REPORT: Extending the WB&A Trail

WBA Trail Economic Analysis Cover2

WABA and BikeMaryland are pleased to announce the release of an exciting report by Jeff Lemieux (our 2016 Advocate of the Year) and Nolan O’Toole. Extending the WB&A Trail from MD450 to Washington, DC provides an economic analysis of the benefits of this critical connection in our regional trail network.

The Washington Baltimore & Annapolis trail (WB&A) is a paved multi-use trail that runs from Maryland Route 450 in Prince George’s County to the Patuxent River at the border of Prince George’s and Anne Arundel Counties. Efforts are underway to extend the WB&A trail north-eastward over the Patuxent River and toward the Thurgood Marshall Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

This report provides a preliminary analysis of extending the current WB&A trail in the opposite direction: southwestward to connect with the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail (ART) at the Washington, DC border. By 2016, the ART will be a continuous trail system connecting the Washington, DC riverfront with the extensive Anacostia Tributary Trail System in northern Prince George’s County. Extending the WB&A trail to the ART at the Maryland/Washington DC border would provide analogous trail connectivity for a large area of central Prince George’s County serving residents and visitors.

Download the full report.

Where would you like new trails in Prince George’s County?

Photo: Leah L Jones

Photo: Leah L Jones

With over 100 miles of bike and walking trails, Prince George’s County already has some excellent spaces for recreation and transportation. But it is a big county, and those trails only go so far and reach so many residents.

Over the next 25 years, the Department of Parks and Recreation hopes to dramatically expand the current trail system to an impressive 400 miles. They want your help to plan where these new trails should go, where new connections are needed, and what they should look like.

The Prince George’s County Department of Parks and Recreation is hosting three open houses in June to discuss its Trails Master Plan. The open houses will help drive the discussion to customize trails to include features that residents want most. A key goal for the plan is to make at least one trail within a 15-minute walk or bike ride from most residents.

We hope you can attend one of the meetings. Together, we can shape the future of biking in Prince George’s County!

South County
Saturday, June 6, 2015, 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Tucker Road Ice Rink
1770 Tucker Rd, Fort Washington, MD 20744

North County
Wednesday, June 10, 2015, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Parks and Recreation Administration Building
660 Kenilworth Ave, Riverdale, MD 20737

Central County
Tuesday, June 16, 2015, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Lake Arbor Community Center
10100 Lake Arbor Way, Mitchellville, MD 20721

For more information on the Trails Master Plan, visit www.pgparks.com/TrailsMasterPlan.html

Prince George’s is hiring a bike and pedestrian coordinator

Cross posted at Greater Greater Washington

Prince George’s County leads the Washington region in pedestrian deaths, and it’s behind when it comes to trails and streets that are safe and useful for people on foot and bike. To fix the problem, the county will soon hire a bicycle and pedestrian coordinator and develop a bikeway plan.

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Photo by Cindy Shebley on Flickr.

News of the hire comes from Darrell B. Mobley, Director of the County’s Department of Public Works and Transportation (DPW&T). Mobley says his agency wants to facilitate bicycling.

More specifically, Mobley wants to make the county’s bike network more usable. While Prince George’s has a lot of trails and local streets that are perfect for bicycling, they aren’t connected well enough for bicyclists to reach a destination without riding on more hazardous state and county roads. Mobley wants to create a bicycle network across the county using trails, bike lanes and safe streets.

The Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) and several county council members have urged DPW&T to hire a bicycle and pedestrian coordinator since Rushern Baker first became the county executive. The county posted the job this week, specifying that it’s a Planner III position that will pay between $53,000 and $97,000 per year.

The coordinator will report to Victor Weissberg, the special assistant in the director’s office who has long been responsible for representing the department on bike and pedestrian matters. According to Weissberg, the coordinator will have frequent access to both Mobley and Andre Issayans, DPW&T’s Deputy Director.

Developing a bikeway plan is likely to be one of the first tasks for the new hire, says Weissberg.

The county’s master plan of transportation shows where bike lanes and trails should be built in the very long run, but it does not address what will actually done or when. Weissberg says that creating a bikeway plan would probably require supplemental funding.

“When the county is ready, we will find the money,” says Greg Billing, director of advocacy for WABA.

Weissberg is not sure whether DPW&T will create a formal bicycle plan or something more like an internal work plan. But he promises to share drafts with the bicycle community and others as the plan is formulated.

Does the new hire signal a substantive change in county policy, or just an institutional commitment?

When Mobley was a top official at the Maryland Department of Transportation, the State Highway Administration (SHA) issued a policy declaring that bicycles would be presumed to ride on all state highways where bicycles are not explicitly prohibited, and that SHA would make at least some effort to make bicyling safer. For example, roads might get signs that told drivers that bicycles may take up the full lane.

By contrast, DPW&T has stated that some roads are not part of the bicycle network, that cyclists use these roads at their own risk, and that no “use full lane” signs would go up on such roads because doing so would encourage other cyclists to ride on them.

Mobley says that he is not ready to endorse SHA’s approach. He says that it is too soon to say that bicycles are part of the expected traffic mix on all county roads because he has not examined all of these roads. He wants to wait for the bike and pedestrian coordinator to come on board so that the county can adopt a position based on a reasoned analysis.

“Give us some time and we’ll work through these challenges,” says Mobley.

 

There’s plenty of room for safe bike lanes in College Park

By Originally posted at Greater Greater Washington

Route 1 in College Park is about to undergo a major reconstruction. As long as Maryland’s State Highway Administration doesn’t widen the road’s travel lanes, the project is a chance to make Route 1 safe for people on bikes.


Route 1 plans. All images from Maryland SHA.

Local residents, the University of Maryland, the City of College Park, and biking advocates all want protected bike lanes on Route 1. SHA engineering guidelines now include design specifications for protected bike lanes.

But SHA is looking into widening Route 1’s existing travel lanes at the expense of safe, usable bike lanes.

Advocates from the Washington Area Bicyclist Association recently measured the existing roadway and lane widths on Route 1 between between the entrance to the University of Maryland and Greenbelt Road. Currently, that stretch is nearly 53 feet wide, with ten-foot travel lanes along the entire segment.

Ten-foot lane widths would mean ample room for safer, buffered and protected bike lanes. On the other hand, making travel lanes wider would lead to higher vehicle speeds that’d then make it more difficult to make downtown College Park walking and biking-friendly. Narrow, unprotected bike lanes are unsafe alongside high-speed, high-traffic roads.

Route 1 can be a road everyone can use

SHA’s original proposal for Route 1 included 11-foot travel lanes plus five feet for bike facilities (a four-foot lane and a one-foot gutter pan). Five feet for bike lanes that run alongside Route 1’s heavy car and bus traffic is not enough space—just look at how rarely people use the unprotected bike lanes on several other busy Prince George’s County roads. The bike lanes would be stressful to use at best, and dangerous at worst.


Original Route 1 proposal.

SHA is considering expanding the bike lanes to six feet in total width (a five-foot lane plus a gutter). That would be better, but the bike lanes would still not be protected or buffered, and SHA would still be expanding the current lane widths from 10′ to 11′ for all four travel lanes.

However, if there is room for two 11′ travel lanes and a 6′ bike lane, then there’s also room for a properly buffered and/or protected bike lane. SHA’s minimum recommended width for buffered bike lanes is seven feet: four feet of lane, two of buffer, and a one-foot gutter.

If at least one of the travel lanes stays at ten feet wide rather than going to 11, there would be room for a seven-foot protected bike lane.

If both travel lanes stay at ten feet wide, there would be room for an eight-foot wide bike lane with a three-foot buffer and a five-foot lane. This would make College Park and the university more accessible and safer to travel around by bike. That’s what the community wants and deserves.

There have been several pedestrian deaths on Route 1 in recent years, and SHA has billed Route 1 reconstruction as a safety and accessibility improvement for people who walk and travel by bike.

Completely rebuilding Route 1 is a tremendous opportunity for Prince George’s county to create a walkable, person-friendly corridor in College Park. Buffered or protected bike lanes should be part of that vision. As long as Route 1’s travel lanes don’t get any wider, there’s plenty of room for that.

State Gets Priorities Wrong In College Park Street Redesign

The current SHA plan for Route 1 would place narrow bike lanes next to high speed traffic. Locals want protected bike lanes. Credit: Jeff Lemieux

The Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) announced December 12 that it will allow bicycle boxes and “cycletracks” (i.e. protected bike lanes) on state roads, at the bi-monthly meeting of the Maryland Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (MBPAC). But the good news was overshadowed by concern over SHA’s proposal for rebuilding US Route 1 (US 1) through College Park, which provides minimal bike lanes. The current plans for US 1 call for narrow 4-foot bike lanes adjacent to generous 11-foot travel lanes for drivers.

Typically, if a highway has 11-foot travel lanes on a straight, level grade, then the road is designed for 40 miles per hour.

A possible showdown over the bike lanes in College Park has been brewing for several years. Local residents and officials want a safer road. And statewide advocates have been increasingly frustrated as SHA rejected advice to adopt a complete streets design guidance. SHA prefers to design highways for motorists and then provide minimum bike accommodation with whatever space remains.

The Localities want Protected Bikeways

In 2011, the City of College Park and then-Councilman Eric Olson told SHA and County planners that when US-1 is rebuilt, it should have protected bike lanes rather than the narrow bike lanes that SHA generally prefers. The premise for a protected bikeway was that the main street of a college town needs to be safe for all types of cyclists. If drivers invariably speed through town, a protected bikeway is needed to keep cyclists safe.

The planners revised the sector plan to include protected bike lanes, and SHA’s independent design consultant recommended a behind-the-curb cycletrack. But SHA proposed 11-foot travel lanes and 4-foot bike lanes. SHA senior officials, many of whom are cyclists, worried that behind-the-curb cycletracks would increase the risk collisions when confused drivers make right or left turns across the bikeway. In response to the widespread objections, SHA is now looking at a buffered bike lane, according to a December 16 letter from SHA Administrator Melinda Peters, a competitive cyclist.

State Advisory Committee wants a Safe Street.

MBPAC is a committee of 13 private citizens and officials from 9 state agencies appointed by the Governor to advise the state on bicycle and pedestrian matters. This composition makes MBPAC a relatively cautious committee which is usually reluctant to second-guess agency proposals. Nevertheless, MBPAC’s resolution last month was fairly blunt:

Whereas…. SHA proposes to rebuild US 1 with eleven foot wide travel lanes and four foot wide bike lanes, a design which …encourages high motor vehicle speeds,… places high speed motor vehicle traffic uncomfortably close to cyclists properly positioned in the bike lane [and limits] the ability of trucks and buses to provide the legally required three feet of passing clearance…Such an installation…would be more appropriate for a rural, low-traffic situation…Narrowing the motor vehicle traffic lanes would allow … wider bike lanes…and calm the motor vehicle traffic, enhancing safety in accordance with Maryland’s Complete Streets Policy…And the state’s flagship university deserves a design considerably better than the minimum requirements.

MBPAC strongly urges the SHA to rebuild the section of US 1 through College Park to the safest design possible, which would, at a minimum, include narrow traffic lanes and at least six foot wide bike lanes, and if possible include a … cycletrack, buffered bike lane, or trail.

(Disclosure: I wrote the first draft, which was revised by Greg Hinchliffe, interim Executive Director of Bikemore.)

MBPAC and Advocates have struggled to get SHA to update its guidance.

Over the last two years, MBPAC has reviewed SHA’s bicycle design guidelines, and urged SHA to make highways safe for cyclists, rather than merely provide narrow bike lanes. SHA’s guidelines provide for 4-foot bike lanes unless the speed limit is 50 mph (or 8% of the vehicles are trucks). With such narrow bike lanes, motor vehicles pass cyclists in a bike lane with less clearance than when they pass a car.

For example, a 9-foot truck will pass a bicyclist in a 4-foot bike lane with an average clearance of two feet—less if you consider the mirrors and random meandering within the lane. By contrast, if the truck passes an SUV in another 11-foot travel lane, the clearance will be three feet.

Why do SHA design guidelines provide drivers with more clearance than bicyclists? SHA has declined to explain its thinking. When MBPAC pointed out that such narrow widths are unsafe, SHA did not suggest that the bike lanes are safe:

Table 2.1 has been developed to provide simple consistent guidance for engineers to determine the minimum width needed for bicycle lanes. The heading of this table will be revised to state “Minimum shoulder widths” instead of “preferred”. Factors such as density of cross streets and volume of traffic will be considered on a project by project basis to ensure that the most appropriate measures are being implemented.

Let’s give SHA the benefit of the doubt: Perhaps it is not cost-effective to build a wider bike lane along a rural highway with few cyclists, and four feet is a reasonable minimum. MBPAC wanted the design guidance to address the more common situation where the minimum is inappropriate, but SHA simply assured cyclists that it would not be bound by the minimum unless providing a safe facility “increases the cost significantly.”

What about narrowing the travel lanes?

The over-riding concern of both WABA and MBPAC was that the design guidelines start with a given level of service for motor vehicles, and then define how to provide some accommodation to cyclists with the remaining room and funding. MBPAC recommended that the guidance should discuss how SHA defines that level of service —most importantly speeds—given the presence of bikes and pedestrians. SHA responded that it considers the various design documents (designed to promote safe and efficient motor vehicle transportation) and that “It is neither realistic nor appropriate to attempt to include those policies in this document.”

There is no need to explain how the presence of bicyclists affects the overall geometry of the highway, because in general, it doesn’t. In essence, SHA declared that it has no intention of developing guidance for a complete streets policy in which roads are designed to balance the needs of all road users.

Given SHA’s devotion to 11-foot lanes, perhaps the US 1 proposal should have been expected. But recently some pedestrian fatalities led SHA to lower the speed limit to 25 mph, and send other signals that it wanted drivers in College Park to slow down. SHA usually resists lowering speed limits: many SHA engineers have told me that it is futile to set speed limits more than 5 mph below the design speed. If that’s so, then the only real opportunity to slow traffic is when a road is rebuilt. So why doesn’t SHA want to do that?

“Our engineers generally set the design speeds to be 5 mph faster than the expected travel speeds, to keep drivers safe” explained a state employee, who asked not to be identified. With a speed limit of 25 mph and speed cameras set to 37 mph, drivers are safer and more comfortable with 11-foot lanes and a design speed of 40 mph.

What’s next?

WABA and other cycling organizations will be very disappointed with anything less than MBPAC’s minimum recommendation: ten-foot motor lanes, and six-foot bike lanes (plus a one-foot gutter). Granted: Widening the bike lanes alone would be a step in the right direction; protected bike lanes would be even better. But any design that fails to calm traffic to the 25 mph speed limit would be completely at odds with MDOT’s official complete streets policy.

SHA and cycling advocates each have a poor understanding of what the other is trying to accomplish. This situation can be avoided if SHA enunciates clear policies regarding when and how driver comfort, safety, and speed will be compromised for cyclists and pedestrians, just as its bicycle guidelines already are clear about how bicycle facilities must be adapted to motor vehicle service. WABA endorses MBPAC’s call for a meeting with SHA on US Route 1, which should hopefully bring cyclists and SHA staff closer to a meeting of the minds.

Jim Titus is a WABA board member from Prince George’s County

It’s time for the entire region to adopt Vision Zero

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The ghost bike placed in Gaithersburg in memory of Andrew Malizio.

Last week was a grim one on the roads in the Maryland suburbs. A driver killed Andrew Gerard Malizio, on Route 28 in Gaithersburg while making a left turn. Less than two days prior, a driver killed a cyclist in Lanham, then left the scene. These deaths are tragic, and they are unacceptable.

Vision Zero, developed in Sweden and recently adopted in New York City, is a robust set of changes to transportation policy, road design, and law enforcement designed to eliminate traffic fatalities. It is based on the principle that no one should die on our roads. Period.

The District’s mayor-elect, Muriel Bowser, has endorsed bringing the Vision Zero Initiative to DC. We support this proposal and look forward to working with the District to ensure that it is implemented well. Today we sent  a letter to the Executives of Montgomery and Prince George’s counties challenging them to bring the same commitment to their own jurisdictions. Here’s the letter:

County Executives Baker & Leggett:

I write to you both because last weekend, each of your counties saw the death of a person bicycling on its streets. While the details of the circumstances of these crashes are unknown, we know that each death is a tragedy.

As WABA awaits more details in the hope that we can offer assistance to the victims’ family and friends—we also hope to learn from these tragedies ways to prevent them from happening in the future.

You may be aware that several progressive jurisdictions across the country, including New York City, have adopted “Vision Zero” commitments to work to eliminate traffic deaths and major injuries within a set period of time. Locally, Mayor-Elect Bowser has embraced such a commitment for District of Columbia.

In the wake of these tragic deaths, I ask each of you to consider your county’s commitment to Vision Zero, and to the principle that every human life is valuable and should be protected in our policy decisions, in our transportation designs, and in our enforcement priorities.

As an organization representing thousands of bicyclists in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties, WABA is committed to advocating for safe streets for all people who bike. We will continue to work in your counties to promote infrastructure, enforcement, and education programming that keep people safe.

I challenge you to truly commit to operating your government in a way that values the life of every individual on the roadways and aligns its priorities ensure human safety over vehicular speed.
I challenge you to adopt a Vision Zero approach to protecting the lives of all people—whether driving, biking, walking, or otherwise using the county’s roadways.

Every life matters. This weekend serves as a sad reminder that our public policy choices do not yet fully reflect that principle.

WABA, and I, look forward to partnering with you to do the work to eliminate roadway deaths in Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties.
Sincerely,

Shane Farthing
Executive Director

In the next year, we’ll be talking more about Vision Zero. Stay tuned.

A First Step Toward Better Bike Lanes in MD and VA

Two way protected bike lane illustration from the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide.

This week, WABA sent letters to local departments of transportation requesting consideration and adoption of the National Association of City Transportation Officials’ (NACTO) Urban Bikeway Design Guide. The NACTO guide presents state-of-the-practice solutions that create safe, enjoyable complete streets for current and new bicyclists.

The NACTO guide provides county traffic engineers with additional designs for innovative bicycling facilities that use several techniques to encourage new bicyclists, primarily by separating bike lanes from car traffic. The guide also has recommendations for designing on-road facilities such as buffered bike lanes, protected bike lanes (cycle tracks), bike boxes, contraflow bike lane and other facilities.  Adoption of the NACTO guide by local DOTs clears one of the many obstacles to building protected bike lanes.

Why protected bike lanes?

Protected bike lanes keep current bicyclists safer while encouraging new people to use bicycles for transportation. WABA is working to increase the miles of protected bike lanes throughout the region. Learn about our advocacy priority and our local campaign to build a protected bike lanes in Bethesda. More local campaigns are coming soon.

We sent letters to the Directors of Transportation for Fairfax County, Prince Georges’ County, Montgomery County and the City of Alexandria*.

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) and Arlington County have already endorsed the guide and are currently implementing protected bike lanes. We will publish the written responses we receive from the departments to the blog.

Read the full letter requesting adoption of NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide.

* Update: The City of Alexandria has also endorsed the NACTO guide. 

A Complete Guide to DC’s 1st Annual Tour de Fat

NEXT SATURDAY, June 16th, The New Belgium Brewing Company, makers of Fat Tire Ale, and WABA are hosting the biggest, most fanciful, bicycle celebration of all time. And for the first time ever it’s coming to DC!

We’re going to celebrate bikes, make some new friends, and sip on a couple of cold, Rocky Mountain barley pops–all in the name of local bike advocacy!

The Tour de Fat benefits WABA, MORE (Mid-Atlantic Offroad Enthusiasts), Black Women Bike DC, and FABB (Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling).

Before the big day we want to make sure you know all the event details so that you and your friends come prepared, because a) you can’t miss this, and b) you must come prepared.

 

Vital Details

WHEN: Saturday, June 16th, 9am – 4pm
WHERE: The Yards Park
COST: FREE with $5 suggested donation
REGISTRATION: on-site

SCHEDULE:
9:00am – Parade Registration
9:00am – Free Bike Valet
10:00am – Bike Parade
11:00am –  Main Stage
12:00pm – Slide Show
12:00pm – Slow Ride
1:30pm –  Bike Trade
3:30pm – De Finale!

How to Get to the Tour de Fat

WITH OLD FRIENDS: By bicycle, of course! The Yards park is located at 10 Water St. SE, Washington, DC near the National’s Stadium. . For those traveling from far and away, it is advised that you find parking far from Yards Park. Parking in the area will be extremely limited due to the Yankees/National’s baseball game.
WITH  NEW FRIENDS:  A number of local shops and organizations are leading convoy rides down to the park. We will update this list as convoy information becomes available.
– Alexandria BPAC: One-way group ride departing at 8:30am at St. Elmo’s (2300 Mt Vernon Ave, 22301) RSVP to Bruce Dwyer, oiubike@gmail.com

What to wear

For those who’ve never participated, this is indeed a COSTUME AFFAIR. Costumes are enthusiastically encouraged!!  For some inspiration, check out this montage of photos from Tour de Fat’s of yore.

What to expect

The time of your life
PARADE:  We will show off our rides and our bike pride by taking a short and slow cruise along the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail

FREE BIKE VALET:No need to bring your heavy U-lock, the folks at MORE are providing safe and secure bike parking all day long.

MUSIC: Featuring Mucca Pazza, Ian Cooke, and Yo-Yo People

GAMES: We don’t want to giveaway all the surprises, but we heard for one of the games, New Belgium’s creative genius’ constructed life-size Jenga. Yes, life-size.

BIKE PIT: Imagine if instead of creating candy, Willy Wonka created bicycles.

PERFORMANCES: Le Tigre’s whimsical ways will woo us all day long.

How to prepare

Start mixing up your papier-mâché pulp, pull out that tutu from your college years, give your bike a quick tune-up, and invite your friends to the biggest bike festival DC has ever seen.

Big Bikesharing News for the Washington Area!

Congratulations to all the jurisdictions awarded Maryland Bikeshare Program grants.  Within our immediate area, Montgomery County and UMD/College Park received implementation grant awards, and Prince George’s County/City of Greenbelt received feasibility study grants.

From the MDOT release:

The grant-winning projects include both feasibility studies for several jurisdictions and actual implementation and opening of bikeshare stations for others that are further along in the planning and design process.  The winners are divided into two categories – funding to implement a bikeshare facility and funding for a feasibility study to determine potential bikeshare station locations.  The Bikeshare Grant Program is funded through the Maryland Department of Transportation’s Federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) Program and will cover 80 percent of the total project cost.  Local jurisdictions are required to pay a 20 percent match.

The winners of grants to implement bikesharing systems are:  Baltimore City, Montgomery County and joint partners with University of Maryland at College Park and the City of College Park.  The winners of grants for feasibility studies of potential bikeshare stations are:  Frederick City, Howard County and joint partners with Prince George’s County and the City of Greenbelt.

Biking just got a little better in Prince George’s Co.

Prince George’s County Council voted unanimously to support becoming a more walkable and bikeable county this past week. Voting 9-0, Councilmembers passed the “Adequate Public Pedestrian and Bikeway Facilities in Centers and Corridors” Act (CB-2-2012) which requires developers to build bicycle and pedestrian connections from their new developments to nearby destinations. This bill seeks to begin fixing the years of allowing street designs that were inhospitable to pedestrians and bicyclists.

This is giant step forward for Prince George’s County. The County has one of the highest rates of pedestrian deaths in the Maryland and has recently been dangerous and deadly for bicyclists too. The County Council, under the leadership of Councilmembers Olsen and Franklin, has made a statement about a future vision for the county and has recognized the need to begin building safe, connected and protected places to walk and bike.

WABA staff testified several times in support of this initiative and we are pleased with the unanimous result.  We would like to thank the Prince George’s County Council for providing county residents with expanded transportation choices. We would also like to thank our friends at the Coalition for Smarter Growth for their dedication to this initiative and their work in Prince George’s County.