, or within neighborhoods) from 110 to nearly 400 miles.

Current Status: The public comment period for the draft plan has closed, but we will provide further opportunities for engagement as the process moves forward.

Campaign Launch— Finish the Trolley Trail

Brief Explanation: A half mile separates the Rhode Island Trolley Trail in Hyattsville from the rest of the Anacostia Tributary Trail network. It’s a half mile that stands in the way of a regional trail system connecting Beltsville and Bladensburg, College Park and Capitol Hill, Silver Spring and Southeast Washington. It’s a half mile that isolates communities and makes getting around by bike or foot more difficult and dangerous. It’s a half mile blocking economic development and opportunity.

Current Status: The Maryland-National Capital Parks Planning Commission has a design for a trail connection that would bridge this gap. Right now, it’s just that—a plan on paper, waiting in a desk drawer for someone to take it out and make it real. A united community demanding action can make this happen.

Action to Take: The Prince George’s Acton Committee meets the second Tuesday of the month at the Hyattsville Municipal Building (4310 Gallatin St. Hyattsville) at 7:30 pm. Click here for more information and to sign the petition.

Beach Drive Rehabilitation

Brief Explanation: National Park Service (NPS) recently announced that construction on the much-anticipated rehabilitation of Beach Drive and the adjacent trail will begin after Labor Day of this year. The construction project will happen in four stages, beginning in the south and working north. While Beach Drive will be closed to car traffic in both directions for the segment under construction, bicyclists and pedestrians will still be able to travel through the corridor. While the road is being reconstructed, the trail will remain open, and when the road is completed but not yet open to car traffic, and the trail is being reconstructed, then bicyclists and pedestrians will have access to the road.

Current Status:  The funding is allocated, the engineering designs are complete, and the contract has been awarded. You can see a project map on our April 2015 update, and find more information on the NPS project website.

Action to Take: National Park Service is hosting a public information meeting on August 18 at the Petworth Neighborhood Library at 6:30 pm. Join us and learn more about this exciting project!

Monroe Street Bridge and MBT

Brief Explanation: The Metropolitan Branch Trail (MBT) will eventually connect Union Station to Silver Spring Maryland. For years, advocates were told that the time for routing the trail under the Monroe Street Bridge through a tunnel behind the west abutment would come when the bridge was ready to be rehabilitated.

Current Status: The time for bridge rehabilitation has come. But the tunnel for the trail is off the table.  The scope of the bridge rehabilitation does include the installation of a traffic signal at 8th and Monroe Streets. In its current condition, this intersection is unsafe for trail users because of low visibility for cars coming eastbound over the bridge and lack of crosswalk alignment with the trail.

Action to Take: We are still waiting for the intersection designs, but we want to hear from you. What would it take for you to feel completely safe at the intersection of 8th and Monroe Streets NE? What have you seen work in other places? Take this quick survey and share your ideas with us.

New York Avenue Trail

Brief Explanation: The District’s 2005 Bicycle Master Plan includes plans for a trail along New York Avenue that would connect NoMa to the National Arboretum, serving all the neighborhoods in between. New development along the corridor, specifically in NoMa and Ivy City, is renewing interest in the trail concept.

Current Status: WABA will work closely with DDOT, Rails To Trails Conservancy, and other stakeholders to move the trail development process forward. But there’s a significant possibility that this could get complicated. Virginia Railway Express (VRE), a commuter rail service linking DC and Northern Virginia, has plans to relocate its railcar storage in light of the expansion of Union Station. Their chosen location is from 4th Street NE to 16th Street NE- right below New York Avenue, right where the concept plan routes the trail.

Action to Take: Scroll to the bottom of this blog post to sign up for updates.

Updates to Trail Rules in Maryland

Brief Explanation: The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) is updating its Park Rules and Regulations. Good changes have been proposed, including when trails close, speed limits for bicycles on trails, who has to yield the right of way at trail crossings, and whether e-assist bikes are allowed. You can read the whole discussion draft, and a set of policy alternatives, on the M-NCPPC website.

Current Status: WABA supporters submitted a strong showing of public comments on the proposed rules during the comment period.  Additional public meetings will likely be scheduled in the fall.

Action to Take: Click here to send an email to M-NCPPC to make sure that trails stay open when people need them, that parents can haul their kids to school on them, and that no one gets ticketed for riding their bicycle at a reasonable speed.

Veirs Mill + Matthew Henson Trail Crossing— Still Not Safe.

Brief Explanation: On Sunday July 17th, Oscar Mauricio Gutierrez Osorio, 31 of Silver Spring, was killed crossing Viers Mill Road in Silver Spring where the Matthew Henson Trail crosses a high speed Maryland State Highway. The exact details of the deadly crash involving Mr. Osorio are not public, but the trail crossing is a known safety hazard. This is the same location where Frank Towers, 19 was killed in December 2016,  just days after receiving a new bike for Christmas.

Current Status: WABA reached out to local and state elected representatives, and transportation officials requesting action, as we did after Frank Tower’s death. On Thursday, July 21st, the entire Montgomery County Council sent a letter to Maryland Governor Hogan, Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn and Maryland State Highway Administrator Greg Johnson requesting immediate prioritization of trail crossing improvements. The letter calls out the current dangerous conditions and the need for immediate action. On July 29th, the delegation from Maryland’s 19th District sent a letter to Maryland State Highway Administrator Greg Johnson requesting immediate corrective action at the Matthew Henson Trail crossing of Veirs Mill Road.

Action to Take: Maryland residents: write or call Governor Hogan, Transportation Secretary Rahn, and MD State Highway Administrator Johnson, as well as your state delegates and county representatives. Tell them that the status quo is not working and demand effective solutions.

Bike Routes for Commuting Around Red Line Safetrack Closures

Brief Explanation: WABA and Montgomery County Department Of Transportation hosted two events to help new commuters learn safe routes to avoid red line disruptions.

Current Status: Resources for biking around upcoming safetrack surges are here.

Action to take: Avoid hassle and delays by biking!

Crosstown Study

Brief Explanation: Getting from Columbia Heights to Brookland is a frustrating experience on a bike. It’s not a whole lot better on a bus, and really not great in a car either. DDOT is conducting a study aimed at improving travel through this corridor for all modes.

Current Status: At present DDOT has two concepts for this project. You can read more about them here.

Action to Take: The comment period for the current concept plans has closed, but another community meeting will be scheduled in September. Project updates and timelines will be posted here.

Street Calming and Bike Lanes for Maryland Ave NE

Brief Explanation: More than six years ago, the D.C. Council gave DDOT money to make a long stretch of Maryland Avenue, NE safer for pedestrians and cyclists.  DDOT used that money to establish a new initiative that it called the “Maryland Avenue Pedestrian Safety Project.”  That initiative included implementing a road diet along Maryland Avenue and installing bike lanes, wider medians, and curb bump-outs. Mayor Bowser, DDOT Director Dormsjo, and Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen have made Maryland Avenue a priority, and they have been pushing to get the project done. You can read more about the history of the Maryland Avenue Project here.

Current Status: A recent community meeting held to explore DDOT’s 30% design plans for the project turned acrimonious. While meant to be a chance for residents and neighbors to get a detailed look at the design for the street and offer constructive feedback to improve the project, the packed library meeting rooms were instead filled with heated concerns about parking. We’ve seen this movie before.

Action to Take:  The DDOT employees responsible for this project are George Branyan and Ali Shakeri (george.branyan@dc.govali.shakeri@dc.gov). If you live, work, or bike around the project area, please send them an email letting them know you support this project and want to see it move forward.

Bike Laws

Contributory Negligence

Brief Explanation: The D.C. Council voted unanimously to approve the Motor Vehicle Collision Recovery Act of 2015  as part of the consent agenda. This vote is a huge step towards final passage of the bill, and is the result of years of organizing efforts. In spite of roadblocks, delay, and concerted opposition from AAA and the insurance lobby, we’re the closest we’ve ever been to changing the unfair doctrine of contributory negligence for vulnerable road users.

Current Status: The bill has now cleared a major obstacle to passage. The Council will vote on the bill a second time in late September / early October, after which it will require a signature by Mayor Bowser, (who sent a congratulatory tweet to Councilmember Cheh after the successful first vote) and will undergo a 30 day Congressional review.

Action to Take: We aren’t taking anything for granted. We will stay vigilant through the final stages of the process to ensure there are no surprises, and keep you updated along the way.

The Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Act Passed!

Brief Explanation: On June 28, the D.C. Council voted unanimously for the Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Amendment Act of 2016 (B21-335). Mayor Bowser signed the bill in late July. The legislation is the culmination of the efforts of the Bicycle Pedestrian Working Group convened by Councilmember Cheh last summer, on which our Executive Director Greg Billing served.  It contains all kinds of good stuff, including open source crash data, bicycle and pedestrian priority areas, and codifying Complete Streets.

Current Status: The Act will become DC law at the end of August after 30 day period of Congressional review.

Advocacy 101 Training—Join us!

Brief Explanation: The training, hosted by WABA’s advocacy team, is for Prince George’s folks interested in making their community more bike-friendly. We’ll explore how decisions are made in the County, dive into some of the fundamental tools and approaches to influencing those decisions, and see how we, as individuals or groups, can push Prince George’s County to be more bike-friendly. (You don’t have to be a Prince George’s county resident to attend, but it will be Prince George’s focused.)

9am-1 pm Saturday August 27th
Hyattsville Municipal Building
4310 Gallatin St. Hyattsville, MD.

Action to Take: Register for the training!

 

DDOT Proposes Some Improvements to the East-West Bike Network.

If you've ever biked on this corridor, you know that improvements are sorely needed.

If you’ve ever biked on this corridor, you know how terrible it is.

What’s the issue here?

Getting from Columbia Heights to Brookland is a frustrating experience on a bike. It’s not a whole lot better on a bus, and really not great in a car either.

Starting on the west side of the study area, bikes, buses, commuter shuttles and drivers all share pothole-ridden one way streets with inconsistent parking and intermittent lane markings.

As you move eastward, these high traffic residential streets abruptly spaghetti themselves into a six lane divided highway on the north side of the Washington Hospital Center and four lane arterial on the south side. If you’re on a bike, you’re left to ride on a narrow sidewalk “bike route” or hope that drivers observe the 35mph speed limit on a road that feels like an interstate.

East of North Capitol Street, the north and south routes converge into Michigan Avenue as a six lane arterial road with no dedicated space for people on bikes.

Brookland has several blocks of standard bike lanes on Monroe Street, but after 12th St NE, it dwindles to a few “Bike Route” signs.

Fixing the problem:

At present DDOT Has two concepts for this project. You can read about them here, and they are fairly well summarized in these maps:

If you've ever biked on this corridor, you know that improvements are sorely needed.

Build Concept 1.

 

If you've ever biked on this corridor, you know that improvements are sorely needed.

Build Concept 2.

You can also read through the full project documents at the project website: dccrosstownstudy.com.

WABA applauds DDOT for tackling this long needed project. All of the options presented are an improvement over the functional absence of any bike facilities along most of the study corridor.

Understanding that this is complex corridor, and that DDOT is attempting to balance the needs of many kinds of road users, WABA has the following concerns with the concepts presented:

Defining shared use paths.

Several portions of the proposed bike network in the Central and Eastern sections of the corridor are designated as shared use paths, but project documents do not offer a clear definition of the term. WABA supports shared use paths that conform to modern trail design specifications. Trails must be at minimum 10 feet wide and clear of obstructions, with curvature, sight lines, and stopping distances designed with a bicycle in mind. These paths should be lit at night, set back from the roadway, maintained, and feature raised crosswalks, appropriate signage and signalization at intersections to communicate an expectation of frequent bicycle traffic to drivers. Widened sidewalks are not bike infrastructure.

When designing off street bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, we also urge DDOT to consider the dramatic increases in pedestrian traffic that will accompany planned development in the corridor.

Bike network gaps at the western end of the study area.

Since this planning study will guide a decade of future transportation projects, it should aspire to completely solve major connectivity issues throughout the project area. If either Concept were implemented today, the bicycle network would still have major gaps at the western end.

In Concept 1, the protected bike lane ends at 14th Street NW with no connection planned to bike lanes on Columbia Road or Mount Pleasant Street. While Concept 2 connects to 16th Street for eastbound bicyclists, it still leaves westbound bicycle traffic stranded at 14th Street. Without a seamless, low-stress route between Columbia Road and the center section’s bike elements, many bicyclists will choose the most direct route or not bike at all.

Removing parking on Park Rd NW would enable the Kenyon St protected bike lane to continue to a low stress connection through Mount Pleasant.

Ending the Crosstown bike corridor at 14th creates additional risk because, despite the paint on the ground, the street does not have bike lanes, it has double parking lanes, taxi standing lanes, and truck loading zones that are occasionally passable by bicycle. This problem is not a matter of enforcement, but one of design. Without infrastructure improvements that carve out exclusive space for bicyclists, 14th Street NW in Columbia Heights will remain a gap in the bike network, and east-west bike facilities should not rely on it.

Maintaining or improving existing North-South infrastructure on Warder St and Park Pl when the street grid is reconfigured.

Concept 1 calls for reopening Park Pl NW between Harvard and Kenyon to two way traffic. Both concepts call for reconfiguring one way traffic in the blocks between Warder Street NW and the Washington Hospital Center. In this reconfiguration, it is critical that the existing bike lanes on Park and Warder are maintained or improved. Sharrows are not an acceptable replacement.

Michigan Ave needs bike infrastructure around the Washington Hospital Center.

While we are pleased to see bike infrastructure improvements on Irving St on the north side  of the Washington Hospital Center, without corresponding infrastructure on Michigan Ave on the southern side of the complex, the neighborhoods of Bloomingdale and Stronghold remain entirely cut off from the Crosstown bike corridor. Designating shared bus / bike lanes does not serve most bicyclists. Separate spaces must be made for bicyclists on Michigan Ave through this section.

Shared use paths along Irving create conflicts with cloverleaf ramps.

In addition to our concerns above about width, the shared use paths along Irving between Park Pl NW and Michigan Ave NE create problems where they cross the highway-style ramps that connect Irving St to North Capitol St. Despite existing signs alerting drivers to the crossing, most fail to yield. And, due to the extreme approach angle, it is difficult for a bicyclist to maneuver and check that no vehicles are approaching simultaneously.

While long term plans suggest closing and reconfiguring these ramps, in the short term, we recommend raised crosswalks, rumble strips and stop signs for drivers at shared-use path crossings. The onus should be on drivers to stop for trail traffic, not the other way around, and design should facilitate compliance.

Design considerations for center running protected bike lanes on Irving.

We have two concerns with the center running protected bike lane on Irving St between Park Pl and Michigan Ave NE.

First, intersections at Irving and Kenyon St (in Concept 2) on the west end, and Irving and Michigan Ave (in both Concepts) on the east, will need to be configured to provide safe access to the bike lanes. Requiring bicyclists to merge into the left travel lane to enter the protected bike lane is not a low-stress option.

Second, given the highway-like design and feel of Irving St between Kenyon and Michigan, a center running protected bike lane will need a substantial, permanent barrier. Plastic flex posts and rubber parking stops will not be sufficient to make this a safe, low-stress place to bike. New York City’s Allen Street protected bike lanes serve as an excellent example to follow.

Weak connections to Brookland’s main street and the Metropolitan Branch Trail.

A protected, low stress Crosstown bike route should have a protected connection to the Metropolitan Branch Trail. Neither concept proposes this, instead relying on painted bike lanes to connect to the Metropolitan Branch Trail where it crosses Monroe Street. Parking protected bike lanes on Monroe St between Michigan Ave and 8th St NE would provide a low stress connection to the trail. Continuing them to 12th street would connect the low-stress network to Brookland’s retail hub.

Lack of protected bike facilities in the eastern section of the study area.

Protected bicycle infrastructure needs to extend the length of the study area. Neither the local street route presented in Concept 1 nor the painted bike lanes on Michigan Ave in Concept 2 provide a sufficiently safe or low stress route for people riding bikes.

Michigan Ave between Monroe Street and South Dakota Ave is a busy four lane road, and since it connects the highway-like section of Irving Street and the equally highway-like Queens Chapel Road across the border in Maryland, drivers expect to be able to drive fast. The bike lanes on Michigan Ave need physical barriers to keep people on bikes separated from this high speed traffic. Unprotected bike lanes also increase the risk of drivers illegally parking or stopping in bike lanes, which forces bicyclists out into fast moving car traffic.

Equity Concerns

We are concerned by the fact that the quality of the proposed bicycle infrastructure declines from west to east. Equity in transportation is an important feature of both the MoveDC plan and the District’s Vision Zero program. DC needs to ensure that all of its residents have access to world-class bicycle infrastructure.