Posts about Bike Lanes
Green-painted bike lanes make cycling safer, by reminding car drivers to watch out for cyclists when driving across bike lanes. That's a great benefit, and it works, but it's not the main reason so many cyclists get so excited over a little bit of color.
The real reason cyclists love green-painted bike lanes so much is simple: They send the clearest-possible message that roads are not only for cars.
Despite a century of sharing roads, and despite the fact that people walked and biked in streets long before cars came along, there's a strong mentality among entitled drivers that roads are for cars. A 5 second google search turns up plenty of examples.
Green-painted bike lanes accomplish what a white stripe next to the parking lane cannot. They proclaim loudly and clearly that streets are not merely sewers for car traffic, but fully multimodal public spaces. They send the message that drivers are welcome to use roads just like everyone else, but must not expect to have roads completely to themselves.
These painted lanes are public relations features as much as they are safety features, at least as far as cyclists are concerned.
Cross-posted at BeyondDC.
Alexandria cyclists and city staff agree that King Street west of Old Town could use bike lanes. But after a public hearing November 25, the city's Traffic and Parking Board recommended not to build them in order to preserve 37 on-street parking spaces.
Bike lane proponents say it will improve safety and access to the King Street Metro station, while many nearby residents decry the loss of parking spaces that would have to be removed. Originally, city staff proposed eliminating 37 spaces, noting that only three spaces were used on average, and that all affected houses have off-street parking.
However, instead of evaluating a compromise proposal city staff presented that would only remove some 27 spaces and carefully considering public comments, board members were clearly dismissive of the plan and its supporters. James Durham, vice chair of the Alexandria Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, called the hearing "a disgrace."
At the first public meeting on September 18, it was clear that almost everybody considers this street unsafe. Street parking goes unused because residents worry aggressive drivers will damage their parked cars.
After that meeting and an informal consultation with members of the traffic and parking board, city staff decided to work on a compromise proposal. Their reworked plan keeps 10 of the 37 spaces, while adding three spaces on adjacent streets.
At the November meeting, 38 people spoke in favor of the proposal, most of whom were local cyclists. Bike lane supporters included representatives of the city's Environmental Policy Commission and Parks and Recreation Commission, who both submitted letters, as well as the chairman of the Transportation Commission. A teacher at T.C. Williams High School spoke on behalf of his students, and a member of the Coalition for Smarter Growth spoke on behalf of that organization, which includes two King Street residents.
Meanwhile, 18 individuals spoke out against adding bike lanes, citing safety concerns and doubting the effectiveness of the proposal. Others mentioned the need to keep the usually empty parking available for visitors.
During the hearing, members of the traffic and parking board displayed almost no interest in the public comments, asking few questions. But in a question directed at Jerry King, chairman of the bicycle and pedestrian committee, one member characterized bike lane supporters as wanting bike lanes or nothing. In fact, no one at the hearing took such a position.
When the leader of Tandem Tuesdays spoke of her weekly bike rides that pair cyclists with sight-impaired people on tandem bicycles, the traffic and parking board showed no interest in her community-building work or her safety concerns. Rather than ask Washington Area Bicyclist Association representative Gregory Billing about his organization's 3,500 participants and supporters in Alexandria, board members rudely asked if he was a city resident.
In the end, the traffic and parking board recommended that city staff implement pedestrian improvements but no bicycling improvements, retain all parking and come back later with a proposal that has "common ground" and "meat." But board members at no time acknowledged that the proposal was already a compromise.
The reality is that Alexandria is working to add transportation capacity by improving access to transit and by developing three new transit corridors. If successful, transit will enable many residents to bypass traffic and avoid the struggle of searching for parking on King Street and elsewhere.
Mayor Bill Euille, who was recently quoted in the press regarding Capital Bikeshare, said it best: "We don't want people driving their cars and parking, we want people to be using bicycles and walking."
However, achieving this vision is no easy task. At a time when City Hall is working to improve the public process through the What's Next Alexandria initiative, we need our boards to be relevant as well as responsive to residents and the vision of the city council. Based on the traffic and parking board's performance November 25, it's clear that board members are none of those things. Can our public decision-making process function when a few of the people leading that process do not act in good faith?
A version of this post appeared in the Alexandria Times.
Speak up for bike lanes in Alexandria tonight, and then after Thanksgiving, discuss education with David Catania, talk about civic engagement, and learn something new and nerdy.
Support King Street bike lanes: Come show your support tonight (Monday, November 25) for bike lanes on King Street in Alexandria at November's Public Meeting of the Traffic and Parking Board. The meeting is 7:30 pm in the Council Chambers at Alexandria City Hall (301 King St, 2nd floor).
The Alexandria Spokeswomen, a group making Alexandria more bike-friendly for women, is having a happy hour before the meeting. Join them at 6 pm at Daniel O'Connell's Bar (112 King Street) for some food and drink, and then go testify.
After the jump: hear from and talk with David Catania, Harriet Tregoning, and David Alpert.
Education forum with David Catania: Greater Greater Education is hosting a forum with DC Councilmember and Committee on Education chair David Catania. GGE editors will moderate the discussion, and audience members can pose questions.
Nerds in NoMa: Learn more about your favorite nerdy topics, like transportation, beekeeping, and brewing in a series of free events at The Lobby Project (1200 First Street NE) from 6-8 pm.
The first one features Harriet Tregoning, Director of the DC Office of Planning, and Jordan Mittelman from BicycleSPACE on Tuesday, December 3, 6:00 pm. RSVP here. Other talks take place on December 17, January 14, January 28, February 11, and February 18.
Talk about the future: Hear Greater Greater Washington's David Alpert give a talk about "new dimensions of civic dialogue" as part of a series of public talks organized by Georgetown's Urban and Regional Planning program. He will discuss how blogs have raised awareness and attracted more people to civic engagement, as well as how we can engage community members that have traditionally been neglected from this process, especially those in lower-income and minority neighborhoods.
Please come share your thoughts with David on December 5 at 4:30. You can RSVP here.
As always, if you have any events for future roundups, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
And please welcome Andrew Watson, one of our new event curators! Erin, the other, will be posting next week. Thanks Andrew and Erin!
Last night, a cyclist nearly hit a van blocking the L Street cycletrack and decided to report it to the police. That's when he met Fred and Fran Smith, the husband-and-wife heads of a conservative think tank who started berating him for "minding other people's business."
Rob, who tweets as @the_baseband, captured the interaction on his helmet camera and posted it online yesterday. It not only shows the need for more public education about cycling laws in the District, but also the divisive attitude some have towards cyclists, even when they're following the law.
Rob was turning left from 19th Street NW to L Street when he almost slammed into the back of a white van parked in the lane. He walks his bike onto the sidewalk and can be heard calling the police, when a woman approaches and asks if he's going to report the van.
As Rob reads out the license plate of the truck over the phone, an older man in a suit walks over and the two begin screaming at him. The two are later identified as Fred Smith and Fran Smith, founder and board member of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank that promotes free-market economics and denies global warming.
The interaction is brief, but it says a lot about lingering attitudes towards cycling and cyclists in DC. While the driver of the van broke the law by parking in a bike lane, it happens so frequently that people like Fred Smith either assume that it's acceptable, or that it's not actually a bike lane.
When Rob explains that he almost hit the van, Fred yells, "The truck is not in the bike lane at all!" He walks out into the street, points to the striped buffer between the bike lane and the general traffic lanes, and says that's the bike lane.
It's also interesting the way that Fred and Fran immediately try to paint Rob as the aggressor for trying to report the driver, chiding him for "minding other people's business." Fred makes multiple assumptions about Rob, saying he "hasn't worked a day in his life" and is "mad" at the driver for not being a cyclist.
When another couple walking by stops to see what's going on, Fred tries to rope them in and marginalize Rob (and by extension, other cyclists, or other young adults) as an outsider. Holding a cigarette, he says to them, "This used to be a nice town where people actually got along." It's hard to hear what he says next, but it's clear he's pointing at Rob.
On YouTube, Rob notes that he stayed to wait for the police, then "I realized it would be better for me to leave."
Our streets have limited space, and tension between different users is unavoidable. But as the ranks of cyclists in DC grow and the cycling infrastructure needed to serve them becomes more common, they won't be seen as outsiders anymore. Fred and Fran Smith may be a lost cause, but hopefully others will be more willing to accept cyclists and acknowledge their rights to the road.
DC could one day have 70 miles of protected bike lanes, if the latest proposal from DDOT becomes reality.
The proposal comes as part of the latest draft of MoveDC, DDOT's master plan. It's still only a proposal, and has not been approved by the DC Council. But what an exciting proposal it is!
And that's not all, just for bikes. The proposal also includes over 60 miles of new off-street trails, and another 70 miles of new regular bike lanes.
Of course, it's easy to adopt great plans and harder to accomplish them. DDOT is still struggling to implement the M Street cycletrack, after all. But one must start with a plan, and this appears to be an extremely progressive plan.
Tomorrow I'll share the latest recommendations for transit.
Cross-posted at BeyondDC.
Tonight (Thursday) is the next Greater Greater Washington happy hour! Also, mark your calendars for a Greater Greater Education forum with David Catania on the evening of December 9, and a late afternoon talk with me about growing civic engagement on December 5.
We've been rotating happy hours between DC, Maryland, and Virginia, and now it's DC's turn again. This month's happy hour is at Penn Quarter Sports Tavern, 639 Indiana Ave. NW from 6-9 pm. It's right across 7th Street from Archives Metro, a short walk from Gallery Place or Federal Triangle, and also on the 30s, 50s, 70s, D, P, and X Metrobus lines. There's a CaBi station nearby at 6th and D.
You won't see me because I'll be spending my time putting a baby to bed, but Dan and the other editors and contributors are lots of fun!
After the jump: Stand up for King Street bike lanes Monday, and talk with David Catania about education on December 9 and me about civic engagement on December 5.
Defend bike lanes in Alexandria: The proposed King Street bike lanes in Alexandria have been coming under some intense and often crazy attacks. You can speak up for the lanes this Monday, November 25 at 7:30.
The Alexandria Spokeswomen, an organization working to make the city more bike-friendly for women, is having a happy hour just before the hearing at Daniel O'Connells Bar, 112 King Street, at 6. Have a few drinks and then head over to actually push for safer cycling infrastructure.
Talk about education with David Catania: Our sister blog Greater Greater Education is hosting DC Councilmember and Committee on Education chair David Catania for a forum on December 9. It's 6:30 pm at the Hill Center, 921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE (Eastern Market Metro).
Natalie Wexler and Ken Archer will pose questions to Catania about education, and audience members can too. What would you like us to ask? Post your question suggestions in the comments.
Talk about the future
I'm giving a talk on Thursday, December 5 at 4:30 about "new dimensions of civic dialogue." It's part of a series of public talks by various people in planning organized by Georgetown's new Urban and Regional Planning program.
I'll talk a bit about how blogs (like Greater Greater Washington and others) have drawn more people into the process of civic engagement. However, I also want to spend some time exploring how we can broaden the conversation beyond just the demographic of our core audience. We need to be engaging with communities that have traditionally been neglected in the process, especially lower-income and minority neighborhoods.
The changes many of us push for, like adding housing opportunities and amenities like shops and restaurants, can and should benefit new and long-time residents of those communities as well. But we have to make sure they will, not just say so. We can't just draw supply-and-demand curves and say that more supply will filter and keep housing affordable; we have to craft policies that actually ensure people with lower incomes benefit not just in the vague future but now.
And we have to understand what people want for their own neighborhoods. Greater Greater Washington has always sought to highlight voices from all around the region about what they want for their communities, and I'd like to do more to find these voices from our traditionally underserved communities.
If you're interested in this issue, please come share your thoughts with me on December 5 at 4:30. You can RSVP here. That page says the talk is by Shyam Kannan of Metro, and my talk is on 12/12, but we switched, so I'm on 12/5 and Shyam is 12/12. (And go see Shyam's talk, too!)
Since it opened in the 1960s, the University of Maryland Baltimore County in Catonsville has been known as a commuter school. But university officials are giving students alternatives to driving to campus, starting with a new bikeshare program.
Sitting at the intersection of interstate highways 695, 195, and 95, UMBC's campus just outside Baltimore was designed for drivers. A loop of heavy vehicular traffic encircles the campus, and most students live elsewhere. As a UMBC student, I frequently became frustrated by the amount of traffic, poor planning, and lack of parking on campus.
Recently, the university has made significant strides in becoming more sustainable. Its shuttle system now reaches nearby MARC and light rail stations, and officials have added carpool-designated parking, Zipcar services, and charging stations for electric cars. In late October, UMBC launched its first-ever on campus bikeshare program.
The bikeshare program is a partnership between UMBC's assistant athletic director, Mike D'Archangelo, and Scott Westcoat of C'Ville Bikes and The Hub in Catonsville. Any UMBC student can rent a bike free of charge with their student identification card. Students will be able to take out a bike for anywhere from a couple of hours to a week or more. This program is a little different from traditional bikesharing programs like Capital Bikeshare, which are intended for very short-term rentals.
Other area universities have expressed interest in giving their students alternatives to driving, citing the expense and harm to the environment. Towson University launched its first bikeshare program last spring, and runs shuttles to a nearby light rail station.
UMBC's future campus planning calls for additional bicycle and pedestrian paths to neighboring communities and nearby attractions, making it easier for students to travel to and from campus and explore the wider region. In 2012, Baltimore County announced plans to construct two new bike routes from UMBC to the Halethorpe MARC Station and Frederick Road in Catonsville's business district.
The UMBC bikeshare program will greatly enhance the transit opportunities available to students. The program will not only offer a free method of transport, but will also greatly improve connections to Catonsville and Arbutus. This interconnection will support the local economy in a sustainable way, and will encourage the thought process for advanced alternative modes of transportation for UMBC and southwestern Baltimore County in the long term.
The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) promised to complete a number of important projects by now or by the end of this year. Quick quiz: Can you identify which of these have met or will meet the promised deadline?
- Start streetcar service on H Street NE-Benning Road by the end of the year.
- Devise a better system for handling visitor parking passes and residential permit parking.
- Start building a separated bike lane (or "cycletrack") on M Street NW.
- Expand Capital Bikeshare to twice its original size.
- Make pedestrian safety improvements to Maryland Avenue NE.
- Evaluate the effectiveness of a new median on Wisconsin Avenue NW in Glover Park.
The answer: None of the above. DDOT has delayed or given up on all of these promises.
Continue reading my latest op-ed in the Washington Post.
The L Street cycletrack has made it easier to bike across downtown DC, but it's wide enough that drivers often park or drive in it, endangering cyclists. But slightly adjusting the buffer between the cycletrack and the travel lanes could keep them out.
A truck and cyclist in the L Street cycletrack. Photo from Who's Blocking the L St. Bike Lane Today?.
Yesterday evening, I witnessed a crash in the cycletrack. A driver drove between the flexposts that separate the cycletrack from the travel lanes, well before the mixing zone where there's a gap to let drivers enter the left-turn lane, and crashed into a cyclist. The cyclist was okay; the driver admitted his responsibility in the crash, and police gave him a ticket.
However, bicyclists remain susceptible to collisions with drivers who willfully cross into the cycletrack between the flexposts. There is, however, an inexpensive and easy solution to prevent this from happening: make it too narrow to accommodate a car or truck.
This would solve both the problem of illegal parking and prevent drivers from using the cycletrack as a cut-through. The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) would simply need to paint a slightly wider buffer zone and move the flexposts over a few feet. The cycletrack would remain amply wide for bicycle use, while keeping cars or trucks out.
In the long term, DDOT officials have proposed building a permanent curb between the cycletrack and the the travel lanes. Additionally, they might consider a separate traffic signal phase for bicycles and automobile traffic, and whether "mixing zones" are really in the best interest of cyclists and motorists.
But for now, a narrower cycletrack, even one separated by simple flexposts, would prove a safer space for cyclists.
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- Alexandria board rejects King Street bike lanes
- Ask Congress to give DC self-rule on building heights