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Bicycling


15th Street cycletrack gets s*** on ... literally

Bicyclists can often feel like people treat their infrastructure like crap, such as parking in the lanes on a regular basis and construction closing them without offering an alternative route. But now, people are literally moving their bowels instead of their bicycles on part of the 15th Street cycletrack:


Photo by @KG_DC on Twitter reposted with permission.

This portable toilet appeared astride the cycletrack on Vermont Avenue near H Street this morning, next to the Department of Veterans' Affairs. After Twitter user KG posted the photo, Darren Buck at DDOT sent a permit inspector to deal with it.

This isn't the first time bike lanes have encountered the brown stuff, but thus far it's been from animals: Horses occasionally drop manure in the cycletracks.

One common response to things like this is to suggest cyclists "just go around" the offending obstacle. But each incident forces people on bikes to ride into a space that either a driver or pedestrian thinks is "theirs," creating opportunities for anger and for dangerous crashes.

As Shane Farthing from the Washington Area Bicyclist Association said at a DC council hearing yesterday,

Despite progress in infrastructure, enforcement, and other protections, the DC bicyclist still, on a daily basis, faces the conundrum of the angry motorist shouting at her to get off the street and the angry pedestrian shouting at her to get off the sidewalk.
And even when cyclists get a small space of their own, some people treat it like a toilet.

Roads


How a road in White Flint is like a ski area

White Flint's master plan calls for a pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly road. The Montgomery County DOT (MCDOT) is disregarding that plan and says it can only build such a road once traffic declines. That's a backward way to look at changing travel patterns.


Photo by Owen Richard on Flickr.

Would you build safe ski trails only after novice skiers showed up?

People for Bikes uses an excellent ski area metaphor to explain why creating a complete grid of safe walking and cycling infrastructure is so critical. Especially in suburban areas, bicycling and walking most places would be considered a black diamond adventure, not for the faint of heart.

Ski areas design their trails so that the vast majority of people who are not expert skiers can find a safe and easy way all the way to the bottom. No ski area would build only black diamond runs and then announce that it would be happy to create some green circles, but only once there are already a lot of novice skiers on the mountain. The novice skiers only come when there are appropriate trails for them. The same goes for walkers and cyclists.

DC has proven that changes to street designs cause shifts in travel patterns. Its transportation department has invested heavily in a network of new bike lanes and protected cycle tracks in recent years. Just last week, new census figures showed that the number of bike commuters in DC shot up from 2.2% in 2009 to 4.5% in 2013, placing DC second only to Portland.

DC didn't wait to prove that there were a lot of cyclists on a particular road before making it safe for cyclists. Instead, it made cycling more attractive, and the cyclists showed up.


Old Georgetown Road in White Flint. Photo by dan reed! on Flickr.

Road designs drive change; they don't need to wait for change

The White Flint Sector Plan, which came out of a long planning process, extensive public input, and county council action, clearly calls for a four-lane road with bike lanes, sidewalks, and a shared-use path that's part of a Recreation Loop.

County transportation officials are instead planning road that's eight lanes if you count block-long turn lanes, with no bike lanes and no Recreation Loop path. They say state rules require a wider road in White Flint until traffic levels decline, when they could rebuild the road to match the plan.

The logic of re-building a road twice makes little sense. If this is really a state requirement, then White Flint provides the perfect opportunity to change or get an exception to whatever regulation prevents the safe street design promised to residents.

The goal of the White Flint sector plan is unmistakable. The first sentence reads, "this Sector Plan vision establishes policies for transforming an auto-oriented suburban development pattern into an urban center of residences and businesses where people walk to work, shops and transit."

More specifically, the plan aims to increase the number of residents getting around without a car from 26% to 50%. It should go without saying that the county will never reach those goals if it spends its limited dollars making it more difficult for people to walk and bike.

But MCDOT and the state are focusing first and foremost on moving cars. If land use changes and a better-connected road grid also make car traffic decline, they maybe they will redesign the roads to accommodate those pedestrians.

This is the wrong approach. The road design inherently encourages or discourages people from walking or biking. When people see a brand new, wide open road, they see it's easier to drive and are more likely to do so. When they know there's a wide, safe path all the way to Metro, they are more likely to opt to bike or walk. Conversely, when they have to cross eight lanes of hot pavement only to walk on a dirt path where the sidewalk is missing or there's just a narrow sidewalk next to high speed traffic, they make that choice only if they have to.

As White Flint community leader Ed Reich wrote, "I know that having to cross a road that wide will be a substantial deterrent to going to Pike & Rose, despite the great restaurants and shops starting to open there."

Travel patterns already are changing

While it's a mistake to wait for patterns to shift before making roads safe for non-auto users, the patterns in fact are already shifting anyway.

In the last ten years, Montgomery County added 100,000 residents while driving leveled off and started to decline.


Montgomery County's population has grown, but the amount of driving miles hasn't. Graph from the Montgomery County Planning Department.

Meanwhile, as more people have begun to move into the White Flint area, Census data shows that already 34% percent of residents in the surrounding census tract are commuting by transit, carpooling, walking, or cycling, and 58% own one or zero cars.

White Flint can transform into a walkable, bikeable, transit-oriented area. But to do that, it needs roads that match this vision, rather than ones that hold the vision back.

Events


Events roundup: happy hours, hearings, and more

If you're a bike enthusiast, history buff, or social media nerd, heads-up! There are terrific events coming up that you should check out. Do some family biking, speak up at a hearing, or have a drink and nerd out about social media.


Photo by Oregon DOT on Flickr.

All that and more is coming up our events calendar in the coming days, so read on and mark your calendar.

Kidical Mass: Enjoy the fall air and some family-friendly exercise this Sunday with Kidical Mass Alexandria, which hosts family-friendly cycling outings. Sunday starting at 11 am, join fellow families at Jones Point Park in Alexandria to ride the Woodrow Wilson bridge over to Maryland, and grab some frozen custard on the way back.

Contributory negligence: Did our explanation of contributory negligence for cyclists and pedestrians rile you up? If it did, Monday at lunchtime attend the DC Council committee hearing for the bill. If you plan to speak, be sure to connect with WABA and let them know!

Chat about engagement with APA: As the American Planning Association wraps up their policy conference on Monday night, join GGW's own Aimee Custis, Andy Le from DC Water, and other great digital strategists for an informal happy hour at Busboys and Poets (5th & K) starting at 6 pm. Talk about digital community engagement, pick up a few pointers, and make some new connections. No RSVP required.

Alexandria bicycle/pedestrian planning: Tuesday night, Alexandria is starting the public process for an update to its bicycle and pedestrian master plan. In light of the controversy over installing bike lanes and pedestrian improvements on western King Street earlier this year, it's likely the update process will be contentious. Make sure voices for walking and biking are represented by attending the meeting at TC Williams High School starting at 7 pm.

S Street book talk: On October 1, head over to MLK Library at 6:30 pm for "S Street Rising: Crack, Murder, and Redemption in DC". Take a look at a dark chapter of DC's past, listening to former Washington Post reporter and drug addict Ruben Castaneda talk about his experiences covering crime, drugs, and the city itself.

Bicycling


A new cycletrack will connect 1st Street NE to the Metropolitan Branch Trail

DDOT has started construction on a short cycletrack on M Street NE, to connect an entrance to the Metropolitan Branch Trail to the First Street NE cycletrack.


M Street cycletrack plan. Image by DDOT.

The new cycletrack will be on the south side of the street, and will function like an extension of the existing 1st Street cycletrack. Both parking stops and plastic bollards will protect cyclists in the bike lane, just like on 1st Street. This will replace all 16 metered parking spaces on the block.

Running only a single block, the new cycletrack ends just prior to where M Street passes under the railroad tracks, where there's an entrance to the Metropolitan Branch Trail.

A new ramp is under construction at that spot, to allow bicyclists to cross the sidewalk and access the trail entrance.

For cyclists continuing east under the tracks, DDOT officials will paint sharrows in M Street's traffic lanes.

At one point on M Street, the cycletrack squeezes down to a narrow 6 feet wide. This is to accommodate the wide turning radius of trucks entering and exiting the Harris Teeter loading dock on the north side of the street. The narrow section will have plastic bollards but no parking stops.

Other bike projects in NoMa

This block-long cycletrack is part of a trio of projects DDOT is working on to fill in the gaps of NoMa's bike lane network.

Earlier this summer, DDOT officials added bike lanes to the 100 block of F Street NE. Next up, they'll rebuild 1st Street NE between Massachusetts Avenue and G Street, next to Union Station, to add a cycletrack and wider sidewalks.

Sometime further in the future, DDOT could potentially extend this new M Street cycletrack west to North Capitol Street or beyond, and east to 4th Street or Florida Avenue.

Bicycling


What is "contributory negligence," and why is it such a big danger for cyclists and pedestrians?

Say you are riding along on your bicycle. Your tail light battery dies one evening, and then a texting driver crashes into you. Can you recover your medical costs from the driver?


Photo by Moff on Flickr.

Or, say you are on foot and need to cross a street where the nearest crosswalks are far away. But then a drunk driver speeds by and hits you.

Or, you're biking and get doored. A police officer, confused about the law, incorrectly tickets you for riding too close to parked cars.

Unfortunately, you may not be able to collect any compensation for your smashed-up bike, your broken leg, or the days of work you missed. That's because of a legal doctrine called contributory negligence.

Only four states (Maryland and Virginia among them) and the District of Columbia retain this outdated legal doctrine. Fortunately, a bill in the DC Council aims to correct this in the District, at least for bicyclists. There's a hearing this Monday, September 29.

How does contributory negligence work?

Generally, after a crash between a motorist and a bicyclist or pedestrian, there is an injured bicyclist or pedestrian and an uninjured motorist. The cyclist or pedestrian often will seek compensation for injuries from the motorist and the motorist's insurer.

If everyone involved agrees that the cyclist or pedestrian behaved perfectly and the driver was completely at fault, the cyclist will be able to recover compensation. Unfortunately, such agreement is rare. If the cyclist or pedestrian was at fault to any degree, he or she will not be able to recover compensation for injuries suffered in the crash.

This is true even if the crash was only 1% the cyclist or pedestrian's fault, 99% the driver's fault, and all of the injuries were suffered by the cyclist or pedestrian. For this reason, it is often called the "one percent" rule.

The cyclist or pedestrian is likely out of luck if the insurer or a police officer believes the cyclist or pedestrian was at fault through misunderstanding or misapplying the law. In rare cases, the injured person can find video proof that he was not breaking a law, but if that's not possible, insurers can and generally do treat a ticket from a police officer as evidence enough that the cyclist or pedestrian was at least slightly at fault.

What's being done about it?

DC Councilmember David Grosso recently introduced the "Bicycle and Motor Vehicle Collision Recovery Amendment Act of 2014″ with Councilmembers Mary Cheh and Tommy Wells also co-introducing the bill. It would update DC law to the fairer, more modern Comparative Negligence standard for crashes between drivers and bicyclists. This means if you're in this situation on a bicycle, your compensation would be reduced to the extent that you were responsible for the crash, but not eliminated entirely.

For example: A motorist exiting her vehicle at night opens her driver's side door into the bike lane, striking a cyclist who had no light at night. The motorist's door is not damaged and the motorist is unharmed, but the cyclist suffers a broken arm from the fall and ends up with $1,000 in medical bills.

Under the present contributory negligence standard, the cyclist's failure to have a light would prevent her from any recovering any damages, even though the motorist broke the law by opening her door into traffic.

Under the new bill, the decision-maker (whether judge, jury, or insurance adjuster) would have to determine the proportionate fault of the parties and determine the damages accordingly. So, if the decision-maker finds that the driver opening her door into the bike lane without looking was 75% responsible for the injury and the cyclist's failure to have a light was 25% responsible for the injury, the injured cyclists could recover 75% of her damages, or $750 in this scenario.

Can this bill cover pedestrians as well?

At the moment, the bill as introduced only applies to crashes between drivers and bicyclists. However, pedestrian advocacy group All Walks DC has worked with Grosso's staff to write an amendment to the bill to cover pedestrians, which he will introduce in committee.

Have other states changed their negligence standard?

Contributory negligence came to the US from English common law. But over time, many courts or states changed the standard to the fairer comparative one through caselaw or legislation.

Today, 45 states and the federal court system have adopted comparative negligence as a basis for apportioning fault between parties in tort suits. Currently, just four states (including both Maryland and Virginia) and the District of Columbia continue to use contributory negligence as a bar to recovery and access to courts.

Is there any precedent in current law for an exemption such as this?

Yes. Current District of Columbia law extends the additional legal protection of comparative negligence to railroad workers.

Who benefits or loses out if this bill becomes law?

Cyclists and motorists alike benefit from having damages equitably distributed after from a collision. (Pedestrians would as well if the bill expanded to cover them).

Insurance companies, on the other hand, presently do not have to pay for the negligence of the drivers they insure if they hit a cyclist or pedestrian who has been negligent to even the smallest degree. Under a different standard, they would pay.

Contributory negligence is not an economically efficient or fair method for determining compensation after crashes. It does not compensate injured parties who were not primarily responsible for their injuries. It allows the insurers of the primarily negligent party to avoid compensating the injured.

This happened to me! How can I help?

If you or other bicyclists or pedestrians you know have been hit and had an insurance claim reduced or denied, please consider testifying at the hearing Monday, September 29 at 12:30 pm. To sign up to testify, email Nicole Goines at ngoines@dccouncil.us or call 202-724-7808.

Transit


Muriel Bowser calls for "Vision Zero," more equity, Metro investment, and new task forces for transportation

On the heels of the release of David Catania's detailed platform, his rival for mayor, Muriel Bowser, has put out her own platform. Here are key parts of the transportation section.

Road safety: Muriel will lead the District's effort to join other cities like San Francisco, Chicago and New York in adopting "Vision Zero," a transportation safety approach that focuses on key areas including engineering, education, enforcement, and policy formulation, to eliminate dangerous behavior on our roadways, in all communities.


Photo by Tommy Wells on Flickr.

Transportation equity: From Capital Bikeshare and the Circulator to the DC Streetcar, the District continues to invest in innovative efforts to link our vibrant neighborhoods. Unfortunately, some efforts and policies have failed to address the needs of certain neigh­bor­hoods, particularly in underserved parts of the District.

Muriel Bowser will designate a senior District Department of Transportation (DDOT) official to be the agency's Transportation Equity and Inclusion Officer. This official will ensure that the agency's policies and plans address the needs and concerns of all residents, particularly those in the District's most underserved communities. This official will also coordinate with other agencies to ensure that all city services include accessibility as a priority.

Bus service: Muriel Bowser will continue to focus on strengthening options for residents that utilize Metrobus by improving transportation services provided to individuals with disabilities, adding capacity to underserved transit corridors, and encouraging the use of dedicated lanes, traffic signal priority, and real-time arrival screens at stops.

Metro: While Metro continues to be one of the highest quality transit systems in the United States, it faces ongoing challenges due to a lack of dedicated funding. As Mayor, Muriel Bowser will seek additional investments from local, regional, and federal partners to ensure that the system's infrastructure can effectively serve the region's needs today and into the future.

Streetcars: District residents have been rightfully concerned about the [streetcar] project's excess costs and delays. As Mayor, Muriel Bowser will lead a comprehensive assessment of the DC Streetcar project to learn from missteps made, correct planning and operational deficiencies by reforming the District's procurement apparatus, and responsibly and confidently move forward with an expansion of streetcar service in a way that meets the needs of District residents and visitors.

Bicycle infrastructure: Muriel Bowser will continue efforts to expand bicycle lanes throughout the District to ensure that bicyclists have a safe space to ride and pedestrians and drivers alike have more predictable streets and traffic patterns.

Muriel will also expand the Capital Bikeshare program to more neighborhoods, including those that have been historically underserved by public transit, increase educational outreach to promote bicycle safety, and dedicate the appropriate resources to complete the Metropolitan Branch Trail (MBT).

Parking and congestion: While the District is committed to long-term strategies that make it easier to travel the city without a car, many District residents continue to rely on their cars as a primary mode of transportation.

Muriel Bowser will create a Parking and Congestion Task Force to identify and recommend legislative and regulatory solutions to ease congestion and address the long-term parking needs and concerns of District residents and visitors. (e.g. accommodating parking near city churches).

Governance: Muriel Bowser will convene a cross-agency team of government officials to review the District's model of transportation governance, with the goal of identifying potential savings and/or efficiencies that could be realized by increased collaboration or consolidation.

Innovation: Muriel Bowser will encourage and promote transportation innovation by convening a working group comprised of transportation policy experts, thought leaders, inventors, and local residents, to identify efficiencies and technologies that can be utilized to expand and improve transportation access [w]ith a broad focus to include mobile application advances, roadway design, and the expanded use of electric vehicles, among other things.

Traffic cameras: Recent studies have shown that the [Automated Traffic Enforcement] program has resulted in fewer collision-related fatalities and injuries, and it has reduced speed-related traffic collisions across the District, even as the city's population has increased. Nonetheless, a recent Office of Inspector General report found that the program needs to be re-focused on public safety, with less emphasis on potentially unfairly profiting from District citizens.

Muriel Bowser will improve the administration of the program by preserving the utilization of speed enforcement cameras deployed in a manner that is supportable by data showing a reduction in driver speed and an increase in pedestrian, bicyclist, and motorist safety.

In the platform, Bowser also says she wants to "appoint an experienced, energetic, innovative leader to run DDOT," which echoes one of Adrian Fenty's leadership practices of trying to find outside-the-box choices to run agencies. In his cabinet picks, including for DDOT, Mayor Gray tended to just elevate a number two or other insider at many agencies.

How do you think this compares to David Catania's platform?

Events


Events roundup: Park(ing) Day 2014

As the weather cools off, it seems the calendar heats up. But that's great, because cooler weather is perfect for enjoying a park(ing spot). Get outside and enjoy Park(ing) Day, a WABA walking tour, or a family biking workshop. If you prefer the great indoors, or talk about the future of Pennsylvania Avenue on Friday.


Park(ing) Day 2013. Photo by the author.

Park(ing) Day: A 2005 San Francisco idea gone international, the annual Park(ing) Day takes over the DC region on Friday, bringing pop-up parklets to curbside parking spaces across the region. While Park(ing) Day is an all-day event, you're most likely to find a parklet operating between 9 am and 3 pm, so be sure to check it out over your lunch break. DDOT promises to have a map of DC parklets, but Twitter is perhaps the best way to find a site near you.

The future of Pennsylvania Avenue: Friday morning, join NCPC at the Newseum for "Residents to Presidents: Pennsylvania Ave's Role in the 21st Century." A panel (including Gabe Klein and author Zachary Schrag) will discuss the avenue's roles: local and national, daily routines and big events, grand and intimate. Planners, AICP credit is available. RSVP is requested.

Walk the Met Branch Trail with WABA: Join WABA this Saturday for a walking tour of the northern phase of the MBT to learn about the trail's next phase, its history, and WABA's role in it all.

Family bicycling workshop: On Sunday, head to Georgetown to join Kidical Mass and WABA's Women & Bicycles group for an afternoon workshop on biking with children. Workshop leaders will go over the ins and outs of riding confidently and comfortably with children, equipment, packing and preparation, and next steps. Bonus: snacks and beverages will be provided! This is event is for all genders and all ages.

Do you know of an upcoming event that may be interesting, relevant, or important to Greater Greater Washington readers? Send it to us at events@ggwash.org.

Politics


David Catania's platform supports Metro, streetcars, bus lanes, bike lanes, transit-oriented development, and more

Mayoral candidate David Catania released a 66-page platform today, chock full of positions on issues from education to jobs to seniors. It includes strong statements on transportation and the environment.


Catania at a DC Council hearing.

Here are a few key quotes from the platform:

Metro: To ensure that Metro Momentum becomes a reality, the entire region will need to prioritize the plan's funding. As Mayor, David will ensure that the District leads the effort with our regional and federal partners to create a dedicated funding mechanism for this vital investment in our collective future.

Streetcars: David will seek to build both the East-West and the North-South [DC streetcar] lines, believing that the system must be sufficiently expansive in order to serve as anything more than a novelty or tourist attraction.

Bus lanes: David will work with community members, bus riders, and transit agencies to increase capacity and implement priority bus lanes on major arterial roadways and key transit corridors.

Bicycle infrastructure: David will expand bicycle infrastructure to all areas of the city, particularly in communities east of the Anacostia River that have yet to see such investments. This expansion can take place in a way that does not displace other forms of transportation. Many District streets are particularly well positioned for installation of protected bike lanes while maintaining sufficient car parking and driving capacity. David will also support the continued expansion of Capital Bikeshare.

Traffic cameras: There is little doubt that speed and red light cameras have contributed to the overall safety of our streets. However, in some cases the deployment of these cameras raises questions about whether the intent is purely to improve street safety or if the real motivation is to raise additional revenue through ticketing and citations. As Mayor, David will demand that the proper analysis is conducted to ensure that these devices are being used to target locations with street and pedestrian safety concernsnot simply as a means to raise revenue!

Vision Zero: David will pursue a street safety agenda in line with the Vision Zero Initiative. ... Vision Zero calls for the total elimination of traffic deathspedestrian, bicycle, and vehicle passengerthrough innovative street design, enhanced traffic management technologies, and education campaigns.

Transit-oriented development: The District's density is one of its greatest economic competitive advantages. Recent studies have found a clear connection between the higher concentration of residents and greater economic output. As Mayor, David will harness this economic potential in a way that creates healthy and livable urban communities, by focusing development around transportation hubs including Metro stations, bus lines, protected bike lane infrastructure, and Streetcar corridors.


Speck. Image from the Catania platform.
A lot of this reads like something a smart growth and sustainable transportation advocate might write. Maybe that's not such a surprise, as the section starts out with a big picture of Jeff Speck, author of Walkable City and a local smart growth champion. Jeff and Alice Speck are strong supporters of Catania, and probably suggested a few ideas.

There is a lot about the environment as well in that section, such as LEED buildings, tree canopy, and water quality, as well as on many more topics in the full document. What do you agree or disagree with in the platform?

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