DDOT Considering a Road Diet and Bike Lanes on Alabama Ave


In May, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) held the second round of meetings for the Alabama Avenue SE Corridor Safety Study to get input on some early ideas to make the four mile corridor safer for people walking, biking and driving.

Alabama Avenue is a key east-west corridor for Wards 7 and 8, providing connections to neighborhoods, commercial areas and the Metro. But, crash and speed data show that it is a hazardous road for anyone who uses it.

DDOT staff presented a suite of possible changes to Alabama Ave designed to better protect vulnerable road users and discourage dangerous driver behavior. New traffic lights, additional crosswalks, and sidewalk extensions will make it easier for pedestrians to cross the road safely. Simplified intersections will create more green space and increase visibility for intersecting roads.

In addition to these point improvements, DDOT proposed three alternative road configurations for the corridor. Each alternative would put Alabama Ave on a road diet by reducing the number of travel lanes from 4 to 2, but they differ in how the extra road space is used. Removing unnecessary travel lanes and narrowing travel lanes is a proven method for reducing speeding.

  • Alternative 1 would install a center median with a travel lane and buffered bike lane on each side. This option would require removing parking on both sides of the street, but does not physically prevent parking in the bike lane. This alternative should be improved by adding flex-posts, curbs or other vertical barriers to the buffer area to protect bicyclists and keep cars out .
  • Alternative 2 would add bike lanes in each direction, separated from the travel lane by a narrow 1 foot painted buffer. This option would retain parking on one side of the road, but require drivers to cross the bike lane to park. This design should be improved to better protect bicyclists by adding vertical barriers. More importantly, the bike lane should be positioned between the parking lane and the curb, so that the bike lane is protected by a row of parked cars and cars don’t have to cross the bike lane to park, similar to the design on 15th Street NW.
  • Alternative 3 would make the curbside lanes full-time parking and add bulb-outs at intersections. This alternative does not include any dedicated space for people on bikes, encourages riding in the “door zone” and increases likelihood of harassment and driver frustration towards cyclists who ride in the shared lane.

This project is an opportunity to fill a large gap in the bicycle network east of the river to make bicycling for transportation an attractive option. These proposals include some excellent designs that would prevent dangerous speeding and make the Alabama Ave corridor safe and accessible for the most vulnerable road users.

But without public support, needed improvements for safe biking may not happen. Please take a moment to review the proposals and use the online form to comment on what alternatives you like and what improvements still need to be made. If you need inspiration, you can read WABA’s full comments here.

Comment on this Project

Questions? Email advocacy@waba.org

Where do we need better places to bike in MoCo?

Woodglen Drive Protected Bike Lane image from Montgomery Planning

If you could make one improvement for better bicycling in Montgomery County, what would it be?

Would you add a new trail along a major highway or create a protected bike lane to your local grocery store? Would you connect Metro to nearby neighborhoods or stitch together a web of protected bike lanes in the county’s dense urban centers?

In June, the Montgomery Planning Department is hosting meetings to get your feedback on the draft network maps for the updated Bicycle Master Plan. This is your chance to share your ideas on needed bicycle connections and help shape the future bicycle network. At five meetings around the county, staff will present their vision for a quality, low-stress network that will get tens of thousands of residents where they need to go safely and conveniently by bicycle. Though pieces of the network have been released, this is the first time we get to see the future bike network in its entirety.

Come look at the maps and let staff know what you like and what is missing.

Each meeting will run from 4 pm – 8:30 pm, consisting of an open house from 4 – 7 pm and a presentation and Q&A from 7:15 – 8:30 pm.

Meeting 1
Tuesday, June 6 | 4 pm – 8:30 pm
Planning Department Headquarters
8787 Georgia Avenue, Silver Spring
RSVP
Meeting 2
Thursday, June 8 | 4 pm – 8:30 pm
Bethesda Regional Services Center
4805 Edgemoor Lane, Bethesda
RSVP
Meeting 3
Monday, June 12 | 4 pm – 8:30 pm
Olney Library
3500 Olney Laytonsville Rd, Olney
RSVP
Meeting 4
Wednesday, June 14 | 4 pm – 8:30 pm
UpCounty Regional Services Center
12900 Middlebrook Road, Germantown
RSVP
Meeting 5
Thursday, June 22 | 4 pm – 8:30 pm
Marilyn J. Praisner Library
14910 Old Columbia Pike, Burtonsville
RSVP

How to report construction blocking your bike lane in DC

You may have noticed. . . the bike lanes we’ve worked so hard to get built over the years are frequently closed or unusable because of construction, road maintenance, and utility work. Beyond being annoying and scary, these closures are also frequently illegal.

What does the law require?

DC law requires that when a bike lane or sidewalk is closed for construction, an equally safe accommodation, free of hazards and debris, must be provided. This has been the law since 2013. Unfortunately, we know from experience that violations occur around the city on a daily basis.

This has real consequences. Closing a bike lane— especially without adequate signage— forces bicyclists to quickly merge into a shared traffic lane with motor vehicles, putting bicyclists in danger, upsetting drivers, and discouraging less confident bicyclists from riding at all.

The District is experiencing a construction boom with no end in sight. Bicycling is more popular than ever. It is essential that the city keep bicyclists safe where construction impacts bike infrastructure. That won’t happen without advocacy.

We’ve created an online reporting form to walk you through the information DDOT needs to investigate the suspected violation.

report a problem

Why report violations?

Short term, we want dangerous conditions on the roadways fixed as quickly as possible so no one gets hurt, and so bicyclists have confidence that when they set out by bike, the protected lanes they rely on will be available and safe.

Long term, WABA and DDOT will use this reporting data to help identify recurring problems and repeat permit violators. This will help with developing systemic solutions— like trainings, permit guidance and targeted enforcement.

Things to report:

Any time construction closes a protected bike lane, trail or sidewalk, the contractor must provide a route through the construction area that equivalent to the level of protection of what is being closed (subject to a few exceptions covered below). So, in the most basic sense, if it’s a protected bike lane, like this:

it should have a protected accommodation, like this:

Note on the far left behind the fencing is the original protected bike lane. Everything has been shifted right to make a sidewalk and bike lane from taking over a lane of traffic.

 

If it is a striped bike lane like this:

There should be a separate place on the road for the exclusive use of bicyclists.

In the example above, the bike lane is shifted to the left, marked by traffic cones.

The accommodation should be free of obstructions and debris.

unlike this…

and this:

and this.

Exceptions:

Sometimes, there simply isn’t enough space to provide an equivalent accommodation. However, before providing a less than equivalent accommodation, the city must first close an adjacent lane of parking (if there is one) or close a lane of traffic.

So, if an equivalent accommodation has not been provided, but there is still an adjacent row of parking, or more than one lane of vehicle traffic open in either direction, the Safe Accommodations law is being violated.

Should I report this? A flow chart:

(click image for a larger version)

 

Don’t overthink it. The point of the law is to keep bicyclists and pedestrians safe. If it seems unsafe, it probably isn’t compliant with the law.

How to report violations in DC

We’ve created an online reporting form to walk you through the information DDOT needs to investigate the suspected violation.

Fill out the required questions (email, date, construction site address, etc).

When you submit the form, it will send you an automated email response. If you are able to snap a few pictures of the site you are reporting, reply to that confirmation email and upload your photos as an attachment.

The form will generate a report to the Public Space Regulatory Administration staff, who are responsible for approving and inspecting the traffic control plans in public space permits. They have the authority to shut down a construction site if it is violating the safe accommodations law.

You can use the email chain from the confirmation email to follow up with WABA and DDOT as-needed.

report a problem

Want to know more?

Check out the slides from our Safe Accommodations Training:

Still have questions? Send an email to advocacy@waba.org.

Help grow the DC bike network: attend a public meeting!

May is Bike Month, so if you are not spending your evenings riding a bike, check out a community meeting and show your support for projects that make bicycling better!

Here are some upcoming meetings in DC:

Grant Circle Community Meeting
Tuesday, May 2 6:30 – 8 pm
EL Haynes Public Charter School | 4501 Kansas Avenue NW

DDOT is hosting a meeting to discuss possible safety improvements for Grant Circle in Petworth. At the meeting, residents are invited to provide feedback on draft concepts, data, and analysis. Grant Circle is an obvious candidate for a lane reduction, raised crosswalks, curb extensions and protected bike lanes. Many of these options were direct recommendations of the Rock Creek East II Livability Study (pdf), completed last year. Click here for more information on the meeting.

DC Bicycle Advisory Council
Wednesday, May 3  6 – 8 pm
On Judiciary Square | 441 4th St NW, Room 1112

Attend the May BAC Meeting to learn about some emerging long term projects. Agenda here.

NoMa Bicycle Network Study, Public Workshop
Thursday, May 4 | 6 – 8 pm
Lobby | 1200 First Street NE

DDOT planners are taking a close look at the future bicycle network that will connect people who bike from NoMa to Mount Vernon Square. Come provide feedback on existing conditions for cycling through and from the study area. The project study area is from 6th Street, NW to 6th Street, NE between N Street NW and K Street NW. Priority corridors within the study area for consideration include K, L, and M Streets; 4th and 6th Streets NW/NE; and New Jersey Avenue. Click here to learn more.

Long Bridge Project Open House
Tuesday, May 16 | 4 – 7 pm
L’Enfant Plaza Club Room | 470 L’Enfant Plaza SW
Presentations at 4:30 pm and 6:00 pm.

Now over one hundred years old, the Long Bridge carries trains from SW DC to Arlington. Sometime soon, it will need substantial rehabilitation or replacement. Initial concepts included a new bridge with additional train tracks and a multi-use trail connecting the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail to the Mount Vernon Trail and Long Bridge Park. Attend the informational meeting to review and comment on the preliminary concept screening results for the Long Bridge Project and help us ensure that any new bridge includes more options for crossing the Potomac and connecting the region’s trails by bike. Click here for more information about the meeting, including detailed directions to the meeting room.

Can we have a protected bike lane yet?

Ten percent of all trips originating in the Shaw neighborhood are by bicycle. That is more than double the average bicycle mode share for the District. Yet, the best corridors for getting to destinations north and south of Shaw are streets with multiple lanes, high speeds, and aggressive driving. Safe places for people to bike are sorely needed throughout the city, and Shaw is no exception. And when streets are safe for bicyclists, they are safer for pedestrians and motorists.

Last year, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) went through a lengthy public comment process to select a preferred alternative out of four possible streets for a protected north/south bike lane through Shaw. Thousands of citizens participated, and the majority spoke up in favor of bike lanes on 6th or 9th streets NW.

According to the project timeline, a preferred alternative for this project was supposed to have been selected a full year ago— in April 2016. In February 2017, fully ten months past that deadline, DDOT announced that, rather than selecting just one of the alternatives, they were moving two alternatives to 30% design, a process that it says could take up to 9 months. Final design and construction of the selected alternative could take another 12 to 18 months.

Take Action

DC is a city that has committed to completely eliminating traffic fatalities and serious injuries, all while increasing the number of people who walk, bike and take transit, and accommodating an influx of 800+ new residents every month who need transit options other than their personal automobiles to get around. Yet important projects like this one, which would help accomplish all of those goals, are being slow-walked to the finish line, if not in danger of being scrapped entirely.

In the time it has taken DDOT to issue a “final” report on the initial study, more than 19 people were hurt in crashes in the study area. (We don’t know the actual number because crash data has only been made publicly available through May of 2016). This is unacceptable. Can we wait until the Summer of 2019 for a safe route through Shaw?

Take Action

We need this project to be built on a faster timeline than what DDOT is projecting, or hundreds of other people could get hurt while the city delays. Or, we need DDOT to build both of the final alternatives currently moving to 30% design, not just one. Both 6th and 9th streets are dangerous for pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers. People need to travel to locations on both. A protected bike lane on 6th St may give bicyclists a safe place to ride, but doesn’t make 9th street easier for elementary school kids or senior citizens to cross, or calm traffic for neighbors, and vice versa.

Street calming and safe places to bicycle through Shaw will induce DC residents to take more of their trips and commutes by foot and bike. Making the streets more hospitable for pedestrians and bicyclists will help local businesses and improve health outcomes for residents. And, incidentally, it would help DDOT start to catch up on the five miles of protected bike lanes each year they need to build to meet their 20 year goals. (They have been nowhere near that target in the past three years.)

Tell Mayor Bowser: No more delays. Build protected bike lanes through Shaw. Build both final alternatives. Build them faster than currently planned.

Advocacy Training: Construction Permits, Bike Lanes, and Safe Accommodations

 

Tired of seeing bike lanes closed by construction?

You may have noticed . . . the bike lanes we’ve advocated so hard for over the years are frequently closed or unusable because of construction, road maintenance, and utility work.

DC law requires that when a bike lane is closed for construction, an equally safe accommodation, free of hazards and debris, must be provided. This has been the law since 2013. Unfortunately, we know from experience that violations occur around the city on a daily basis.

This has real consequences. Closing a bike lane— especially without warning— forces bicyclists to quickly merge into a shared traffic lane with motor vehicles, putting bicyclists in danger, upsetting drivers, and discouraging less confident bicyclists from riding at all.

The District is experiencing a construction boom with no end in sight. Bicycling is more popular than ever. It is essential that the city do all it can to keep bicyclists safe where construction impacts bike infrastructure. If the past 4 years are any indication, that won’t happen without advocacy.

Will you help?

On Wednesday, we’re hosting a training where you can learn more about the safe accommodations law, how to identify and report violations, and other ways to advocate for short and long term solutions to the problem.

Sign up here.

What: Advocacy training
Where: WABA headquarters: 2599 Ontario Rd NW, Washington DC 20009
Date: April 12, 2017
Time: 6:30PM – 8:30PM

Hope to see you there.

DC’s 15th St Protected Bike Lane is 400 Ft Longer, 100% Better

15th St. protected bike lane extension

Since last summer, construction crews have been busy transforming a complicated intersection in Northwest DC from one of the most crash-prone in the city to a model example of a complete street. Earlier this month, crews finished up work on the large block where 15th St, W St, New Hampshire Ave, and Florida Ave NW meet near Malcolm X Park. The result is a far more intuitive and safe experience for people biking, walking, and driving!

In 2009, a driver turning right onto W St struck and killed a pedestrian crossing 15th St. In response, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) installed temporary curbs and flex-posts to reduce speeds through the intersection while a permanent solution moved through design. DDOT shared initial designs in 2012 and began construction in 2015. Now, seven years after the fatal crash, we have that permanent solution in place.

While it is frustrating to see crucial safety fixes for streets like Florida Ave NE, Maryland Ave NEC St. NE and this one take so long to implement, it is encouraging to know that the final results are worthy of praise. The District must find a way to accelerate timelines for those most needed projects and has plenty of excellent examples to follow from peer cities. But let’s spend a minute to appreciate this project.

15th St. protected bike lane at W

The new design removes a dangerous high-speed slip lane, drastically reduces the width of the intersection to slow vehicle speeds, and reclaims hundreds of square feet of open pavement for green space, walking and biking. People on bikes can enjoy an extension of the 15th St protected bike lane (now with curbs), bike lanes striped through the intersection, bike specific signals, bike boxes for easy turning from W and Florida, and bike parking. People walking can luxuriate in wider sidewalks, dramatically shorter road crossings, slower vehicle speeds and extensive landscaping in bioswales (still in progress). Drivers will notice more predictable interactions with bicyclists, pedestrians, and other drivers. It took a long time to come, but this is public space done right.

What was a high speed turn lane is now a spacious pedestrian plaza

What was a high-speed turn lane is now a spacious pedestrian plaza

What’s Next?

Though major construction is complete, and the road, bike lanes, and sidewalks are open to the traveling public, crews will continue planting trees and other water-thirsty greenery into the new bioswales to help manage stormwater from the road. Two more important developments will help fully complete this project.

15th St. extension view north

  • That hill deserves a protected bike lane: Just glance at this photo and the plan is obvious. In fact, DDOT plans to extend the protected bike lane up the hill to Euclid St. Fortunately, there is plenty of space to simply shift parking on the left side of the road and combine the two existing bike lanes against the left curb.
15th St extension bikeshare

This wide plaza was designed with a Capital Bikeshare dock in mind

  • Install a Bikeshare dock: DDOT planned to add a new Capital Bikeshare dock all along. Tonight, Oct 6, the area’s Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC1B) will decide if it supports this plan. If you live in the neighborhood, please ask your commissioner to support the plan or attend the meeting. Learn how here.

A slower, smarter Maryland Ave NE is coming.

Maryland Ave NE Project Area

Maryland Ave NE Project Area

A community meeting last Wednesday to explore DDOT’s 30% design plans to address endemic speeding on Maryland Ave NE turned contentious as residents pushed back against the project and were, in turn, confronted by other residents.

The meeting on August 10th was meant to be a chance for community members to get a detailed look at the design for the street and offer feedback to improve the project as the design process moves forward. Instead, the packed library meeting rooms filled with heated concerns about parking. We’ve seen this movie before.

The redesign for Maryland Ave. NE is what’s known as a “road diet” due to the fact that it will reduce the number of travel lanes in each direction (from 2 to 1) and the way that it “slims down” the road at intersections to shorten the amount of time it takes for pedestrians to cross. It also includes unprotected bike lanes along the full length of the project.

In DDOT’s analysis, Maryland Ave. NE is a good candidate for a road diet because its traffic volume (9,000-11,000 vehicles per day) can be served by fewer travel lanes without reducing the Level of Service unacceptably. (Note: we’ve discussed this problematic engineering metric before.)

A small but vocal contingent of residents calling themselves Citizens For an Informed & Safer Maryland Avenue believes that the road diet plan has been undertaken without adequate analysis or community input. This despite the work mentioned above and a timeline that began in March of 2011, proceeded through more than a dozen public meetings, and involved hundreds of hours of community engagement—both for the project itself and in conjunction with 2013’s MoveDC plan.

Prior to Wednesday’s meeting, the citizens group circulated a flier urging Maryland Ave. NE residents to attend and raising the twin specters of reduced parking and increased congestion (full disclosure: I live on the 1000 block of Maryland Ave. NE). They also started an online petition and a survey to gauge neighborhood opinions on the road diet. Among their concerns is the “argument” that Maryland Ave. NE is unsafe to bike on and therefore doesn’t need bike lanes.

We here at WABA don’t think these plans are perfect: DDOT missed an good opportunity to install the first protected bike lanes on Capitol Hill (as pointed out over at Greater Greater Washington), but this process has gone on for far too long. Maryland Avenue NE in its current configuration enables rampant speeding and puts people who walk and bike along the corridor in unnecessary danger. DDOT and the community decided this needed to change five years ago. WABA supports the Maryland Ave NE plan as it is currently designed (pending the comments from the meeting) and encourages DDOT to finish the project in 2016.

 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 to let them know you support this project and want to see it move forward.

Multi-modal Memorial Bridge?

In the spring of 2013 the National Park Service initiated the public process to rehabilitate the Arlington Memorial Bridge.  The partial closure and rehabilitation of the bridge represents a huge opportunity to rethink how the bridge operates in the context of the city’s transportation network.  Unfortunately, instead of seizing this opportunity, the Park Service defined the scope of the project extremely narrowly— focusing on arcane questions about upgrades to the “bascule spans” (the parts of the bridge that make it work as a drawbridge).

Does anyone actually care about what structure engineering methods NPS uses to rehabilitate bascule spans? Probably not. What we do care about is the fact that millions of visitors and commuters cross Arlington Memorial Bridge annually by foot, bike, and car. As bicycle and pedestrian travel rapidly increases region-wide, it’s time to rethink how all transportation modes on the bridge are accommodated.

The bridge is 90 feet wide with six car travel lanes and two 15-foot sidewalks. The speed limit for vehicles on the bridge is 30 miles per hour, with drivers often dangerously exceeding the legal limit. 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 opportunity:

During construction, the bridge will be partially closed. Two years ago, after an initial study on regional traffic patterns, traffic engineers determined that a closure of one of the three lanes in each direction would only minimally impact traffic on other bridges that cross the Potomac River.  This has been borne out by experience: since late last fall, the Memorial bridge has been operating with a total of four travel lanes, without any resulting traffic armageddon.

The third vehicle lane in both directions should be permanently repurposed as a single protected travel lane for bicycle traffic. This would provide dedicated space for pedestrians on the sidewalk, and a safe, unobstructed passage across the bridge for bicyclists.  

The bridge rehabilitation is a chance for NPS to be forward-thinking about design. The National Mall is planning to build a visitor center at the Vietnam War Memorial, which will likely increase travel between the Vietnam War Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery, as it is a short walk or ride between the two, and serviced on both sides of the bridge by Capital Bikeshare stations. There are also plans to redesign the Lincoln Circle (aka: the bike/ped no-man’s land between the Lincoln Memorial and the Memorial bridge on the D.C. side).

The viewshed in both directions along the bridge is highly valued and should be honored. Through this process, the Park Service could and should be considering designs for dedicated space for bicyclists that fits the aesthetic of the bridge, like low decorative planters or concrete curbs.

WABA and supporters raised these issues nearly three years ago.

Unfortunately, the Park Service has not listened, and continues to move forward with an Environmental Assessment structured to protect the status quo. There is another comment period closing on Monday, May 16th. Take a moment to submit comments telling NPS you want this project to address not just the bridge’s structure, but how the bridge functions in city life, by creating dedicated protected bike lanes and safe connections for walking and biking to and from the bridge.

Submit comments on the project site website using this link.

Create the Silver Spring Circle: A New Campaign for Montgomery County

Photo from CDOT

Improvements are Needed in Downtown Silver Spring

Downtown Silver Spring is growing. Young adults, families and older residents are attracted to the convenience of living near the places where they work and play. And with the dense mix of transit, offices, entertainment, shops and homes, it should be a paradise for walking and biking. But, it’s not. With high speed traffic and a lack of dedicated space for bikes on the busy streets in downtown Silver Spring, most residents don’t feel safe biking in the road.  Some ride on sidewalks, mixing with people on foot. But they too must contend with wide and intimidating intersections. There is a desperate need for safe and comfortable bike routes and intersections.

Today, WABA’s Action Committee for Montgomery County is pleased to announce a campaign to Create the Silver Spring Circle. Our goal is to make downtown Silver Spring a more bikeable, walkable place.

The Silver Spring Circle would convert excess road space in and around downtown Silver Spring into protected bike lanes, and place parked cars or vertical barriers between bicyclists and car traffic. Lanes on Second Ave, Wayne Ave, Spring St, Cedar St, Fenton St, Cameron St and Ellsworth Dr, along with new wayfinding and bike parking would make most destinations safe, comfortable and accessible by bike. It would also represent a first step in connecting downtown Silver Spring to the many existing bike trails already in our region. Read all about the campaign and sign our petition here.

Come to our Campaign Kickoff!

On Saturday, May 14, join the Action Committee in Silver Spring for a walk around the first arc of the Silver Spring Circle to see for yourself how protected bike lanes will make Silver Spring a more bikeable, walkable, and livable downtown. Starting at Spring and 2nd Ave, we will make our way along Spring St, stopping to discuss tricky intersections, design challenges, and innovative solutions. We cannot wait to share and discuss our vision for a connected, low-stress bike network in Silver Spring.

When: May 14 9:30 am
Where: 2nd Ave & Spring St

Click here to RSVP

Can’t attend? Sign our petition and stay in the loop.

Map of the proposed Silver Spring Circle. Click for an interactive map

Map of the proposed Silver Spring Circle. Click for an interactive map

Parts of Spring St will look something like this. Image from Streetmix

Parts of Spring St will look something like this. Image from Streetmix

Encouraging Developments

In February, Montgomery County’s Department of Transportation (MCDOT) unveiled plans to install protected bike lanes on Spring St and Cedar St in downtown Silver Spring, stretching almost one mile from Second Avenue to Wayne Avenue. In March, the Montgomery County Council’s Committee on Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment (T&E) voted unanimously to support design and construction of a complete network of protected bike lanes in Silver Spring. These are two crucial steps, but we’ll need more than encouragement to see it through.

Want help make this happen? Come to our next Action Committee Meeting (the 4th Monday of the month at 7pm at the Silver Spring Civic Center more info)