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Politics


You can help shape Silver Spring's urban future

Silver Spring isn't a city, but it faces the challenges of one. Its Citizens Advisory Board, which advises the Montgomery County Council, has eight empty seats. If you want to help shape Silver Spring, from how it grows to how people get around, joining the board is the best way.


The Silver Spring Civic Building, where the advisory board meets each month. Photo by the author.

After decades of decline, Silver Spring is booming. Thousands of new homes have been built in the past few years, and more are still coming. We're home to well-regarded local brewers, butchers, and ice cream makers. A new civic building, town square, and library have given this community places to gather and celebrate.

Yet this rebirth is fragile. Rising home prices have led to worries about displacement and gentrification. Years of Purple Line construction could disrupt local businesses. There are ongoing concerns about crime and homelessness. And there's a tension between the reality of an urban, diverse, and inclusive place and some neighbors who want it to be suburban and exclusive.

Silver Spring looks like and functions as a city, but like most communities in the DC area, it's unincorporated, meaning all local government takes place at the county level. We have a County Councilmember, Tom Hucker, who represents all of eastern Montgomery County. But downtown Silver Spring and adjacent neighborhoods don't have a mayor or city council to speak for them exclusively.

However, there are Montgomery County's five Citizens Advisory Boards, each of which are appointed by the County Council to be that community's voice to the county government. They're similar to the District's Advisory Neighborhood Commissions in that they don't make laws, but they have some influence on issues you might care about if you read this blog, including transportation, economic development, housing, young people, and the environment.

However, unlike the ANCs, they're not elected, and they represent a much bigger area, sometimes as many as 200,000 people. Each board member serves a three-year term. They don't get paid, but they can get reimbursed for travel costs.


Montgomery County's 5 Regional Services Centers.

There are five Citizens Advisory Boards in Montgomery County: Silver Spring (which includes Silver Spring inside the Beltway, Four Corners, and Takoma Park), Bethesda-Chevy Chase (which includes Potomac and Rockville), Mid-County (Wheaton, Aspen Hill, and Olney), East County (White Oak, Colesville, and Burtonsville), and Upcounty (Gaithersburg, Germantown, and beyond).

The Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board has eighteen seats for people who live or work in Silver Spring and Takoma Park. Right now, there are eight empty seats. If you want to see this community continue to grow, attract new businesses, retain its diversity, and be a better place to get around, the board is an excellent way to get involved.

If you'd like to be on the Citizens Advisory Board, go here to learn more or send your application. You've got until August 1 to apply.

Once applications are in, Montgomery County executive Ike Leggett will appoint board members, and the county council will approve them.

Politics


Is Tim Kaine a good pick for urbanism? Here's what our writers think.

Tim Kaine is the Democratic candidate for Vice President. Currently one of Virginia's US senators, Kaine was the state's governor from 2006-2010, and its lieutenant governor for the four years before that. We asked our contributors what Kaine has done for and against urbanism.

Kaine was a mayor, so he should understand cities

David Cranor said,

Kaine wasn't just a senator and a governor. He was the mayor or Richmond, which, while not DC, is a pretty big city. If elected, Kaine be only the second VP ever who had previously been a mayor, and he will be the first former mayor of a major American city—Calvin Coolidge was Mayor of Northhampton, Massachusetts New Hampshire which is very nice, but not urban.

No former mayor of a city as large as Richmond has ever been elected to either president or VP. Grover Cleveland was mayor of Buffalo, but it was about 33% smaller than Richmond was when Kaine was mayor. So, more than maybe anyone to ever gets this far, he knows about city leadership, municipal government and the problems of urban areas. I think DC could only benefit from a VP (or a president) with an urban sensibility.

But... Sarah Palin was a mayor too, so it's not magic.

Also, Virginia and Maryland's congressional delegation often opposes DC Statehood (or home rule really) even when politically they might not, because DC having the ability to pass a commuter tax is something they think would be harmful to their states. To Kaine's credit he supports it despite this risk to his own constituents. That's not necessarily an urban thing, but it shows support for DC.

Kaine has a lot of experience in housing

Joanne Pierce pointed out,

Kaine was on the board of Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME) of Virginia from 1986-1994 and 2011-2013, starting before he got into local politics.

He helped represent HOME against Nationwide Insurance, which had labeled minority neighborhoods as undesirable and pulled its agents from those areas. He also helped represent HOME against General Services Corp, which made apartment brochures that featured more white people and lacked equal housing logos and language. Staff members testified that company management talked to them about how to deter black people from renting in their properties.

Soon after the Nationwide Insurance case he was elected to city council.

Jeff Lemieux directed us toward Vox's Matt Yglesias' write-up on Kaine, which said:
Before Tim Kaine was a senator or a governor or a lieutenant governor or a mayor, he was a lawyer. A lawyer whose very first case was a pro bono assignment representing an African-American woman who'd been turned away from an apartment. The landlord told her it had already been claimed when she stopped by and said she wanted to look at it. She was suspicious and had a colleague call back later that day, and the landlord said it was still available.

Kaine won the case and began specializing in fair-housing issues as a lawyer.

Kaine retained his interest in the subject as he entered politics, winning a $100 million jury verdict against Nationwide for discriminatory lending practices as mayor of Richmond. In the Senate, he's continued to champion fair-housing issues even though it's an issue that doesn't exactly have a ton of appeal to swing voters or well-connected lobbyists.

With Kaine as vice president in the Clinton administration, people worried about housing discrimination will always have an open lane to the president.

Kaine on transit, the environment, and more

Canaan Merchant noted that Kaine had a big impact on transit in our region:

As governor, he was largely responsible for building the Silver Line above ground in Tysons, which happened because the Feds would have walked away otherwise. So he can take a a good deal of credit for the Silver Line but it's also unfortunate that the climate was such that the line could only be done in a way that may be a hindrance to other elements in Tysons transformation.
Stewart Schwartz, the executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, pointed us toward a Facebook post from Danny Paugher of Virginians for High Speed Rail:
Under Kaine, Virginia launched two Amtrak Regional trains, one to Lynchburg and a 2nd to Richmond which would be extended to Norfolk. Virginia has 4 of the top 6 best performing Regional routes in Amtrak's entire network thanks to his vision and leadership.
Miles Grant said he's thankful for a small change Kaine helped push through:
I'd include Kaine's strong support for Virginia's bar/restaurant smoking ban as a big public health win. I thought it would take years, then Kaine personally jumped in, helped reach a deal with Speaker Howell, and it was done in no time. He gets little credit because it's one of those progressive wins that, once it's in place, everyone loves it and assumes it was always that way.
Julie Lawson isn't so sure about Kaine's environmental record:
In the vein of climate and environmental protection, he has not been great on offshore drilling. In 2006, as governor, he vetoed a bill to end a moratorium on offshore drilling. But as senator he was quite supportive of it, including introducing legislation to expand exploration in 2013. This statement on the issue from his Senate site is written in a tone that does make me think he considers a variety of stakeholders and is open to rethinking his positions with compelling reasons.
Joanne pointed us toward CityLab's article on Kaine's urbanist contributions:
I'm interested interested to learn that Kaine preserved farmland from development. Under the rules, the money is used to buy the rights to develop on farmland for the purpose of not developing at all, preserving the land and helping the working farms. Kaine also preserved roughly 424,000 acres of land to be set aside for conservation and public recreation.

"Along the lines of what Julie said about considering a variety of stakeholders," Joanne said, "it looks like Kaine is an urbanist who also takes into consideration the benefit of land as a public resource. He seems to take a balanced approach to development."

Finally, David Edmondson pointed out that Kaine "got a thumbs-up from Jeff Speck on Twitter, which should count for something:"

Jeff Speck is referring to regulations that said residential subdivisions couldn't be composed of only culs de sac, which are often an inefficient use of public resources and which cut down on how connected areas are. Kaine supported that change. Unfortunately, the Virginia's transportation board rolled back the regulation two years after it passed.

Schwartz expanded on Jeff Speck's input by adding:

Governor Kaine and the Republican House leadership also worked together on other measures to link land use and transportation. The 2007 omnibus transportation bill not only included the connectivity requirements for subdivisions but a requirement that localities identify urban development areas, or "UDA's." Both parties recognized that spread out development imposed significant transportation costs to the state and sought to promote more compact development. Unfortunately, like subdivision street connection standards, UDA's were weakened a few years later when they were made voluntary, instead of mandatory.

Politics


Trump claims to want to save our cities, but his and his party's policies would do the opposite

On Thursday, I turned on the TV to hear from the Republican nominee for President. As an urbanist, I was particularly struck by Donald Trump saying he's the candidate who can save failing cities. That's ironic given that he seems to loathe most of the people in cities, and his party convention approved the most anti-urban policy platform in recent memory.


Photo by Gage Skidmore on Flickr.

This specific part really stood out to me:

This Administration has failed America's inner cities. ... It's failed them on education. It's failed them on jobs. It's failed them on crime. It's failed them on every single level. When I am President, I will work to ensure that all of our kids are treated equally, and protected equally. Every action I take, I will ask myself: does this make life better for young Americans in Baltimore, in Chicago, in Detroit, in Ferguson who have as much of a right to live out their dreams as any other child in America? Any other child.
Trump would have us believe that he's the man who can fix America's cities, despite his lack of policy specifics and a seeming hatred for the diversity that makes our cities (and our country) truly great.

Yet he's running for the presidency from a party whose platform is the most anti-urban it has ever been. Their platform gets to this pretty early on, on page 5 of 66:

The current Administration has a different approach. It subordinates civil engineering to social engineering as it pursues an exclusively urban vision of dense housing and government transit. Its ill-named Livability Initiative is meant to "coerce people out of their cars." This is the same mentality that once led Congress to impose by fiat a single maximum speed limit for the entire nation, from Manhattan to Montana. Our 1980 Republican Platform pledged to repeal that edict. After the election of Ronald Reagan, we did.

Now we make the same pledge regarding the current problems in transportation policy. We propose to remove from the Highway Trust Fund programs that should not be the business of the federal government.

More than a quarter of the Fund's spending is diverted from its original purpose. One fifth of its funds are spent on mass transit, an inherently local affair that serves only a small portion of the population, concentrated in six big cities. Additional funds are used for bike-share programs, sidewalks, recreational trails, landscaping, and historical renovations. Other beneficiaries of highway money are ferry boats, the federal lands access program, scenic byways, and education initiatives. These worthwhile enterprises should be funded through other sources.

... We reaffirm our intention to end federal support for boondoggles like California's high-speed train to nowhere.

[Emphasis added]

It seems that while Trump claims he can save America's cities, the GOP wants to make them impossible. That's not good for city-dwellers or anyone else in the country, since cities are the economic engines that power America.

Trevor Noah really summed up the conundrum of the GOP's urban policy in a Daily Show episode on Tuesday. The key part starts around 3:50 in the video.

Yes, many of our communities have broken homes. But often it's because the parents have to face huge hurdles just to get by. Taking two buses to get to their first job, or unable to get to good jobs in the suburbs because there is no transit. Other times, maybe it's because fathers (and sons) were arrested or killed over minor traffic infractions.

And many of these situations are built upon a history of segregation and separation that were the direct result of redlining and a lack of fair housing laws and access to opportunity. Apparently, laws meant to help disadvantaged people find housing or jobs are "social engineering."

Trump went on to describe a horrifying scene in America's cities. Not only have our policies failed urban dwellers, but crime is up, up, up. It's up 17% in America's 50 largest cities, he says.

And that's true. Crime did increase from 2014 to 2015. According to Trump, "that's the largest increase in 25 years."

The fact, though, is that it's the only increase in 25 years. Crime has been falling since 1991 in those 50 cities. In 2014, it hit the lowest point in decades. Trump's inflammatory rhetoric serves only to frighten people into voting on their baser instincts, and it marks a particularly despicable turn in our nation's politics.

Even with a 17% increase in 2015, crime was still lower that year than it was in 2009, the year President Obama took office.

There was a lot to be frightened of in that speech—especially cities and immigrants and Muslims, if Trump is to be believed. That was by design.

Frankly, I'm more afraid of the damage that Trump and the GOP could do to our cities than I am of anything mentioned in Trump's list of terrors of the night. The candidate's xenophobic remarks and his party's disregard for anything or anyone remotely related to cities is horrifying.

I think we should talk about what a Trump/Republican presidency might mean for our cities and our community.

Bicycling


Arlington's Fort Myer will soon be much more bike and pedestrian friendly

On August 1st, a long-closed gate at an Arlington military base will re-open for pedestrians and cyclists. The change will make it so you no longer have to take a huge detour to leave that part of the base, meaning travel by walking or riding a bike will be much more appealing.


The Henry Gate pedestrian entrance, pictured in 2012. Image from Mobility Lab/Google Maps.

Located at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall (JBMHH) and known as Henry Gate because the road it sits on becomes Henry Place once it enters the base, the gate is where Arlington Boulevard (US-50) meets North Pershing Drive. The change comes as a result of recommendations from a study by Mobility Lab and Arlington Transit Transportation Partners.

Pershing is popular amongst both drivers and cyclists, running east-west through the quiet neighborhoods of Lyon Park, Ashton Heights, and Buckingham. Pershing is scheduled to receive bike improvements in the near future, and the stretch near the intersection with Arlington Boulevard already features bike lanes and a recently-completed mixed-use development called The Shops at Pershing.

On the other side of the fence, the barracks located just behind Henry Gate house hundreds of young soldiers, many of whom do not have easy access to cars and could really put transit, bike, and pedestrian networks to use. Nearby, there's a CaBi station, a Metrobus stop, Zipcars, and the Arlington Boulevard Trail.

However, because Henry Gate has been closed since 9/11 as part of a wave of increased security, the soldiers in these barracks have to live within yards of these amenities without being able to easily reach by any way other than driving. A base resident would have to walk 33 minutes and 1.6 miles out of their way to reach them without a car, utilizing the main gate at 2nd Street South.


Detour that pedestrians and cyclists would have to take to reach The Shops at Pershing due to Henry Gate's closure. Image from Google Maps.

However, that's all about to change thanks to Mobility Lab and Arlington Transit Transportation. After surveying 467 residents and people who work at JBMHH, ATP found that 88 percent of the commuting population drives to work alone. Once the surveyors solicited ideas from participants on how to combat this issue, the idea to reopen Henry Gate to pedestrians and cyclists caught on with base officials.

After numerous meetings between Mobility Lab/ATP and JBMHH staff, Henry Gate is finally scheduled to reopen on August 1st. The new access point will only be open to pedestrians and cyclists, giving them a convenient way to access the amenities located directly outside the gate and connecting them to the wider transit network via the Metrobus stop and bike trail.

Additionally, keeping the gate closed to cars will ensure that there won't be any new congestion along Arlington Boulevard or Pershing as a result of this decision. It's an incredibly welcome improvement for bike and pedestrian access to one of the county's most expansive military installations.


The Henry Gate pedestrian entrance, the adjacent Metrobus stop, and newly-improved Arlington Boulevard Trail. Image from Google Maps.

A few other recommendations for improving access to Fort Myer for people who don't drive came of Mobility Lab and ATP's survey. For instance, because the vast majority of work trips to JBMHH are made at the same time, the study recommended making employees more aware of carpooling and vanpooling through a service like Commuter Connections.

Also, in conjunction with the reopening of Henry Gate, the base hopes to create a "geofence"—a set pickup location across the street from the gate—where taxi, Uber, and Lyft drivers can pick up and drop off passengers without having to physically drive onto the base, which is currently seen as an inconvenient option due to heightened security measures.

Improving pedestrian and bike access for the soldiers that live at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall is certainly a noble goal. But reducing single-occupancy vehicle trips to JBMHH (and thereby reducing congestion) will not only benefit the base's residents and workers, but also Arlington County as a whole. See Mobility Lab and ATP's full presentation on their JBMHH Transportation Survey here.

Transit


Traffic jams are up during SafeTrack

Getting from Point A to Point B by car has taken longer than usual during SafeTrack, and while people changed when they commute during some of the work surges, few changed their actual routes. Those are two of the key takeaways from an analysis of rush hour congestion during SafeTrack that came out on Monday.


Increases in travel times along roads in the Washington area during the morning and afternoon commutes during each of the four SafeTrack surges so far. All images from the TPB.

The report comes from the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board, whose analysts looked at hour-by-hour data on traffic conditions both this year and last.

Now a month and a half into its 10-month plan to to perform major maintenance across the system, Metro's work has focused on four areas: there was single tracking between Ballston and East Falls Church in early June, a total shutdown between Eastern Market and both Minnesota Avenue and Benning Road later in the month and into July, and after that two shutdowns from National Airport, first to Braddock Road and then to Pentagon City.

You might not be surprised to see that freeway congestion, which the TPB measured by the percent increase in travel time, went up significantly during each surge. However, congestion increased much less outside on non-freeway arterials, which suggests that not very many people changed their routes to avoid the increased freeway traffic.

In addition, all four surges led to significant increases in travel times within downtown DC. These increases, even when Metro service in DC was not cut too significantly, are probably because more people drove to downtown offices.

While all four surges resulted in increased congestion, the increase was significantly larger for Surge 1 (single-tracking between Balston and East Falls Church) than for the other surges.


Change in freeway congestion for each surge, compared to the same dates in 2015.

The smaller increase in congestion from the later surges may have been due to the fact that the number of commuters generally goes down during the summer, as well as the fact that commuters were more aware of the later surges. However, it will be interesting to see how Surge 5, starting this week, affects congestion, since it will be a repeat of Surge 1.


A comparison of freeway congestion during Surge 1 to congestion during the same dates in 2015.

It's worth noting the difference between changes in the intensity of the peak period congestion—which simply represents more cars on the road—and changes in the time distribution of congestion, which suggests that a significant number of drivers adjusted their trips to take into account the real or perceived effect of the Metro shutdowns and single-tracking.

Surges 1 and 4 mostly resulted in increased intensity of peak period congestion, while surges 2 and 3 seem to have resulted in more changes to commuters' schedules.

What else do you notice in the image and graphs?

Transit


Metro has too many employees and not enough riders, say its consultants

Metro has a budget deficit that's widening, and while the agency is employing more and more people, ridership is down. The consultants who started reviewing WMATA earlier this year recently presented their findings to Metro's finance committee, and suggested a couple of possible ways to start closing the gaps.


WMATA's operating deficit has grown, with costs outpacing revenue. Image from McKinsey/WMATA.

Metro's General Manager Paul Wiedefeld brought on McKinsey & Co early on in his tenure to review the agency's operations, and to suggest ways it could work better and save money. Thursday's presentation was a follow-up to an earlier McKinsey report, and allowed Metro's board of directors to discuss the company's findings and start mulling over what to do next.

In short, McKinsey restated that Metrorail security is ok relative to other US agencies but Metrobus security lags behind, that the agency spends more than most on rail car maintenance yet still has issues getting cars into service, and the agency is doing less with more employees.

The combination of all of these issues means ridership has gone down and is no higher now than it was in 2005, but costs have continued to increase. Given the hand it's been dealt, WMATA still has some time left to take the steps necessary to turn things around, but the window of opportunity won't be open forever.

Metro's financial problems aren't new by any stretch of the imagination. Metro's CFO presented a similar warning last year that expenses were continuing to increase while revenue stagnates. Also, federal funding for WMATA has been restricted since 2014, when the FTA performed a financial audit and found gaps in the agency's monetary controls.

The federal funding restrictions have meant it takes longer for Metro to receive funding even if it expects to ultimately get it, and that the agency has had to crack down in its finance office to make sure money is being used properly.

The FTA's report and late financial audits have made it harder for Metro to justify that it needs continuing and increased funding.


Employee headcount and expenses. Image from McKinsey/WMATA.

Two main factors were seen as contributing to the agency's financial woes: a rising number of full-time employees and decreasing ridership. The agency's full-time employee headcount has increased from 8,596 in fiscal year 2011 to 10,269 in FY 2015, which ended June 30th of 2015.

The report notes that 73% of these employees are in two main groups within WMATA: Metrobus, and Transit Infrastructure and Engineering Services (TIES), which is in charge of most if not all Metrorail maintenance, construction, and upkeep.

TIES and Rail Transportation (RTRA) have been growing at a rate of 7% since 2011, according to the report. Some of the increase is due to almost 500 positions filled for the opening of Phase I of the Silver Line, however that still means around 800 other employees were added as well. Wiedefeld has un-done some of this growth by recently announcing that he'll eliminate 500 positions, but some of those are vacant anyway.


Normalized for population, Metrorail carried 86% the number of riders in 2015 as it did in 2015. Image from McKinsey/WMATA.

Ridership is down

Yearly employment growth might be healthy if ridership on the system was keeping up, but that is not the case here. McKinsey's report notes that adjusted for population growth in the region, the system in 2015 carried only 86% than what it carried in 2005.

While all other systems that McKinsey looked at showed ridership growth between 2005 and 2015, Metro's growth increased up to around the financial crisis in 2008-2009 and has been decreasing ever since. Off-peak rides account for 48% of the ridership decline since 2011, continues the report.

While there may be no one thing that caused people to stop riding, there are certainly several circumstances that greatly contributed to it, including: drops in reliability; seemingly-constant weekend, weeknight, and mid-day trackwork reducing train frequency and increasing waits; fare increases; and high-profile safety/security events relating to the system.

McKinsey recommended a number of ideas for cutting costs, including moving the Metro headquarters, and selling off or contracting out the agency's parking garages.

Those ideas are great, but the real keys are increasing system reliability, decreasing rail car breakdowns and delays, and spurring growth around Metro stations to encourage continuing ridership. Paul Wiedefeld seems to understand what needs to be done to turn the tide, and has implemented the SafeTrack program and now also has a focus on fixing railcar maintenance.

Improvement won't be instant—few positive changes are—but hopefully it will show its head in the weeks, months, and years to come.

Public Safety


How do our cities' decisions perpetuate racial bias? How do the choices we advocate for?

America's struggles with gun violence and police relations with communities of color have burst, again, into the headlines over the last few weeks. Our contributors and editors have some thoughts about these issues and how they relate to the decisions our cities make around housing, transportation, and much more.


Aftermath of the Philando Castile shooting. Photo by Tony Webster on Flickr.

Michael Brown. Tamir Rice. Eric Garner. Sandra Bland. Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. These and so many more incidents have repeatedly underscored how our society still doesn't truly treat black Americans equally. Americans who don't experience this injustice personally have had their eyes opened. And then, the occasional person reacts with reprehensible violence against the police and drives further wedges between Americans (most recently in Baton Rouge, previously in Dallas).

Not every social problem is related to the way we build cities and better urban design can't single-handedly solve some of America's deepest social ills. Still, our society's struggles with racial bias, whether from police or others, actually is deeply connected with the way American cities work and the decisions their leaders make. Here are some of our contributors' thoughts.

Dan Reed said,

This is about who feels safe and who public spaces are created for. We haven't experienced the worst of this here, but we've had a tumultuous demographic shift in recent years. As a person of color who grew up here, I feel unwelcome sometimes in a place that was once familiar.

This isn't just about police brutality. It's about the pervasiveness of racial bias, however subtle or unintentional, that appears in all of the policy decisions we make in education, transportation, housing, health care, and so on. It's about making sure that everyone in our community the ability to live safe, dignified lives with access to the economic and social opportunities that many of us take for granted.

Gray Kimbrough discussed how public policy has explicitly created divisions:
The built environment has long been intertwined with racism in the US. Housing policy is a clear example, with the underlying racism ranging from completely blatant redlining or other policies that excluded non-whites (e.g. the postwar explosion in VA and FHA-backed loans).
Read more in GGWash:
And then there's infrastructure. Growing up in North Carolina, I noticed that things like sidewalks were much less likely to be provided in predominantly black parts of town. Transportation infrastructure and transit networks have often also been used to maintain the status quo rather than to mitigate the impact of institutional racism.

Limiting the housing options for people of color and underfunding infrastructure in those areas contribute directly to limiting opportunities for whole classes of people. As a side effect, racial segregation of housing limits people's experiences with members of other groups.

This tends not to be a problem for white people, who generally don't have to fear police officers unfamiliar with people like them acting in overly aggressive ways. It can absolutely have devastating effects for people of color when police officers are more likely to see them as criminals by default, at least in part because of a lack of basic interaction due to residential segregation.

Nick Keenan added some specific policy examples:
It ties into two things I've read about Ferguson [Missouri]. One is that people in Ferguson were reluctant to walk places, even short distances, because they were afraid of being hassled by the police if they did. The other is that the municipal budget in Ferguson was dependent upon fines and fees from motorists, and that a grievance of the residents was that you couldn't drive anywhere without risking getting pulled over and ticketed for a minor infraction.

Many experienced cyclists have stories of interactions with police officers where just the fact of operating a bicycle seemed to set the cops off. There was a blog post last summer that got a lot of coverage about how for many people riding a bicycle is the closest they will ever come to not having white privilege.

Tracy Hadden Loh added,
It's all about who has access to what planning processes - whose outcomes are measured, voices are heard, values represented, needs prioritized, etc. Planning is all about navigating tradeoffs to maximize access and efficiency of public goods in a world where most of the acreage/square footage is private. ...

We [all] have our own often unstated assumptions about *how* to achieve planning goals [and] I don't think [we] ask enough hard questions about who the winners and losers will be.

Let's try hard to think about who winners and losers will be as we discuss the many choices cities and counties in our region make. How do the events of the last few weeks, and few years, affect how you think about urban spaces and the issues we discuss?

Bicycling


A unanimous vote to end DC's unjust insurance law for people walking and biking

On Tuesday, the DC Council unanimously approved a bill to end the extremely unjust "contributory negligence" rule which frequently forbids people who are hit when walking or biking from collecting medical costs from a driver's insurance.


Photo by Manfred Caruso on Flickr.

The bill still has to pass a second reading in the fall, but the fact that it sailed through without debate bodes very well. Two weeks ago, the council delayed action because Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie (ward 5) wanted to introduce an amendment, but McDuffie ultimately decided not to. Mayor Muriel Bowser also praised the bill.

The council showed strong leadership to making the road fair to everyone and ensuring that people injured due to another's actions have a fair chance to get medical bills paid. The action came despite fierce lobbying from the insurance industry and AAA.

This is also thanks to many of you, who sent over 1,300 emails to councilmembers using our action tool. Many others contacted elected officials from action alerts from the Washington Area Bicyclist Association or others. Your emails made a difference—Councilmember Elissa Silverman (at large) mentioned getting "over a thousand" emails in a recent constituent newsletter. She was already a strong supporter, but other less confident ones got many emails too.

I emailed all 13 councilmembers for comments about the vote, and several replied in time.

Councilmember Charles Allen (ward 6), one of the bill's co-introducers, said, "Like many others, my family is a one-car household. Some days we bike, some days we drive, some days we Metro, and some days we simply walk. Like you, I want a city where I'm treated fairly no matter how I choose to—or need to—get around.

Silverman added, "I was excited to vote in favor of a bill that will make our insurance system more just for our most vulnerable road users. I thank Councilmember [Kenyan] McDuffie [Ward 5] and Councilmember [Mary] Cheh [Ward 3] for their leadership efforts on this common sense measure."

"I believe our contributory negligence standard most hurts our poor and low-income residents who cannot afford large medical bills or lost time at work following serious accidents," Silverman said. "For this reason, I'm particularly glad to see the Council move towards a more equitable approach that works in the interest of all District residents."

Brianne Nadeau, councilmember from Ward 1, wrote, "Ultimately, Tuesday's vote is about making the District safer for pedestrians and bicyclists. We must also continue expanding our network of bike lanes, protected when possible, so residents have safer transportation options."

Finally, David Grosso (at-large) said, "In 2014, I introduced [the predecessor of this bill] after learning that 483 cyclists had been injured in 2013 alone. ... After years of advocating for change, I am glad we're finally modernizing the District's approach. Fairness, equity and safety are the guiding principles behind this legislation and with the Council's unanimous vote and the Mayor's signal of approval, it seems we are one step closer to fully realizing these goals."

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