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2017 "Cool Developments" include key trail segments

Washingtonian recently did a click-baity feature on the "9 Coolest Developments Coming to Washington in 2017" and two of them include key sections of bike trail.

The  first is the Wharf. In addition to inspiring normally nice Iowans to wish a recession on our town, the massive development on the SW Waterfront is also building a section of the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail. The trail project was long ago broken up into 19 pieces, and the Wharf section is #17. The portion completing this year, phase 1, will only build part of that; but when complete it would leave slightly less than 5 segments to go (part of 18 opened last year).

image from washcycle.typepad.com

Status of the ART in 2012
 

The ART will be right along the waterfront (which is not the  Anacostia waterfront, but who's keeping track)

Wharf ART

Cyclists will likely prefer Maine Ave, which will feature a protected pair of bike lanes, behind parked cars and at the sidewalk level - a first for DC. That will also not be completed in this phase. Phase 2 will be completed in 2020-2021. 

Wharfbike
Wharfbike

The other project isn't really in Washington, but rather Riverdale Park, MD. The Riverdale Park Station development is built atop an old trolley line and portions of that right-of-way from Hyattsville to College Park have been turned into a trail. The RPS property is the only gap. Though part of this project will open this year, it's not clear the trail will.

image from washcycle.typepad.com
image from washcycle.typepad.com

Interestingly, as far away as these projects are from another, you can ride from one to the other entirely on trail (except for the gap between the Wharf and Nationals Stadium).

RFK Parking lots could become park space with trails and a new Anacostia crossing

EventsDC recently released concepts for the RFK Stadium-Armory Campus and if these concepts became reality they would make use of, and expand, DC's Anacostia River Trail that currently passes through the campus. The concept would build 3 new bridges and a pair of new paths.

Screenshot 2017-01-16 at 10.44.19 PM

One new path would serve as an alternative to Oklahoma Ave and as a way to access the Park. It would go east from Oklahoma Avenue and C Street NE then turn north eventually reconnecting with Oklahoma at Benning Road. The other new path would run east from the existing path between the ART and Heritage Island to Oklahoma. In addition, new roads would provide bike access to the park and ART.

The three new bridges would provide new options for getting across the river, but in most cases not faster ones. One bridge would connect the south end of Kingman Island (the bigger island) to the west bank ART. Another would connect the south end of Heritage Island to the west bank ART.

Screenshot 2017-01-16 at 10.55.38 PM

And a third would connect the east side of Kingman Island to the east bank ART and the River Terrace neighborhood.

Screenshot 2017-01-16 at 10.55.59 PM

Bike-related bills in the 2017 Virginia legislature

FABB and VBF have a good run down.(See the VBF website for the full report.) Perhaps most bikey is

HB 2023 Highway maintenance payments; bicycle lanes. The bill to not reduce highway maintenance payments to municipalities that have implemented road diets. Filed by Del. Villanueva.

From the Archives: Excellent Question

From February 4, 1913

Screenshot 2017-01-15 at 11.22.38 AM

Unfortunately, I don't know what job they're talking about.

I'll note that other publications at the time called Wilson "the first bicycling President."

Trolley Trail Sound Wall Removal and Trail extension update

Here's a recent photo of the work to remove the sound wall that diverted the Trolley Trail at Campus Drive in College Park and to extend the trail to the crosswalk.

CP Sound Wall

Blogging has been a bit light this week because I was in a nasty bicycle crash on Tuesday night. I'm fine but I have a broken arm and it makes writing difficult. I expect to go back to work next week, be out of the cast in 2 months and be back to normal by summer. Blogging might be sporadic for awhile.

Pittsburgh Bikeshare reduced parking demand near stations by 2%

In addition to reducing congestion, bike-sharing can cause a modest reduction in the demand for parking. A recent working paper on Social Science Research Network (SSRN) by Konstantinos Pelechrinis at University of Pittsburgh and Beibei Li and Sean Qian at Carnegie Mellon University reports that a comparison of parking data and bikeshare data shows a very small reduction of car trips to places where a bike share station is added

To estimate the effect that bike share had on car trips, the researchers paired Shadyside’s bike dock data with parking meter data from [Shadyside and Squirrel Hill] neighborhoods.

The researchers measured the differences in parking rates in the month before and a month after the bike-share stations were installed in Shadyside (May 2015 and July 2015). The researchers then charted the hourly difference between parking events in Shadyside and Squirrel Hill.

Bike-share trips replaced at most about 69 car trips per day, out of 2,250 daily parking events in the neighborhood of Shadyside. This is a 2 percent decrease in parking demand (adjusted for the lost curb parking space for the installation of the bike docks) after the program’s launch in 2015.

The researchers estimate that level of trip replacement over a month would produce approximately 1,346 fewer car trips, 82.5 fewer gas gallons, 76,470 calories burnt, and 0.73 fewer metric tons of CO2 emissions from trips to Shadyside.

And that's just one neighborhood, for a newly installed system that is much smaller that Capital Bikeshare. CaBi likely is reducing trips by even more. While this seems like a study of something else - parking - than the one reported yesterday, its actually a complementary study. Both show that bikeshare can make a modest change in driving, reducing congestion and improving air quality. It creates a powerful argument for creating bike share systems, expanding them and shows - in part - why subsidizing them makes sense. 

Update, CaBi reduces congestion by 4%, not 2-3%, bringing almost $200M in annual benefits

Back in July, 2015 a report that bike sharing didn't do much for congestion or air quality made some headlines on some more wonky media. But the authors own conclusions undermined that reporting

Ricci found that bike-share users don’t bike instead of driving so much as they bike instead of taking transit or walking. She writes that, “although Dublin bikes users reported considerable behavioral change, the prevailing trend showed a large modal shift (80.2 percent) from sustainable modes of travel to the bicycle, particularly from walking (45.6 percent) and including transfer from bus (25.8 percent) and rail (8.8 percent).” Still, nearly 20 percent of Dublin bikes users say they now drive less. Other European and American cities saw far lower rates of mode shift. In London only 2 percent of users shifted away from cars. In Lyon, France, and Washington, D.C., it’s 7 percent.

It certainly seems there is SOME reduction in driving and that is likely to lead to SOME reduction in congestion. And about a month later a pair of researchers from DC and the University of Richmond did a study showing that having 7% of CaBi users drive less results in about a 2-3% reduction in driving.  They determined this by looking at traffic data over a 2 year period during which bike share docks were being installed and comparing the traffic before and after installation. 

Our empirical results indicate that the average treatment effect of the presence of bikeshare docks is a 2 to 3% reduction in traffic congestion. In addition to these results, we also find evidence of a potential spillover effect, in which docks increase congestion in neighboring locations, perhaps as they lead drivers to find alternative routes to avoid bicycle traffic.

This fall they revised their study, and the news is better 

Estimates from our preferred models indicate a 4% reduction in congestion due to the presence of a bikeshare...This would reduce annual congestion costs for Washington area automobile commuters by approximately $57 per commuter, and total costs by $182 million...[and]...In terms of social benefits, a 4% reduction in traffic congestion for our study area would imply an annual benefit of roughly $1.28 million from reductions in congestion-induced CO2 emissions

This value ignores any benefits from cleaner air (like NOx emissions), private cost-savings from modeswitching and any health benefits that may accrue to bicycle commuters. They also found that congestion mitigation occurs primarily in areas with relatively high congestion and that there was actually almost no spillover effect

Better identification indicates that there is little or no congestion spillover from adjacent treatment.

All good news, and should add to the rapid development of bikesharing in just about every urban area in America and the world. 

From the Archives: the Matthew Henson Trail and its Viers Mill crossing.

Recently, the Matthew Henson Trail has been in the news - mostly due to two fatalities on the trail crossing of Viers Mill Road, but the trail has been in the spotlight before in it's extremely long history.

The idea for the trail dates back at least as far as Montgomery County's 1978 Master Plan of Bikeways - the county's first bike plan - when a trail was recommended for what was then known as the Rockville Facility Right-of-way, which was originally purchased in the 1950's for the Outer Beltway, but instead became Matthew Henson State Park and a county park in 1989, in part due to the intervention of bicycle advocates.

In 1995, momentum for the trail finally began to pick up after it was included in the Aspen Hill Master Plan. In that plan it was originally intended to connect the Rock Creek Park Trail with the Sligo Creek Trail and with a trail alog the Northwest Branch all the way to Norwood Park. The Rockville Facility Trail would have been complemented by bikeways on Connecticut Avenue and Georgia Avenue. The current trail doesn't quite make it to the Northwest Branch, and the Northwest Branch Trail doesn't make it as far north as Colesville, nor are there bikeways on Connecticut or Georgia Avenue, but the Matthwe Henson Trail has been constructed. At the time the Post wrote

The Henson State Park proposal would be the mid-county link that could hook into the Sligo Creek Trail and the Rock Creek Trail and the 23-mile Capital Crescent Trail now under construction.

The trail was also intended to pass under Viers Mill Road. The state legislature authorized construction of the trail the following year.

 In the 1998 Countywide Park Trails Plan, the 7-mile Matthew Henson Trail was broken up into two phases. Phase 1 is the 4 mile section that exists now and phase 2 would "Provide a hard surface park trail from Alderton Drive east to Northwest Branch and south to Wheaton Regional Park." But phase 2 was contingent on the purchase of part of the Indian Springs Golf Course, if ever were to be redeveloped. It was redeveloped, in 2007, but alas, no phase 2. The trail was also to eventually continue east from Rock Creek Park along the Montrose Parkway right-of-way. 

Prior to 1995, bike advocates, environmentalists and neighbors worked together to have the right-of-way removed from consideration for a road, and used for a hiker-biker trail; but once the trail planning began, neighbors and some environmentalists led by the Sierra Club began to oppose it. Opponents lost, but by 2001, there was an all-out fight over what kind of surface the trail would have

A team of environmental activists, called a "Tiger Team," has spent recent weeks rounding up area civic leaders and coaxing them into the woods to look for themselves.

They are encouraging civic groups to speak out against paving the path.

"If there must be a path, we want it to be a natural surface," said Jim Fary, conservation chairman for the Montgomery County Sierra Club, which opposed the trail when the proposal was approved in 1995.

They argue that the hard pavement will damage the balance of nature in the 660 acres that were set aside in 1995 for a trail.

This of course, sounds strikingly familiar to the battle over the Purple Line where the plan is to build a transit line and trail on land purchased for the purpose of building a transit line and trail. And, of course, opponents pulled out some of the usual boogeymen

She also cautioned that a paved trail could create more traffic in the neighborhood and possibly increase the risk of crime.

In 2002, Montgomery County Council member Blair G. Ewing (D-At Large) proposed a law to ban paved trails in environmentally sensitive areas in county parks.

Ewing said he proposed the ban after learning that staff of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission had proposed paving the Mathew Henson trail in Aspen Hill, which connects the Rock Creek and Sligo Creek trails, and a trail in the Muddy Branch park in Potomac.

And the following year, State Senator Brian Frosh introduced an amendment requiring any new path to allow water through its surface. The amendment eliminated asphalt paving. Proponents of the trail argued that paving would be more handicap-accessible, but opponents argued that

“There are some things handicapped people can’t do and places they can’t go,” said Alyce Ortuzar, an environmental activist. “This is one of those areas.”

That amendment failed and about a month later the county council voted to build a paved trail. By that time the Viers Mill crossing was at-grade. In 2006, local residents sued the County to stop construction of the trail

In the suit, Strathmore-Bel Pre Civic Association residents and environmentalists argued that the trail would harm rich wooded areas and streams, and depreciate values of nearby homes. 

The suit contended that the county did not properly assess the trail’s full impact on the environment. The county’s environmental study focuses on the approved trails, but fails to address the damage future connections will contribute, said Arlene Thorne, a plaintiff. One proposed trail includes a path from Alderton Road to Wheaton Regional Park.

The Countywide Park Trails Plan says the Henson trail would ‘‘provide residents of more than 16,000 housing units with an attractive outdoor experience within roughly one mile of their homes,” and more recreation opportunities.

But Layhill Village resident Ken Giordon said the trail would bring strangers, crime and spur home depreciation. His house sits about 100 feet from the trail’s path. Also, he said the trail’s proximity to Bel Pre Elementary School poses a danger to students.

‘‘It intrudes on our privacy, on our safety and our security having this kind of traffic coming in and out of the trail, and it’s not right,” Giordon said. ‘‘The concept of a trail [so] near, adjacent to houses is not a good one.”

But a few months later a judge sided with the County and construction began. The trail opened in May of 2009.

Originally the Viers Mill crossing didn't have a painted crosswalk or any type of button-activated light (though parts were installed at that time) but by 2012 that was changed with a light that would flash up the hill from the crosswalk. One writer wrote in to the Washington Post to criticize the unusual light arrangement. 

I think if you go through the trouble of installing lights on a crosswalk, it would be better to use good old red, yellow and green rather than the various flashing arrangements that many drivers rarely encounter.

Another writer disagreed

The button-activated standard stoplight for pedestrians crossing Westbard Avenue, between Massachusetts Avenue and River Road, in Bethesda is rarely used (at least during non-school hours), but it triggers a much longer delay for cars than necessary.

Wouldn’t a flashing red stop signal protect crossers just as well without imposing the long red-light delay the planners now employ to permit a slow person to cross this wide street?

Dr. Gridlock chimed in, first saying

Safety experts tell me that a traditional green, yellow and red signal isn’t necessarily an upgrade on heavily traveled routes. They would rather go with a signal that remains dark unless activated by a person.

And then

The flashing signal on Veirs Mill Road was a special design worked out to accommodate the needs of both trail users and drivers on this high-volume roadway, with a traditional traffic signal in the area where drivers also must stop. That’s an appropriate balance for its environment.

We don’t need a one-style-for-all standard, and I admire the efforts to accommodate different needs, but the key need is safety. I wouldn’t want drivers to have too many types of signals to consider.

Which is, of course, just what has happened there. Twice. 

Removal of sound barrier along PG County Trolley Trail begins

CPTT Wall

Photo by Jeff L.

Following several fatal crashes at Montgomery and Prince George's County trail crossings, the counties and SHA have been making some changes in hopes of making the crossings safer. At Viers Mill (Matthew Henson Trail) engineers added button-activated flashing lights (which wasn't enough to prevent a 2nd fatal crash involving a cyclist a few months later); at Little Falls Parkway (Capital Crescent Trail) they've made plans for a road diet and speed limit reduction; and now at Campus Drive (Trolley Trail) the sound barrier that blocks the direct path of the trail is being removed. 

This is part of a larger project that will

Remove and dispose of 10 sound barrier wall panels, construct a new 50-ft long by 10-ft wide asphalt bike trail, and install a w-beam traffic barrier with end treatments on Campus Drive

The bid for that work went out 12 days after the fatal collision there. The traffic barrier referenced above will go where the wall used to be.

Screenshot 2017-01-05 at 11.31.45 PM

There was a proposal from a  Complete Streets public workshop to cut a hole in the wall (see image below), but not to knock the whole thing down, though the image above includes an email that says that just one panel could be removed. (Maybe they're moving it to the Mexican border). Not sure when this was decided on, but last April when participants in a charrette suggested knocking the wall down, they were informed that this was already the plan. 

About a month after the last year's fatal crash at this site, despite the bid, they still weren't sure what would happen with the sound barrier.

The city is working with the county to improve the Campus Drive intersection by either adjusting or removing a sound barrier, Wojahn said, which currently forces bikers to divert from the trail. However, these kinds of improvements have been in the works for at least a decade, Wojahn added.

"We'll continue meeting with them and continue to push them on this … they always talk about walkability … but it seems that the county practice when it comes to adjusting roads doesn't match what they say."

But by November, they'd made plans to "tear down that wall."

College Park Mayor Patrick Wojahn said the city is removing noise barrier panels near the crossing to increase visibility for cars. The city also applied for a grant from the state that would help provide designated bikeways for bicyclists to use separately on the side of the road, Wojahn said.

The city wants to see speed cameras installed, because of rampant speeding, but SHA - who will take ownership of the road once Prince George's County approves it - has a different idea. 

Bicyclists can increase their safety by stepping off their bikes and walking alongside them when they cross an intersection, [SHA spokesman David Buck] said.

image from washcycle.typepad.com

Virginia Special Election next week

Hey, there's another election in Virginia next week. It's a special election to fill 3 empty seats created by the 2016 general election. While they're outside of my usual coverage area, I know some people from other parts of Virginia, like Richmond and Virginia Beach, read the blog. If you weren't aware of this special election, here's your call to go out and vote. Unfortunately, the deadline to register has already passed.

According to the experts, only one race - the one for House Delegate in Virginia Beach - is competitive, and neither candidate has any info about biking on their website (which is not really a surprise).

On transportation though, they both come out against congestion (the pro-congestion language must not test well)...

Cheryl Turpin

  • Work alongside Lt. Governor Ralph Northam and Secretary of Transportation, Aubrey Layne, to reduce congestion.
  • Increase infrastructure spending to improve our roads and traffic conditions to attract families and businesses to Virginia Beach.

Rocky Holcomb

  • Work in a bi-partisan manner to solve our transportation needs
  • Make sure tax dollars are spent wisely on projects that reduce traffic congestion
  • Make sure that our laws and highway infrastructure keep up with technology

Update: But the more important race may be the one for the Virginia Senate in Central Virginia where Democrat Ryant Washington, running in Central Virginia’s Senate District 22 against Republican Mark Peake and independent Joseph C. Hines.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe is involved in the race because a Democratic upset in the Republican district would give Democrats control of the Virginia Senate.

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