Posts about Takoma
Capital Bikeshare could come to Montgomery County this year, along with an influx of new riders. It's time to look at how to improve the county's bike network. To do so, a group of 20 bicyclists took to the streets of Silver Spring and Takoma Park last Saturday on a 5-mile ride organized by myself and the Montgomery County Sierra Club.
Last summer, I began working with Ethan Goffman, bicycle and Smart Growth coordinator for the Sierra Club, on a Bicycle Statement outlining 6 principles that policymakers, community leaders, planners and transportation engineers should follow to make bicycling safer, more efficient and more enjoyable for everyone.
The six principles are:
Make a complete network: Bicycle lanes and paths should connect to each other and to major destinations like schools, transit stations and job centers, making them a reliable way to get around.
Be context-appropriate: A network with different kinds of bicycle facilities will best be able to fit into different neighborhoods.
Provide comfort: Bicyclists will be more likely to use the network if it provides multiple route options, is easy to navigate, and has conveniences like secure parking.
Safety: Bicyclists will feel safe on facilities that are well maintained, well-lit, and have "eyes on the street" to watch over them.
Engage the public: Making community members part of the bicycle planning process will build public support for bicycling while showing that bicyclists are valued and respected by the county.
Education: All road users, whether they are cyclists, pedestrians or drivers, should understand their rights and responsibilities and the rights and responsibilities of others.
Keeping those in mind, I designed a route that takes riders on different kinds of bicycle routes, ranging from a trail through a park to bike lanes to riding in mixed traffic.
We had a pretty diverse crowd with a wide mix of ages and skill levels, ranging from kids just out of training wheels to experienced bicyclists. Most riders came from inside-the-Beltway Silver Spring, though one person came from Takoma Park and another from Capitol Hill. The ride was pretty smooth, though there were a few spills and some emergency repairs.
Along the way, we stopped to talk about each principle, along with things the county and local municipalities are doing well, like the extensive trail network in Sligo Creek Park. While none of the neighborhood streets have bike lanes, they're slow and quiet, making them a nice alternative to busy main roads when they're not closed to through traffic. In a few places, our group had its own cheering section of neighbors.
Riders pointed out places where the bike network needs improvement. Many off-street trails are poorly maintained, leading to ruts and standing water. The Metropolitan Branch Trail abruptly stops a half-mile short of the Silver Spring Metro station, held up by historical preservationists who don't want it passing by the historic, but empty B&O rail station.
On-street riding can be equally frustrating. We used the block-long Cedar Street bike lane in Silver Spring, which was once named "America's stupidest bike lane" before being redesigned by the Montgomery County Department of Transportation. Meanwhile, streets like Maple Avenue in Takoma Park are wide enough for bike lanes but were given sharrows instead, which means bicyclists have to share the road with drivers that are encouraged to speed because the street is so wide.
Another issue was the need to educate everyone on how to share the road. On narrow Carroll Street NW in Takoma, drivers came too close to our group or sped into oncoming traffic to pass us, violating both DC's and Maryland's 3-foot passing laws. Meanwhile, on the Sligo Creek Park trail, a pair of joggers reminded us that we have to ride single-file so as not to block the whole path.
How can we improve the cycling environment? One recurring theme in our discussion was that the Department of Transportation made bike improvements based on their idea of what bicyclists want or need, like the Cedar Street bike lane, but were surprised when bicyclists actually didn't use them.
Casey Anderson, Planning Board member and Silver Spring resident, and Jack Cochrane of MoBike stressed the need to for bicyclists to let county officials know what they need. County officials need to listen to bicyclists, but they can only do so if bicyclists make themselves heard.
Overall, this was a great bike ride. I was blown away by the turnout and the enthusiasm of all our participants. It's been about 20 years since the Montgomery County Sierra Club last held a group bike ride, but this is definitely a tradition that they should resume. Ethan and I are already talking about when our bike ride will be.
Thanks to everyone who came! This wouldn't have been a success without you. And if you were unable to make it, check out this slideshow of our ride.
When construction must close a sidewalk, barriers should be placed in the roadway to create a temporary space for pedestrians. That often doesn't happen, and didn't in two recent cases in Takoma and Silver Spring, forcing pedestrians to walk in traffic or cross illegally.
Left: Carroll Street in Takoma. Image by Julie Lawson.
Right: Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring. Image by William Smith.
Julie Lawson tweeted about one case at Carroll and Maple streets, along the main path from the Takoma Metro to Takoma Park. The sidewalk was blocked for construction at an adjacent building site.
Following resident complaints, DDOT sent an inspector to check out that site. ANC Commissioner Sara Green reported in an email to the Takoma listserv that the contractor was required to restore the sidewalk. Next week, when they get a permit, they will be able to close it again but will need to put up barriers to create a temporary walking path.
Meanwhile, Montgomery Sideways posted about a case where the Maryland State Highway Administration closed the Georgia Avenue sidewalk as it dives below the railroad tracks in Silver Spring, despite a policy against doing that. William Smith writes,
I stood there for a awhile and saw pedestrians crossing Sligo Avenue a few yards to the east of the crosswalk. Sure, there is a sign there telling you to cross the street, but if you need to go the other wayAnd if a driver hit one of these pedestrians crossing, would police blame the pedestrian for not walking far out of the way to find a legal crossing?
— say, to Jackie's, or Lotus Cafe — what do you do? Cross illegally, that's what you do.
Each case may be individually relatively minor, but they all create danger that can cause injury or death. And when many exist in the same area, they create a broadly unsafe situation. Worse yet, sometimes these closures last for months or years, like a closing on East-West Highway in Silver Spring which Eric Fidler documented in a video:
Update: Commenter Shipsa01 pointed out a hilarious example in the Mount Vernon Triangle neighborhood, where buildings on both sides of a street both tried to close their sidewalks and posted signs instructing pedestrians to cross to the opposite side... where there was an identical sign pointing the other way.
DDOT took a big step toward continuing the Metropolitan Branch Trail when it released a draft Environmental Assessment this month. This examines the places the trail will utilizes National Park Service: the section from Kansas Avenue to Catholic University, the Prince George's County Connector and the section from Van Buren Street to the District line.
In each area, the trail would be 10-12 feet wide where possible and built as a separate path. There would be waysides and seating available at key points, such as overlooking the Fort Totten Metro tunnel. DDOT would assume maintenance and costs for the trail.
The report is the first look into the trail's potential route that the public has seen in a few years.
From it's current terminus at the north end of John McCormack Drive NE to Riggs Road, there is only one proposed route. The trail would pass between the trash transfer station/concrete plant and the railroad tracks. There is currently an open culvert there and that would be encased so that the trail would pass over it.
It would then go over the Metro tunnel just west of the Ft. Totten station. The trail would descend down the hill, at a slope meeting ADA standards if practical, to the west side of 1st Pl. Additionally, a set of stairs with rolling grooves is also proposed to provide a direct connection to the Metro.
Along First Pl, the trail would travel along a widened sidewalk or parallel trail to Riggs Road. It would cross Riggs Road at grade (no bridge as originally proposed) and go west along Riggs Road on an improved sidewalk.
At the end of the retaining wall along Riggs Road the trail would do one of two things:
- In two alternatives (A1 and A3) it would go north just behind the houses on 1st St. NE to Kennedy St. Then it would become an on-street route using Kennedy, 1st and South Dakota Ave. to cross New Hampshire Ave.
- In the other two alternatives (A2 and A4) it would run closer to the railroad tracks and connect to 1st St. NE just north of Madison St. It would then cross New Hampshire at South Dakota Ave.
Across New Hampshire there are again two options:
- An on-street or on-sidewalk route along MacDonald place to Blair Road and then north on a sidepath along Blair
- Continuing east of the community garden as a path to Oglethorpe St NE, then west to Blair and north on Blair.
The trail then follows Blair to Van Buren Street. At this point, there are four options:
- A sidepath east (C1) along Van Buren St, Sandy Spring Road, Maple St., Carol St., Cedar St. and Eastern Avenue to the District line at Takoma Avenue. This option crosses Piney Branch Road at grade.
- A sidepath west (C2-bridge) along Van Buren St, 4th Street, Blair Rd and Chestnut street with a bridge over Piney Branch Rd. Then along the sidewalk along Piney Branch's north side. At Eastern Avenue turn north on a sidepath to the District line at Takoma Avenue.
- A sidepath west (C2-no bridge) along Van Buren St, 4th Street, Blair Rd and Chestnut street with a switchback down to Piney Branch Rd. Then along the sidewalk along Piney Branch's south side. At Eastern Avenue, cross Piney Branch at grade and follow Eastern to the District line at Takoma Avenue.
- A sidepath east (C3) along Van Buren St, Sandy Spring Road, Maple St. and Carol St. to the Takoma Metro station. Then onto an elevated structure that crosses Metro property and the driveway to run parallel to the tracks, between them and the apartments. It would go over Piney Branch on a bridge east of the railroad bridge. And then along the edge of the Cady-Lee mansion property parallel to the tracks to the District Line at Takoma Avenue. This alignment is new to the discussion.
Additionally, the EA lays out the options for the DC section of the Prince George's County connector.
That trail proceeds from the Ft. Totten station to South Dakota Ave on a route yet to be decided. It crosses South Dakota at grade. Then it becomes either a striped, on-street route (B2) or a sidepath (B1) along Gallatin Rd. Finally it connects to a new 220 foot long trail from Gallatin Street across NPS land to the PG County trail north of St Ann's driveway.
The environmental impacts described in the report are mostly negligible or minor. Some A and B alternatives involve cutting down trees or removing vegetation. One C alternative might interfere with views of the Cady-Lee Mansion.
The best options are the ones that make the trail straightest and easiest, limiting at-grade crossings of busy streets and giving cyclists the option to get off road (since on-road options will always remain). Options A2, B1 and C3 best achieve those goals. However, it is likely that they cost more than other options.
Comments may be submitted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail at the following address:
Heather Deutsch, Trail Planner,
Planning, Policy and Sustainability Administration,
District Department of Transportation,
2000 14th Street, NW, 7th Floor,
Washington, DC 20009
Cross-posted at The Washcycle.
There's no need to stay home Wednesday evening, since at least five fascinating and/or important events are vying for your time. First, tonight is the showdown over placing a Capital Bikeshare station at Lincoln Park.
The meeting starts at 7 pm in the Community Room of the Capitol Hill Towers, 900 G St, NE. If you live in the neighborhood, be there to make sure the ANC, DDOT, and other neighbors hear your voice. We've criticized DDOT for simply assuming a few complaints reflect the broader community; now we need to make sure DDOT actually hears the broader community.
There are four of Vince Gray's town halls left, Tuesday in Columbia Heights, Thursday in Barry Farm, next Tuesday in that area that few agree what to call it, the part of 14th Street north of Spring Road, and next Wednesday on H Street.
And Wednesday is a community meeting extravaganza. I wish I could split myself into five people that night.
The Arts Coalition for Dupont Underground will discuss their plans to turn the old trolley tunnels under Dupont Circle into a performance and exhibition space. Up the Red Line, DDOT will discuss pedestrian and bicycle safety in their Rock Creek West II Livability study.
In the aforementioned hard-to-name 14th Street neighborhood, the Office of Planning will talk about revitalizing retail. And farther east, the Historic Preservation Office, HPO, and Councilmember Muriel Bowser will discuss the Takoma Theatre, a landmark that's become a controversial flashpoint on historic preservation versus development debates.
If the federal sphere is more your thing, NCPC is hosting White House officials to talk about how agencies are responding to President Obama's directive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. GSA has done a lot; I'd like someone to ask why the Park Service, which ought to be one of the greenest agencies, isn't pulling its weight.
Dick Durbin has joined the ranks of Congressmen who pick on DC for its inability to instantly, magically melt several feet of snow that smashed the all-time record.
But Durbin might want to look a little closer to home for the source of some problems.
Along Pennsylvania Avenue, for example, the worst job clearing snow came from the National Park Service, part of the federal government in which Durbin is so influential. Commenter Kelly writes:
I walked in [Friday] morning ...along my usual route down Pennsylvania Ave SE and Independence Ave SE/SW.To be precise, while Seward Square (4th-6th Streets SE) is indeed an NPS property, the Eastern Market Metro plaza (7th-9th) was transferred to DC in 2006, and the District hasn't shoveled most of its parks either. Still, NPS has plenty of unshoveled spots all over the region. James, who lives off Georgia Avenue, writes,
Residential and business sidewalks were well-cleared except for the blocks along Pennsylvania Ave SE maintained by the National Park Service (4th-6th / 7th-9th) which were completely unshoveled or plowed.
Although extremely frustrated about the lack of plowing on my side street, I've been understanding of the District's limited resources and limited plowing capabilities. What I don't understand, however, is how the National Park Service has neglected to shovel the long portion of sidewalk in front of Battlefield National Cemetery, located between the Takoma and Brightwood neighborhoods on Georgia Avenue.It's good that Durbin realizes that our snow response could be better. How about he talk to his friends on the National Parks subcommittee about holding a hearing into why the Park Service isn't doing its part?
All the neighbors on the blocks around the cemetery, including a Safeway and a CVS have cleared their sidewalks after every snowfall. NPS has not. Seven days since the first flakes fell and not a single shovel has hit the cement. I've witnessed countless people make the decision to walk in the cleared, but dangerous, street rather than walk through the stretch of uncleared sidewalk. So, what's NPS's excuse?
In recent storms, they've plowed the freeway through Rock Creek while ignoring the walking and bicycling path. What was the agency's mission, again? But maybe that sits just fine with some of our Senators, who generally get chauffered by SUV from their homes to the parking lots at the Senate.
By the way, this is bizarre: the NPS directions page for Capitol Hill parks recommends taking the bus from Naylor Road on the Green Line to get to Seward Square, or a bus from Eastern Market and then walking three blocks when the park is just a single block's walk from the Metro. Marion Park (around 5th and South Carolina SE) suggests a bus from Anacostia with no mention at all of the one-block walk from Eastern Market.
The DC Council held a hearing this afternoon on the Upper Georgia Avenue Great Streets Plan. Georgia Avenue is a long, continuous commercial corridor with some successful shops, some vacant ones, and many in between.
Kelly Shuy, proprietor of Ledo Pizza on Georgia Avenue and a resident of Shepherd Park, testified about the difficulty of maintaining a successful retail space in the corridor. The people and architecture in the neighborhood are wonderful, she said, but after eight years and much promise of revitalization Georgia Avenue "still serves as little more than a boundary line." The many empty storefronts make Georgia "uninviting for local residents and for entering the city from Maryland."
The streetscape itself is uninviting, with narrow sidewalks in many places and few pedestrian amenities. Shuy herself lives only two blocks from her pizzeria yet drives to and from work because "it's the prudent thing to do." She'd love to walk instead of drive, but the way Georgia is today, people don't feel safe walking up and down the avenue to eat.
To solve this problem, the plan focuses on key "nodes", including a "gateway" area near the Maryland border, at Piney Branch Road, and at Missouri Avenue. By filling in empty lots with street-facing retail and adding residential units above, the plan aims to create an inviting pedestrian experience with more local residents to support the businesses.
Needless to say, many residents spoke on both sides of this issue. One resident suggested the area instead emulate the Palisades (one of DC's lowest density neighborhoods). Another specifically spoke to keep her corner (Georgia and Geranium) development-free because there is enough activity that people can't always park directly in front of their houses. That didn't affect her, since she has a curb cut and driveway, but sometimes the driveway gets blocked.
If it is possible to develop the edge, the plan recommends a neighborhood park, a municipal parking garage with ground-floor retail, a "civic building with adjacent open-air marketplace plaza", and finally moving fire engine company 22 to the southeast corner with a small retail building in front. The parking garage would provide more parking that could be shared between federal employees and neighborhood uses; the civic plaza would allow for farmers' markets and outdoor conerts, and the fire station would speed response times throughout the ward (the current station is much farther south).
I'm not going to criticize the parking, because the fact is that this area still has insufficient transit and the corridor is struggling. More and more parking is a terrible idea on top of Metro stations or in areas with robust retail patronage today; here, we need more of a balance. Shuy said she located the pizza shop on a lot with parking, and Councilmember Kwame Brown gave a long speech about how he's just not planning to take Metro from his home in Southeast up to Ledo Pizza.
The best solution is to build the proposed Georgia Avenue streetcar, making it much easier for Kwame Brown and other residents, commuters, and tourists to get to the Gateway area and the other "nodes". Meanwhile, a balance on parking makes sense, though one anti-Walter Reed resident may have had a point when he said a big municipal garage at Walter Reed, where there'll only be a small amount of retail unlike the Gateway Area, may be just the wrong place to put it.
- Bikeshare is a gateway to private biking, not competition
- Judge denies injunction against closing schools
- Long-term closures: A solution to single-tracking?
- Metro policy for refunds after delays falls short, riders say
- PG planners propose bold new smart growth future
- M Street cycle track keeps improving, draws church anger
- Prince George's County struggles to get trails right