This regional position would be responsible for furthering the implementation the recommendations in this plan and the enhancement of the NPS paved trail network. The position would coordinate with all NPS park units, other federal, state and local land managers, and trail advocacy groups, regarding the planning, design, construction, maintenance, and promotion of NPS trails and those trail segments impacting the NPS network. The trail coordinator would be a liaison between the NPS units and trail partners to provide guidance on process requirements and would assist in the cultivation of trail partnerships, marketing, and communications.
It's kind of surprising that they don't already have one, and thus seems like a great idea.
Adopt a standard trail counting methodology and formalize agreement(s) with local government and expand the number of trail counters (2 separate recommendations)
NPS has noticed that trail counting has improved and the report notes that the installation by Arlington and Alexandria of counters along the MVT have benefited them. Improved trail use counts would provide a more accurate picture of trail usage for the overall network and the study dedicates numerous pages to the subject.
In addition to the number of trail users, trail data can be used to identify seasonality impacts, special event impacts, and can help substantiate the need for investment in high-volume corridors.
But they don't want to abandon manual counts, because "manual counts remain the best means to collect quantitative information regarding user characteristics such as trail user type (e.g. walker, jogger, or biker), helmet use, etc..."
The count data they have is limited both in locations and in the length of time it's been available, and the bridge counts that DDOT does have not been done on all bridges in all years due to budget issues. And then sometimes errors in data counters aren't fixed for several months. Nonetheless, they note that all the counters show bike traffic and trail usage to be up. For example, bridge traffic for cyclists is up 78% between 2008 and 2014. Also of interest:
"The Key Bridge, Arlington Memorial Bridge and 14th Street Bridge accounted for 76% of all bicycle usage on area bridges, down from a high of 83% in 2011." [Which is another reason why improving the TR bridge could be so important].
"The fastest growing usage is primarily on bridges with on-road facilities, representing a combined 130% growth since 2008."
And somewhat humorously, "Despite the pronounced seasonality, there has been a steady increase in winter usage, from near zero in 2010 to approximately 20,000 in 2012." But the reason it was near zero in 2010 is that the trail counters in place then all registered zero cyclists in February due to Snowmaggedon.
"Three NPS-owned and maintained trails have trail count data available for analysis: the Mount Vernon Trail, the Towpath, and the Capital Crescent Trail. The Towpath has one of the longest time periods of data from automated counters available for analysis, spanning from 2009 to 2014"
"Data provided by NPS-maintained counters had errors or gaps in data approximately 30% of the months that counts were collected, whereas, the Eco-Counters maintained by Arlington County on the Mount Vernon Trail had errors or gaps approximately 8% of months. Errors associated with NPS counters lasted longer (approximately 4.8 months per occurrence) than errors associated with Arlington County counters (2.3 months)"
So, NPS would like to see more counters installed, and that they report data in a standard format. They recommend that jurisdictions co-ordinate their purchasing and maintenance for efficiency and that they work to close counting gaps. Some of the more notable gaps are along the Potomac Heritage trail, National Mall trails and Rock Creek Park Trails (no mention of whether or not the current projects will install any). "Emphasis should be placed on the junction and terminus points along the Capital Crescent Trail, Rock Creek Park Multi-use Trail, Anacostia Riverwalk Trail as well as the POHE."
Complete At-Grade Crossing Study and Develop Standards for At-Grade Crossings as part of the Study
Because at-grade crossings represent the most dangerous parts of the trails, NPS would like to improve them by studying, determining and utilizing best practices. " A primary focus of this effort may be directed initially toward existing crossings along the Mount Vernon Trail; however, development of design standards should have a regional application"
The Mount Vernon Trail has 18 at-grade trail crossings with vehicular traffic and another nine at-grade trail crossings associated with Arlington Memorial Bridge (NPS Transportation Scholar Report, 2012). Thirteen of the at-grade crossings exist south of the City of Alexandria. Many trail crossings occur at high vehicle volume intersections with minimum-to-no safety or signage features for pedestrian or cyclist crossings. The George Washington Memorial Parkway was designed as a scenic roadway along the natural terrain of the Potomac River. Points of interest and overlooks were designed to be reached by motorized vehicle. To improve overall safety, at-grade crossings should be targeted for roadway and trail safety enhancements; improvements could include improved sightlines, speed limit reductions in key areas, creating shorter trail crossing distances by narrowing or reducing lanes, introducing pavement markings, and improved crossing signage
Establish Comprehensive Trail Standards and Manual of Standards
NPS has no trail design standards.
The NCR should establish a set of trail design standards and guidelines unique to the NCR that define trail user types and at a minimum address trail width; clear zones; sight distances; crossings; markings; amenities; access; vegetation; safety features; lighting; snow removal; maintenance; signage; wayfinding; bridges; tunnels; and boardwalks. The standards and guidelines should take into consideration the regional hierarchy of trail and trailhead types (high volume corridors) and industry standards being implemented locally.
Establish Protocols for Incident Reporting and Data Collection and Increase Trail Security Infrastructure
Obtaining comprehensive pedestrian or bicyclist accident or incident data related to NPS paved trails is difficult due to the number of agencies, organizations, and local police departments involved in tracking fatality and injury data. Methods and standards by which data is collected, reported, and made publicly available vary widely and the NPS incident reporting system does not currently require or capture incident geospatial information that could be used to analyze trends and target investment to specific locations. Protocols for incident reporting and data collection to increase trail safety should be developed and mile markers should be installed along all trails to aid emergency responders and trail users.
Unfortunately it appears that the worst tracker of data is the United States Park Police (USPP)
The Incident Management Analysis and Reporting System (IMARS) is a relatively new Service-wide system that is used by USPP to document incidents that occur in a park. Currently the system does not require or capture geospatial information for incidents that would allow mapping of incidents along trails for analysis. When an incident occurs, the location of the incident is typically referenced as the nearest roadway intersection when entered into the system, which may be a considerable distance from the actual location of the incident.
Develop National Capital Trail marketing and promotion program
Promotion of the National Capital Trail concept across the region should include the development of standards for signage and wayfinding system-wide and a trail map and booklet, as well as, interactive features such as virtual experience opportunities, i.e. mobile device apps, interactive mapping tools, educational websites. Efforts should include the establishment of a clear agreement with Arlington County, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, City of Alexandria and the District of Columbia to advance the National Capital Trail concept and branding.
DDOT intends to install the bike lane barriers between 13th and 15th Streets in September, Dormsjo said, finally protecting the entire length of Washington premier downtown cycle track.
“The particular roadway characteristics along Pennsylvania Avenue on the 1300 and 1400 blocks required a little bit more deliberation because we didn’t want to create a false impression for motorists or cyclists,” Dormsjo said. “It wasn’t a straight forward installation like the rest of the blocks.”
But they may start allowing U-turns at the intersections, which makes sense to me.
DDOT has been studying whether to allow U-turns at certain intersections where left turns currently are legal on Pennsylvania Avenue. However, Dormsjo said only recently did his agency learn that allowing U-turns anywhere in the city required a change to the D.C. code.
DDOT may legalize U-turns at 13 ½ Street outside the Wilson Building simultaneous to the installation of the bike lane barriers in September.
And, other good news
DDOT director Leif Dormsjo said the MPD is committed to upgrading its crash reporting to comply with MMUCC standards.
“We’re really thrilled that in the future we are going to get much more granular information,” Dormsjo said. “We are always striving for better information, and one of the limitations in the reporting is there isn’t adequate coverage of pedestrian- and cyclist-related injuries and crashes.”
This isn't totally accurate becasue it's FARS data, which ignores some fatalities. In this case, Ian Wolfe's fatal crash in 2008 isn't counted because it was investigated by the Park Police and they, it inexplicably seems, do not report fatalities to FARS.
Injuries were up 26.7% from 2013, even while injuries nationally are down or flat (image below shows injuries per year - sorry it kind of sucks). Part of the increase is due to better reporting they state "In 2010, MPD and DDOT significantly improved recorded keeping, training MPD officers, and the crash and FEMS record management system; this resulted in an increase in the number of reported crashes"
It looks like Thursday and Friday are getting safer - good job pre-weekend!
So more cyclists are injured at times when cyclists are cycling. This isn't particularly useful. If we combined it with counts) then we could look at rates. Just to get an idea, I used CaBi data as a proxy for exposure, and then divided the number of injuries per month by the number of CaBi trips per month. There are three problems with this:
1. CaBi use may not perfectly mirror bicycle use
2. CaBi data covers DC, Arlington, Alexandria etc...and it might be different if I weren't so lazy and filtered out the non-DC data
3. The CaBi system isn't static, so some increase in use is due to increased numbers of system bikes, not overall increases in biking.
Also, I had to eyeball the injury number for each month. With all that in mind, what I found was that the month with the highest "rate" was October, followed by Septmeber, July and June. Lowest rate was February, followed by November and December. This is basically the opposite of what I expected. I expected the winter to have the highest rate because of less light, worse road conditions (ice and snow) and the inverse of the safety in numbers effect. So, I'll chalk it up to a methodology flaw (from the list above) until someone does it with better data.
Injuriess also tend to happen where cyclists are riding. Curious. Again, this could be more powerful it combined with counts to get rates. I think CaBi data would be less valid for where, since socio-economic factors start to come into play.
Once again, the kinds of people who we already know are more likely to ride bikes in DC, are also those who are more likely to be in crashes. Add counts, get rates.
As the 23-year-old D.C. resident rode on the north side of the Capitol, through the parking area along Constitution Avenue, a regular pathway for cyclists, she collided with a car as it turned into a parking spot.
...while Estus sat in the emergency room, a U.S. Capitol Police officer arrived and handed her a speeding ticket.
“I was less than thrilled,” she said. According to Estus, the officer’s explanation for the ticket was, “if I had not been speeding I would have been able to slow down.”
A police report on the April 23 accident said Estus “stated she was traveling too fast to stop.” Estus couldn’t remember what she told police, noting in the interview that “everything was a blur” and that she didn’t believe she exceeded the speed limit. The ticket was ultimately dropped when, according to Estus, the officer failed to appear at a Department of Motor Vehicles hearing, where she contested the ticket.
Rollcall links this incident to Capitol Police, but it happens with MPD too.
The issue of officers who are not as well-versed in D.C. bike laws is prevalent throughout the city, according to biking advocates. The District is home to 26 different law enforcement agencies, which presents a potential challenge to bicyclists who are becoming an increasing presence on D.C. roadways.
“Bicycling has exploded in this city,” said Greg Billing of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association. “It’s grown by about 450% in the last decade. … We need the agencies to be more educated on what the current law says.”
Billing said WABA has been working to set up meetings with federal agencies, but has not had much success. He noted it had been at least a year since the group had reached out to the Capitol Police.
The first major study of bicycle helmet effectiveness, and probably the most famous and most often quoted is the 1989 case-control study of the effectiveness of bicycle safety helmets by Thompson, Rivara and Thomas. This is the study that concluded that "riders with helmets had an 85 percent reduction in their risk of head injury... and an 88 percent reduction in their risk of brain injury." These numbers have been repeated ever since by a variety of medical and insurance organizations and government agencies, despite the fact that "later efforts to replicate those results found a weaker connection between helmets and head injuries." In fact, in 2013, in response to a petition from WABA, the CDC and NHTSA agreed to remove these estimates from their website.
Now, in 2015, [Update: this was re-printed in 2015, but the study actually dates to 1997. I apologize for the confustion] Thompson, Rivara and Thompsonhave a new study out did another study in 1997 that showed no connection between helmet use and serious injury. In a review of questionnaires filled out by 3390 cyclist injured over a three year period, they determined that "Risk for serious injury was not affected by helmet use (OR=0.9)...[and]...neck injury was not affected by helmet use." Instead they determined that
Prevention of serious bicycle injuries cannot be accomplished through helmet use alone, and may require separation of cyclists from motor vehicles, and delaying cycling until children are developmentally ready.
Their other conclusions (looking at just the abstract, because I don't have access to the full article) include:
51% of injured cyclists wore helmets at the time of crash.
Only 22.3% of patients had head injuries and 34% had facial injuries.
Risk of serious injury was increased by collision with a motor vehicle (duh), biking faster than >15 mph, young age (<6 years), and age >39 years.
Risk of neck injury was increased in those struck by motor vehicles, hospitalized for any injury, and those who died.
Update: The study does seem to have more support for the efficacy of helmets. It points out that only 1 out of 14 (7.1%) fatal crashes involved a helmeted cyclist, while 50.9% of non-fatal injury crashes did. And it notes that
Head injuries constituted a much lower proportion of all injuries than in prior reports, including our previous case-control study...We have previously documented a more than two thirds reduction in population based rates of emergency department treated head injuries among children from a large health maintenance organization over this period of time associated with increases in community wide helmet wearing rates.We believe these data provide further support for the effectiveness of community based helmet promotion programs.
Of course, it is possible that un-helmeted cyclists (who already demonstrate different behavior than others) are more likely to behave in ways that result in fatal crashes, like riding dangerously in traffic. While helmeted cyclists are more likely to be injured on trails. And they also show that helmets do nothing to prevent neck injuries and that those with neck injuries are 15 times more likely to die.
Prior to last month's Performance Oversight Hearing for DDOT, DDOT was asked to provide written responses to council questions. Within these responses was a lot of news of interest to cyclists.
Capital Crescent Trail repaving
DDOT has identified funds for the resurfacing of the Capital Crescent Trail. They're awaiting some basic design information from the National Park Service in order to obligate the federal funding. The trail surface dates back to the 1990's, and resurfacing has been requested by the Rec Trails Committee for some time now.
There was also some infrastructure that DDOT reported completing that has not been talked about much. The bike facilities and traffic calming along Sheriff Road NE was finished and bicycle boulevards on Jenifer Street and 41st Street NW, first discussed in 2013, have been completed as well.
Pennsylvania Ave and 15th Street protected bike lanes may be expanded
As has been widely reported DDOT plans to install 6.85 miles of bike lanes, protected bike lanes (PBL), sharrows, climbing lanes and contraflow lanes. And they plan to study another 4.43 miles of facilities including PBL on the east side of downtown, on Pennsylvania Ave west of the White House and on 15th south of Pennsylvania Ave. In addition, DDOT notes that
Some facilities not listed here may be installed if planning, engagement, and design can be completed.
Though they don't list those projects in the response, at a recent BAC meeting they presented another 17+ miles of on-road bike facilities and 8.47 miles of off-street facilities that are somewhere between "awaiting final approval" and "a twinkle in Mike Goodno's eye."
Protected bike lanes on Pennsylvania Avenue SE, Louisiana Ave NW and Brentwood Parkway
The largest projects on this list include a bike lane on M and L NW connecting the east end of the existing M & L protected bike lanes to the Metropolitan Branch Trail; a protected bike lane on Pennsylvania Avenue SE from the Capitol to Barney Circle; a bike lane on Ridge Road SE from East Capitol to Burns Street; a 4 mile long side path along 16th Street NW from Spring Road to the Maryland boundary and another 3.5 mile side path along Massachusetts Avenue NW from Sheridan Circle to the Maryland boundary. Other PBLs would be on Louisiana from Union Station to the Mall, and a continuation of the 6th Street NE PBL along Brentwood Parkway to 9th.
In addition, in 2015-2016 DDOT plans to improve 10 intersections and add bike signals along the existing PBLs on Pennsylvania Ave and 15th Street NW.
DDOT to conduct a Feasibility study for Gateway segment of the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail
While DDOT was not asked about, and did not report on, all trail projects, they did give an update on some. As previously reported, DDOT has begun preliminary engineering for the northern extension of the Metropolitan Branch Trail from Brookland to Maryland. Preliminary engineering should be completed by early 2016. DDOT has completed the 30% design of the Rock Creek Park Trail, and is currently procuring a consultant for the completion of the design. Final design is expected by the end of 2015 with construction in 2016 or 2017. The Gateway Segment of the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail, which would connect the Fort Lincoln neighborhood to the Kenilworth Segment near New York Avenue, is not funded for planning, design, or construction at this time, but DDOT will explore this segment by conducting a feasibility study. Construction of the Kenilworth Segment of the trail is currently on track to be completed in the spring of 2016.
Bike parking and CaBi expansion
DDOT has been trying to keep up with bicycle parking and bikeshare demands. They learned of 4 damaged racks in 2014 while installing roughly 300 racks, for a net increase of 296 racks. This is in addition to several hundred racks installed by some of the Business Improvement Districts. They plan to add up to 40 additional CaBi stations, depending on the availability of equipment
Bicycle collisions up 32% in 2014 compared to prior years
DDOT also provided data on bicycle and pedestrian collisions.
The number of cyclists involved in collisions, as well as pedestrians and total collisions are all up substantially in 2014. It's hard to know how much of that is due to more exposure and how much is due to other factors like better reporting or the unintended consequences of Obamacare.
Also, I get how there can be more cyclists in collisions than cyclist collisions (driver hits three cyclists) as there were in 2014, but not how the opposite can be true, as there were in the two earlier years. Not unless a cyclists is crashing into multiple cars and people and those are each counted as a separate crash.
DC is a slaughterhouse for young trees
A mostly unrelated, but shocking-if-true fact included in this report was about tree plantings:
In FY13 the survival rate of newly planted trees was 2.03% and in FY 2014 it was 2.79%.
That's insanely low. I think you had a better chance of surviving the Hiroshima bombing. Did they accidentally report the mortality rate? According to a study in New York City
Prior analyses of street trees planted by the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation between 1999 and 2003 (n=45,094) found 91.3% of those trees were alive after two years and 8.7% were either standing dead or missing completely. Using a site assessment tool, a randomly selected sample of 13,405 of these trees was surveyed throughout the City of New York during the summers of 2006 and 2007. Overall, 74.3% of the sample trees were alive when surveyed and the remainder were either standing dead or missing.
The two videos below show the rear and front camera views of the incidents surrounding a crash between a car and a cyclist along the on-street portion of the Metropolitan Branch Trail on 8th Street NE. I don't see the actual collision as it appears to occur on the opposite side of the car from the camera.
It looks like two cyclists were riding along (possibly two abreast, though one is a little ahead of the other). The driver pulled up and honked at them twice. When they didn't move over, he gunned it, passed over the double-yellow line and passed too closely to the far cyclist. Then he stopped in the road and when they pulled up beside him - one on either side - he took off again, hitting the far cyclist in the process. Then he left the scene.
Now, cyclists are not allowed to ride two abreast if there is a car behind them, but this road was so narrow that it would have done him no good if they had arranged themselves in single file, but continued to take the lane. And then, it was illegal and unsafe for the far cyclist to cross the double yellow line to pass the stopped car, as it appears he did.
But, those are pretty trivial when compared to the litany of illegal, rude and unsafe maneuvers that the driver took part in. Honking (illegal and rude). Crossing the double yellow line (illegal and unsafe). Passing with less than 3 feet (illegal and unsafe). Hit and run (illegal and unsafe). And there was probably some speeding in there for good measure.
It's hard to say who's at fault for the actual crash.
This incident has been reported to the police and better images of the plates show the license plate number clearly. Let's see if MPD follows up.