Greater Greater Washington

Posts about Bicycling

Bicycling


More than 20% of people bicycle to work in some DC neighborhoods

Over 20% of commuters in Bloomingdale, Mount Pleasant, and Petworth get to work each day primarily using a bicycle. That doesn't even include people who use bikes to reach Metro.


Bike mode share in central DC. Image from DDOT.

This fascinating map is part of the background data DDOT is preparing to study a possible protected bikeway on or around 6th Street NW.

It shows how hugely popular bicycling can be as a mode of transportation, even in the United States. What's more, this data actually undercounts bicycle commuters by quite a lot.

It's originally from the US Census' American Community Survey, which only counts the mode someone uses for the longest segment of their commute. People who bicycle a short distance to reach a Metro station, then ride Metro for the rest of their commute, count as transit riders rather than bicyclists.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

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Roads


Use this map to share your ideas for better east-west travel across DC

Is it frustrating to try to travel from Columbia Heights to Brookland on foot, bike, bus, or car? The District Department of Transportation is studying ways to make it easier to travel east-west in this area, and a new interactive map lets you point out problems.


Map by DDOT. map. Click for an interactive version.

This WikiMap is part of DDOT's Crosstown Multimodal Transportation Study, the goal of which is to improve all modes of travel between 16th Street NW and South Dakota Avenue NE. It lets users identify problems with and suggest solutions for
walking, riding a bike, driving, transit, public space, parking, and intersections, and is a user-friendly way to participate in DDOT's search for long-term solutions.

People who frequently commute by foot, bike, bus, car, or other means through the corridor have firsthand knowledge on the area's congestion, safety, and streetscape issues. They're also likely to have ideas on how these issues can be addressed to improve transportation mobility and mitigate impacts on the surrounding neighborhoods.

Beyond the crowdsourced map, DDOT recently kicked off the first in a series of public meetings for the project aimed at gathering feedback.


A map of the study area.

The interactive map will be available on DDOT's website (just click the first image in this post) for several months.

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Bicycling


Nobody cleared the Mount Vernon Trail after Snowzilla. Future storms might be different.

The National Park Service did not clear snow the Mount Vernon Trail after the blizzard, leaving it one of the most prominent uncleared trails in our region's network. Better late than never, the agency says it might clear snow off the trail in the future.


The Mount Vernon Trail south of Four Mile Run on Friday, January 29. Photo by the author.

Snowzilla temporarily brought the region to a standstill with more than two feet of snow. The storm ended Saturday night and the digging out began in earnest that Sunday. Roads gradually became clear and Metro reopened with severely limited service on Monday, January 25.

Trails gradually became usable as well. Montgomery County plowed the Capital Crescent Trail on the Sunday after the storm, and Arlington cleared the Custis Trail and the District the Metropolitan Branch Trail that Monday.

By Friday, Alexandria had cleared the Potomac Yard Trail.

The Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) compiled a good list of which trails and bike lanes were cleared of snow and which were not after Snowzilla.

The Mount Vernon Trail was one of the trails left untouched. While not alone in this distinction, it stands out due to how important it is: it connects the District and the Ballston-Rosslyn corridor to Crystal City, Ronald Reagan Washington National airport, Potomac Yard, Old Town Alexandria, and eastern Fairfax County.

Why isn't the Mount Vernon Trail cleared?

"It's not the policy to clear snow from any of the trails in the National Capital Region," says Aaron LaRocca, chief of staff for the National Park Service's George Washington Memorial Parkway division, which includes the Mount Vernon Trail. A four-mile stretch of the Capital Crescent Trail that the park service's Chesapeake & Ohio Canal division clears of snow is the one exception to this policy, he adds.

As for why this is NPS policy, he simply says: "It just hasn't been something we've come up against in the past."

LaRocca does point to the fact that the Mount Vernon Trail has a lot of curves and hills, something that makes clearing it of snow more challenging than the Capital Crescent Trail, which is built on a former railroad bed.

Previous Park Service comments on clearing snow from the Mount Vernon Trail have emphasised the multi-use aspects of the trail, such as for cross-country skiers and snowshoers in the winter.

Indeed, cross-country ski tracks were visible in the flat, open areas next to the trail between Four Mile Run and Old Town during a run on January 29. None were on the paved trail itself.

Cyclists use the trail in winter

Arlington County data shows 456 cyclists using the Mount Vernon Trail at its airport south counter just north of the junction with Four Mile Run on January 20, two days before Snowzilla hit. The high temperature that day was 30 degrees farenheit, according to the county.


Data from Arlington County.

The county's 14th Street Bridge counter recorded 526 cyclists the same day, with some likely heading north on the Mount Vernon Trail or exiting to Crystal City or National airport before the airport south counter.

The number of cyclists passing the airport south mark fell to zero during and immediately after Snowzilla. The number of cyclists remained low, rising to just three by the Friday after the storm, despite temperatures that ranged from 41 degrees to 51 degrees—at least 10 degrees warmer than the prior week—during the week after Snowzilla, the data shows.

The District cleared snow off the 14th Street Bridge pedestrian path on January 26.

The uncleared snow on the Mount Vernon Trail is the most likely explanation for the lack of cyclists on the trail during what was otherwise a nicer week to ride than the one before.

NPS is considering clearing snow

"We understand that we manage major commuter routes within the boundaries of the National Park, which is both a challenge and an opportunity," says LaRocca, acknowledging the year-round usage of Mount Vernon Trail by bike commuters and other users.

The NPS is in the process of engaging with stakeholders and jurisdictions on "creative ways" to manage trail operations, including snow removal, he says. This includes meeting with WABA and attending a meeting of the Arlington Bicycle Advisory Committee.

Arlington County would be happy to meet and share best practices on trail plowing with NPS, a spokeswoman says. Nearly five-miles of the Mount Vernon Trail traverse the Potomac riverfront in the county.

The final plan, whatever that may be, will take a "holistic" approach to managing all of the NPS trails in the National Capital Region, says LaRocca. However, he was unable to commit to a timeline for when snow may be cleared from the Mount Vernon Trail or other federally-managed trails in the region.

That plan, ideally with a snow removal policy, will be welcome news to the commuters, joggers, walkers and tourists who use the Mount Vernon Trail throughout the year.

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Bicycling


Two Congressmen want to give bikeshare programs more federal money

Federal law doesn't define bikeshare programs as public transportation, which means they aren't eligible for the sustained funding that most transit is. If a new bill becomes a law, that would change.


Photo by Chris Reed on Flickr.

Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Vern Buchanan (R-FL), both members of the Congressional Bike Caucus, introduced the Bikeshare Transit Act last week. The law would make bikeshare eligible for funds dedicated to public transportation, clearing up confusion that both local communities and the Department of Transportation often face when it comes to keeping bikeshare programs up and running.

There are over 50 bikeshare programs in the US, with our very own Capital Bikeshare being the biggest. While many were started with federal money, funding continued operations has been a challenge. The Bikeshare Transit Act will help pay for everything from bike repairs and keeping rebalancing vans on the road to system expansions and new technology.

In addition to defining bikeshare as public transportation, the bill proposes to make bikeshare an eligible project under the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program, which supports surface transportation efforts that work to improve air quality. Since bikes are powered by people and emit no pollution, it makes sense for bikeshare programs to receive CMAQ funding.

The American Planning Association is one of many organizations that support this bill.

"Bikeshare programs are helping communities large and small create new and needed transportation options while also improving local economies and quality of life," said APA President Carol Rhea, FAICP. "Bikeshare has become a proven tool for building stronger, more vibrant, and more resilient communities. APA and the nation's planners applaud the introduction of the bipartisan Bikeshare Transit Act. This legislation will make sure that federal policies and investments recognize what residents and cities already know: that bikeshare works."

Crossposted at American Planning Association's Policy News for Planners.

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Bicycling


America's most bonkers bikeway is in Clearwater, Florida

What do you do if you have active freight rail tracks running down the middle of a downtown street? Add bike lanes, of course!


Photo by BeyondDC on Flickr.

This is East Avenue in downtown Clearwater, Florida. It's one of America's most unusually multimodal streets.

On the left: A one-way general purpose lane with normal car traffic. In the middle: Freight rail tracks. On the right: A major regional two-way bikeway, the Pinellas Trail. What could go wrong?

Actually, it's not as dangerous as it looks. Freight traffic on those tracks is relatively light, and extremely slow-moving. The train in this photo was moving maybe five miles per hour. And unlike cars, trains don't suddenly change lanes. There's zero danger of a CSX right hook.

In fact, the rail tracks are effectively a buffer between the bikeway and car lane. They make a bigger buffer than normal buffered bike lanes get. In a weird way, the tracks are a sort of protection.

So it's totally bonkers. But maybe it works.

What do you think?

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

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Bicycling


Here's a Spanish satire of the downsides of driving

The Spanish government wants its residents to consider cycling as a viable mode of transportation. So much so that it made a video to point out the humor in the frustrations that driving a car can bring.

El mismo día. DGT Campaña de movilidad 2015

Sean felices :D ¡Buen Lunes!¿Les gusta su trayecto al trabajo? Pueden cambiarlo si les es posible, usar la bicicleta contamina menos al medio ambiente y a ti :D

Posted by Vida Sobre Ruedas on Monday, November 30, 2015

Called "The same day", the video is part of a campaign by Spain's Ministry of the Interior called "#Muevateconconciencia," which basically means "get around consciously."

"Same thing, different day," the narrator says at the end. "It's time for a change. Get around by biking, walking or taking public transit and use a car only when you have to."

Do you know of other government campaigns that promote riding a bike over driving?

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Bicycling


2015's greatest hits: Nation's first bicycle HOT lanes planned for Mt. Vernon Trail

To close out 2015, we're reposting some of the most popular and still-relevant articles from the year. This April Fool's joke post originally ran on April 1. Enjoy and happy New Year!

The National Park Service and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) have announced a new partnership to construct the nation's first bicycle High Occupancy/Toll Express Lanes on the Mount Vernon Trail between Rosslyn and Mount Vernon.


Artist's rendering showing how high occupancy vehicles will benefit from enhanced capacity. Image by Peter Dovak.

The all-electronic HOT lanes will require construction of a second path parallel to the existing trail. Once completed, each path will carry one-way mixed traffic (runners, walkers, bicyclists, rollerbladers, and other self-propelled vehicles) on the right, with a left lane set aside for high occupancy vehicles or for users paying a variable toll.

Local leaders and transportation experts hailed the move as a way to relieve congestion on key arteries without digging into the already-strained National Park Service operating budget. NPS spokesperson Val O. C. Pede said that congestion at several key junctions along the trail would go from a Level of Service rating of "F" to an "A" or "B-."

The construction and operation would be funded by Trechiant Ventures, a partnership of bicycle manufacturers Giant, Trek, and Bianchi, who are developing bicycles designed specifically for such facilities.

The HOT lanes will not be separated from regular traffic by bollards or barricades, but will instead rely on strict enforcement. All HOT lane users will be required to use an E-ZPass, just as they would in motor vehicles.

NPS ranger stations, local Whole Foods stores, and participating bike shops will offer special clips to attach transponders to riders' helmets. The lanes will be free for High Occupancy Vehicles using an E-ZPass Flex, including tandem bicycles, bicycles with children in trailers, and joggers practicing for wife carrying races.

Park Rangers will be stationed at the side of the trail with special equipment to detect the number of riders in or on the vehicle, and proper E-ZPass Flex settings.

Rollerbladers will be required to pay double, by strapping one E-ZPass transponder to each of their skates. Bicycle mechanics will also be stationed every two miles to clear the lanes of any breakdowns.

Toll rates are expected to vary between 25¢/mile and $1.00/mile, which would make the Rosslyn to King Street corridor a competitive alternative to Metro's Blue Line. As with the I-495 and I-95 Express Lanes, there is no ceiling on the price. The pricing will be adjusted to maintain a guaranteed 15 mph speed for cyclists, which is also the maximum speed for the trail.

Neighboring jurisdictions hailed the announcement. Arlington County Board member Libby Garvey suggested that "VDOT's enthusiastic participation in this exciting public private partnership makes bicycle HOT lanes the perfect, low-cost-to-us replacement for the canceled Columbia Pike Streetcar."

Alexandria Town Crier understudy Hugh G. Pannier suggested that the city's new waterfront plans would be well-served by additional bicycle capacity along the waterfront, but that the city might demand that signage use a more period-appropriate typeface.

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Bicycling


Arlington wants to be more bike-friendly. Here's how it can.

Arlington has long wanted to "move more people with less traffic," and being a place where it's easy to bike around is a huge part of that. Arlington's not exactly doing poorly when it comes to being bike-friendly, but the county has fallen behind a lot of other places.


Bike riders in South Arlington. Photo by M.V. Jantzen on Flickr.

Where does Arlington stand compared to other locations? One measure comes from an organization called the League of American Bicyclists, which has a program called Bicycle Friendly America that hands out awards to communities, businesses, and universities to recognize how bike-friendly they are. Bicycle Friendly Community awards work on a scale of bronze, silver, gold, and platinum.

The League has recognized Arlington since 2003, when the county received a bronze award. That was upgraded to silver in 2007, and there's been no progress since. It is worth noting that the Bike Friendly Community criteria may be especially difficult for big east coast cities to achieve; only two of the 29 Gold and Platinum level cities in the US—Cambridge and Hilton Head—are on the east coast. Perhaps it is sheer number of lane miles involved, or perhaps a product of older, narrow streets being harder to retrofit for protected bike infrastructure.

Whatever the reason, the League laid out several "key steps to gold" in a bike friendliness report card that was part of Arlington's most recent renewal.

The ideas are a useful road map:

Update the bike plan

Arlington adopted its bike plan in 2008, meaning it's now one of the oldest pieces of Arlington's Master Transportation Plan. It came out at a time when sharrows were the newest innovation in cycling infrastructure, two years before the Pennsylvania Avenue cycletrack would see the light of day, and before anyone had heard of a protected bike lane.

The League recommends that Arlington update the plan; both Arlington's Transportation Commission and Bicycle Advisory Committee have recently recommended the same.

Put money where its mouth is

The average gold level community spends 14% of its transportation budget on bicycling; Arlington spends 1%. Arlington has built a lot of bike infrastructure for very little money over the years by adding bike lanes while repaving roads, but this low-hanging fruit is largely exhausted.

Completing and extending Arlington's bike network will require political will to convert parking or travel lanes to bike infrastructure, a large monetary commitment to move curbs and acquire right-of-way, or a combination of the two.

Adopt and implement a Vision Zero plan

Cities across the nation, including DC, are taking up Vision Zero plans with the goal of eliminating traffic fatalities. With fear of being hit by cars one of the major reasons people don't ride bikes more often, making roads safer is a key piece of bicycle friendliness.

While Arlington has recently made major strides in addressing its most dangerous intersection for bikes, it is clear the County isn't addressing these issues systematically, but rather on a one-off basis in response to citizen complaints.

Focus on equity

Arlington needs to develop a formal way to reach out to minority and low-income communities, the League says, and it needs to be sensitive to what keeps people in these communities from riding and ensure that they are included in the bicycle planning process.

Participating in bicycle planning in Arlington currently requires showing up in-person on a weekday evening to a meeting, which isn't easy for restaurant workers and day laborers in Arlington who get around by bicycle not because they want to, but because they have no other choice. The result of this dynamic is that their important voice has been missing from the conversation.

Start an Open Streets event

A "Ciclovia" or Open Streets event that closes off a major corridor to auto traffic and offers the space to cyclists and pedestrians would go a long way toward encouraging people to try cycling.

Improve staff training

Having on-staff champions and elected officials who understanding cycling is crucial to improving bike infrastructure. To make this happen, Arlington should offer regular bicycle skills courses that include on-bike instruction and in-traffic cycling.

These courses would be beneficial for transportation engineers and planners who work in Arlington, including VDOT staff and other agencies with control over roads in Arlington like the National Park Service. Other county staff and elected officials would benefit from this as well.

Those are the League of American Bicyclists' recommendations. What do you think Arlington needs to do to reach the next level of bike-friendliness? Arlington's original goal was to earn gold by 2011. What should its new goal be?

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Bicycling


Check out Alexandria's efforts to make crossing a busy street on a bike safer

Sometimes called "bike crossings," intersection crossing markings that both tell cyclists where the safest place to cross a street and remind drivers to watch out for cyclists may be coming to Alexandria. Would what's planned for Alexandria make cyclists safer?


Photo by Ted Eytan on Flickr.

Bike crossings are part of the plan for the Wilkes Street Neighborhood Bikeway, which Alexandria Transportation Planner Hillary Orr (formerly Hillary Poole) unveiled in final, ready-to-bid form at November's Alexandria Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee meeting.

(Orr actually called these "bicycle crosswalks," but that's not the standard name, as it implies that cyclists should dismount and walk through them, which is incorrect.)

A bike crossing looks like a crosswalk with separate walking and cycling lanes. At Wilkes and Columbus Street in Alexandria, the plan is to use bike crossings to take the east-west bikeway from a shared street (a street marked with sharrows) to an off-street path.


The plan for Wilkes Street and Columbus Street. Image from the City of Alexandria.

According to Orr, the bike crossing comes from the National Association of City Transportation Officials guide. But the closest thing I found in the on-line NACTO guide was an intersection treatment for bike lanes:


Bike crossing detail from NACTO guide.

What Alexandria has planned more closely resembles a South Korean bike crossing than anything I found in the NACTO guide:


A crossing in Seoul, South Korea. Photo by Chris Rust.

Is it useful? Or just a distraction?

A street crossing that keeps people walking separate from those on bicycles would certainly be useful, if connecting similarly separated facilities, such as this off-street greenway:


Lane-separated greenway in Minneapolis. Photo by the author.

On Wilkes Street, however, bicycle riders are expected to move from a path people share for biking and walking on the west side of the intersection to street people share for biking and driving on the east, even though the bike crossing guides them towards the sidewalk.

At the BPAC meeting, people asked about the single bike crossing that's supposed to carry people over Wilkes Street's intersection with Route 1. Currently there is no bike crossing specifically for westbound traffic. This allows unimpeded flow of left-turning motor vehicles from eastbound Wilkes to northbound Route 1. The modified intersection will continue this practice.


The plan for Wilkes and Route 1. Image from the City of Alexandria.

When asked why a separate crossing was not added to facilitate westbound bicycling, Orr said it was "for safety."

In the new configuration, as in the present, westbound bicycle traffic is expected to cross to the southwest corner before either waiting for the northbound walk signal or proceeding west on the sidewalk. As in the current configuration, this design prioritizes car movement over cyclist safety. In previous discussions of this Bikeway, BPAC members specifically requested a direct connection to westbound Wilkes St for westbound bicycle traffic. Clearly, these requests were denied.

I left the meeting feeling that I was supposed to be impressed by the shiny new "bicycle crosswalk" but was instead disappointed with the second-class treatment of bicycling at the intersection with Route 1.

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