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Posts about Bicycling


Should Metro change its rules to allow bikes during rush hour?

Today, Metro does not allow standard bikes on its trains during rush hour. But one of the ideas that came through MetroGreater was to reverse that policy and allow bikes at all times of day. Some of our contributors (as well as some well-known members of the local media...) think it's a good idea, while others don't.

Photo by anokarina on Flickr.

According to WMATA spokesman Richard Jordan, Metro doesn't allow bikes on trains during weekday morning and afternoon rush (defined as the hours between 7-10 am and 4-7 pm) "for the safety of all riders... allowing for unobstructed entries on and exits off the train." He also added that "bicycles are not allowed inside railcars on July 4th or Inauguration Day."

David Cranor thinks the arguments for the ban don't hold much water:

There's no evidence that taking bikes on Metro is dangerous. The argument about space is valid but a folding bike doesn't really take up that much less space than a full-size bike, and how often are passengers really left on the platform because they can't get anyone else on?

[Also,] there is excess capacity in the reverse direction, why not monetize that and create better service at the same time? I've always done a reverse commute and when I used a folding bike it felt silly taking it on an empty train.

There is already a rule against bikes on crowded trains and platforms outside of rush hour, and definitely times when trains are crowded outside of rush hour. Is there any evidence that the system isn't working at those times?

Chris Slatt agrees:
There are clear mobility benefits to allowing bikes on MetroRail all the time, and as Metro has been pointing out - ridership is down, so there must be some "excess" capacity that could be used by people with their bikes. At a time when MetroRail is hurting for money and ridership, we shouldn't be turning people away without a clear and compelling reason to do so. I really think this is one of those problems that doesn't require a regulatory solution. People will naturally balance their need to take their bike on Metro vs. social pressure against doing so in a crowded direction at a crowded time. In general, people don't want to be "that idiot" who is getting in everyone else's way. Will it happen sometimes? Yes. Frequently enough to be more of a problem than tourists in general? I doubt it.
Jacob Mason says they are able to figure this out in New York:
The NYC subway does not ban bikes at any time, and there is certainly greater crowding there than in DC. It is often not physically possible to bring a bike on board a packed train, and you risk a LOT of people being very angry at you if you try. Same goes for strollers and any other large piece of equipment. There are some lines and some directions that are lightly used during rush hour, and this policy allows people to use bikes for these trips.
But Graham Jenkins, a MetroGreater jury member can see why it'd be hard to safely allow bikes on the Metro during rush hour:
It's impossible for personnel to tell whether a cyclist entering a station intends to ride in an off-peak direction.
1. Regardless of which direction the cyclist intends to travel, it's still difficult to maneuver with/around a bike during peak hours in almost any station (and if it's not bad at the origin, what about the destination?).
2. Even if under normal circumstances there is technically room for bikes, if anything goes wrong and results in crush loading, so much the worse.
3.Travel through the core is typically crowded in either direction, particularly during peak hours, leaving no room for bicycles on trains or in stations.
Lessie Henderson, another jury member, agrees with Graham that "if a dedicated car isn't available, then the bikes could get in the way; especially with rush and other events combined." She thinks a reasonable alternative would be to "encourage use of the bike lockers at the stations," maybe even connecting the bike lockers to a discounted Metro fare.

And when this conversation first came up, WAMU transportation reporter and Metropocalypse host Martin DiCaro is pretty against the idea:

So did NBC transportation reporter Adam Tuss and WMATA Board Member Corbett Price, as well as WAMU reporter and Metropocalypse host Martin Di Caro.

Tom Sherwood, another media icon in our region, is a fan:

Kelli Raboy points out that there are compelling reasons people want to bring bikes on:

It's not so much about the merits of the proposal (I don't really have an opinion on that), but more about the perception of WHY people would want to bring bikes on Metro during rush hour. It seems like all the arguments against this are entrenched in the idea that people who want to bring bikes on Metro want to do it out of convenience, or for a "fun" alternative. In reality, people will opt to navigate busy platforms and trains with a bike if it's their only reasonable option.
Alex Baca looks to California to give us some guidance:
BART in San Francisco has designated areas for bikes. BART is slammed regularly and people move around the bikes, which can really only be stacked about five deep before they seriously block the aisle between the seats. It's super-annoying as a rider without a bike and as a rider with a bike to navigate this, but it's far less annoying than not being able to bring your bike on the train for a few hours. Keep in mind that it is not possible to bike across the Bay Bridge, so putting your bike on BART (or an AC Transit bus) is the only way to get it between San Francisco and Oakland.
Svet Neov thinks even without a ban, there should probably be some restrictions:
Does it make sense for Metro to ban bikes at particular times of the day or in particular stations? Yes, it probably does.

It's just a matter of bicyclists not boarding a crowded train. Trains become crowded at some point during their journey. So a cyclist bound for, say, Woodley Park, may board a perfectly empty train at Forest Glen, and then suddenly find himself unable to get out of the way when a horde of passengers board at Union Station or when the train becomes even more crowded at Gallery Place.

On the other hand, does it make sense for Metro to completely ban bikes? Probably not.

If someone is reverse commuting on a Red Line train outbound towards Grosvenor in the morning, chances are there's plenty of room on the train. A similar situation could occur on any line in the middle of the day when ridership is low.

So, some trains may be perfectly able to accept bikes. Especially those that are outside of the core and headed away from it.

Before BART relaxed its ban on bicycles, they actually noted in the schedule (and on the digital signs on station platforms) specific trains that bikes were allowed on. And that works much better than a blanket ban based on time.

For example, let's imagine a Green Line train that is scheduled to depart Greenbelt at 9:58 am. Since the bike ban goes until 10:00 am, bicyclists are not allowed to be on that train. However, when that same train arrives at College Park at 10:03 am, where it becomes more crowded, bicycles are allowed. What is the point of banning cyclists from that train between Greenbelt and College Park? There is none and the goal of the ban becomes obsolete.

What do you think? Should the ban go or should Metro keep it?


College Park recreated Paris's "bus stop of the future" on the cheap

Four years ago, Paris made headlines for its bus stop of the future, a bigger and better bus stop with amenities like bikesharing and a book-sharing library attached. Now College Park has a bus stop with some of the same amenities, but using inexpensive, off-the-shelf pieces.

College Park's bus stop of the future. Photo by BeyondDC on Flickr.

Paris' bus stop of the future

In 2012, Paris's transit agency tried out a luxurious new bus stop design. In addition to the normal sign, bench, and shelter, the stop had electric bikes, bookshelves, wifi, and stylish architecture. It looked great and it made waiting for the bus more enjoyable, but it was expensive and took up a lot of space.

Paris' concept was a neat idea, but wasn't ultimately practical for mass production.

Paris's bus stop of the future. Image from RATP.

But some of the ideas from Paris's attempt make sense. Locating a bikeshare station next to a bus stop makes it convenient for more people to use both. And book-sharing can be a nice amenity, if it's easy and inexpensive to manage.

College Park's version

Enter College Park, where rather than design a custom building, the city simply added some of those components to an existing bus stop using their standard off-the-shelf pieces.

They started with a normal bus stop sign and shelter, then added a standard mBike bikeshare station. To help with maintenance, the city chained a bike tire pump to the station sign.

For the library, they staked to the ground a Little Free Library, a pre-fab wood box for people to take and give away free books. There's no librarian and no library cards; it runs on the honor system, and relies on people donating as many books as they take.

A similar Little Free Library in California. Photo by Michael R Perry on Flickr.

The stop is at the corner of Rhode Island Avenue and Muskogee Street, in front of the Hollywood shopping center, just one block south of College Park's first protected bikeway. The stop serves Metrobus lines 81 and 83, which are among the busier lines in Prince George's County.

It's no grand Parisian bus station, but that would be overkill. For a bus stop in a relatively low-density suburban area, it's pretty darn nice.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.


There's a word for that

On a recent post about short bike lanes near intersections, a discussion started up about whether we should use a technical term or simpler ones. To help you learn some transportation lingo, here are some recently-discovered, never-published verses to the Barenaked Ladies' children's song, A Word for That. Listen below first, then read along:

There's a word for that
But I can't quite recall
When cars wait at a corner and I go around them all
The word for that
Some drivers are annoyed
But others say it's safe and isn't something to avoid

There's a word for that
What does it start with?
The word for that
I'd sound so smart if I only knew
The word for that
Perhaps you do

(The word you are looking for is "filtering.")

There's a word for that
It sure is aggravating
To not remember what's the term for how long I am waiting
The word for that
In sun or snow or rain
How far apart arrivals are for any bus or train

There's a word for that
What does it start with?
The word for that
I'd sound so smart if I only knew
The word for that
Perhaps you do

(Do you mean "headways"?)

There's a word for that
It's different every day
Sometimes I walk or ride a bus or go another way
The word for that
When traffic engineers
Ensure the road is safe no matter what your type of gears

There's a word for that
What does it start with?
The word for that
I'd sound so smart if I only knew
The word for that
Perhaps you do

(Are you nuts, it's "multimodal.")


National links: How do bikes work? We don't really know...

Physicists disagree on what exactly makes bikes work. Kansas City opened a streetcar line earlier this year, and it's doing really well. A number of US companies are moving parts of their businesses into downtowns but keeping other parts in less urban places. Check out what's happening around the country (and beyond) in transportation, land use, and other related areas!

Photo by √Čtienne F on Flickr.

Bicycles. They're a mystery: Even though bicycles have been around over 100 years, we still aren't sure about the physics of why they work. Two competing theories, the gyroscopic and caster, are still being debated. A new research lab could solve the mystery once and for all. (Fast Company Design)

A successful streetcar: Given the poor ridership numbers for a lot of new streetcar projects around the country, it might surprise you to hear that Kansas City's new streetcar line has exceeded expectations. It's averaging over 6,600 riders a day even though it's a relatively short line, it's free to ride and goes through an up and coming district, and there are extensions on the way. (Slate)

Moving downtown... kind of: Many US corporations have long preferred suburban headquarters, but a number of CEOs are moving their offices downtown in hopes of attracting high-skill workers. At the same time, some are keeping lower wage jobs in suburbs and smaller cities, leading to questions of equity. (New York Times)

Where are all the great urban spaces?: In the last fifty years, the US has slowed down on building small streets with human scale buildings, and there's been an explosion of sprawl. If city administrators want great urban places, they need to focus on non-auto transportation and streets that put stores, schools, homes, and churches within walkable distances. (Governing Magazine)

A home to grow old in: Universal design is a way of designing places for people of all ages and abilities. Having a gradual slope instead of steps so that wheelchairs can access a room is one example of the practice. Designers don't always apply the practice to housing, especially those building in bulk, but with so many people aging, it's becoming more necessary to create dwellings that accommodate people through all stages of life. A Seattle company that makes prefabricated housing is focusing on universal design. (Fast Company Design)

Redevelopment in London: For a long time, the area around King's Cross rail station in London was a mixture of banged up and dangerous. But over the last few decades, redevelopment around the district's old rail lines and canals have formed the centerpiece of a great urban place. (Travel and Leisure)

Quote of the Week

"Hoover's zoning program, however, was created specifically to facilitate master-planned suburbs on virgin land. It was never designed to work in existing, built-out areas. So it should come as no surprise that today's city planners struggle to shoehorn urban diversity into suburban zoning schemes that assume car-dominated mobility and a neat separation of uses."

Mott Smith and Mark Vallianatos in the Los Angeles Times, discussing why we need to stop zoning and planning in cities as if they were suburbs.


College Park has its first protected bikeway. But it's only 250 feet long.

Say hello to the Rhode Island Avenue protected bikeway, the first in Prince George's County. It's only 250 feet long and it only covers 1/3 of a block, but it's a start!

College Park's short protected bikeway. Photo by Matt' Johnson.

The protected lane is part of the larger College Park Trolley Trail. For most of its length the Trolley Trail runs either off-street or as normal on-street bike lanes. But for this short segment in front of Hollywood Shopping Center, a concrete barrier makes it a legit, if short, protected bikeway.

As far as I know, it's the first protected bikeway in Prince George's County.

Welcome to the club, Prince George's!

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.


These detours will help you bike during Montgomery County's SafeTrack closures

As part of Metro's sixth SafeTrack surge, trains are single tracking between Silver Spring and Takoma. To help those who use those two stations as well as the ones north of Silver Spring, Montgomery County has laid out a bike route that takes riders to the West Hyattsville Metro station, where trains are operating normally.

Metro's sixth SafeTrack surge is the first to take place in Montgomery County, and on top of the single tracking, trains up to Glenmont and down to NoMa are only running 25% as often as usual. Officials are encouraging the 94,000 riders affected by this surge to seek alternatives like taking the bus or riding a bike, as well as teleworking.

As part of the effort, Montgomery County's bike planners designed a route that directs people from the Red Line stations affected by the current surge toward the Green and Yellow Line's West Hyattsville station.

At the Glenmont, Wheaton, Forest Glen, Silver Spring, and Takoma stations, MCDOT designed and placed large wayfinding signs to guide people on bikes around the track work and along the route it designed.

Dennis Avenue at the Sligo Creek Trail. Photo by the author.

From Forest Glen, Silver Spring, and Takoma, the route runs almost directly to the Sligo Creek Trail, a trunk route whose end is near the Northwest Branch Trail, which runs next to the West Hyattsville station. Signs direct riders along a slightly more complex route from Glenmont and Wheaton.

Map from Montgomery County.

The signs, designed by MCDOT just for this period, are the size of a political campaign sign, in bright colors, and placed conspicuously anywhere there is a turn in the route. They are temporary (and not made to withstand serious weather), so they'll be gone at the end of the surge.

Anecdotally, the signs have been helpful to occasional and first-time bike commuters on Monday morning, filling in known gaps in the permanent wayfinding signs on both county and park property. Also, one person I spoke to wished there was additional information on the sign, or a link to it, such as a web site or QR code.

There aren't directions west along the Georgetown Branch Trail to Bethesda because service is still slightly reduced on the western portion of the Red Line, but the bike route from Silver Spring to Bethesda is already marked with permanent signs.

For Surge 7, which will mean single tracking between Shady Grove and Twinbrook starting August 9th, the signs will highlight a single route from Shady Grove, through Rockville, and on to Twinbrook, where normal service will resume.

Elsewhere in the region, Greater Greater Washington contributor Joanne Pierce noted that she recently saw this handmade sign directing people toward the Huntington Metro Station:

Photo by Joanne Pierce.

It's not totally accurate—only the Yellow Line runs there—but it still lets people know how to get to the Metro.

Have these signs helped you? Are there upcoming events where similar temporary wayfinding for people on foot and bike would be helpful?


A passageway from the Met Branch Trail to Florida Avenue is a great idea. Closing it at night? Not so much.

Plans for a big development in NoMa include new public "bike lobby" that will connect the Metropolitan Branch Trail to Florida Avenue. As of now, though, the storage space and passageway won't be open around the clock, making it less useful and the trail potentially less safe.

An elevation of the planned South Tower at Washington Gateway with the proposed bike lobby. Image by MRP Realty.

The lobby, located inside the planned South Tower of the Washington Gateway development on the triangle between New York Avenue NE, Florida Avenue, and the MBT, will be accessible via automatic doors off the MBT. Pedestrians and cyclists will then descend take the stairs down to Florida Avenue and the Union Market area, developer MRP Realty said in its latest filing with the DC Zoning Commission.

The lobby would include bike racks, an air pump, a water fountain, and information about the trail and surrounding neighborhoods.

The proposed bike lobby in the Washington Gateway development. Image by MRP Realty.

"This connection is critical to creating a link that allows convenient access from the Eckington neighborhood to the amenities of NoMa and Union Market," MRP said in the filing.

The entrance to the proposed bike lobby from the MBT. Image by MRP Realty.

There is one problem: The lobby will only be open to the public from 6 am to 9 pm daily, confirms Matthew Robinson, a principal at MRP Realty, when asked about comments made at an Eckington Civic Association (ECA) meeting in May.

Limiting the hours of the connection would significantly hinder access to Union Market from the MBT, and further isolate the trail at night, heightening residents and users' existing safety concerns.

The MBT needs a full-time connection to Florida Avenue

Adding more access points to the MBT is something the NoMa Business Improvement District (BID) says will make the trail safer. It would increase the number of "eyes on the trail" by encouraging more people to use the facility.

The temporary entrance to the MBT from Washington Gateway. Photo by the author.

When NoMa BID studied how to improve the MBT, it also found that access from the trail to the popular and rapidly developing Union Market area was important to users and residents. The BID identified a connection through Washington Gateway as a good way to do this.

The proposal for a connection between the MBT and Union Market through Washington Gateway. Image from MBT Safety and Access study.

It's shortsighted to limit connections between the trail and any rapidly growing neighborhood. Thousands of new residents will eventually live in the many planned developments along the MBT and around Union Market.

An open-air bike lobby could work

One alternative for MRP to consider is to build the bike lobby as an exterior space, rather than an interior one.

A comparable example is the open-air passageway through 1350 Connecticut Avenue NW that connects the southern exit from the Dupont Circle Metro station to Connecticut Avenue next to Krispy Kreme donuts.

The pedestrian passageway through 1350 Connecticut Avenue NW. Photo by the author.

In NoMa, developer JBG has included an open-air pedestrian passageway through one of the planned buildings between First Street NE and Patterson Street NE as part of what's being called the NoMa meander.

The NoMa meander could include this open-air pedestrian passageway through a building. Image by the JBG Companies.

One issue with such a connection would be keeping the stairwell clean and clear. But this is not insurmountable, as many cities around the country maintain numerous public outdoor stairwells.

MRP wants to improve the trail

The developer plans to invest $150,000 in improvements to the MBT, including landscaping, lighting, and paving improvements. That's in addition to the $1.2 million that it has budgeted for the bike lobby, its zoning commission filing shows.

In addition, the developer says its plans for Washington Gateway include a gym, as well as apartments and balconies, that will face the MBT and help activate the space by increasing the number of eyes on the trail.


Arlington's Fort Myer will soon be much more bike and pedestrian friendly

On August 1st, a long-closed gate at an Arlington military base will re-open for pedestrians and cyclists. The change will make it so you no longer have to take a huge detour to leave that part of the base, meaning travel by walking or riding a bike will be much more appealing.

The Henry Gate pedestrian entrance, pictured in 2012. Image from Mobility Lab/Google Maps.

Located at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall (JBMHH) and known as Henry Gate because the road it sits on becomes Henry Place once it enters the base, the gate is where Arlington Boulevard (US-50) meets North Pershing Drive. The change comes as a result of recommendations from a study by Mobility Lab and Arlington Transit Transportation Partners.

Pershing is popular amongst both drivers and cyclists, running east-west through the quiet neighborhoods of Lyon Park, Ashton Heights, and Buckingham. Pershing is scheduled to receive bike improvements in the near future, and the stretch near the intersection with Arlington Boulevard already features bike lanes and a recently-completed mixed-use development called The Shops at Pershing.

On the other side of the fence, the barracks located just behind Henry Gate house hundreds of young soldiers, many of whom do not have easy access to cars and could really put transit, bike, and pedestrian networks to use. Nearby, there's a CaBi station, a Metrobus stop, Zipcars, and the Arlington Boulevard Trail.

However, because Henry Gate has been closed since 9/11 as part of a wave of increased security, the soldiers in these barracks have to live within yards of these amenities without being able to easily reach by any way other than driving. A base resident would have to walk 33 minutes and 1.6 miles out of their way to reach them without a car, utilizing the main gate at 2nd Street South.

Detour that pedestrians and cyclists would have to take to reach The Shops at Pershing due to Henry Gate's closure. Image from Google Maps.

However, that's all about to change thanks to Mobility Lab and Arlington Transit Transportation. After surveying 467 residents and people who work at JBMHH, ATP found that 88 percent of the commuting population drives to work alone. Once the surveyors solicited ideas from participants on how to combat this issue, the idea to reopen Henry Gate to pedestrians and cyclists caught on with base officials.

After numerous meetings between Mobility Lab/ATP and JBMHH staff, Henry Gate is finally scheduled to reopen on August 1st. The new access point will only be open to pedestrians and cyclists, giving them a convenient way to access the amenities located directly outside the gate and connecting them to the wider transit network via the Metrobus stop and bike trail.

Additionally, keeping the gate closed to cars will ensure that there won't be any new congestion along Arlington Boulevard or Pershing as a result of this decision. It's an incredibly welcome improvement for bike and pedestrian access to one of the county's most expansive military installations.

The Henry Gate pedestrian entrance, the adjacent Metrobus stop, and newly-improved Arlington Boulevard Trail. Image from Google Maps.

A few other recommendations for improving access to Fort Myer for people who don't drive came of Mobility Lab and ATP's survey. For instance, because the vast majority of work trips to JBMHH are made at the same time, the study recommended making employees more aware of carpooling and vanpooling through a service like Commuter Connections.

Also, in conjunction with the reopening of Henry Gate, the base hopes to create a "geofence"—a set pickup location across the street from the gate—where taxi, Uber, and Lyft drivers can pick up and drop off passengers without having to physically drive onto the base, which is currently seen as an inconvenient option due to heightened security measures.

Improving pedestrian and bike access for the soldiers that live at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall is certainly a noble goal. But reducing single-occupancy vehicle trips to JBMHH (and thereby reducing congestion) will not only benefit the base's residents and workers, but also Arlington County as a whole. See Mobility Lab and ATP's full presentation on their JBMHH Transportation Survey here.


This trail could run through the heart of Prince George's

Central Prince George's County is not a bicycle or pedestrian friendly area, but the county's planning department is designing a new trail that will run from Capitol Heights to Largo Town Center.

Photo by Ken Mayer on Flickr.

The trail, which could have its own bridge crossing over the Beltway, would connect the Marvin Gaye Park Trail in DC, four Metro stations, Fed Ex Field, Largo Town Center, and all of the neighborhoods, employment centers, shopping areas, and entertainment venues in between. In the future, it might extend to Anne Arundel County.

The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission completed a feasibility study late last year, mapping out a proposed trail alignment and estimating the cost of preliminary planning for the 8.5-mile long trail at over $630,000.

The proposed trail would start at DC's eastern corner and follow the old Chesapeake Beach Railway right of way to Central Avenue.

The Central Avenue Connector Trail would run from DC's eastern corner to Largo Town Center. Click for a larger, clearer version. Images from M-NCPPC unless otherwise noted.

It would then follow Central Avenue until the road splits away from Metro's Blue Line, at which point the trail would continue running along the Blue Line en route to Largo. This part would all be 12-foot wide multi-use trail.

This is what the trail will look like west of the Morgan Boulevard Metro.

A southern alignment from DC's eastern corner would go south to the Capital Heights Metro on the way to Old Central Avenue at Capital Heights Boulevard. It would then follow Old Central all the way to the Chesapeake Beach Railway ROW. This alignment would be a combination of bike lanes and shared streets.

Though the bulk of the land is owned by Metro, M-NCPPC or the Maryland State Highway Administration, some parts do pass over private property. Also, the trail is supposed to run over the Capital Beltway. The feasibility study shows some alternative routes if Prince George's can't acquire that property, or if it can't build a bridge over the Beltway.

In the latter case, the result is a 1.5 mile detour to Brightseat Road. It's unfortunate that a trail bridge wasn't built in 2004 in conjunction with Metro's Trotter Memorial Bridge over the Beltway.

1.5 mile Brightseat Road Detour.

Another challenge will be building the half dozen stream crossings that'd be necessary. But if these challenges can be overcome or mitigated it would greatly enhancing biking and walking in the area, and make it easier to get to Metro without a car.

Update: Just today, the Transportation Planning Board approved a $109,400 Transportation Alternatives Program grant to pay for the 30% Design for the easternmost 0.32 miles of this project between Morgan Boulevard Metro Station and Largo Town Center Metro Station. This includes he trail, pedestrian/bicycle bridge structures, and two trail crossings.

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