Advocacy Behind the Scenes

Photo credit brixton under Creative Commons

A big part of successful advocacy is simply paying attention. The bureaucratic processes that bring about change are often slow, and can start quietly. Our team of advocacy staff and network of volunteers are always on the lookout for opportunities to have an impact, even if it takes a while. We work to make sure that better biking is part of the conversation from the beginning, not an afterthought.

If you subscribe to our advocacy action alerts, you know that we sometimes ask you to share your thoughts with a decisionmaker about the value of bike friendly infrastructure, laws and policy. Those action alerts are only one of many tools in an advocacy toolbox, and usually not the first one we reach for.

Often, a simple letter can start a project on the right path. Here are some of WABA’s comments and testimony from the past few months.

Georgetown Boathouse Zone EA

National Park Service (NPS) is examining sites along the Georgetown waterfront near the southern terminus of the Capital Crescent Trail (CCT) for development a series of boathouses that would cater to non-motorized boating (including rowing, paddling and stand-up paddle boarding). The project affects bicycle traffic in and around the area. NPS acknowledges that “the current configuration of the CCT and its connection to Georgetown do not provide safe and compatible access for pedestrians and cyclists with motorized vehicles to and through the Zone.”

The timing of the EA aligns with work that DDOT and Georgetown BID are doing to improve the K/Water Street corridor, which includes a protected bike lane to connect the CCT with the Rock Creek Park Trail.

Read our full comments here.

Oxon Cove Hiker-Biker Trail EA

NPS, in cooperation with DDOT, proposes to construct a multi-use hiker-biker trail in Oxon Cove Park. In our comments we recommend a seamless connection between the future South Capitol Street Trail and the proposed new trail. We also note that the Oxon Hill Farm Trail (which begins just off of South Capitol St and continues south into Oxon Cove Park) is in poor shape. This vital connection is functionally unusable to many because it lacks bridges and the trail is poorly maintained.

Read our full comments here.

Public Scoping for North George Washington Memorial Parkway EA

The National Park service is in the early stages of an Environmental Assessment for reconstruction of a significant portion of the northern George Washington Parkway. This is an important opportunity to consider how the parkway and the land around it could better accommodate and ensure the safety of people biking and walking.

Read our full comments here.

Long Bridge Phase II

DDOT is exploring options to replace the century-old Long Bridge, which carries freight and passenger rail from Northern Virginia into downtown DC. Though the study’s scope is currently focussed only on expanding the number of railroad tracks across the Potomac river, we make the case for including a high quality bike and pedestrian trail on the new bridge.

Read our full comments here.

Bethesda Downtown Master Plan

In October, Montgomery County Council held a final round of hearings on the updated Bethesda Downtown Master Plan. The plan is a long term guide to future density, land use, parks and transportation, and includes an impressive Bethesda bicycle network of protected bike lanes, trail access improvements, and standard bike lanes. Joe Allen, Co-Chair of our Montgomery County Action Committee, delivered WABA’s testimony at the hearing.

Read our full testimony here.

Roundtable on the Provision of 911 Services in DC

The DC Council’s Judiciary Committee held a roundtable to discuss 911 services. WABA submitted testimony raising ongoing concerns about the limitations of DC’s 911 dispatch system which delay or prevent emergency response to emergencies on off-street trails.

Read our full testimony here.

 Photo: brixton on Flickr

NPS Begins Arlington Memorial Circle Planning

memorial-circle

Navigating the Arlington Memorial Circle is a major obstacle for area bicyclists. The Mount Vernon Trail, Route 110 Trail and Arlington Memorial Bridge (the direct connection to the National Mall) converge at the circle. Trail users are forced to dash across high speed traffic at grade to cross the many highways, parkways and the traffic circle. There were a number of serious crashes involving pedestrians and bicyclists in 2010 and 2011, leading NPS to make some short-term safety fixes to trail crossing.

Now, the George Washington Memorial Parkway is starting a Transportation Plan and Environmental Assessment to study the long-term and major fixes need to vastly improve safety and the park experience for bicyclists, pedestrians and drivers. The planning process will take almost two years to complete with a final decision document not expected until the summer of 2016.

There are a number of opportunities in September to learn more about the planning process. National Park Service is also accepting comments until September 30th during this initial phase. Visit the National Park Service Park Planning website to learn more about how to get involved.

Build an Arlington Memorial Bridge for All

President Hoover inspects the then-new Arlington Memorial Bridge in this newsreel footage from 1932. Video from British Pathe.

The Arlington Memorial Bridge, completed in 1932, represents a physical link between the U.S.’ acknowledged north and south—and connects the Lincoln Memorial and National Mall to Arlington National Cemetery. The video above is a newsreel from the bridge’s 1932 opening with President Herbert Hoover. Today, millions of visitors and commuters cross Arlington Memorial Bridge annually by foot, bike, and car. The National Park Service is currently planning a rehabilitation of the bridge.

The major focus of the rehabilitation are the bascule spans. “Bascule” is the technical term for the type of center drawbridge spans on the bridge, which are deteriorating rapidly and require a complete overhaul. Rehabilitating the bascules will maintain an important element in our nation’s history and in our modern transportation infrastructure. The National Park Service is seeking input from the public about the bridge rehab through an Environmental Assessment process. But the only alternatives presented are very technical and specific types of engineering solutions to replace or rehabilitate the span. Should NPS replace with bascule spans with “concrete box girders,” “steel plate girders,” or “concrete arches”? Or should they just rehab the current spans?

WABA is not an engineering firm. And we don’t expect the public to be able to tell NPS just which type of girder or span is the best to last another 70-plus years. Rather, we’d like to discuss if we can build a multi-modal bridge for the future.

The bridge is 90 feet wide with six car travel lanes and two 15-foot sidewalks. Pedestrians and bicyclists share the sidewalks. During busy tourist seasons, the sidewalks are full of visitors walking between the National Mall and Arlington National Cemetery. Sidewalk congestion is complicated by bicyclists and pedestrians sharing limited space.  The speed limit for vehicles on the bridge is 30 miles per hour, but drivers often significantly exceed the legal limit. Commercial vehicles are prohibited from the bridge because it falls within the George Washington Memorial Parkway.

arlington-memorial-bridge-existing-conditions-web

During construction, there will be either a full or partial closure of the bridge. Planning staff are considering the impacts on regional traffic of different traffic closure scenarios. With a complete closure, construction can be expedited and potentially less expensive. A partial closures requires phasing construction to allow some traffic to still use the bridge. After an initial study on regional traffic patterns, engineers determined a closure of one of the three lanes in each direction would only minimally impact traffic on other bridges that cross the Potomac River.

Bicycle and pedestrian travel is increasing regionally and we should plan for it. Locally, the National Mall is planning in the future to build a visitor center at the Vietnam War Memorial. There is expected to be an increase in travel between the Vietnam War Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery. The distance between the two locations is a short walk or ride and proximate to Capital Bikeshare.

If there is a minimal impact of closing a single lane of car traffic in each direction on the bridge during reconstruction, it should be repurposed entirely as a single travel lane for bicycle traffic. Below are images of the current street configuration of the bridge and a proposed new allocation of space. This road diet does not change the historic design of the sidewalk, curbs, or roadway space. The protected bike lanes could be achieved by painting a buffer between the bike lanes and car lanes, or with decorative brick pavers or colored concrete.

arlington-memorial-bridge-multi-modal-web

Access for pedestrians and bicyclists to the Mount Vernon Trail from the bridge requires crossing the GW Parkway’s high-speed traffic at grade. This has been the scene of many crashes over the past few years. The Park Service has made some improvements to the circle by modifying sightlines, moving crosswalks, piloting rapid flashing beacons at crosswalks, and installing better signage, among other changes. NPS staffers are pursuing safe and separated trail crossings across the GW Parkway to improve access to the bridge. They will begin an environmental assessment of the Memorial Circle in 2014.

The bridge will continue to connect many historically and culturally significant parks, places, and memorials. The inclusion of protected bicycle lanes in the Arlington Memorial Bridge EA could dovetail nicely into the Memorial Circle EA, resulting in a significantly improved connection between the District of Columbia and Virginia for residents and visitors to our Nation’s Capital.

The comment period ends next Monday, Dec. 2. Please take a moment and as the National Park Service to rebuild the Arlington Memorial Bridge with dedicated space for bicycles, pedestrians and cars.

30-Day Test of Flashing Beacons on GW Parkway Begins Today

A press release from the National Park Service indicates flashing beacons will be tested on the George Washington Memorial Parkway, beginning today. The purpose is to “improve safety and increase awareness by slowing down traffic when pedestrians and bicyclists intend to cross the Parkway.” The beacons will be located at the trail crosswalk of the northbound lanes of the Parkway, just prior to the Arlington Memorial Bridge.

NPS and the George Washington Memorial Parkway will be taking comments on the beacons through Jan. 17.

Read the full release for more information about the beacons and how to comment below the jump: Continue reading