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Bicycling


Here's where Reston and Tysons' CaBi stations will go

Capital Bikeshare is coming to Fairfax County this fall. Reston will get 132 at 15 stations, and Tysons will get 80 bikes at 14 stations.


Reston Bikeshare locations.

The county's Board of Supervisors approved a $1.7 million plan to bring Capital Bikeshare to Fairfax late last year; the county bought bikes, docks, and related equipment after the deal was originally announced. Fairfax plans to have the stations installed and online later this fall.

In some Twitter Q&A earlier on Tuesday, the County noted that there are no current plans to expand the program to Vienna or Huntington "at this time."


Tysons Bikeshare locations. Image from Fairfax County.

Phase one of bringing Bikeshare to Reston is focused on the north side of the city since there's more of a mix of businesses, homes, and shopping areas above the toll road around Reston Town Center.

While shown as one on the above image, the Wiehle-Reston Metro station will have two Bikeshare stands. They'll be approximately a mile away from the next-nearest station, which is down Sunset Hills Road towards Reston Town Center.

Future expansion of the program within Reston will bring bikes to the south side of the Toll Road and "village centers," according to the County's Twitter.

The Bikeshare locations in Tysons will include a stand at all of the Silver Line stations, several at both halves of the Tysons malls, and a few other stations interspersed along other thoroughfares with new housing developments or business establishments. Five streets in Tysons received new bike lanes last year to help make biking in the area easier.

While Fairfax's new stations won't be densely packed in, they should make shorter trips through some areas easier, and likely more enjoyable than by car.

Public Spaces


This plan would make it easier to walk or bike from L'Enfant Plaza to the Southwest Waterfront

For the past year, the National Park Service has been working on a way to make it easier to pass through Banneker Park, from L'Enfant Plaza to the forthcoming Wharf development and Anacostia Riverwalk Trail. It just released its plan for making that happen.


The NPS's preference for the Banneker Park design.

Right now at Banneker Circle, there are no curb ramps to get from the roadway to the I-395 pedestrian bridge, the path to the intersection of Maine Avenue and 9th Street NE, or the informal path to Maine Avenue. The plan to change that, which NPS has identified as its "preferred alternative," calls for two new paths and a new staircase. It's a continued improvement over the concepts presented last summer.

The staircase replaces the existing informal pathway with a direct connection between the park's west side and the crossing that leads people across Maine Avenue and to the Wharf development at the Southwest Waterfront. The staircase is set to include transition areas for safe and comfortable access, integrated lighting, and a bicycle trough.


A rendering of Banneker Park from the Wharf side of Maine Avenue.

An 8-foot wide, ADA-compliant sidewalk will go in place of the existing path, running from the corner of Maine Avenue and 9th Street SW to the park's east side. About halfway up the hill, it crosses the eastbound lane of L'Enfant Plaza, then follows alongside that lane before crossing the westbound lane at the top of the hill.

There will also be a new crosswalk on the north side of the park, and all of the new sidewalks will get curb ramps, which aren't there now.


Rendering of Banneker Park from 9th and Maine

In addition, a second 8-foot wide ADA-compliant path will connect the pedestrian crossing to the Wharf to the other path's L'Enfant Plaza crosswalk.

The new design also includes new trees, paying homage to the park's original design by Dan Kiley. There will be restored landscaping, potential stormwater retention areas, and the 6-foot wide sidewalk along the north side of Maine Ave will get wider.

The addition of curb ramps, stairs, crosswalks and ADA-compliant paths should make the whole area easier to traverse for people on bikes, on foot, or in wheelchairs. It should also create an improved connection between the I-395 bicycle/pedestrian bridge, the National Mall and the Anacostia Riverwalk.

NPS has considered another design, calling it the "non-preferred alternative." That one would create a parallel staircase and ramp around the east side of the park that ran to the pedestrian crossing to the Wharf.

NPS has taken the project, started by the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC), through the Environmental Assessment process and will be returning to the NCPC for a revised concept review on April 7.

Bicycling


A short new trail connection will go a long way in Arlington

After years of delay, a trail connection between Columbia Pike and the Arlington Boulevard Trail is close to becoming a reality. The wait was frustrating, but the new trail will do less environmental damage and be more pleasant to ride.


Image by the author.

Built in 2009, Phase I of the Washington Boulevard Trail begins where the Arlington Boulevard Trail crosses Washington Boulevard. It continues along Washington Boulevard until crossing over the South Courthouse Road exit, where it ends abruptly.

Last week, the Penrose Neighborhood Association unanimously endorsed a new trail design for Phase II, which which will pick up where Phase I ends and continue along the west side of Washington Boulevard and up into Towers Park, ultimately connecting to Columbia Pike via South Rolfe Street.

The trail is an important connection in Arlington's bike network, extending the reach of the Arlington Boulevard Trail and providing a low-stress alternative to portions of Columbia Pike and South Courthouse Road. Combined with a planned Army Navy Country Club connector, the Washington Blvd Trail & Arlington Blvd Trail would provide a much-needed North-South bicycle connection in the eastern portion of Arlington. It will especially aid those who live in Aurora Highlands and would like to bike to areas to the north and west, like the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor.


Base map by Google, Modifications by the Author

Environmental concerns led to delays

90% of Phase II's design was ready in the spring of 2012, but then it ran into significant opposition. Both the Penrose Neighborhood Association and Arlington's Urban Forestry Commission opposed the design due to its significant tree impact, as the original design was expected to require the removal of 186 trees (though six were already dead and some were invasive species).

As a result of that opposition, Arlington County staff went to the Naval Research Facility for an easement that would allow the trail to preserve more trees.

At the same time, local activists and State Delegate Alfonso Lopez lobbied VDOT for a design exception that would allow a portion of the trail to go closer to Washington Boulevard.

The trail is ready to go now

Both the easement and the design exception recently came through, so much of the trail will go in on what is currently Washington Boulevard's shoulder, protected by a curb and five feet of landscaped buffer. Environmentally, that means losing fewer trees, and there will be much less of an increase in impermeable surface.


The new design. Plans by Arlington County, with labels and simplification by the author.

This version of the trail will also be better to ride on. Prior designs put the trail farther from traffic, but they also made it feel as though you were walking or riding in a ditch. That's because without a design exception, VDOT required a median barrier between the trail and Washington Boulevard's shoulder. Putting the trail next to the shoulder rather than on the shoulder itself would have required cutting into the hillside, which would have placed retaining walls on the far side of the trail as well.


The old design. Image from Arlington County.

The project will follow the County's tree-replacement formula, meaning about three new trees will be planted for every two that come out. County staff have said that all of the trees will be placed along the trail, including some along Phase 1.

The bidding process for building the trail should start this summer, and for construction to start in the fall. Hopefully it's wrap up in late spring or early summer of 2017.

Despite trails being Arlington's most-used recreational asset, the Washington Boulevard Trail is one of the only new trails planned in Arlington. Should Arlington build more? If so, where do you think they should go?

Bicycling


A new bike trail could connect the Met Branch Trail to 4th Street NE

Plans for Rhode Island Center, which is set to replace the Big Lots and Forman Mills at Rhode Island and 4th Street NE, include a number of changes to the Metropolitan Branch Trail. The trail would move so there'd be less of a chance of cyclists and pedestrians colliding in front of the Metro, and there'd be a connector to the bike lane on 4th Street.


The proposed Rhode Island Center development with the realigned MBT and spur to 4th Street NE in orange. All images by MRP Realty unless noted.

The new off-street bike trail to 4th Street NE from the MBT would stretch about 0.2 miles through the proposed development, says Michael Skena, vice-president of development at MRP Realty, who is developing the Rhode Island Center project.

"We've made integration with the trail a big part of it," he said at an Eckington Civic Association meeting earlier in March.


The planned bike path to 4th Street through the Rhode Island Center development.

Only about half of the trail will be built with the first phase of Rhode Island Center, which is scheduled for completion in 2019, says Skena. The remaining portion will go in with the rest of the development, which he cautions could take up to 20 years because the developer is allowing Big Lots and Forman Mills to remain on the site until their leases expire.

MRP will continue to try to make it easier to bike along the existing shopping center roadways during the interim, he says.


Only half of the bike path to 4th Street will be built with the first phase of Rhode Island Center.

The connection will improve access to the MBT for residents of Edgewood. This is in line with the trail improvements outlined in the NoMa Business Improvement District's (BID) safety and access study that recommends increasing neighborhood connections and awareness of the trail.

Realigning the MBT

MRP also wants to move the MBT under the stairs to the Rhode Island Avenue station bridge where it currently goes around them, says Skena. This would cut back on pedestrian-trail conflicts at the base of the stairs, which will become the focal point of a new entry plaza to Rhode Island Center.


The realigned MBT in orange with the planned entry plaza to Rhode Island Center.


The current MBT alignment past the stairs to the Rhode Island Avenue station bridge. Photo by the author.

Cyclists will be able to safely pass underneath the existing stairs, says Skena in response to resident questions.


The realigned MBT under the stairs to the Rhode Island Avenue Station bridge.

MRP is also working with the local advisory neighborhood commission (ANC) on a community benefits agreement, which will likely include new callboxes and improved lighting on the MBT as well as better wayfinding to the trail, he says.

Rhode Island Center will include about 1,550 residences and and 250,000 square feet of retail, including space for a large grocery story, when it its fully built out, says Skena.

MRP plans to include 8% of the residential units—or 124 units—at Rhode Island Center in Washington DC's affordable housing program. Roughly 93 units will be available to families of four that make 80% area median income (AMI) and roughly 31 units to families that make 50% of AMI.

Bicycling


Here's how to bike in the city safely and confidently

Our region is more bike-friendly than ever, but lots of people still doubt whether riding a bike is a safe or viable form of regular transportation. The truth is that riding a bike is a great way to get around. I've written some tips for getting started.


Photo by Joe Flood on Flickr.

Stay aware and be considerate

When you're on a bike, a heightened state of awareness and increased consideration for those sharing space with you can help make life better for everyone involved.

How can you stay aware and considerate when on your bike? Here are a few suggestions.

  • Be predictable at all times. Don't stop suddenly if you don't have to, and try not to turn unexpectedly. Signal when making a turn, especially if someone behind you might be coming straight.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Know when other people are riding behind you, and make space for them to pass if needed. Be aware of cars and keep in mind that you might not always be as visible as you think you are, even if you have done everything right.
  • Claim your space on the road with confidence. There are many areas where you will need to share space with cars, and bikes are legally allowed on the road. It can be tempting to provide as much space as possible for cars to pass in the same lane, but it is safer for bikes and cars alike when people on bikes claim the full lane.
  • Remember that it isn't a race. It can be tempting to go faster than is reasonably safe, especially given the ease at which a bike can navigate around obstacles such as stopped vehicles and pedestrians, or through narrow spaces between moving cars.
  • Don't attempt to overtake another person on a bike if there is limited space to do so.
  • Don't ride the wrong way down streets or dedicated bike lanes (otherwise known as salmoning).
  • Don't pull in front of a person on a bike, or a line of them, stopped at a red light (otherwise known as shoaling).
  • Don't pull into crosswalks when waiting for a light to change.
Plan your route before you start riding

Before making a trip on your bike, take a few minutes to study the best route to your destination.

Make a mental note of where you will be turning, and prepare ahead of time for any areas that are more challenging to navigate along the way, such as busy/complex intersections, gaps without bike lanes, or traffic circles.

If you are planning to start commuting to work on a bike, do a few test runs over the weekend so that you know the route better, and are able to make better adjustments if needed.

This will prevent the need to stop/slow down when en route, or to pull your phone out and look at it while on your bike. It will also help ensure that you aren't holding up other people riding bikes who might be sharing the space with you. Finally, this will allow an increased focus on your surroundings, as opposed to the distraction of not knowing where you are going.

A nice byproduct of planning ahead is that you can have a much more enjoyable experience, as you can take in the atmosphere you are lucky enough to be immersed in when you're riding a bike.

Some helpful resources for planning your route include Google Maps (using the "bicycling" layer), as well as maps available on the Washington Area Bicycling Association (WABA) website.


Image from Google Maps.

Take advantage of helpful resources and events

Outreach events, educational opportunities, and social activities centered around riding a bike were key components of bringing me into the bike community, and keeping me here. They help increase safety awareness and instill a sense of community. These are a few powerful ingredients when it comes to encouraging more people to ride bikes.

Here are a few:

  • Washington Area Bicycling Association (WABA). WABA offers a wealth of events and information, like educational classes/events, information on DC-area bike laws, and seminars and resources for new cyclists.

  • There are many free social rides that occur regularly. Group rides are a great way to both meet other people who ride and become acclimated with cycling in DC in a low-key and pressure free setting. Area bike stores such as BicycleSpace offer frequent social rides.

  • Similar to social rides, area stores such as BicycleSpace offer free classes on basic bike maintenance.
Invest in basic (but important) equipment

When new to biking, the thought of various equipment needs can be daunting. Fortunately, there is not a need for overly specialized equipment if you are going to be bike commuting in an urban setting.

Consider the following basic equipment needs for essential safety and comfort.

  • A U-lock. U-locks come in varying sizes, some small enough to fit in your pocket. They are significantly more secure than cords, which can be easily compromised with a pair of wire cutters.

  • A set of headlights and tail lights for your bike. Keep them on at all times in overcast weather or during non-daylight hours. Simply put, you're way less likely to have a run-in with a vehicle if you have lights on.

  • A helmet. Helmets are not required by law in the District, but are a strong common-sense safety measure despite what the law says.

  • Backpack/messenger bag. There are many reasonably priced backpacks and bags designed specifically for bike commuting. Ensure you have compartmentalized space for your various essentials, such as a change of clothes, a laptop/tablet, and a lunch bag.

  • A rear fender (either fixed or removable). Fenders are a lifesaver when riding on wet pavement. They're cheap, and will prevent the need to change and/or wash your clothes after riding.
It's easy to overcome lots of the barriers to riding a bike. Being aware of the risks/discomforts, and doing everything you can do mitigate them, is an important step to adopting riding a bike into your life in a sustainable fashion.

Biking in the District is both accessible and enjoyable, and with a critical mass of bikes on the road, it is only going to get better.

Roads


How was your commute?

Traffic this morning was a little worse than usual, but not horrible. More people were bicycling as well. It seems that having advance notice of the Metro shutdown helped many people adjust their plans.


Photo by Kyle Gradinger on Twitter used with permission.

Or, as Adam Lind put it, "Fear mongering = best form of TDM [Transportation Demand Management]." It's true—remember how Pope Francis' visit didn't cause "traffic apocalypse"?

Not to say that roads were clear like during the pope's visit. Ned Russell reports: "The 14th St Bridge and Mount Vernon Trail had more cyclists, especially inbound. My outbound commute was about the same. However, the GW Parkway northbound was backed up to Alexandria from the bridge."

Mitch Wander: "Traffic on inbound Constitution coming off Roosevelt Bridge is at least three to four times normal at 0630. Yes, I'm on a bicycle."

At 8:30, Gray Kimbrough wrote, "I'm sitting at 8th & Van Buren NW in Takoma (story: I got a flat tire last night picking up my daughter from daycare) with a view of Piney Branch. Traffic is much heavier than usual heading downtown here."

Chris Slatt made a page where you can compare the typical traffic to today's. Here's the traffic at 8:30:

This is nothing compared to January's midweek snowstorm, where poorly-forecasted snow caused massive backups in the evening commute.


Traffic congestion in the evening of January 20. Image by Brendan Casey from Google Maps.

Capital Bikeshare, not surprisingly, is seeing heavy use, with few bikes at neighborhood stations and many downtown. Rebalancing crews are working nonstop to try to move bikes outward. There are also three corrals in the downtown area to ensure riders can drop off bikes.

Does this mean we don't actually need Metro? Some people are asking. But as Canaan Merchant noted, "Traffic in town was a bit heavier than usual but not gridlocked. I've seen worse. But there are very few people here in the office today. For anyone questioning why we "need" Metro after today, the answer is that maybe we don't, except that it could mean a big hit to productivity and greater subsidy for other transit options."


Empty parking lot at Grosvenor Metro. Photo by Svet Neov.

How was your commute?

Bicycling


Memorial Bridge fixes could help more than just cars

Arlington Memorial Bridge needs serious repairs, or perhaps even a full replacement, in the next five years. As the National Park Service works to make that happen, there's also a chance to address some surrounding conditions that are hazardous for people on foot and on bike.


Photo by Bernt Rostad on Flickr.

NPS first sounded the alarm about the bridge last year after an inspection forced emergency repairs that partially closed the bridge, and started a ban on heavy vehicles, like buses, that's still in place today. Now, NPS says those repairs didn't do enough, and that it's inevitable that without $250 million in repairs, the bridge will be too dangerous for automobile travel by 2021.

Northern Virginia's Congressional delegation is on board with funding the effort to fix it, citing the fact that 68,000 people cross the bridge daily. Hopefully, they can convince their colleagues to join them.


Rust underneath the Memorial Bridge. Image from NPS.

The bridge is unsafe for more than just cars

Memorial Bridge bridge itself has wide sidewalks that usually allow enough room for most cyclists and pedestrians to share space. But the routes that connect to the bridge aren't safe for people on foot or bike.

In Virginia, the bridge connects to the George Washington Parkway and its accompanying trail, which is one of the region's most popular. Despite its popularity the trail has some particular challenges, namely that it intersects with the parkway—a limited access, high speed highway—in several places. Drivers are supposed to yield or stop for anyone trying to use the crosswalks, but there have been a number of crashes thanks to people rear-ending cars that were stopped to allow people to cross.


Image from Google Maps.

Issues on the DC side of the bridge stem from a confusing web of roads that force cyclists on their way to the Mall or downtown to either ride in very busy car traffic or on a narrow sidewalk.


One of the crosswalks where few drivers slow down. Image from Google Maps.

NPS has actually known about these issues longer than they have known about the bridge being in disrepair. But the agency has been resistant to do anything to fix them except in small ways where the first priority was not to slow down cars using the parkway.

Here are some ideas for fixing the bridge

NPS is straightening out some parts of the trail near Washington National Airport, where curves snake around a large tree and make it hard to see. The agency is also working to make it so cyclists don't have to travel through a busy parking lot near Teddy Roosevelt Island. But closer to the bridge itself, the trail could still get a lot safer.

One option is to create separate paths for cyclists and pedestrians on popular parts of the trail. NPS could also keep working to remove some of sharp curves and blind corners that are on the trail beyond what is being fixed at the airport. Finally, NPS needs to decide what to do about the crosswalks. If the GW Parkway is going to remain a high speed highway, then crosswalks more appropriate for a city street just won't work. Solutions might include rerouting the trail, slowing down speed limits, or even adding trail overpasses.

For the bridge itself, the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) put forth its own idea for removing two car lanes and creating protected bike lanes a while back:


Diagram of a redesigned memorial bridge. Image from WABA.

Cutting the number of car lanes on the bridge would work since congestion there is pretty low. Average speeds at rush hour are higher than the speed limit, and a new bridge wouldn't need six car lanes.

The crux of the Memorial Bridge issue is safety, and that of cyclists and pedestrians shouldn't go ignored. But a safe bridge and surrounding area for them would also mean a safer place for drivers, as deciding to follow the law and share the road would become far less dangerous. Both NPS and leaders in Congress should be concerned about all bridge users.

If a concern for safety is a big reason why NPS is sounding the alarm now then they should also be using this opportunity to fix the persistent hazards that cyclists and pedestrians have faced on the trails around the bridge.

Bicycling


The new White House bike ramps just got painted lanes

Last week, bike ramps went in on the edge of Lafayette Square near the White House, giving cyclists an easier route around a Secret Service checkpoint. Yesterday, DDOT added additional pavement markings to help riders navigate the new layout.


All photos by the author.

The new striping extends roughly 30 feet from each set of ramps. Lane lines with bike stencils clearly indicate the ramps are for bicycles and reinforce which side riders should use depending on their direction of travel. Flex posts and additional signs help separate the lanes from cars going through the security checkpoint.

Combined with the ramps, these lanes help visually extend the 15th Street protected bikeway and make it clear that bikes are welcome along Lafayette Square.

It's great to see official markings for biking infrastructure on federal property, and maybe this instance will help lay the groundwork for cooperation in other federally controlled places.

For example, there aren't any signs or pavement markings directing people from the 15th Street bikeway's segment east of the White House through the bollards at Pennsylvania Avenue and where it picks back up at the new ramps. If you don't know the connection is there, there's nothing to clue you in.


Image from Google Maps.

What other federally-controlled land could use bike lane markings?

Bicycling


A Washington Post writer advocates violence against people on bikes

Move over, Courtland Milloy and your desire to stick broomsticks through bicycle wheels. The Washington Post has a new columnist who's trying to inflame the populace for cheap clicks, and he suggests people should get cash for hurting people who ride bikes.


Photo by Allen McGregor on Flickr.

Fredrick Kunkle recently started the "Tripping" blog, which sometimes lives up to its name of giving you the transportation advice you might expect from Charlie Sheen.

It's the antithesis of the excellent and thoughtful Wonkblog—shallow and judgmental instead of informative and insightful. You could call Kunkle the anti-Emily Badger.

For his most recent attempt at clickbait (successful, obviously, since I'm writing about it), Kunkle wrote about a new law in Virginia that sets a $50 fine for opening a door and hitting someone on a bike. That's the good part, and he did a decent job of explaining it, including getting some backstory about how an aide to state senator Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax) got scars from being doored while biking, yet a police officer blamed him, the cyclist.

Kunkle went off the trail (or perhaps decided to try for more clicks) at the end, when he wrote, "We might argue that if you nail an adult riding his or her bicycle on the sidewalk, you should get a $50 award. Double, if it's during lunch hour on K Street."

This is encouraging violence. Yeah, yeah, it sounds like he thinks it's a joke, and I like a little light-hearted fun as much as anyone, but this isn't funny.

Just wait until some person, having a bad day, sees a cyclist, and in a moment of low self-control and without thinking very hard, opens the door anyway. Maybe if they then credit Fredrick Kunkle, he can say his supporters are "very passionate."

As one contributor put it in an email, "Advocating violence, even in a joking fashion, against people for doing things you dislike is beneath the Washington Post and they shouldn't publish trash like this."

Kunkle's earlier acid trips had him acidly sneer at Baltimore in a way reminiscent of New Yorkers ignorantly sneer at Washington. And this article on how Metro rated #1 in the nation is just inaccurate; the study rated Washington area transit, not Metro specifically.

I wouldn't be surprised if those stories performed well on the internal traffic metrics the Post watches. Needling cyclists with suggestions of violence will probably have the same effect, which will make his editor hallucinate that "Tripping" was something other than the bad trip it's been thus far.

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