NCPC's Draft Federal Parks & Open Space Element Open for Public Comment

The National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) released the draft policies for the Parks & Open Space Element Update of the Comprehensive Plan for the National Capital for public review and comment through Monday, May 7. Public comments may be submitted online or by mail.

The draft has a whole section on trails that reflects recent changes and the new Paved Trails Study

As the area continues to grow, trail usage has increased, encouraging federal and local governments to address challenges associated with meeting commuter and visitor needs and expanding the trail network. Although the region has hundreds of miles of trails on the ground, they are not all connected in a cohesive, easy-to-navigate network. Administered by multiple jurisdictions with different design standards, trail segments were built at different times when funding was available.

The Capital Trails Coalition (Coalition), a collaboration of public and private organizations, agencies, and citizen volunteers, is an effort to unify the region’s trails by advancing the completion of an interconnected network of multi-use trails in the region. The Coalition’s goals include closing gaps, improving trail access, and creating a network that links communities and major destinations in the region; promoting health and physical activity; and helping spur both economic development and trail tourism.

More on the draft

Last updated in 2004, the element establishes policies to protect and enhance the many federal parks and open spaces in the National Capital Region and promote improvements to the regional open space network. NCPC uses these policies to guide agency actions, including review of projects and long-range plans that affect federal parks and open spaces.

The update introduces policies that address current issues, such as adapting designed landscapes or balancing commemorative works with active uses in parks. The element includes information and policies referencing the Capper-Cramton Act that provided federal funding to acquire parkland in the region and authorized NCPC to review development projects in these parks to ensure their protection. It also incorporates information from recent planning studies such as the Small Parks Management Strategies Study completed by NCPC and the National Park Service.

The proposed Parks & Open Space Element is structured around six guiding principles that create a cohesive vision through improved stewardship, utilization, maintenance, planning, and design, as follows:

  1. Protect the Parks and Open Space Design Legacy
  2. Provide Stewardship of Natural and Cultural Resources
  3. Provide Access to and Connections between Parks and Open Space
  4. Balance Multiple Uses within Parks
  5. Balance Commemorative Works within Parks
  6. Build Partnerships and Coordination among Multiple Landowners and Jurisdictions

NCPC will host two public open houses for the public and the media to learn more about the updates:

  • Wednesday, March 21 (6:00—7:30 pm)
  • Thursday, April 12 (10:30 am—noon)

Both meetings will cover the same content.

Bike ride season is around the corner

There are a lot of bike rides that are coming up as it gets warmer and here are just a couple. 

The last ever VASA ride. - April 7th

Sadly, this tradition is going away. It won't even be at the Swedish Embassy this year - instead it will be at the new REI. But there will still be blueberry soup. More info here

The DC Bike Ride - May 17th


A 20 mile, car free, recreational bike ride with music and food. 

Arlington Resident not happy about road diet and Complete Street

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In a letter from late last year, an Aurora Hills resident writes that changes made to S. Eads Street as part of a Complete Streets overhaul have resulted in a "nightmare". 

Since our arterial street has reduced capacity, the cars all cut-through our neighborhood street.  And just to be clear, we are not talking about a few cars.  We are talking over 1,300 commuters a day.

Our one lane section of S. Fern St. simply cannot handle this traffic.  According to Arlington County historical traffic counts, last performed in 2011 on our street, they measured 500 cars on a daily average. What a difference a “Complete Street” makes.  We now have approximately 600 cars who rip down the same street in a three-hour period  our school bus is dropping off children.

That does sound bad - though I'm not sure how much it's out of the ordinary. Still the only data the author gives is how much traffic has increased. Chris Slatt, in the comments, notes that "In 2016, there were zero pedestrian, bicyclist, or driver fatalities investigated by the Arlington County Police Department."

Anyway, if there really is rampant law-breaking (which is something I thought only cyclists did) then a few speed cameras and stop sign cameras should do the trick.  I would not be too surprised if there were unintended consequences, and congestion might be one, but then this is a "pilot project"

With these changes in place, County staff are monitoring roadway operations using travel times and vehicle, bike and pedestrian counts. The design of the pilot project is flexible and may change as operations are monitored. The outcome of these measures will influence the ultimate cross section of the street and may lead to additional improvements as areas of opportunity are identified.

I don't know when they plan to present their findings, and since this was done 4 years ago, I suppose they should soon, but I'll reserve judgement until then. 

DDOT promotes safe door opening

Late last year, DDOT spent a little time promoting the DCReach (which is really just the Dutch Reach). 

The campaign promotes the “Dutch reach" method which requires drivers to look over their shoulder before opening their car door with their right hand. Efforts are concentrated on highly trafficked areas that include multiple transportation modes (e.g., H Street NE where DC Streetcar, cars, pedestrians and MetroBuses navigate).

“DDOT strives to create a transportation network that is as safe as possible for all users, no matter their transit mode," said DDOT Acting Director Jeff Marootian. “#DCReach is a robust education campaign that demonstrates the significant impact a minor habit change - looking over your shoulder before opening your car door - can have. By using the Dutch reach, we all can contribute to making our city's transit system the safest possible, and achieving our Vision Zero initiative.”

Opening a car door without checking for passersby, also called, "dooring,” is a top safety concern, especially for cyclists and those exiting cars near streetcar lines. 

This is a small initiative, but a good one. I'd rather see information like this disseminated during the annual "Street Smart Safety Campaign" than people with tire tracks on them, but I don't see that happening.  

Capital Crescent Trail/Purple Line update

There has just been so much going on along the Capital Crescent Trail and Purple Line that I can't keep up. So I'm putting it all into one post.
The Talbot Avenue Bridge
The 100 year old Talbot Avenue Bridge is going to be removed to build the Purple Line. If you've ever biked between the Georgetown Branch Trail and Bethesda, you've no doubt gone over this bridge. But because it has some historical significance, especially among the black community in the area, the County is trying to figure out how best to preserve it, at one point considering it for a footbridge over a trail or stream. But now it appears that part of it at least will go in along the new extended Capital Crescent Trail. 
Officials at the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) say they tentatively approved, with community input, two artwork proposals for the Lyttonsville station as part of the Purple Line’s $6 million art budget. One of the designs, by Maryland artist David Hess, shows one of the girders cut into two pieces and attached to the sides of the elevator shaft. The other girder would lie on the ground as a short wall between the station and the adjacent Capital Crescent Trail. The girders would be decorated with photos of Lyttonsville residents and other historic images as part of a “sculptural photo album,” according to draft designs.
But some longtime residents say the design loses the feeling of a bridge. Instead, they suggested placing the girders along both sides of the trail so walkers and cyclists would still feel like they were going over a bridge.
Tim Cupples, Montgomery’s coordinator on the state Purple Line project, said the county will explore the residents’ proposal to install the girders along the trail.
 But even this decisions still seems to be up in the air. 
Screenshot 2018-03-12 at 11.45.23 PM
Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett’s (D) proposed capital budget, released in January, included $3 million to design protected bike lanes in downtown Bethesda for cyclists who can no longer use the Georgetown Branch Trail during five years of the Purple Line’s construction. 
the county first will share “concepts” of the bike lanes with the community this year to get input before designing them, and the lanes should be in place in 2019. Cyclists will have their own stretch of pavement and likely be separated from traffic via plastic posts, she said.
Now is definitely the time to do this, instead of, let's say any time over the prior 20 years of planning. But bygones (technically this wasn't on the books until the 2017 Bethesda Downtown Plan), 
After a very long wait, work has finally begun on River Road Park a small park located on the north side of River Road along the Capital Crescent Trail. 
The park near the trail’s River Road crossing will serve as a rest area for cyclists along the 11-mile trail and will feature a stone sitting wall, pergola, greenery and trees,
the first phase of the project will involve landscaping the area and adding a curb to discourage unwanted parking.
Purple Line at Sligo Creek
The Purple Line will cross Sligo Creek on Wayne Avenue and will intersect with the Sligo Creek Trail three too. Even though the bridge will be reconstructed, the trail won't be rerouted (it would have been nice if it could have crossed under Wayne with the creek). The sidewalks that the trail uses through the area will be rebuilt.. 
Screenshot 2018-03-13 at 12.25.04 AM
Finally, there's nothing bike-related about this, but this is the plan for getting the Purple Line under the BW Parkway.
Screenshot 2018-03-13 at 12.27.04 AM

Washington, DC Vision Zero Summit 2018

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WABA is hosting the 2018 Vision Zero Summit next Thursday at the Milken Institute School of Public Health (950 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20052).

In the three years since the District of Columbia committed to Vision Zero, traffic deaths have gone up, not down. In the past two years, Montgomery County and Alexandria have also committed to ending all roadway fatalities and serious injuries within a decade.

The high number of tragedies on our roadways are largely predictable and preventable. On March 15th, policymakers, advocates, experts, and implementers will explore systemic ways to turn commitments and action plans in to substantive change.

This daylong event will feature plenary speakers Mayor Muriel Bowser and CityFi Founder Gabe Klein, as well as expert panelists on topics that include:

  • How to ensure that Vision Zero programs don’t perpetuate systemic injustice
  • How to actually get people to drive safely
  • How agency staff tasked with carrying out Vision Zero can overcome institutional barriers to change
  • Why we should treat traffic injuries as a public health issue
  • Opportunities for cross-jurisdictional regional collaboration

Registration is $65, but scholarships are available. 

DC Mayor Bowser, DC CM Charles Allen, Gabe Klein, Montgomery County CM Hans Riemer, and Alexandria Vice-Mayor Justin Wilson and several others are going to be there. 

Fort Belvoir RR, no trail on the horizon, but there are markers

I've given up home on seeing the old Fort Belvoir Military Railroad turned into a rail trail. Not only because no one talks about it or has it in their plans, but also because they knocked down one of the railroad bridges (aka "Facility 1433") when they widened route 1 in 2014. You can see Facility 1433 below.


I mean they could still build a trail on the ROW from Newington to Accotink, using the last existing bridge over Cinder Bed Road, but someone would have to want to do that, and I don't know anyone who does. 


In the meantime, we have the next best thing - historical markers! I stumbled across these recently, and I assume they're drawings of markers that have been or will be erected. It's nice, but a trail would've been better.


 I should point out that when they widened Route 1 they also added a, dare I say it, sidepath and some terrifyingly narrow bike lanes wedged,at times, between high speed traffic lanes and turn lanes. 

Benning Road Streetcar project could come with a shared use path to Minnesota Ave

While the streetcar is getting some bad press due to the recently reported need for new cars, planning for the expansion of the streetcar continues and heading east that means some improved bike facilities along Benning Road. Back in November, DDOT presented the latest design alternatives, which aren't too different from what was presented in May, but there is some new/different information. After the May meeting, it appears they received many comments asking that biking be made better in the corridor. 

In both alternatives, cyclists would use a shared-use path on the south side of Benning Road from Oklahoma Avenue to Minnesota Avenue but it would differ in width. East of Minnesota Avenue, Benning would have sidewalks. 

In alternative 1, which has the streetcar running in the outside lanes, the sidepath would be 10 to 11 feet wide. 


Alternative 2, with a center running streetcar, would be similar, except that from Anacostia to 36th, the 10' shared use path would have an additional 3 foot buffer. [Note: it appears that there is an error on the Alt 2 sheet. In the "typical section" drawing for the Kingman Island stop, the drawing shows an 8' wide side path, but the text beneath it says there is a 10' wide sidepath. It doesn't seem like both can be right.]

There's a new drawing of the sidepath and transit stop at 34th that now shows the path moving behind both a bus stop and a transit stop, as opposed to just a transit stop; whereas before the transit and bus stops were combined.


By now, they should be in the process of creating the final NEPA decision document, with design starting this year and construction completed in 2023. 



One of the movies up for an Oscar on Sunday is the documentary Icarus. While it starts out as a biking movie, after the first act that story peters out for the larger, accidental, story that it becomes.

In the film, filmaker Bryan Fogel decides to do an experiment on himself - similar to Supersize me - by competing in the Haute Route, an annual event in that Alps that he described as “the single hardest amateur bike race in the world." It's sort of an every man's Tour de France, and like the Tour, PED's are illegal and supposedly tested for (he said they actually were not). He would do it one year "clean" and the next all roided up. 

His experiment is a bit of a flop. The first year he does pretty well, but feels like the top few athletes are on a whole other level, and implies that they are doping. The next year he dopes under a program designed by a Russian doctor, Grigory Rodchenkov, who runs that country's anti-doping program. He has regular check ups to make sure he's healthy and he does all the things a doping athlete will do. Despite feeling much stronger and like he has more stamina, he actually does worse in the race the next time (in part due to mechanical issues, but also the doping didn't seem to help him as much as he'd hoped). He was pretty disappointed. 

But he stumbled onto a great story. Rodchenkov, who is hysterical and utterly likeable, turns out to be the man at the center of the whole Russian doping scandal. Fogel and the Rodchenkov become friends and when Rodchenkov decides to escape Russia it's to Fogel's home that he comes, and this is what the story is really about. 

I liked it, but it will make you wonder if any of the sports you've ever watched have been free of cheaters. I mean, even a curler tested positive for doping this year.

WABA's Alexandria Bike Campus project, slowed not stopped


Despite some difficulties, the Alexandria Bike Campus project, located along the Mt. Vernon Trail beneath the Wilson Bridge, continues to move forward.

Jones Point Park remains an incredible local resource; a great recreation facility that has become even more of a bike education destination in 2017 than ever before. In addition to WABA’s regular adult classes at the park, we’re pleased to share that both REI and the National Park Service themselves have held numerous bike education events for youth on-site this year. The Alexandria Bike Campus will help cement the park’s status as the premier bike education location in the region. 
Here’s the nitty gritty as to where the project stands:

  • In 2015, WABA received approval from NPS to proceed with the AlexandriaBike Campus project in one of the unusable parking bays under the Wilson Bridge. We began garnering support and brainstorming our strategy.
  • In December 2016, WABA, NPS, and many amazing volunteers removed 70+ concrete parking stops, patched holes in the parking surface, and cleared debris.
  • The next step is to black out the existing parking lot stripes with pavement sealer. This phase is weather-dependent, and we will work through the winter to make sure it happens in spring 2018.
  • After that, new pavement markings will be placed, signage posted, and online learning tools shared. WABA plans to commemorate this with a launch event, hopefully in summer 2018.

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