Greater Greater Washington

Posts by Gregory Billing

Gregory Billing is Advocacy Coordinator at the Washington Area Bicyclist Association.  

You can now bring your bike to Baltimore on weekend MARC trains

Starting this weekend, you can take your bike on select MARC trains running between Baltimore and DC on the Penn Line. MARC outfitted two rehabilitated passenger cars to carry passengers and their full-size bicycles. The bike cars will run on weekends between DC and Baltimore, for now.


Inside the bike train car. Photo by MARC.

Bike cars will be easy to spot: they'll have bike themed graphics on the outside of the train, including "THE BIKE CAR" in big letters. The train car provides roll-on / roll-off service: there is no need to box up or fold your bike.

At some train stations the platforms are level, which makes rolling your bike on fairly easy. At non-level stations, you will need to be able to carry your bike and personal belongings up the stairs to load your bike. No reservations are availableit's first come, first served. If the bike car is full, folding bikes are still allowed per MARC's current policy. Bike trailers are not allowed.


The exterior of the bike train car. Photo by MARC.

With additional state resources, MARC is purchasing new double-decker train cars to increase passenger capacity to meet the demand. With new cars going into service, MARC is rehabilitating their old rolling stock to provide the new bike service.

The bike cars can currently carry 16 full-size bicycle, but can be modified to accommodate up to 26 bikes. The first two bike train cars are pilot designs. Launching weekend service allows MARC officials to evaluate the design and operation of the service with lighter passenger traffic.

With a refined train car design and operation kinks worked out, MARC will look to expand bike service to weekdays and other lines. Depending on customer demand, MARC might add a second bike car to service in 2015 (read: go use the service!). There is no definite timeline for expansion to weekday service at this point.


Transporation officials and other stakeholder discussing the prototype racks. Photo by WABA.

You can view the schedule here.


An early prototype design. Photo by WABA.

A great big thank you to MARC for expanding service to passengers with their bikes. We would especially like to recognize Chief Engineer Eric Ekolig and his team for thoughtfully engaging with bicycling community. We look forward to a successful roll out of weekend bike service and future expansion.

A version of this article orginally appeared on the WABA blog.

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The new Frederick Douglass Bridge won't connect to the Suitland Parkway Trail

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) is proposing a new Frederick Douglas Memorial Bridge that will not connect to the Suitland Parkway Trail through Anacostia. The Suitland Parkway Trail's trailhead is only one mile from the proposed bridge.

DDOT will invest $600 million in a new South Capitol Street / Frederick Douglas Memorial Bridge across the Anacostia River. This is the largest capital investment project in the DDOT's history and represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get the design right for bicyclists and pedestrians.

Bridge engineers have been listening to the concerns of bicycling community over the last two years, and DDOT has made improvements to the bridge design for bicyclists and pedestrians.

The new span will have two 18-foot-wide multi-use trails, one on each side of the roadway. The sidepath space will be divided into an 8-foot sidewalk and a 10-foot-wide bicycle path. There will be direct connections from the bridge, around the traffic circles, to the street grid and existing or planned trail networks.

But there is a glaring exception: There is no direct connection to the Suitland Parkway Trail from the bridge. The Suitland Parkway Trail is a multi-use path that extends two miles east from Anacostia to the District's border with Maryland. Prince George's County is beginning plans to extend the trail another 3.5 miles east to the Branch Ave Metro Station. It is a preferred route for bicyclists because the trail is steady uphill grade; many nearby residential streets have very quick and steep climbs.

Bicyclists wishing to travel from the bridge to the trail will follow one of two routes. The first, on the south side of the bridge, follows the traffic circle around counterclockwise, underneath I-295, and ends at the intersection of Firth Sterling and the Suitland Parkway. This route crosses roads eight times, including two high speed interstate ramps. The second route begins on the north side of the bridge, follows the traffic circle around clockwise, and ends on Howard Road. Engineers would then paint bike lanes on Howard Road. Neither route ends anywhere near the Suitland Parkway Trail.

Residents who live just up the Anacostia River experience a similar roadway design every day. The unpleasant walk or bike ride from the Pennsylvania Ave Bridge underneath the freeway to Minnesota Avenue SE is nearly the same layout. Pedestrians and bicyclists must navigate a sea of crosswalks, high speed interstate highway ramps and numerous traffic lights. It's unsafe, unpleasant, and intimidating. DDOT should not repeat the same mistake.

DDOT engineers need to propose a direct connection from the new bridge to the trail. This connection should aim to keep pedestrians and bicyclists separated from car traffic, minimize crosswalks, and prioritize grade separated trail crossings. Trail users should not have to cross high-speed freeway ramps. The design should prioritize the experience of bicyclists and pedestrians. Most importantly, the trail connection should keep kids, adults, and seniors safe and be a direct, safe, and convenient connection of communities.

WABA has created a petition asking DDOT to design and build a safe trail connection from the South Capitol Street Bridge to the Suitland Parkway Trail.

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Fix the 14th Street bridge bike connection with 3 easy steps

Over 1,800 bicyclists crossed the 14th Street bridge on Sept. 13th, 2011, and that number has no doubt increased by now, but the connection between the bridge and the 15th Street cycletrack simply does not accommodate the level of traffic that uses it.


The I-395 sign support creates a hazard pinch point. Photo from WABA.

Most cyclists riding on the bridge in the morning rush are coming from Virginia to major employment hubs: Federal Triangle, downtown DC, and Capitol Hill. Those "in the know" riders are conditioned to the fractured connection between the 14th Street bridge and the 15th Street cycletrack. That's not typically the case with new riders and visitors to the city don't know about, or can't find, this important connection.

Improving it would also allow cyclists from the bridge to easily access DC's growing network of protected bike lanes outside of 15th Street, including those on Pennsylvania Avenue, L Street NW, and, soon, M Street NW. Extending the 15th Street cycletrack would give cyclists access to downtown bike lanes and multi-use paths on the National Mall.

Three easy projects would help to better connect the 14th Street Bridge to the 15th Street cycletracks.

Extend the 15th cycletrack one block south, to Constitution Avenue

Currently, the cycletrack on 15th Street NW ends at Pennsylvania Avenue. Bicyclists headed south are dumped onto a wide street with many tour buses and fast-moving traffic. Less experienced riders often choose the sidewalk, which has heavy pedestrian traffic and is often filled with vendors selling T-shirts and hats. DDOT's original cycletrack plans included an extension one block south, but that was never built. So let's build it!

Sign the route

The National Mall is filled with multi-use sidewalks to view our national memorials. There is plenty of space on these paths that pedestrians and bicyclists can share. But new riders and tourists do not know the bike routes across the Mall. Wayfinding signs communication the bike route for those traveling between the 15th Street cycletrack to 14th Street Bridge should be installed.

Those signs should also tell pedestrians to be aware of the presence of bicyclists. Bicyclists who feel comfortable using the road can still do so, but signing the route would give an alternative to inexperienced riders.

Fix the path to the bridge and multi-use sidewalks around the Tidal Basin

The paved path from the Jefferson Memorial to the 14th Street bridge needs serious repair. The 8-foot width is insufficient, and DDOT long ago placed an interstate sign support directly in the path of trail users. The path needs to be widened to at least 12 feet, and the sign needs to be moved.

Also, the multi-use sidepaths around the Tidal Basin, between the bridge, need attention. There are a pinch points and issues with desired riding lines, especially at intersection of 15th Street SW and Maine Avenue SW. Fixing these small issues would go a long way for improving the riding experience.


Image from Google Maps. Click for interactive version.

The 14th Street Bridge is a major river crossing for area bicyclists coming to downtown from Virginia. Now is the time to finish the connection with a few immediate fixes.

Cross-posted at WABA Quick Release.

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Montgomery hopes to add 50 Capital Bikeshare stations

Building on the success of Capital Bikeshare in DC and Arlington County, Montgomery County is preparing to submit a grant application to the Maryland DOT to help fund bike sharing in the lower county region.


Photo by bryandc2 on Flickr.

The plan for 400 bicycles at 50 stations was presented Tuesday night a public meeting at the County Executive offices in Rockville.

County planning and transportation officials presented proposed station plans for the urban areas of the county. Bike stations are proposed in Bethesda, Silver Spring, Takoma Park, Friendship Heights, and other areas along both legs of the Red Line.

The additional stations will provide connections within those activity centers and to places in the District.

As a side note, in planning talks, DDOT has agreed to expand bike sharing stations north between the system core and the new clusters in Bethesda, Silver Spring & Takoma Park to help connect the entire system.

The new stations will be in addition to 20 stations being installed in a cluster around the Rockville and Shady Grove Metro stations. The Rockville stations were funded through a Job Access/Reverse Commute grant program.

Montgomery County DOT Director Art Holmes spoke briefly about the expansion of Bikeshare to the county. He told attendees, "we are very committed to this program". Officials cautioned that the bike sharing program is contingent on the awarding of the state grants and may need to be built in phases.

However, they feel very confident in their grant application. The Maryland grants are through Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) funds with a local match of 20% required.

Maps already showed some prospective station locations and attendees were asked to give additional ideas by placing stickers on the maps. If you couldn't attend the meeting, you can give your feedback using the Capital Bikeshare crowdsourcing map.

Of course, there are siting issues. Consultant to the county, Paul DeMaio of MetroBike, explained requirements for a station. Considerations include access to direct sun, enough space, ownership agreements, access to the station, proximity to bicycle infrastructure, and so on.

If Montgomery receives the grant, they expect to begin installing the Bikeshare stations in Fall/Winter of 2012.

WABA is excited to see bike sharing grow and to see the promotion of bicycle transportation in the region. We hope to see the needed infrastructure improvements, education offerings and necessary enforcement to make the system a success in the county as we have seen in DC and Arlington.

Cross-posted at Quick Release.

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