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DC to start planning Benning Road transportation improvements

DDOT has announced a public meeting about improving Benning Road and Benning Road Bridge.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) are preparing an Environmental Assessment (EA) for the proposed Benning Road and Bridge Multi-Modal Transportation Improvements, per the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The project will also include evaluation of historic resources, as required under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act [PDF].

The study area is along Benning Road, NE, from Oklahoma Avenue to the Minnesota Avenue and Benning Road Metrorail Stations. This public meeting will serve to inform attendees about the project’s scope and discuss transportation issues.

What:  Benning Road Transportation Improvements Environmental Assessment

When:  Tuesday, April 22, 2014
             6:30 – 8 pm

Where:  Department of Employment Services (DOES) Building
             4058 Minnesota Avenue, NE        

This is probably more streetcar-oriented, but it's an opportunity for cyclists. 

The Anacostia Riverwalk Trail connects to Benning Road at 3 places along this stretch. The bridge is the only place to legally cross DC-295/Anacostia Freeway by bike or on foot from Hayes St to Pennsylvania Ave (and Hayes is impossible to get to from Benning Road) making it a critical connection. Unfortunately the quality of that connection does not match its importance. This is an opportunity to create better connectivity on both sides of the Anacostia, between the ART and the Marvin Gaye Park Trail and between  River Terrace to the Minnesota Avenue Metro. 

Is Enough Being Done to Support Womens Bicycle Road Racing?

by Jonathan Krall

Early this month, race promoters announced the Tour of Washington County cycling stage race without inviting women to race, as in years past. By excluding women from this race, one of the four races that the Antietam Velo Club sponsors each year, race promoter Joe Jefferson inadvertently launched a minor on-line revolution. A discussion on the MABRA-USCF e-mail googlegroup, ongoing as I write this, is delivering near-term aggravation and raising awareness. Will it bring change?

In a stage race, riders compete in a series of races over several days (or even weeks, as in the Tour de France). With few opportunities to race, excluding women from a stage race is a major blow. Cyclists of both sexes expressed disappointment, while others noted that the mens junior (boys) category has a similar problem. If anyone mentioned the womens junior category, I didn't see it.

In a discipline where mens categories either fill to capacity or can be grouped together to fill each race start, partially-filled womens categories are a source of frustration. Promoters wishing to maximize profit and organizations running a race to raise money for charity sometimes feel the need to choose between inclusion and the bottom line.

Reached via telephone, Joe Jefferson stated that, “the numbers have continually gone down. Only 19 women entered the stage race last year.” In a post to MABRA-UCSF, Jefferson added “we do our best to balance the needs of the competitors with fiscal responsibility to our team and sponsors,” and that the decline “has continued despite the fact that we have tried to spur these numbers by offering free and/or discounted entry and other incentives such has free housing.”

Suggestions abound. One commenter pointed out that, per USA Cycling Rule Book, women are allowed to ride in men's races for which they would otherwise qualify, and are allowed to race one category lower (easier) than their women's racing category. “Maybe not ideal but you're not totally excluded from this event.” However, most people prefer to race with their peers and few women want to be classified as lesser men. “I'd never give … 110 dollars to a promoter who doesn't think my category is important enough to support” was the response from one woman. Jefferson expressed concern that “an angry racer who asks a sponsor to stop supporting racing is hurting the community.”

Many simply asked for more womens races, possibly enforced by changing Mid-Atlantic Bicycle Racing Association rules to require womens categories or to require prize-money parity. Others argued that this would be overly taxing to race promoters. Promoters could include women by setting registration targets for each category and deadlines by which they must be met (or be dropped), but this puts the onus back on women racers and racing programs.

Some suggest that it is up to the women to drive change, by organizing specific race series for women. This has certainly happened in the past.  Linda Mack and Evelyn Egizi kept the mid-Atlantic Cat 3 and Cat 4 Womens Race Series running for over 10 years, but it was dropped in 2011. Artemis Racing has grown womens racing since 1999 and teams like the Bike Rack and Sticky Fingers are doing their part, but women shouldn't be expected to do all the work.

My own opinion is that, if everybody benefits from a more diverse racing community, then everybody should make a positive effort. Women can help by showing up and racing. Everyone can help by bringing volunteers and spectators to events, and by making sure that race promoters know why those volunteers are present. Buttons and stickers anyone?

Social change speeds up when people make an effort and even the most embarrassing, tin-eared promotion can keep the conversation going. Those who support diversity in road racing deserve the support of the rest of us, even if all we do is post a link to a local womens race or racing promotion on the Internet.

Personally, I enjoy watching the womens World Champion and Olympic road races and wish there was more video to be found. So what am I doing about it? I'm writing this article. Until last week I didn't know jack about race programs or race promotion, perhaps I still don't. I am confident that I've hit a few wrong notes here, but at least I am doing something. I encourage you to do something too.

 

Open house on Susquehanna River Bridge this month

Maryland is planning to build a new railroad bridge over the Susquehanna River by 2023, and is hosting an open house later this month about it. 

That will include discussion of a pedestrian and bicycle path across the river.

“We have about 7,500 signatures on a petition to support this effort,” said Andy Hamilton, mid-Atlantic coordinator for East Coast Greenway Alliance. “Our goal is, in the planning process, that bicycle and pedestrian use be considered and included either on the new bridge or an existing bridge.”

“We’re trying to link Cecil County to the rest of Maryland for alternative transportation,” Hamilton said Tuesday.

Pointing to the crammed parking lots connected to the MARC rail station in Perryville, and other large employers in the area, Hamilton said the need for an eco-friendly commute is obvious.

“We have so many commuters from IKEA, the Veterans Administration Medical Center (at Perry Point) and all the cars that have to park at the railroad station,” he said. “Imagine if half of those commuted to work by bike. It really could change things a lot.”

Not only would this trail become part of the Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenway, but also part of a national trail system remembering the terrorist attacks in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. in 2001.

According to Hamilton, this Susquehanna River trail is included in the Sept. 11 Greenway.

“It needs this bridge too. It will link all three crash sites,” he said.

[Harry Romano, project manager for the Maryland Department of Transportation] said for now the project is “simply a railroad bridge.”

Mount Vernon Trail Safety Improvement Project

Coincidentally, GGW has a post on this same subject, so for another review of it, go here.

The National Park Service has been working on alternatives for a project to improve the Mount Vernon Trail at Theodore Roosevelt Island Parking Lot. They've worked up four of them, of which two have already been dismissed. They are accepting comments on the remaining two through April 22nd. After the comments have been analyzed, they'll choose a preferred alternative this summer, and settle on a design by the end of the year, with work to begin next year. 

All of the alternatives are designed to:

  • Discourage trail users traveling through parking lot
  • Widen northern segment of Mount Vernon Trail to 9 ft. width with 2 ft. shoulders
  • Install stop signs for motorists to define right of way at trail crossing
  • Separation of activities at entry to Theodore Roosevelt Island (TRI)
  • Install water fountain near trail and entry to Theodore Roosevelt Island (TRI)
  • Install various directional and site interpretive signage

On the northern end, both alternatives widen the trail, but alt 2 (seen below) includes a separate pedestrian path

Alt2MVT

In the middle, both alternatives change the trail crossing of the parking lot. Currently the trail crosses perpendicularly at street level, requiring two very sharp 90 degree turns (which is why many cyclists use the parking lot), but the proposed designs have the trail cross the parking lot at an angle, allowing for more gentle turns. In alt 1, the trail crosses at the middle of the bottleneck on a speed table.

Alt1MVT crossing

 

In alt. 2, the pedestrian path follows the route of the current trail and the bike trail crosses at the northern end of the bottleneck. The trail drops down to street level and is protected by speed bumps in the roadway. 

Alt2MVT Crossing

At the entrance to TR Island, both designs use trees and walls, as well as a more circuitous path, to discourage cyclists from heading through the parking lot. Alt. 2 is shown below. 

Alt2MVTTRI

Personally, I prefer the speed table crossing, but like the alternative 2 TR Island bridge entry better. On the north end, I like the idea of the pedestrian path, but I wonder if it is necessary.

Both alternatives increase impervious surfaces (though alt 2 by almost twice as much) and require cutting down a tree. Alternative 2 will remove 2 parking spaces, have no shoulders on the pedestrian path and will require a below standard turn of less than 20' radius. It's also likely to be more expensive. 

Women on a Roll

Alexandria women will be heading out on two wheels from Jones Point Park onSunday, May 4th, to let the local bike shops know that they are an important and rapidly growing market for them. "Women are a powerful consumer force," says the League of American Bicyclists in its August 2013 "Women on a Roll" report on women's cycling, "but too often they do not feel welcome in bike shops or do not feel products address their desires and needs."
 
The ride is being organized by the Alexandria Spokeswomen, a group that formed in September 2013 out of a city focus group on women's cycling. One of the key issues discussed was that many women bike riders do not feel comfortable in shops and on rides, which are often dominated by men. The League's report, which had just been released, validated that sentiment. It also showed that bike shops might be wise to provide a wider selection of women's clothing and more women-targeted classes, events and rides:
  • From 2013 to 2012, the number of women and girls participating in bicycling rose 20 percent, while the number of men and boys dropped 0.5 percent.
  • Sixty percent of bicycle owners aged 17- to 28-years-old are women.
Any women who live in or ride in Alexandria are invited to participate in the Women on a Roll Ride, a leisurely ride for all levels of fitness. The group will meet up at Jones Point Park (just south of Old Town on the Potomac and under the Woodrow Wilson Bridge) at 9:30 a.m. and then head out on their bikes at 10 a.m. Riders are encouraged to wear green -- a not-so-subtle reminder that this up-and-coming market can make shops some green of their own. All of the shops have offered to provide refreshments and snacks for the riders. The group will visit shops in the following order: 
  1. Bicycle Pro Shop
  2. Spokes, Etc. (Quaker Lane)
  3. Velocity Bicycle Co-op
  4. Wheel Nuts
  5. Big Wheel Bikes
There is no cost to ride, but all participants must wear a helmet. Online registration is available at http://goo.gl/7v8PJ2. For more information about the ride and the Alexandria Spokeswomen, visit Alexandriaspokeswomen.wordpress.com. Below is the letter that the Alexandria Spokeswomen sent to each of the Alexandria bike shops.

Snapping turtle on the Capital Crescent Trail just upstream of Key Bridge

For all the herpatologists out there.

20140408_185536

Photo by SJE

Call for Nominations to the Ad Hoc Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan Advisory Committee

The City of Alexandria is seeking nominations for the Ad Hoc Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan Advisory Committeeestablished by City Council on April 8.  This twelve-member Advisory Committee will make recommendations to City staff on the update to the Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan and Complete Streets Design Guidelines. The group will identify pedestrian and bicycle issues and needs, and provide input on; policy recommendations, development of pedestrian and bicycle networks, project recommendations and design standards, and development of criteria for prioritizing project recommendations.

The Committee will hold its first meeting later this spring, and will meet approximately six times (additional meetings may be required if necessary) over the course of the estimated 18-month process.  The Committee will be retired upon completion of the plan.

The City seeks to fill five slots:

• Professional in the Urban Design or Landscape Architecture field (1 slot)
• At-large Citizen representatives (3 slots)
• Business Community (1 slot)

Additional information and the application form can be found online or requested from Steve Sindiong, Project Manager at 703.746.4047 orsteve.sindiong@alexandriava.gov.

All applicants must complete and submit a brief application form to the Department of Transportation & Environmental Services (T&ES). Applications must be submitted no later than 5 p.m. on Friday, April 25.  Submissions received after this deadline will not be considered. 

For more information about the upcoming Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan and Complete Streets Design Guidelines planning process or the Advisory Committee, please click online.

The Post can be taught

After years of complaining and letter writing the Post finally got it right when describing where the Purple Line would run (emphasis mine)

The project has government-owned right of way preserved between Bethesda and an area west of downtown Silver Spring, where trains would run along an extension of the Capital Crescent Trail. While the western section requires less private property, it has created controversy because of the number of mature trees that would be cut along the wooded trail.

Bixi bankruptcy delays Capital Bikeshare expansion to everywhere

It was earlier reported that the Bixi bankruptcy had delayed CaBi's expansion to College Park, but now it appears to be having an impact system-wide:

new stations planned in the District and Alexandria are delayed, officials say. The reason? The bike network has been unable to purchase new bicycles and docking stations this year since the system’s sole bike equipment provider’s bankruptcy filing.

An official with Alta Bicycle Share, the company that operates Capital Bikeshare, said Alta is “doing everything we can to get the equipment as soon as possible,” but it was unclear when pur­chases might resume.

“It is impacting our ability to order new equipment, which we want to do,” said D.C. transportation planner Jim Sebastian. “There are potential problems down the road if this doesn’t get straightened out.

In the District, where Capital Bikeshare operates nearly 200 stations, an order sent in February for 40 new stations and 400 new bicycles is on hold. The eight stations and 71 bikes Alexandria ordered in August have not arrived. Montgomery has a back order for two stations.

Officials in the District, Arlington and Montgomery say they have equipment in a warehouse to get a few new stations going. D.C. officials said they were counting on the new order to expand the network to all wards in the city.

The good news is

Alta officials said Friday that they think a Quebec businessman successfully bid on PBSC and that the deal could soon lead to the resumption of Alta’s relationship with the company.

But it could be the summer before the region gets new equipment. It generally takes two to four months for an order to arrive, officials say. The delay could cost Capital Bikeshare potential growth in membership this spring, the season when use of the system surges and membership picks up. Still, area transportation officials say they are optimistic.

“This is just a small hiccup,” said Chris Hamilton, Arlington’s commuter services chief. “The jurisdictions have confidence that we can ride this out in the next few weeks and will have a great season.”

Big Day for Capital Bikeshare

CaBi broke it's old record for busiest day ever. 

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