Riverfront at West Hyattsville project to upgrade section of NW Branch Trail

Between the Northwest Branch Trail and the West Hyattsville Metro station, developers are building a multifamily unit and townhouse development. In order to meet the storm water management requirements, a section of the adjacent NW Branch Trail has been temporarily closed so that dirt can be removed from the area and underground compensatory storage can be built. When the work is complete, a better trail with lighting, a new bridge and connections to the new development will be built. 

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The project will include a community park along the trail with an amphitheater, an expanded trail where the existing trail is (though shifted a bit) and new paths leading from the trail to the community. The trail will also get trail makers, LED lighting and emergency call stations.

Away from the trail, the project will include an 8' wide hiker biker trail (although elsewhere they call it a bike lane or a sidewalk) along the northside of Little Branch Run, which is the long diagonal street across the development, a 10' wide promenade (also called a sidewalk) along River Terrace Road, the road adjacent to the trail area, and a direct connection to the Metro (not seen on the image above).  Screenshot 2018-11-16 at 1.05.46 AM

As mentioned before, the trail is being closed because the property needs the area for storm water management. 

The majority of this park space is actually owned by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) Parks Department. It was dedicated to the Parks Department from the subject property in 1957. The applicant and the Parks Department have come to an agreement where the applicant may use the parkland for some of their stormwater management features, which is crucial because the project site lies within the 100-year floodplain. Properties that lie in the floodplain are required to take extra measures to manage stormwater and mitigate against a higher flooding risk. As a result, an arrangement has been made where the applicant can use dirt from the M-NCPPC property to raise the site out of the floodplain. The applicant will then incorporate underground compensatory storage for the site on the M-NCPPC parcel. In exchange, the parcel in question will be turned into a greenway with improvements made to the adjacent trail. M-NCPPC will retain ownership of this site with a memorandum of understanding in place for the applicant to control the maintenance of the stormwater facility.

As mentioned, the recently closed the trail resulting in a 6-9 month detour (don't worry, no stairs) which can be seen below.

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People For Bikes ranks DC #8 overall, Alexandria #5 for medium size cities

image from upload.wikimedia.org

Back in May, People for Bikes, the industry-supported bicycle advocacy group, came out with a new system for rating and ranking cities on their bicycle friendliness and DC area cities did well. 

Unlike the Bicycle Friendly America program that LAB has, this one is designed to be completely data driven. It also aims to "reward cities not just for what they did 20 years ago, but also what they’re doing right now."

No system could perfectly capture every aspect of making a place great for biking. But ours combines a lot:

  • Street-level data from Open Street Map on infrastructure, traffic speed limits, where people live, whether the low-stress bike network actually links them to destinations and how equitably infrastructure is available to disadvantaged groups (31%)
  • Local and federal data on the overall traffic injury rates, both for people biking and people using any mode (16%)
  • The scale and variety of investment in bike infrastructure and events reported by local officials for the PlacesForBikes City Snapshot (16%)
  • The PlacesForBikes Community Survey, which asked 39,076 people (with certain minimum figures per city rated) about their riding habits and perceptions of safety and progress (16%)
  • Census American Community Survey data on the local percentage and gender split of bike commuters compared to car commuters (13%)
  • An assessment of a community’s propensity to bike for fun, from Sports Marketing Surveys (8%)

The top city in the country, as they ranked them, was Fort Collins, CO and the top large city was Portland, OR.

Washington, DC came out 8th overall and 4th among big cities with a score of 

Alexandria was 18th overall and 5th among medium cities with a score of 2.9

The rest of the local cities are shown below with their score in parenthesis

#70       Arlington (2.2)

#125     Silver Spring (1.8)

#183     Vienna (1.6)

#261     Rockville (1.4)

And because everyone like a little schadenfreude, last place (#484) went to Foxboro, MA (0.3)

Any landing you can walk away from is a good one.

I don't know if you heard, but there's a little news about Amazon coming to Crystal...I mean National Landing and there's expected to be some changes to the area as a result, some of which are part of the deal. 

The community and Amazon employees will benefit from the Commonwealth investing $195 million in infrastructure in the neighborhood, including improvements to the Crystal City and the Potomac Yard Metro stations; a pedestrian bridge connecting National Landing and Reagan National Airport; and work to improve safety, accessibility, and the pedestrian experience crossing Route 1 over the next 10 years. 

It seems reasonable to believe that added density in the urban core would lead to more biking, walking and transit, especially considering the corporate culture

Compared with other large corporations, Amazon employees are less likely to commute by car, as about 55 percent either walk, bike or take public transit, according to a survey the company did of its Seattle workforce. The company purchases transit cards for employees and is building a dedicated cycle track to separate bikes from cars near its Seattle buildings.

I think the bridge they're talking about is the one that has been profiled before, which I don't believe was funded, but looks like maybe it is now. 

image from ggwash.org

The area is already more bike friendly than most. It has a couple of connections to the Mt. Vernon Trail, bike facilities down the middle on Crystal Drive, the Four Mile Run Trail and other small trails as well as other bike lanes. That's not to say that a few protected bike lanes or better east-west connections wouldn't help, but just that it starts out in pretty good shape. 

One thing that would make biking in the area better would be a bike span as part of the new Long Bridge, especially if it goes to Long Bridge Park. Also an easier bike connection to the airport - which might be addressed by the new pedestrian bridge - would be great. 

RI Ave Trolley Trail takes another step towards competion

Screenshot 2018-11-13 at 12.44.15 AM

According to Mayor Len Carey, the fence on the north end of the Riverdale Park Station Section of the Rhode Island Avenue Trolley Trail was recently taken down (November 9th as I understand it) meaning that the trail is that much closer to completion. 

Though trail users have been able to bridge the gap since last year, that was on a temporary route that detoured a couple of blocks to the west. The fence was on the short section between Woodberry and 47th Street which isn't long, but the fence meant trail users had to take a mult-block detour.  The section between Woodberry and Van Buren doesn't appear to have been built yet. And I don't know if the section from Van Buren to the old detour point on the south side of the parking lot is done yet. But those would be the only two remaining pieces. Not sure when those will open.

Still it now means trail users can follow a much more direct route on the trail and Rhode Island Avenue where it isn't yet built. 

DC's National Guard was the first in the US to have a separate bicycle corps

Long before space force or bike force, the DC militia became the first one in the country to create a bicycle corps as part of its militia.

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In 1888, shortly after he was placed in charge of the District's militia, General Albert Ordway began looking into ways that the militia could use bicycles. He started a company at the time, but there weren't enough "safety bicycles" around at the time to fill the group out. But by 1891, Ordway was ready to form the first separate and distinct bicycle corps as a branch of a militia in the United States.  

In 1892, he started to promote the idea of bicycle corps nationwide, while the military was taking efforts to study the use of the bicycle in Fort Sheridan, Illinois. That spring he published, with the help of the Pope Manufacturing Company (which just happened to produce a "Soldier's Standard Bicycle" model of their Columbia Light Roadster), a book on Cycle Infantry Drill Regulations.  In it, the owner of Pope argued that if we'd just had the safety bicycle, and a network of good paved roads, the British would have never burned the Capital. 

Content includes charts showing various drill formations, several pages of musical notations for trumpet calls, etc.

The same year he had the Washington Military Cyclists participate in a relay to Pittsburgh and in 1895 organized a messenger relay to New York City to prove the value of the bicycle to those in the military that were skeptical. Unfortunately, they were shortly thereafter disbanded due to a high level of defections. 

The future of dockless bikeshare

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DC recently issued new proposed regulations for dockless bikeshare in DC. A positive way to look at it is that if they didn't want bikeshare, they'd just ban it. But as many, including myself, have pointed out the regulations are more limiting than needed. The problems I see with the regulations are namely:

  1. The 600 bikes initial cap is too low. If we want dockless bikeshare to succeed, we need to let it be big enough that people can reliably find a bike and we need it to be big enough for the network effect to benefit customers. There's no good policy reason for this, it's just a way to placate non-customers who are all aflutter about the bikes. We just had an election, if now is not the time to show a little political courage, then I don't know when is.  Last year we had over 2500 dockless bikes on the street. We could at least start there. And we could speed up the raising of the cap. If we did we wouldn't need to require 6 bikes per ward if we didn't have it. All of this also applies to scooters. This is one of the biggest barriers to bikeshare right now.
  2. The second biggest barrier is the "lock-to" requirement. I get that the goal is to get bikes out of the way of pedestrians and in the place they belong. But instead of prescribing a solution, we should tell dockless bikeshare companies what the goal is and let them figure out how to get there. We can track this (complaints, surveys, tip-over sensor data) and if a company is failing then we can penalize them. I personally don't think this is as big a problem as people make it out to be - at least based on complaints - but I'm willing to work on fixing it. 
  3. The 10mph speed limit for scooters is inconsistent and poorly thought out. It's there because scooters are considered Personal Mobility Devices (PMDs) and the speed limit for PMDs is 10mph. But the PMD classification was set up for electric wheelchairs, and then expanded to include segways. Clearly we need to rethink our vehicle definitions in light of all the new vehicles on the road - and I think that's especially true for scooters. But on top of that, we don't treat other vehicles like this. The segways that tourists rent are required to top out at 10mph. Zipcars aren't required to top out at 65mph, so why limit scooters like this (though forcing Zipcars to top out at 65mph might be a great idea)?
  4. The requirement that operators give every member a free helmet if they ask for it seems like something someone would propose if they don't know a lot about bikes. Most people can afford to buy their own helmet if they'd like one. If we want to provide members who are in need a free or discounted helmet, DC should just do that (and I think they already have a program for that). Maybe the $5 per bike fee can help fund it - and there would be more money for it if we had more bikes. It's odd since we don't require people to wear helmets and we aren't even sure they work all that well. Why not require them to give out free gloves, eye protection and pads? CaBi, BTW, does not give out free helmets to any member who asks for one, so there's a fairness/monopoly issue there too.
  5. The regulation requiring operators to "offer a low-income customer plan that waives any applicable vehicle deposit and....unlimited trips under 30 mins to any customer with income <= 200% of the fed poverty guide" is coming from a good place, but it's onerous. If DC wants to subsidize transportation for those in need, then THEY should do it, just as they do with Metro or CaBi - again with the fee money they're already charging. Are Lyft, Zipcar and others should be required to do this too?

Even with these regulations, I think dockless is going to survive, but I worry about whether it will thrive the way we want it to.

In May, COG hosted a Dockless Bikeshare Workshop with presentation by DDOT, MCDOT, Alexandria and NPS. At the time, there were still 7 companies operating in DC instead of just 1. 

DDOT - which called dockless vehicles DoVe - pointed out how the law, as currently written, doesn't give good guidance to them. For example the section below makes it seem like dockless is illegal. 

Title 24 Section 24-111.1 - No person shall leave any goods, wares, or merchandise either in or upon any street, avenue, alley, highway, footway, sidewalk, parking, or other public space in the District for a period longer than two (2) hours

They also noted that they like what their seeing so far. Like 25% of users report biking more. Lots of trips go across boundaries. 

MCDOT reported on their pilot in Silver Spring. They designated bike parking areas, required operators to remove improperly parked bikes within an hour and charged operators if the city had to move the bike. Nonetheless, and unlike in DC, most of the 77 comments they got were negative. People complained they were an eyesore, that bikes are left in the wrong places, that they took up valuable rack space, that the batteries died in the winter or that the county shouldn't pay for this (they don't. It neither costs money nor makes money). But others thought they did a good job of filling the gaps in CaBi and makes neighborhoods more transit friendly. And others thought they made the city prettier. 

To deal with complaints, MCDOT reduced the number of bikes in the pilot area, adding more bike parking and tried to do more outreach. 

Bike use peaked in February and then started to drop off. The main areas of defects were the solar panels, back light and rear reflector. Surveys they carried out showed that about 8% of bikes were obstructions and nearly 90% were upright. 

NPS - Their main concerns are how the dockless bikes impact the user experience and the regulatory approval of dockless bikes to operate on parkland. They've met with operators and are working with DDOT on how permit dockless on some NPS property, but not near the monuments.

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In October, COG had another workshop - this one on bikes and scooters - and this time DC, Arlington, Baltimore and Montgomery County presented.

DDOT stated that we're in Phase II of a three phase project that will end in 2020. Then -??? There are 5 permitted scooter companies and 2 permitted bike companies, but only 4 and 1 of them are operating. In order to meet the new demand for bike parking, they've added 300 bike racks as part of their on-going "rack attack". Interestingly, Skip has way more inactive vehicles outside of they city. They literally skipped town. They're still working on how to enforce the rules, how to work across the region and how to deal with data.

MoCo reports 18,000 trips in the first 6 months, with only 7% of bikes blocking access. 84% of people want the program to continue, it has expanded bike use, and they need more bike racks. They're looking to expand the program to Bethesda, Wheaton, Viers Mill and other areas.

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Arlington has had dockless scooters since June and approved Lime and Bird in October. but I think they're just scooters so far.

So, the future looks good for dockless, but not great and there is a danger of overregulating them. On the upside there are plans to expand both the number of bikes and the area they can operate in. It would great to see PG County get in on this, at least in the close in areas.

I-395 Express Lanes delay Seminary Road Complete Streets Project

Last month, Alexandria suddenly (and without warning) cancelled a meeting on the Seminary Road Complete Streets Project because VDOT notified them that Transurban, the I-395 Express Lanes concessionaire, is proposing to evaluate the current use of the Seminary Road high-occupant vehicle-only ramp and to consider potential operational changes at the ramp for express lane/high-occupancy toll traffic.

City staff is coordinating with Transurban and VDOT on an analysis (to be conducted by Transurban) of the forecasted traffic changes that could occur from the proposed change. There is not yet a timeline for completing this analysis.
This new information prompted city staff to pause work on the Seminary Road Complete Streets project. As soon as the Complete Streets project team has a reliable forecast of how a potential change in the off-ramp operation could impact Seminary Road traffic, the project team will conduct a revised traffic analysis of the conceptual alternatives. Project work will restart as soon as more information is known about the potential future impacts of the contemplated changes.
Seminary Road is a key corridor in the City of Alexandria’s transportation network. The Vision Zero Action Plan, Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan, and Safe Routes to School Plan Program recommendations, and all identify potential safety and mobility improvements for Seminary Road. The City's Complete Streets Policy recommends that staff use repaving as an opportunity to consider and incorporate changes to enhance the safety and convenience of all users. 
More can be found here.

What's the plan


In2014, Mayor Gray had DDOT lead an effort to create a new transportation plan called MoveDC. MoveDC, finished in May of 2014, included bicycle, pedestrian, transit, vehicle and freight element.  In October of that year they released a two-year action plan. Then Mayor Gray lost re-election.

Now I still point to MoveDC as the District's plan, but when I do government types say "well, yes and no" because it was never officially adopted. Whatever that means. It feels more and more like we don't actually have a bicycle plan. If the MoveDC bicycle element isn't it, and the 2005 Bike plan has run its course, then what is the plan? No one really knows and it would be nice if DC had a new plan, or at least a bike plan we could point to without getting a head tilt and shrugged shoulders and "that's not REALLY the plan."

What's also weird is that they still promote the 2014 2-year action plan on the MoveDC website. If there isn't going to be a new 2 year plan in 2016 or 2018, then it's time to stop putting this on the front page. But looking at we can see how well they did (at least for bike stuff).

  1. Start the Frederick Douglass Bridge - this didn't start until this year, so it happened but 100% late by that time. 
  2. Four major trails
    1. Klingle Trail finished - this was also done but was a year late. 
    2. Kenilworth Anacostia Trail segment - Delivered in 2016. Success.
    3. Rock Creek Trail advanced - Work started in 2016. Success
    4. Metropolitan Branch Trail - There was not a lot of progress until 2017. Gonna call this one late.
  3. Build 15 miles of bike facilities - In 2014 they built 10 miles, but most of that before the plan was adopted. In 2015, they built  4.42 miles and in 2016 they were planning to get 6 miles, but did not build that many.
  4. Study the east side of downtown bicycle facility - Studied it many times
  5. Identify needs and solutions for Crosstown Mutlimodal Study - that part was probably done by 2016
  6. Review bicycle laws and implement changes - Success!
  7. Issue an annual "State of Transportation" report - if so, I can't find it.

There are other items labeled "bicycle element" that seem less important so I skipped them. 

The two-year plan seems like a mixed bag. They did most of these things eventually, but some behind schedule, and this list was a little cherry-picked to hit things they were already planning to do. MBT and Rock Creek represent projects that date back to the 1990's. 

But back to what the plan is now. In addition to MoveDC, there is also the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP). This is the federally mandated multi-year listing of all upcoming projects that will be funded with federal dollars. This is not a plan. But in the short term, it's the best we've got. 

Anyway, I'm not clear on what the Bowser goals are wrt to transportation, what the plan is or she's meeting her goals. I don't know if we're being successful or not, but she must be because she was re-elected.

Greater Lyttonsville Sector Plan Design Guidelines


The Montgomery County Planning Department has been working on plan for Lyttonsville for several years now. In 2017 the county approved the Greater Lyttonsville Sector Plan which amended several other area plans in preparation for the coming Purple Line. Because the Purple Line will upgrade and expand the Capital Crescent Trail - which will pass straight through the area - the plan will have an effect on the trail. The Sector Plan stated that the next steps was to create a Greater Lyttonsville Design Guideline and so the Planning Department recently began work on that

One of the key goals of the sector plan is to improve the walkability and bikeability of the area, and strategies for achieving that include making the area a Bicycle-Pedestrian Priority Area, expanding trails and adding cycletracks and other on-road bike facilities. 

The Design Guidelines will set Streetscape Design guidelines that will determine how roads, sidewalks, intersections and crossings function. In addition the design of Parks will guide future work on what trails and linear parks look like. 

They already have some ideas of what they want to do. For example along south side of the the new trail they'd like to include a linear park. That linear park would open to larger green spaces like a larger civic green connecting to Lyttonsville Place and the
Purple Line Station beyond.

The linear open space will be a green area along the Capital Crescent Trail with landscape and activity areas. The configuration of the open space if the [land south of the trail] redevelops will be guided by the design guidelines for parks and open space.

Just east of there, they'd like a connection across the underdeveloped property on the south and another connection to Garfield Ave on the north side, though that won't be easy.

The area on Fort Detrick property will need to be capped per Maryland Department of the Environment requirements, and there are steep slopes. These landfill, slopes and ownership issues are a barrier, so we cannot say for certain that the trail connection will be implemented. The preferred access point would be the one at the end of Garfield Avenue because it does not have property ownership constraints, but it does have topographic constraints

In December they plan to brief the Planning Board on their work and early next year, they plan to put out a working draft. Even building design guidelines impact cyclists when it comes to parking and shower/changing facilities. 

The picture above is of what a new 16th Street just west of the railroad tracks and a future Purple Line station could look like. 

Holmes Run Trail Bridge opening ceremony on Thursday


Alexandria built a new bridge on the Holmes Run Trail and they're having a celebration for it on Thursday (after they postponed it from today). 

The event has been rescheduled for Thursday, November 8, from 10 to 11 a.m. at HolmesRun Parkway and Ripley Street. Residents are invited to come out to celebrate the new bridge and receive free safety gear.

The old bridge was narrow, just above the water and had no railings so this is quite an improvement - for both the stream (which got some restoration work) and for trail users. 

image from washcycle.typepad.com

Also, in the near future, Alexandria plans to build 2000 feet of trail along the south side of Holmes Run from Ripley - where this bridge is - to Pickett. And there are also plans to improve the tunnels along the trail. 

In the long run, a grade separated crossing of Beauregard would be nice and then looking at how to extend the trail west to connect to the section of the Holmes Run Trail west of Lake Barcroft and north along Tripps Run to Howard E. Herman Park, which is then a short hop from the W&OD Trail. 

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