Redevelopment of hotel site could improve the Arlington Blvd Trail

The Arlington Boulevard Trail is one of the oldest in Northern Virginia, having first opened in 1974, but even back then there was always a discontinuous section at the Day's Inn just south of Pershing Avenue. With that property being reviewed for a Special General Land Use Plan there's an opportunity to move the trail out of the parking lot and onto a real trail. 

GLUP-Pershing-Drive-Map-thumb

The trail currently is a painted dual-direction bike lane on Wainwright Road. It's OK for cycling but not great and even worse for pedestrians. 

Daysinn

One of the draft principles of the plan is to "Improve the Arlington Boulevard Trail in this location, ensuring trail connectivity and safety, while providing improved landscaping appropriate for trail edges."

A shared-use path through here would make better use of the land, and be in keeping with the Public Spaces Master Plan. The next LRPC meeting will take place on January 27th

NTSB bicycle safety report

FatalityPercent

The National Transportation Safety Board recently issued its first bicycle safety report in 47 years.

Among those bicyclists involved in crashes with motor vehicles, 15% were hospitalized, treated and transferred, or held for observation, indicating a serious injury level. In comparison, only 7% of bicyclists in other crashes received the same treatments. This difference suggests that crashes between motor vehicles and bicycles produce more severe injury outcomes for the bicyclists.

You don't say?!

The report was written in response to recent studies that showed a percentage decline in motor vehicle fatalities, yet an increase in deaths of vulnerable road users as well as some other disturbing trends. NTSB admitted that the annually reported number of fatalities were just a floor and acknowledged they didn't really know for sure if they included all the deaths, and likewise that they likely underestimate the level of bicycling activity in the United States. They also conceded that the injury data was almost meaningless. 

The research goals were to (1) describe fatal and nonfatal injury trends associated with bicycle crashes involving motor vehicles, (2) examine the scope and nature of bicyclist crash and injury risk factors and assess data limitations, (3) identify proven countermeasures that may be underused, (4) assess obstacles that may interfere with the full use of the identified countermeasures, and (5) explore emerging issues that are relevant to bicycling safety

Some of their findings echo things most safe streets advocates have been talking about for years: protected bike lanes and slower car speeds can reduce fatalities, road diets make roads safer. Others are somewhat novel like " allowing adaptive headlight systems and
to require evaluating headlights in real-world settings rather than in a laboratory would likely result in headlights that improve drivers’ ability to detect other road users, including bicyclists."

The report calls for the DOT to consider bicyclists and pedestrians in current and future safety research, assessments and guidelines for cars; to push for more separated bike facilities; and for more to be done to improve conspicuity of cyclists. 

They also recommend that state governments:

Require that all persons shall wear an age-appropriate bicycle helmet while riding a bicycle

So there's that. They do present many studies that back up the efficacy of helmets, but I'm not sure that helmet laws work (though they have data that implies they do). And, of course, it mandatory helmet use is a good idea for cyclists, why not pedestrians and motorists?

With conspicuity (think lights and reflectors) they note that the standards are from the 1980's but that technology has come a long way since then and that perhaps they should be updated to include LED-based lights for example. The section on car lights was interesting and new to me. 

Yet, the current Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) for headlights, FMVSS 108, does not include minimum illumination distance or on-vehicle performance testing of lighting systems. Rather, manufacturers self-certify that their lights meet criteria for bulb output, using the results of component tests―that is, operating tests carried out on parts that have been removed from a vehicle. Additionally, DOT rules permit a low beam and a high beam; however, unlike European standards, they do not allow vehicles manufactured for sale in the United States to continuously adjust the light pattern and provide high-beam illumination except within a segment of the beam that is adjusted to limit glare for oncoming drivers.

They also seem bullish on technology like Collision Avoidance Systems and Vehicle-to-Pedestrian systems, which I remain hopeful about. The call for helmet laws was controversial, but I was glad to see them give so much attention to safer cars and safer roads. The US has a long way to go.

USA

CWL 2020: Bonus! Dueling Creek

I left one off the list, but had already written this, so then I had 13. Enjoy!

Just north of the District Boundary on the east side of the Anacostia lies Dueling Creek. Technically, the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail ends at a parking lot about 700 feet from the Creek, but a small connection to it would be easy. A short trail along the stream has the potential to create some neighborhood connections, but even a short trail has some serious barriers to overcome.

DuelingCreek Trail

The mouth of the creek is in Colmar Manor Community Park, which was built on an old landfill site in the 1980's. It sits just north of Fort Lincoln Cemetery. A trail from the existing ATTS terminus to the Anacostia along the creek would have a recreational value, but if it could be extended south between the Anacostia and the Cemetery to New York Avenue, Fort Lincoln Drive and/or the Arboretum then it would have some transportation utility, more so if the New York Avenue bridge gets a bike crossing as is often suggested. 

DuelingCreek

North of the park road, the creek runs in a concrete channel passing under the low traffic streets of Lawrence and 37th before reaching the Dueling Grounds, from which the creek gets its name, and Bladensburg Road. The section of trail would be the easiest to built, but could also be considered redundant to the park road. A facility alongside the road might be easier and have less environmental impact. 

IMG_4028-1

There is some talk of this. In August, Anacostia Heritage Trails Area, Inc. and the town of Colmar Manor hosted a community planning meeting on a new Dueling Creek Heritage Trail. They considered adding a short trail segment along the lower part of the creek. They identified four possible routes between the trail and the park near Bladensburg Road.

Dueling Creek

A grade separated crossing of Blandesburg would really open up Colmar Manor to the trail; but it would be expensive, perhaps prohibitively so depending on the expected use. 

Between Bladensburg Road and the Camden Line railroad the creek runs naturally between parking before reaching a small residential area. A trail on this section would make sense on its own, since it would create a shorter connection between Cottage Terrace and the closest Bladensburg Road crosswalk. In the 2009 Port Towns plan, this area is meant to be a park, but no trail is identified along Dueling Creek at all. 

DuelingCreekPlan2

Getting across the railroad tracks is similar in difficulty to getting across Bladensburg Road. On the other side the creek is again in a concrete channel to Wells Avenue with absolutely no room on the sides. The nearest pedestrian crossings of the railroad tracks are about 1000-1700 feet away.

East of Wells, the creeks is encased in a concrete box, the top of which, with some improvement, could serve as a bike path to 35th Street. Parts of it appear to be on private property, which would be a significant complication. 

A trail from 35th to the river would be a great amenity, but it would be expensive and difficult. From the railroad to the river would be easier and useful, even it it required an at-grade crossing at an uncontrolled crosswalk. But it's not without complexities and limitations which explains why it's last on this list. 

CWL 2020: #1 Lower Beaverdam Creek

Lower Beaverdam Creek (LBC) is a 5 mile long stream that flows from just inside the Beltway near the New Carrollton Metro/MARC station then parallel to the Penn Line to the Anacostia River just inside the District. It has several tributaries including the 4 mile long Cabin Branch and the 3.5 mile long Cattail Branch. It flows through an odd assortment of greenspace along the streams and industrial land that cropped up along the rail line, passing through New Carrollton, Landover Hills and Cheverly and it's tributaries reach into Seat Pleasant and Capitol Heights.

LBC

A trail along LBC would have obvious transportation benefits as it would tie the Anacostia Trail into three Metro stations and a Marc Station. And in places at least, users would find a trail that sits in some green space - even if the rail and highway infrastructure nearby won't exactly leave it quiet. If the area along the rail line should ever convert from industrial to other uses, that creates an opportunity to widen the green space and improve the trail. But there is enough land there for a trail now. 

If built as far as Cabin Branch, the pink line above, it would allow for a north-south trail between the Cheverly Metro and the Addison-Road Seat Pleasant Metro and then on south to Walker Mill Road and the District Heights area. Other streams with trails - Watts Branch, Oxon Run and Henson Creek all start in this same area, as does Ritchie Branch, meaning that District Heights could be, like nearby Seat Pleasant, a trail hub.

Cattail Branch, the green line above, takes an unusual route. It starts on the other side of the Beltway near the Lanham Costco, then flows north along and under the Beltway before flowing west and then south through Glenarden. It then goes west and northwest to meet LBC near Landover Road. On the west end it passes through a park with a small existing path, past neighborhoods and shopping centers, a community center and a library, and it could make a great trail for Glenarden. A Custis-style trail along the outside of the Beltway in this area makes sense and would run along Cattail Branch for some way, but crossing the Beltway where it flows under would be very expensive. Trails along Cattail and Cabin Branch would also intersect with an expanded WB&A Trail and the planned Central Avenue Connector Trail. 

Other tributaries of LBC or it's tributaries reach north into Cheverly and south into the hills along Sheriff Road. Any or all of them would make good paths for trails, most notably the stream along Cheverly's east side - though it would have a half-dozen significant barriers to overcome. 

Encouragingly, trails along these streams are included in many County Plans. The 2010 Subregion plan for the area shows a trail along LBC from the Anacostia to Cattail Branch and then along that stream to the Beltway. It also has a trail along the full length of Cabin Branch and a sidepath along Pennsy Drive on the east end that would largely parallel LBC. (highlighted in dark green below). Such trails have been in County plans for YEARS.

2010Plan

The more recent Greater Cheverly Sector Plan echoes this and shows it in greater detail with a trail along LBC from the Anacostia to the Cheverly Metro station and then continuing to the east as well as south along Cabin Branch. 

Cheverly

The 2019 Cheverly Metro Non-Motorized Access Study went into more detail about what such a trail would look like. It also includes other bike and trail connections to the nearby areas. 

Cheverly2

The Landover Plan shows that the trail going north of Cattail would be both along Pennsy and LBC. It suggests a bike trail along the abandoned rail spur along the creek corridor parallel to Pennsy Drive with access to the Metro station. But it does not mention Cattail Branch, which is on the edge of the area. The greenway is highlighted in red.

Landover

Just building trail along the three main streams would add 15 miles of bike trail and connect thousands of people to each other, the Anacostia and it's trail network and four separate transit stations. It's such a no-brainer that it's a surprise it hasn't started happening yet. 

CWL 2020: #2 Northwest Branch

The Northwest Branch of the Anacostia River, along with the Northeast Branch, is one of the two streams that forms the main stem of the Anacostia River.  It's a 21.5 mile long stream running from the Sandy Spring area of Montgomery County to the confluence of the two streams in Prince George's County. Dozens of tributaries feed into it along the way. A paved multi-use trail runs for 7 miles along the stream from the Beltway in Montgomery County to the confluence in Bladensburg. Unpaved hiker/biker trails (in blue below) proceed north along the stream from the end of the paved trail to Bonifant Street on the other side of the Intercounty Connector. 

NEBranc

There's room for a paved multi-use trail through much of the section north of the Beltway, but perhaps not a lot of political will. There may be less of an argument for a paved trail to Wheaton Regional Park where it runs parallel to the nearby Sligo Creek Trail, but north of that there is no such alternatives. A trail through the valley between Wheaton Regional Park and the ICC, and then to a trail closing a gap in the ICC trail from Notley to Layhill road would have significant utility. 

North of the ICC it passes the Trolley Museum and then runs into the Northwest Branch Golf course, though a way around that - and to Blake High School - would not be difficult.  North of the high school the stream flows through parkland before reaching the ridge at Olney-Sandy Spring Road.  There are far too many tributaries, especially north of Wheaton Regional Park, to go into but many have potential, and a trail through this area opens them up as possibilities. 

Some of this is in county plans. Montgomery County plans include a mutli-use trail from Wheaton Regional Park along roads and the stream to the ICC and a connection to it through the Poplar Run development to the Matthew Henson Trail, which would add some extra connectivity. The trail would then extend NW along the ICC. The county plan also includes an extended natural surface trail from the ICC to Blake HS. (Highlighted in yellow below)

2016plan

A need to provide multiple kinds of space for different users and to protect the environment limit the county's ambitions with respect to the Northwest Branch, but the stream valley represents a big opportunity and the county plans to use the most important part, but it's unfortunate a trail north of the ICC isn't in the plans. Maybe someday the county will trade the golf course for an expanded trail network.

CWL 2020:#3 Brier's Mill Run

Brier's Mill Run is a 3.5 mile long tributary of the Northeast Branch of the Anacostia in Prince George's county. It used to be known as Brier Ditch, but stakeholders renamed it in order to increase awareness of it. The new name is not official, but reflects the community's vision of it. Significant portions of the stream were channelized in the 1950's as part of the Anacostia River Flood Control and Navigation project. It runs from Magnolia Spring on the campus of Capital Christian Academy in Lanham west through New Carrollton to meet the NE Branch, with Still Creek, in Riverdale Park. A pair of tributaries meet up with the main branch at a confluence in New Carrollton. Another tributary meets up with it just east of Auburn Ave in Lanham. 

Brier

Unlike Still Creek to the north, BMR runs through neighborhoods and near a school. There's already a small, narrow piece of trail along it in New Carrollton's West Field. And there are plans to build more. The East Riverdale-Beacon Heights Sector Plan calls for a trail from Auburn Avenue to the NE Branch Trail, including a new bridge over the NE Branch. It also calls for the stream to be removed from the channel it's in as much as possible. The 1995 New Carrollton plan calls for the trail to extend all the way to Carrollton Parkway, which is where the existing segments are. If extended along Carrollton Parkway, there might be room for a trail crossing of the Beltway here, which would be the only bike/ped crossing in a 1.4 mile stretch, and far better than the closest two. From there a trail through the woods along the stream and then off to the east could end at the Seabrook Park and the Good Luck Community Center.

The two tributaries to the east of West Field are of the type that flow down the middle of a divided road. They don't leave much room for a trail, but could be better designed for biking if parking were removed or traffic were calmed. 

The canal leading south from West Field leads along county property to the New Carrollton Library and makes for a natural connector trail. 

The tributary south from Auburn, after a difficult crossing of Riverdale Road, flows to and along Veterans Highway, across the street from the future Purple Line and a trail built along it could be extended to the PL's Annapolis Road station or connected to the bike lanes being added to Veterans as part of that project.  Though the bike lanes are just bikeable shoulders. 

A trail here would be even better if the Purple Line trail network envisioned in 2011 was built. That proposal included a trail along Riverdale Road from the BW Parkway to Auburn road and a trail along Veterans Parkway between it and the tracks. 

A Briers Mill Run trail system could become a critical bike/ped backbone for this area of New Carrollton and East Riverdale and serve as a connection to the Purple Line. 

CWL 2020: #4 Indian Creek

Indian Creek is a 6.5 mile long stream in Prince George's County. It starts in the hills of Beltsville and flows almost due south to the College Park airport and the confluence with Paint Branch where the two form the Northeast Branch. Several other streams flow into it, most notably the Upper Beaverdam Creek which stretches east into the patchwork of federally owned lands north of Greenbelt. There's an Indian Creek Trail along the lower 1 mile of the trail, but an extended trail would go past the Greenbelt Metro/MARC Station and into Beltsville where it could connect to several areas in North Beltsville and the Muirkirk MARC station. 

InkedIndianCreek_LI

There are plans to extend the trail a short distance north toward the Metro station, and in fact part of that trail has been constructed, but where those plans stand now that the FBI Headquarters are not moving to that area is unclear. 

Just north of the end of the trail, the Narragansett Run flows in from College Park. The Greenbelt Sector Plan calls for a bike/ped connection across the railroad tracks, as does the Greenbelt Metro Area Plan (below). Neither shows a trail along this tributary that flows in a man-made channel down the middle of Narragnasett Parkway from Muskogee Playground (where it emerges from concrete pipes).  The Parkway is a slow, traffic-calmed street and might be suitable for most cyclist anyway, but there would be room for a protected bike lane if one side or the other was converted to one-way traffic.

IndianCreekPlan

The plan above also shows a connection north, across the Beltway, to the Indian Creek Trail. The sector plan north of the Beltway, from 1989 mind you, mentions a "trail along Indian Creek" but not where along it. 

But if the trail could be carried over or under the Beltway, then the valley opens up into a long green corridor along Edmonston Road all the way to Powder Mill and then past that to Beltsville and Route 1. At this point there's a confluence of at least five streams, one flowing from Beltsville North Park, another from Kontera past the east side of MLK middle school, another from Virginia Manor Road, one in between those and a channelized stream along Route 1 that ends a short distance from the MARC station. 

It may not make sense to build trails along all of these, but each has their advantages, most notably the ones that go off to the west as they intersect with the old streetcar right-of-way where another trail makes sense. As for the Upper Beaverdam Creek system to the east, it would likely be beautiful, but it has little transportation value and may not be worth the environmental impacts. 

CWL 2020: #5 Still Creek

Still Creek is a 3.5 mile long tributary of the Northeast Branch in Prince George's County. It flows from the Shrom Hills area of Greenbelt, underneath the Beltway and the BW Parkway and then mostly through Greenbelt National Park (GNP) where it and Brier Creek meet up just a few feet before flowing into the Northeast Branch. A trail along the creek would mostly serve GNP, but would also be a nice east-west trail, especially if it crosses either one or both of the highway barriers. A second creek which NPS calls Deep Creek, flows from the park's Good Luck Parking Lot down to Kenilworth Avenue and a trail there would also be useful.

StillCreek

The bad news is that such trails are extremely unlikely. Neither PG County nor NPS has any plans to build them, though the county does have plans to build along Brier Creek (more on that later). Trails along the park side of Good Luck and Kenilworth might even be too much to ask and the creeks are even tougher since NPS sees the creeks as important to preserve. 

East of the park, the streams are buried, channelized and squeezed by residences. 

If NPS would allow a trail from the Park Road to Kepner Court (along the north tributary) and one along Good Luck Road; and then bridges or underpasses could be constructed to get the trail over and under the two highways it would create a useful, mostly off-road trail between the ATTS and the southeast side of Greenbelt. But that's all pretty unrealistic at this point.

2020 legislation seeks to make roads safer and fairer

For DC cyclists, it was a busy legislative year. Four separate pieces of legislation passed in 2020 that will impact cycling either directly or indirectly.

Arguably the most important piece of legislation was the Vision Zero Enhancement Omnibus Amendment Act which passed in October. It is a grab bag of legislation sought by safe street advocates that aims primarily to reduce road violence. The law will

  • make it easier to make safety changes to the roadway
  • add more sidewalks
  • improve crosswalks
  • build more protected bike lanes. 
  • require DDOT to be more transparent, report more data online, issue curbside loading rules, study every fatal crash, explain what steps it's taking towards Vision Zero in large projects; and to add a protected bike lane to any road where it is called for DC Multimodal Long-Range Transportation Plan if the District undertakes significant work.
  • fine developers who don't restore bike and ped facilities when work is done.
  • make it illegal to drive with headphones or earbuds in
  • ban most right-turns-on-red
  • assess points for all distracted driving violations.
  • Restore DPW as a member of the Bicycle Advisory Council
  • add DMV to the Major Crash Task Force
  • lowers the speed limit to 20mph on District roads classified by DDOT as local or collector
  • puts teeth in the Ignition Interlock Program by making it possible to take the license and vehicle registration of people who fail to enroll when they have to.
  • require the Mayor to send warnings to drivers caught going 8 or more miles per hour over the speed limit by an automated traffic enforcement camera;
  • allow the Mayor to negotiate with MD and VA on reciprocal enforcement.
  • add more Automatic traffic enforcement cameras. 
  • require cyclists to have tail lights at night
  • ban the parking of trailers next to bike lanes.  

It is not perfect. Some of the things most needed to make DC streets safer, like rebuild them, take time.  Others, like mandating safer vehicles, the District is powerless to change, but the law moves the ball forward on almost everything safety advocates like the BAC and PAC suggested. 

The District also passed the Shared Fleet Devices Amendment Act of 2020. It mostly exists to regulate the various shared scooter and bike companies after the law focused on just that, instead of a more expansive bill as originally proposed.  The law requires shared vehicles to be available in every ward, bans parking near certain schools and wellness centers and tries to deal with some of the perceived nuisance aspects of scooters by requiring lock-to devices and outlawing bad parking. It will require operators to offer free online safety courses and DDOT to put up signs or markings that signify the CBD (where sidewalk riding is not allowed). And it makes it illegal to scooter while drunk. Since the safety aspects seem mostly designed to protect pedestrians from scooters, and since scooters aren't much of a threat, it doesn't do much to make the roads safer.

The part most of interest to cyclists is that it requires the installation of 1000 new bike racks a year until 2025. 

The Council also expanded Contributory Negligence to almost everyone outside of a car. The only cases that won't be covered are pedestrian-pedestrian crashes (Not sure why) or crashes that occur off roads or sidewalks and instead in places like parking lots, trails and plazas (again, I'm not sure why). It will become effective sometime in early 2021 if the Mayor signs it (she has until 12/24).

Finally, the District passed a law that will make subsidies available to more people who choose not to drive to work. The Transportation Benefits Equity Amendment Act of 2020 requires employers who offer free parking to also offer the employee either a Clean air Transportation Fringe Benefit, an increased contribution to the health coverage, and/or the taxable wages of equal value. This is money that will go to those who walk, bike or take transit to work. The law does create some outs - like paying a fee or putting together a Transportation Demand Management Plan - but even if many choose one of those options, not all will and cyclists could still benefit. This law mirrors a rule the EPS tried to put in place in DC in the 1970's to deal with automobile emissions. That ran into trouble with Congress and then the Reagan administration and contributed to the decades long weakening of the EPA. Should lead to more biking and a need for those 1000 bike racks.

image from futurewow.com

CWL 2020: #6 Paint Branch

Paint Branch is a stream through eastern Montgomery and western Prince George's Counties that merges with Indian Creek near the College Park Airport to form the Northeast Branch of the Anacostia River. There's an existing trail that follows it from the NE Branch to a point south of the Beltway where the trail switches to the Little Paint Branch. Outside the Beltway Paint Branch flows flows from Spencerville Road and from Cloverly in Montgomery County south. After passing the ICC another Paint Branch Trail runs along it for about 2 miles from Fairland Road to Columbia Pike. From there it continues southeast through White Oak, Power Mill Community Park and the I-95/Beltway interchange to the Anacostia Tributary Trail system in College Park.

Paint Branch Ext

About 4.4 miles of trail would be needed to close the gap between the two sections of trail, and that would somehow need to navigate the I-95/Beltway interchange under which Paint Branch flow. It would also need to get across Powder Mill Road and Columbia Pike/US-29. Those won't be easy, but much of the stream flows through forests - even around the Beltway - meaning the trail would likely be a nice park ride without many other street crossings. In addition to connecting to the PG and MoCo trails, it could also connect to the Old Columbia Pike Bridge which is a bike and ped only bridge now. Just north of Powder Mill, a small tributary leads north to the shopping areas along Cherry Hill Road. Along the stream valley there's an assortment of neighborhoods, parks, shopping areas and employers creating an assortment of destinations.

image from bridgehunter.com

The bad news here is that while this used to be in Montgomery County's Trail plan, the section from the existing MoCo trail to Old Columbia Pike was dropped to an unpaved trail in 2016 due to "Adverse Natural Resource Impacts" and the section to PG County was removed because the land is part of the FDA campus and unlikely to become available. That likely dooms any PG County expansion, which was unlikely anyway as it's not in that county's trail plan. The good news is that the natural surface trail was a top priority.

North of Fairland Road, where the MoCo section ends at a very narrow sidewalk, Paint Branch continues through wide woodlands crossing a few major roads including the InterCounty Connector before ending at the hills of Cloverly. This section of the ICC doesn't have a trail along it, but a trail along Paint Branch, along with one along the tributary to the west, could serve double duty and would go a long way to closing the gap between New Hampshire Ave and Columbia Pike. A barrier to this is that Montgomery County already decided that a trail through this area would cause too much environmental damage to be worthwhile. 

Upper Paint Branch Stream Valley Park, between New Hampshire Avenue and Route 29 in northern Silver Spring, is considered the most sensitive to more asphalt, which could create storm water runoff. Its special natural resources include several streams where brown trout survive only in cold and very clean water, park officials said.

Instead they recommended sidepaths along New Hampshire Ave and Fairland Road and a future trail along the north side of the ICC between Cape May Road and Countryside Lane. The 2016 County Trails plan meanwhile calls for a natural surface trail from Fairland to Briggs Chaney. 

UPB

Another tributary across the ICC leads to the Burtonsville Library and the park next door. North of the ICC, the Paint Branch goes to Maydale Conservation Park and Cloverly Elementary School and the adjacent park. 

Altogether, an extended trail along the Paint Branch would connected dozens of destinations in Montgomery and Prince George's County, create a new outdoor opportunity and help fulfill the promise of the ICC Trail. A paved trail the length of the valley is unlikely due to environmental concerns, the FDA campus barrier (it's unclear that the FDA would oppose a trail across their land, but the security there is pretty serious) and the fact that new paved trails through it are not in either county's plans.  

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