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From the Archives: The Palisades Citizens Association 1979 Recreation Master Plan

From the May24th-June6th, 1979 Northwest Current

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If you haven't already, it's time to cancel your AAA membership

AAA is fighting the Motor Vehicle Collision Recovery Act that will end contributory negligence for cyclists and pedestrians on the grounds that it will raise insurance rates (which is what one would expect when drivers are required to reimburse cyclists and pedestrians for crashes in which the driver was primarily responsible).

AAA would like to keep insurance rates low by making non-motorized victims of motor vehicle crashes pay for their own surgeries and physical therapy. Why should drivers have to pay for the hips they crush through distracted driving, they figuratively ask?  

They claim that insurance rates could go up by 24.4% - according to a study done by the Insurance Industry. [Here's my bet that it won't go up by anything near that amount]. But if that's true, then drivers are walking away from a lot of shattered tibias and traumatic brain injuries, that they have primarily caused, without the inconvenience of paying for them. It is a sweet set-up, and AAA, which is just looking out for drivers, doesn't want them to have to stop putting Moms in the hospital. 

But they're all about safety.

Here's Jon Townsend's email - jtownsend@aaamidatlantic.com - just in case.

Cyclist killed in hit and run in SE

This morning around 1am, an adult male cyclist riding along Minnesota Ave SE was struck by a car after which the driver left the scene. Later, the cyclist died. The police haven't released much information, though they promised they would later today.

Few details were immediately available. Aquita Brown, a D.C. police spokeswoman, said the victim had not been identified as of 9:30 a.m.

The incident happened around 1 a.m. in the 2700 block of Minnesota Avenue SE.

The cyclist was in critical condition for much of the day, which makes the running part of the hit and run all the more infuriating. A few more seconds or minutes - might have made all the difference (I don't know that for a fact, I'm just speculating). 

Here's an updated link to my ever more depressing map.

Statistically speaking, few hit and run drivers are caught unless there is an eyewitness, but DC does have a lot of cameras around (though not an MPD CCTV one) so perhaps something can be found.

Not the most recent bicycle fatality in DC, but the one before that was also a hit-and-run, and that driver was caught, convicted and sentenced to 17 months in jail.

 

What ever happened to treating bike share as transit for tax purposes?

In case you were wondering about this, the short answer is you still can't do it (and yet without this "bailout" Citibike still somehow remains in operation). 

Here's the long answer.

The bike commuter benefit was the brainchild of Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and was included in tax extenders legislation that passed Congress in 2008 as part of the bailout bill - the same one that created TARP - and signed into law by George W. Bush. Oddly enough, Blumenauer voted against the bill, because it was not paid for, and Republicans voted for it even thought it wasn't. Such is politics. This was before bike sharing was really a big deal - CaBi had launched only a few days beforehand - and so the bill didn't mention it. Since then, bike sharing became a thing that people actually use to commute to work and they want to use their Bike Commuter Benefit (if they get one) or their transit benefit to pay for their membership and fees. 

In 2013, the IRS was asked if it could "adopt bike share as a qualifier for the Transportation (Commuting) Benefits program under the Fringe Benefit Exclusion Rules for transit," the same rules under which employers can give tax free transportation benefits to employees. But in July of that year, they said no, because bike share is not mass transit.  They also said that bike share was not a qualified bicycle commuting reimbursement, which one could pay with the bicycle commuter benefit, because those were specifically limited to "expenses for the purchase of a bicycle or bicycle improvements, repair or storage."

So, a legislative fix was needed. 

In 2014, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) had an amendment added to the EXPIRE Act, an act which would extend many tax breaks that had expired (just as was the case in the 2008 legislation), that would modify the list of qualified transportation expenses to include expenses associated with the use of a bike sharing program. That amendment passed, and there was much rejoicing.  The bill was passed unanimously out of committee, but was filibustered in the Senate in a fight over amendments

In 2015, Schumer tried again. This time the vehicle was the Tax Relief Extension Act, which again dealt with tax extenders. It too got out of committee, but has never come up for a vote. Many of the tax extenders it dealt with were rolled into the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016, the so-called omnibus bill, but not the one dealing with bike sharing. 

So, bike sharing still can't be treated as transit or as a qualifying bike commuting expense for tax purposes, no matter how many people use it for commuting. And it appears that will continue to be true for the foreseeable future. 

Georgetown BID planning connection between the Capital Crescent and Rock Creek Park Trails

The Georgetown BID has been working for some time on a MWCOG Transportation Land-use Connections grant that will allow them to study and plan improvements to the K Street/Water Street corridor, with the focus being a bike path connection between the Capital Crescent Trail trailhead and the Rock Creek Park Trail. The study would also look at ways to improve the pedestrian spaces in the corridor. 

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As part of this process, the BID will be holding a public meeting  at Georgetown Waterfront Park on June 25th between 10 AM and Noon to go over the plan and follow it with a walking tour.

There are two phases to the K Street and Water Street Bikeway/Pedestrian Enhancements. The first is an interim phase that will go into place until the streetcar is extended. It would involve an 11' wide, two-way protected bikeway on the southside of the street, painted bicycle and pedestrian crosswalks, curb extensions and a traffic circle at the intersection of Water Street and 34th Street. Beyond 34th Street, vehicular traffic on Water street would be limit.

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The second phase, the optimum phase, would come into play when the streetcar arrives. DDOT needs the whole right-of-way for their streetcar design, so the bicycle connection would be moved to an expanded 16' wide, multi-use path on the north side of Georgetown Waterfront Park. The traffic circle, and limit access west of 34th would remain.

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It would also build a new bicycle and pedestrian bridge over Rock Creek on the east end.

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I suspect there are more than a few cyclists who are interested in this connection and in seeing Water Street improved. Attending this meeting is an opportunity to help with that. 

Alexandria's CaBi program has exceeded farebox recovery goal and grown fast

At an April 20th meeting of Alexandria's Transportation Commission, the Transportation and Environment Services (T&ES) staff presented some very impressive stats with regards to Capital Bikeshare in the city. Most notably, it's been growing really fast and covering more of its costs than originally expected

  • Capital Bikeshare has been very popular with residents and visitors to Alexandria, with over 105,000 trips departing from Alexandria stations since the program began (in September 2012), and 17,600 members in Alexandria.
  • There has been 1 reported crash in all that time.
  • The operating cost has been $383,244 which amounts to a per-trip subsidy of $3.60, but the farebox recovery has been 63%, more than double the goal of 30%.
  • Between 2014 and 2015, Alexandria bikeshare station departures increased by 50 percent; the average number of trips per day increased substantially, from 85 to 127; annual and monthly memberships increased by an average of 40 percent; and average membership renewal rates increased from 67 percent to 83%. Phase I stations, installed in September 2012, saw "only" a 21% growth in 2014-15, but the phase II stations installed in August 2014 grew 201%
  • Four of the stations installed in 2016 were paid for through developer contributions while the rest of the stations (including bikes) have been covered through federal grants.
  • Through fiscal year 2022, Alexandria plans to grow from 32 stations (where they expect to be at the end of the summer) to 75 stations. That place is going to be totally begrimed. 
  • When Motivate took over the operations contract, they "provided a cost reduction of 25% from prior pricing."
  • Staff is working to secure private funds to operate the bikeshare system in Alexandria through Transportation Management Program (TMP) and developer contributions as well as possible sponsorship opportunities to further reduce the cost to the City 

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Virginia Travel Study: People who walk and bike to work are the most satisfied

The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation recently released survey results from a travel study of both work and non-work trips. Unfortunately it grouped walking and biking together so we can't tease out details about just biking.  While walking and biking are somewhat common in Northern Virginia, it's rare statewide. Only about 1.5% of Virginians walked or biked to work in 2015, the same number reported in 2007. But those who walk and bike to work are the most satisfied with their commute. 

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They're not as likely to be satisfied with the transportation system (42%), but they're still more satisfied than everyone except transit users. And they're the group mostly likely to support transportation funding - especially alternative transportation funding (but the difference is very small across groups).

Finally, young people are that much more likely to bike, but they're much more likely to walk. 

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From the Archives: "Get out of your wigwams" and support the Watermain Bike Path!

Brett Young found this fascinating 1981 article from the Northwest current about the Cabin John Trolley right-of-way and how it ended up not being a multi-use trail.

The streetcar line was abandoned in 1962, and in 1979 the DC government started work to acquire the right-of-way to construct a section of the cross-town water main. At that time the Palisades Citizens Association accepted the water main construction but only if DC agreed to build a multi-use trail, then called the Watermain Bike Path, on the right-of-way once construction was complete.

Flash forward two years to 1981 and the Palisades Citizens Association held another vote - at 10:30pm in which voting was not restricted to dues paying members as required in the bylaws - on the pathway design recommended by the recreation committee and the trail lost 76-65. That recommended trail would have extended from Galena to Foxhall Road. Opponents were concerned about crime and a large influx of C&O Canal towpath users into the Palisades (this was all before the Capital Crescent Trail). They claimed that DDOT was going to build parking lots and picnic facilities (Picnic facilities? I'm sorry but decent citizens with impressionable children live here, sir!) along the ROW. Oddly opponents tended to be younger and newer (probably Reagan administration transplants) and proponents were older residents many of who lived adjacent to the ROW. 

Another document notes that the Cabin John Trolley Trail (or Glen Echo or "Watermain Bike Path" if you will) was included in the 1975 District of Columbia Bikeway Planning Study. So earlier this week, when I said the trail idea dates back to 1990, I was off by at least 15 years. It also notes that DDOT would not include lights because it had a policy of "discouraging night riding." Oh how times have changed.

Two other alternatives were considered by the PCA recreation committee. A trail from Foxhall all the way to Dalecarlia Reservoir and one from Foxhall to Nebraska (along with options to just build connections to the C&O Canal and no build, which is what was eventually done)

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Crossing the Susquehanna River by bike will get easier on July 1

This is good news for people biking the East Coast Greenway or the 9/11 Memorial Trail.

The Maryland Transportation Authority has released rules for bicyclists using the Thomas J. Hatem Memorial Bridge when cycling access to the Route 40 span across the Susquehanna River between Havre de Grace and Perryville begins on July 1.

The announcement caused some consternation, because the bridge, the oldest of the state's toll bridges, doesn't have shoulders. When the bridge was built in 1940, it had a sidewalk, but that was taken out in subsequent reconstructions of the highway decking.

The local leaders are concerned about safety, like trucks not being able to give 3 feet when passing. But the bridge is two lanes, so trucks should just move to the left lane.

bicyclists will be allowed to cross the bridge from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and from dawn to dusk Saturday, Sunday and on state holidays.

Prior to crossing the bridge, bicyclists will push a button to activate flashing warning lights that alert drivers when a bicyclist is crossing the bridge. The lights will flash for 10 to 15 minutes, providing the bicyclist time to safely cross the bridge, MDTA said.

Bicyclists must ride in the direction of traffic and should position themselves in the center of the right lane. Motorists are encouraged to use the left lane when warning lights are flashing.

And this is exciting

Bicyclists traveling east will pay the $8 two-axle toll in the far right toll lane, where cash and E-ZPass are accepted.

Finally I'll have a comeback when people say that cyclist don't pay anything to use the roads. I think this will be the only place in the US where cyclists pay a toll. 

Purple line lawsuit is not filed by trail advocates

A Post article yesterday on a lawsuit that could delay, and seeks to prevent, construction of the Purple Line and the Capital Crescent Trail extension included this line

Metro’s recent decline is one of four major arguments that the Purple Line opponents — two Chevy Chase residents and a trail advocacy group — raised in their 2014 lawsuit against the Federal Transit Administration, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Transportation and Interior departments.

The lawsuit was filed by Chevy Chase residents John M. Fitzgerald and Christine Real de Azua and the nonprofit Friends of the Capitol Crescent Trail. In order to call the FCCT an advocacy group, they would have needed to advocate for the Capital Cresent Trail. At your most generous, you could say that they have advocated for the Georgetown Branch Trail, but I'd disagree even with that. They are advocates for the status quo, not for making the trail better.

Most of the lawsuit alleges that the state ignored or gave short shrift to the line’s potential environmental impacts, including storm-water runoff, endangered species, and noise for pedestrians and cyclists on an adjacent recreational trail.

Work appeared to be just aroud the corner

The Purple Line, expected to break ground in November and open to passengers in 2022

Which reminds me, I want to have a Georgetown Branch "bachelor party" right before work begins. The GBT really is nice and parklike. I think it's going to get better, but it is about to change forever and if you've never ridden it as it is, you should before it gets married to the purple line. To that effect I think we ought to do one last ride right before work starts/closure to say goodbye to the trail as it was, even as we're excited for the trail that will be. If you hear anything about what that date might be, please let me know. 

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