Now that almost all the snow is gone, here's this from a bike commuter in Fairfax County. This is snow removal in Fairfax County. Scoop the snow up from a parking space and put over here in this unused space...problem solved.
My scoutmaster liked to tell the story of Col. George A. Taylor, the U.S. Army officer who arrived on Omaha Beach in a later wave. Finding a group of shell-shocked men, he yelled at them "There are two kinds of people who are staying on this beach: those who are dead and those who are going to die. Now let’s get the hell out of here." Which was my scoutmaster's way of saying that in the end, you usually have to get up off your ass and save yourself. To that end I am informally organizing a region-wide bike facility dig out.
Here's how it will work. At 10:30am on Saturday morning I'm going to take my shovel to a bad spot on my bike commute (specifically the western approach to the north bike/ped lane on the Sousa Bridge. The path along the bridge is clear, but this approach, oddly, is not) and I'm going to spend 30 minutes digging it out. I'm inviting anyone who wants to put a dent in their bike commute to go out to their "bad spot" at the same time. Maybe you'll find someone else there with a shovel too. Maybe you can work together. Maybe you'll become friends and compete together on The Amazing Race (if that show is still on TV). Maybe you want to organize a more formal dig out of a facility - like the unplowed Mount Vernon Trail above. If so, let me know and I'll advertise it here. Or just leave in the comments the place you plan to go to and when and maybe things will organize more organically.
Maybe your bike commute has zero ice and lots of unicorns riding rainbows, but you're a swell person and you like shoveling snow so you would go to a more formally organized dig if you just knew where to go. Look to the comments I say.
[Technically I believe it is illegal to do work for the government for free, but I'm a rebel and yes, I am inciting other to break the law. That's how I roll, which is why I'm a perfect partner for your Amazing Race team.]
By the way, I'm not saying "Stop complaining and do something." I'm saying "keep complaining and do something." Perhaps with shame-inducing photos which you post to Twitter or snapblog or instaface or whatever it is the kids are using these days. Maybe include a witty hashtag like #lawbreakingshoveling or something.
For his bravery at Omaha, Taylor earned the Distinguished Service Cross. For your service, you will earn a cup of hot cocoa, (which you will have to provide).
Clearing bicycle facilities in the blizzard proved to be a challenge due to the conditions and the amount of snow. On Saturday there was too much snow for the special equipment to move the snow in the narrower bike lanes. Crews did manage to clear much of the Metropolitan Branch Trail and the Pennsylvania Avenue cycle track.
We will try again Monday and Tuesday when we have more staff and equipment available and warmer temperatures. It could be a few days before all the protected lanes are clear.
Regular lanes are normally cleared by regular plow on their regular shifts. However, because of the large amount of snow, plows can not get as close to the curb or the parked cars as needed to clear the lanes. Thus it will likely be several days before the regular bike lanes are clear. In the mean time, bikes share the road with motor vehicles so we ask both to use caution.
DDOT and DPW crews are also working on clearing bridge sidewalks. Once again, due to the large amount of snow, most of these are still full of snow due that was cleared from the adjacent roadway. It may may a few days before all of these sidewalks are clear.
For reglar sidewalks, we continue to ask residents and business to clear their sidewalks as soon as possible for critical safety and access.
We also ask motorists to drive slowly and watch for pedestrians in the roadway.
Please use 311 to report uncleared facilities and/or email me directly with locations, conditions, updates, etc. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
For Rock Creek Trail, Capital Crescent Trail, and Mt Vernon Trail, contact the National Park Service.
Capital Bikeshare is closed today (Monday) while crews clear out stations. There has been no decision yet on when we will be able to reopen.
The DDOT representative to the Bicycle Advisory Council recently announced that DDOT was working with the Architect of the Capitol and the ANC to extend the soon-to-be-completed protected bike lane (PBL) on 1st Street NE from Union Station to the PBL on Pennsylvania NW via Louisiana Avenue NE/NW.
The 1st Street NE PBL extension to Union Station is almost done, with the resurfacing to begin soon (if not already underway) followed by the installation of the concrete blocks similar to those further north. When done, First Street will become a one-way street with a two-way PBL, where now traffic is allowed to go two directions for part of the way. The PBL on this block will be two feet wider (10') than on the sections farther north, as DDOT now views 10' as the minimum for such facilities. There will be a loading zone on the opposite side of the street.
DDOT has been meeting with the AOC, local ANC and Councilmember Allen's staff to discuss extending the PBL further south, along Louisiana Avenue where it would connect to Pennsylvania Avenue via either 1st or 3rd. Discussions are preliminary and no alternatives have been defined yet, but the response has been mostly positive. One potential roadblock is that the design will likely require the removal of parking along Louisiana. Parking is under the purview of the Sergeant at Arms, not the AOC, and they are concerned about the loss of parking. But if all goes well, work could begin next year.
Study on the East End Bikeway, which would install a mile-long north-south bikeway on the east side of downtown, continues. They've collected data on traffic volume, parking, transit use, land use etc...They've also been reaching out to stakeholders, especially churches to address concerns early. They'd like to have a public meeting on it soon, perhaps September, and present alternatives. There will be choices about designs and about which street(s) to use. 4th and 8th have been ruled out, but they may get bike lanes. On other streets the options are a one-way PBL on each side of the street; a bi-directional bikeway on one side or a pair of one-way PBLs on adjacent streets such as 5th and 6th. The aspiration is to have the 30% design completed by the end of the year, with installation to start next spring.
DDOT has only installed about 2 miles of bike lanes so far this year. They've been busy filling small gaps, which are nearly as much work as longer lanes, but with less mileage; but DDOT thinks they're critical pieces which will pay off. They've installed a couple of small bike lane sections on 2nd and 3rd NE near Rhode Island Avenue; bike lane and sharrows on 19th Street NE/SE on Capitol Hill (This was originally to be a complete rebuild of the street, but became restriping only); bike lanes and sharrows on 49th street NE; a pair of one-way bike lanes on Galveston and Forrester Streets SE and one-block sections on 4th and 6th NE near Stanton Park. They plan to do the same thing on 11th and 13th near Lincoln Park too.
Design and community outreach is underway on the north section of the Metropolitan Branch Trail. They're meeting with community groups, taking soil borings near the trash transfer station and the Metro tunnel and working on the 305 design which they hope to complete this year. The stickier sections are the crossing of Riggs Road and the area near the Brookland Metro entrance. They hope to start construction in 2017.
DDOT and DPW are creating a snow clearing plan for bridges for next winter. Last year no one was responsible for the 14th Street Bridge so it wasn't cleared. They are trying to prioritize bridge sidewalks for clearing and then DPW and DDOT are dividing up responsibilities, so that every bridge will eventually get service.
On June 30th, the Alexandria Department of Transportation & Environmental Services began work to pave sections of Holmes Run Trail (between Duke and Ripley Streets and near Tarleton Park), Taney Avenue Path (between Raleigh and N. Gordon Streets), and the Mt. Vernon Trail (between First and Pendleton Streets), weather permitting. Through the end of July, bicyclists and pedestrians should expect minor daytime delays and closures from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.
As I'm sure everyone knows, DC's Retail Service Station Act of 1976 mandated that no gas station operating in DC after April 17, 1977 that wanted to convert from full-service to nonfull service could do so, nor could they stop providing maintenance or repair services or the retail sale of motor oil or other automotive products UNLESS they get an exemption from the Mayor which can only be granted if they agree to a small set of improvements. This is, of course, widely known, as it was in all the papers at the time. Anyway, not to keep boring you with stuff you already know, but one of the conditions for an exemption is
By improving customer conveniences including separate restroom facilities for men and women, a working air hose for automobile and bicycle tires, and water for windshield cleaning equipment.
Well, now the District is considering legislation to expand the types of changes that require an exemption to include stations that want to stop being gas stations all together. Luckily I don't think this will reduce in any way the number of available gas station-provided, bicycle tire-applicable air hoses.
[This is, however, an example of a small way in which we favor automobiles - by locking in land use exclusively for automobile service stations. By telling gas station owners that they can't close or reduce service unless there is another gas station providing the same service close by (one of several conditions) we are basically zoning land for the near exclusive use of high-service gas stations. We don't do this for cyclists by, for example, preventing bike shops from closing or offering less service. This is a very very small "subsidy" for driving - but a hidden subsidy nonetheless.]
After the snow storm last Tuesday (17 February), bicycle commuters using the 14th Street Bridge thought they knew two things. Based on past experience, the bridge would be cleared and the Mount Vernon Trail would be untouched. For my Wednesday commute it turned out the conventional wisdom was only half right – the Mount Vernon Trail was covered in snow but, while the traffic lanes on the upstream span of the 14th Street Bridge had been completely cleared, the bike and pedestrian lane remained covered in snow. At the DC end of the span, the ramp from East Basin Drive (in front of the Jefferson) to the actual bridge had been fully cleared, apparently by the National Park Service.
After walking my bike across the bridge, I logged into the District of Columbia’s 311 system to record a service ticket for snow removal. That process was a bit problematic in that the on line system insisted on a street address and the 14th Street Bridge doesn’t have one.
My ticket, recorded at 10:28 am on Wednesday read “Remove snow from the bike/ped lane on the upstream span of the 14th Street Bridge. Roadways were clear but bike/ped lanes were untouched.” The ticket was recorded as having been completed at 3:02 pm the same day. My evening commute across the bridge revealed the lanes had not been touched.
On Thursday morning, I called the 311 system and logged a second request. I asked the 311 operator to contact me if there were any questions. At about 10:15 am on Thursday, the 311 operator called me and conferenced in a District of Columbia Department of Transportation employee. We discussed the location that needed snow removal and I thought success would be achieved. Trail condition reports for the evening commute suggested that my optimism was premature as the snow and ice remained in the bike and pedestrian lane untouched.
On Thursday evening, I logged my second on-line request, reading “Previous service ticket 15-00036086 was for the ped/bike lane on the southbound span of the 14th Bridge over the Potomac. The snow has not been removed from the ped/bike lane although the service ticket was shown as completed. Access to the ped/bike lane is from East Basin Drive in front of the Jefferson Memorial. If you think this has been completed, please contact me.”
That ticket was closed on Sunday (22 Feb) morning with the explanation that the ped/bike lane on the 14th Street Bridge was “Private Property - Close SR” and I was advised to contact the “Federal (sic) Park Service” by the 311 system.
While I can understand the District establishing snow removal priorities, I find the process of actually logging a service request so cumbersome it might discourage the public engagement the system was intended to enhance. It is baffling that the District’s service request process seems to make identifying and requesting municipal services by the public less effective.
To improve the process, the District needs to allow individuals identifying service requests to either point on a map or describe the location. To rely on a pull down without some ability to provide other location information is a recipe for failure. The 311 system should also provide some ability to challenge the conclusion of the system operators without the need to log a new service request.
The reality is that the District government, agencies, as well as members of the public all would benefit from a system that actually allows users to successfully log service requests.
I use the app, and have had mixed results, but one nice feature over the website, which Dana used, is the ability to pick the spot on a map.
Nonetheless, I've had mixed results. Requesting bike parking installation (which does not have it's own category - should I use "Bicycle Issues" or "Parking"?) is an act of faith, a little like throwing a message in a bottle and hoping it gets found. Potholes have more success, though I battled with 311 over one particular pothole last summer. They kept reporting it fixed and I kept hitting it. It's not as user friendly as it could be, and clearly wasn't designed for dealing with bike issues like trails and sidepaths.
In addition, pushing responsibility off to the citizen to contact NPS is a low-service move. The DC government is there to serve citizens, and dealing with the federal government is one way that they - being the professionals can do that. Certainly someone at DDOT has a better chance of contacting the right person at NPS than Joe Citizen does. In addition, I'd be surprised if clearing snow off the 14th Street Bridge is really NPS' responsibility.
In an ideal world, there would be but one regional toolset that would lead to the proper agency (DDOT, DPW, NPS, Arlington DOT, AOC, VDOT, etc...) being tasked, but that is admittedly a big lift. CaBi and WMATA are really exceptional in that regard.
The Gazette had an article on the first snow event to result in snow clearing.
With forecasts calling for a dusting to 2 inches of powdery snow on Tuesday, Devlin said, workers initially thought they would be able to use a snowblower to clear the trail. The 3 to 4 inches that actually fell required them to go back and plow, however.
“Had we started with a plow from the start, we probably would have done it in four hours, tops,” he said. “[The] first one out is always more difficult.”
People who wrote in said that the Bethesda-to-Washington segment of the trail was mostly cleared to the pavement by Tuesday evening, making it easy to bike and hike. They did say, however, that the Washington portion of the trail had packed snow and ice, and reminded people to watch out for black ice on the pavement
At the Bicycle Advisory Council this week, the DDOT representative noted that they learned a lot from this snow and they're hoping to learn more throughout the season, which they're viewing as a test year. For example, the Toolcat they bought fits everywhere they want to go, but the blade on the front is wider, so it doesn't. [They plan to order a new blade]. They also had trouble getting equipment to negotiate the Met Branch Trail switchback at M Street NE. Such experiences are not just informing them about what equipment is needed, but how future projects should be designed, operated and maintained. So, things are better this year, and should get even better going forward.
The targeted areas include 5.2 miles of the Custis trail from Lynn Street to the Washington & Old Dominion trail; 1.25 miles of the Bluemont Junction trail from Fairfax Drive to the W&OD; 2.25 miles of the Four Mile Run trail from National Airport to Shirlington Road; and 0.4 miles of the Route 110 trail between the Iwo Jima Memorial and Arlington Cemetery.
Sorry W&OD Trail fans, but NVRPA was concerned the trail would be damaged.
is launching a pilot snow removal program this winter for the Montgomery Parks portion of the Capital Crescent Trail, located in Bethesda. Parks staff will clear snow on three and a half miles of the trail starting at the Bethesda Avenue entrance point to the Montgomery County / Washington D.C. line, as well as along 12 feeder trails. Parks staff will begin clearing the trail within 24 hours from when snow stops falling.
It remains to be seen what NPS will do about Rock Creek and the MVT.