Recap: Community Listening Sessions

Graphic recording from Listening Session East
Graphic recording from Listening Session West

Some of our readers will be surprised to learn that WABA hasn’t been engaged in the business of Community Listening sessions that long. As a matter of fact, the Listening Session held at the Anacostia PlayHouse (link to blog) was the first, and this year’s Community Listening Sessions doubled that number and included focused sessions East and West of the Anacostia River.

Like the name suggests, these listening sessions were designed to provide community members an opportunity to have their concerns heard on issues of traffic safety. No community is monolithic: there are a wide range of concerns and feelings about what makes a roadway safe for all users. But oftentimes, those who are outnumbered by mode often have their concerns co-opted or consolidated into one mass thought or ask. Because of this, WABA was intentional to give space for community members to be heard by decision makers. What makes this different than just attending the ANC meeting or civic association meeting is that the community listening sessions were being filmed and a video featuring community members and their concerns will be a key part of the 4th Annual Vision Zero Regional Summit.

On February 24, 2020, more than 30 people attended the Community Listening Session – East, held at the Anacostia Neighborhood Library. The listening session featured District Department of Transportation Director, Jeff Marootian, who answered questions about specific projects and about the lack of projects East of the River. To our surprise and excitement, DDOT brought a host of personnel along to answer questions and meet with community members throughout the event. After the Director finished answering individual questions – we turned our attention to community concerns and hopes! Small groups of community members brainstormed to describe their most ardent traffic safety concerns. The answers ranged widely, including the need for better lighting at bus stops, bike trails and sidewalks, safety improvements needed for pedestrians, and traffic calming for speeding motorists. But when asked about the perfect transportation network that answer was often centered around making pedestrians safer on their neighborhood streets. 

The listening session West of the River was held just 2 days later at the Columbia Heights Community Center and turned out another 30 attendees in spite of frigid temps and impending rain in the forecast. The format closely followed the previous listening session, adding a panel discussion featuring ANC commissioners: Ra Amin 5B04, Erin Palmer 4B02, and Evan Yeates 4B01. DDOT showed up in a huge way again, this time enlisting the expertise of Ellen Jones, Chief Project Delivery Officer. Jones was joined in the question and answer session by DDOT’s Project Manager Emily Dalphy and George Branyan who serves as Manager of the Active Transportation Branch. When the community members had a chance to talk about their biggest traffic concerns, it was no surprise that much of those discussions centered around excessive vehicle speeds and the amount of effort it takes to get improvements in place. What may have come as a surprise to some was when describing the perfect transportation network many people described a zero cost public transit option and an inclusive system that worked for everyone, everywhere across the District. 

Many of you know that WABA has made serious commitments to promoting diversity, equity and inclusion. These Community Listening Sessions are one response to that commitment and we learn alot from engaging with underserved communities in this space. This doesn’t mean we got it all right, but we are trying. Trying to make sure community voices are heard over and above outside interest. Trying to ensure that community leaders and decision makers hear from people, in communities, who support safe streets and we are trying to amplify the collective voice of those who desire to be heard beyond the boundaries of their Wards. There is little reason to believe that WABA won’t continue to host these listening sessions because we gain so much insight as an organization. And it gives space for others to be heard on issues that affect us all. That’s at the core of why we engage in these listening sessions, to show that we are listening and to make sure that decision makers will be too. Besides, you never know what you might learn.

Best of WABA Events: 2016

Looking back at 2016, the WABA Events Team wanted to share with you our favorite moments from our signature events of the last year: February 2016: The Bicyclist Choice Awards and Annual Members Meeting

DDOT Director Leif Dormsjo accepts The WABA Vision Zero award.

WABA staff.

The Awards event is our opportunity to be fancy and to recognize and thank those people who really and truly make a positive difference for bicycling in the region. It was really special this year to have the Director of the District Department of Transportation in attendance to accept an award we gave him. -Michelle March 2016: The Congressional Ride 

Photo Credit: The League of American Bicyclists

The Congressional Ride is a really unique ride event that WABA organizes as part of the League of American Bicyclists’ National Bike Summit each year. It’s special because we get to meet bike advocates and bicyclists from all over the country, talk to them about the work WABA is doing in our Nation’s Capital and around the region, and show off some of DC’s best bicycle infastrucutre. Everyone is always so impressed with the bike lanes and protected infrastructure, and they love hearing about our programs, events, and the impact we have on the region. -Michelle The Vasa Ride

Vasa Ride 2016

The weather machine cooperated and the cloudy skies held their rain for this year’s Vasa Ride. Flowers were in bloom. The breeze was almost warm. The highlight is always the grumbling and tight muscles in the morning as sleepy-eyed riders stretch out their riding legs for the first time all winter, and then the joy, smiles, hugs, and happy conversations had over warm blueberry soup at the end of the ride inside the absolutely gorgeous House of Sweden. -Michelle  May 2016: Bike to Work Day

Photo Credit: John Pickett

What’s not to love about Bike to Work Day? The ENTIRE WABA staff and board unite to go spread the bike love. This year, WABA had a presence at a record number of pit stops for us: 26 different pit stops! We mobilized 31 WABA captains and 112 volunteers to get out there super early on a Friday morning and talk to people about better bicycling. So much sunshine. So much coffee. So many bagels. And so many bicycle-induced smiles and high fives. -Michelle Tour de Fat

DC celebrity spotting! Local bicycle advice columnist Gear Prudence for City Paper came out to support WABA.

Just look at those lines!

I was a bit terrified when Tour de Fat rolled around this year because there was rain in the forecast — LOTS of rain. But, to my delight, people still came out to celebrate and drink beer and ride bikes in the rain! I couldn’t believe it and I am SO grateful that the #bikedc community is so supportive of the work we do. -Michelle  June 2016: Bike to Work AGAIN Day

Bike to Work Again Day + beer!

We loved Bike to Work Day so much this year that we decided to celebrate it again a month later! With three “pit stops” at local bars and restaurants in Arlington, Bethesda, and the District, we hung out with bike commuters on their way home and talked about our favorite subject: bikes! -Nick July 2016: Bike to the Pools Ride

Cooling off at a splash park right off the Marvin Gaye Trail!

The Washington area gets pretty hot in July, so we decided that we’d combine two things we all love to do: biking and swimming! (And a bit of splashing.) We rode our bikes from the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens along the Marvin Gaye Trail, stopped at a splash park, hopped on our bikes again, and finished the ride at the Deanwood Pool. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon! -Nick August 2016: Open Streets Community Organizing

Petworth residents, ANC commissioners, and community leaders came together to help guide us in planning a community wide event in their neighborhood that will have a positive lasting impact, promote community building, and bring neighbors together.

This entire year we have been working to bring an open street event to DC, where a roadway is temporary closed to vehicles so it can be opened up to the people to walk, bike, dance, and play in the middle of the street. We are lucky to have the support of the DC Office of Planning in this effort and received a substantial grant for this project from the agency. It’s a big undertaking, and we still have a lot of work to do, but we’re excited for the connections and relationships we’ve begun to build with Petworth and city officials, and can’t wait to continue work in 2017 to bring DC its first open streets program. -Michelle September 2016: The 50 States & 13 Colonies Ride

Photo credit: Chuck Cage

Years of tinkering with WABA’s weather machine to let up on the rain finally paid off, but someone forgot to adjust the temperature… it was HOT! Despite the heat, we welcomed our biggest crowd yet—700 registrants—to a fun and challenging ride throughout DC’s 8 Wards. This year, we hosted riders from California, Alabama, Texas, Ohio, and many other far-flung places! -Nick October 2016: WABA in the Wild Overnight C&O Tour

In a matter of days, the 11 strangers who came together for WABA in the Wild became fast friends.

Everyone celebrated in the warm autumn sunshine at mile marker 0 in Georgetown at the end of the ride.

WABA in the Wild was the highlight of my year for sure. It was a feat of an event to pull off: the first time WABA has ever done an original peer-to-peer fundraising event, the first time we’ve ever done a multi-day bike tour, the first time we’ve ever organized a group camping trip. But we pulled it off and it was a tremendous success. We bicycled through rain and mud with smile on our faces. We saw beauty in the trees along the canal and the shimmering sunshine on the Potomac. There was whiskey, laughter, games, camaraderie, and so. many. snacks. And we can’t wait to do it again with more people in 2017! -Michelle
November 2016: The Cider Ride

Photo credit: Mr.TinDC

This year’s Cider Ride was the biggest ever, with over 700 people riding their bikes along the beautiful trails and farm roads of Prince George’s county, the Patuxent Research Refuge, and the new (and old) sections of the Anacostia River Trail. Riders also helped to advance our campaign to finish the Rhode Island Avenue Trolley Trail in Hyattsville — we collected over 300 signatures at an advocacy pit stop along the course! -Nick December 2016: The Holiday Party

Many, many bikes outside Boundary Stone for the WABA Holiday Party. Photo credit: Jeremiah Lowery

One of our ‘accomplishments scrapboards’ from the party

We hosted our year-end Holiday Party at Boundary Stone and had an awesome time chatting with members about all the things we accomplished together in 2016 and what we’re looking forward to working on in 2017. It was great to hang out with so many of our members and enjoy some holiday cheer! -Nick
We hope you enjoyed being part of the bike community as much as we did this year. Happy New Year and here’s to more awesome WABA events — and a few awesome event surprises — in 2017! Cheers, WABA Events Team

The 2013 Vasa Ride, In Photos


Riders checking in for Vasa 2013. Photo by district photo bomb on Flickr.

The weather never made good on its threat of rain last Sunday, but  riders of the 2013 Vasa still braved cool temperatures and gray skies to come out for WABA’s sold-out first ride of the year. Our Vasa ride is modeled on the Swedish Vasaloppet, the longest, oldest, and largest cross-country ski race in the world that’s held on the first Sunday of March; that Vasaloppet was first held in 1922 and was modeled on a route taken by King Gustav I in 1520. WABA’s own Vasa lets participants choose from 15-, 30-, and 60-mile routes that run through the District and Montgomery County. Kind Snacks sponsored the event, and brand representatives were on hand to offer riders granola and bars. Bike ambassadors greeted riders at a surprise pit stop halfway through the route at Potomac Villages. And the House of Sweden provided a beautiful space for the ritualistic post-ride consumption of blueberry soup—or blåbärssoppa. Many thanks to Kind and House of Sweden for their support of our event, and to our crew of ride marshals for keeping riders safe. 2013 Vasa Ride We kept up with Vasa riders throughout the day on social media. Click here to see tweets and photos sent during the ride. For more recaps, check out the accounts of some local bike bloggers. PortajohnChasing Mailboxes, and A Few Spokes Shy of a Wheel all attended, and had very kind things to say about the blåbärssoppa. Several attendees also took some great photos. Were you unable to participate in Vasa 2013? We hope to see you next year! Remember, WABA members get early access to registration for our events, so join today if you haven’t already. Your membership supports great events and great bike advocacy. See photos from the Vasa Ride below the jump. More photos are on Flickr. Did you take any photos during the ride? Add them to our Flickr group! Continue reading

Women & Bicycles Launches—Finally!

Women & Bicycles Launch-0140 Following a successful match-grant fundraiser and a generous grant from the League of American Bicyclists, WABA’s Women & Bicycles program officially launched on Sun., March 3 at Busboys & Poets. The party followed a group ride hosted by Black Women Bike and preceded the League’s Women’s Cycling Forum, a kickoff to its yearly National Bike Summit. Over 150 people filled Busboys’ Langston Room: Women who ride bikes in the D.C. area had the chance to hang out with attendees of the National Bike Summit and talk about what other communities are doing to get more ladies on bikes. WABA’s Women & Bicycles program has been in the making for several years. A December 2011 Women’s Forum hosted by WABA clarified a number of issues that have kept some area women from cycling as much as they might like to; from there, Women & Bicycles began to take shape. e6MXyK7ObZyMVaWZ7KTNlYi1U8M0BlyNV1r6XhihuwIThe program will run from April to October and is based on the involvement of 10 “Roll Models.” Those role models, who we’ll introduce here soon, have been asked to pull from their personal networks women who are hesitant to bike in D.C. and its suburbs. Through a series of private small-group events and public rides and workshops, the Roll Models and Women & Bicycles coordinator Nelle Pierson will teach the basic skills needed for cycling from point A to point B. At Sunday’s kickoff, Portland, Ore.-based author and activist Elly Blue spoke of the importance of community and why it matters. Blue noted that when she first attended the National Bike Summit, its attendees were largely male; the increasing inclusion and presence of women at local and national levels indicates that their interests as cyclists are being taken seriously. Veronica Davis, of Black Women Bike, reiterated the necessity of inclusivity in bike advocacy. We can’t wait to share with you the progression of Women & Bicycles. Its first event is on March 30. For more information, visit the Women & Bicycles page on our website and watch our blog for updates on how you can get involved. If you’d like to interact with other D.C.-area women who bike for fun and transportation, check out the Women & Bicycles Facebook page. See photos of the ride and the party below the jump (there’s more on Flickr!). Did you take any photos of either event? Add them to our Flickr pool! Continue reading