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Montgomery County Bicycle Master Plan Framework report is ready for review

For a little over a year now, the Montgomery County Planning Department has been working on an update to the County's Bicycle Master Plan.

The plan will focus on developing a high-quality / low-stress bicycle network, bringing bicycle recommendations in line with industry best practices, and consolidating all bicycle recommendations into a single plan for the first time since 1978. An emphasis will be placed on evaluating newer facilities, such as separated bike lanes, buffered bike lanes, and bicycle boulevards, as well as secure bicycle storage facilities.

Though I haven't written about it much, this is a really big deal. The Framework report follows the Scope of Work - approved last September - and lays out four goals, as well as ideas about how to achieve those goals and how to measure whether it's working. The goals are

GOAL 1 Increase bicycling trips in Montgomery County.

GOAL 2 Create a highly connected, convenient and low-stress bicycling network.

GOAL 3 Provide equal access to low-stress bicycling for all members of the community.

GOAL 4 Improve the safety of bicycling.

There are a lot of recommendations being considered for the Master Plan.

One idea is to include two-way separated bikeways on both sides of the street on roads that meet a list of criteria. "Rockville Pike in North Bethesda’s White Flint area is perhaps the quintessential example of a street that is well-suited to a two-way bikeway on both sides of the street."

There are also some recommendations being considered for shared, signed roadways.

The Working Draft of the Bicycle Master Plan will make the following recommendations for signed shared roadways:

• Eliminate signed shared roadways, including those with wide outside lanes, as a bikeway facility classification. (wide lanes tend to increase automobile travel speeds and may make bicyclists less comfortable next to higher speed traffic than on a similar roadway with standard width lanes)

• Include bikeable shoulders, neighborhood greenways and shared streets as bikeway facility types.

• Continue use of wayfinding signs, regulatory signs (such as “bikes may use full lane”) and pavement markings (such as sharrows) as implementation tools for the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) and Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA), but not master planning tools.

• Encourage MCDOT to develop a comprehensive wayfinding plan.

• Encourage MCDOT to develop a sharrow policy.

The Working Draft will recommend higher design standards for sidepaths and will discontinue use of dual bikeways (a sidepath next to a bike lane or shared road) as a facility classification and instead refer to their individual components, such as separated bike lanes, bike lanes, sidepaths and shoulders, to better communicate the actual bikeway facility type recommendation.

In suburban locations, bike lanes should be eliminated if space is needed to implement a high-quality separated bikeway with wide adequate separation from the road.

The Working Draft of the Bicycle Master Plan will consider recommendations for bicycle parking stations at all major existing and planned high-quality transit lines, including the Red Line, Brunswick Line, Purple Line and future bus rapid transit stations, it will include recommendations about how to improve the quality of bicycle parking in the zoning code and it will reclassify existing and master-planned sidepaths as wide sidewalks in areas with high pedestrian volumes and with higher density land use (such as commercial areas) and will not carry them forward as bikeways. An alternate bikeway recommendation will be considered in these locations.

The planning board will review the report this Thursday and the public is invited to testify at that time.

From the Archives: An argument against the bell

In response to last week's letter, a cyclist wrote the paper to say that though bike bells were the custom in London, they have been opposed here, because they might cause confusion. Making statements that you might hear today, the writer says that it is the responsibility of the cyclist to "know exactly where it is best to run" to avoid an "accident" (Crash not accident, Capt C. IB. C! Jeez!). And then goes on to say that while an approaching bicycle may be startling, leading the startled to think "what a narrow escape he had," a collision was never really that likely.

Also, people let their children run in the street aimlessly. C'mon! From June 28, 1879:

Screenshot 2016-07-23 at 12.16.40 AM

 

Despite location, not many are bike commuting to Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall but that could change

It's uncanny how much this post at greatergreaterwashington matched the post I started to write for yesterday, but didn't finish because I ran out of time. Anyway, no need to rehash it here. But I will mention something else from the slide presentation.

Despite the fact that Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall is strategically located with a bike trails on two sides, bikeable neighborhoods to the west, Metro stations within biking distance to the south and north and the Mt Vernon Trail on the other side of Arlington Cemetery, not many employees are bike commuting there a study by Mobility Lab and Arlington Transportation Partners shows. And this is for a military base where employees probably skew younger and male* (the groups most likely to bike commute) and most employees are required to stay fit as part of their job.

Myer-Henderson Hall

Bike lanes and trails near the joint base

In fact only 1% of those surveyed said that they had even TRIED bike commuting and only 1% of those who lived off base listed "other," which would include biking, as there means of commuting. So that leaves a lot of room to grow (One says optimistically).

Ftmyercommute share

Blue is for people who live on base and orange for those who live off base. Even among the on-base personnel, more drive alone than walk! 

30-40% of the employees report being dissatisfied with their commute and almost no one reports biking to get around while on base. Meanwhile, fewer people have used CaBi  (11%) than have never heard of it (14%). Even more reason to be optimistic about the ability to help more people bike commute. 

The study authors suggest bikeshare on base.

Consider bikeshare

Which I think is a great idea. They should also consider parking cash-out, free bikeshare membership for employees, outreach and education, their own on-base bike fleets, a bike library for those living on-base and offering the federal bicycle commuter benefit. The cash out would go along way towards encouraging on base personnel to walk too. Offer employees free parking all year or $150 in cash, with $1 a day parking. 

* although that may be a false assumption

 

Maryland Ave NE road diet, too slow for some, not right for others and tiny little American flags for all

So Allen didn't show up to the Maryland Ave NE road diet meeting, because he and his wife decided to have a baby instead or some sort of excuse like that, but Mayor Bowser and DDOT Director Dormsjo did. There were two camps main camps there. People who have been waiting for this since 2011 and want to know how much longer it's going to be (probably the end of 2018 before it is all finished) and people who want to re-litigate the road diet decision.

The major change since the Concept Plan dealt with the median. The road isn't quite wide enough for a median near the intersections where there is also a left turn lane. So on some blocks there will only be a median in the middle of the block and on others there will be none at all. But only one person expressed concern about this. DDOT pointed out that because a pedestrian would only have to cross 2 lanes (whereas now it is 4) and they would have bump outs to shorten the crossing distance, a pedestrian refuge wouldn't be as necessary.

The pro-diet group was somewhat disappointed that the project wouldn't go out to bid until mid-2017, and that the 30% design won't be done until early August. The design will be presented at an ANC Transportation Committee meeting that month. But they seemed to be content to see progress. Some asked about what could be done in the interim and I think there might be some traffic lights added in places, but other than that, not much.

The pro-status quo group was angry. They didn't know how people (commuters, Capitol police, fire trucks, ambulances, etc...) were going to be able to get around if one lane was removed. They wanted to know if DDOT was going to do another traffic study since the last one is now 5 years old "and so much has changed since then." They were worried about parking.

Dormsjo's answers were unsatisfying because he skipped over some questions, which is too bad because eventually he got around to answering them pretty clearly, but I think people were frustrated with how long it took him to get to it directly. He told them that traffic was very light on Maryland and that it was overbuilt; and that this was prove by the fact there was still a lot of speeding - at all times of the day - on the road. He, and Bowser, pointed out that many other streets in DC are only one lane wide with a bike lane and ambulances manage to get around on them. It took them a long time, but eventually Bowser basically said that they weren't going to do another traffic study. She noted that the decision has been made. It's been supported by both ANCs, the Ward 6 Councilmember and the DC Council and so this meeting would not be about whether or not to do a road diet. It was to present and discuss the specifics. George Branyan pointed out that there would be no net loss of parking. 

During the presentation it was pointed out that some street space on E, 7th and G would be converted into little plazas. Plazalettes they called them. But that NPS had demanded that the view lines down the carriageways be preserved as they are part of the L'Enfant Plan. So there will be no trees and the carriageways would remain hard scape. Along the sides they were planning more bioswales and grass though. 

One participant suggested that a sidewalk be added to the outside of Stanton Park - all the way around it - and that the inside lane of 4th, 6th and C Streets be narrowed or removed. This is a great idea, but it probably needs NPS approval, and I doubt it will happen. 

Mayor Bowser and CM Allen to attend meeting on Maryland Ave NE update

DDOT is going to update the relevant ANCs on the 30% designs for the Maryland Avenue NE road diet tonight at the NE Branch library from 7:30 to 9:30pm and Mayro Bowser and Councilmember Allen are expected to attend. This project would add bike lanes to Maryland Ave NE (all images from the 2015 concept plan, not tonight's presentation).

  image from washcycle.typepad.com

And add bulb-outs and plazas to improve the experience for pedestrians

Screenshot 2016-07-20 at 12.10.14 AM

Stanton Park changes:

Screenshot 2016-07-20 at 12.12.05 AM

Screenshot 2016-07-20 at 12.13.43 AM

Screenshot 2016-07-20 at 12.14.39 AM


Screenshot 2016-07-20 at 12.14.39 AM


Screenshot 2016-07-20 at 12.14.39 AM

 

Maryland Judge reportedly rules that it's not illegal to crash into a cyclist in a crosswalk

Yesterday I reported that a 2nd cyclist was killed at the Matthew Henson Trail crossing of Viers Mill Road, that the driver in the last incident was charged with  "Passing a vehicle stopped for pedestrian at crosswalk" and acquitted.  Pulling it up from the comments on that post,  WUSA reported that the reason the driver was acquitted was that

The judge said because Towers was riding the bike, instead of walking it, in the crosswalk, he was not protected by the same law that protects pedestrians and people in wheelchairs.

It's a quirk in the legal code that both the Montgomery County State's Attorney and Towers' friends are now looking to change. 

That's unbelievable. Cyclists can legally ride in the crosswalk

21-1103b3: "In a place where a person may ride a bicycle on a sidewalk or sidewalk area, a person may also ride a bicycle from the curb or edge of the roadway in or through a crosswalk to the opposite curb or edge of the roadway."

The law that the driver was accused of violating was 21-502 c (in the section for Pedestrians' right-of-way in crosswalks)

Passing of vehicle stopped for pedestrian prohibited.- If, at a marked crosswalk or at an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection, a vehicle is stopped to let a pedestrian cross the roadway, the driver of any other vehicle approaching from the rear may not overtake and pass the stopped vehicle. 

And a pedestrian in Maryland is defined as a person afoot. There is no definition for a "cyclist" as near as I can tell. 

If this is accurate, then there is no law requiring drivers to not hit a cyclist in a crosswalk because they don't have the right-of-way. This doesn't apply to cyclists

Notwithstanding any other provision of this title, the driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian.

so there is no need to exercise due care. 

Basically livestock crossing the road have more legal protection than cyclists do. 

Does anyone know of any other judgements that decided that cyclists, when legally using a crosswalk, are entitled to the same protections as a pedestrian?

[And the balls on that driver. Going in and arguing that he did nothing wrong, because he killed a cyclist, not a pedestrian. How does he sleep at night?]

Kenilworth Section of the Anacostia Trail shaping up

Someone went for a ride on the still incomplete - and very much closed - Kenilworth section of the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail (ART). They shared the following photos and some comments on them. The Kenilworth section is arguably the most important section so far. It will connect the ART to PG County's Anacostia River Trail and with it the Anacostia Tributary Trail System stretching up to Beltsville, College Park (home of Proteus bikes, in case you were wondering) and Greenbelt in PG County and to Wheaton and Silver Spring in Montgomery County. 

It reportedly took about 28 minutes to get from Lincoln Park to the Bladensburg Road Bridge, and going on-road usually takes 20 minutes. But if the trail were completed, and the barricades removed and if they skipped going through Mayfair (by going left through the Kenilworth Park South/Kenilworth landfill property instead of right to Foote St) they think they could do it in 20 minutes easy. And get a much more pleasant ride. No cars, no exhaust, no traffic noise, no traffic lights/stop signs, more shade and more to see. Only in the winter - when no lights and no snow clearing (?) become an issue could they see using the old road route. 

The ends of the trail are incomplete, likely by design, and on the south end construction is underway on the abutments for the bridge over the old power plant outflow. In the background is Benning Road and the Metro trestle.

Bridge Abutment at Power Plant

From there it follows the river north, behind NPS's Kenilworth Maintenance Facility and the DPW facility, up a large hill and then back down to an NPS Road. That recently repaved road leads to the intersection of Foote St and Anacostia Avenue NE where a new trail head is being constructed. On the far side of the trail head is a motor vehicle access drive that isn't quite a road.

Trail head at Foote

From there the trail continues on the widened sidewalk (or in the road) along Anacostia Ave to Hayes Street where the real protected bike lane has been extended a couple blocks to south to meet the Anacostia Avenue sidewalk via a ramp.

Hayes cycle track and ramp

The bike lane has seen some improvements. New access points to Mayfair Mansion have been added.

PBL access to Mayfair

And the barrier has been filled in with a mix of dirt and paved areas. Not sure why they bothered to pave parts of it though.

Hayes PBL

The bike lane loops around to Jay Street and then goes north to cross Watts Branch on an improved trail.

South side watts branch approach

The trail has been similarly improved, and divided, on the north side of Watts Branch too. (All along the trail, hay has been added to the shoulders)

North side watts branch

The trail crosses over Deane

Deane intersection

 to the corner of 40th St and Anacostia Ave NE, where another trail head is being built.

40th st trail head

The trail then goes through Kenilworth Park back down to the River and along it. It crosses Nash Run on the newly completed bridge.

Nash Run Bridge

The section of the trail between Nash Run and Beaverdam Creek has been recently paved too.

Kenilworth Gardens

Near Beaverdam Creek, the trail has a stub leading off to an unpaved road that leads to the main part of Kenilworth Gardens - for a future phase perhaps?

Intersection near beaverdam

The trail then crosses Beaverdam Creek on the new bridge where a strange creature can be seen swimming underneath.

Kayak

Then the trail goes under the Amtrak and New York Avenue bridges on a boardwalk. Under the railroad bridge, a fence box has now been built to protect trail users in the case that a train derails and falls on the trail (I'm guessing).

Train bridge fence box

Just north of New York Avenue is an overlook where one can see boaters.

Scenic overlook with boater

After crossing under the bridges on the boardwalk it arrives in Maryland where more paved trail can be found.

North approach to Boardwalk

How did the turtle cross the unnamed stream.

Fear the turtle

On this small bridge. I think the other bridge was just a temporary bridge built for construction vehicles. 

Stream bridge

The trail then continues through the natural area built as part of the Wilson Bridge Project until it gets to the last unpaved section just before the dead end of the Anacostia River Trail.

Unpaved piece

Also, here is a bird (a heron?) spotted along the trail

Bird standing

You can see older shots of some of the same places here and here (April) & here (Nov 2015) & here, here and here (Aug 2015)

6 months later, another cyclist killed at Matthew Henson crossing of Viers Mill Road

Screenshot 2016-07-18 at 12.51.15 AM

A little more than 6 months after Frank Lawrence Towers was killed riding his bike across Viers Mill Road on the Matthew Henson Trail, another cyclist -  31-year old-Oscar Mauricio Gutierrez Osorio of Silver Spring - has met the same fate. 

Police said Gutierrez Osorio appeared to be crossing the eastbound lanes of Veirs Mill Road in the area of a crosswalk when he was struck by a Honda Accord. The driver of the Honda (Williams Alfo Cordova Siguenza, age 42 of the 13000 block of Carney Street in Silver Spring) was taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries, police said.

The crosswalk spans Veirs Mill Road in a low-lying area. There are no traffic signals at the intersection or crosswalk but there are pedestrian-activated warning beacons near the top of the hills along with a pedestrian refuge on the median strip.

WTOP, oddly, doesn't even mention the trail. Anyone with information regarding this collision is asked to contact the Collision Reconstruction Unit at 240-773-6620.  (WHAG uses the dreaded 'accident' word). 
 
There's only one other location in the DC area that I know of that has been the site of two different fatal bike crashes, and they didn't happen within a year of one another. Making this worse is that the County Police Department has warned SHA about this, and they promised to do something about it. 
“I hate to say that someone has to die for them to wake up, but immediately I sent them a report and essentially said, ‘told you so,’ what are you going to do about it?" [Captain Thomas Didone, who heads the county police department’s traffic division] said
 
Rakowski said the state planned by August to install overhead flashing lights at the crosswalk and to upgrade overhead lighting as well.
So I guess two people have to die. Does anyone know if the overhead flashing lights have been installed? 
 
By the way, the driver in the Towers case, Juan Francisco Orellana, was charged with  "Passing a vehicle stopped for pedestrian at crosswalk." He was tried and, just last week (on the 11th) acquitted. I don't know why he was acquitted. Even if convicted, it would have only been an $80 fine and 3 points. 

From the archives: Did bike bells come from sleigh bells?

This letter to the editor from June 16, 1879 is interesting for several reasons. First of all, the writer is suggesting that bicycle be equipped with some sort of bell (if only such a thing existed) but a bell like sleigh bells that are jingling, ring ting tingling too. Sleigh bells were needed because sleighs are so quiet that people needed to be alerted to them, which brings us to the second interesting thing. The concern is for all the people in the streets, because of course this is 1879 and the idea that people didn't belong in the streets hadn't take hold yet. I wonder if this is how mandatory bike bells got put into place - at a time when people were often in the streets, and were used to having bells on quiet vehicles, they required them.Finally, this is the oldest letter I could find of a pedestrian complaining to the papers about the dangers of cyclists. A forebear of Washington Dame no doubt.

If this writer is concerned about bikes in the streets, just wait until cars come along.

Screenshot 2016-07-15 at 11.48.27 PM

 

The Rhode Island Ave. Trolley Trail and the Final Inch

Screenshot 2016-07-14 at 11.45.54 PM

WABA Action Committee for Prince George’s County hosted an event on Tuesday (sorry so late) to kick off the campaign to finish the Trolley Trail and fill the gap in the Route 1 trail network

Starting at the Skate Park at the Northwest Branch Trail, we will walk north towards the current end of the Trolley Trail, discussing challenges and opportunities for creating a new trail link along Rhode Island Ave. We will finish with happy hour and more discussion at Franklins Brewery at the current end of the Trolley Trail.

It looks like they had a good turn-out despite my letting you all down.

“AND NOW LISTEN: THE RULE OF THE FINAL INCH! The realm of the Final Inch! In the language of Maximum Clarity it is immediately clear what that is. The work has been almost completed, the goal almost attained, everything completely right and the difficulties overcome. But the quality of the thing is not quite right. Finishing touches are needed, maybe still more research. In that moment of fatigue and self-satisfaction it is especially tempting to leave the work without having attained the apex of quality. Work in the area of the Final Inch is very, very complex and also especially valuable, because it is executed by the most perfected means. In fact, the rule of the Final Inch consists in this: not to shirk this crucial work. Not to postpone it, for the thoughts of the person performing the task will then stray from the realm of the Final Inch. And not to mind the time spent on it, knowing that one’s purpose lies not in completing things faster but in the attainment of perfection.”

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