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Bicycling


10 big ideas for making Arlington even more bike-friendly

Arlington is one of the best places in Virginia for getting around by bike, partly because the county has been willing to push the envelope on designing streets to be bike-friendly. With the current bike plan up for an overhaul this winter, here are 10 ideas for how Arlington can continue toward building a world-class bike network.


Photo by Joe Flood on Flickr.

The current Bicycle Element of Arlington's Master Transportation Plan was written between 2005 and 2007, then adopted in 2008.

These are the plan's four major pieces:

  1. Policies: The current plan sets a number of policy goals, from infrastructure-oriented ones like "complete the bikeway network," to cultural, like "create a community culture that embraces bicycle use as a mainstream travel mode." Each policy includes several actions which provide the high-level guidelines for supporting cycling in Arlington, and they're supposed to guide county staff.
  2. A proposed network: There's a proposed network in the current plan - it lays out all of the streets where bike infrastructure is proposed plus an assortment of recommended routes on quiet neighborhood streets. Unfortunately, it's riddled with gaps, and many of the parts that are contiguous are only that way because they're connected by sharrows. This is a major weakness of the existing plan, as it focused on what was easy and cheap rather than on what would create a robust network. When the going got tough, the street got sharrows.
  3. Specific projects: The plan lists out a series of projects for bringing the network together. But aside from stating a loose time frame (long-term, medium-term, or short-term), the plan doesn't say which should get priority, what the schedule for building them should be, how much they might cost, or where the money to pay for them might come from.
  4. Design standards and a Maintenance Plan: This part of the plan is a product of its time. It outlines how wide bike lanes should be, how trails should be built, what materials to use, and more. The listed standards are state-of-the-art... for 2007. Protected bikeways get no mention because they didn't really exist in the US back then.
It's time for a new plan

Since the plan was written, Arlington has implemented the vast majority of the network that the plan laid out. The Shirlington Connector has gone in beneath I-395, as have many miles of bike lanes as well as signs that direct riders through a bunch of quiet neighborhood bike routes. There's also a completed design of the Washington Boulevard Trail.

But a number of groups have also pushed the county to update its old plan, including several of its own advisory commissions. County staff are supposed to follow the county's plans, and without an updated bike plan, staff are on tenuous ground if they try to proceed with building protected bikeways or adding additional bike facilities beyond the disjointed network that is currently laid out.

In other words, as development projects move forward in Arlington, building bike infrastructure to accompany it is going to be difficult unless the Master Transportation Plan calls for it.

As part of the budget process, the county board has directed staff to report back this fall with an outline of how to update the plan. Here are 10 suggestions could help make Arlington a place where everyone who is interested in riding a bike can feel safe and comfortable doing so.

1. Set tangible goals

The goals set out in the current bike plan are generally vague and include things like being "one of the nation's best places to bicycle." The only concrete goals listed were to double the percentage of bike commuters between the 2000 and 2010 Census and to achieve the League of American Bicyclists' gold level Bicycle Friendly Community status by 2011. The problem with both of those goals is that it was impossible to tell whether the plan was sufficient to achieve either of them (it turns out, it was not).

Tangible and measurable goals would go a long way toward shaping a plan that can achieve its overarching goals. One example might be "A complete, connected, low-stress bike network that extends to within 1/4 mile of every residence and business in Arlington by 2030". That is the kind of actionable goal that you can create a plan around, and use for measuring success.

2. Build a complete, connected network

Arlington's current bike plan proposed a network based primarily on what could be accomplished cheaply and easily. If a street didn't have room for bike lanes without removing parking or travel lanes, the plan recommended sharrows no matter how important the connection was in the overall network. It also glossed over street crossings, often having designated bikeways cross major high-speed arterial streets without any accommodation like a HAWK signal or full traffic signal.

With support for cycling and sustainable transportation growing over the last decade, Arlington's new plan could aim higher—for a network that makes sense, that gets you everywhere you might want to go, and does so efficiently.

3. Use modern, low-stress infrastructure

Protected bikeways aren't mentioned anywhere in the existing plan, largely because they didn't really exist in the United States at the time, or at least weren't popular. The existing plan from the late 00s predates the 15th Street and Pennsylvania Ave protected bikeways in DC, and came together when sharrows were new and exciting infrastructure.

A new plan can incorporate all of the innovation and new research that has taken place around bike infrastructure since the mid-2000s. We now know that it takes more than just paint for people to feel safe on our streets, especially on larger main roads. It could supplement Arlington's existing abundance of quiet neighborhood streets with protected bikeways and additional signalized street crossings to support travel along and across arterial streets.

4. Give cost estimates

The existing plan lays out a list of projects, but with no indication of what each will cost. Going into sufficient detail to get a very accurate cost is likely well beyond the scope of a plan and those estimates would likely change significantly overtime, but there is great value in at least determining the order of magnitude of the proposal's cost. Will a project cost thousands of dollars? Tens of thousands? Hundreds of thousands? Millions?

5. Give criteria for setting priorities

After laying out a proposed network and figuring out what projects are needed to achieve that network, the next step is prioritization. Which projects do you do first? Which will do the most to achieve your tangible goals, and which projects get you the most bang for your buck? This is another reason cost estimates are important.

Every 2 years, the county puts together a 10 year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). This is essentially the county's planned budget for major infrastructure investment—building new parks, buying new buses, repaving streets, replacing water mains and much more. If it's a major capital investment, it gets laid out in the CIP. If it isn't in the CIP, it's not on anyone's radar to get built in the next decade.

Having a prioritized list of bike projects and a clear picture of why those projects are most important would help greatly when determining which projects need to go into the CIP, when they should be scheduled for and how much needs to be budgeted.

6. Have a plan for land acquisition

In many places, it is difficult to achieve a safe, efficient, or comprehensive bicycle network because the county simply doesn't own land in the place where it needs a connection. The Columbia Pike Bicycle Boulevards are a great example of this. They are intended to provide a bike-friendly street that parallels the not-at-all bike-friendly Columbia Pike, but they don't continue as far as they need to to provide a legitimate alternative to Columbia Pike, because the land needed is in private hands.


Land needed to extend bicycle boulevards. Areas in pink cannot be built without additional land. Map from Arlington County, modified by the author.

There currently isn't a defined mechanism for the county to acquire land for transportation purposes. The updated bike plan should determine what parcels are needed, prioritize them and create a mechanism for the county to watch for these to come on the market and acquire them.

7. Include a plan for Vision Zero

Safety is the #1 reason that people don't ride bikes. Building out a low-stress bicycle network is part of addressing safety, but it isn't enough. The updated bike plan should lay out a multi-pronged, inter-departmental plan for eliminating bicycle and pedestrian fatalities and serious injuries that includes street design, street operations, enforcement, education, and outreach.

8. Focus on equity

Despite the stereotype of rich white men in lycra, many people who bike for transportation do so out of necessity to get to their jobs in a cost-effective manner. Sadly, those voices are rarely heard at planning meetings or in county board rooms. The bike plan should address this problem head-on and ensure that the planning process seeks out those missing voices and that facilities and amenities are distributed in an equitable manner.

9. Include a schedule

If the plan includes tangible goals, a proposed network and a prioritized list of projects with preliminary cost estimates, the plan can also include a schedule for implementation. The process of determining the schedule would bring the community face to face with the realities of budget for implementation vs time to implement the plan, which is a very important conversation to have. Nobody wants to spend six months building out a robust plan around a shared vision and then find out that the budget we've created for implementation means it won't be complete until 2050.

10. Add new trails

In many ways trails are the highways of the bicycle network. They have mode-separated crossings and many of them are long-distance routes that traverse jurisdictions. Arlingtonians love their trails and want more of them. In a recent statistically-valid survey, Arlingtonians listed paved trails as the most important recreational amenity.


Survey graphic by Arlington County.

Despite this, Arlington has built very few new sections of trail in recent memory. The updated bike plan should look for opportunities to expand the trail network, especially when it can add connectivity to existing trails across the region. With the recent release of the National Park Service's Draft Paved Trails Plan, it appears Arlington may have a willing partner for the first time in many years. Now may be the best opportunity we have to build a trail connection to the south side of the Roosevelt Bridge, better connect Iwo Jima to the Mount Vernon Trail, build the long-delayed 110 Trail or even build a better connection from Arlington to the Capital Crescent Trail which is so close and yet so difficult to reach from much of Arlington.

What else?

What are your big ideas for Arlington's new bike plan? What does it need to succeed?

Bicycling


15th Street's protected bikeway is back!

It's a Bike to Work Day miracle! For the last few months, demolition of the old Washington Post building has squeezed people on both bikes and foot into the same narrow space. But as of this morning, there's both a protected bikeway and a sidewalk, meaning there's a safe way for everyone to travel.


A new protected bikeway on 15th Street. Photo by the author.

When Carr Properties started demolishing the old Washington Post building, at 15th and L NW, it was supposed to set up two separate temporary paths along 15th, one to replace the closed sidewalk and one to replace the closed bikeway. What actually went up, however, was just a single narrow chute. While there were signs saying it was only for bikes, people used it for walking because it was the only option on that side of the street.

This morning, though, I noticed both a temporary sidewalk and protected bikeway, with a barrier in between, running on 15th between L and M Streets. And on L, there are sharrows that make it clear that people on bikes can use the full lane—that may not be as nice as the protected bikeway, but it can work on a temporary basis.

Nice work, DDOT! This is great news for people who depend on the city's bike infrastructure to get around. Now, they don't have to deal with a major gap in the network, which people were fearing would last for the estimated construction time of two years.

The city, and the region, still has a ways to go in terms of providing safe paths for everyone when construction comes along. But this development, made possible by a little paint and some bollards that make things clear, is an encouraging sign.

Bicycling


Friday is Bike to Work Day. Here's where to find a pit stop.

Friday is the DC region's 16th annual Bike to Work Day. It's a great opportunity to build a few extra minutes into your commute to stop at one of over 80 commuting "pit stops" on your way to (or from) work.


An interactive map of the Bike to Work Day 2016 pit stops.

The pit stops offer refreshments, raffles, and free t-shirts to those who register. Each pit stop has something a little different: elected officials and entertainment will be at some, and some will be open in the afternoon for your commute home.

Bike to Work Day also encompasses commuter convoys, biking buddies, and other resources for first-time riders. Plus, MARC will be running its bike car for commuters that day.


BtWD 2009. Photo by Transportation for America on Flickr.

Last year's Bike to Work Day in our region attracted over 17,000 participants. With Metro's SafeTrack starting soon, bicycling will be an important commuting alternative for some people. If you'll be impacted by SafeTrack and are considering bicycling as an alternative, Friday is a great day to get out there and test your route!

Will you be joining this year? If so, don't forget to snap a photo or two and add them to the Greater and Lesser Washington Flickr pool, and the official Bike to Work Day Flickr pool, too.

Bicycling


How healthy is bike commuting? More than you might think.

An article in today's Post Express says bike commuting is more dangerous than you'd think. That may or may not be true, but even if it is, it ignores years of studies that show the benefits outweigh the risks, and on the whole biking is statistically far more likely to adds years to your life than to harm you.


Photo by Heber Farnsworth on Flickr.

The article starts with an unsettling story about Inez Steigerwald, a teacher who has long commuted by bike (and who wrote about riding on the Metropolitan Branch Trail for Greater Greater Washington this time last year) hitting a patch of ice, falling off her bike, and breaking her arm very badly.

From there, author Sadie Dingfelder cites a 2007 study by the Centers for Disease Control that concluded that "nationwide, you're more than twice as likely to die while riding a bike than riding in a car, per trip." She adds that cyclists are about five hundred times as likely to die as the average bus passenger, and that a 2015 study concluded that cyclists inhale three times as much air pollution as drivers.

Payton Chung says the problem is that the article buries the lede by focusing on the pitfalls of riding a bike but not the benefits. "Bicycling and walking are healthful, moderate exercise that, on balance, add years to the average person's life," he says.

"Cycling is not inherently more dangerous than other modes of transportation," adds Kelli Raboy. "It's only more dangerous when you factor in the effect of cars. I think the article obfuscates this fact."

Further discussion fleshed out Kelli's point: Since a relatively small proportion of people use bikes for transportation, the number of injuries per trip are high. At the same time, there's evidence to show that as more people ride bikes, the number of crashes goes down. That means that as more people ride bikes, the per trip metric will actually show that doing so is quite safe.

According to David Cranor, who wrote his own full response to Dingfelder's article, stacking data about crashes and injuries for people riding bikes up against data about drivers makes for an apples to oranges comparison.

Comparing the average type of person is flawed, in part, because the population of motorists and cyclists differ so much. Cyclists are overwhelmingly more male and men are fatally injured 122% more often while cycling than motoring. In addition, there are many cyclists under 16 years old, but very few drivers of those ages.

In other words, the data presented here doesn't tell you if YOU personally will be more at risk if you bike than drive. It tells you that the self-selected group of people who choose to bike are more at risk than a self-selected group of motorists.

Regarding the possibility of inhaling more pollution, Steve Seelig pointed toward a recent study that found the benefits of riding a bike (or walking) to drastically outweigh the negative impacts in terms of respiration.

"[Bike commuters inhale more pollution than drivers] on identical routes," stresses Cranor. "If your bike ride takes you on the Capital Crescent or Mount Vernon Trails, that is almost surely untrue."

And Dingfelder actually notes, later in the article, that "while injuries rob casual cyclists, age 18 to 64, of five to nine days of life and air pollution subtracts between one and 40 days, the benefits of cycling adds three to 14 months to your lifespan." She also quotes a health researcher in Boston: "While accidents and air pollution pose serious risks, bike commuting is still the best choice for your overall health."

Bicycling


In Playa Del Coco, Costa Rica, riding a bike is a way of life

As a transportation nerd, I spent part of my recent vacation in Playa Del Coco, Costa Rica observing how people move through the main street. What I noticed most was the bike culture, which resembled organic chaos where everything still managed to run smoothly.


A bike rack outside of the main grocery store. Note that none of the bikes have locks! All photos by the author.

In Playa Del Coco, people bike on the main street all day and night long, and there are very few rules of the road; the way people move would give most traditional traffic engineers a mild heart attack. But at the same time, everything seems to work.

Here are some takeaways and photos from what I observed:

1. No one wears a helmet. I did not see a single person wear a helmet while riding a bike. I also did not see any crashes. Perhaps given the volume of people who bike, motorists know to look out for bicyclists. This would support the findings of a study from University of Colorado Denver that concluded the safety of people riding bikes increases with more bikes on the road.

2. Woman Power! Anecdotally, most of the people that I saw riding a bike were women and girls. Many of these women and girls biked around with small children. A few had bike seats for the children, however, the majority of children were sitting on a back rack meant for a pannier or the top tube.


A woman biking with child on rear rack.

3. Tandems not required. It is not uncommon to see two adults on a bicycle built for one person. As a child, I remember riding around with my cousins on handlebars or seats. However, until my experience on Costa Rica, I had never seen two adults on a bike.

4. Feet to the left. Whether it was adults or children, most "passengers" sit on the top tube of the bike with their feet to the left. Perhaps since most people have their children sit that way, it is a habit that carries into adulthood.

5. Take your time. Compared to people who ride bikes in the District, people in Costa Rica who use bikes for transportation bike slowly. Most of the bikes were beach cruisers that do not lend themselves to Tour de France-esque riding. In addition, the culture has a slower pace than urban areas in DC, which likely plays into the slower bike riding culture.

6. Bike lock optional. One thing we can file under, "I wouldn't believe it if I hadn't seen it," is the fact that people in Playa del Coco rarely lock their bikes. They leave their bike on the bike rack or leaning against a building or street post. Some people lock their bikes, but it is rare.


A man biking with a woman sitting on the top tube.

Often times planners in the US look to Europe for examples of bike culture as seen in the growing popularity of protected bike lanes. My experience in Costa Rica has shown me planners should consider lessons from other parts of the world including Latin American.

This post originally ran on Nspiregreen's blog.

Bicycling


A law that blames you, instead of the driver who hit you, could soon meet its end

In 2008, a driver in a minivan hit me (Tracy) when I was riding my bike on Connecticut Avenue, fracturing my pelvis in three places. The driver's insurance company denied my claim because of a law that says if you're even 1% at fault, you can't collect anything. The good news? DC is moving to change this.


Stickers from an effort to do away with contributory negligence. Image from WABA.

Currently, DC, Maryland, and Virginia use what's called a pure contributory negligence standard to decide who pays what damages after a vehicle collision involving someone on bike or foot. We wrote about contributory negligence in 2014, but the basic thing you need to know is that under this standard, if the person is even 1% at fault for a collision, they can't collect anything from the other party (or parties).

Insurance companies benefit from contributory negligence because it makes it very low risk to deny a claim, since the legal standard a court would apply is so broad.

Most people, however, agree that this standard is unfair—in fact, Alabama and North Carolina are the only states aside from those in our region not to have moved to an alternative legal standard that compares the fault of the parties and allocates responsibility to pay damages according to who was more to blame, known as comparative fault.

This might all change soon

On April 21, Councilmember and Judiciary Committee chair Kenyan McDuffie brought the Motor Vehicle Collision Recovery Act of 2016 to a vote. It passed out of Committee 3-0 and is now awaiting two votes before the full council.

This bill would make it so a person on a bike or on foot who was contributorily negligent in a crash with a motor vehicle would still be able to collect damages if they were less than 50% at fault.

The version of the bill that came to markup had two minor but substantive changes from one that was introduced last January. First, it now includes a definition of "non-motorized user" to mean "an individual using a skateboard, non-motorized scooter, Segway, tricycle, and other similar non-powered transportation devices." These vulnerable road users are now explicitly covered by the bill, in addition to bicyclists and pedestrians.

Secondly, the bill expressly retains the "last clear chance" doctrine, something that is already available under the law in the District. The basic idea behind last clear chance is that even if the plaintiff (the person who gets hit) is contributorily negligent, the plaintiff's negligence is not a bar to recovery if the defendant (motorist) had the last clear chance to avoid the accident.

Reserving last clear chance will likely result in greater protection for bicyclists because in circumstances where the bicyclist is contributorily negligent, the bicyclist would still be able to recover for damages if the motorist had the last clear chance to avoid the collision.

The bill must be approved by the Committee of the Whole and receive two affirmative votes by the full council. It would then go to the mayor for her signature. Afterwards, the bill becomes an act and must go through the Congressional approval process before becoming law. Both votes could take place before the summer recess.

Who does contributory negligence hurt?

The contributory negligence standard is particularly hard on bicyclists, in part because the public is not well-educated about bike laws in general. But the reality is that contributory negligence is actually hard on anyone with relatively small damages to claim and/or no applicable insurance coverage (e.g. pedestrians).

Most personal injury attorneys work on a contingent fee basis, and small cases do not adequately compensate them for their time. Thus, though the cost of replacing a bike or a few thousand dollars in medical bills may be substantial for an individual, it's not enough to attract an advocate to take on a driver's insurance company.

Contributory negligence is hardest on low-income people

To some, the pain and damages that fall under this threshold are the difference between getting by and falling behind. There can be no doubt that this has real consequences for seniors, communities of color and low-income individuals who can't just call in sick and watch Netflix until a back sprain heals or buy a new bike.

We know that 38% of DC households don't have access to car. We know that 28% of trips made by DC households are by foot, and another 20% by transit (which includes some walking to access). The web of incentives and laws that we're all traveling in every time we take a step or pedal across the street to the bus stop, or get behind the wheel of a car, directly affects our quality of life and shapes our behavior and choices.

Councilmember Mary Cheh (Ward 3) introduced the bill. The bill's sponsors are Councilmembers Grosso (at-large), Evans (Ward 2), Bonds (at-large), and Allen (Ward 6); Councilmember Alexander (Ward 7) is a co-sponsor.

With this legislation, the DC Council has an opportunity to choose fairness and common sense. Let your councilmember know that this matters to you: thank them for supporting the Motor Vehicle Collision Recovery Act of 2016 or let them know you want to see their support.

Bicycling


Your college doesn't want your old bike. Give it to someone who does.

Get your diploma, abandon your bike. This spring ritual is almost as familiar on college campuses as Pomp and Circumstance. But you can do a lot of good by donating your bike rather than bailing on it.


Photo by Andreas Kambanis on Flickr.

It's not uncommon for students to get to college with a bike only to lock it up and forget about it. But when you graduate, you shouldn't just leave it there when you know you're never coming back.

Abandoned bikes make riding tough on others

Bike parking is a scarce resource. Most outdoor racks are meant for short-term use, not long-term storage. Each spot taken up by an abandoned bike is a spot not available for a bicyclist who needs it.

With abandoned bikes taking up valuable space, bicycle parking becomes less convenient for potential users, which could dissuade people from trying to bicycle at all. Additionally, a rack with abandoned bikes might attract thieves and scavengers, making bike parking less secure overall.

While it's likely the university will eventually remove abandoned bikes, that could be weeks or months away. Save the maintenance workers and public safety staff the time and hassle of cutting your lock, storing, and eventually disposing of your old bicycle by dealing with it yourself.

Serious good can come of your bike even if you don't care about it

Instead of abandoning your bike, consider donating it. Before leaving campus, take one last ride to drop your bike off at a local non-profit like Gearin' Up or Phoenix Bikes, where they'll fix your bike up and get it to someone who could really use it.

For the more globally-minded, consider Bikes for the World, an organization that sends used bicycles to developing countries, by either dropping off your bike at a partner shop or at at one of their collections this month.

Buying a new bike isn't an option for every potential bike commuter. Community-oriented organizations like these help provide bicycles to would-be bicyclists who might not have otherwise have access to one. And even if your old bike isn't functional, parts of it might still be and those parts can be used in repairs to get other bikes back on the road.

Even if your old bike is no longer part of your life, it still has value. As you move on to the next stage in your life, help your bike move on too.

This post originally ran in the spring of 2015, but since the issue comes up every year, we figured a reminder wouldn't hurt!

Bicycling


Out: The Metropolitan Branch Trail's sharp curve at R Street. In: A straighter, smoother ride.

Today, people using the Metropolitan Branch Trail have to make two sharp turns at R Street NE to stay on the trail. The NoMa Business Improvement District has plans to "soften" the route by making it straighter and to add a small park alongside it.


A conceptual drawing of the softened curve on the MBT and the new small park at R Street NE. Image from NoMa BID.

After the NoMa BID studied how to make the MBT safer, it called this corner of the trail "the single most cited area of concern on the trail for personal safety, rider comfort, and placemaking."

In addition to softening the curve at R Street, the BID also plans to build a long-planned Q Street connection to the trail as part of its new large park, temporarily dubbed the NoMa Green. The connection will shorten the walk to the MBT, the Metro and shops in NoMa for nearby residents.

"It's going to be a single whole in the end," says Robin-Eve Jasper, president of NoMa BID, on the new plot and the NoMa Green.

"We really need to get the designer for the NoMa Green on board and then we can ask, 'optimally what does this all look like?'" she says of the two spaces, which will be designed together.

Other improvements may be made to MBT as part of the green. NoMa has received proposals from designers that include raising the trail where it passes the green to increase separation and widening it to reduce bike-pedestrian conflicts, says Jasper.


The NoMa Green site, and the Q Street connection. Image from NoMa BID.

MBT users should not expect immediate changes. While NoMa is working to hire a designer now, both the new plot and green will need to go through a design and public comment phase before construction can begin. At best, that will be at the end of 2017.

A developer donated the land

Developer Foulger-Pratt made softening the curve on the MBT possible. The company is giving the 23,000 square foot plot to NoMa while reserving the right to build a parking garage underneath it as part of a coming development.

While the garage could delay construction to at least 2018 and require a temporary rerouting of the MBT, it is better than the alternative, which would be no change at all.

NoMa has used all of the funds it budgeted for land acquisitions, says Jasper. It has spent $17.2 million of the $50 million it has for parks from the District government to acquire land for the green and a new Third Street park at L Street NE.

The remaining money will go toward designing and building NoMa's system of parks. These includebrightening four underpasses under the throat tracks to Union Station and a mid-block "meander" between North Capital Street and First Street NE, in addition to the other spaces mentioned.

"The likely scenario is we end up with a temporary condition that is somewhat suboptimal on the northern piece for six months to a year," says Jasper on the impact to the MBT if Foulger-Pratt goes forward with an underground garage.

The developer would pay for a temporary rerouting of the trail, she adds.

Bicycling


Going Dutch: Planners from the Netherlands make suggestions for bike lanes in DC

In late April, Dutch cycling experts met with DC area planners, engineers, and feds to look at cycling conditions in the West End neighborhood. They all teamed up to draft a plan that would build connections to trails and add new segments of on-street bikeways, all with the goal of creating a safe, easy-to-use cycling network.


The Netherlands are the world's gold standard for bike infrastructure. Photo by Christopher Porter on Flickr.

The Dutch Cycling Embassy is a public-private partnership that serves economic development and foreign policy goals of the Dutch government, exporting their safe, convenient, and mainstream cycling culture to the world through infrastructure design expertise. The Royal Netherlands Embassy brought this initiative to DC in 2010 for a "ThinkBike" workshop focusing on L and M Street.

The "Dutch way" emphasizes clear infrastructure design criteria to create a "joyful" cycling experience. The Netherlands is the western world's most successful country at actually getting people onto bikes. Unlike in the US where we often plan bikeways only where we can fit them in without upsetting too many drivers, in the Netherlands, the safety and convenience of cyclists get full treatment.

Dr. Peter Furth of Northeastern University, who teaches an annual summer course on bicycle infrastructure design that takes American civil engineering students to the Netherlands, pioneered translation of this vision to our side of the Atlantic through his "Level of Traffic Stress" typology in the United States.

DC has sometimes struggled to build the kinds of bike lanes that are commonplace in the Netherlands. The Pennsylvania Avenue bike lanes, from concept to present day, have generated five pages of posts on GGWash alone through multiple redesigns, tweaks, and controversies. The L and M Street NW bikeway that were the focus of the 2010 ThinkBike workshop have also struggled (quoth contributor Dan Malouff: "They're almost Dutch. Almost.").

Workshop attendees first considered the dangers of biking in DC

There's clearly more to learn. Last month, the Cycling Embassy returned to take a look at the West End, along with over 50 local bicycle planners, advocates, experts, and policy professionals. Many staff from USDOT were in attendance, even as their boss was trying out a bike in Amsterdam.

The emphasis was sober rather than joyful, with the DDOT professionals emphasizing the need to make roads safer. Virginia Tech planning students presented an analysis of bike crashes that showed clear problems with the key north-south connections to the West End (21st Street NW and 17th Street NW) and the core east-west spine of the neighborhood, Pennsylvania Avenue.


22nd Street NW between C Street and Virginia Avenue today. Image from Google Maps.


What if a two-way protected bikeway replaced the existing security planters and buffers?

Participants also noted an opportunity to substantially increase connectivity to the regional trail network, through improved wayfinding and short segments of infrastructure upgrades to and from trail connections to Rock Creek, the Capital Crescent Trail, the Roosevelt Memorial Bridge (aka I-66), and the Arlington Memorial Bridge.

However, increasing connections to low-stress cycling would likely necessitate serious work on Virginia Avenue, lest more crash hotspots bloom.


A map of the 194 West End bicycle crashes between 2010 and mid-2015. Data from DDOT, map by Virginia Tech urban/regional planning studio spring 2016 students.

The result was a world-class bike plan... but will it actually happen?

The final proposed network conference attendees came up at the end of the workshop included an ambitious wish list of new protected bikeways on DC's streets, including the notorious Washington Circle.


ThinkBike DC 2016 proposed network. Map by the author.

It is worth noting that the corridors identified and prioritized by this workshop, including Pennsylvania Avenue, Virginia Avenue, G Street, 17th Street, 21st Street, and 22nd Street NW, correlate almost exactly with the vision of MoveDC, DDOT's long-term transportation plan.

It's nice to see that at the planning level, a plan DC already came up with was already on the same page as the Dutch. It remains to be seen, though, what we can achieve at the design level. Workshop participants cycled the study area, measured rights of way, and sketched potential designs. In the safety of a workshop of cycling experts, parking was removed left and right, and a bike lane never had to give way to a bioretention swale.

In the real world, there are more diverse stakeholders and tradeoffs when space is at a premium, as it is in a neighborhood where real estate is doing "phenomenally well." And at the edges of our study area, we didn't dare tell the Dutch about our "trails" with unmarked connections and crossings, broken pavement, narrow, crowded surfaces, and dead-end trailheads.


It's easy to build protected bike lanes on paper!

Trail connections are (hopefully) the next step

The region's missing piece is connections from streets to our longer bike trails. WABA has recently invested in advocacy capacity to advance this, and the National Park Service just dropped a mic: a Paved Trails Study complete with a regional vision, specific segments delineated, measurable goals, and capital recommendations.

The report acknowledges the NPS has no trail design standards, recommends developing some, and proposes a National Capital Trail (hellooooo "Bicycle Beltway!").

If you care about trails in our area, check it out and submit comments. The comment period is open until May 19.

Bicycling


College Park is launching a bikeshare system!

Prince George's County's first bikeshare system, mBike, is launching today in College Park.


The mBike station near the Greenbelt Metro. Photo by Dan Janousek.

mBike has 150 bicycles and 14 stations, located throughout College Park and the University of Maryland campus. Seven stations are spread out evenly within the UMD campus, generally in front of key destinations such as the Stamp Student Union, the Eppley Recreation Center, and one near an entrance to the Paint Branch Trail.

Four of the stations are located along Baltimore Avenue, along the Route 1 corridor, including one station at City Hall, another at a hotel, and a third near Northgate Park and Varsity Apartments. There is one mBike station at the College Park Metro station, which will be helpful for students and visitors to travel from the Metro station to downtown and the UMD campus, an approximate five-to-ten minute bike ride.

The last two stations are placed in the Hollywood neighborhood of College Park, one at the Holllywood Shopping Center near the REI store and the other near the Greenbelt Metro.

The cost of bike share memberships range from a $6 day-membership to a $65 annual membership. Regardless of membership type, the first hour of use is free and then costs $3 per hour. Similar to other bike share systems, riders can have unlimited rides at no additional charge as long as they formally end their trip at a station within one hour.


All images from Zagster unless otherwise noted.

mBike uses smart bike technology, which allows users to access a bicycle with a smart phone or text message. The app or the text message provides the rider with a code which gives them access to a key attached to the bike. The technology is fast evolving and it's possible that future versions will have Bluetooth or wireless locks.

Since the mBike bicycles have their own integrated bike locks, users can stop mid-trip and safely lock their bike share bicycle to any bike rack to run an errand or take a break before returning the bicycle to a mBike station in College Park.

The mBike system isn't compatible with the Capital Bikeshare system; College Park officials reached out to Motivate (formerly Alta), CaBi's operator, during the procurement process, but the company didn't submit a proposal.

Zagster, a bike share operating firm that manages programs in many cities and university campuses including Carmel, Indiana, Medford, Oregon, and the University of Ohio Ohio State University is managing mBike. Zagster also operates a bike share system for BWI airport, allowing travelers and airport employees to ride the BWI Trail.

This system will be an excellent opportunity for College Park, Prince George's County, and anyone interested in bikeshare to experience a system that uses a different type of technology than what has been used in other parts of the region, as well as being a valuable transportation option for people in the area.

In addition to bikeshare for College Park, Prince George's County is currently engaged in a feasibility study to determine the best approach for bringing bikeshare to the Anacostia Trails Heritage Area and National Harbor. Findings from the feasibility study are expected this summer.

There's a kick-off event for the launch today, at 3pm on the University of Maryland campus.

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