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Bicycling


Near National airport, the Mount Vernon Trail is new again

A number of changes to the Mount Vernon Trail near Reagan National airport just wrapped up. The National Park Service installed a new railing where the trail comes close to the parkway as well as a much-needed water fountain, and removed a sharp turn from the trail.


The new water fountain on the Mount Vernon Trail. All photos by the author unless otherwise noted.

The water fountain, which is already working, is the only water stop on the trail itself in the eight mile stretch between Jones Point Park in Alexandria and the trail head in Rosslyn.


Running water from the Mount Vernon Trail's new water fountain.

The park service installed a new railing between the trail and the adjacent George Washington Memorial parkway where the two are just feet apart under a bridge at the southern end of National airport.


The new railing between the trail and parkway.


The new railing is located under a bridge that carries cars from National airport to the parkway.

The park service also shifted the trail away from the parkway under the bridge that connects Crystal City and National airport.


The trail under the Crystal City-National airport bridge today (left) and at the beginning of work in October (right).

Finally, the sharp turn in the trail around a tree south of both bridges is now gone.


The newly realigned trail is on the left and the old route around the tree on the right.

Weather postponed the completion of the improvements to the Mount Vernon Trail to June from the spring, says Aaron LaRocca, chief of staff of the park service's division responsible for the parkway and trail.

The trail work has been a long time in coming. The number of users continues to increase, especially since the beginning of the SafeTrack work on the Metrorail system. The Yellow and Blue lines are scheduled for a full closure between Braddock Road and Pentagon City - the section of track that parallels this part of the trail - for much of July.

Many users continue to seek more improvements to the Mount Vernon Trail. Among the various ideas are a bike bypass at Gravelly Point and snow removal in the winter.

Bicycling


DC is on the verge of ditching a harmful traffic law

Right now, DC has a law that keeps drivers from being held responsible for damages when they harm vulnerable road users. After years of organizing and effort, the DC Council is about to vote on a proposal to change this. You have a chance to speak up.


Photo by mjmonty on Flickr.

Traffic collisions happen every day. Sorting out who is responsible for the damages afterwards is a complex job that often involves the police, insurance adjusters, lawyers, and even judges and/or juries. In our region, however, a strict legal standard called "contributory negligence" has made things harsh, but simple: If you are even 1% at fault in a collision, you cannot collect any damages.

If that sounds weird to you, you're not alone. The District, Maryland, and Virginia are among the last holdouts in the US to use this standard. Forty-seven other states have switched to a more common-sense standard called "comparative fault," where damages are assigned in proportion to blame.

I shared my own personal story in a a recent post about how I came to learn about this obscure legal topic—the hard way, courtesy of a minivan driver, while I was riding my bike. While I am grateful I survived and recovered, I know I'm not alone, and others aren't as lucky as me with the court system. That's why myself and others have been advocating since 2014 for the District to adopt the "comparative fault" standard for pedestrians and cyclists who are hit by drivers.

Road users who don't have insurance adjusters or legal representation to advocate on their behalf are victimized a second time after a collision when their claims for damages are denied because insurers are confident most victims will not have the evidence to prove they are untainted by even 1% of fault.

Various DC Council members have explored legislation to make this change, but have faced stiff opposition from AAA and the insurance industry, who can afford multiple full-time lobbyists. However, patient and persistent advocacy from leaders on the council and community groups like WABA and All Walks DC have brought us to the brink of victory.

On Monday, the DC Council's Committee of the Whole scheduled the Motor Vehicle Collision Recovery Amendment Act of 2015 for a full Council vote on Tuesday, June 28, 2016.

On top of making 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 bill makes it clear that it covers people using non-motorized vehicles outside of just bikes (or people on foot), and retains what's called the "last clear chance" doctrine, which says that even if the person who was hit was contributorily negligent, the person who hit them can still be responsible if they had a clear chance to avoid the collision.

If you care about this issue, now is the most important time to let your councilmember know that you support fairness for pedestrian and bicycle crash victims. You can rest assured that they are hearing from the insurance industry, so let them hear from you too.

Transit


At this park & ride, buses and bikes get the spotlight

Renovations to Fairfax's Stringfellow Road Park and Ride just finished up, and they're largely focused on buses and bicycles. This means the park and ride will function more like a multi-modal transit center than just a place for commuters to leave their cars.


New waiting area and bike racks. Photo by Adam Lind.

The park and ride is in Centreville, close to Fair Lakes and I-66. There is a special HOV-only exit that makes it popular with commuters who want to either join a slug line or catch the bus.


Image from Google Maps.

It will be easier to catch a bus

New buses will service the park and ride, while existing routes will run more often, seven days a week. At rush hour, buses will run between Stringfellow and the Vienna Metro every 10 minutes.

A Fairfax Connector store will have resources for riders, as well as a place to wait for the bus. Also, more bus service is likely to come in the future thanks to Transform 66. That project will build HOT lanes between Haymarket and Falls Church that will be used by a number of express buses, which may originate or stop at Stringfellow Road.

There's a great option for storing your bike

Bicycling also gets a big boost thanks to the arrival of the county's second secure bike room. This facility will be similar to the now-popular bike room at the Reston-Wiehle Metro station.

The bike room is a great option for cyclists: the fact that you need a membership pass makes it much less likely for your bike to be stolen, and the shelter keeps your bike out of the elements. Some parking is available for bike trailers or other over-sized bicycles as well.


Inside the secure bike room. Photo by Adam Lind.

Adam Lind, Fairfax County's bicycle program coordinator, said that Fairfax has plans to provide secure bike parking at any regular parking garage built or funded by the Fairfax County Department of Transportation. This includes garages built at future Silver Line Metro stations. He also said that members will be able to use any garage in the county's growing network.

Lind expects that biking to the Stringfellow Park and Ride will become even more popular since Transform 66 will many making bike and pedestrian options in surrounding neighborhoods better. One example: plans to extend the Custis Trail.

While the big transit news in Fairfax usually deals with Tyson's Corner and the Silver Line the new amenities at Stringfellow Road show that improvement is happening all over the our region's most populous jurisdiction.

Bicycling


Just blocks from the White House... new bike and bus lanes?

A new protected bikeway could go in along Pennsylvania Avenue west of the White House, along with a contraflow bus lane on nearby H Street. DDOT is launching a study to review these possibilities, and is seeking public input.


DDOT is studying how to make this area more pedestrian, bike, and bus-friendly. Image from Google Maps.

The area that the Downtown West Transportation Planning Study is looking at, outlined in the image above, is basically the area immediately north of the White House. It includes Pennsylvania Avenue NW between 17th Street and Washington Circle, and H Street NW between New York and Pennsylvania Avenues.

When the 12-month study is over, DDOT will compile a few options for making travel by bike, walk, and travel by bus in the area safe, more efficient, and more inviting.

Pennsylvania Avenue Reconfiguration

Not unlike its counterpart between the White House and the US Capitol, Pennsylvania Avenue west of the White House is primed to be reimagined and repurposed.

In the wake of the September 11th attacks May 1995, vehicle traffic was permanently banned along the 1600 block immediately in front of the White House (between 15th and 17th streets). Since the closure, Pennsylvania Avenue west of the White House has been less of a major vehicle artery because drivers heading downtown have more efficient alternate routes (such as K Street, H Street, and Constitution Avenue).

The DDOT study will evaluate alternative ways of setting up the western segment of Pennsylvania. Each build alternative will address changes to the existing right-of-way, in which approximately 80 of the 130 feet available is currently dedicated to vehicular traffic.

New options will focus on protected bike lanes, and an enhanced streetscape to make the corridor more inviting for foot traffic. In addition, stormwater retention infrastructure will be put in place as part of plans for a full rebuild.

As the western segment of Pennsylvania Avenue falls within the Golden Triangle BID, the BID has taken an active interest in enhancing the corridor. The BID recently partnered with KGP Design Studio to develop conceptual designs for enhancements to the streetscape.

The conceptual designs are independent of DDOT, but the BID hopes DDOT will take them into consideration.


Pennsylvania Avenue how it is now, contrasted with a conceptual design provided by the Golden Triangle BID/KDG Design Studio.

In addition to fundamental transportation enhancements, the BID sees potential to make the western side of Pennsylvania Avenue a world-class destination. It connects directly to the White House, is home to many international organizations (IMF, the World Bank) and is home to a top-tier university (George Washington). Yet the current space is barren, uninviting, and underutilized.

The conceptual designs provided by the BID/KGP include fewer traffic lanes and more dedicated and protected bike lanes. The designs also present a focus on building fully integrated and connected green spaces, which would make the area more welcoming to foot traffic while also serving to better manage stormwater runoff.

Ultimately, the Golden Triangle BID envisions an enlivened boulevard that can capture and celebrate the global scope of western Pennsylvania Avenue's iconic geographical positioning.

A new bus lane on H Street

In 2013, WMATA conducted a study to evaluate options for improving bus throughput on the heavily-trafficked corridor along H and I streets west of New York Avenue. There are approximately 3,000 daily bus trips along this corridor, carrying 62,300 riders. Frequent and efficient service is extremely important.

WMATA recommended a dedicated contraflow bus lane traveling west on H street, and DDOT will consider that option as it conducts this study.


Image from WMATA.

What's next?

DDOT is hosting a public meeting Wednesday, June 15th to share draft goals and objectives, and solicit public feedback. It's from 6-8 pm, with the presentation starting at 6:30, in Room A-5 at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library, 901 G Street NW.

For further details, refer to the Downtown West Transportation Planning Study website.

Bicycling


Like DCís protected bikeways? Kyoto has a bike arcade

The Sanjo Arcade is a nearly kilometer-long covered shopping arcade in the center of Kyoto, Japan. Lined with shops and restaurants, locals stroll or ride their bikes to and fro through the colonnade throughout the day.


The Sanjo Arcade. Photo by the author.

The arcade is a "shotengai," or shopping street in Japanese, that stretches 850 meters from Horikawa Street to Senbon Street on the west side of central Kyoto, Google Maps shows.


The entrance to the Sanjo Arcade on Horikawa Street. Photo by Google Maps.


Another view of the Sanjo Arcade. Photo by the author.

While we do not have any direct parallels to the Sanjo Arcade in our region, there are similar streets elsewhere, like the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville, the 16th Street Mall in Denver, and the Ithaca Commons in Ithaca, New York. However, neither has the sheer density of people or shops—not to mention the roof—as in Kyoto.

The lower density of many US cities is a good reason why dedicated pedestrian and bike malls are not more common here. Some cities have even had success reintroducing cars to former pedestrian and bike malls, like in Buffalo, where cars recently returned to three blocks of its Main Street pedestrian mall.

This is not to say we shoudln't look to Kyoto and elsewhere for bike infrastructure ideas. The city is teeming with cyclists, with dedicated on-street or on-sidewalk lanes lining many major thoroughfares and the city's narrow side streets popular ways for cyclists to cut through its large blocks.

Links


National links: More biking in Atlanta

Atlanta's investing a ton of money in bike infrastructure, the negative effects of racist housing policies haven't gone anywhere, and sprawl is costing commuters big time. Check out what's happening around the country in transportation, land use, and other related areas!


Photo by Green Lane Project on Flickr.

Bike lanes for Atl: The Atlanta Regional Commission has approved $1 billion dollars for bike infrastructure in the region over a 25 year period. It sounds like a lot, but considering that it's part of an $85 billion plan... is it? (Bicycling)

Redlining the future: Historic housing policies that barred minorities from living in certain neighborhoods. One consequence that's still playing out is that very rich and very poor neighborhoods are increasing in number, and the children in the poor ones tend to make less money in the future and have more mental health problems. These cartoons explain the matter more in-depth. (Vox)

Sprawl Tax: Every year we hear about how much it costs Americans to be stuck in traffic, but what if we framed it as "how much policies that create congestion cause us?" Introducing the Sprawl Tax. In the 50 largest metro areas, sprawling land use costs commuters an average of $107 billion per year. (City Observatory)

Light rail in Austin: Transit advocates in Austin have been pushing for light rail for over 30 years. With the city focusing on mobility and a bond measure possibly going on this fall's ballot, they are hoping that the rail segment will be added to the mix. (Austin American Statesman)

On the edge: A common theme among transit planners is balancing service for an urban core versus the regional edge. It's important not to forget that transit functions as a network, meaning that if gets weaker in one place, it gets weaker everywhere. When we recognize that core improvements can help the edge and vice versa, our conversations are more productive. (Human Transit)

Quote of the Week

"These great shortcuts used to spread by word of mouth, but now they just spread like wildfire" - Traffic Engineer Paul Silberman on more and more cut through traffic directed off of main streets and into neighborhoods by the app Waze. (Washington Post)

Public Spaces


If you want more trails in Prince George's, you'll like this plan

Prince George's has a ton of trails, but they're not all well-connected to each other. The county's Department of Parks and Recreation recently released a draft of a plan for fixing that, as well as building hundreds of miles of new trails. It's looking for public input to make the plan as strong as possible.


Image Prince George's County's draft Trails Master Plan.

There are currently over 300 miles of trails in Prince George's. Many are loop or recreational trails, such as the Watkins Regional Park loop trail, and are located within M-NCPPC property. They provide excellent hiking, equestrian, and mountain biking opportunities. Other trails, such as the Anacostia Tributary trail system or the Henson Creek Trail are great trails that connect parks and neighborhoods.

But while Prince George's has excellent individual facilities, it's not all that easy to get from one county trail to another, which makes it challenging for people to get to various destinations on foot or bike.

That's where the Trails Master Plan, created by Prince George's Department of Parks and Recreation, comes in. The county will use the plan to create a trail network that "provides all residents and visitors with access to nature, recreation, and daily destinations; enriching the economy, promoting sustainability; and increasing opportunities for health." This plan will contribute to achieving Formula 2040, the county's general plan for completing 400 miles of new trails over the coming decades ("nine miles of trail per year over the next 30 years").

There's more than one type of trail

One of the plan's key roles is to make recommendations for which type of trail should go in which locations, depending on the type of use it will get.

Primary trails will form a nearly nearly-contiguous network of paths for walking and biking that not only connect M-NCPPC parks, but also link various activity centers identified in Prince George's Plan 2035 General Plan. There are currently 65.6 miles of primary trails in Prince George's, and the plan aims to get the number up to 293.


A primary trail. Image Prince George's County's draft Trails Master Plan.

Also part of the plan are secondary trails, which will include mostly paved paths that are designed to connect neighborhoods and other parts of the built environment with the primary network. These will be for shorter trips, and may not be used as heavily as the primary trails. Prince George's currently has 110.5 miles of secondary trails, and the plan calls for 399.

The third major trail type in the plan is the recreational trail, which is designed to meet fitness, nature-access, and recreational needs. Recreational trails are often made of soft surfaces, and are primarily for mountain biking, hiking, and equestrian trips. The plan recommends an additional 102 miles of recreational trails to expand on the existing 153.


Image Prince George's County's draft Trails Master Plan.

Where trails are going

Here are some of the plan's key recommendations:

  • A primary trail along Central Avenue, which would create a connection between DC's Marvin Gaye Trail and the Largo Town Center Metro

The Marvin Gaye Trail. Image from Google Maps.
  • An extension of the WB&A Trail along MD-704

The WB&A Trail. Image from Rails-to-Trails Conservancy/TrailLink.
  • A secondary trail connecting the Woodrow Wilson Bridge with Oxon Hill Farm National Park
  • A recreational trail linking Rosaryville State Park with Jug Bay
The plan also makes recommendations for how the Department of Parks and Recreation can best manage and maintain the county's growing network of trails. Although maintenance and operations may not be as exciting as building new facilities, keeping trails clean, safe, and comfortable are critical to keeping trail users happy.

Specifically, the plan suggests setting aside money specifically for trails so it can take care of needs like resurfacing, repairing bridges, and small construction projects. The plan also recommends a monitoring program to keep tabs on trail conditions so routine maintenance and furniture inspection is sure to get done.

What do you want in Prince George's trails plan?

The Department of Parks and Recreation is hosting a public meeting today, June 7, to share its draft and solicit comments and suggestions from Prince George's residents and other trail users. It's at 8pm at the Department of Parks and Recreation Auditorium, 6600 Kenilworth Avenue, Riverdale, MD 20737.

Also, the public comment window for the draft plan is open until June 23rd. You can view the draft plan and leave feedback here.

Bicycling


$2 will now buy you a Capital Bikeshare trip

Starting Saturday, Capital Bikeshare will allow users to buy a single trip for $2. The move will help a lot of people get around during SafeTrack in the short term, and it's likely to encourage more riders well after Metro service is back to normal.


Photo by DDOT DC on Flickr.

Until now, Bikeshare has only been available on a membership basis. You "join" the system for a set period of time (as short as 24 hours or as long as a year), and get unlimited access to bikes during your membership. Provided all of your rides are under 30 minutes, you'll never pay more than the cost of your membership.

If you're a year-round daily Bikeshare commuter, this works great. If you're a tourist who wants to take multiple trips while sightseeing for a day on the Mall, this works great. But if you're someone who's just been dumped off a broken train at Cleveland Park and want to make it downtown for a meeting, and you're not a CaBi member, you're unlikely to spend $8 (the cost of a 24 hour membership) to take just one ride.

The $2 fare, however, which is only slightly more than the cost of a bus ride, makes Bikeshare a much more compelling option.

Bikeshare does have a daily key option, where $10 gets you both a key and a 24-hour pass. After you use that first pass, 24-hour passes cost another $7 each time you use the key (which you pay for with your credit card, which CaBi files after that initial purchase).

That $7 charge, though, is pretty steep. The new single-trip fare makes much more sense if you're using Bikeshare for just one ride or two.

Ideally, Bikeshare will one day find a way to incorporate single-fare pricing into the Day Key option and users could load money onto their keys, much in the same way they might with their SmarTrip cards.

Bikeshare isn't always the answer for every commuter. But more pricing options are better than fewer and during SafeTrack, when regional Metro woes will prove disruptive for so many people. Bikeshare's willingness to make its fleet available to as many potential riders as possible is laudable.

Bikeshare has indicated that this is a pilot program, but incorporating the single-trip fare as a permanent option has the potential to woo even more riders to the system.

Bicycling


Falls Church hopes to add Capital Bikeshare in 2017

The City of Falls Church hopes to join Capital Bikeshare in 2017. But first, it needs the money to make it happen.


Photo by DDOT DC on Flickr.

The City of Falls Church has applied to the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) for $2 million that would go toward buying and installing up to 16 stations.

NVTA is the infrastructure agency that gives Northern Virginia the ability to raise and spend its own money on what it thinks is most important. Next Thursday (June 9), NVTA will consider the Bikeshare funding along with a slate of other FY2017 program requests.

A 13-dock station, the expected size in Falls Church, has an up-front cost of approximately $50,000. Falls Church expects to supplement its NVTA grant with developer contributions, Falls Church principal planner Paul Stoddard said in an email to the Falls Church News-Press.

Falls Church has also applied to a different agency, the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC), for $850,000 to fully fund the first three years of operating expenses. NVTC is responsible for planning and funding Northern Virginia transit. It will consider Falls Church's request tonight.

Both agencies have shown they can be be swayed by public comment in favor of or against projects. The City of Falls Church has produced a flyer informing residents how to weigh in with the NVTA and NVTC.

Bikeshare would be part of Falls Church's expanding bicycle network

Last July, Falls Church adopted a new Bicycle Master Plan, which identified a city-wide network of existing bike and future bike routes, established a "Request a Rack" bicycle parking program, and specified that Falls Church wants to join Capital Bikeshare.

Now, city staff are working to implement the plan. So far, the city has gotten the Request a Rack program up and running, and is refreshing routes on Park Avenue, South Maple Avenue-Little Falls Street, and Cherry Street-E. Columbia Street.


Falls Church bike route refreshes. Map from the City of Falls Church.

As part of its Bicycle Master Plan, Falls Church has also identified three priority corridors for the initial Bikeshare network: the Broad Street corridor, Washington Street corridor, and W&OD Trail. Bikeshare would provide an easy and cheap way to get to the East Falls Church and West Falls Church Metro stations.


Priority Bikeshare corridor. Map from the City of Falls Church.

The plan identifies a fourth corridor, Roosevelt Boulevard, as a priority for future expansion, providing a last-mile connection to Metro for thousands of residents.

Today, nearby Arlington has 84 stations, and Fairfax will roll out its first Bikeshare stations later this year.

If you live in Northern Virginia, you can tell NVTA and NVTC you support Bikeshare funding for Falls Church via this Coalition for Smarter Growth action.

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