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David Alpert will take over AMC's The Walking Dead

This article was posted as an April Fool's joke.

AMC Networks has announced that it has hired David Alpert, founder and president of Greater Greater Washington, to be the new Executive Producer of its hit show The Walking Dead. In other news, The Walking Dead Executive Producer David Alpert will take over as President of Greater Greater Washington.

"We're really excited about this new direction for both our organizations," said Alpert. Alpert said, "This is an opportunity for both organizations to explore new directions."

The AMC show will be rebranded as The Walkable Dead and will focus on telling stories of the ways road design can keep people from facing serious injury or death. Jeff Speck will become the series' new head writer.

"I'm certain that audiences all around the nation will be just as riveted by the intricacies of sidewalk widths, traffic calming, and on which side of parked cars to put bike lanes as they are by stories of a world overrun by zombies," said Alpert.

For his part, Alpert plans to steer Greater Greater Washington toward more first-person narrative stories. An upcoming series of posts, tentatively called a "season," will depict a ragtag band of desperate survivors in Alexandria, Virginia who find their world, and neighborhood, completely destroyed by a pair of painted bike lanes on King Street.

An upcoming episode, previewed for the press, shows a suburban office worker having to wait a full 30 seconds to get out of his driveway as a few cyclists pass by. Having to back up very slowly and repeatedly look both ways epitomizes the difficult struggle to survive in a world suddenly filled with these two-wheeled menaces, who seem single-mindedly intent on getting to their destinations with their brains intact.

Alpert, who graduated from Harvard, said his past experience producing the TV show, which purportedly takes place in Alexandria, perfectly prepares him for the role of managing a blog and advocacy organization. He said, "I get it: density good, neighbor opposition bad, transit/biking/walking good, cars bad ... How hard can this be?"

Alpert, meanwhile, said he's confident that his degree from Harvard will prepare him for keeping The Walkable Dead one of the top shows on TV. He has been to Atlanta (where the series is filmed) a couple of times. "Most of Metro Atlanta already looks like a barren post-apocalyptic wasteland," added Alpert.

An additional revelation was promulgated by Alpert: In anticipation of the substitution, the phraseology that will be utilized in the production of Greater Greater Washington will entirely be composed of passive voice and nominalizations.

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.

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


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.

Pedestrians


How urban foresters made Canal Road's new traffic signal way more useful

In December, a traffic signal went up on Canal Road near Fletcher's Boathouse, meaning there's now a safe way for pedestrians and cyclists to cross that very recently did not exist. But if it weren't for the work of DDOT's urban foresters, a key sidewalk leading up to the crossing would still be totally useless.


This sidewalk used to be covered in growth that made it nearly impossible to walk. Photo by the author.

Lots of the District's 8,600 fishing license holders visit Fletcher's to fish in the Potomac River or C&O Canal. It's a popular place to rent bikes, boats, and canoes, and there are great places nearby to have a picnic or walk along the Canal.

For years, pedestrians and cyclists had no safe, direct route from the Palisades and adjacent neighborhoods to Fletcher's Boathouse and the C&O Canal. For example, someone taking the D6 bus to MacArthur Road at U Street NW would have to walk the half mile down Reservoir Road, then bravely cross fast-moving traffic at an unsignalized intersection across Canal Road.


Canal Road and the Clara Barton Parkway form a barrier to pedestrian and cyclist access to the C&O Canal National Historic Park. The red dots represent existing crossing points, and green dots are existing parking lots. The more southern blue dot is where the new signal went in. Base image from Google Maps, with labels by Nick Keenan.

This changed this past December, when DDOT, in cooperation with the National Park Service, completed a crosswalk and traffic signal at Canal and Reservoir Road. The walk or bike ride across Canal Road became safe and feasible thanks to the crosswalk, a pedestrian or vehicle activated traffic signal, and marked areas for pedestrians to stand.


Pedestrian prepares to cross Canal Road NW using new traffic signal. Photo by the author.

A recently unusable sidewalk near the new signal is back in action!

Even with the work on the new signal underway, the sidewalk along Reservoir Road could have been featured as abandoned urban infrastructure. The actual connection to the neighborhood had in some places completely disappeared. Brush, grass, vines and invasive trees had completely overgrown the sidewalk, and nearly all of the quarter mile sidewalk from V Street down to Canal Road had uncontrolled vegetation growth.

Anyone walking or cycling would need to use the street in many places because the sidewalk was so obstructed.


Photo by DDOT.


Photo by DDOT.

This past August, as the intersection project progressed, I contacted DDOT's Urban Forestry Administration (UFA) and asked them if they could take a look at the sidewalk. UFA confirmed that the trees were in fact invasive and had not been intentionally planted. And from there, foresters from the agency set about restoring the sidewalk.

The first things to go were bushes and other vegetation along the sidewalk. Foresters also chopped down the numerous invasive trees that had grown between the sidewalk and retaining wall and, in some cases, in the wall itself. Stumps of up to 4" in diameter remained, but they were cut as low as possible. And, finally, foresters removed the leaves and soil that had accumulated over the years.


After cutting down trees and before removing shrubs and vines. Photo by DDOT.


After final clean-up. Photo by DDOT.

The traffic signal and other intersection improvements added a decades-in-the-making crossing to Canal Road for pedestrians and cyclists. It also makes things safer for the 58,000 drivers who turn down into Fletcher's Cove each year. But the less well known efforts of DDOT's urban foresters completed what pedestrians and cyclists really needed in order to make the connection useful.

Bicycling


The Metropolitan Branch Trail is ready for a facelift

A safer, accessible, and more popular Metropolitan Branch Trail (MBT) is closer to becoming a reality now that a study on how to make that happen has wrapped up. Specific ideas range from more lights and new callboxes to a connection to Union Market.


Runners in the annual MBT 5K race. Image from NoMa BID.

The MBT will eventually stretch from Union Station to Silver Spring. Today, the 8-mile trail runs on and off of the street, attracting roughly 800 users on the average weekday. But despite the trail's popularity, it has been dogged by safety concerns.

That prompted NoMa Business Improvement District (BID) to partner with the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) and the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and hire Nelson\Nygaard and ZGF Architects to study the trail last year. From there, a range of stakeholders pitched in to make it happen: WMATA, WABA, Gearin' UP Bicycles, and Rails to Trails, to name a few.

The ideas also come out of the results of a community survey with nearly 900 respondents and suggestions from a stakeholders group of close to 30 individuals.

Focusing on the stretch from Union Station to Brookland, the study recommends 30 different actions that would result in a safer, more accessible trail, and one that more people knew about, all of which would attract more users.

Here's a summary some of those recommendations:

Lighting, callboxes, and mile markers make a trail safer

Among the biggest ways to improve safety is to work on existing infrastructure. For example, the trail needs sufficient lighting that works all the time, callboxes, cameras, and regularly-placed mile markers.

DDOT has installed mile markers at quarter-mile intervals along the trail and at least one developer, MRP Realty, has agreed to install a call box near its Rhode Island Avenue development.

In March, DDOT is expected to complete the design portion of a lighting contract to make clear what kinds of materials it needs, and where new lights will go.

More points of entry would invite more users

More "eyes on the trail" would make it a more welcoming place, which would in turn attract more eyes. New entrances and exits would help with this.

Some of the additional connection points suggested, from south to north, include Union Market, Q Street NE, Edgewood Court and the Franklin Street alley.


The Q St connection. Image from the MBT Safety and Access Study.

The Q Street and Franklin Street access points are likely to be built in the near term. The Q Street access point will connect to the MBT over the recently purchased parcel of land that will become NoMa's first park, tentatively named NoMa Green. The Franklin Street alley is underway, with construction happening on the adjacent lot.

Adding some personality could be key

One interesting finding in the study is that a number of nearby residents are simply not familiar with the MBT. Promoting the "identity" of the trail, through increased visibility, branding, and signage, could change that.

That also means signs in neighborhoods the trail runs through, so people who could be using it but perhaps don't know about it are more likely to get the message.

In addition, murals and signs on overpasses, bridges, and blank walls at key spots along the trail could educate users about the neighborhoods they are passing through. The study also suggests adding flavor to the trail by painting directly on its surfaces.

Another recommendation is activating Penn Center, a District-owned warehouse at R Street NE, with a café or bar space facing the trail.


Rendering of the potential Penn Center refurbishment. Image from the MBT Safety and Access Study.

The MBT safety and access study is a plan that communities along the trail will be able to use to encourage partnership, support and funding for changes for the trail. This will help it to be a key part of the next wave of active outdoor recreation spaces and transportation infrastructure in the District.

Pedestrians


"Bulb-outs" could make crossing the street safer at key trouble spots

People on foot could get a little more space at the corners of 14th and U NW, Benning Road and Minnesota Avenue NE, and M and Wisconsin in Georgetown. Those are a few of the concepts in a new analysis of how to make DC's most dangerous intersections safer.


Image from NACTO.

Transportation officials, local community and business members, bicycle and pedestrian advocates, and councilmember Mary Cheh toured five of the highest-crash intersections in August and September. A new report from DDOT recommends ways to make each safer.

The intersections were: Columbus Circle in front of Union Station, New York Avenue and Bladensburg Road NE, 14th and U NW, Minnesota Avenue and Benning Road NE, and Wisconsin and M in Georgetown. Between them, three people died and 12 had "disabling injuries" since 2012, a total DC is committed to reducing to zero.

The report is full of interesting statistics on crashes and small fixes for people walking, biking, and driving. One piece of note is are a few spots where the study team is proposing temporarily or permanently creating some more space for people on foot, such as "bulb-outs" at corners which add to the sidewalk space and shorten crossing distance.

At 14th and U, plans are already underway to rebuild that intersection as part of a 14th Street streetscape project expected to start this fall. That design includes bulb-outs at the corners:

On Benning Road, DDOT will look into adding a pedestrian refuge using flexible posts for the spot where people walking and biking get onto the bridge sidewalk to go over the railroad tracks (and later the river).

The always-thorny corner of M and Wisconsin has large numbers of people waiting on the narrow sidewalks to cross the street (and then short times to cross). The report suggests studying possible bulb-outs for three of the corners to add more space for people to wait.

For New York Avenue and Bladensburg and Columbus Circle, the report doesn't recommend any changes of the same scale, but notes that there are sidewalks and pedestrian islands on New York Avenue that are too narrow and which should be widened, as well as are some missing crosswalks on Columbus Circle.

What else do you notice in the report?

Roads


The feds might pay for smarter drunk driving penalties in DC

Most people would say they favor harsher punishments for drunk driving. But when it comes to keeping impaired drivers off the road, the most important thing is having laws that work.


Photo by VCU CNS on Flickr.

During testimony at a recent DC Council Transportation Committee hearing in favor of laws to eliminate road deaths, Mothers Against Drunk Driving State Legislative Affairs Manager Frank Harris supported increased use of ignition interlock devices, which are mechanisms that test the driver's blood alcohol level and keep a car from starting if the driver is under the influence.

The District barely uses its current ignition interlock program. Right now, only nine people in the District have one, which is a much lower rate than in Maryland or Virginia. Harris said relying on the devices more would be more effective than current penalties.

Revoking licenses, Harris said, is a "hope for the best" policy: there's a risk DWI offenders will drive anyway. With interlock devices, there's a higher chance offenders drive soberly.

The bill currently being proposed for DC would require two-time offenders and offenders with particularly high blood alcohol concentrations to use a device. According to Harris, if DC were to require all DWI offenders to install an interlock device for at least six months, a federal incentive grant from NHTSA of around $200,000 could cover the cost of the program.

25 other states, including Virginia, have such a requirement for first-time offenders.

Interlock devices cost a little less than $3 a day. While most people who are ordered to use interlock devices have to pay for them, most states require manufacturers to provide devices to people who can't afford them, a model DC could emulate.

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