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My ride on the Pinellas Trail

I was recently in Florida and I had a chance to ride half of the Pinellas Trail in Pinellas County. It's a great ride, and worthy of its place in the rails to trails hall of fame, but there are a few missed opportunities and issues that keep it from being a great transportation facility.

Pinellas
 

From a recreation standpoint it's really nice. It could use a little more shade, but it's a pleasant, flat, mostly uninterrupted ride. There are several grade-separated crossings at major roads which really helps, and there is a lot to see along the trail. It evens passes by a KOA site. The highlight of my ride was the causeway bridge over Boca Ciega Bay. 

The 38 mile long trail still isn't quite finished. They plan to add another 9 miles in the next few years, plus tie it in to some other trails to create a loop and also use it as part of a trail across Florida. A lazy person's coast-to-coast trail. But the incompleteness is not what prevents it from being a transportation facility the way the Capital Crescent Trail is. 

One big problems is that there just isn't much to tie the trail into. While there are many bike lanes in the area, most of the ones I saw were along what some would call "stroads" - wide multi-lane roads with higher-speed traffic; and even with bike lanes, these roads are not going to appeal to the interested but concerned

IMG_5289

Where the trail did come near more bike-friendly residential roads, there was often no way to get to them. Several times I could see such a road just a few feet from the trail, separated by a ditch, but no connection was made to that road.  Sometimes, there was even a fence in between. 

The other issue was the lack of signage. While there was usually a sign telling a trail-user what the roads ahead was - especially useful for the many overpasses - I didn't much telling me where that road would take me. Such information is important for getting regular trail users to think about using it to get to those locations, I feel. 

Like I said the causeway was the highlight of the ride, but even that could have been better. On both sides of the trail there were high chain-link fences that, when looking forward, created a Death Star trench-like feel. Looking off to the sides, the view was good, if partially obstructed. A lower, more view-friendly railing would make this so much nicer.
 
IMG_5281
 
The at-grade crossings, where they did exist, at least made it clear that the onus of crossing safely was on the cyclist. A few, like the one below, had red lights, a stop sign and a row of white plastic posts with red-reflective tape on top for trail users. Motorists crossing the trail had yellow caution signs. There was at least one HAWK light though.
Pinellas atgrade
 
The right-of-way is really wide, and so in several places they have a dual trail set-up with a wide trail for bikes and a separate, more narrow trail for pedestrians. On the one hand I like the dual trail because it separates the different users, but on the other I wonder if a 20 foot wide trail wouldn't just be safer. Since this trail has sections of separation, I wonder if they could do a study comparing the safety and/or user preference. 
 
Another highlight of the trail came where it passed under US-19. Here they had built something called stonehenge park where the support columns for US-19 had been painted and decorated.
 
Stonehenge2
 
One thing we can borrow from them are these markers on the trail that help users to inform 911 dispatchers as to where on the trail an incident has taken place.
 
Stonehenge
 
I'd love to do the whole loop when it's finished and I didn't get to ride all the way into downtown St. Petersburg, which is too bad since it passes right by Tropicana Field. The section of the trail east of there is really a protected bike lane, so it likely does serve more of a transportation role than the part to the north.

From the Archives: War on Horses

From the August 9, 1879 edition of the Evening Star. To be fair, Philadelphians can scare a horse without the aid of a bike.

Screenshot 2016-08-26 at 10.23.08 PM
Screenshot 2016-08-26 at 10.23.08 PM
Screenshot 2016-08-26 at 10.23.08 PM

DDOT will present recommended concept at final Crosstown Transportation Study

DDOT will be hosting the 4th and final public meeting for the Crosstown Multimodal Transportation Study from 6-8pm on Tuesday, September 13, 2016 at the Columbia Heights Education Center, 3101 16th Street.

In prior meetings, they have presented existing conditions, 3 concepts for the area and then, in June, 2 refined concepts. Next month they'll be down to just one.

At the June meeting the two build concepts combined elements from the previous 3 designs, that most notably eliminated the southern route.

Concept 1 starts with a 2-way protected bike lane along Kenyon and Irving between 14th NW and Michigan. Overlapping with part of the PBL is a shared-use sidepath along Irving and Michigan from Park Place to Monroe. From Monroe and Michigan, conventional bike lanes and sharrows stairstep their way NE to the intersection of 14th St NE and Michigan. 

Screenshot 2016-08-26 at 12.02.17 AM

Concept 2 starts on the west side with a pair of one-way protected bike lanes on Kenyon and Irving from Columbia Heights to the intersection of Kenyon and Irving. Then, again, there is a shared-use sidepath along Irving and Michigan from Kenyon to Monroe. On the east side, a pair of conventional bike lanes would be added to Michigan Ave from Monroe to South Dakota Ave. 

Screenshot 2016-08-26 at 12.08.41 AM

I like concept 1, but with the Michigan Ave bike lanes added in. But then I don't bike up there very often - and when I do it is usually N-S, not E-W. 

And they should really push both of these bike facilities east by 1 block to Varnum.

6th Annual Ride for Natasha 9/17/16

On September 17th at 7:00am cyclists will gather at Prince George's County Community College in Largo for the 6th Annual Ride for Natasha.

The ride will start at the parking lot by the pool. 

Bikeable/Walkable Disney World

On my recent vacation we went to Disney World for a few days. At our "resort" they had bicycle rentals, but you could only ride them around the resort itself. And the same is true of other resorts. The parks and resorts are spread out over a large area, but not so far you couldn't bike between them - if there were ways to do so, but even BikeOrlando says

Biking between resorts is not recommended as there is a lot of traffic on the main arteries.

I would have strongly considered getting a Surrey and throwing the family on it to go to various parks, if a grade separated trail network connected everything. (Then I could buy a Monte Cristo without feeling guilty about my blood sugar).  

I'm not going to figure out what that would look like, but at least one person took a crack at it (I'd add a trail along Osceola Parkway). It would be even better if one could do Surrey-share and pay by the day, picking up bikes as needed and leaving them when they don't. It would be an added amenity in itself (people would probably like to run, walk and bike the paths just for fun) create a healthier, cleaner park and it might even reduce their transportation costs if it lets them run fewer buses. 

image from www.internationalsurreyco.com

A Surrey

On the last day I had to pick up a rental car from their on-site rental car facility. My app recommended taking the Monorail to the Polynesian and then walking the 1.3 miles to the Car Care Center, which seemed reasonable to me. The route unfortunately took me along a road with no sidewalks (pretty common) but I was OK with it. Traffic was backed up and slow. Still, Disney Security picked me up and gave me a ride because it was just too dangerous to walk along the road. If a trail system can't be built, maybe some sidewalks? 

CaBi to DCA

Last week I rode Capital Bikeshare to National Airport, and while it was not as good as it could be, it still worked for me.

The plan was to get everything to the airport with our car, drive the car home and then for me to meet up with the family at the gate. This would be cheaper than parking at the airport and easier than trying to get 3 car seats on to Metro or into an Uber. I dropped Mrs. Washcycle, Trike and Tandem - along with all our luggage - at the terminal and then drove the car home.  We had built a lot of extra time in, in case traffic was bad, which it wasn't. After driving to the airport and back I was 2/3 of the way into it, and way ahead of schedule so I decided to bike it instead of Uber. It didn't too much longer on Capital Bikeshare.

From the station at 23rd and Crystal, I crossed Crystal and walked south along it and then up the airport access ramp to Airport Access Road. Once on airport property I followed the signs. 

Unfortunately there is no Capital Bikeshare station at DCA itself, but the station at 23rd and Crystal Drive in Arlington is only about a 10 minute walk from Terminal A (more like 14 to terminal B and C). It's about the same from the station at 26th and S. Clarke Street, which makes more sense if coming from the south. 

All things considered it worked pretty well for me. But....

  1. It would really help if there were a couple of stations on airport property, preferably one at the old terminal and one at the new one. There is plenty of space, so that's not the issue. In 2012 MWCOG noted that "The MWAA Board has refused to have Capital Bikeshare on its property," but since then it seems they changed their tune. Last year, Arlington announced plans for a station there and reportedly MWAA was on board. Not sure what the hold up is. But it would good for visitors and employees. Perhaps Arlington can get a station moved closer to airport property, if not on it.
  2. Until then, CaBi should advertise the close in stations as DCA access stations. They should add signs to them that designate them as such, including a walking map with a travel time estimate. And they should add this to both their website and DCA's.
  3. Some wayfinding between the close-in stations and the terminals would help too. Not everyone writes a bike blog after all. That could be signs, trail blazes or a line pained on the ground. 

It won't work for everyone, but it could work for more people. 

DDOT proposes new, extended bike lanes in Capitol Hill area

DDOT is proposing the extension of the bike lanes on New Jersey Ave SE. Currently they run one block form D to E, but DDOT wants to extend them under the SE Freeway to I Street where they would connect with east-west bike lanes. They've met with ANC 6B so far and will meet with ANC 6D (where the southern block is) at their September 12, 2016 meeting

The portion of the new bike lane within 6B will be installed this fall, while installation of the 6D portion south of the freeway must wait until the [Virginia Avenue Tunnel] and other constructions projects in that area are completed.

But wait, there's more.

Mike Goodno provided the Committee with an overview of this proposal but also mentioned an upcoming DDOT proposal for an east/west bike lane along E Street to 6 th Street SE and then along South Carolina to provide a route to Eastern Market

[They] also advised about a proposal to fill the gap in the north/south bike lane along 14th Street SE between D and E Streets SE.

That last bike lane extension is near my house, so I'll be glad to see it extended, though It would be better if it went another block and a half to the Potomac Avenue Metro - or if there were a contraflow bike lane on the one-way block between E and G (there's no F Street SE until you get east of Texas Ave). 

A bike lane along Pennsylvania Avenue doesn’t seem to be part of DDOT’s current plans.

From the Archives: The Tour de Trump comes to Arlington and Washington

Before he was the most unusual presidential candidate in US history, Donald Trump was the sponsor of what was intended to be the American version of the Tour de France. Dreamed up by future entertainment tonight co-host John Tesh, and organized by college basketball commentator Billy Packer, the Tour de Trump (later the Tour DuPont) featured cyclists such as 1995 and 1996 winner Lance Armstrong (who won in 1995 and 1996) and 1992 winner Greg LeMond and it passed right through the DC area. 

“I’ve never been to a cycling event in my life. I don’t even know how to put air in the tires,” admits Packer, who announced every NCAA Final Four from 1975 to 2008. But when Tesh gave him the idea, he was intrigued. “I thought: Hell, Jersey’s got some mountains, and I had business investments in Atlantic City, so I know that the casinos would possibly be a sponsor,” the 76-year-old says of his original concept, which he planned to call “Tour de Jersey.”

Trump offered to be the cycling competition’s primary sponsor and partner with Packer on the new venture. As for the name, Packer threw out the suggestion of calling it the Tour de Trump. Trump agreed.

The Tour DuPont ran for five years, from 1991-1996. In 1993, a young rising cycling star named Lance Armstrong finished second. But DuPont pulled its sponsorship at the end of 1996 after planning delays for the 1997 race and after a legal fight caused a rift between Packer and Plant. (The end of the sponsorship also happened to come months after DuPont heir John du Pont murdered wrestler Dave Schultz.) 

The 8th stage of the 1989 Tour de Trump ran through Arlington, well not really through. SI described it as

16 monotonous laps between the United States Marine Corps War Memorial and the Pentagon.

And the Post wrote 

that stage was in an isolated area and drew few spectators, unlike the Richmond stage, which finished downtown and drew more than 150,00

Davis Phinney was the winner. The next day they went to Baltimore.

The 1990 race skipped the DC area, though it too went to Baltimore.

The Tour, by then the Tour DuPont, came back to Arlington in 1991 for Stage 3, which was won by Rolf Aldag. You should see some familiar sites in the footage below.

That year a stage also ended in front of the Columbia Mall.

In 1992, the Tour DuPont held, on the "rim-jarring streets of Washington, D.C.", a time trial for the final stage. It appears to be a ride from RFK Stadium up to the northern portion of Rock Creek Park and back.  LeMond won the race, but not the stage.

In 1993 the race came to Maryland, and again in 1994 (skipping the DC area), but in 1995 it skipped Maryland and DC, starting in central Virginia. The 1996 ended in Richmond.

(I'll be on vacation this week, so no blogging).

Arlington's NFATC's Master Plan update is a chance to make it less of a barrier

The National Foreign Affairs Training Center in Arlington wants to update their Master Plan so that they can expand and enhance 6 buildings, add a new parking structure and improve some of the security features (most importantly the fence). GSA has started the scoping process for an Environmental Assessment they intend to prepare for the Master Plan. Comments are due in August 19th and there won't be another opportunity to comment until the EA is completed. 

Screenshot 2016-08-12 at 12.44.58 AM

The facility currently has a bike trail from S. Utah Street to S. Quincy with a spur to 1st Place. Arlington County maintains the 12-foot wide trail west of George Mason (the West Parcel) and the State Department maintains the 10-foot wide trail, east of George Mason (the East Parcel).

I used to bike George Mason Drive through here several times a week, but haven't been out there in a few years, nor did I have much of an opinion about the site at the time, but looking at it I have two suggestion.

  1. The trail currently passes underneath George Mason through a tunnel (though it involves dismounting and climbing down and then back up stairs). Nonetheless, you can't get to the trail from George Mason because there is fencing separating the street from that area. This seems a bit silly since the area on the other side of the fence is not secure - you can bike or walk right up to it.  They should remove this unnecessary fencing and create connections from the trail to George Mason on both sides of the road.
  2. Since the perimeter fencing is likely to be removed anyway, why not push it back about 12 feet from S. Quincy to 3rd Street South and extend the trail to there (red line on image below). Those sides of the facility are all parking lots anyway (so not much of a security threat, I suspect) and it would create a complete trail connection to S. Glebe Road. 

Screenshot 2016-08-12 at 1

What else am I missing? If you ride around there and have a suggestion (biking through the facility?) leave a comment here and send a comment in.

First round of Transform 66 multimodal project will add to bikeshare

This month, VDOT kicked off the Transform 66 Inside the Beltway Project, which will involve adding tolls to that section of I-66

Work crews will install eight overhead toll-collecting gantries and about 125 signs on I-66 and local roads approaching the highway.

This will not impact the Custis Trail. It will only allow tolling on drivers who currently can't use I-66 at all - those driving SOVs during rush hour. It might reduce Custis Trail traffic, but if so, not by much.

One goal of the larger Inside the Beltway project is to improve multi-modal transportation (that's us) and some examples of what that might involve are trail improvements and bike facilities that make bike commuting easier. Recently 10 projects, worth just under $10 million, were approved as part of the FY2017 Transform 66 Multimodal Project including $500,000 for bike share. This is just the first round of funding, but I'm not sure if it will be an annual thing or not.

A later part of the project, widening 4 miles of I-66 eastbound from the Dulles Connector Road to Ballston, is just starting the Environmental Assessment process and aims to open the new lanes in 2020. It also doesn't appear that that project will impact either the Custis or W&OD trails. 

So the Inside the Beltway Project will invest in cycling, but through toll-funded projects that will be determined later.

The Outside the Beltway Project, on the other hand, will build the I-66 trail which will extend from the Custis trail all the way to Haymarket. It will also add other bike facilities. Specifically, Phase I of that project will consist of

Adding new park-and-ride facilities with pedestrian/bike facilities and connections along with roadway improvements at the following locations:

  • Gainesville in the northwest quadrant of the University Boulevard overpass
  • Manassas along Balls Ford Road, west of Route 234 Business
  • Fairfax County Government Center surface lot near Monument Drive (southeast quadrant)

Enhanced bicycle and pedestrian access in Fairfax County and Prince William County by adding new parallel corridor-wide bikeway, trail, and sidewalk improvements. In Fairfax County the parallel shared-use paths (SUP) are to connect the following:

  • Route 650 (Gallows Road) to Route 243 (Nutley Street)
  • Blake Lane to Route 123 (Chain Bridge Road)
  • Route 123 (Chain Bridge Road) to Jermantown Road
  • Jermantown Road to US 50 (Lee Jackson Memorial Highway)
  • Route 608 (West Ox Road) to Fairfax County Parkway
  • Fairfax County Parkway to Route 645 (Stringfellow Road)
  • Route 645 (Stringfellow Road) to Route 28 (Sully Road)

It will also widen I-66.

I don't think Phase 2 has been defined yet.

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