Posts about Bike Lanes
DDOT has started construction on a short cycletrack on M Street NE, to connect an entrance to the Metropolitan Branch Trail to the First Street NE cycletrack.
The new cycletrack will be on the south side of the street, and will function like an extension of the existing 1st Street cycletrack. Both parking stops and plastic bollards will protect cyclists in the bike lane, just like on 1st Street. This will replace all 16 metered parking spaces on the block.
Running only a single block, the new cycletrack ends just prior to where M Street passes under the railroad tracks, where there's an entrance to the Metropolitan Branch Trail.
A new ramp is under construction at that spot, to allow bicyclists to cross the sidewalk and access the trail entrance.
For cyclists continuing east under the tracks, DDOT officials will paint sharrows in M Street's traffic lanes.
At one point on M Street, the cycletrack squeezes down to a narrow 6 feet wide. This is to accommodate the wide turning radius of trucks entering and exiting the Harris Teeter loading dock on the north side of the street. The narrow section will have plastic bollards but no parking stops.
Other bike projects in NoMa
This block-long cycletrack is part of a trio of projects DDOT is working on to fill in the gaps of NoMa's bike lane network.
Earlier this summer, DDOT officials added bike lanes to the 100 block of F Street NE. Next up, they'll rebuild 1st Street NE between Massachusetts Avenue and G Street, next to Union Station, to add a cycletrack and wider sidewalks.
Sometime further in the future, DDOT could potentially extend this new M Street cycletrack west to North Capitol Street or beyond, and east to 4th Street or Florida Avenue.
When the White Flint Sector Plan was adopted in 2010 after years of collaboration between residents, property owners, county officials, and civic leaders, it was hailed as a triumph of responsible, sustainable development. Now, county engineers are poised to undo years of work by pushing through a road design that does not include any of the elements the plan promised the community.
MCDOT's proposed design for Old Georgetown Road would make it even more unfriendly for pedestrians than it is today. Image from Google Maps.
Transforming White Flint into a vibrant, walkable area requires balancing new development, which brings growth and amenities, with the pressure to move through traffic around the area. It does this with a multi-modal transportation network that diffuses traffic across a new street grid, known as the Western Workaround. That will relieve traffic on Rockville Pike while providing safe and attractive ways to get around on foot, bike or transit.
Because these elements are so important to the plan's success, it prescribes specific details including the number of lanes, speed limits, and the location and character of bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. For Old Georgetown Road between Executive Boulevard and Rockville Pike the plan is unequivocal: it should have four lanes (two in each direction), on-street bike lanes in both directions, sidewalks and a broad shared-use path, which forms part of a sector-wide Recreation Loop.
Planned bike lanes and walking/cycling paths in White Flint. Map from the Montgomery County Planning Department.
The County Planning Board and County Council both passed this plan, with all its specifics, and the community overwhelmingly supported it. Despite all this, the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) designed a road that has no bike lanes, no shared-use path, and widens the road to one that is effectively eight lanes wide, and has nearly advanced that version of the project to the 70% design stage.
This will create an Old Georgetown Road that is even less safe for bikers and pedestrians than it is today. It also leaves a gaping hole in the Recreation Loop, one of the area's signature planned amenities.
MCDOT splits hairs to excuse a dangerous design
In trying to defend their plan, MCDOT officials argue that their design technically contains only two travel lanes in each direction. The additional lanes, which extend nearly the entire length of the roadway, are "merely turning lanes."
This obfuscation may hold water for traffic engineers, but for anyone unlucky enough to bike or walk along the road, that distinction provides little comfort. Under the MCDOT proposal, a pedestrian must traverse eight lanes of traffic to get across Old Georgetown Road. For cyclists, the lack of dedicated lanes means they must take their chances staying safe among four lanes of traffic.
Comparison of the two cross-sections. Rendering from of Friends of White Flint. Click for larger version showing more of the road.
In reality, the effect of this design will be even more pernicious. By prioritizing driving over everything else, MCDOT will fulfill its own skewed vision for mobility in the county: fewer people will walk, bike or take transit, even though they want to but won't feel safe. They'll, instead, choose to drive for every single trip, adding to congestion and undermining the entire premise of the White Flint Sector Plan redevelopment.
Even more galling, MCDOT has proposed redesigning Old Georgetown Road twice: once now to maximize auto traffic, and again, sometime in the future, to incorporate the elements in the sector plan only if conditions warrant and funding is available.
Drivers struck 454 pedestrians in the county last year. 13 were killed. Just this summer, a pedestrian was killed crossing the Pike down by North Bethesda Market. I frequently receive emails from residents concerned for their safety on and along Old Georgetown Road. These are the stark consequences of MCDOT's "windshield mentality."
With this action, the county government breaks the community's trust
Safe bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure and a Recreation Loop were key elements that helped the plan gain public support. Since the plan passed, White Flint residents have consistently voiced their support for safer bike/pedestrian accommodations.
The Western Workaround is the first of many planned transportation and infrastructure improvements in the White Flint area. If MCDOT is willing to push through a design for this project that so plainly violates the sector plan, how can the public trust the agency will implement any other pieces of the plan faithfully?
The residents and stakeholders of White Flint deserve better. Please join the Friends of White Flint and Coalition for Smarter Growth in calling on County Executive Ike Leggett to uphold the promises made to the community and hold MCDOT accountable.
David Catania's platform supports Metro, streetcars, bus lanes, bike lanes, transit-oriented development, and more
Mayoral candidate David Catania released a 66-page platform today, chock full of positions on issues from education to jobs to seniors. It includes strong statements on transportation and the environment.
Here are a few key quotes from the platform:
Metro: To ensure that Metro Momentum becomes a reality, the entire region will need to prioritize the plan's funding. As Mayor, David will ensure that the District leads the effort with our regional and federal partners to create a dedicated funding mechanism for this vital investment in our collective future.
Streetcars: David will seek to build both the East-West and the North-South [DC streetcar] lines, believing that the system must be sufficiently expansive in order to serve as anything more than a novelty or tourist attraction.
Bus lanes: David will work with community members, bus riders, and transit agencies to increase capacity and implement priority bus lanes on major arterial roadways and key transit corridors.
Bicycle infrastructure: David will expand bicycle infrastructure to all areas of the city, particularly in communities east of the Anacostia River that have yet to see such investments. This expansion can take place in a way that does not displace other forms of transportation. Many District streets are particularly well positioned for installation of protected bike lanes while maintaining sufficient car parking and driving capacity. David will also support the continued expansion of Capital Bikeshare.
Traffic cameras: There is little doubt that speed and red light cameras have contributed to the overall safety of our streets. However, in some cases the deployment of these cameras raises questions about whether the intent is purely to improve street safety or if the real motivation is to raise additional revenue through ticketing and citations. As Mayor, David will demand that the proper analysis is conducted to ensure that these devices are being used to target locations with street and pedestrian safety concerns
— not simply as a means to raise revenue!
Vision Zero: David will pursue a street safety agenda in line with the Vision Zero Initiative. ... Vision Zero calls for the total elimination of traffic deaths
— pedestrian, bicycle, and vehicle passenger — through innovative street design, enhanced traffic management technologies, and education campaigns.
Transit-oriented development: The District's density is one of its greatest economic competitive advantages. Recent studies have found a clear connection between the higher concentration of residents and greater economic output. As Mayor, David will harness this economic potential in a way that creates healthy and livable urban communities, by focusing development around transportation hubs including Metro stations, bus lines, protected bike lane infrastructure, and Streetcar corridors.
Speck. Image from the Catania platform.
There is a lot about the environment as well in that section, such as LEED buildings, tree canopy, and water quality, as well as on many more topics in the full document. What do you agree or disagree with in the platform?
A father and son comfortably bike down a slow Arlington street. They approach the new Hayes Street cycletrack. The father asks "Want to take the special bike lane?" The son responds with an excited "Yeah!"
I overheard that interaction this past weekend, and had to stop and smile.
That one brief conversation sums up why protected bike lanes are so great: They make city streets safe, comfortable, and fun for even children to bicycle on. Not to mention older people, less-able people, and novice cyclists.
If Americans ever hope to make cycling for transportation a mainstream activity, cycling must feel comfortable for everyone. Getting bikes out of the path of speeding cars is a big part of that.
Cross-posted at BeyondDC.
London is adding protected bike lanes to one of its traffic circles. Could the same design work in DC? Would we want it to?
London city workers recently began rebuilding the Queen's Circus traffic circle to include protected bike lanes. Since central DC has so many traffic circles, it's worth considering whether the Queen's Circus design could work here too.
DC's big traffic circles are notoriously difficult places to bike. They have multiple lanes of intimidating and zig-zagging car traffic, and sidewalks too packed with pedestrians to be good bike paths. Most of the circles lack bike lanes, and those that have them (Columbus Circle and Thomas Circle) are still far from comfortable places to bike.
But the traffic circles are key destinations. People want to use them. Making the circles more bike friendly would be great for DC.
Would we want to do this?
This is sort of a good design. It's better than nothing. But with so many crossings, it's still pretty confusing what's the bike lane and what's for cars. It seems likely there will still be a lot of intimidating cross traffic.
In fact, the actual design doesn't even have the green paint; I added that to make the rendering clearer.
The other big problem with the London example is that pedestrians are mostly absent. Unlike DC's circles that typically have popular parks in the middle, this London circle is just a road. The central grassy section isn't a useful park, and there are no pedestrian crossings into it. That obviously changes how the entire thing functions.
Look to the Dutch
Perhaps a better example might come from this traffic circle in Rotterdam, where in typically Dutch fashion the bike lanes are much more well protected.
Rather than fight with cars, the Dutch put the bike lanes up on the sidewalk. That's more ideal from a cyclist perspective, but it's also much harder to accomplish.
The sidewalks around DC's downtown circles are too narrow in many places to accommodate bike lanes. DDOT could theoretically rebuild the circles to have wider sidewalks and narrower roadways, but that would be controversial to say the least, not to mention a lot more expensive than striping a bike lane on the street.
The Dutch example is better, but the British example is more achievable.
Cross-posted at BeyondDC.
Arlington's first significant protected bike lane quietly popped up last week in Pentagon City. It runs on South Hayes Street from 15th Street to Fern Street, next to Virginia Highlands Park.
There are actually two cycletracks. There's a grassy median in the middle of Hayes Street, so in order to serve bicyclists going both directions, each side of the street has its own one-way cycletrack next to the curb.
The cycletrack connects to the new green-painted bike lanes on Hayes Street further north, forming a spine for cycling through Pentagon City.
Technically speaking this is Arlington's second cycletrack. The first one, in Rosslyn, is so short that it hardly counts. Hayes Street is the first significant one.
It's great to see such high quality bike infrastructure appearing in more jurisdictions. Who will be next? Maybe Montgomery County?
Cross-posted at BeyondDC.
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