Posts about Bike Safety
Bicycle crashes are scary, disorienting events. Nobody wants to think about being involved in a crash, but it's important to know what to do in case of emergency.
Hopefully you will never have to experience this firsthand, but you may be able to help out your fellow bicyclists with your level-headed understanding of what to do.
At the scene
You've been in a crash. Now what?
- Try not to panic.
- Make sure you are safe to move or stay where you are and wait for paramedics. If there is any doubt, err on the side of caution.
- Call the police. Call 911. Make sure the police make a report. If you can't call, ask someone nearby to call for you. This step is imperative. Without a police report, there is no record of the incident. Even if you don't think there is any damage, do not skip this step.
- Get contact information for any witnesses. Do not assume the police are doing this for you as they take the report. Make sure you are able to get in touch later with anyone who saw what happened.
- Take photos of everything, including the vehicle involved, license plate, your bicycle, any property damage, the scene of the incident, etc.
- Collect the following information:
- Driver's name
- Driver's license number
- Phone number
- Make and model of car
- License plate number
- Insurance company
- Date, time, and location of crash
What if the driver flees the scene or doesn't stop? A driver who is involved in a crash and flees the scene has committed a serious legal offense. Try to get the vehicle license plate number and state where it was issued.
- Get home safely. Remember that backup plan? Now is the time to use it. Don't attempt to ride a damaged bicycle or ride if you're hurt.
After the Crash
You're off the road. You're home safe. What are the next steps?
- Seek medical attention.
- Write it down. While the crash is fresh in your memory, write down as many details about the event as possible.
- Pick up a copy of the police report.
- Take your bicycle to a shop for inspection and repair.
- Document all expenses from the crash. Keep a log of any and all expenses incurred due to the crash. Include life changes like taking the bus instead of riding your bike to work, damage to your clothes, personal property, bike, stuff in your backpack, time off work, etc. The WABA Crash Tracker App includes an expense tracker for this purpose. Use it.
- Complete the WABA Crash Tracker. We use this data to work on both infrastructure and law enforcement changes. Fill out the Crash Tracker form here.
Avoid crashes and problems by riding safely.
- Take a City Cycling class. Most bicycle crash incidents result from the bicyclist losing control of their bicycle, hitting debris or other hazards, or running into fixed objects, and not with motorists. Learn avoidance maneuvers, practice control drills, and gain skills needed to avoid dangerous situations at one of WABA's City Cycling Classes.
- Download the WABA Crash App. It's available for both iPhone and Android users.
- Consider your riding style, confidence level, and route. Are there adjustments or improvements you could make to decrease your risk of a crash?
- Follow the law. Following the law makes you more predictable. It is also important to your ability to recover damages suffered in a crash. Due to contributory negligence, a bicyclist can get stuck with 100% of his or her medical bills and damages from a crash if even only 1% at fault for the crash
— and failure to follow the law is evidence of fault.
You weren't involved in the incident, but saw it happen? Here's what to do:
- Stay at the scene.
- Call 911.
- Give your name and contact information to those involved in the crash and let them know you are a witness.
- Offer to help take down the above information (or do it yourself) for the victim.
A version of this post appeared on WABA Quick Release.
The National Park Service is trying to make the Mount Vernon Trail safer as it passes by the parking lot for Roosevelt Island. The agency devised four alternatives, but has already dismissed two, one of which which would have done more to fix the problem than the more conservative remaining ones.
In this area, the trail passes the entrance to the parking lot which drivers use to access Roosevelt Island. There is a lot going on in this area. Pedestrians and cyclists crowd the trail. Cars enter and exit the parking lot. Hikers cross to get to the Potomac Heritage Trail and Roosevelt Island.
To make matters worse, the trail crosses the parking lot with two sharp 90° turns. ADA ramps and at least one tree extend into the trail space, and the trail through the area doesn't even meet NPS' 9-foot trail width standard. As a result, there have been numerous crashes in the area, some involving cars, others between cyclists and pedestrians.
Besides improving safety, NPS wants to install a water fountain, more and better bike racks (since bicycles are not allowed on Roosevelt Island), and better signage.
Alternative 1 keeps the trail separated from the parking lot by a curb and widens it to 9 feet, with a 2-foot grass shoulder on one side and a 2-foot paved shoulder on the other. It also shifts the parking lot crossing to a gentler angle.
This makes it easier to navigate, but harder for cyclists to see oncoming traffic. It also elevates the trail crossing on a speed table (a wide speed bump) which forces cars to slow as they cross the trail. It would also remove an existing curb cut from the west end of the trail that cyclists currently use to go from the trail into the parking lot.
Alternative 2 lowers the trail to parking lot level, separating it from the parking lot by only a stripe of paint, similar to a bike lane. It also widens the trail to 9' and provides a separate 3'-wide pedestrian trail. Like Alternative 1, it changes the angle of the crossing but the crossing would be at parking lot level, rather than on a speed table.
Alternatives 1 and 2 are the options NPS officials are still considering. They also developed a 3rd and 4th, but discarded them.
Alternative 3 was the most aggressive proposal. It separated cars from cyclists and pedestrians entirely by eliminating the parking lot and trail crossing. It shifted the parking lot closer to the parkway and rerouted the trail to be entirely on one side of the lot. NPS dismissed this option because it would have eliminated 11 parking spaces.
Alternative 4 proposed moving the trail to cross the parking lot entrance and then run between the parking lot and the parkway. This would have been less safe due to the speed of traffic entering the parking lot from the parkway, and the bad sight lines at that spot.
What is best?
The reason many cyclists use the parking lot is to avoid congestion between bikes and pedestrians. Alternative 1 largely takes that option away, while providing only 1 foot of additional width to address the problem. The possibility in alternative 2 to separate bikes and pedestrians onto different trails is a nice step.
However, moving the trail to parking lot level could increase conflict between bikes and cars, as cars could back out of parking spaces directly onto the trail. The speed table from Alternative 1 seems to be a better approach.
It's too bad NPS didn't consider widening the trail beyond the agency's 9-foot minimum trail standard, despite the huge amount of bicycle and pedestrian congestion here. Nationwide, a 10' minimum is more common, and Arlington prefers 12 feet.
Also, Alternative 3 was the the only alternative that would fully separate cyclists and pedestrians from car traffic, but it has already been discarded.
To review the full details of the project, or to submit comments, see the project website. You can submit comments through April 22nd.
This spring, expect to see more toddlers blazing DC's most popular trails and safe streets, cycling independently or riding along behind their parents in a trailer.
Since 2011, about 25 parents and children have been a part of Kidical Mass DC, a kid-friendly bike movement with chapters in multiple cities across the country. Megan Odett, founder of Kidical Mass DC and a mother of two who tows her children to school and daycare everyday, hopes that Kidical Mass DC can be a catalyst to further push cycling infrastructure in the city, while providing a fun and safe family activities for the cycling season.
Odett reveals how Kidical Mass is becoming the go-to source for kid-friendly cycling in the city.
What made you decide to start a Kidical Mass chapter in DC?
I'd been living in DC for a few years at that point and I noticed more and more people biking with kids, and as a parent I noticed more and more people asking questions about biking with their kids on the neighborhood listserv. But there wasn't really a central place where people could meet or talk about what equipment works best or where they can go to find equipment. So I decided that since DC's biking community was growing and becoming much more widespread, it was time for us to also get a family bicycling community going in a more formal way.
Describe the types of events and activities that Kidical Mass DC hosts.
Our main activity is doing fun family bike rides. These are typically easy bike rides of 3-5 miles in length and we ride on a combination of streets and separated cycling infrastructures like trails. Usually the rides end at some place fun like a splash park or place to get something to eat.
In addition with Kidical Mass DC, I also do one education event every year called The ABC's of Family Biking. It is a kind of expo or celebration of family biking that involves parents who bike with their kids showing off how they bike with their kids and what kind of bikes they use; bike shops getting together to demonstrate what equipment they sell for biking with kids; and some teaching activities and workshops that are run by the Washington Area Bicyclists Association and the local Safe Route to School coordinator.
What are the best kid-friendly trails, parks or roads in the city?
I am a huge fan of the Metropolitan Branch Trail that runs from Brookland down close to Union Station and I also really love the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail. They're both really beautiful trails that are off the streets but offer a lot of really interesting things to look at.
What's the most difficult part of organizing rides that incorporate children?
Probably finding places to ride that are both fun to get to and easy and safe for kids to ride on, since we still don't have a whole lot of cycling infrastructure on the streets.
How do you feel about the progress that the city has made in accommodating cyclists?
The city has made a lot of progress and I'm really happy to see that DC is becoming a national leader in building cycling infrastructure.
I think that the next big steps are going to be connecting all the different pieces of cycling infrastructure together so that you can really go all the way from one place to another place on really safe roads rather than having a safe road here and having to jump over the to the next piece of really safe cycling infrastructure.
And also making sure that the cycling infrastructure that we have accommodates young riders and people riding big bikes that tow their children If more children are seen riding, will there be a push for safer streets?
What can people expect from Kidical Mass this year?
Kidical Mass's first ride of the year, and its ABCs of Family Biking event, will be May 3. Learn more here.
This interview has been edited and condensed. Crossposted on ElevationDC.
I sure hope so. I think that in other cities, demonstrating that children and families are riding bikes has done a lot to make cycling seem like something that ordinary people do and in turn that helps generate more support for good cycling infrastructure and facilities.
This year we are going to do an even bigger and better ABC's of Family Biking and they can expect to see more great rides ending at fun destinations with good food.
If more children are seen riding, will there be a push for safer streets?
What can people expect from Kidical Mass this year?
Kidical Mass's first ride of the year, and its ABCs of Family Biking event, will be May 3. Learn more here.
This interview has been edited and condensed. Crossposted on ElevationDC.
Arlington County wants to create more transportation options in Rosslyn and make it safer and more pleasant to walk or bike there. But the plan the county's working on may undermine that vision by ignoring existing bicycle and pedestrian safety issues.
Realize Rosslyn is a major planning effort; for over a year, Arlington County has been holding meetings, studying travel patterns, examining viewsheds and gathering feedback from all sorts of people who live, work or play in and around Rosslyn.
County planners are currently gathering feedback on a draft policy framework, a sort of vision statement for the plan. Overall it is great policy, calling for things like wider sidewalks, cycle tracks, a better-connected street grid, and connecting Rosslyn to the Potomac. What is missing, however, is any policy for addressing what Arlington cyclists call the "intersection of doom," Lee Highway and North Lynn Street.
This intersection is the most frequent site of bicycle and pedestrian collisions, according to Arlington County Police statistics. In August of 2011, a series of three cyclist injuries occurred within a single week.
The "intersection of doom" forces drivers turning right to cross paths with cyclists going straight. Image from Arlington County and edited by the author.
Pedestrians and cyclists going from the Mount Vernon Trail to the Custis Trail, or waiting to cross Key Bridge have to go through this intersection. Passing through the same space are two lanes of traffic trying to turn right to from I-66 to the Key Bridge.
Both groups have a green light at largely the same time. Cyclists and pedestrians get a "leading interval" where the walk sign has turned, but the light is not yet green for cars. Without a "no turn on red" sign for the cars, however, drivers can still turn right into the crosswalk while people are still in it.
This intersection presents many challenges. Arlington County, the Virginia Department of Transportation, the National Park Service and private individuals all own land right around this intersection. Any construction work in the area has the potential to significantly snarl bicycle, pedestrian and auto traffic.
Meanwhile, simple fixes like a "no turn on red" prohibition for the I-66 cars only address part of the problem and would likely back traffic up onto the highway. And there are viewsheds that people would like to protect, sensitive habitats, mature trees, and significant hills to contend with. That said, the status quo is clearly unsafe and a solution needs to be found.
Arlington is working on several projects that could address this problem. The North Lynn Street Esplanade and Lee Highway/Custis Trail Safety Improvements Project would improve sight lines, shorten crossing distances, and provide some additional space for bicycles and pedestrians at this spot.
But it will not fix the root issue, which is that a large crowd of bikes, pedestrians and cars all have a green light at the same time. In addition, it is LONG delayed. The last time there was a public meeting, construction was slated to begin in 2013. The current schedule has it beginning in 2015.
In 2011, GGW contributor Steve Offutt proposed relocating the I-66 off ramp as one solution. Many folks think the proposal for an air rights development rights over I-66 provides a great opportunity to do that.
Whatever fix is decided on, the Realize Rosslyn framework needs to acknowledge that there is a problem. It is great that the plan calls for new trails and cycle tracks, and it is great that the plan calls for new parks and wider sidewalks, but the plan must also recognize that our current trail is unsafe and include a policy to implement a real, long-term solution.
This Tuesday, March 18, the Arlington County Board will vote on a "request to advertise" the policy framework at their 6:45 pm board meeting at the County Board Room, 2100 Clarendon Blvd #300 in Courthouse. Please consider coming out and letting the Board know that this is an unacceptable oversight in the plans for Rosslyn.
Almost 60% of residents spoke up for Alexandria's King Street bike lanes Tuesday night, but the city's Traffic and Parking Board once again voted to recommend that the City Council delay building them because of concerns about lost parking.
The proposal would remove 27 parking spaces and add bike lanes to King Street between Russell Road and Highland Place, west of Old Town. In a concession to neighbors, transportation officials had previously agreed to have sharrows between Highland and Janneys Lane for two additional blocks, saving 10 parking spaces.
Though Transportation and Environmental Services Director Rich Baier gave the order to go ahead with the plan in December, the Traffic and Parking Board (TPB) reconsidered the project as part of an appeals process and voted 5-2 in favor of delaying it. Next, it goes to the City Council for a public hearing and final vote on the lanes March 15.
According to Baier, there are an average of three cars parked along the corridor, and all of the houses on King Street have driveways that can accommodate at least two cars. But the board asked Baier to address a large number of suggested alternatives, all of which retained all parking spaces.
Said Baier, "Everyone talks safety, but it always comes down to the parking."
Those alternatives included finding alternative routes for bicyclists, which Baier said didn't address safety concerns for cyclists or pedestrians on King Street today. Baier also looked at a wider sidewalk, bulb-outs, and a so-called "enhanced curb," but without changing the parking, there was only two feet of space to work with, meaning the improvements would be small.
A representative of DASH, the city's bus agency, said that narrowing the through lanes for traffic calming as planned is not a problem for DASH buses or emergency vehicles.
At Tuesday's meeting, Baier, his staff, and numerous speakers in favor of the plan described the traffic calming effect of bike lanes. Transportation planner Carrie Sanders stated that bike lanes increase cycling, and drivers respond by slowing down. Baier pointed out that this is a well-established result and is "not at all cutting-edge."
Overall, 32 people spoke in favor of the plan and 23 spoke against. One speaker was Environmental Policy Commission Chair Scott Barstow, who pointed out that the entire EPC was in attendance and invited them to stand up. In the interest of time, the remaining EPC members did not testify.
But numerous opponents stated that the traffic would not slow down in any circumstance. One opposing speaker said that inviting more cyclists onto the streets would indeed slow down the cars by frightening drivers, but went on to say that frightening drivers was simply unacceptable.
TPB Vice Chair Larry Ruggiero, who made the motion to disapprove the city's plan, indicated that he judged the plan unsafe. When fellow board member Kevin Posey asked for his rationale, Ruggiero failed to give one.
William Schuyler, who seconded the motion, added an amendment asking the "two sides" to meet and find a resolution within the next 60 days, which the board had already recommended when they voted 6-0 against the proposal the first time in November.
Complete-streets proponent Kevin Posey, who represents Alexandria's Transportation Commission on the TPB, and TPB member Greg Cota cast the two dissenting votes. The Transportation Commission submitted a letter to the TPB in favor of the plan.
Cota seemed incredulous that the rest of the TPB could not see the value in separating bicycles from pedestrians and cars. Posey said he was not comfortable with any motion that dismissed the expertise of city staff and the opinions of cyclists concerning their own safety.
Despite the TPB request for both more "common ground" and more delays, the reality is that there is no solution that both retains parking and allows even a single, parallel bike lane within the right-of-way. As Baier repeatedly pointed out, the road is simply too narrow.
The City Council will hold a public hearing on the project March 15 at 9:30 am at Alexandria City Hall, 301 King Street. If you'd like to express your support for this project, the Coalition for Smarter Growth is circulating a petition.
As Virginia's legislative session continues, House Republicans are still trying to take local planning authority from Northern Virginia cities and counties. Two bicycle safety bills have moved forward. And Hampton Roads may get a regional transportation authority of its own.
Bike bills seek to prevent "dooring"
Two bicycle safety bills have passed the Senate and are heading to the House of Delegates, including a bill that would require three feet of clearance when passing a cyclist. Another bill, Senate Bill 225, codifies that a car driver or passenger must ensure that the road is clear before opening their car door into traffic. And the House of Delegates passed HB 82, which specified that non-motorized transportation was included in the law that prohibits drivers following too closely.
However, two road safety bills that would have clarified a driver's duties to pedestrians in crosswalks were defeated in the House.
Delegates rewrite bill stripping Northern Virginia's ability to plan for itself
In our last update, we talked about HB 2, which would reduce Northern Virginia's ability to plan its own transportation projects. It's been significantly rewritten to put transit projects on more equal footing with roads and highways.
It will allow the state to evaluate projects on economic development, safety, accessibility, and environmental quality in addition to congestion relief, which would have been the only factor under the previous bill.
Meanwhile, HB 426, from Chantilly Republican Jim LeMunyon, has been tabled. It called for a "study" of transportation options on I-66 that only included more lanes for cars. It's unlikely that it will come up again this year.
But Delegate LeMunyon did get a House Bill 793 out of committee. That bill would have VDOT recommend specific transportation projects to the groups that plan these projects in Northern Virginia. Bills like this want to ensure that there's always someone advocating for highway projects that local governments may have already said they are not interested in. And this one violates the spirit of last year's transportation bill, which allowed Northern Virginia counties to plan for more public transportation solutions to congestion rather than pursuing a strategy that only focuses on newer and wider roads.
Another bill that we covered and is aimed at pushing a transportation solution that local counties may not want is House Bill 1244 from Delegate Tom Rust (R-Herndon), which would study and likely advocate for another highway crossing of the Potomac River as part of the Outer Beltway. It's been referred to the appropriations committee.
And HB 957, which would delay giving the state more control over VRE's executive board, passed the House. The bill initially called for repeal but this delay means that repeal can be considered again next year.
Good news for red-light cameras, Hampton Roads
The Hampton Roads area may soon be getting a local transportation planning authority similar to the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority with HB 1253, which has moved out of committee. This may be a benefit to Northern Virginia since such a group could bolster the argument that transportation decisions can be answered effectively by local governments.
Meanwhile, House Bill 973, which would have repealed localities' authority to install red light cameras, has been defeated.
We'll keep you updated on what happens to these bills.
Maryland's 2014 legislative session began last month. For the state's urban areas, one of the biggest issues is whether to spend the glut of transportation funding on more highways or new transit. But there are also two bills seeking to improve bicycling safety, while legislators will again consider a statewide disposable bag fee.
Disposable bag fee returns
Right now, Montgomery County, Baltimore County, and Baltimore City are allowed to impose a fee on stores giving out disposable bags, though only Montgomery currently does. Two new bills from Senator Jamie Raskin (D-Takoma Park), SB 707 and HB 718, would allow the other 21 counties to charge for disposable bags as well.
This isn't the first time Maryland's attempted a statewide bag fee. Raskin has introduced the bill each year for the past four years.
Bike bills would increase passing distance, outline cyclist rights
Lawmakers have also introduced two bills to promote bike safety. Delegate Jon Cardin (D-Pikesville) submitted HB92, which would strengthen Maryland's current 3-foot passing law by increasing the distance drivers need to pass cyclists to 4 feet. There would be some exemptions, including when the road is too narrow for drivers to leave 4 feet of space.
Delegate Al Carr (D-Kensington) introduced the other bill, HB52, which clarifies that the duties of bicyclists are those defined in Maryland law. The bill would give cyclists the same rights and duties as drivers.
It would require bicyclists to watch for other vehicles in public areas, while drivers would have to watch for bicyclists along highways where bikes are allowed. By clarifying the duty of a bicyclist, this bill would protect cyclists who are riding lawfully from additional or hypothetical responsibilities.
Both bills came up in a committee hearing on January 28th and were not received well. Legislators questioned if the new legislation is necessary at this time. The Washington Post quoted Delegate James Malone (D-Baltimore and Howard counties) as saying that cyclists already "don't pay any attention to the rules of the road."
We'll keep you posted on what happens next.
This post was edited to reflect that only Montgomery County has enacted a bag fee, while Baltimore City and County are authorized to.
How can we show cyclists, drivers, and everyone else on the street how to share? The city of Edmonton, Alberta produced these
five six excellent videos using LEGO figures teaching the new rules of the road.
Interactions between cyclists, pedestrians, and drivers can often be contentious. Lighthearted videos like this can help everyone understand their rights and responsibilities in the urban realm.
Thanks to WABA for the heads-up.
In January, the District Department of Transportation replaced two lanes on Wisconsin Avenue in Glover Park with a painted median and turn lane to calm traffic. But due to pressure from residents and local elected officials, DDOT will end their year-long trial and return the street to six lanes.
DDOT created the median between 35th and Garfield streets NW to draw attention to the commercial strip and give pedestrians a safer way to cross the street. But after complaints from drivers and Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans, the agency already removed part of the median in May.
Since DC received federal funds for this project, it must comply with federal lane width guidelines. Putting the original six lanes back would violate those guidelines, meaning the city will have to do so with its own funds.
Residents say they want pedestrian safety, but not at drivers' expense
The Glover Park ANC originally supported DDOT's plan, but reversed its position after conducting an informal online survey in October that said most Glover Park residents support a return to six traffic lanes. Just 300 of Glover Park's 10,000 residents completed the survey, but Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh agreed with the ANC's position.
Opponents claim the traffic calming has added to travel times, with anecdotal accounts citing times twice as long as the previous configuration. DDOT's official report indicates that average northbound drive times have increased by two minutes. Opponents have criticized this figure as only reflecting rush hour times and suggest that other times of day have been heavily affected as well.
Some business owners claimed a drop in customers because of difficulties driving to their locations. However, several new restaurants opened or will open in the corridor during the past year, including Sprig and Sprout, Arcuri, Einstein Bagels, and Jimmy John's. Meanwhile, Rocklands BBQ, whose owner signed a letter from local businesses saying they were getting fewer customers, recently announced that it will double in size.
At a recent community roundtable on the changes, Cheh and Glover Park ANC Chair Brian Cohen said very clearly that they did not want to change the lanes back without doing some pedestrian safety improvements to the area. Most residents testified in support of returning the street to six lanes, and some residents were open to speed cameras and HAWK lights, but little else.
DDOT Director Terry Bellamy noted in his testimony that it is difficult to both keep vehicles moving and build in safety measures. He also said that Wisconsin Avenue is too narrow for six lanes, as it is only 55 feet wide in the Glover Park commercial district.
Compromise proposal would remove just one lane
At the roundtable, Georgetown resident and GGW contributor Ken Archer offered a compromise plan, which would return one of the traffic lanes, but make them narrower, providing room for a northbound bike lane and rush-hour dedicated bus lane.
Archer argued that congestion will only get worse, pointing to residential developments all along Wisconsin. The only solution, he said, is to get drivers out of their cars. Cheh said that DDOT should consider Archer's plan for the long term, but in the short term all traffic lanes should be returned.
Political pressure on DDOT appears to work
Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh first called a hearing in May as a response to concerns from Massachusetts Heights residents about the painted median between Calvert and Garfield streets. Though this section of Wisconsin Avenue was the site of multiple pedestrian strikes, DDOT removed part of the median within weeks of the May hearing. DDOT has yet to release any empirical data supporting their decision.
The hearing this month was a response to continued demands to remove the median south of Calvert. And like the first hearing, DDOT agreed afterwards to undo its lane configuration with no empirical data supporting their decision.
This experience shows that DDOT is being particularly vulnerable to political pressure. It sets a precedent for opponents of other progressive transportation initiatives, particularly in Ward 3, where Cheh opposed converting the Cleveland Park service lane to a sidewalk. And it bodes well for opponents of the new bike lanes on New Mexico Avenue, who can only come away emboldened by DDOT's eagerness to placate many of their neighbors on Wisconsin.
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