Maryland Pedestrian and Bicycle Access to Schools Act

House Bill 285, the Pedestrian and Bicycle Access to Schools Act, has unanimously passed both the house and the senate in Maryland, and (I think) is only awaiting signature from the Governor.  The bill would require the Department of Transportation to collect and consolidate available information from State and local agencies regarding an unmet need for safe pedestrian and bicycle access to schools in the State; requiring the Department to report its findings to the Governor and the General Assembly on or before January 1, 2020.

It took on quite a few changes in the house, that seem to have limited its scale so that it no longer requires DOT to report recommendations. 

I'm not sure what the thinking is behind this bill. Maybe it's just an attempt to wrap their arms around the size of the problem? Regardless, we'll see how this report turns out I suppose. 

Other bills that passed include creating a state Complete Streets Policy, funding a Complete Streets Program

Bills allowing drivers to cross a double yellow line to pass a cyclist, creating a parking cash out and creating a carve out of the contributory negligence rule for pedestrians and cyclists failed. 

NVRPA considering ways to separate cyclists and pedestrians on the W&OD Trail

At a Arlington County Board meeting late last year, "Paul Gilbert, executive director of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (NOVA Parks), said his organization is mulling ways to separate those on foot from those on two wheels."

That's a great idea. I've been on trails like that and I think it makes all users happier. 

“I love the potential separation,” County Board member John Vihstadt said. “I think that will be well-received by both sets of users.”

I couldn't find out anything about the briefing, which may have not occurred in an official Board Meeting. I did find where NVRPA agreed to lease some park land to the County so that they could improve a bus stop east of South Wakefield Lane, but that doesn't appear to impact the trail or cyclists. 

The project will include new curbs, ramps, and gutters and a bench. A fire hydrant will also be relocated as part of the project.

2019 to be a very busy year in DC trails (if the TIP is to be believed)

Last November, DC amended the FY 2017-2022 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) and it puts a lot of work of interest to cyclists into 2019. 

One of the most important changes to cyclists is that the bulk of funding for construction of the Metropolitan Branch Trail ($11M) was placed in 2019 signaling that DDOT plans to start construction on L&M Streets and Fort Totten soon. 

Meanwhile the "Safety Improvements Citywide" program, which pays for things like lighting, safety studies, roadway improvements (like at Blair Circle) and such received an addition $918,000 in SPR and local funding. This comes on top of previous increases that more than doubled funding for the program. They also added millions for additional streetlight upgrades citywide, which is nice for those who bike at night. 

Though not a change, DDOT plans to reconstruct C Street NE with a cycletrack in 2019. In the same year they will perform more construction on Pennsylvania Ave SE/Potomac Circle/Barney Circle which includes improving "pedestrian and bicycle access to the Sousa Bridge and along proposed Southeast Boulevard to the 11th Street Bridges."  They also have more than $11M set aside for construction of the South Capital Street Trail, $3.5M for the trail bridge across the Anacostia at the National Arboretum, $14M to replace the bike/ped bridges over Kenilworth Avenue, $27M for improvements to Southern Avenue

In 2018, they have funds set aside to rebuild Virginia Avenue (which they're currently doing) with a new Virginia Avenue Trail on the south side. There's also more than $10M for the Rock Creek Park Trail rehabilitation project, and $19M for the Maryland Avenue road diet. 

The reconstruction of South Capitol Street and a new more bike-friendly Frederick Douglass Bridge, which just started, gets oodles of money over multiple years as does "multimodal" roadway improvements around St. Elizabeths. 

The Florida Avenue Streetscape project is funded in 2020, which is also new. 

image from washcycle.typepad.com

Oddly, there's $3.3M in the TIP for construction of the New York Avenue Trail in 2017. I don't think that happened. 

Many of the programs that support cycling in part or in whole, like goDCgo, the Bicycle and Pedestrian Management Program, Safe Routes to School, Roadway Reconstruction, Transportation Alternatives,  and the National Recreational Trails will continue to be funded as before.

There's also $500k in planning money to improve Aspen Street NW from Georgia Avenue NW to 16th Street NW to include new turn lanes and a multi-use trail on the north side of the street to support the Walter Reed redevelopment.

Edgemont II development will add PBLs to Woodmont and Edgemoor in Bethesda

The proposed Edgemont II project will develop the land immediately adjacent to the Edgemont at Bethesda Metro apartments located at the corner of Edgemoor Lane and Woodmont Avenue. 

The Project proposes to redevelop the Property with up to 301,193 total square feet of residential development (including 115,193 existing square feet to remain in the existing 72-foot-tall Edgemont I building) with up to 282 multifamily dwelling units (including 122 existing units to remain in the existing Edgemont I building), in a 150- foot tall new residential building.

Separated bicycle lanes are planned for both Edgemoor and Woodmont and will be constructed as part of this project. You can see them on the image below.

The Project will construct the Bethesda streetscape on its two frontages and will participate in the implementation of new separated bicycle lanes on Woodmont Avenue and Edgemoor Lane. Each of these improvements will improve access, mobility, and pedestrian safety.

In addition,

Bicycle racks or lockers will be provided within the garage and short-term spaces will be provided along the Property's frontage, with final location to be determined at time of Site Plan, to facilitate bicyclist access to the Property.

They expect a groundbreaking in the 2nd quarter of 2019 and two years of construction.

Edgemoor

And a rendering of the building for those who like such things.

EdgemontII

Army Navy road diet would make room for a PBL

ANMap

Shortly after I wrote about this project in January, Arlington County had a public workshop about the Army Navy Drive Complete Streets project.  Some more material from that meeting is now available. Nothing official has changed about the concept so far, and yet it's possible that the workshop results in some changes. 

On the bike network map above, you can see how Army Navy connects so many of the facilities together and becomes part of the Columbia Pike to 14th Street Bridge route. 

The project will create a bi-directional Protected Bike Lane on the south side of the street, transit lanes for the Joyce to Hayes section and landscaped medians. It will make room for this by reducing travel lanes. No word on which lanes will be for Navy and which for Army.

ANCrosssection

On the west side, the bike lane will pass behind a floating bus stop, but won't extend the bike lane on Joyce to connect to it...

Joyce

and on the east it will have bike boxes and a connection to the shared lanes on 12th.

12th

There are quite a few driveways on this stretch so careful attention will need to be paid to how these cross the PBL. The PBLs will only be 10' wide, which is 2' less than NACTO recommends. And then I have a lot of questions about how cyclists will transition to and from the PBL, but I like the general idea of this for sure. 

Construction is expected to begin in spring 2020, and be complete in spring 2022. That's roughly the time that the new Army Navy Country Club Access Road, which will provide cyclists access from the Columbia Pike area to Pentagon City, goes forward.

From the Archives: Vision Zero 1896-style

In 1896 a group of cyclists in DC that included the League of American Wheelman and the United Wheelman of the District of Columbia met with two of the district's three commissioners to discuss a list of regulatory changes they wanted to see made. These included lowering the speed limit at intersections for all vehicles, requiring vehicles to make turns from the middle of intersections, mandating lights on all vehicles and that mounted police officers look after teams of horses to make sure they follow the law just as mounted police do with cyclists. Because everyone knows that the teams of horses are the real dangers on the road. 

What's most interesting is this. 

Screenshot 2018-04-15 at 11.36.23 PM

Yep, bicyclists would be empowered to arrest people who throw glass on the street or who park in the bike lane. Ok, that last part was made up, but it would nice. In many cases these laws (lights, speed limits at intersections, etc...) only applied to cyclists. Cyclists were literally making the "if you want to share the road, you need to follow the same laws" argument.

Anyway they have a whole list of rules (park on the side of the street, pass on the left, pedestrians cross at crosswalks, etc...) that are currently law. It's like the first attempt at Vision Zero.

In the end commissioners decided that cyclists could cross intersections at the same speed as drivers and that some cyclists would be deemed special policeman empowered to arrest those who throw glass in the street.

Barry Farm could become the most bike friendly neighborhood in Ward 8 by 2020

Screenshot 2018-04-13 at 12.36.20 AM

DC could begin demolition of Barry Farm any day now, in fact they're already a little behind schedule, and once they're done rebuilding it, the new Barry Farm could be the most bike-friendly neighborhood in Ward 8. This is a $400 million project that will 

transform the 444-unit public housing complex in Southeast D.C. into a mixed-income community with rentals and townhomes within walking distance of the Anacostia Metro station and other city amenities.

The multiphase project, to be constructed by Baltimore-based A&R Development and the Preservation of Affordable Housing in partnership with the D.C. Housing Authority, is expected to include 1,400 mixed-income homes and about 50,000 square feet of retail space at buildout, with the first units available in 2020.

It will also provide extensive new open space and parks including a larger park at the center; and improved infrastructure including new roads that introduce a new east-west and north-south grid pattern with smaller pedestrian-friendly blocks to improve circulation and pedestrian connections. Those new roads will link the development to the Anacostia Metrorail station and Historic Anacostia through improved pedestrian, bicycle and streetcar route connections, and additional new bus routes through the community.

The project is generally bounded by Sumner Road to the north, Firth Sterling Avenue to the west, the Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital property to the south, and Wade Road to the east. 

For cycling there are several items at play. A bike lane will run down the center the parcel on  the eloquently named "Road 4" (or sometimes "Road 3") . That bike lane will connect to another new one on two-blocks of Sumner Road and that will connect to a future trail on the Shepherd Branch rail ROW. On the map below bike facilities are green and pedestrian ones are red.

Screenshot 2018-04-13 at 12.47.14 AM

Later a new bike/ped bridge could carry people over Suitland Parkway (probably part of the trail again).

Screenshot 2018-04-13 at 12.50.54 AM

On Sumner the bike lanes will be between parking and a travel lane and on Road 4 it will be between the curb and the travel lane.

  Screenshot 2018-04-13 at 12.54.05 AM

The trail will not be part of this project but we get some idea what it could look like.

Screenshot 2018-04-13 at 12.56.02 AM

Screenshot 2018-04-13 at 12.56.43 AM

With such a large ROW, I hope they separate cyclists and pedestrians. And I hope they don't make the trail meander. 

What the drawings don't show is that on the other side of Suitland Parkway is the Suitland Parkway Trail, which will someday be improved, and on the other side of 295 is the future South Capitol Street Trail, which would make this a high trail access community. It's disappointing that the bike lane on Sumner doesn't keep going to MLK Ave and to the pedestrian bridge over Suitland Parkway which would help tie cyclists to that trail better. In the future, we can also hope that there will be a bike/ped connection from the south end of Road 4 to the St. Elizabeths campus and maybe this road can be transformed into a trailhead for a 2nd trail on the south side of Suitland Parkway.

That being said, the project is not without controversy.

Though D.C. officials are pushing ahead, the redevelopment is a tension point between city officials who want to revitalize the community and residents who want to preserve their homes and fear displacement from the first African-American homeownership community in D.C. for freed slaves.

Petals and Pedals — Bike EOTR Parks with DPR and LimeBike

DC Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) has partnered with LimeBike for an exciting and unique series of FITDC bike rides through a few parks East of the River in Washington, D.C. with #BiketheDistrict: Petals & Pedals.

The next ride is Saturday, April 14th at Anacostia Recreation Center and will take riders through Anacostia Park. The final ride in the series takes place on Saturday, May 19th beginning at Malcolm X Opportunity Center.

The morning of each event, LimeBike pulls up at a DPR recreation center with a truckload of the fluorescent colored smart-bicycles for riders to use. LimeBike provides free access to their bikes for the day as well as free helmets for those in need. At the end of the 4-6 mile trek, bicyclists can leave the bike at the recreation center or leave the dockless bike wherever else they decide to go that day. Participants can alsoinstead bring their personal bikes to ride.

The kick-off event, held on March 31, brought riders to Kenilworth Recreation Center for a 6 mile ride through the scenic Anacostia Trial and Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens to the Bladensburg Waterfront in Maryland and back. The riders were split into groups from beginner, moderate to advanced paced riders with bike pacers leading each group.

#BiketheDistrict: Petals & Pedals:

Saturday, April 14, 2018, 11 a.m.

Anacostia Recreation Center

1800 Anacostia Drive

Washington, DC 20020

*Closest Metro: Anacostia Metro Station

Saturday, May 19, 2018, 11 a.m.

Malcolm X Opportunity Center

1351 Alabama Ave SE

Washington, DC 20032

*Closest Metro: Congress Heights Metro Station

The event is open to the public. For more information or to RSVP for the event visit MyFITDC.com.”

National Park Rx Day! April 28

Join the National Park Service for healthy outdoor fun on National Park Rx Day!

When: Saturday, April 28 2018, from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Fort Circle Parks - 5161 South Dakota Ave NE, Washington, DC 20017

Food and concessions will be on sale courtesy of Guest Services, Inc. Bring your whole family, furry family members included (provided they are on-leash)!

We are offering a variety of fun activities that connect your backyard park to easy, healthy lifestyle choices you can make:

  • Learn about composting urban gardening for healthy fruits and vegetables-kids can plant and take home their own bean sprout!
  • Talk with a healthcare provider about health concerns; get a free health screening.
  • Play pick-up soccer, frisbee, football and more with park rangers and volunteers.
  • Learn about small animals that live in your neighborhood-check out small animal pelts and artifacts with Latino Outdoors.
  • Come check out the D.C. Parks and Recreation climbing wall and mobile fun unit.

Scheduled Programs

  • Historic Fort Totten Walk
    Take a historic and educational walk with park rangers to Fort Totten, a historic defensive fort during the Civil War (1 mile, easy terrain).
  • WABA Group Bike Ride
    Washington Area Bicycling Association is sponsoring a group bike ride from Anacostia Park (19th and East Capitol St.) to the festivities. Bikes not provided, but we’re starting at a Capital Bikeshare station for those that need to rent a bike. Sign up for the bike ride here.
  • Compete in a Citizen Nature Challenge
    Biophilic D.C., part of the Biophilic Cities national program, is representing Washington D.C. in a national citizen science (collecting natural world information by the public) challenge. Come help find, take pictures of, and identify local wildlife in the forest nearby. Learn how to use the iNaturalist free app.

Come out and join us in your neighborhood national park, only a 5-minute walk from the Fort Totten Metro (red line)!

The bicycle commuter benefit is dead (sort of) (for now)

As frequent readers here are aware, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that congress passed late last year made bicycle commuter benefits taxable, but the benefit isn't dead yet, and it could get better. 

It's not all dead, because employers can still deduct the cost of providing the benefit, but in 2018, employees will have to pay a tax on that. 

Reimbursements for qualified bicycle expenses paid on or after January 1, 2018 are deductible by the employer, but employees must include the reimbursement in the recipient’s income. 

And it could get better because

Beginning with the 2026 tax year, qualified bicycle commuting reimbursements will again be excludible from employees’ income, but will no longer be deductible by employers.

It will be interesting to see if there is an increase or decrease in employers offering the benefit this year and again in 2026 (or if anyone will bother to measure that). The measure is not expected to generate more than $50 million in revenue during the period of suspension - and I suspect it will be much less than $50 million. 

When the provision was proposed, the Joint Committee on Taxation estimated it would cost $10 million over 10 years - but it didn't last that long. Blumenauer says the eliminating it would save $5 million a year, but I don't know where he gets that. I suspect it is from the Joint Committee's estimates, which only defined it as "less than $50 million". I'd be surprised if the Joint Committee was off by more than a factor of 5 (remember, employers can still deduct the cost of the benefit) back in 2007 and so I think the less than $50 million is more like $10 million or less.

What is unfortunate is that no one has done, or is likely to do, a study of the benefit's efficacy. Did it encourage more people to bike commute or did it just make things fairer? Did it help deal with the energy crisis? How much did it cost? I don't think we'll ever know now. 

Similar changes are being made to other transportation fringe benefits like transit benefits.

Beginning in 2018, employers may no longer deduct qualified transportation fringe benefits expenses, or any expenses for providing transportation for an employee to commute between his or her residence and place of employment, except as necessary for ensuring the employee’s safety. Previously, employers were able to deduct these expenses and the expenses were excludible from the employee’s income. While TCJA changed the employer’s ability to deduct the expenses, there was no change in an employee’s ability to exclude the expenses from his or her income.

The elimination of the parking and transit benefits deduction is expected to generate $17.7 billion in revenue over the next decade. Congress expects that increase in tax payments to be offset for employers by lower corporate tax rates established by the new tax law." But for bike commuters - I guess there's the other tax cuts?

Transportation benefits in DC will survive in part because the federal government is going to continue offering them (what do they care about taxes) and in part because DC law requires them for employers with more than 20 employees.

The Huffington Post posits that their is no budget or policy goal here, just an attempt to stick it to liberal city dwelling types who live on the East Coast. 

“It could certainly be that. Or it could just be one [senator] who had a bad experience with a cyclist,” said Ken McLeod, policy director at the League of American Bicyclists, a national advocacy group. “It’s a relatively innocuous benefit that doesn’t cost the federal government pretty much anything. It seems like it must be a personal or cultural thing rather than actual public policy.”

Perhaps this can be set right, and the benefit can be made better (can pay with pre-tax dollars, use it for bike sharing, parity, etc..)

Along with Blumenauer, Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) is co-chair of the congressional bike caucus. He’s also a member of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, yet even he seemed blindsided by the shift in bike tax policy.

“We gotta change that,” Buchanan said. “I just haven’t focused on that but now that you brought it up, I will.”

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