"If car drivers made bicyclists feel safer, we’d all be better off"

An Opinion piece from the Washington Post. 

The police showed little interest in finding him. One officer chose to berate me, saying a bicycle is not a vehicle and therefore did not have a right to cross Connecticut at Leland.

Back at the Capital Crescent Trail, the police who had just given me the exact opposite bike-vehicle interpretation did show one consistency with their counterpart at Connecticut Avenue: blame the bicyclist....

And this month, with almost no help from the county police, a county prosecutor won a ruling against the motorist who assaulted me. He was sentenced to 10 days in jail, suspended pending successful completion of probation and eight hours of community service.

During the trial, the driver’s lawyer repeatedly and falsely suggested that a bicyclist had no legal right to cross Connecticut at Leland because no crosswalk was present. The county prosecutor didn’t challenge the contention, apparently because assault would not have been justified either way.

Developer reveals building along the Metropolitan Branch Trail

Last week, Foulger Pratt released renderings of a new building to be built on the west side of the Metropolitan Branch Trail at R Street, site of the trail's Z-curve. (Urbanturf identifies this as 327 S Street, but I think that's wrong as the rendering shows the building location as on the SE corner of R and First, NW. 

image from assets.urbanturf.com

The rendering shows the MBT without the Z-curve, as it more gently maneuvers from the railroad tracks to the west side of the old rail yard and it shows the park (NOMA Green  to the south. 

I'm not sure about construction impacts on the trail, timelines or anything else. There doesn't appear to be a trail-side rendering, but hopefully it will connect to the trail with a "bicycle lobby" type room. 

NPS Trail Maintenance Project at Oxon Cove

The Earth Conservation Corps has organized a pair of Trail Maintenance days at Oxon Cove Park and Oxon Hill Farm in Maryland. One was last Friday, but the other is this upcoming Friday, March 31, 2017 from 9:00am to 3:00pm. 6411 Oxon Hill Road, Oxon Hill, Maryland.

Contact Nate Ogle, nate.ogle@earthconservationcorps.org

From the Archives: Bicycle Back

In addition to "bicycle face" another hidden danger of bicycling identified in the 19th century appears to be "bicycle back" as noted in this June 30, 1880 blurb in the Evening Star

Bicyclists will do well to meditate on the following ominous paragraph in the last London Truth: "it may be noticed that many young men you meet nowadays are prematurely round-shouldered and walk with bent knees and a sort of crab-like movement. This is not the result of over-study or weakness, but the consequence of perpetual wobbling on what is called the 'steel horse.' This peculiar and ungraceful appearance, which is becoming indelibly stamped on many youths, is known as the 'bicycle back.'"

Alas, bicycle back is not covered by Obamacare. 

A pro-cycling magazine "The Wheel World" took a different bent to the issue

The wretched habit of riding with the body inclined forward has 
produced an habitual bent attitude with several riders, and given 
rise to a prejudice against the sport itself, as producing a " bicycle 
back." Nearly all oarsmen have this form of back, and it has not 
proved detrimental ; but it is ungainly, and the methods by which 
it is acquired on a bicycle are entirely unnecessary. Erect riding is 
more graceful, develops the chest, and add ; an exercise to the 
muscles of the throat and chest that rowing d )es not. 

The exposure to out-of-door air, the constant employment of the 
mind by the delight of changing scenery or agreeable companion- 
ship, add their contribution, and make bicycling, to those who have 
tried practically every other sport, the most enjoyable, healthful, 
useful exercise ever known. 

 There was also, it seems, something called "bicycle tongue" but I have no idea what that was. 

Registration for Bike to Work Day 2017 is open

What, you don't like free bagels and free T-shirts and the chance to win a free bike or meet the Secretary of Energy? (Ok, that last one is perhaps less appealing) Well Bike to Work Day registration is open and you can get all of those things and possibly even coffee - if you show up early.

On Friday May 19, 2017 Commuter Connections and the Washington Area Bicyclist Association invite you to celebrate bicycling as a clean, fun, and healthy way to get to work. Be one of the first 16,000 to register and attend a pit stop in D.C., MD, and VA to receive a free T-shirt, refreshments, and be entered into a raffle for a new bicycle.

Over 85 Bike to Work Day pit stop events will be held throughout D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. Take a break at a pit stop on your way to work for food, beverages, fun, and prizes. Register now, it’s free! There are also a few pit stops open for your afternoon commute back.

There may be no such thing as a free lunch, but you can definitely get a free breakfast - all while supporting cycling in the area. Want to do more? Join a convoy or recruit a co-worker.

Fairfax County is building a new trail in Huntington (and also a levee)

Fairfax County is building a new levee in the Huntington neighborhood to reduce flooding, and an added amenity of the project are 4800 feet of new 8-foot wide multi-use trail from the existing trails near Arlington Terrace and Hunting Creek Roads to Fenwick Drive and possibly beyond  A groundbreaking ceremony will be held at 10am today, if you're interested

Most of the way it will have two parallel trails, one on the levee and another in the ponding area. But on the ends they'll meet and connect with existing roads or trails. 

Screenshot 2017-03-23 at 1.05.28 AM

This trail will probably get some use, mostly recreation I suspect, but how much transportation utility it has will depend on what that line trailing off to the west does. It seems to end at the Metro tracks, but if it could continue under them to Metroview Parkway, it could create a decent connection to the Huntington Metro Station. There's room beneath power lines to go all the way to Telegraph Road, where it could could connect to an existing bicycle sidepath to Eisenhower Avenue near the Eisenhower Avenue Metro. And then, if you want to get more ambitious, a trail could continue to follow the power lines from East Drive all the way to the Beltway. Or going totally crazy it could connect to a new bride parallel to the Metro Bridge over Cameron Run and create a more direct connection to the Eisenhower Metro. 

Stormwater management is the primary purpose of this project so some aesthetics are being sacrificed. For example, the levee trail will have a 4' tall concrete-capped I-Wall on the Cameron Run side.

Screenshot 2017-03-23 at 1.12.37 AM

A rendering of the trails gives some idea of what they'll look like.

Screenshot 2017-03-23 at 1.14.47 AM

And another from on the trail, with the I-Wall

Screenshot 2017-03-23 at 1.15.46 AM

Work started in winter of this year and is to finish in Spring 2019, but that might have slipped a little.

Discuss Montgomery County bike projects in Clarksville area at upcoming open houses

From a recent announcement:

Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) is holding two, identical open houses for those who would like to learn more and provide input about transportation projects planned for the Clarksburg area. Attend either Tuesday, March 28 or Wednesday, April 19. Both workshops will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Clarksburg High School Cafeteria, 22500 Wims Road, Clarksburg.

MCDOT project managers and staff from the Maryland State Highway Administration and Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission will be available to discuss:

1. Stringtown Road (from Overlook Park Drive to Snowden Farm Parkway)

2. Clarksburg Square Connector (from Frederick Road to Clarksburg Square Road)

3. Frederick Road Bikepath (from Milestone Manor Lane to Stringtown Road))

4. Snowden Farm Parkway at Clarksburg Rd (Intersection improvement)

5. MD 355 and Clarksburg Rd (Intersection improvement)

6. MD 355 - Clarksburg Shared Use Path (from Stringtown Road to Snowden Farm Parkway)

7. Observation Drive (from Waters Discovery Lane to Stringtown Road)

8. MD 355 at West Old Baltimore Road (Intersection improvement)

9. Piedmont Road Shared Use Path (from Stringtown Road to Skylark Road)

The Frederick Road Bike path and Clarksburg Shared Use Path projects will build a continuous path along Frederick Road/MD 355 from the North Germantown Trail Connector to Little Bennett Regional Park. Work on the former should start this spring, and on the latter at the end of 2018. 

image from www.montgomerycountymd.gov
image from www.montgomerycountymd.gov

The Piedmont Road Shared Use Path, meanwhile, will connect bike facilities on Snowden Farm Parkway to others on Skylark Road. 

In addition, the Snowden Farm Parkway at Clarksburg Rd Intersection improvement will include new bike lanes and a 10 foot wide shared-use path Clarksburg Road.  That will combine with the Clarksburg Road and MD 355 intersection improvement to extend the same path all the way to Redgrave Place. Construction on those will start in April 2018 and late 2018. 

Other projects on this list might have bike facilities that are not mentioned on MCDOT's website.

Exciting stuff for Clarksburg cyclists. 

Transportation Equity Act would make transportation fairer but more importantly, smarter

Earlier this month Councilmembers Allen, Cheh, and Nadeau introduced a bill that would, in effect, pay a lot of DC workers to bike or walk to work. It would make commuter benefits fairer, but more importantly, smarter in that they would reduce pollution and congestion; improve land use and health; and make roads safer. 

The Transportation Benefits Equity Act would require employers who offer parking benefits to employees to give them the option of taking a "cash out" instead or pay a fee. More specifically, they could take an equivalent amount as the transit benefit, the bicycle commuter benefit, cash or one of these benefits and cash. 

For bike commuters it means they could take the first $20 of parking benefit equivalent as the bicycle commuter benefit and the rest as cash. Pedestrians would have to take the whole thing as cash, which is worth a little less because it's all taxable then, but that's because there is no federal pedestrian commuter benefit.

The fee option would allow employers to pay a $100 Clean Air Compliance fee for each employee "offered" the parking benefit instead of offering the cash out. Now I'm not sure about the reason for this part or exactly how it would work. If every employee is offered a parking benefit, then it would seem they would need to pay the fee for each employee, even for those who choose to walk. The math on when that would be cheaper than allowing employees offered parking to opt for cash instead has got too many variables (# of employees offered parking vs. # that take another benefit, cost of parking in the area) for me to immediate see whether a lot of employers would take it or not, so I wonder if Council has any idea. Strategically speaking it might lead more employers to offer no parking benefit - which would have the same effect or better. 

Regardless, the fee would still help cyclists, pedestrians and transit users as it would go to a Transportation Demand Management Fund, which could be used for promoting, improving access to, and educating the public about alternative transportation; reducing SOV trips and developing transportation innovations. Still, I'm left foggy on why this option is included. 

There's also a reporting requirement about the number of employees and what benefits they were offered and utilized. [Which reminds me, does anyone know if the IRS has reported on how many people are utilizing the Bicycle Commuter Benefit and how much it costs? 8 years after passage I'd like to see if it's more or less than was expected.]

image from www.tpbne.ws

As the Post points out the policy has a fairness element

The change, [CM Charles Allen] said, would address a fairness issue for the workers who sometimes turn down a valuable perk because they don’t drive or who are forced to take it because otherwise they can’t get the benefit any other way.

Which is true, but is less important than the fact that it is just smart policy. In fact one could argue that it would be even smarter to offer a LARGER benefit to those who walk or bike than those who drive because of all the negative externalities associated with driving (pollution, congestion, road safety, etc..) and the positive externalities of active transportation (namely, improved public health). Though it might be harder to argue that it is "fair".

A similar idea for federal employees was kicked around in 1993 and WABA argued at the time that this was a smarter policy.

the fundamental goal is to clean the air, and I believe that there is nothing that meets that goal on a per dollar basis better than including bicycles in the subsidy.

The Post also notes that there are good policy reasons for this.  

Advocates for flexible benefits cite research suggesting that traffic congestion is associated with perks, such as free parking, and that financial incentives for non-solo drivers could help cities move toward more diverse commuting.

In the District, experts say a parking cash-out program could be part of the equation to achieve 75 percent of all trips on sustainable transportation, and it would benefit city residents the most because they are more likely to have easy access to other travel options, such as Capital Bikeshare, bus and Metro.

About 40 percent of D.C. residents drive to work, according to data from the District Department of Transportation, while 39 percent take public transit, 15 percent walk and 6 percent bike.

It is unclear how many companies offer free or subsidized parking, but a city survey of 191 employers in 2016 found that 34 percent offer free parking and an additional 18 percent offer a parking subsidy, according to DDOT.

A similar program has worked well in California

A survey of 5,000 commuters and their employers in downtown Los Angeles showed that free parking at work increased the number of cars driven to work by 34 percent, he said.

In California, legislation enacted in 1992 requires that employers with 50 or more employees who offer free parking must also give workers the option to take an equivalent cash allowance instead. But the law did not set any penalties for noncompliance.

The DC bill does propose penalties

Studies of firms in Southern California that offer parking cash-outs found the share of commuters who drove to work alone fell from 76 percent before the cash option to 63 percent afterward,

 According to another study, solo driving to work fell by 17 percent.

Carpooling increased by 64 percent. Transit ridership increased by 50 percent. Walking and bicycling increased by 33 percent. Commuter parking demand fell by 11 percent.

These mode shifts reduced total vehicle miles traveled for commuting by 12 percent, with a range from 5 to 24 percent for the eight firms. To put this reduction into perspective, reducing VMT for commuting by 12 percent is equivalent to removing from the road one of every eight automobiles used for driving to work. In total, cashing out reduced 1.1 million VMT per year.

Cashing out reduced total vehicle emissions for commuting by 12 percent, with a range from 5 to 24 percent for the eight firms. To put this reduction into perspective, reducing vehicle emissions by 12 percent is equivalent to eliminating vehicle emissions for automobile commuting from January 1 to February 13 every year.

average commuting subsidy per employee increased from $72 a month before complying with the cash-out requirement to $74 a month after complying

But DC's law will be more expansive that CA's

Analysts noted that more outreach was necessary and that the eligibility rules were so narrowly drawn that the law applied to only about 3% of the 11 million free parking spaces provided by employers statewide.

I hope that DC's law will apply to the DC government too. I've been hounding them about not offering the Bicycle Commuter Benefit for years. On the BAC's legislative committee, we made a list of every bill we could think of that would improve cycling, and them we ranked them by political possibility. This one came up very near the bottom, so I'm pleasantly surprised to see this get proposed. 

Other than my questions about the purpose of the Clean Air Compliance fee, my other thought is that DC could make this even better by making the cash portion of this (paid to cyclists and pedestrians) tax deductible on DC taxes. This would do no good for MD or VA commuters, nor would it completely balance out the advantage drivers and transit riders get because their benefit is completely untaxable, but it would make the law closer to "fair" (at a cost to DC).

I'm also not sure if this would apply to the federal government, as sometimes it seems that these regulations and such do not, it would ironic if not, since they were going to go it alone ~25 years ago. 

Anyway, this is a big deal for DC and it comes after a year that, from a bike legislation perspective, was the most successful in decades, so it would be great to see it pass. 

Trail Snow removal on the cutting block in Arlington County

Marc Schwartz, the Arlington County Manager has recommended raising property taxes "to address the 'extraordinary' funding needs of Metro and enrollment growth in the Arlington Public Schools." 

The County Board accepted that recommendation in choosing a maximum tax rate to advertise. In addition, the Board directed the County Manager to prepare and distribute a package of potential budget reductions prior to the public budget hearing.

These budget reductions are equivalent to a 1-cent decrease and constitutes what Schwartz would recommend cutting if the County only increased the rate by 1-cent. That list is complete and it includes

21. Trail Snow Removal: Eliminate Multi-Use Trail Snow Removal

Description of Current Service: As of FY 2015, DPR assumed responsibility for snow clearing on the County’s major multi-use commuter trails. This responsibility extends to almost 10 miles of high-volume, multi-use trails during the snow season and include the following: 5.2 miles of the Custis Trail from Lynn Street to the W&OD Trail; 1.25 miles of the Bluemont Junction Trail; 2.25 miles of the Four Mile Run Trail; and 0.4 miles of the Route 110 Trail. The County’s goal is to give these multi-use trails the same snow removal priority and response time as primary arterial streets. This snow removal is accomplished by using two specialized vehicles to treat and plow in small spaces and run with three-man crews.

Impact of Reduction: By eliminating the staff and equipment budget related to trail snow clearing, these major multi-use commuter trails will not be cleared of snow during major snow events at the top priority level. Snow removal will only begin after parking lots and other DPR assigned street routes are cleared.

Reductiion - $50,700

Hopefully, it won't come to that. 

From the Archives: The 1975 DC Bicycle Plan

The first modern bicycle plan for the District of Columbia, "Bicycle transportation plan and program for the District of Columbia",  was written in 1975 (and then revised in 1976 and 1978, I believe) and I feel like I've seen a copy of it, but can't find one online. It had a lot of ambition for the time, but when Jim Sebastian was hired over 15 years ago, the plan was described as "in a drawer for a quarter of a century."

The 1975 plan proposed 75 miles of "bicycle pathways" to existing routes in the District. The 75 miles was to form a continuous citywide system of about 170 miles and cost a little over a million dollars at the time.  The 75 miles would consist of

  • 17 miles of exclusive bikeway out of the roadway (MUTs?)
  • 22 miles in lanes reserved from motor vehicles either by a physical barrier or by lane markings and signs. (so, bike lanes)
  • 35 miles of  signed bike routes

According to a phone survey of residents done in 1974 in preparation of the bike plan, approximately one-fourth of the city's residents owned and used bicycles.

The survey showed that approximately 60 percent of bicycle use is for purposeful trips; 40 percent is recreational. Estimates derived from the survey indicate that 14,000 accidents and 13,700 bicycle thefts occurred in the year preceding the survey.

Both the number of "accidents" and thefts seem very high. 

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