Virginia Avenue Trail mostly complete

VAT

As part of the Virginia Avenue Tunnel Project, Virginia Avenue was rebuilt with a trail from 9th to 2nd SE that has separate spaces for pedestrians and cyclists - similar to what's at the Wharf. This was finished in early January. Technically this is a part of the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail, but DDOT has been referring to it as a separate trail.

The trail won't be all finished until the section from 9th to 11th - the part that goes through Virginia Avenue Park - is complete; and that won't happen until additional road work on the I-395 off ramp is completed later this year. This will leave the end about a block away from the ART's 11th Street Trailhead.

On the west end, though the trail goes away, there's a new block of H Street SE between 2nd and New Jersey and it has wide sidewalks on both sides that should be suitable for trail users. 

JDLand reports that the developers of the land on the other side of New Jersey Avenue are getting their paperwork in to begin work there. This work will extend H Street west and 1st street north, but more importantly it will also develop the land beneath and on the other side of 695. It would be great to extend the Virginia Ave Trail to South Capital Street. Unfortunately, she reports that the zoning orders reserves this space for hotel guests and residents. 

"The Applicant shall fully embrace and utilize the area underneath the freeway for amenity spaces that will be reserved for use by hotel guests and residents of the project."

I can't imagine that there is some use for the 15 feet closest to the RR tracks that would be better than a MUT or why reserving the property for the use of guests and residents is a good idea. But what do I know. 

On the upside, the zoning order makes other demands for cycling.

The Applicant shall start a dialogue with DDOT regarding the creation of a protected bike lane on the south-bound side of New Jersey Avenue, S.E

Greater Lyttonsville Sector Plan Design Guidelines ready for comment

Lyttonsville

Last year, the Montgomery County Planning Department started work on the Greater Lyttonsville Sector Plan Design Guidelines and later this month they'll be looking for public comment on them.

On Wednesday, February 20, the public is invited to learn more about the guidelines through informal discussions with planners during drop-in hours at the Gwendolyn E. Coffield Community Center (2450 Lyttonsville Road, Silver Spring, MD) from 2:30 to 7:30 p.m. (RSVP to laura.shipman@montgomeryplanning.org with the time you plan to attend).
 
The public is welcome to attend the design guidelines work session with the Planning Board tentatively scheduled for Thursday, March 21. During this session, members of the Planning Board will review and refine the guidelines before the document is finalized. The meeting date will be posted on the project website and the Planning Board agenda website: montgomeryplanningboard.org/agendas/   
Improved bikeability is one of the key visions of the design guidelines which highlights the Capital Crescent Trail that runs through the center of the community. To achieve greater bikeability, the Design envisions
  • more public through-block connections to break up large blocks
  • healthy tree canopies on bicycle priority streets. Plantings will be prioritized along such routes.
  • site design that prioritizes the public sidewalk and bikeways over private vehicular crossings

Some specific facilities called for are

  • separated bike lanes and a planting buffer on 16th Street (see below)
  • streetscape improvements to sidewalks and bike lanes along Brookville Road and Lyttonsville Place
  • Improved connections from the CCT to nearby streets and bikeways, particularly Brookville Road
  • An Urban Greenway along a daylighted Fenwick Branch
  • Pedestrian and bicycle pathways, stairs and ramps to improve connectivity to the future Purple Line station and recommended open spaces
  • new green spaces along the CCT
  • Create an identity along the CCT with wayfinding and public art reflecting surrounding neighborhoods.
  • Provide consistent lighting and other furnishings along CCT.
  • Explore opportunities for distinct spaces for pedestrians and cyclists where feasible to increase safety of all users.
  • Provide landscape edges to the CCT including native trees and active public open spaces that are connected to the CCT
  • Orient building entries, balconies and transparent ground floors to the trail to activate the CCT and adjacent open spaces.

image from washcycle.typepad.com

MWCOG approves bike projects in Maryland and DC

I'm many months behind on this, but last year the MWCOG approved several Transportation Alternatives projects in DC and MD, most of which will be of interest to cyclists.

Under the federal Transportation Alternatives Set Aside (TA Set Aside) Program, the TPB is responsible for selecting projects using sub-allocated funding for Suburban Maryland, Northern Virginia, and the District of Columbia. The TA Set Aside, which is part of the Surface Transportation Block Grant Program, was previously known as the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) and that name is commonly still used.

The project to get the most funding was the Golden Mile Multi-Modal Access Project in Frederick, MD. 

The project will provide 100% design for a shared use path of 1.25 miles along US 40 that improves safety for pedestrians and bicycles.

Next up is the Palisades (Glen Echo) Trolley Trail Preliminary Design project which got $600,000.  This funded a feasibility study that is currently underway and is expected to wrap up in August.

The purpose of this feasibility study is to identify critical issues and challenges in developing a multi-use trail for pedestrians and bicyclists of all ages and abilities on the former Glen Echo Trolley line corridor, an area commonly referred to as the Palisades Trolley Trail. The project will determine if a trail along the corridor would provide a transportation utility for pedestrians and bicyclists. The feasibility study will include a comprehensive survey of the study area to determine topography, utilities, site conditions, and historic resources. In addition, an in-depth inspection of the Foundry Branch Trestle Bridge will be completed, and options developed to rehabilitate the Bridge for use by bicycles and pedestrians as part of the Palisades Trolley Trail. 

The hearing on the application to raze the trestle was postponed due to the government shutdown, but has now been rescheduled for March 22nd. 

Getting $248,000 is the Forest Glen sidewalk project.

A sidewalk along the north side of Forest Glen Road from Woodland Drive to Sligo Creek Parkway will be designed to the level of 35%. The half-mile project will provide a link to a planned tunnel under Georgia Avenue connecting to the Forest Glen Metro Station

Skipping over a Union Station restoration project, the next is phase 2 of Prince George's County Bikeshare program which got $222,000.

With this project, Prince George's County will further expand Capital Bikeshare within the MD 193 corridor.

Back to DC, the Rock Creek Park Military Road Feasibility Study got $200,000.

A feasibility study funded through this grant will evaluate conceptual alignments for the construction of a multi-use trail, which was identified as a priority in the 2016 NPS paved Trails Study and recommend in moveDC. The project will study a length of 1.3 miles between 16th Street and Oregon Avenue.

Another project in DC (they're all in NW, I'm afraid) is the Capital Crescent and C&O Canal - Georgetown Trail Improvements which got $150,000.

Building upon recent improvements, this project will create a new trailhead at the Georgetown connection point of the Capital Crescent Trail and the C&O Canal towpath, two of the most heavily traveled bicycle and pedestrian trail routes in the region. TAP grant funding will be used to fund a suite of improvements including landscaping, planting, lighting, a trailhead meeting area, and an improved staircase.

Finally, there's the Scott/Veirs Drive Shared Use Path in Rockville which got $60,000.

A feasibility study will be developed for a 1.2- mile shared use path along Scott Drive and Veirs Drive, between Wootton Parkway and Glen Mill Road

Stream repair will close W&OD and Four Mile Run Trails

Severe stream erosion has threatened the W&OD trail near N. Madison Street.   Arlington County will be completing an emergency stream and trail stabilization project.

Construction will begin around February 18, 2019 and will take approximately 6 weeks.

  • WO&D trail will be closed for approximately 4 weeks.
  • Four Mile Run trail will be closed for the duration of construction.
  • A short trail detour will be in place.
  • Clear directional signage will be provided along the detour route.

image from arlingtonva.s3.amazonaws.com

A longer term repair is planned. 

New DC Bike lane and Vision Zero regulations

DDOT has been busy adding and modifying their regulations in an effort to make roads safer. A set of Vision Zero regulations went into effect at the start of the year and new rules governing the Proper Behavior in Bike Lanes were published this week - to go into effect in 30 days. 

The Vision Zero regulations will

  • raise the fines for
    • excessive speed
    • failure to stop at a stop sign
    • failure to yield to a pedestrian
    • making an illegal right-turn-on-red
    • overtaking another vehicle stopped for a pedestrian
    • stopping, standing or parking in a bike lane
    • parking in medians or safety zones
    • Dooring
    • Driving on the sidewalk
    • Carrying an item on a bicycle that prevents the usage of at least one hand
    • Hitching onto a moving vehicle (on a bicycle)
    • Failure to yield (on a bicycle)
    • Bicycling too fast
    • Walking suddenly into the path of a vehicle, without the right-of-way, and colliding with it
  • Creates new fines
    • for crashing into a pedestrian on the sidewalk or when the pedestrian has the right-of-way while riding a bicycle
    • Riding with a headset,  headphones, or earplugs covering both ears
  • add points for failing to move out of the way of an ambulance, overtaking another vehicle stopped for a pedestrian or to proceed with caution near an incident
  • require side guards on large commercial vehicles within 2 years
  • lower the speed limit near schools and rec centers to 15mph for much of the day
  • require drivers to yield to buses that have signaled to move back into traffic
  • ban stopping or parking in a travel lane
  • Expands dooring fines to include both sides of the vehicle

Mostly the Vision Zero rules are good. 

In most cases raising the fine probably won't do much, but for illegal parking (in the bike lane or otherwise) it might help with commercial vehicles. To the extent that you believe UPS/Fedex and the like have decided that parking tickets are just a cost like gasoline, raising the cost could help them to re-evaluate their business plan. For the raised fines for cycling infractions, I'm old enough to remember when all the fines were dropped to $25 as the city tried to get more bike friendly, but (my theory) an appearance of equity matters. 

The new rule about not riding with headphones in each year is hard to justify. There's not a lot of scientific justification for it, and there really can't be because there hasn't been much study of the subject. A 2009 study found that people who listen to music break more traffic laws (but that's likely not causal) and perceive that they are more at risk (slightly more than riding with one hand). Observations showed that 4-8% of cyclists are observed listening to music but only 2.2% of cyclists report listening when they're in a crash. There is no distinction in this study between listening with both ears or one ear. In the figure below, of perceived risk,Control 1 is riding with 1 hand and Control 2 is riding with both hands. MP3 is listening to music.

Riskheadphones

In total that data is hardly damning. Further, are they saying the hearing impaired can't bike safely? I think there would be some pushback on such a claim.

There's another study (I can't find now) that shows that cyclists auditory perception does go down when listening to headphones in both ears - as anyone would expect - but that even then, it is better than that of drivers listening to the radio. So, it might save lives, but if it's a good idea then we're missing out by not removing radios from all cars.  Frankly, I don't know of any crashes where dual-headphone use by a cyclist was a contributing factor - but MPD should add this as a statistic to track to see if there is some relationship. 

The side underrun guards were something proposed by the safety commission Cheh set up several years ago, so I'm not sure why it took so long to get the regulations in place. In the intervening time there's been at least one crash where such guards could have saved the cyclist's life.

Naturally, John Townsend of AAA protested the fines. 

“This is about generating revenue under the patina of traffic safety,” said John B. Townsend II, a spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “There is not a shred of empirical evidence or research that proves that higher traffic fines deter bad driving behavior, and the District knows this and ignores the fact.”

I tend to agree that there's no evidence tying higher fines to better behavior, but I disagree about revenue being the motivation. I think they are just trying to turn the knobs they have. 

The recently published proposed bike lane rules limit when a driver may use a bike lane to legal turns, parallel parking and at the direction of a police officer. This is a subtle difference as, right now, they may also block a bike lane "when necessary to avoid conflict with other traffic". So drivers won't be able to do that anymore. It also removes the loophole that allows for double parking or other "bad" parking temporarily to load or unload freight or passengers. I'm not sure what prompted the first change, but I would guess someone started abusing that loophole. The second changes is long overdue.

Filling in the gaps in the WB&A Trail

Progress, slow but steady progress, is being made on the WB&A Trail, last June's RTC Trail of the Month. A study by WABA from last September says that a trail along MD-704, the MLK Highway, from DC to the south terminal of the existing WB&A trail is feasible; and next week Anne Arundel County’s Department of Public Works (DPW) and the Department of Recreation & Parks will host a public meeting to discuss the WB&A Trail Bridge at Patuxent River Capital Project
  
DC to south trailhead
 
image from i0.wp.com
 
The feasibility study looked at placing an off-road, two-way, shared use path along the north side of MD 704 from Eastern Avenue to MD 450.  The path would start at Eastern and MD-704, just NW of the District's east corner and end at Annapolis Road about 1 block away from the southern end of the current WB&A trail. There are some challenging areas where a bridge, interchange or gas station makes the addition of a trail difficult but most of the trail is designated modestly challenging. They identify 13 spots that are "Most Challenging" of which I'm showing one example below. 
 
This is where MLK Highway goes beneath US-50. "The overpass bridge abutments are located just behind the curb line and 2:1
concrete cut slopes begin just behind the piers. "
US50
 
I've bike the MLK Highway a couple of times. It was better when I did it in 2017 then when I did it back in 2009, but it still has a long way to go. This is the kind of project that could take a decade or more to do, but each place they improve it will bring its own benefits. 
 
The whole project should be made a priority by PG County as it has the potential to build a trail entirely across the county and really create a backbone for connecting more of the county to the regional trail network.
 
PG County to AA County
 
The bridge across the Patuxent that will connect the PG County Section of the WB&A to Anne Arundel's county is one of those things that they've been talking about for decades. But now that they've moved it (Boo) farther upstream it looks like the land ownership problems are out of the way.  At the meeting next week "The Department of Recreation and Parks and DPW officials will discuss the proposed modifications to the Anne Arundel County regulatory provisions required for this project."

Why bike to work days matter - people overestimate how long it takes to walk or bike to work

Tomorrow is Winter Bike to Work Day. Sometimes, regular bike commuters will respond to these events by saying "It's always bike to work day" or something. And I get it. But Bike to Work Day isn't for regular bike commuters. The point is to get people who don't bike commute to just try it once, in the hope that they'll get over the psychological barrier and maybe do it more often.

A recent study showed that one part of that barrier is that people are bad at estimating how long a bike commute will take. When it asked volunteers to estimate how long certain bike or walk trips would take they overestimated by at least 10 minutes 90% of the time. People who bike or walk often made almost all of the correct guesses. 

Interestingly, people with a parking pass did worse than those without one. 

Those with parking permits, a fiercely sought-after campus amenity, tended to overestimate active-commuting times significantly; the closer someone lived to the workplace, the better the guesses. Confidence had an outsize effect, too. The people surveyed, especially women, who had little bicycling experience or who did not feel physically fit thought that active commuting would require considerably more time than the Google calculations.

Anyway, if going to bike to work day just isn't doing it for you anymore, then up your game. The cool thing now is to bring someone new with you. Like an Amway meeting. 

Friday is Winter Bike to Work Day 2019

image from s3.amazonaws.com

February 8th is Winter Bike to Work Day in Arlington

On Friday, February 8, 2019, BikeArlington invites you to bicycle your way to work on Winter Bike to Work Day (WBTWD). Visit our pit stop at Gravelly Point (along the Mount Vernon Trail near the Capital Bikeshare station) for swag and mingling with fellow WBTWD riders.

If you are new to WBTWD, receive a pair of Capital Bikeshare gloves (great for keeping fingers toasty!). If you are a returning rider, bring a new friend and you'll both receive gloves.

Register to ride if you're biking to work that day (it’s free!), even if you can't make it to the pit stop. Invite your friends, colleagues, and family to join the fun.

It's so much better than Summer Snowmobile to Work Day. 

The Purple Line and Bikes - Riverdale

The Purple Line project isn't just a light rail project and it isn't just a way to finish the Capital Crescent Trail. All along it's rout it will impact trails, roads and other bicycle facilities. Here's a look at things that will happen in the Riverdale area. 

In the Riverdale, MD area and heading east, the PL will be on the south side of River Road and then turn onto the median of Kenilworth Avenue before turning again onto Riverdale Road.

As part of the rebuild of Kenilworth, that section of road will get continuous sidewalks and bike lanes along both sides. There will also be a short path built on the south side of the PL between River Road and Kenilworth near the Northeast Branch. This is near the spot where the PL goes over the Northeast Branch Trail.

PLNEBranch

In addition the intersection with Rittenhouse is going to be re-aligned and get real crosswalks.

Rittenhouse

It would be cool to have a trail on the southside of the PL between the NE Branch Trail and the M Square Station, and bike/ped bridge over the NE branch to the new path on the other side (like the red line on the image below), but maybe we can get those things later. 

MSquare

 

 

Regional traffic fatalities hit a 10 year high in 2017

MWCOG released their annual report on drug and alcohol related fatalities and it does not have good news. After hitting a 7 year low of 59 for the region in 2016, there was a reversion to the mean and it surged back up to 86 in 2017, which is the 2nd worst of the 8 years listed in the report. The drop and subsequent rise were primarily driven by PG County which hit a low of 17 in 2016 and then popped back up to 34 in 2017, but Northern Virginia did it's part as it had a 10 year high of 29. 

Alcohol-related traffic arrests are down 8%, and crashes are down 3% even while total crashes are up a trivial amount. Total injuries and alcohol-related injuries are down by 18% an 8% respectively. Total fatalities are up 11%, to 271, for the worst year since 2008.  

The data isn't perfect - it never is. For example, they group all the drug and alcohol crashes together, so it's impossible to say how progress is going on the two - but based on what I know about DC, alcohol is the bigger problem. Also, DUI fatalities are under-reported as they don't always test a driver if there is no crime to investigate - such as in a single-car fatality. In addition reporting methods are not standardized across the jurisdictions. What we can say is that drug and alcohol played a role in at least 31% of all traffic fatalities, but likely higher because many are unreported. 

If we're going to get to Vision Zero, we're going to have to get a handle on drunk driving. 

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