March Advocacy Roundup


We’re fine tuning the way this monthly(ish) update works, so if you have thoughts on how to make this information more useful, send a note to communications@waba.org.

Read straight through or skip ahead to updates from Maryland, Virginia, or DC.

Are you on your neighborhood WABA Action Committee?

All across the region great people are working to fix our streets to make biking safe and popular. They meet each month to share ideas and work together for better places to bike. Whether you’re looking for a fun group, a new cause, or a wonky policy discussion, our Action Committees have it covered.

See what we’re doing in your community and join us for the next meeting.

MARYLAND

State Legislation

Brief explanation: The Maryland General Assembly considered three bike-related bills this session: to make the three foot passing law apply on all roads, repeal the mandatory use of on-street bicycle infrastructure, and reinstate punitive damages for victims and surviving family members of drunk drivers.

Current status: An amended version of the three foot passing law made it out of the Environment and Transportation Committee this week. The amendment mandates that when a driver is passing another road user in accordance with one of the exceptions to the three feet law, s/he must slow and pass without endangering any other road users. Ending the narrow lane exception would be better, but this is an improvement to the current law. The amendment is being voted on by the House of Delegates this week.

Silver Spring Protected Bike Lane Network

Brief explanation: Montgomery County is planning a protected bike lane network in downtown Silver Spring.

Current status: Thanks in large part to WABA member’s advocacy and the leadership of Councilmembers Roger Berliner, Nancy Floreen, Tom Hucker and Hans Riemer, the project recently passed it’s biggest hurdle, funding, with a 3-0 Transportation & the Environment Committee vote in favor of increasing the budget for the program by 1.5 million dollars.

Action to take: Get involved with the Montgomery County Action Committee for timely action alerts and updates.

Montgomery County Master Plan Rewrite

Brief explanation: Montgomery County is refreshing its Bike Master Plan ten years early to reflect new trends, apply new standards, and set the county on an aggressive path towards a low stress network that more residents can use and enjoy.

Current status: Staff have released Master Plans for White Flint and Shady Grove Life Sciences.

Action to take: Contribute to the interactive map of bicycling areas of concern: mcatlas.org/cyclingconcerns/

Montgomery County Endorses Vision Zero

Brief explanation: Montgomery County Council publicly announced a commitment to the Vision Zero campaign to reduce traffic deaths in Montgomery County to zero by a date certain.

Current status: Waiting for release of a county-wide action plan, promised for fall.

Action to take: Write your County Councilmembers and thank them for their commitment; ask them to set a date certain for producing an action plan with concrete timelines. montgomerycountymd.gov/council/members/


VIRGINIA

State Legislative Actions

Brief explanation: The bill (SB117) making dooring a ticketable offense passed the Virginia House (70Y-25N). The highway maintenance bill (SB669), after being recommended for approval by Committee on an 18 to 1 vote, died on the House floor. House Appropriations Committee Chair Delegate Chris Jones made a motion to refer the measure back to the Transportation Committee, whose work has already been completed for the year. More than a thousand supporters across Virginia emailed their legislators asking them to support safer laws and infrastructure for bicycling.

Current status: The dooring bill is awaiting Governor Mcauliffe’s signature by April 11.

Arlington Action Committee—Bike Friendly Ballston

Brief explanation: On February 20th, thirty bicycling advocates stood in support as we presented to the County Board our proposal for building a protected bike lane on N Quincy St through Ballston. With almost 600 petition signatures, 11 businesses, 2 neighboring Civic Associations and the Ballston Business Improvement District in support, the Board directed staff to develop designs to accomplish the goal.

Current status: Arlington County staff are developing plans for a protected bike lane on N Quincy.

Action to take: If you have not already, sign the petition and join the Action Committee to keep this project moving.


DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

2015 Bike Infrastructure Roundup

In 2014, the District Department of Transportation (“DDOT”) installed nearly ten miles of new bike lanes, including more than a mile and a half of protected bike lanes. It was a record-setting year. In contrast, in 2015, the agency installed just 4.42 miles of new bike lanes. Only 0.14 miles of those are protected bike lanes. Whether compared to the actual progress made in 2014 or DDOT’s two year Move DC Action Plan goal of 7.5 miles per year, 2015 was not an impressive year for new bike lanes. There is no doubt that bike lane projects on DC’s streets are getting harder. After building more than 70 miles of bike lanes, we have exhausted much of the low hanging fruit, but our peer cities are setting records and we know with the right level of commitment from the city, DC can too.

Eastern Downtown Protected Bike Lanes

Brief explanation: DDOT proposed building protected bike lanes on either 6th or 9th Street NW from Florida Avenue to downtown. This is a much-needed safety infrastructure project that will fill in a substantial gap in the protected bike network in the heart of DC.

Current status: The public comment period closed March 15. WABA generated thousands of supportive comments, and turned out over a hundred people to the public meeting for the project; forty supporters testified in favor. Eleven local businesses and several local churches also submitted letters of support for the project.

Read our write up of the most recent community meeting.

Vision Zero

Brief explanation: Mayor Bowser and DDOT Director Dormsjo have both committed to Vision Zero to bring traffic deaths in the District to Zero by 2024.

Current status: The Mayor released the District’s Action Plan for achieving Vision Zero and DDOT proposed regulations to implement portions of the action plan, including creating new traffic infractions and increasing fines and penalties for breaking safety laws.

Bike Bills before the DC Council

Brief explanation: Three pieces of legislation before the DC Council include a host of bicycle safety improvements, including street design policies, crash reporting, open data, bicycle / pedestrian prioritization areas, and aggressive measures to curb life-threatening behavior—like distracted, impaired, and aggressive driving.

Current status: The bills are in the Committee on Transportation and the Environment, likely being combined into one bill, to be considered by the full Council later this spring.

Contributory Negligence

Brief explanation: The doctrine of contributory negligence is a legal dinosaur that harms bicyclists who’ve been hurt in a crash by making it easy for insurance companies to deny claims to recover damages for bike repairs and hospital bills. A bill before the Judiciary Committee would change this antiquated law so that if a bicyclist was less than 50% at fault, she would not be barred from recovery.

Current status: The bill is languishing in the Judiciary Committee. Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, the Chair of the Judiciary Committee, has made it clear through 14 months of inaction that this is not a legislative priority. There has been no move to bring the bill to a vote so it can be considered by the full Council. The bill enjoys wide support in both the Judiciary Committee and the broader Council, and would almost certainly pass, given the chance.

Action to take: Email or call Councilmember McDuffie’s office and let them know you want to see this bill (B21-0004) brought to a vote. Councilmember McDuffie’s office: (202) 724-8028.

Rock Creek Park Trail

Brief explanation: The Rock Creek Park Trail is in terrible shape. In February 2014, 2500+ area residents signed a petition demanding that the National Park Service and DDOT get in gear to repave, redesign, and fix the long-crumbling Rock Creek Park Trail.

Current status: This outpouring of public comments got the project moving. The final Environmental Assessment was released in June 2014 and design work began. The project has been put out for bid and we just might see construction start this spring on some sections of the trail.

Safe Accommodations During Construction

Brief explanation: Three years ago, the DC Council unanimously passed the Bicycle Safety Amendment Act to prohibit DDOT from granting permits to developers to block sidewalks and bike lanes without providing safe accommodation to pedestrians and bicyclists.

Despite this law, DDOT recently granted a permit to Carr Properties, a developer that is demolishing the old Washington Post building at 1100 15th St. NW and constructing a new building on the property, to close the adjacent sidewalk and protected bike lane on L Street NW between 15th and 16th streets for at least 27 months.

As a result of this permit, bicyclists riding in a protected bike lane will be forced to mix suddenly into a dangerous and fast-moving car lane without any safe accommodation.

Current status: WABA is preparing a formal letter to DDOT explaining why the configuration violates the law and providing suggestions for how to comply.


 

 

2015 in DC Bike Lanes

DC's First st protected bike lane installed in 2015 (Photo credit Mike Goodno)

DC’s First st protected bike lane, completed in 2015 (Photo credit Mike Goodno)

By many measures, 2015 was a pivotal year for bicycling in Washington, DC. In DC’s public schools, every 2nd grader is learning to ride a bike thanks to a new universal bike education program. In the DC City Council, Councilmember Cheh introduced a comprehensive update to bicycle laws and policies in the Bicycle & Pedestrian Safety Act of 2015. In the offices of over 20 city agencies, staff collaborated to craft a plan to achieve Vision Zero — to eliminate all deaths and serious injuries on DC roads — by 2024. Together, these new programs, laws, and citywide initiatives will make DC a better, safer place to ride a bike for years to come.

On the infrastructure side, 2015 brought welcome developments to long term trail projects in the city. Early in the year, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) showed preliminary designs for the Metropolitan Branch Trail’s northern extension and a timeline for construction. In July, construction began on restoration of Klingle Valley streambed and a new multi-use trail alongside it to Rock Creek Park. The Anacostia Riverwalk Trail’s Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens segment made progress towards a planned 2016 opening. And finally, after over 20 years of troubling trail conditions, the National Park Service and DDOT announced a timeline for the rehabilitation of the majority of the Rock Creek Park Trail. These are all significant milestones.

On the streets, progress was significantly slower. Way back in 2014, DDOT installed nearly 10 miles of new bike lanes including more than a mile and a half of protected bike lanes. It was a record setting year. In 2015, the agency installed just 4.42 miles of new bike lanes. Only 0.14 miles of those are protected bike lanes. Whether compared to 2014 or DDOT’s 2 year Move DC Action plan’s goal of 7.5 miles per year, 2015 was not an impressive year for new bike lanes. The full list of installed lanes is below.

Street From To Street Miles Facility Type
1st St NE G St Columbus Cir 0.14 Cycle Track
2nd St NE T St Rhode Island Ave 0.22 Bike Lanes
2nd St SE East Capitol St Independence Ave 0.15 Bike Lanes
3rd St NE T St Rhode Island Ave 0.25 Bike Lanes
4th St, SW M St P St 0.30 Bike Lanes
4th St, NE C St (S), Maryland Ave C St (N), Massachusetts Ave 0.07 Bike Lane
6th St, NE C St (S), Massachusetts Ave C St (N), Maryland Ave 0.07 Bike Lane
6th St, SE G St I St 0.10 Bike Lane
12th Street, NW Pennsylvania Ave L St 0.60 Bike Lane
19th St, NE C St Gales St 0.30 Bike Lanes
44th St, NW Jenifer St Harrison St 0.26 Climbing Lane
49th St, NE Blaine St Nannie Helen Burroughs 0.50 Climbing Lane
E St, NE North Capitol St Columbus Cir 0.08 Bike Lane
Forrester St, SW Galveston Pl South Capitol St 0.06 Contraflow lane
G Pl NE North Capitol St 1st St NE 0.12 Contraflow
Galveston Pl, SW Forrester St, SW Martin Luther King Jr Ave 0.27 Bike Lane
I St SE New Jersey Ave 2nd St 0.08 Bike Lanes
M St NW 9th St Blagden Alley 0.04 Contraflow
Tunlaw Rd, NW 39th St 37th St 0.57 Climbing Lane
Van Ness St, NW Wisconsin Ave Nebraska Ave 0.24 Climbing Lane
Total 4.42

There is no doubt that bike lane projects on DC’s streets are getting harder. After building more than 70 miles of bike lanes, we have exhausted much of the low hanging fruit. To DDOT’s credit, big protected bike lane projects are in the pipeline for 2016 (or 2017): Eastern Downtown, Louisiana Ave NW, 15th St NW and more. But when our peer cities are boasting yearly records for new protected lanes (as in New York) and planning whole networks of connected, low-stress lanes (as in San Diego), DC needs to be doing more to connect up the city with useful and safe bike networks.

Montgomery County Council Should Back a Protected Bike Lane Network in Silver Spring

Silver Spring Network

Update: At Thursday’s T&E Committee Meeting the committee voted unanimously in support of funding a network of protected bike lanes in Silver Spring and a number of other important bike projects in the county. Thanks to all the county residents who contacted the council and special thanks to Roger Berliner, Nancy Floreen,Tom Hucker and Hans Riemer for their leadership and support for safe, popular biking in the county.


It has already been a year of promising news and big plans for biking in Montgomery County. Just on the heels of plans for protected bike lanes coming to Silver Spring by this summer, comes a chance to create a whole network of protected bike lanes over the next five years. Yesterday, Councilmember Hans Riemer introduced a proposal to substantially increase funding to the county’s Bicycle Pedestrian Priority Area (BPPA) program to speed up implementation of a Silver Spring bicycle network.

The BPPA program concentrates resources for rapid planning, design and construction of pedestrian and bicycle improvements in the places they are needed most. Of the 30 designated priority areas in the county, Silver Spring CBD, Grosvenor, Glenmont, Wheaton CBD, and Randolph/Veirs Mill are getting attention first. The program is funded through the county’s long term Capital Improvement Program (CIP) budget at $1 million per year over five years. The BPPA program is already responsible for pedestrian improvements at intersections, new bike parking, and the forthcoming and well-received Spring and Cedar St protected bike lanes.

Councilmember Riemer proposes to expand the BPPA program’s budget from $1 million to $2.5 million annually in the 2017-’22 CIP budget. This increased funding would allow for planning and construction of a full network of bikeways in Silver Spring and improvements to other priority areas by 2020. As he writes in the proposal memo, “the latest bicycle research shows that people are more likely to bicycle in lower-stress environments that provide protection from motor vehicles and separation from pedestrians. Facilities like separated bike lanes and protected intersections are crucial to strengthening the walkable, bikeable urban areas that we want for our residents.”

Few urban areas are better suited for these improvements than Silver Spring. By 2020, three major regional trails will connect into Silver Spring’s downtown core, but without improvements to the street grid, bicyclists will not have a safe route to their destination.

Read the full proposal and see the network map.

Ask Councilmembers Hucker, Floreen & Berliner to support increased BPPA funding

On Thursday March 3rd, the Council’s Committee on Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment (T&E) will discuss this proposal and decide whether or not to include this funding increase in the package of recommended budget amendments. As the three standing members of the T&E Committee, Councilmembers Roger Berliner, Nancy Floreen and Tom Hucker are already strong supporters of biking in the county, but with so many priorities in the balance, we need your help to ensure they support this proposal on Thursday.

If you live or work in Montgomery County, please email or call the members of the T&E Committee and tell them why expanding BPPA funding is important to you and essential to making Silver Spring into the walkable, bikeable place we want it to be. If you have the time, call into their offices to discuss the importance of this funding increase and what it will enable. Regardless of where you live in the county, the T&E committee represents you in these budget decisions.

T&E Committee Contact Details

Tom Hucker – councilmember.hucker@montgomerycountymd.gov 240-777-7960
Nancy Floreen – councilmember.floreen@montgomerycountymd.gov  240-777-7959
Roger Berliner – councilmember.berliner@montgomerycountymd.gov  240-777-7828

Outpouring of community support for Eastern Downtown Protected Bike Lane project


The second public meeting for the Eastern Downtown bike lane project was a welcome change from the first, and contained good news:  According to the latest data from the project study team, the bike lane would—at most— affect 190 of 1,800 metered spaces and 10 out of 230 Sunday angled spaces. Traffic time increases would vary from three minutes to upwards of 20, depending on the alternative, and under the third alternative, morning traffic waits would actually decrease.

If you weren’t able to make it, here’s what you missed:

The temporary event bike racks DDOT provided were overflowing, with a bike locked up to every signpost and fence within two blocks of the building, as WABA supporters from the community came out in force on a sunny Saturday afternoon.  Around 300 people attended the meeting total. At least half were there to support the project. Regardless of their position on the project, every person who walked in the door got a warm greeting from a WABA volunteer, and a bright green sticker that said “Safe Streets.” They also got a flyer for bike camp and a coupon for a free WABA city cycling class.

DDOT displayed new information about the project on presentation boards outside the  meeting space, and DDOT staff circulated through the open house to answer questions. The meeting itself was professionally facilitated; everyone in attendance agreed in advance to listen respectfully and to keep their testimony to within the allotted time (2 minutes for individuals, 5 minutes for organizations).

DDOT Director Dormsjo opened the meeting by walking through the project planning process, the goals of the project, and emphasizing that DDOT leadership was there at the meeting to listen. Indeed, a panel consisting of of Mr. Dormsjo, DDOT Deputy Director, Associate Director of Planning, Policy and Sustainability and several other high-level leaders of DDOT sat at the front of the room for the duration of the meeting to listen to the testimony of the 50 people who signed up to speak. Only 8 of the 50 speakers opposed the project.

People from all walks of life, ages, genders, races, income brackets and levels of experience on a bicycle testified in favor of the project, demonstrating the wide range of people who ride, the reasons they ride, and their desire to be safe while doing so.

The tone of all participants was decidedly respectful. Though there was still disagreement about the project, it was civil.

A big thank you to WABA members and supporters who turned out big for safe streets. Together, we have shifted the conversation from “Should we do this?” to “Which alternative makes most sense?” and we did that by showing the incredible diversity of the people who benefit from safe streets and why they matter, on a personal level, to all of us. We still have work to do in the upcoming months to get this project across the finish line, but the balance has started to shift.

Click here to check out the list of businesses in the area who support the project.

Next up: if you live in the project study area, please attend your upcoming ANC meeting and ask for a resolution of support for the project.

March 1, 2016 — ANC 6E Meeting (11 blocks in project area)
March 2, 2016 — ANC 2F Meeting ( 5 blocks in project area on 9th)
March 3, 2016 — ANC 1B Meeting (2 blocks in project area 6th & 9th)
March 14, 2016 — ANC 2C Meeting (9 blocks in study area)

Look up your ANC here.

If you’d like to join the group of WABA volunteers working to build support for this project, email advocacy@waba.org and we’ll get you plugged in.

Silver Spring to Get a Protected Bike Lane in 2016

Over the past 20 years, Montgomery County has made big investments and large strides for improving bike access across the county and between its more urban areas. Off-street trails, like the Capital Crescent Trail, Sligo Creek Trail, and Millennium Trail have made long distance trips possible by bike. But, until recently, bike access and street safety have remained a low priority on roads. That is changing, with ambitious plans for low-stress networks throughout the county. In Silver Spring, bike friendly changes are coming quickly.

Proposed protected bike lane on Spring and Cedar Streets in Silver Spring

Proposed protected bike lane on Spring and Cedar Streets in Silver Spring

At a community workshop last week attended by over 70 community members, Montgomery County’s Department of Transportation (MCDOT) unveiled plans for protected bike lanes on Spring Street and Cedar Street in downtown Silver Spring. Stretching almost one mile from Second Avenue to Wayne Avenue, the lanes will sit against the curb, separated from car traffic by a painted buffer, vertical posts and parked cars. Following the short Woodglen protected bike lane installed in White Flint in 2014, this project will be the second on street bike facility in the county that puts cyclist safety and comfort first.

Proven Design Elements

The plans, available here, include many of the key elements of a truly protected bike lane. Last year, at WABA’s request, MCDOT endorsed the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) Urban Bikeway Design Guide signaling a willingness to consider new approaches to bikeway design. The plans presented reflect this new thinking.

Proposed intersection for the Spring Street protected bike lane include bike boxes, 2 stage turn markers and colored conflict areas

Intersection elements for the Spring Street protected bike lane include bike boxes, 2 stage turn markers and colored conflict areas. Image from MCDOT

Except for a few pinch points, the Spring and Cedar Street bike lanes will be fully separated from car traffic by vertical posts or parked cars. Most intersections will feature bike boxes, which place bicyclists in a visible position ahead of car traffic at red lights. Many intersections will also feature two stage turn boxes, which mark an easy alternative to left turns at signalized intersections. Furthermore, colored conflict areas will remind drivers to watch for bicyclists at driveways and intersections where bicyclists and drivers share the same space or cross paths.

Floating bus stops on proposed Spring St protected bike lanes

Floating bus stops on proposed Spring St protected bike lanes. Image from MCDOT

To eliminate the precarious situation of sharing lanes between buses and bikes, floating bus stops will give bus riders a safe place to enter and exit the bus without conflicts with bicyclists. Taken together, these designs will make for a low-stress riding environment with few conflicts with motor vehicles or pedestrians.

Design challenges

Even great projects require compromises. While MCDOT has designed a fantastic bike facility, Spring Street intersects state highways at Georgia Avenue and Colesville Road. The State Highway Administration (SHA), which controls these roads and intersections, has different roadway standards, which prohibit many of the bike specific treatments. Colored conflict zones, two stage turn boxes, and bike boxes are unlikely at these intersections.

Mixing zone and pocket bike lane

Mixing zone and pocket bike lane. Image from MCDOT

Most concerning, current plans show a transition from a protected lane to an unprotected pocket bike lane at these two intersections. This transition is required due to a high volume of right turning auto traffic. By floating the bike lane to the left of the right turn only lane, the design avoids a serious conflict between right turning drivers and bicyclists continuing straight. The downside is a mixing zone, similar to those found on L Street in downtown DC, which effectively removes separation at  exactly the point where bicyclists are most vulnerable.

The preferable solution to this challenge is taking turns. Many cities, including the District, separate high volume turning and through traffic near protected bike lanes with separate traffic signal phases for each. This approach avoids the tricky mixing zone and maintains protection up to the intersection. However, SHA’s guidelines do not allow for this particular solution at this time. Even with these compromises, the project remains a giant leap forward for bike safety and access in Silver Spring. MCDOT staff deserve a great deal of thanks for committing to such a strong plan.

Timeline and Next Steps

This project is moving forward at a fast clip. Comment will be accepted through February 19th and staff hope to move to construction by spring. The facility should open by this summer.

This project, and many Silver Spring focused changes to come, is made possible by the Bicycle Pedestrian Priority Area program, a collaborative effort between MCDOT and SHA to improve bike and pedestrian safety and access in priority areas. Silver Spring is one of 17 BPPAs in the county, but is one of the first to see such concentrated improvements. County staff made it clear that this is but one of many bike improvements in the pipeline for Silver Spring.

View project documents, including the full presentation here. Submit comments to Matt Johnston (Matt.Johnson@MontgomeryCountyMD.gov) by February 19th. WABA action committee for Montgomery County is working to bring more of these changes to Silver Spring. Click here to learn more about the committee and get involved.

Shaw Businesses Support Safe Streets

IMG_2339

Since October, our staff, along with a growing team of committed volunteers, have been out on the streets of Shaw, building support for Safe Streets as part of the Eastern Downtown Protected Bike Lane Study. In conversations with commuters, shoppers and residents on 6th and 9th streets we have found strong support for safe streets and heard more than enough concerns about speeding traffic, dangerous intersections and the frustrations of sharing the road between people walking, biking and driving. Danger and frustration are not great for business, so we are pleased to find that many businesses support Safe Streets in Shaw.

We want to recognize and especially thank a number of community businesses leaders for their support of protected bike lanes and related traffic calming for Shaw’s 6th and 9th streets.  Each recognizes that safe streets that accommodate and protect all ways of getting around are important for any community and necessary for bringing customers and employees to their stores. They know that protected bike lanes mean business.

We are pleased to have the support of the following businesses.

Busboys and Poets – 1025 5th St NW
Calabash Tea – 1847 7th St NW
Chrome – 1924 8th St NW
Frank and Oak – 1924 8th St NW
Pizza D’oro – 717 T St NW
Lettie Gooch Boutique – 1921 8th St NW
Right Proper Brewing Company – 624 T St NW
Rito Loco – 606 Florida Ave NW
Steven Alan -1924 8th Street NW
Uprising Muffins – 1817 7th St NW
Wanda’s on 7th – 1851 7th St NW

Read the full letter of support here.

As we continue reaching out to businesses in the busy Shaw to downtown corridor, we look forward to adding to our business support. Do you have a favorite business not on this list? Ask them if they support the project or send them our way.

Second public meeting for the Shaw Protected Bike lane project– coming up

CIMG0316

More than 1700 people have urged city officials to move forward with plans to calm traffic and install protected bike lanes from Florida Ave to Pennsylvania Ave on 6th or 9th St NW. Unfortunately, not everyone in the community is on board yet. If we want protected bike lanes through Shaw, we have to show strong support for this project every step of the way. DDOT will hold a second public meeting to hear feedback about this project this Saturday, February 6th from 12pm-4pm at KIPP DC (421 P St NW).

This week, we got a sneak preview of the project updates DDOT will present at the meeting.  The results are promising: many new potential miles of protected bike lanes with minimal impacts to parking and traffic flow. The proposals reflect our request that DDOT find a compromise that preserves the safety goals of the project while addressing community concerns.

Here are just a few ways this project will make DC a better place to live:

1. DC’s kids need safe places to play. Did you know the D.C. Public School system now teaches every second grader to ride a bike? That means thousands of six and seven year olds every year, eager to use their new skills, ride with their families, and explore their neighborhoods. These kids deserve to be safe when they head out to school and to play.

2. Low-income people need a safe, reliable mode of transportation.  Bicycling costs a fraction of transit fares and virtually nothing when compared with the cost of driving. Reliable transportation improves employment prospects, reduces transportation expenses, and frees up money to be spent on other needs, such as housing and education.

3. Everyone benefits from bike lanes. More protected bike lanes mean more people choosing to get around by bike—which improves traffic flow and parking options for those who choose to drive, and reduces crowding on public transit. 
 More protected bike lanes mean fewer roadway conflicts between vehicles and bikes, fewer people riding on the sidewalk, cars traveling at safer speeds, and shorter street crossings for pedestrians—which is especially important for our children, the elderly, and the mobility-impaired.



4. 83% of residents around the 15th street cycletrack consider it a valuable neighborhood asset.  The 15th St protected bike lanes see 300-400 users per hour during peak times. When they opened, the number of people riding bikes on sidewalks on 15th street immediately fell by an average of 56 percent, making the sidewalks safer for pedestrians.

Everyone should be safe on our streets, no matter how they choose to get around. Protected bike lanes can help.

Let’s get these bike lanes built.

Submit comments in support of the project here.

 

Montgomery County Getting Serious About Bike Networks

Watch out DC, watch out Arlington! Montgomery County is making big plans to become a national leader in low stress bike networks. With committed political leadership, ambitious goals, and effective collaboration between planners, engineers, and developers Montgomery County is poised to catch up quickly!

Big Plans Are Afoot

In Spring of 2015, Montgomery County Planning Department kicked off a rewrite of the county’s Bicycle Master Plan. Master Plans are long term, usually 20+ year, planning priority documents that lay out a vision for what a future place should be along with guidelines and rules to get there. Since 2005, bike lane and trail development has followed the Countywide Bikeways Functional Master Plan which complements plans for roads, transit, communities, and urban centers. As advocates, we pay close attention to master plans because they are an effective tool for long term change in our communities. They are also a strong indicator of a community’s priorities.

Montgomery County is refreshing its Bike Master Plan 10 years early to reflect new trends, apply new standards, and set the county on an aggressive path towards a low stress network that more residents can use and enjoy. Protected bike lanes (also called separated bike lanes or cycletracks), bicycle signalization, secure bike parking and protected intersections were rare in 2005 and few people biked in the region. That is no longer the case. Leaning heavily on stress mapping research, planning staff are taking a data driven approach to map street stress levels and explore ways to link and create low stress networks. The plan is ambitious, inclusive, and an laudable leap in transportation planning for the County. Numerous opportunities for input are coming in 2016 including this interactive map.

Early Results

Since countywide plans take time, planning staff have prioritized smaller plans for at least two areas to coincide with other planning and development efforts. White Flint and the Life Sciences Center in Shady Grove are both on the cusp of dramatic change lead by development. Late last year, the proposed street and trail networks for these areas were released. As a statement of how Montgomery County will prioritize travel by bicycle, these plans are nothing short of revolutionary. Imagine if every single street in your neighborhood was comfortable to ride on, even major roads. This is how we get more people on bikes!

Proposed network from Montgomery Planning

Proposed network from Montgomery Planning

Proposed Life Sciences network from Montgomery Planning

Proposed Life Sciences network from Montgomery Planning

Each new development and street repave will more or less conform to this plan. And with so many developments in the pipeline for White Flint, the plan comes at a good time.

Lines We Can Bike On

Of course, drawing lines on a map is the easier task. Building out the network takes time, funding, and political vision. It also requires the effort of a different agency. In November 2014, Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) completed its first 0.3 mile protected bike lane in North Bethesda.

Woodglen Drive Protected Bike Lane image from Montgomery Planning

Woodglen Drive Protected Bike Lane image from Montgomery Planning

In 2016, MCDOT is moving ahead with a few pieces of this network. At an Advisory Committee meeting for White Flint, MCDOT showed plans for an initial 0.5 mile curb protected bike lane on Nebel Street from Randolph St. to Marinelli Rd. Construction is anticipated to begin in July. Also on the list is a short protected bike lane on a newly connected Hoya Street (formerly Towne Road) south of Montrose Parkway.

Nebel Street protected bike lane image from MCDOT

Nebel Street protected bike lane image from MCDOT

To learn more about the ongoing Bike Master Plan process, visit the project page and sign up for the newsletter. Read the full proposed White Flint and Life Sciences Center plans. Get involved in WABA’s advocacy in the county by attending our Action Committee meeting on January 25 at 7pm at the Silver Spring Civic Center.

A short protected bike lane could connect Ballston to the region’s trail network

On a nice day, 2,000 people bike near Ballston while using the Custis Trail. Few of them, however, use the existing North Quincy Street bike lanes to actually visit Ballston. A group of Arlington Residents thinks a protected bike lane along Quincy would change that.

The red line is the proposed bike lane along North Quincy. The green line is the Custis Trail.

The red line is the proposed bike lane along North Quincy. The green line is the Custis Trail.

The Arlington Action Committee, with support from the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, has launched a campaign called Bike Friendly Ballston to try to get Arlington County to install a protected bike lane (also called a cycletrack) to connect the Custis Trail to the heart of Ballston, where people can grab lunch, play at the park, shop at the mall, or check out a book at the library.

Biking on Quincy doesn’t feel very safe

There are already standard bike lanes for most of the stretch, but they don’t feel safe. The lanes are immediately adjacent to both fast moving traffic and parking spots, where people frequently opening their car doors threaten to pitch cyclists into that fast moving traffic. The lanes disappear temporarily at Quincy’s busy intersection with Washington Boulevard, and are frequently blocked by double-parked cars and delivery trucks.

All of these factors contribute to a feeling of danger, which accounts for at least some of the drop-off in cycling activity between Arlington’s trail network and its bike lane network. A protected bike lane along Quincy would make people feel safer on a bike, reduce injuries, encourage more commerce, and provide a better link from Ballston to the regional trail network.

Quincy with a protected bike lane. Image from Streetmix.

Quincy with a protected bike lane. Image from Streetmix.

There are lots of benefits to building this

Protected bike lanes make streets safer, even for non-cylists. In New York, the 9th Avenue protected bike lane led to a 56% reduction in injuries to all street users, including a 57% reduction in injuries to people on bikes and a 29% reduction to people walking.

Even without the statistics, the safety benefits of protected bike lanes is obvious to both those who use them and those who just live near them: 80 percent of people who live near a protected bike lane project believe it increased safety on the street. For people who use them, that number is 96 percent.

Safer streets make the “interested but concerned” more comfortable with the idea of trying cycling. The average protected bike lane sees bike counts increase by 75% in its first year alone. The jump could be even higher for Quincy given the connection to a highly-used regional trail at one end and a busy retail, office, and residential neighborhood at the other.

Protected bike lanes even have something to offer troll-ish bike article commenters: in Chicago, protected bike lanes and bike-specific traffic signals significantly improved cyclist stoplight compliance, and in New York, the 9th Avenue bike lane brought with it an 84% reduction in sidewalk riding.

Why Quincy?

Without an updated bike plan in Arlington County, it is hard to say definitively what Arlington’s next bike project should be. Ideally, an updated bike plan would detail a proposed ideal bike network to strive for, as well as a prioritization scheme to aid in project selection. That said, Quincy is a key piece of the bike network in the existing plan even though the plan pre-dates the notion of a protected bike lane (at least in the US).

The Arlington Action Committee chose Quincy for several reasons:

  • It connects a major neighborhood to the trail network
  • It has a number of important community amenities including Washington-Lee High School, the Arlington Planetarium, Quincy Park, the Central Library and Mosaic Park
  • It could become phase 1 for an eventual North-South bike connector stretching across the entire county along George Mason Drive, Quincy Street and Military Road
  • Unlike many other streets in the area, it crosses Glebe Road, Wilson Blvd, Fairfax Drive and Washington Blvd at traffic signals; and it would improve the bike network in a neighborhood that lacks much bike planning thanks to itsvery-dated sector plan (circa 1980).

The next step is to talk to the County

In the two months since the Bike Friendly Ballston Campaign launched, the Arlington Action Committee has been presenting to local neighborhood associations, approaching civic groups, and talking to local businesses to build support for the project. It’s hoping to approach the County about moving forward with the project this month or next.

You can find out more about the campaign on the campaign’s web page, or sign the petition if you want to support the project.

Chris Slatt is Chair of WABA’s Action Committee for Arlington County. Cross posted on Greater Greater Washington

Last Week’s Council Hearing: Resounding Support For Bike Bills

Last Tuesday, the DC Council considered four bills that propose a host of significant improvements for street safety, including: street design policies, crash reporting, open data, bicycle / pedestrian prioritization areas, and aggressive measures to curb life-threatening behavior—like distracted, impaired, and aggressive driving. Although the news coverage focused on a “stop-as-yield” provision for bicyclists, the proposed bills cover a huge range of improvements that have the support of a diverse set of stakeholders.

The Hearing

Supporters of safe streets came out in full force to support the bills. Councilmembers heard testimony from a wide range of bicycle, pedestrian, insurance and automotive advocates on the merits of the proposals.  Fifteen public witnesses shared personal and heartfelt stories about their experiences, clearly underscoring how much work remains to be done to prevent the tragedies we have become accustomed to on our roads.

With more than thirty wide-ranging policy changes on the table, it is telling that not a single witness raised strong objections in testimony. Every witness, even the automotive and insurance lobbies, supported stiffer penalties for dangerous and impaired driving, a codified complete streets policy, and prioritizing the safety of vulnerable road users. Councilmembers Mary Cheh, Charles Allen, Brandon Todd, and Elisa Silverman each made firm commitments to changing our approach to street safety.  Charles Allen (Ward 6) stated that we “must stop thinking of roads as only for cars,” because “safety must be more important than convenience.”

These bills are likely to move forward quickly. After the holiday recess, we expect to see the proposals combined into a single bill, followed by a vote to move it out of committee.

For a full breakdown on the merits of each proposal, click here to read WABA’s full written testimony, For great coverage of the hearing from WABA member and twitter user @darsal and others, click here.

You can submit comments on these bills until Dec. 22.

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What is Stop-as-Yield all about?

The proposed change would allow bicyclists in very specific situations to treat stop signs as yield signs.  Many drivers report confusion about current law for bicyclists. A change to the stop law would reflect current practice by many drivers and bicyclists. The following chart compares what behavior is illegal or legal under current law and what would change if the proposed legislation were enacted.

Bicyclist action Potential for endangering other road users? Status under current traffic law Status under proposed law
Riding through four-way stop without stopping or looking with a vehicle stopped at the cross street. Yes Illegal Illegal
Riding through two-way stop without stopping or looking with a vehicle present or proceeding in the opposite direction. Yes Illegal Illegal
Riding through a red traffic light without stopping. Yes Illegal Illegal
Riding through a four-way or two-way stop without stopping when another vehicle is approaching at the same time. Yes Illegal Illegal
Riding through a stop sign with a pedestrian crossing or preparing to cross the street. Yes Illegal Illegal
Riding through a four-way stop without other vehicles, bicyclists, or pedestrians present. No Illegal Legal

WABA supports stop-as-yield because it would focus scarce traffic enforcement resources on road user behaviors that post real risks to others — including distracted driving, driving under the influence, and failing to yield the right of way to pedestrians. Studies show that jurisdictions that have implemented stop-as-yield laws have seen a decrease in crashes.

Of the eighteen proposals in the Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Act of 2015, this is one of the few that faces opposition. The Metropolitan Police Department, AAA Mid-Atlantic, and the District Department of Transportation each expressed reservations about implementing this provision, citing concerns that it would lead to confusion about the law.

 

There’s Still Time to Voice your Support For These Bills

The hearing is over, but the official record for this legislative package will remain open for comments until December 22nd. If you believe, as we do, that streets should be designed to prioritize safety for the most vulnerable, that driving carries enormous responsibility to protect the people and communities on our roads, and that safe travel is more important than fast travel, submit comments to the record.Of all the great provisions in these bills, stop-as-yield is the most vulnerable, and the most likely to be left out of a final version. If you would like to see stop-as-yield implemented in DC, include that in your comments.

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