After more than three years of plans for a Louisiana Avenue protected bike lane bouncing between DDOT, the Architect of the Capitol and other Capital grounds departments, WABA started a petition in May to reinvigorate planning for the project. The petition called on US Senate Sergeant at Arms Michael Stenger, one of the many stakeholders for the Capitol grounds, to work proactively to implement this project without further delay. When we delivered the petition earlier this month, 610 people had signed on! The Louisiana Ave protected bike lane project is a key connector for downtown DC’s low-stress, protected bicycle network. DDOT’s concepts envision a continuous protected bike lane connecting the Pennsylvania Ave lanes to First St. NE via Constitution Ave and Louisiana Ave. It would link the Metropolitan Branch Trail to the National Mall, filling a key gap in the Capital Trails Network and the East Coast Greenway. It would be a tremendous improvement for thousands of daily bike commuters, Capital staff, and visitors. Though Louisiana Ave is a relatively short road, making changes to it is complicated due to an intricate web of overlapping ownership and interest. The Architect of the Capitol, National Park Service, Senate Sergeant at Arms, the District government, Congress and more all have a say in what happens in this space. The good news is that the key stakeholders, including the Sergeant at Arms, Architect of the Capitol, DDOT and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton are now all at the table talking through a path forward. And while there is nothing concrete to report today, we hope to share some news soon. You can read our letter to the Sergeant at Arms here.
recommendations released last year, DDOT has made strong improvements to safely accommodate people who bike, including a new two-way protected bikeway between 2nd St and West Virginia Ave. However, the plan still leaves many challenging conflict points and safety issues unresolved, particularly east of West Virginia Ave. DDOT is accepting comments on the project website through March 15. We encourage anyone who lives, works, or travels through this corridor to review the plans and leave comments and suggestions for how the plans could be improved to make Florida Ave a safe corridor for all road users.On Tuesday evening, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT), showed its 30% design plans for the Florida Avenue NE Multimodal Transportation Project at a crowded public meeting. Compared to the
A Protected Bike Lane on Florida AveDDOT proposes a two-way protected bike lane on the south side of Florida Ave from 3rd St. to 9th St. This lane would be 8-10 foot wide and separated from car traffic by a 1-2 foot concrete curb. The design includes dashed green paint across conflict areas like driveways and bike lane markings through some intersections for added visibility. At cross-streets, left turn arrows will limit turning conflicts between turning drivers and bicyclists traveling straight and two stage turn boxes will help bicyclists queue to cross Florida Ave. At bus stops, the plans call for “floating bus stops” which run the bike lane behind the bus stop, allowing busses to take on passengers without blocking the bike lane. Compared to the standard 5 foot painted bike lanes proposed last year, these designs offer a relatively low-stress option for riding a bicycle on the west end of Florida Ave. The protected bike lane, while a big improvement, does has some unsolved issues. On the west end, between 2nd and 3rd St, it transitions to a wide shared sidewalk, where bicyclists will mix with pedestrians walking and bus riders exiting the bus. At West Virginia Ave, where a left turn lane reduces available width, the protected bike lane will again transition onto a shared sidewalk, also at a bus stop, where pedestrian and bicyclist conflicts are inevitable. These are unacceptable compromises. Addressing these safety compromises is straightforward but requires DDOT to prioritize vulnerable road users. On the western end of the project, DDOT should reduce the road to 4 lanes of traffic and maintain the protected bike lane underneath the railroad bridge. At the eastern end, the design should eliminate the left turn lane onto West Virginia which would create enough space for the protected bike lane. Both of these design changes would demonstrate a commitment to the safety of people walking and biking over the convenience and speed of driving.
Shared Lanes on the Eastern EndBetween West Virginia Ave and H St. NE, DDOT plans to bump out curbs at cross-streets and widen sidewalks where they are too narrow, add trees and streetlights, and install new traffic signals at some intersections. But don’t expect any improvements for safe biking. At West Virginia, westbound bicyclists are encouraged to go north to Morse or south to G or I. And while that will work for some, many people on bikes will stay on Florida, so it really ought to be safe too. DDOT’s plans make minimal changes to the roadway, which will remain two lanes (10’ and 13’) in each direction with off-peak parking. DDOT says this configuration is required to move high peak traffic volumes while still accommodating the community’s parking needs. Unfortunately, the plan’s wide travel lanes are likely to encourage illegal and deadly speeding, rather than decrease it. And the extra-wide curb lane may make more trouble for bicyclists than a narrower one would. That extra road width could be used to widen the sidewalks or create median refuge islands for people crossing.
Review the Plans and Weigh InIf you live, work, play or travel in the Florida Ave NE corridor, head to the project website to review the presentation materials and comment using the comment form. The project team needs to hear what aspects of the design work and constructive feedback on needed improvements. Specific and detailed comments are always most helpful. The comment period closes March 15.
Protected bike lanes on Quincy St are taking small steps forward, but it’s complicated, says Arlington’s transportation department. On Monday, September 19, WABA’s Arlington Action Committee hosted an update from Arlington County staff on their progress designing a protected bike lane on N. Quincy St. in Ballston. Staff presented work done so far, a summary of the constraints and trade-offs for upgrading Quincy’s existing bike lanes, and a preliminary design concept for a few key blocks. Since November 2015, the Action Committee has worked with local residents, business owners, and civic associations to build support for a north-south, protected bike lane to link the Custis Trail to points into Ballston. Six months ago, after an outpouring of support, the County Board directed Arlington’s County Manager to develop concepts for protected bike lanes on Quincy St. Now, Department of Transportation staff have taken a close look at the corridor and identified an important opportunity and key challenges to weigh as the design moves forward. We were delighted to spend the evening discussing the study with Arlington Director of Transportation Dennis Leach, Design Engineer Team Supervisor Dan Nabors and other staff. Here is what we learned on Monday: A Repaving Opportunity A large section of Quincy Street, from Glebe Road to Fairfax Drive, is in rough shape and is already slated for repaving next year. Since repaving is often the largest cost for a bike lane project, this is an ideal time to consider how the road can be restriped once new pavement is installed. To take advantage of this cost-saving opportunity, staff have focussed on designing this 0.4 mile section through Ballston’s densest blocks. Beginning with a survey of existing conditions, striping configurations, curb to curb distances, and road geometry, they identified some constraints that require careful design moving forward. Space Constraints and Other Challenges In a dense urban area like Ballston, space for moving people around is limited. Roads and sidewalks are flanked by rows of buildings atop a tangle of public and private land. Upgrading bike lanes requires additional space on the road to safely separate bicyclists from car traffic. And while it may seem simple to upgrade a lane on one block, the same amount of road space is needed on every block. Quincy St. is not a uniform width from one block to the next. The distance between curbs ranges from 41 feet to over 70 feet at some intersections, allowing for traffic lanes, turn lanes, curbside parking, the existing unprotected bike lanes, and sidewalk extensions. This variability makes it difficult to create a single street design that fits on every block. And where the street narrows, an engineer can only squeeze bike, traffic, and parking lanes so much. In narrow blocks, we face a question of priorities. Should the County use limited public space to encourage more people to travel by bike or should it dedicate public space to car parking? To create a fully protected bike lane, some parking must be removed. Yet to retain every parking space, only minor bike lane improvements are possible on most blocks. Another complication that limits available road space are the frequent curb extensions or “nubs” along Quincy St. This common traffic calming treatment extends a sidewalk into the road at mid-block crossings and intersections to improve pedestrian visibility and shorten crossing distances. Despite their benefits, curb extensions create more fluctuations in road width and complicate bike lane design on narrow roads. Fortunately, protected bike lanes can offer similar benefits to pedestrians, but installing them may require tearing up concrete, which increases construction costs. Preliminary Design Concept To illustrate some of the trade-offs, County staff presented one of many possible concepts for protected bike lanes on Quincy St. from Glebe Road to Fairfax Drive. The image below shows a protected bike lane running against each curb and separated from moving traffic by flex posts, parked cars, and a painted buffer area. This design offers a low-stress, separated place to ride that can reduce speeding, reduce bicyclists riding on sidewalks, discourage parking in bike lanes, and attract more tentative riders with a low-stress, trail-like experience. Click here to download the full design (pdf). On some blocks, these upgrades would require changes to on-street parking. Orange areas indicate existing parking that would remain. Green shows additional space for parking. Red shows areas where existing parking would need to be removed. Under this draft concept, some blocks would retain all current street parking, while others might see reductions in street parking. It is worth noting that parking studies of each block show relatively low parking utilization and that a surplus would still remain if some spaces were eliminated. Furthermore, Quincy St. boasts numerous off-street garages and parking lots along the corridor. Experience a Quincy Street Protected Bike Lane at Saturday’s Arlington Fun Ride On October 1st, we are teaming up with Phoenix Bikes to create a pop up protected bike lane on Quincy Street to show what a low-stress bike lane could do for Ballston. Last year’s ride was a huge success, and this year participants of all ages can feel the joy of a protected lane on their way from the Custis Trail to the Ballston pit stop at the Central Library. The ride is fun for the whole family, offers a distance for every rider, and supports a great cause! Learn more and Register Here! Next Steps While these drawings may look polished, they represent only one of many possible configurations for a Quincy St. protected bike lane. Lanes with different geometry and dimensions, or even a two-way protected bike lane, could suit the space better, and more design work needs to be done to explore those possibilities. As spring, and the start of next year’s repaving season approaches, we hope to see more solidified options and a clearer understanding of the trade-offs and benefits. We are confident that with an open dialog and opportunities for input that we can find a solution that works for Quincy St. residents, visitors, commuters, and businesses. For more on the Bike Friendly Ballston campaign, click here.
2017 Operating Budget and six-year Capital Improvements Program (CIP). In addition to maintaining funding for a number of long term trail and bikeway priorities, the Council approved a dramatic, 150%, funding increase for the Bicycle Pedestrian Priority Area Program. Alongside the innovative methods in the Bike Master Plan rewrite, movement on long delayed trail projects like the Capital Crescent and Metropolitan Branch Trails, and December’s commitment to pursue a Vision Zero initiative this expansion in funding is another sign that Montgomery County is getting serious about supporting and encouraging bicycling. In 2014, the County created the Bicycle Pedestrian Priority Area (BPPA) program to direct funding and resources to areas where changes will have the greatest effect on the safety and popularity of biking and walking. Since then, some 30 BPPAs have been designated and as many projects identified. With a $1 million yearly budget spread across even a few areas, planning and implementation of these projects are progressing well, though perhaps not as fast as they could — a new sidewalk and bulb-outs here, a protected bike lane there, a few bike racks and streetlights. That is progress, but it takes more than spot improvements to change behaviors and get more people riding bikes when neighborhood roads feel like speedways. In March, Councilmember Hans Riemer proposed a $1.5 million per year funding increase for this program as well as concentrated attention to projects in the Silver Spring BPPA first. WABA’s action alert generated considerable support from Silver Spring residents and committed bicycle advocates around the county. Roger Berliner, Nancy Floreen, and Tom Hucker who make up the Council’s Committee on Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment (T&E) all voted in support of the plan. Considering the inherent negotiations and changes required to find agreement on a complicated budget, we are thrilled to report that the County will dedicate a total of $15 million to BPPA projects over the next six years! With this additional funding, Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) can do more at a faster rate. In Silver Spring, where demand for safe places to bike is on the rise, more funding allows resources for careful study, planning and implementation of a connected network of protected bike lanes. Soon, construction will begin on the Spring and Cedar St protected bike lanes. Next year, expect discussion on Second Ave, Cameron St, Wayne Ave, Dixon St and Fenton Ave. And, while MCDOT builds out the Silver Spring Circle, planning can begin for needed improvements in Glenmont, Grosvenor, Wheaton and eventually the 28 other BPPAs. Instead of spot improvements, MCDOT can build entire networks. We’d like to thank Councilmember Hans Riemer, the T&E Committee, and the County Council for leadership and commitment to expanding the role of bicycling in the county. Thanks also to everyone who wrote and called your councilmembers in support of this proposal.On Thursday, May 26th the Montgomery County Council unanimously approved the County’s
Curious about what’s going on around biking in Montgomery County?Attend the the 3rd Great MoCo Bicycle Summit on Saturday, June 18, hosted by Councilmember Hans Riemer. What: 3rd Great MoCo Bicycle Summit When: Saturday, June 18 10-12 pm Where: Council Office Building, 100 Maryland Ave, Rockville Register to attend (free)
WABA’s Action Committees are working around the region pushing campaigns for better places to bike. Here is an update on the Silver Spring Circle campaign from Kate Meyer Olson, a Montgomery County advocate. On a rare sunny Saturday, May 14th, WABA’s Montgomery County Action Committee hosted a walk-along tour of the planned Spring Street and Cedar Street protected bike lanes in downtown Silver Spring. This .8 mile segment along the north side of downtown will be the first piece of the Silver Spring Circle, a network of protected bike lanes envisioned by advocates, planners and county leaders. Matt Johnson, Project Manager with the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT), joined us to speak about the project planning process and detailed considerations needed to bring this vision to fruition. The group grew to over 40 interested residents before we started walking. We saw a good cross section of Silver Spring, including many generations of residents and a spread of interests in the project. With plans in hand, the group walked the route discussing the details of each intersection as we went. The Spring and Cedar Street protected bike lanes will run adjacent to the curb on both sides of the street, with a 1 foot buffer and plastic flexi-posts between the bike lane and car parking where the road is widest, or moving traffic where there is no parking. Each intersection will see some changes, with those at State Routes 97 (Georgia Avenue) and 29 (Colesville Road) the trickiest to design. The bike lanes will be marked at critical mixing points with green paint on the roadway to indicate where car traffic and bike traffic will encounter each other-—primarily at mixing zones where a right turn lane merges across the bike lane, as well as at several driveways where cars will cross the lanes. At some intersections bicyclists will have a “bike box” in front of the car stop line to allow people on bikes a more visible position at intersections. At some intersections, a painted “2-stage turn box” will suggest a safe place for bicyclists to queue for an easier left turn using the perpendicular street’s traffic light. A feature being introduced to the County for the first time is the floating bus stop which, “floats” the bus pick up point away from the curb, allowing the cyclists an unimpeded route while the bus passengers will alight and board the bus from an island in the roadway. In addition to the protected bike lanes, the route will feature additional bike parking and improved crosswalks, and incorporate new timing for many of the stop lights. There will be a slight loss of parking in the last block of the route on Cedar Street before it intersects Wayne Avenue. Due to some changes to placement of curbs, 3 small trees will be removed. MCDOT plans to begin construction very soon and to complete the resurfacing of the roadway this summer, minus one block where PEPCO has impending digging. At the end of the walk Councilmember Hans Riemer joined us, commenting on the growing importance of safe and accessible bike networks in the county and his support for the plan in Silver Spring. The participants were favorably impressed with the vision and are looking forward to the construction beginning. As we move towards construction and a finishing date this summer, expect details about a ribbon cutting and Lane Opening Ride Along. For more information about the project, visit the MCDOT website. Learn more about the Silver Spring Circle at the campaign page. Special thanks to Matt Johnson for leading the walk and to Councilmember Riemer and his staff for their vocal support for expanding the role of bicycling in Montgomery County. If you are interested in becoming involved with the improvements to the cycling infrastructure in downtown Silver Spring, please join us on the 4th Monday of the month when we meet at the Civic Center at 7 pm to discuss additional advocacy goals and strategize for a more bikeable, walkable Silver Spring! More info here. Kate Meyer Olson is the Silver Spring Circle Campaign Lead, longtime Action Committee advocate and WABA member. She lives in Silver Spring.
Two projects that WABA worked for years to bring to fruition, the L St Protected Bike Lane and passage of the Safe Accommodations law and accompanying regulations, have been undermined by a permit issued by DDOT for the old Washington Post building site construction. Several weeks ago, WABA sent a formal letter to DDOT outlining our concerns over the traffic control permit issued to Carr Properties for the project, noting that DDOT, under its own regulations, is required to provide accommodations to bicyclists and pedestrians that are equal to the level of protection that is being disrupted by the construction. The permit issued for this project completely eliminates the protected bike lane and the sidewalk on the north side of the street, while leaving two vehicle lanes open. For more than two years, the publicly accessible portions of L Street will consist of a 13 foot motor vehicle lane (with “sharrows”—the stenciled paint indicating the lane is to be shared with bicyclists), an 11 foot motor vehicle lane (no longer used for automobile parking), and the southern sidewalk.
Here’s why it matters.As we explain in our letter, the L Street protected bike lane is a key part of the city’s transportation infrastructure. Because of the physical separation from traffic, a protected bike lane attracts people who would not necessarily be willing to ride on a street with no infrastructure. Following completion of the protected bike lane in 2013, bike ridership on L Street exploded, increasing 65 percent within the protected bike lane’s first year of installation. The 1500 block section of the L St protected bike lane is a particularly important piece of the network because it intersects with the 15th Street north-south protected bike lane, which is itself connected to the westbound M Street protected bike lane. Without a safe L Street protected bike lane, the utility of the M Street protected bike lane is also diminished. The City Council anticipated the problems that would ensue if the city’s bike lanes were made unsafe because of construction like this project. After repeated bike lane and sidewalk closures, the Council unanimously passed the Bicycle Safety Amendment Act in 2013. The Act provides, among other things, that “The Mayor shall require permittees blocking a sidewalk, bicycle lane, or other pedestrian or bicycle path to provide a safe accommodation for pedestrians and bicyclists.” DDOT testified in favor of the legislation. The following year, DDOT proposed and finalized regulations implementing the Act.
DDOT’s regulations define a safe accommodation for bicyclists in three ways.First, the regulations define the term “safe accommodation” as a “safe and convenient route for pedestrians and bicyclists that ensures an accommodation through or around a work zone that is equal to the accommodation that was provided to pedestrians and bicyclists before the blockage of the sidewalk, bicycle lane, or other public bicycle path.” (Emphasis added). Second, the regulations state that the routing for a safe accommodation for bicyclists “shall replicate the safety level of the existing bicycle route.” Finally, the regulations state that a safe accommodation to bicyclists must be provided by prioritizing methods, in this order from highest priority to lowest priority:
- Closing a parking lane and keeping the adjacent bicycle lane open;
- Shifting the bicycle lane to a location on the same roadway to by-pass the work zone, and if necessary, shifting and narrowing the adjacent motor vehicle traffic lanes;
- Closing the adjacent motor vehicle travel lane to provide space for a bicycle lane; provided that a minimum of one motor vehicle travel lane shall remain;
- Merging the bicycle lane and the adjacent motor vehicle travel lane into a shared travel lane adjacent to the work zone, installing sharrow lane markings in the shared travel lane and installing work zone signage directing bicyclists to merge into the shared travel lane; provided the shared travel lane shall be maintained at no less than thirteen feet (13 ft.) wide; and
- As a last resort, detouring bicyclists onto an adjacent roadway, in which case the detour route shall replicate, as closely as practicable, the level of safety found on the bicycle route being blocked.