Installation of bike infrastructure on the east side of the DC Metropolitan region has lagged for various reasons. However, advocates in Prince George’s County, MD and the District of Columbia have identified a key missing link in the region’s bicycle network.
The Washington Area Bicyclist Association’s (WABA’s) bike advocacy group for Prince George’s county has identified protected bike lanes on Suitland Road as a top priority to create a link between DC and large employment centers in Suitland, MD. The group identified the section from DC line to the Suitland Federal Center as a top priority. The second section would extend the bike lanes from the Suitland Federal Center to Andrews Air Force/Joint Base. The overall goals of adding a protected bike lane on Suitland Road would be to: encourage cycling, calm traffic, and improve the overall streetscape for all users.
Installing protected bike lanes has been shown to increase bike volumes in DC. Currently, there are cyclists that bike from somewhere in DC to the Suitland Federal Center in Maryland. While the Strava heat maps are not a perfect data set, they indicate that cyclists are taking Suitland Road through the Hillcrest neighborhood of DC to Suitland, MD.
Calm Traffic and Create a “Complete Street”
Over the last few years, DC has implemented traffic calming near the border with Maryland. DDOT installed speed humps on Suitland Road SE between 38th adding lane striping and sharrows on 38th Street SE between Suitland Road SE and Alabama Ave SE. In the District, Hillcrest Suitland Road has mature trees, a sidewalk on at least one side of street, and street lighting.
In contrast, the current view along Suitland Road in MD shows few (or no) sidewalks, extra-wide vehicle lanes that encourage speeding, inconsistent (or no) shoulders, and poor pedestrian access to bus stops. The nicest part of Suitland road in Maryland is where the road goes through a cemetery – after that, the road is simply run down, old fashioned, and just plain ugly. It’s no wonder businesses struggle along those blocks.
Suitland Road Streetscape in Prince George’s County
No Sidewalks or Bike Lanes on Suitland Road between DC and the Suitland Federal Center
Encourage the County Leadership to Take the Initiative
Although the state’s official policies are to encourage bike and pedestrian travel, the on-the-ground reality of most suburban Maryland roads begs to differ, and Prince George’s county is no exception. For a county with approximately a million residents, there are only have a handful bike lanes on the roadways, and many of those were built by municipalities; virtually none of the state-numbered roadways have safe bike access.
Bike transportation is such an afterthought that Prince George’s official transportation guide does not contain a section on bike riding. In fact, the work “bike” or “bicycle” only appears once in the entire booklet, as an offhand remark, not as a topic.
The group hopes that advocating for protected lanes on Suitland Road would help get the complete streets goal moved from theory into practice in Prince George’s. It is especially important to target a state numbered road, since the state controls most of the major roads in the county, and the state roads are the most dangerous for county cyclists and pedestrians.
Prince George’s Transportation Guide
Suitland Road between the Cemeteries in Maryland
By Contrast, Bike Lanes in SE DC
In DC, cyclists complain about the lack of safe bike lanes east of the Anacostia River. But across the border in Maryland, things are even worse. It’s time to move the complete streets goal from “just talk” to on-the-ground reality in Prince George’s county.
For more information about the Prince George’s County Advocacy Group, please contact Greg Billing at WABA (email@example.com), the group’s co-chairs, Phil Koopman of Mount Rainer/BicycleSPACE (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Jeff Lemieux of Greenbelt/Proteus Bicycles (email@example.com).
For more information about the Suitland Road project, please contact project leader John Epps at the Suitland Federal Center/Maryland Park Bicycles (firstname.lastname@example.org).
At the beginning of the month (aka pre-Milloy), Cathy Lanier was a guest on Ask the Chief and she spent quite a bit of time discussing bikes after a caller, who claimed he'd twice been struck by cyclists, asked what could be done about enforcement.
You can listen to her discussion of this here. The discussion of cycling enforcement starts at 9:00. Below is a poor transcription.
Caller: Chief I'm concerned about being a pedestrian in the city with bicycles all over the roads and not paying attention to the stop lights. I've been hit twice by bicyclists. What can the police do to enforce the laws on bicyclists?
Lanier: yeah, we really had to step up our enforcement with bicyclists. It is not only dangerous for pedestrians and for motorists, I mean I've actually had a bicycle hit my car. So, and the familiarity with the bike lanes because I've seen several very close calls with bicyclists in bike lanes not following the traffic signals that can cause collisions. So we have stepped up our enforcement. We're trying to work with the Washington Area Bicyclists Association to help raise awareness but when you have so many tourists and visitors that are non-residents that are coming here for short visits and renting bikes and hitting the streets our enforcement efforts don't have the same impact as they would in a neighborhood that's not a tourist area.
Host: Are bikes allowed on sidewalks?
Lanier: They're not allowed on sidewalks in the Central Business District...I mean there's literally bike lanes all over the city and bikes are allowed on any roadway and they're not restricted to just the curb.
Host: can they be ticketed on sidewalks?
Lanier: They can be yes.
Host: Pedestrians wish they would be. (laughing)
Lanier: It is a big challenge. It's a big challenge for us. And then the other part of that is, especially during rush hour time when we try and stop and do enforcement - unlike the automated enforcement - when we stop to do enforcement we block up traffic and then Bob [name?] calls me. (laughing)
Host: You do not want that call from Bob (laughing)
Lanier: I don't want that call from Bob (laughing)
Host: The proliferation of bike lanes, has that helped the issue in terms of the number of problems and collisions and that sort of thing, has it reduced it?
Lanier: It's helped, but I think it's kind of a double-edged sword. With some of the bike lanes, so if you think about you're heading as a motorist in the traffic lane and there's a bike lane to your right side and you want to make a right turn at a green light, a bicyclist travelling at a good speed can come up and pass through that intersection before you even see them so while your making that right turn...it creates some hazards, so it really is incumbent on everybody to be extremely aware now where now where those bike lanes are. But I think overall it has helped to y'know help to keep bicyclists and the awareness of bicyclists up for everybody.
Host: Let me just throw in there, and I know you know as a rider as well, bicyclists take an awful lot of abuse on the roads
Lanier: They do.
I have a few comments:
1. Bicyclists - even "bad" ones - do not make it dangerous for motorists, and having a bicyclist hit your car is not proof that it does.
2. A better answer to the question about the legality of bikes on sidewalks is that "Yes, bikes are allowed on the sidewalk in most of the city. But they are not allowed on sidewalks in the CBD."
3. If you're making a right turn on a street with a bike lane and a cyclist can pass you on the right, in the bike lane, you're doing it wrong (you should merge into the bike lane first) and she should know that. And she should have said that.
The National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB) approved funding this week for nine technical assistance projects that will promote access to transit, support better pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, and foster transit-oriented development throughout the region. Of these, 7 include bicycle relevant elements. Update: the list previously given was from 2013. I apologize. Full refund for everyone. The Central Avenue Connector Trail in PG County would make a nice complement to the Marvin Gaye Park Trail (nee Watts Branch).
City of College Park – Complete and Green Streets Policy and Implementation Study ($30,000) The City of College Park requests assistance to draft an implementation study for complete and green streets, with a prioritized list and cost estimates of improvements. The consultant will work with city staff to review existing citywide plans, conditions and recommendations, develop citywide strategies and priorities and prepare a map depicting the target areas for improvement. The plan will help College Park realize its goals in environmental sustainability, promote mixed-use, compact development along Route 1 and at the College Park Metro Station. The study will complement existing city projects with private partners on stormwater management and low impact development.
Montgomery County – Creating Placemaking Non-Auto Infrastructure in the Life Sciences Center ($60,000) The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission requests assistance in planning the design and coordination of the Life Sciences Center Loop trail system. The trail will serve as a place making feature for the Life Sciences Center and link to the proposed Corridor Cities Transitway in Montgomery County. The final product will be a policy guide to help the County coordinate the participation of public and private partners, and a unique trail system and design. The trail is an identified project in the larger Great Seneca Science Center master plan, which requires development to make contributions towards non-auto driver mode share goals.
Prince George’s County – Central Avenue Connector Trail Implementation Study ($30,000) The Maryland-National Capitol Park and Planning Commission requests assistance to complete an implementation study on an east-west trail in the Central Ave/Blue Line Corridor. The Route would begin just east of the D.C. boundary and Capitol Heights Metro Station, continuing along residential streets and existing and planned WMATA right of way before ending at the Largo Metro Station, with connections to the Addison Road and Morgan Boulevard stations. The study will help identify preferred and alternative alignments, short- and long-term projects, and opportunities for redevelopment and CIP projects.
Prince George’s County – Town of Upper Marlboro Bicycle and Pedestrian Study ($30,000) The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission requests assistance to complete a transportation study addressing bicycle and pedestrian access and connectivity for residents and workers in the Town of Upper Marlboro, the seat of government for Prince George’s County. Although the town has a population of about 600 residents, 5,000-6,000 people commute to Upper Marlboro daily for work in government and related services. The final product will include the creation of a prioritized list of transportation improvements with cost estimates for the town, a review of best engineering practices for trails in flood prone areas, and next steps to seek funding and permitting for high priority projects.
Arlington County – Sycamore Street Metro Station Area Complete Streets Design ($80,000) 30% Design Project Arlington County requests design assistance to create a “complete streets” design addressing safety, accessibility, and multimodal connections along North Sycamore Street to the East Falls Church Metro Station, which will be the new transfer point for Orange and Silver Line trains. The project will focus on four intersections along North Sycamore. The redesigned street will have improved connections for cyclists and pedestrians, and provide a model for adapting suburban-style Metro stations to changes in the system.
Arlington County – Lee Highway Multimodal Needs Assessment ($30,000) Arlington County seeks to create a transportation plan that identifies short-term improvements in the Lee Highway corridor between East Falls Church and Rosslyn. The County has identified Lee Highway as the last mixed-use corridor in Arlington County that has not undergone a comprehensive planning effort. The results of this project will allow the County to document existing conditions along the corridor and create an inventory of projects to be completed.
City of Fairfax – Old Lee Highway “Great Street Multimodal Planning ($60,000) The City of Fairfax requests assistance to complete a planning process to turn the existing two-lane Old Lee Highway into a “Great Street.” Old Lee connects Old Town Fairfax with Fairfax Boulevard and the Vienna Metrorail station. The project will include a review of existing transportation studies of the Old Lee Corridor, gathering input from the public, creating a conceptual plan, and presenting the results to the City Council.
The number of tickets issued for stopping or standing in a bike lane has skyrocketed in the District over the past four years. Police gave out 4,200 tickets in 2013, almost six time more than in 2010 when 730 tickets were issued, according to statistics provided by the police department. The violation carries a $65 fine.
So far this year, more than 1,900 tickets have been issued for blocking a bike lane. That number reflects a 17 percent increase over the same period last year, police said.
I await Courtland Milloy's article on the nerve of drivers.
Ugh. I wish I had pushed back on this harder in January. Aaron Wiener wrote an article then entitled "DC has 72 miles of bike lane and Ward 8 has zero." But the headline was wrong; which he basically conceded elsewhere in the article (and qualifies with "according to DDOT's figures" which he later notes ignores lanes shared by two wards).
Now, I should add two caveats. ...And second, DDOT doesn't list bike lanes on streets that form the border between two wards as belonging to either ward, and there are 0.59 miles of bike lanes listed separately as being shared by wards 7 and 8—presumably the lane on 25th Street SE and Naylor Road SE. Still, a caveat to that caveat: I've been listing the "grand totals" of bike lanes, which include not only dedicated lanes, but also shared lanes and bus/bike lanes. Looking only at proper bike lanes, the mileage shared by wards 7 and 8 is just 0.32 miles.
See that? Ward 7 and Ward 8 share 0.32 miles of bike lane. If we say that these bikes lanes are not in Ward because they're on the border, then that means they aren't in Ward 7 either. And they certainly aren't in the other 6 Wards, which would mean they don't exist.
But they do.
So, Ward 8 does have bike lanes. Not many, but more than zero. Which means they are not getting their first bike lanes later this year. And everyone (Kojo Nnamdi, GreaterGreaterWashington, Washingtonian etc...) can quit perpetuating this myth that was created to make a more sensational headline. [Ironically, Milloy gets closer to the truth when he writes that Ward 8 has "virtually" zero bike lanes, because at least he qualified it.]
At last week's Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting, DDOT announced that they had a meeting planned with USPS on how to stop parking in bike lanes and cycletracks and that they were planning more outreach to UPS and FedEx on the issue.
USPS is a unique issue because their vehicles have no license plates and thus can't be ticketed. DDOT is goiing to try to educated them on the safety issues related to parking in the bike facilities.
UPS and FedEx can be ticketed, and are, but the companies have billing arrangements with the city and just treat it as a cost of doing business. It was suggested that they ask the companies where loading zones are needed if the current ones are inadequate. Outreach to BIDs could help with identifying better LZ placements.
DDOT is going to present analysis for potential streetcar routes for a north-south line, along with publci comments received so far and an overview of the next steps in the process. The project is to go in a north-south corridor that connects the Takoma / Silver Spring area to the Buzzard Point / Southwest Waterfront area. The study area extends from approximately 16th Street NW to 5th Street NW, across the National Mall and into Southwest.
This is relevant to cyclists because these corridors might also include bike facilities.
There are four options for streets that measure 60 to 70 feet across, from curb-to-curb. An example of a 60-70 feet roadway width is upper Georgia Avenue NW from U Street NW to Butternut Street NW and one of them has bike lanes.
Option A: Streetcar in Shared Lane with Bike Lanes and Parking displayed two travel lanes going northbound and two travel lanes going southbound. The streetcar shared the northbound and southbound lanes closest to the sidewalk with other vehicles. In addition, bike lanes were included. Street parking was available on both sides of the street; however, some parking would have to be removed to accommodate the streetcar stops. As seen below, the bike lane would pass behind the bus stops
There are two options for streets that measure 50 to 60 feet across, from curb-to-curb. Sherman Avenue NW north of U Street NW is an example of this roadway width and both have bike lanes.
Option E: Streetcar in Shared Lane with Bike Lanes and Parking displayed one northbound travel lane, one southbound travel lane, and bike lanes in each direction. The streetcar shared both travel lanes with other vehicles. Street parking was available on both sides of the street; however, to accommodate the streetcar stop, some parking would have to be removed near the intersection.
Option F: Streetcar in Shared Lane with Bike Lanes and No Parking displayed streetcar sharing the lanes closest to the sidewalk with other vehicles. Street parking was removed in this option. NOTE: the drawing for Option F below does not show bike lanes. I think the error is in the description, not the image
For streets 30-40 feet wide there are no options with bike facilities.
The meeting schedule is below. Those who would like to see bike lanes or cycletracks in this corridor should attend. The MoveDC plan does not include bike lanes or cycletracks on Georgia Avenue/7th street except in the CBD.
The MoveDC Multi-Modal Long-Range Transportation Plan for DC was released last week, and what can I say except that it's a pretty Big F&**ing Deal. It's not much of a surprise, since it doesn't depart that much from the draft version last November, but it's good news to see a transportation plan from the District be so ambitious with respect to cycling.
I've seen and heard a lot of pessimistic comments about DDOT's ability to follow through on a plan, and there is reason to be skeptical (see: the DDOT Action Agenda), but if you look through the status report on the 2005 Bicycle Master Plan, they've hit quite a few of their targets. Not all of course, and we can argue about whether or not that ambitious enough, but still real progress has been made. And some things that were not in the plan, like bikesharing, have been picked up as well.
The bicycle element of the plan doesn't diverge much, if at all, from what was included in the draft version in November. It also makes a note that it serves as an update to the 2005 Bicycle Master Plan, an update that was much needed. One recurrent theme of the update is more, more, more. More bike facilities, more bike sharing, more parking etc...The bike network of trails, cycletracks and bike lanes will be expanded by nearly 200% to a total of 343 miles over the next 25 years.
Some of the facilities I'm particularly interested in include:
All infrastructure projects are placed in one of four tiers, and some items above are Tier 4.
The proposed bike facilities maps are pretty intense. As I said in November, it's hard to think of anything they missed. I try to imagine how much people would have freaked out in 2005 if they had proposed this, but one notable thing about this plan is that, thus far, there has been little to no freaking out. The section EOTR of the river looks a lot like my fantasy map, in fact. My entire 4 mile bike commute would be on bike facilities. That seemed unbelievable not so long ago.
Most of the cycletracks are focused in the L'Enfant city, while new bike lanes and trails are more in the outer wards, which makes sense to me.
There are other recommendations about enforcing bike parking regulations; improving difficult intersections like "Dave Thomas", Tenley and L'Enfant Circles; improving accommodations for cyclists in barrier areas like the U.S. Capital Complex; improved crash reporting, training and planning policies; allowing cyclists in some dedicated transit lanes;
The one thing I'm disappointed in (based on a cursory reading only) is that recommendation C.7 which recommends encouraging DC employees to bike commute does not mention the bicycle commuter benefit, which DC employees inexplicably still can not take advantage of.
DDOT has a survey on the MoveDC site about the plan. You should definitely participate in that.