It's time for DC to rethink its e-bike and scooter regulations

E-bikes are starting to hit the streets in DC in much larger numbers; not just as part of dockless bikeshare, but personally owned bikes too. And with Uber's recent purchase of Jump, it's reasonable to expect the number to increase again if the pilot ends and DDOT allows more.

There are many reasons to support e-bikes; reasons that are similar to the reasons to support regular bikes. Surveys show they encourage people to drive less. They can improve mobility for people, especially in urban areas. They're better for the environment than driving. They're better for health than driving (and possibly using transit). They can reduce congestion. They can save you money. 

For these reasons, and because they've been getting cheaper and more useful over the last 30 years, e-bikes - especially the pedelec types - are taking off, with some touting them as the "vehicle of the future".

Unfortunately, the current regulations and laws in DC are more restrictive than they need to be and largely out of date. At the DDOT budget oversight hearing in February, they mentioned that they're working on new regulations, something the Washington Post reported in April, so now seems like the right time for people to start thinking about them.

Electric bicycles have been around for more than a century, but the pedal assist or pedelec bike really only dates back to 1989, with the first ones going on sale in 1993. By 1997, they were already being seen as the next big thing when Lee Iacocca founded his own e-bike company, EV Global Motor Company. (EV has since gone out of business like so many others).


The current state of regulations and how we got here

First some background. In the US, there are often four classes of e-bikes ranging from Class 1, pedal-assist bikes like Jump Bikes to Class 4, which are mopeds or motorcycles that can go faster than 28mph. However, the Bicycle Product Suppliers Association (BPSA) is promoting a class system with only 3 classes.

1) A “class 1 electric bicycle,” is equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 miles per hour.
2) A “class 2 electric bicycle,” is equipped with a motor that may be used exclusively to propel the bicycle, and that is not capable of providing assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 miles per hour.
3) A “class 3 electric bicycle,” is equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 28 miles per hour, and is equipped with a speedometer.

Under federal law, only class 1 and class 2 are "bikes". Those are the only types that NHTSA does not consider "motor vehicles" (despite having a motor). However the industry promoted rules would allow class 3 e-bikes (which can go up to 28mph) to be treated similar to bikes in a few ways, like being allowed into bike lanes.

In the US, both class 1 and 2 are limited to 20 mph (32 kph) with motor wattage of <= 750 watts, while in the EU, the limit is 15.5 mph (25 kph) with motor wattage <= 250 watts. Canada has split the difference with a 20mph limit and 500 watt limit. 

The distinction between 1 and 2 was first adopted in 2015 by California, and since then elsewhere.  Most states do not regulate class 1 and class 2 differently. The division was put in place so that individual trails and municipalities can regulate them differently if they want.  There was concern that the power of a "throttle" could rooster tail on softer trail material, meaning they might not be appropriate in some places (like the C&O Trail) where Class 1 would be. However, the National Park Service counts e-bikes as motorized vehicles and they are not allowed on the C&O Trail. The BPSA would like to see that change.

The BPSA system also creates rules governing the use of electric bicycles, with safety as the top priority. Class 1 and 2 electric bicycles would be permitted to travel anywhere traditional bikes are permitted, as the maximum assisted speed of these devices is closely aligned with speeds traveled by traditional bicycles. Class 3 electric bicycles could be ridden on streets and roadways where traditional bicycles are permitted, including bicycle lanes, but would be restricted from
slower speed areas such as multi-use paths. Class 3 electric bicycles would also be subject to additional requirements, such as a minimum user age and helmet mandate. Electric bicycles would not be subject to any licensing, registration, or insurance requirements.

The 20 mph cut-off between class 1&2 and class 3 was first codified in the US in the 1998 Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, which defined the Electric Bicycle as "any bicycle or tricycle with a low-powered electric motor weighing under 100 pounds, with a top motor-powered speed not in excess of 20 miles per hour." That law allowed e-bikes on trails and pedestrian walkways. It also instructed the NHTSA to regulate them.  At the time, some European countries already had limits of 25 kph. (The EU wouldn't adopt this limit until 2002). I don't know how US lawmakers settled on 20mph, but my theory is that they were writing a definition to match the European one and they decided to go up to 20 instead of down to 15. 

In 2001, Congress passed a law that defined electric bikes so that they could be regulated as Consumer Products by the CPSC.  It leaned heavily on the definition from the 1988 law, as noted in the committee report, and defined a low-speed electric bicycle as "a two- or three-wheeled vehicle with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts (1 h.p.), whose maximum speed on a paved level surface, when powered solely by such a  motor while ridden by an operator who weighs 170 pounds, is less than 20 mph."

Here again, it's unclear why they increased the power to 750 watts from the European limit of 250. Maybe it was because 1 h.p. seemed like a nicer number, but it's probably because 250 watts wasn't providing enough power. The original pedelec bike had a maximum power output of 235 watts and the UK already limited electric bikes to 200 Watts, so 250 likely seemed reasonable at first. But later people began to recognize that with older, weaker or larger riders; on hilly terrain, or with a large cargo bike; 250 watts wasn't quite enough power and so manufacturers began making more powerful bikes for consumers.

The committee report for the 2001 US law stated the reason for the law was to create more reasonable regulations.

If NHTSA were to enforce its regulations on low-speed electric bicycles strictly, the bikes would be required to have  a number of safety features, such as brake lights, turn signals, automotive grade headlights, rear view mirrors, and license plates, that are prohibitively costly, unwieldy, or consume too much power for a low-speed electric bicycle. It is estimated that the application of motor vehicle regulations to power-assisted bicycles would increase the retail price of these bicycles by at least $200-$300 and make them less manageable and more unwieldy for consumers.

Of course, CPSC can only regulate bikes that are sold as electric bikes but a 2014 study out of Portland State discovered that

52 percent of e-bike owners converted their standard bicycle to an electric-assist bicycle (MacArthur, Dill & Person, 2014). These e-bikes were first purchased as a bicycle and later outfitted with an electric motor. Thus, CPSC is limited in its capacity to regulate the technology

That number is likely to have changed quite a bit in the last five years. 

DC Regulations

DC doesn't have a definition for "e-bike" and doesn't distinguish between the classes. Nor does it have a special category for scooters. In addition, there's some poor language that means they could reasonably meet multiple definitions and some regulations that don't make a lot of sense.

In DC, an e-bike could be a "motorized bicycle" which is "a vehicle with a post mounted seat or saddle for each person that the device is designed and equipped to carry; two (2) or three (3) wheels in contact with the ground, which are at least sixteen inches (16 in.) in diameter; fully operative pedals for human propulsion; and a motor incapable of propelling the device at a speed of more than twenty miles per hour (20 mph) on level ground." Motorized bicycles are not allowed in bike lanes or on the sidewalk, except to park. This is what DDOT says an e-bike is.

But, it could also be a "Personal Mobility Device" which is a motorized propulsion device designed to transport one person or, basically, a segway. That's a terrible definition because many things, including a motorcycle with only one seat, could qualify. [It would be easy to fix though by adding text so that it reads "...device, without a post mounted seat or saddle, designed..."] PMDs are allowed everywhere bikes are and nowhere they aren't, but you need to be 16 to ride one, they have to be registered, they can't go faster than 10mph, you can't ride with just one hand and you can't wear headphones in both ears when you ride them. So trying to call an e-bike a PMD would get most cyclists in trouble unless it was registered and they rode slow (which defeats the purpose a bit).  The new e-scooters are defined as PMDs, which means if they aren't registered, they're illegal. 

image from

A class 3 e-bike is not a motorized bicycle in DC, as it is too fast. It could be a PMD (again, the bad definition) or a "motor-driven cycle", which is how DDOT said they would consider them. Motor-driven cycles are treated much more like motorcycles than motorized bicycles are. They require inspections, insurance, registration and helmets; and they aren't allowed on sidewalks, trails, or in bike lanes. The registration fee is half that for a car for the first two years. 

In Maryland, they have a separate definition for an "electric bicycle", but they treat it exactly like a regular bicycle as long as it has pedals, the top powered speed is 20mph and the maximum power is 500W. There is no license requirement, no registration, no minimum age and no helmet requirement. They can be ridden on bike paths, but not sidewalks. 

In Virginia, an e-bike would be an "Electric Power Assisted Bicycle" which again is treated very much like a regular bicycle as long as it has pedals, the top powered speed is 25mph and the maximum power is 1000W. There is no license requirement, no registration, a minimum age of 14 and no helmet requirement. They can be ridden on bike paths or sidewalks. 

How should we regulate these bikes and scooters?

As the Washington Post reported in April, Washington, DC "and other Washington-area jurisdictions are among those taking steps to modernize and streamline policies advocates say are outdated, set unrealistic restrictions and confuse riders of bikes that can be run on electric power as well as by pedaling."

In the District, transportation officials say they are drafting rules to allow the pedal-assist bikes on trails and possibly sidewalks outside the downtown area, where conventional bikes are allowed. Montgomery adopted park rules last year that give the county discretion to open trails to e-bikes on a case-by-case basis, and Montgomery’s Parks and Planning departments are set to begin that process on less-used trails this year, moving gradually to the most popular ones, such as the Capital Crescent Trail.

Arlington does not have a policy regarding the use of e-bikes, but it is researching the subject.

The Fairfax County Park Authority said e-bike riders have asked for the policy to be changed to allow them on popular commuting trails. The authority is reviewing the pros and cons of the change and the possible conflicts with other trail users, spokeswoman Judy Pedersen said.

Jenny Anzelmo-Sarles, a spokeswoman for the National Park Service, said the agency is tracking what surrounding jurisdictions are doing.

(PG County is not pursuing changes right now). There are some good ideas in there, and everyone should be looking at what rules will best meet regional goals of safety and mobility. 

A recent report on e-bikes by the National Institute of Transportation and Communities discusses the various regulations for e-bikes in North America and is a good source for those who want to learn more. 

Here are some changes I'd recommend,

First we need to rework our definitions

  1. We should fix the definition for a PMD as noted above by defining it as something without a post mounted seat or saddle
  2. DC, VA and MD should institute the BPSA-recommended 3 class system noted above. Yes, it is coming from the industry, meaning we should be skeptical, but it matches up with current regulations at the federal level and other states and doesn't seem unreasonable.
  3. We could leave the definition of "motorized bicycle" in place to cover non-electric, motorized bikes. If so, we should remove the part about the tire diameter lest people start putting gasoline motors on their Bromptons and terrorizing the good people of Cleveland Park. Leaving motorized bicycles only makes sense if we think we should regulate gas-powered bikes differently than electric powered bikes (and I think maybe we should). 
  4. While we're at it, we should remove the definition for a "sidewalk bicycle" which is a bike with small tires. This was meant to be a way to allow kids to ride on the sidewalk downtown and keep them off the roads, but it also applies to people on folding bikes, like the Brompton. So we should just nix it, and say that children under 16 (or some other age) and their accompanying parents are allowed on the sidewalk in the CBD. I let my kids ride their "sidewalk bicycles" in the road, and so I'm not sure we need to ban them there. (If so, every bike to school day I've been involved in has been a rolling caravan of scofflaw cycling). 

Once we have these new definitions, here's how I'd regulate them

  1. PMDs - I'd leave them mostly unchanged. I'd allow their use everywhere bikes are used and nowhere they aren't. I'd restrict them to those over 16 (though I'm open to a lower age if people who know more about segways and scooters show what the limit should be). I'd put in place the same helmet requirements as for bikes. If we're going to keep the speed limit - and that could be revisited too - then set the fine to $25, which is what the ticket is for speeding on a bicycle. I'd get rid of the registration requirement, and at least look at the two hand and no headphone rules (again, I'd want to hear from PMD-users/experts)
  2. I'd treat class 1 and class 2 e-bikes exactly like bikes, with the exception of disallowing class 2 e-bikes on unpaved trails. 
  3. I'd treat motorized bicycles exactly like bikes, except that I would disallow them on all trails and sidewalks (for noise reasons I'd keep them separate from pedestrians).
  4. I'd treat class 3 e-bikes as California does, for lack of a lot of knowledge. That means mandatory helmets, disallowed on trails and sidewalks and no riders under 16 years old. 

There are also some other changes necessitated by e-bikes, or that would be otherwise useful

  1. All provisions dealing with parking a bicycle also apply to parking a "motorized bicycle." This means that if you lock a Jump bike to a parking meter or bike rack for longer than 12 hours, you're violating the law.  ["A person may secure a bicycle to a stanchion for a period of not more than twelve (12) consecutive hours, by means of a lock or similar device"] We need to be able to remove abandoned bikes, but otherwise I'm not sure I understand the utility of this rule. I'd recommend extending the time a bike can be parked in one place, perhaps as long as 30 days. Jump "touches" their bikes pretty frequently and can move them around when they do if that's important, though I'd probably just exclude bikeshare from this rule entirely
  2. The Motor Vehicle Collision Recovery Act of 2016 creates a limitation to the contributory negligence rule, stating that "The negligence of a pedestrian, bicyclist, or other non-motorized user of a public highway involved in a collision with a motor vehicle shall not bar the plaintiff's recovery in any civil action unless the plaintiff's negligence is a proximate cause and greater  than the aggregated total amount of negligence of all of the defendants that proximately caused the plaintiff's injury." "Non-motorized user" means an individual using a skateboard, non-motorized scooter, Segway, tricycle, and other similar non-powered transportation devices. Ignoring that a segway is powered, it doesn't specifically talk about "motorized bicycles." I would change the definition of "Non-motorized user" to include individuals on PMDs and class 1-3 e-bikes.  

This list may not be exhaustive, and it will likely need to be reviewed once we know more about e-bikes; but I think it represents some common-sense fixes and removes regulations that limit e-bike use with little to no benefit. 

HPRB rejected WMATA's application to raze the Foundry Branch Trestle

The Historic Preservation Review Board unanimously rejected WAMAT's application to raze the Foundry Branch Trestle. Next step is for WMATA to appeal to the Mayor. 

Cyclists are the worst - if you ignore drivers

I know that it's lazy to knock down anything but the best counter-arguments to your beliefs, and so at first glance this letter to the editor calling cyclists the "worst" might not fit the bill. But sadly, as weak as it is, I think this is the strongest argument out there being made that "cyclists are the worst", an argument made difficult by the fact that it's clearly not true. 

The author of the letter said that he was "incensed" by an earlier letter published in the Post. That letter from a cyclist described a crash that he was involved with because a driver violated his right-of-way. Even the driver accepted that he was at fault. The cyclist then asked that drivers follow the rules so that everyone can make it where they're going without dying. Seems pretty innocuous, and not like something to get incensed about, but that's what happened. 

Before anyone cautions automobile drivers about bicycle safety, they should examine the habits of bicycle riders.

I'm not sure these things need to be done in series and if they were, I think the relative danger that cars present to everyone would put them first in the queue. The author then describes two close calls between her husband and a cyclist. 

One came out from between two buses to cross the street in the middle of four lanes of traffic as we approached from the opposite direction.

It's not a very good description, but it's not clear that the cyclist did anything that was illegal. 

The other, who was in the road, following the rules of vehicular traffic, came to a red light at a four-way intersection and decided to cross on the pedestrian crosswalk, thereby following the rules of pedestrian traffic. We were making a right turn on red after stopping but nearly hit the bicyclist. 

Again, there's some information missing, but it seems like the only person who nearly broke the law was the husband who almost didn't yield the right-of-way. And that's it. It's not a particularly compelling case that cyclists are the worst. 

I’m just amazed the fatality rate is not higher.

It takes a lot of near misses to raise the fatality rate. 

Bicyclists are the worst offenders because no one can anticipate what they’re going to do,

And yet, the crash rate for adult cyclists is likely lower than for drivers (A 1975 study for cyclists put the crash rate at 114 per million VMT on major roads*, lower for other facilities; for drivers it's at 223 [Figure 2-7]). 

Crash rate

And of course a recent study showed that drivers break the law more often than cyclists do. Another that cyclists usually break the law in the interest of safety, but that drivers break it to save time. 

and if there’s an accident, guess who’s going to be held responsible?

Likely not the driver, especially if they get "lucky" and kill the cyclist - drivers are less often found at fault when the cyclist isn't around to tell their side of the story. If they drive away, odds are they won't get caught. And if they stay, odds are very high that either they won't be at fault, won't be found at fault even thought they are, or won't get anything worse than a traffic ticket or a misdemeanor. 

With staggering repetition, motorists who kill cyclists with obvious negligence—manic speeders, drivers who are shown to be using their phones during or right before a crash, people who willfully leave someone to die on the side of the road—often slither through the judicial system with seemingly ridiculous charges and convictions.

If the cyclist lives, they have a good chance of not being found liable thanks to car friendly negligence laws (in MD and VA) and police bias. 

By no measure - danger, lawlessness, congestion inducing, pollution causing or rudeness - can one credibly claim that cyclists are the worst. There is only one king of that mountain - Autosaurus Rex.

*Crash rates per million miles on major streets = 114, minor roads = 105, on-road bike routes or lanes = 58, and off-road = 292

Hearing on Trestle raze permit next week and other trolley trail news

Last month Metro applied for a permit to raze the streetcar bridge over Foundry Branch. DDOT is interested in using the bridge as part of a trail that would follow some portion of the streetcar ROW between the Palisades and Georgetown, so razing it would force them to consider something else. WMATA has been warning for some time now that the trestle is in bad shape.

Since then advocates for saving the trestle for a trail crossing, such as the Palisades Citizens Association Trail Committee, have been busy getting support from local ANCs and Community organizations. ANC 3D has sent a letter to the Historic Preservation Office opposing the raze permit, and as they point out they're not the only ones. Their support was unanimous. 

ANC 3D supports preserving the Foundry Branch Trolley Trestle (the “Trestle”) as an enduring example of local rail history of the late 19th Century and for use by the public of a renovated/rebuilt bridge as a multi-purpose pedestrian trail and transportation corridor east of Foxhall Road.

ANC 3D joins the D.C. Preservation League, the Rails to Trails Conservancy, the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, the D.C. Recreational Trails Advisory Committee, the Foxhall Community Citizens Association, the Palisades Citizens Association, the Community Association of Georgetown, and the Georgetown BID are all in favor of preserving and restoring the Trestle.

WMATA's actions are confusing since District Department of Transportation has stated that they plan to undertake a feasibility study starting this spring or summer, to determine the Trestle's reuse potential.

The Trestle is one of only two remaining bridges along the former trolley line linking Georgetown and Glen Echo, Maryland. This line, constructed around 1900, provided the transportation to a ‘trolley’ park and thousands of Washingtonians used the line annually to access the Glen Echo Amusement Park. The tracks have been removed, but the right-of-way continues as a trail along the Potomac River overlook through the Palisades neighborhood in Northwest DC. The steel bridge span crossing Foundry Branch in the park is an excellent example of one of the few remaining early transportation bridges in the city. Weathering and a lack of maintenance have seriously damaged the structure, but it may have some life in it yet.


Help save the Foundry Branch Trolley Trestle by sending a letter or email (by May 22nd) opposing the raze application to:

Chair Marnique Heath
Historic Preservation Review Board
1100 4th Street, SW, Suite E650
Washington, DC 20024


Marnique Heath, Chair, Historic Preservation Review Board at

If you are interested in testifying in person, please join us at 441 4th Street, NW, 2nd Floor for the hearing on May 24th. There is no need to sign up in advance.

The Post ran an article recently about this trestle, two others in Maryland along the same ROW and how WMATA ended up with all them. The Walhonding trestle would be useful if the ROW in Maryland were made into a trail, but the Wilson one is probably not worth it. 

Arizona Avenue

In a related matter, DDOT is in the early stages of redesigning the 110 foot long bridge over Arizona Avenue along the old ROW. That project, as currently envisioned, will also improve the trail from Galena Place to Sherrier Place. 

Screenshot 2018-05-16 at 12.37.49 AM

The improvements being considered include rehabilitation and reconstruction of the bridge and its ramp, create a more accessible multi-use trail and add stormwater management and green infrastructure. Community leaders want the bridge replaced, a natural-looking, all-weather trail made level with the bridge with minimal impact on adjacent landowners. 

The current bridge was built in the 1980's and has clearance and structural issues as do the abutments. A new prefabricated steel box truss could be built in its place on modified and improved abutments. 

Screenshot 2018-05-16 at 12.49.48 AM

The existing ramp on the west side would be replaced, and a new ramp added on the east side. There would also be a new sidewalk on the west side heading back down the hill to Dorsett Place (and maybe farther?)

Screenshot 2018-05-16 at 12.49.12 AM

The east ramp and west ramp would differ from the current west ramp in their aesthetics. The railing would be lower than the current fencing for example. 

Screenshot 2018-05-16 at 12.51.10 AM

There would be plantings beside Arizona Avenue as well.

The trail surface along the ROW would also be improved. A decomposed granite layer, similar to the crushed limestone along the C&O Canal, would sit atop a stormwater layer with a perforated drainage pipe running through it. 

Phase I, which includes the environmental documentation and preliminary design, could wrap up this month. 


Delaware's Jack Markell Trail between Wilmington Riverfront to Old New Castle, is scheduled to open in June

The Jack Markell Trail, an 8 mile long bike trail  in Delaware between the Wilmington Riverfront and old New Castle is scheduled to open in June with a ceremony celebrating it on July 14th. The trail will be part of the East Coast Greenway, a trail from Calais, Maine, to Key West, Florida, that passes through the DC area. It will feature a 345 foot long bridge over the Christina River.

Screenshot 2018-05-15 at 12.35.03 AM

The 345-foot bicycle and pedestrian bridge is the longest bicycle and pedestrian bridge to be built in the state. The new span completes a seven-mile segment of the [East Coast Greenway] from Wilmington to New Castle.

“It’s a pretty dramatic improvement to our route,” says Mid-Atlantic Coordinator Daniel Paschall. “The Northern Delaware Greenway is a gem, and that brings you into Wilmington and the Riverwalk. Now you’ll pass through the beautiful Russell W. Peterson Urban Wildlife Refuge, cross the Christina, and travel on the Jack Markell Trail to New Castle, which is an extraordinary colonial town.” The bridge opens to the public this summer and will be celebrated officially on July 14 with Trailfest. Funding for the bridge and miles of new trail has come from a collaboration of regional, state, and federal sources and was championed by the new trail’s namesake, former Governor Jack Markell.

"We joke that during times when traffic is so bad on 95, you might be able to bike from Old New Castle to Wilmington much faster than you can make it in a car," said Jeff Niezgoda, DelDOT's assistant director for local system improvement programs. 

It's funny because it's true. The $23 million project built on the ROW of the old Delaware Division of the PW&B Railroad also includes a 2,300-foot boardwalk across marshland, and a smaller bridge on Little Mill Creek that leads to the DuPont Environmental Education Center and the Riverfront.

Further south, the trail will connect with an existing 1.4-mile path that stretches to Old New Castle.

Eighty percent of the bridge and trail costs were covered by the U.S. Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program

Screenshot 2018-05-15 at 12.49.17 AM

By summer 2019, another bridge across the Christina River will be finished further down the riverwalk. 

This new 470-foot multi-modal bridge over the Christina River will include two (2-12’) travel lanes and shoulders, as well as a 14’ wide bicycle/pedestrian path. The path will connect to the Riverfront walkway as well as other bicycle/pedestrian facilities in the area. The project extends from the area near Frawley Stadium across the Christina River to its east bank in the vicinity of Market Street/Walnut Street split of Business US 13.

MTA to save part of the Talbot Ave Bridge along CCT

image from

As mentioned a couple of months ago, Maryland is planning on knocking down the Talbot Avenue bridge as part of the construction of the Purple Line. Shortly after that last post was written, MTA committed to preserving part. 

The Maryland Transit Administration has agreed to save the steel girders from the Talbot Avenue bridge, a 100-year-old span in the Lyttonsville area of Silver Spring, when it’s torn down to make way for the light-rail line, the county said.

The girders will be installed on a vacant state-owned parcel about two blocks from the bridge, near Talbot and Michigan avenues. They will form short walls on both sides of the Capital Crescent Trail to give runners and cyclists the feel of crossing a bridge.

Tim Cupples, Montgomery’s coordinator on the state’s Purple Line project, said the county and state are still discussing how much the preservation project will cost and who will pay for it.

But this part is confusing. Above it says MTA will save the girders, but then the Post article says they'll use replicas. So which is it?

In a statement, MTA spokeswoman Veronica Battisti said the state will use “replica girders” in the bridge-themed artwork chosen for the Lyttonsville station.

Anyway, this could be bad news for bike commuters in the area.

With the Talbot bridge’s future resolved, local residents say they’re still concerned about how they’ll get out of their community when another bridge, the Lyttonsville Place bridge, is also replaced during Purple Line construction.

Lynchburg, VA awards contract to design Blackwater Creek Trail extension across abandoned trestle


Lynchburg, VA has several miles of abandoned railroads, and much of it has been turned into several miles of rail trail. There are still some opportunities that they may take advantage of in the future (extending the riverwalk trail to Concord, VA or the Kemper Station Trail to Seminary Hill) but there's one opportunity they might take advantage of in the near future - rehabilitating the Langhorne Road Bridge which can be seen above. 

Last month, they awarded a $200,000 contract to provide engineering design services for stabilization and renovation of the abandoned railway trestle, and to continue the Blackwater Creek Trail from it's current terminus. They want to convert the trestle into a utilitarian pedestrian/bicycle bridge including 2,200 additional linear feet of trail (10 feet wide with 2 foot shoulders). Once complete the new trail section would extend from the current trailhead and parking lot to Linkhorne Middle School. A separate trail is being considered that goes along Ivy Creek to Peaks View Park. 

They did an assessment of the bridge in 2004 (page 41) that found it to be in good condition despite years of disuse and non-maintenance. The estimated cost of retrofitting it in 2004 was set at $235,000, but a 2016 update that included all of the trail put it at just over $1M. (the 3 mile Ivy Creek Greenway would be $3.2 million and a connector trail between them would be $95,000)


What the Met Branch Trail Extension will look like

I didn't include them in the last post, but here are some plans that will show where the new trail section will be built. The yellow lines show the trails and south is to the left. 


And a rendering

Totten Rendering

And of the retaining wall.


Met Branch Trail Brookland to Fort Totten section to break ground next month

At the last BAC meeting, DDOT stated that they would break ground on the next section of the Met Branch Trail in June. That's the Brookland to Fort Totten section and it will be finished by this time next year. 

image from

In addition, construction of NoMa Green Park - which will replace the Z-curve at R Street with a straighter trail (which will require temporary trail re-routing during construction) and replacement of all overhead lights between Florida Ave and Franklin St, is expected to begin this summer.

Furthermore, they anticipate awarding a contract to build design the section north of Fort Totten - a section that will go all the way to the Maryland boundary, by the end of the summer. 

But that's not all!

Widening and resurfacing of the Rock Creek Park Trail between P Street and Tilden, including construction of a new segment along Piney Branch and a new bridge south of the Zoo tunnel, is going out to bid soon, with construction expected to begin in Fall 2018. Detour information can be found here


DDOT is also finalizing the design of the bike trails around the new Frederick Douglass Bridge and expects to start designing the improvement of the existing Suitland Parkway trail in Fall 2018.


New York City bicycle safety report: ridership up, fatalities flat. Cyclists responsible for just 0.4% of pedestrian fatalities

As part of Vision Zero, the New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT), the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYC DOHMH), and the New York City Police Department (NYPD) have undertaken the city's first comprehensive analysis of cyclist safety since 2006. I would recommend that anyone interested in safer city cycling look it over.

What they've found is that as their bicycle network has massively expanded,


so has ridership. 

There were an estimated 164 million bicycle trips in 2015, up from nearly 66 million trips in 2006, an increase of 150%.

And, as ridership has increased, the fatality rate has plummeted.

Fatalities per 100 million bicycle trips are down 71% over a 15 year period. The number killed or severely injured (KSI) was down 73%. 

So, what you've always known was true is true. If you want more people to bike and for fewer of them to die, you need to build more and better facilities and add more bikeshare. 

The reasons for the improved safety seem to be tied directly to the bicycle facilities. Fatalities have dropped, in part, because more people are riding and few (11%) of those fatalities are on streets with bicycle facilities. Interestingly,

Cyclist KSI declined by 17% within the bike share zone after one year of operation

While it dropped only 4% outside of it, which indicates that the mere presence of bikeshare makes biking safer. 

Other takeaways:

  • The majority of cyclist fatalities (65%) and an even greater percentage of cyclist KSI (89%) occurred at intersections.
  • A high percentage of cyclist fatalities (27%) involved trucks, when compared to cyclist KSI (5%)
  • KSI was down way more in the summer (28%) than it was in the winter (3%) "This seasonal variation in the reduction of cyclist KSI may provide further support that the safety in numbers dynamic is occurring in New York City. If the growth in cycling has been occurring disproportionately during the warmest months of the year—a reasonable assumption—this may help explain why the greatest drop in cyclist KSI between the two periods occurred in the summer."
  • Cyclist KSI is higher in the outer boroughs than in Manhattan

The next one is really interesting, because it shows that in a crash between a cyclist and a pedestrian, the cyclists is about 50% as likely to die as the pedestrian is. I've never seen it quantified before. 

  • From 2006 to 2016 of the 1,677 pedestrian traffic fatalities, seven occurred as a result of pedestrian-bicycle collisions, accounting for 0.4% of all pedestrian traffic fatalities in New York City.  During this time period, three cyclists were killed as a result of a crash with a pedestrian. Interestingly, 1.4% of cyclist fatalities (3 out of 214)* were from bike-pedestrian crashes, so pedestrians are a bigger threat to cyclists than cyclists are to pedestrians. (Bike-bike fatalities were 0.5% and single-bike fatalities were 5.1%. The other 93% involved motor vehicles)

Their plan to make things even safer is to build more and better facilities and expand bikeshare (Duh), focus enforcement at high KSI intersections and tailor it to the most dangerous behavior. They also plan education, a possible 3-feet law (like we have in DC), mandatory truck side guards (required in DC) and more data collection. 

* 214 is the number of total bike fatalities, which includes 199 bike-motor vehicle crashes, 11 single-bike fatalities, 3 bike-ped fatalities and 1 bike-bike fatality

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