Project will widen section of Four Mile Run to 12 feet, eventually remove fence

image from

By now, nonprofit developer AHC has likely started work on the $100 million Berkeley Apartment project located adjacent to the Four Mile Run Trail in Arlington. The main purpose is to "transform a 1960s apartment complex in south Arlington into a much larger mixed-income rental community" but it will also include an upgrade to the section of Four Mile Run Trail that is next to it. That section will be expanded from 8 feet wide to 12 feet wide, though it doesn't look like it in the rendering above, which I believe is old. The fence and landscaping will be different than what you see there, as in the meeting where it was approved it was agreed that:

prior to issuance of the Final Building Permit, [the developer agrees] to submit to the County Manager for review and approval, a final landscape plan with an undulating fence, not to exceed 5’, as shown on the applicant’s attached fence proposal photo, slide #17, dated May 17, 2016. For the area between the Four Mile Run Trail and the fire access lane, the final landscape plan shall include colors and materials consistent with the Four Mile Run Master Plan including materials such as boulders, shrubs, and/or perennials. The developer also agrees that all of the fencing shown ...will be removed no later than December 31, 2036 and that a site plan amendment will be required to retain any fence along the site’s frontage on the Four Mile Run Trail past December 31, 2036, provided that an initial review of the fence by staff will occur no later than December 31, 2026.

The expiration date is a compromise to allow the building security in the short term, but assure that the fence will be removed in the long term. Currently a low, black fence exists on the site, so it's not a step down.

The trail right-of-way is 16 feet wide, so it will be a tight fit either way. The center portion of the fence will be removed which will create an open visual and physical connection to the property. Two gates will provide controlled resident access to the trail. South of this section the trail is 8 feet wide and north of it, it is 10 feet wide.

Below is a view of the building from across Four Mile Run.

image from

Did you know:

While we're talking about the Four Mile Run Trail, did you know that it's the oldest multi-use trail (and oldest bicycle facility) in the region? It was first opened on September 4, 1967, so be gentle on it, it's in its 50's now, at the dawn of the modern trail building movement.

In fact, the trail was THE FIRST bicycle trail in the country built with federal funds. In 1966, Arlington County was one of 11 urban areas (originally 12) in the US that was granted trail funding by the Interior Department to demonstrate what could be done with urban trails. Arlington County was the first to finish their's. Other cities to get funds included New York, Seattle, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Chicago, Atlanta and Denver. New York built a hiking trail in Inwood Hill Park. Phoenix improved 140 miles of hiking and bridal paths. Seattle built a plank trail through a "marshy wildlife area." Arlington was the smallest community to get a grant. Secretary Udall hoped it would build momentum for legislation he supported building a nationwide system of trails - which became the National Trails System Act of 1968 (celebrating it's 50th Anniversary this year). 

They built the trail adjacent to an existing hiking trail and the still extant W&OD railroad tracks, but this was before I-66 existed. 

When it opened it had a crushed limestone surface which ranged in width from 6 to 8 feet and it was only open from 6am to Dark and it only ran from it's current northern end at Roosevelt Street as far south as Columbia Pike (not all the way to Potomac Avenue).  It cost $70,000. At the opening ceremony the Navy Band played, there was a demonstration of bicycle riding skills by the Amateur Bicycle League of America, and the Federation of Washington Area Bicycle Clubs was on hand (this being before the founding of WABA). Below is low quality image of kids riding the trail before it opened (I won't tell if you don't).


They also used some of the grant money to build a hiking trail near Windy Run and to buy land for a park there. 

So the original Four Mile Run Trail was half as long, half as wide and unpaved. It didn't connect to the W&OD, Custis or the Mt. Vernon Trail (because they didn't exist) and didn't cross to the other side of Four Mile Run. But incrementally, over time, it grew into the trail we have now, one that continues to incrementally get better. They should add a marker to the trail noting it's unique place in trail history. 


"Arlington to Get Bicycle Trail", The Evening Star, July 24, 1966, page B1

"Arlington Bike Trail to Open Tomorrow", The Evening Star, September 3, 1967, page C-8

C Street goes through a pair of redesigns

It's been some time since I last covered the C Street NE Rehabilitation Project. In that time DDOT has held three meetings and presented three new designs for the road, which will include grade separated cycletracks. GGW has a long write up on it, but basically, they presented a 65% design in February that got extensive community buy in, but unbeknownst to everyone, DDOT staff identified problems with the traffic analysis. The next month they recommended some changes based on the traffic analysis and presented those in April. At which point the various stakeholders expressed dismay, to put it politely (ANC 6A voted unanimously in opposition to it, for example). DDOT went back to the drawing board and came back with an update in June that seems to have less opposition. 

That's not to say it has no opposition. ANC 6A had a few concerns. They worry the new design is less safe, because it will allow higher speeds. They worry that in order to reduce congestion at rush hour, they are creating a street that will encourage speeding for the rest of the day. And they were unhappy with the sudden change in design.

17thSome of their more specific concerns were that

  • They don't like the way the sidewalk on the southside of C crosses 17th at a diagonal
  • They want no right turn on red in the school zone (near Elliot-Hine). 
  • They would like left turn signals for Eastbound at Nineteenth (19th) Street NE and
    Westbound at Seventeenth (17th) Street NE
  • They want the lane width to be capped at 10' (some of the lanes are 11')
  • On the 1900 block of C Street NE, DDOT has proposed a row of flex-posts
    to separate the bicycle lane from the parking lane. They'd like the bicycle lane be raised above the parking lane, creating a permanent barrier between cyclists and parking/traffic.
  • They want raised and textured crosswalks
  • They would like a bike box on the south side of 19th facing north
  • They believe the bus stops in the westbound direction should load in the travel lane, rather than pulling-in to a bus stop.

The permanent barrier is a good idea, one many people brought up and one that I think Sam Zimbabwe wrote down during the meeting. As I recall, raising the bicycle lane is problematic though.  It involves relocating the existing drainage inlets. That's expensive and can disturb the root system of the existing trees since it requires excavation. That's not something that's insurmountable but there is a high cost for that benefit. 

There is some controversy about the validity of the traffic analysis with Toole Design, the original contractor, expressing a belief that no modifications from the February design were needed. I can't say. But I do think that the time when the ANC and other stakeholders needed to find out that a change was coming was in February, not April. They should have had a stakeholder meeting, presented their analysis and talk to them about some of the ideas they were considering to address the report. People can handle change, but they don't like surprises. 

The April design didn't really change things for cyclists, but to their credit WABA got involved and advocated for a more Vision Zero friendly design because they didn't think it protected pedestrians enough. Pedestrian safety may not be in their vision statement, but as a member I'm glad to see them widen their scope in this case. Ironically the June design does make the cycletrack slightly worse (between 19th and 20th)

Most of the changes from February to June are on the north side and I'll highlight a few. 

In order to get two lanes through the transition to C, the green space to the NE of 16th and C had to be narrowed and that resulted in moving the cycletrack a little. I like the new placement better than the old one


On the north side, the cycletrack between 20th and 19th was raised above the street level and separated by a green buffer. In the new design, cyclists will drop down to street level west of 20th and then back up west 19th; and they'll be separated from parking by road markings and flexiposts.


The designs not perfect. I'd rather see some dedicated bus lanes for example. But it is a big improvement and the suggestions from ANC 6A would make it better. I still look forward to them making this road better. 


2018 Lymphoma Research Ride

Join Team LRF in Barnesville as we rally for a cure for lymphoma at our 12th Annual Research Ride. On ride day, cycle through the beautiful rolling hills of Maryland, taking on a 10, 25, 40 or 50 mile route. The Research Ride, founded by Dr. Bruce Cheson and his wife Christine, has raised more than $5 million since inception and continues to fuel life-changing research and enable the Lymphoma Research Foundation to provide critical resources and support to lymphoma patients and professionals. Riders of all ages and abilities are welcome to participate. To register and learn more please visit

Bowie has a citizen advisory group for pedestrians and bicyclists (maybe)

According to the notes from the January National Capitol Region TPB meeting, the City of Bowie now has a citizen advisory group for pedestrians and bicyclists. But, I can't find mention of it anywhere else. So, maybe or maybe not.

Vision Zero: We're not going to make it to zero by 2024


WABA held its 2nd Annual Vision Zero Summit this past spring. It was encouraging to see so much energy from the advocates in the room, but it was discouraging to see how slowly things are progressing on the government side - since that's where the help is most needed. The summit, and the two cyclist deaths over the last two weeks, provide a chance to check in on how vision zero is doing.

In short, we aren't going to make it. This should be no surprise since it was never a realistic goal, but DC isn't making a good faith effort to achieve it either. This goes for the other Vision Zero communities in the area as well. If we really want to make the roads significantly safer, we're going to have to do more. We're going to have to make some very hard choices, and it will be a lot harder than putting together an action plan.

The Vision Zero goal was dead on arrival

Sweden was the first place to set a goal of zero road deaths. That was back in 1997, and at the time they set the goal of zero road deaths by 2020, or in 23 years, and to cut them in half by 2007. Years later they realized they weren't going to make those targets, and revised the goals to 50% by 2020 and to 0 deaths by 2050. In other words, Sweden - the inventors of Vision Zero - thinks hitting zero deaths is a half-century long project.

Mayor Bowser announced in 2015, that DC was going to hit zero deaths and serious injuries by 2024. In 9 years. Which feels a little like 7 minute abs. We set a goal to hit zero deaths and serious injuries in half the time that Sweden had already been working on it. That's not real. That isn't a real goal. It's like my son's goal of being a jedi. I don't know if it was just politics, or naivete or over-optimism, but we failed right out of the gate. 9 years? It takes more than 9 years to get most projects from an idea to shovels in the ground. The minute the goal came out of the Mayor's mouth, you could put a tag on its toe.

Other areas are similarly ambitious. Montgomery County has a Vision Zero goal, set last November, of 2030. Alexandria's goal, set in December, is 2028. They aren't going to make it either. 

The fact is that since Mayor Bowser set DC's goal we've made no progress as the measure of traffic deaths go, and it's impossible to believe at this point - and it was in 2015 really - that we're going to hit that goal. Equally disturbing is the realization that impending failure doesn't appear to be creating any sense of urgency. I realize that DC and other governments miss their goals all the time, but it doesn't seem that anyone is worried about getting egg on their face about this.

Bowser’s office declined to provide comment from the mayor, instead referring a reporter to DDOT.

OK, maybe they're a little worried.

Zimbabwe said the numbers don’t reflect the progress that has been made. In 2011, the District had 32 traffic deaths. The latest numbers reflect a leveling off when measured against the city’s population growth, he said.

“We are not backsliding,” Zimbabwe said. “We are seeing ourselves laying the groundwork for the next things that will get us down to zero, and it is not going to happen overnight. There’s nobody out there with a ‘mission accomplished’ banner saying we are there yet. We take it very, very seriously.”

I don't doubt they take it seriously. I doubt they take it seriously enough to meet the goal - which would requires taking it VERY VERY seriously.

At the Vision Zero summit, when I asked a panel of local political leaders what we can do to get to zero, they basically said that yes, we need to do something but we lack the political will right now, like they were as powerless as those of us in the audience. Sigh.

What would a realistic goal have been? 

DC's roads are already pretty safe. With a fatality rate of 2.4 per every 100,000 residents (2014), we're safer than every state in the US, and every country in the world (including Sweden) but one - likely due to our low car ownership rate and high transit use (<- writers call this "foreshadowing"). We could have set a goal to be the safest American city over 500,000 (New York City, for example, is already at 0.8 per every 100,000 <---more foreshadowing). 

We could have followed Sweden's lead. We could have aimed to cut road deaths in half by 2035 and to zero by 2060. Or matched up with the US goal of 2050 (which means that we think the US can close the gap with Sweden in 32 years. Color me skeptical). Those are realistic goals - or at least not insane. We can still aim for those. But to make a legitimate go at it even those goals, let alone the 2024 one, requires a post-Pearl Harbor style all-in commitment from the Bowser Administration; and so far, that is not what we've gotten. The DC government is making an effort to reduce deaths, I know because I'm part of it, but the effort is woefully inadequate for the goal set or for even a half-century effort. 

Zero is very small number

Here's something else about the Vision Zero goal. It's probably unobtainable.

Let's be honest, hitting zero deaths is going to require a lot more than redesigning a few intersections. It's going to require some radical changes. Some of which are, at the very least, politically terrifying and likely impossible. But DC, more than any other place - with its largely urban layout, unique city-county-state government and a mostly functional transit system -  is capable of making some radical changes that would be impossible in LA, New York or Sweden.

I'm on the Major Crash Task Force where we review major crashes and provide input for the mayor and the city based on what we learn. And one thing I've learned from this (other than that I'm a crier) is that in most of these crashes, there wasn't just one thing that went wrong. There were usually two, three or more things that went wrong. In my day job we spend a lot of time identifying, and planning for, things that could go wrong; but the minute you say "what if this breaks AND that fails" people will stop you and say "that's a two-fault scenario, we don't worry about those." [When I worked in manned spaceflight the line was at three-faults because human life was involved, but that made the task of preparing for every contingency an order of magnitude harder and more expensive]. Accounting for, and protecting against, all the things that can go wrong may not be possible. 

Many of these fatal crashes in DC have involved impaired drivers, many of whom were driving too fast. (Driving too fast is common when people have been drinking, because their decision-making is hampered). There are also some cases that involve speeding without alcohol. There are a lot of misjudgments - road users of all kinds crossing a road or intersection when they don't have the right-of-way being the most common. In some of these cases, poor lighting, poor visibility or road design contributed to the crash. 

If we could put an end to those kinds of crashes, and that's a big if, we'd be most of the way there, but not all. Even if you make an amazing effort to remove the major risks, you still get the bizarre outliers and weird one-person fatal bike crashes. Even in six sigma, the goal is to succeed 99.99966% of the time. That still leaves a lot of opportunity for failure. 

So maybe we should reconsider what we mean by "zero". Zero is still the aspiration, even as we accept that it's likely impossible. We can believe both of those things at once. But if we want a goal that we can achieve, why not fewer than 0.5 deaths per 100,000 residents. That would still make DC far safer than any other similar place. 0.4999 rounds off to zero, and once we hit it - if we hit it - we'll be in a better place to identify the theoretical bottom.

The goal was big, the effort has been small

Screenshot 2018-07-02 at 12.06.50 AMIt would be inaccurate to say that DC hasn't done anything to get to Vision Zero. They put together an action plan. They hired a manager for the Vision Zero Initiative. There are regular meetings, both public and internal. There have been grants and some street improvements. They even put out a one-year progress report, which reported real steps they've taken and some things, like sobriety checkpoints, that they were already doing. (You can read more of what they've done in DDOT's 2018 oversight testimony).

DC has accomplished some good, but modest, things for which they should be commended. But what has been accomplished isn't up to the task of reducing deaths and injuries by 35% per year. Furthermore, that haven't yet implemented all of the strategies they identified in the low-ambition action plan. Every one of the strategies had a target completion date of 2016 or 2017, so they should all be completed.  Without going through them all, it's clear that they aren't. For one thing, CaBi Safety data is not posted on the vision zero website. And there is still no progress report for 2017, even though the 2016 report came out 16 months ago. The 2016 report does give an update on all the strategies and many had been completed by then, but many others had not. 

I'll further note that the Vision Zero website doesn't appear to have been updated since 2015, though new information has been posted at DDOT's site. Updating the website won't likely save any lives, but allowing it to linger for 3 years is not confidence building.

In addition to those strategies, DDOT proposed a list of regulatory changes like higher traffic fines and expanding the time that school zone speed limits would be in place to 24 hours a day, every day. Those have been scaled back because of public pressure (for example the proposal for school safety zones has been changed from 24/7 to 7am to 11pm, and many of the fines have been reduced), which doesn't really matter since they still haven't been implemented. It's fine to modify proposals, but when you say "this is what we need to do to reach the goal" and then scale everything down, you're basically saying you aren't going to make it - in part because you're not going to give it the effort you think is necessary.

Finally, there's the Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Act, which the progress report highlights as a major accomplishment - and it is. But it requires reporting and data releases that I don't think have been completed. For example

A) Annual reports on locations with the highest frequency of collisions that injure or kill pedestrians
B) Annual reports on the Bicycle and Pedestrian Priority Area Program
C) Annual reports on the Complete Streets policy progress
D) A report on the deferred disposition program
E) A report on whether DC Circulator buses and District-owned, heavy-duty vehicles should be equipped with pedestrian-alert technologies. 
F) A report on whether emergency vehicles should be equipped with cameras
G) A biannual report for improving bicycle and pedestrian safety (this only came due on July 1, 2018)
They're also supposed to publish information on citizen petitions for traffic calming measures, information relating to permits for the occupation of public space, public rights of way, and public structures and more. If these reports have been completed, and the information required has been published, I couldn't find it. That these goals have not been accomplished makes me wonder about others, like the requirement that all DC-owned trucks have blind-spot mirrors or a blind-spot camera and reflective blind-spot warning stickers (If you see a DC truck without the sticker, let me know in the comments). 

And so, unsurprisingly, after an incomplete attempt to meet some modest goals, there hasn't been any progress on the one metric that really matters

What would be needed

Getting to zero may not be possible, but certainly reducing deaths and serious injuries is. Sweden has had to admit that their timeline was too ambitious but, as of 2009 they've cut traffic deaths by 35% (in 12 years what we said we'd do in 1), which is moving strongly in the right direction. Bowser should, at the very least, address this with a statement that says "We aren't going to hit this goal. Here's why. Here's what the plan is and here's the new goal(s)." And it needs to be Bowser. She held the kickoff and got the press/photo ops. Her face is on page 3 of the Action Plan and Year-One Report. In fact, in the Action Plan it's not even the District's goal, it's hers. The Action Plan literally starts with a picture of her and the words "My Pledge".

In going through the fatalities in the last couple of years there are things that stand out. A lot of them involve speeding. A lot of them involve drinking. Many involve both of those activities. All but one involves driving.  So let's start with those.

Park the cars

I'm not anti-car. [I'm really not]. But it's kind of elementary that if we can get people to drive less then there will be fewer traffic fatalities, and perhaps if we CAN'T get people to drive less there won't be much progress made at all. The BEST vision zero program is one that gets people to take transit, or bike, or walk or telecommute or anything other than drive. New York City has a very low traffic fatality rate, and only about a third of their trips are done by car. That puts their fatality rate and car mode share well below the national average. I suspect that a plot showing the automobile mode share vs. fatality rate for major US cities would show a strong correlation. If you need another example, Paris cut the mode share of driving down to less than 15% and,as a result, saw a 40 percent drop in traffic fatalities in 7 years. 

We can start with a congestion charge. When Metro was coming on line they were able to open a new multi-million-dollar segment and THEN realign the bus routes, remove parking and change street designs in ways that improved safety and hampered driving. When they restored 13th Street to two-way traffic during rush hours in the 1970's, the justification was to improve safety and get people to use the Metro. Mayor Berry even mailed a Metro card to everyone who said their commute would be worse. In the 1980's when Logan Circle was rebuilt as a park, getting people to use Metro was again a justification.

Unfortunately, we don't have billions to spend. We're going to have to do it backwards. We're going to have to reduce driving by making it more expensive and use the money that earns to build more transit, and a congestion charge for downtown is a great way to do that. And, it would reduce congestion. Money from the congestion charge could go to improve Metro with things like new pedestrian tunnels at Farragut and from Gallery Place to Metro Center. We could also raise taxes on gasoline, and lower transit fares, which would have similar effects. In addition, higher gasoline prices would likely encourage people to buy smaller cars.

We can rebuild dedicated transit lanes. When the streetcar is expanded to Georgetown, for example, we could stop allowing cars in the streetcar lane on H Street. It will mean a loss of parking and a traffic lane, but it will make transit better. We could also keep the "temporary" bus lane on Rhode Island Avenue and build out a larger bus lane network. DDOT has already proposed using bus lanes in the MoveDC plan (and at various other times had them, removed them or proposed them.  In 1956, DDOT's predecessor proposed a test of bus lanes on, yes, H Street from Massachusetts NW to 14th St. NE). If you want to save lives, this is a good way to do it.

This will involve tough choices, no doubt. But they're just choices. The Mayor pledged to do everything "in her power" to get to zero. This is in her power. 

In the long run, we can make plans to decouple the orange and blue lines. Metro has saved a lot of lives over the years, and expanding it is a great way to save more. 

We can also invest in biking, e-biking, walking, scooters, telecommuting, etc... The more we can get the automobile mode share down, the closer the goal of Vision zero gets. In fact, I don't think any city will get to zero if their automobile mode share is above 30%. Douglas N. Schneider has probably saved the lives of more DC residents than anyone you've ever known. DC was lucky to have him and we'd do well to build on what he started (instead we've dismantled some of it). 

Reduce Impaired Driving

Impaired driving is another major contributor to crashes, especially alcohol. There are three places where we can intervene - drinking, driving (covered above) and driving after drinking. Luckily, the National Academies of Science, Engineering of Medicine recently created a report on how to end alcohol-impaired driving fatalities and it has many good recommendations.

Their first recommendation is to raise alcohol taxes

Strong, direct evidence shows that higher alcohol taxes reduce alcohol-impaired driving and motor vehicle crash fatalities. Yet alcohol taxes have declined in inflation-adjusted terms at both federal and state levels.

DC's alcohol taxes have room to go up. Our spirits tax is the 29th highest of all states, beer is #6 and wine is #4. Raising those taxes would save lives. And money raised from higher taxes on alcohol could be put into bringing back the "Owl" bus service that DC used to run back going all the way back to the streetcar days (and prior to that as streetcars). Running buses - preferably free - from areas with a high density of liquor licenses to areas where people live or out to the end points of the Metro could help to reduce both VMT and drunk driving.  The buses could run from the time Metrorail shuts down until some time after the bars close at 2:00 or 3:00am. 

DC probably can't do this on their own, but the report recommends widespread adoption of the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS). DADSS is noninvasive, vehicle-integrated technology that prevents a vehicle from moving when the driver's Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) exceeds the state limit. It is, unfortunately, still in testing; and even when testing is over getting it into cars on the market is likely a federal task.

They also recommend ending alcohol sales at gas stations, limiting the hours of alcohol sales, lowering the BAC level for drunk driving to 0.5 (it's 0.8 in DC) and minimizing the sale of alcohol to minors

Beyond that, we could limit parking in high drinking areas of the city, by increase the price and reducing the supply.  For example, the District could remove the parking minimum at drinking establishments. Removing parking would also open up space to close streets in bar districts. All of this would discourage driving to bars, and encourage use of transit or taxis instead.

We should put an end to distracted driving, not just use of a handheld phone, but any phone. When I brought this up with State Senator Scott Surovell of Virginia who was on a panel at the Vision Zero Conference, he shook his head and said that there was no chance of that happening; that his colleagues see talking on the phone while they're driving - especially when stuck in traffic - as something Virginia can not live without. I hope DC can see it otherwise, but maybe I'm naive.

Slow down,you move too fast (and you could drop a few pounds too)

Speed is a major contributor to traffic fatalities, even when the driver isn't speeding. We can lower speed limits like Portland is doing and design streets for slower traffic and slower turns at intersections (something DDOT has already started doing). 

Here again some federal assistance would be nice. There's nothing stopping NHTSA from requiring cars that simply won't go faster than 100mph. While they're at it, they could create pedestrian impact safety regulations that limit the current front end designs of SUVs. 

DC's not totally powerless here. We can decide who gets registered and we can define the taxes for registration. We can increase the registration fees for cars with a high top speed or high weight vehicles and then lower them for cars that are safer. 

I will note at this point that I have not mentioned autonomous vehicles and also note that that is not an oversight on my part.

No Country for Bad Drivers

In addition to reducing the number of cars on the road, we need to improve the quality of our drivers. We need a tougher licensing process.  We need to assess points for automated enforcement tickets (California and Arizona are somehow able to).  We need to have fines that increase for repeat offenders. 

We need to retest drivers. We used to require a car inspection every two years, certainly we can ask drivers to retest every 10.

If we can get the worst 1-5% of drivers off the road, we're going to be much more than 1-5% safer. Though here DC is uniquely handicapped by the presence of so many out-of-state drivers.

Tougher choices

And then there are the really tough choices. 

Should we ban motorcycles? The fatality rate for motorcycles is more than 36 times higher than for cars, and more than 700 times higher than for rail transit.  If there were a car that were that dangerous, we might ban it. 

Should we ban bikes from lanes with streetcar tracks. WABA fought against it when DDOT proposed it, but then DDOT was proposing it because it would slow down streetcars. Maybe it's worth thinking about, along with a discussion about flanges, or even putting sharrows in an adjacent lane to encourage cyclists to ride out of the streetcar track lane. I don't know if this is a good idea or not, but the status quo is incompatible with Vision Zero.

Should we get rid of right turn on red? ROTR was put in place during the 1970's energy crisis as a way to save energy, but it became obvious early on that it was dangerous. We've got a new crisis, maybe we should address that. 

These are unpopular ideas for sure. Many of them were suggested during discussions of the report that led to the Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Act and they were dismissed quickly, not because they wouldn't work, but because they couldn't be passed. But if we want to get to zero deaths - if that's what we really want - we're going to have to make unpopular decisions. There will need to be more angry people, if we want to have fewer dead people. 

This is either going to be really hard or we're going to fail

Those are the choices. Automobile engineers are not going to save us. Tweaking the system is not going to do it. Either we make dramatic changes to our cities and to our ideas of what mobility is and to the place of driving in our city, or VisionZero will just become one of those things we keep saying we aspire to but is always off in the distance, like energy independence or a democratic Cuba.

Maybe these choice are too hard and it isn't worth it, but if we're not really going to try to get to Vision Zero, then our leaders should stop pretending like we are. 

Cyclist killed crossing New Hampshire in M Street Bike lane

Two weeks after the last fatal bicycle crash, DC just had another one. 

Police said the incident occurred about 2:15 p.m. at New Hampshire Avenue and M Street in Northwest, midway between DuPont and Washington circles. Jeffrey Hammond Long, 36, of Northwest, died at a hospital on Sunday, police said.

Long and the truck driver were both traveling west on M Street. The truck driver tried to turn right onto New Hampshire Avenue and struck the bicyclist, police said.

Police said Long was trapped under the truck and rescued by firefighters.

Not a lot of details here, but that intersection is bizarre. Not only does it have a diagonal, but M also turns in the block before then making a right turn more like a 160 degree turn. 

Cyclist on H Street is killed after his tire got caught in the streetcar gap, hit by bus

Saturday night, a cyclist was killed on H Street NE after his bike wheel got caught in the gap between the streetcar rail and the pavement. After it got stuck, he fell into the path of a charter bus.

Malik Habib, 19, of Northeast, fell while cycling in the streetcar lane in the 300 block of H Street NE, police said. A charter bus, which also was eastbound on H Street, struck Habib at about 9:35 p.m.

I wonder how far behind him the bus was and if the bus was also in the streetcar lane.

Some will recall that in 2014, DDOT proposed banning bikes in the streetcar lane (or guideway, as they called it). Their stated reason was not the danger of the tracks, however, but concern about impeding the streetcar and the danger of being a slow vehicle in front of a streetcar. Advocates opposed the ban and DDOT eventually relented. (Safety concerns related to the tracks were often brought up though)

I'm just going to throw this out there - and then duck - maybe, if we really want to commit to Vision Zero, we should accept a ban on biking on the guideway. I'm writing a post on Vision Zero that's not ready yet, but the thesis is that if we REALLY want zero road deaths, then we're going to need to make much bigger sacrifices than we have so far. Maybe this is one of those. After all...

Lopez identified the top five spots in each of Boston’s neighborhoods for cyclist injuries, including the portion of South Huntington Avenue directly across from the Back of the Hill stop of the trolley’s E line. Seven cyclists were injured at this location over a period of four years. Through analysis of the narrative police reports of these crashes, Lopez and her colleagues found that all but one could be attributed to a cyclist getting his or her wheel lodged in the trolley tracks. 

In the meantime, we probably need to promote this video more and look at technical improvements that can make this safer. This is not the first track related crash on H Street after all. [If I were a real media-type, or a lawyer for Habib's family, I might FOIA all of DDOT's internal emails on "flange fillers"]. This is also not the first streetcar related bike fatality but it's the first since the old streetcars were removed.

Regardless of what is done going forward, it's clear that the G and I street improvements and DDOT safety video weren't enough to save Habib. 

Old Town North plan turns rail into park, adds bike lanes and a bikeway

Last year, Alexandria updated the Small Area Plan (SAP) for Old Town North. While there are several parts of the plan that are intended to improve cycling in the area, one of the most exciting is parts is the plan to convert the existing railroad - that the Mt. Vernon trail currently parallels - into a linear park with am improved and extended trail. But the plan also calls for extending the North Royal Street bikeway across a developed power plant site and adding bike lanes.

On the north end, the rail spur would be replaced by a linear park, and the trail currently alongside it would be improved and extended to both the sidepath along Potomac Green Drive and the end of the spur at North Henry Street (dependent upon rail corridor expansion for DC2RVA). The trail along East Abington would also be improved. The Mount Vernon Trail would be moved from the water's edge into an expanded waterfront (from 5 acres to 7-9 acres), where it could be separated into bicycle and pedestrian trails. New trail connections would be created at Slater's Lane and 3rd Street. The trail along the existing spur would also be separated into bicycle and pedestrian trails. 


On the south end the rest of the rail spur would also be replaced with a linear park and improved trail. And 2nd street would be extended as a pedestrian (and bicycle?) connection to the trail and the waterfront.


Use of the rail corridor was considered for transit.

It was determined that a linear park is more feasible due to extensive land acquisition that would be required for a transitway along the rail corridor. In addition, the rail corridor provides limited access to higher density uses that are compatible with high capacity transit. Utilizing existing local streets and the potential new street network with the former power plant site will provide better transit access to existing and future land uses.

The expansion to the waterfront open space creates the opportunity to widen the current waterfront trail access between the former power plant site and the River, with the potential to separate the bicycle and pedestrian trail for a better connection between the plan area and Daingerfield Island to the north. It could include a bicycle repair station too.


Alexandria's Transportation Master Plan includes a bikeway on Royal Street, and facilities on Bashford, Madison Pendleton and Oronoco, and where relevant this plan recommends extending the bicycle facilities into the former power plant site as redevelopment occurs, as well as on Slaters Lane, which would provide an east-west bicycle connection from the former power plant site to the existing bicycle lane on Slaters Lane west of the Parkway.

The plan recommends additional long and short term bicycle parking (required for new development) and 5 bikeshare stations in the plan area. It also recommends parking maximums for each use on the former power plant to encourage pedestrian, bike and transit use and help in achieving the sustainability objectives of the Plan.

Outside the project area, it recommends pursuing the design of a trail extension along the east side of Daingerfield Island as part of a future NPS Daingerfield Island master plan process.

Some of these things could happen soon. Constructing a new trail or cycle track on the east side of E. Abingdon between the existing Mt. Vernon Trail at the rail spur, and Slaters Lane is scheduled for the 2017-2019 time frame. Building an enhanced bicycle corridor on Madison Street between the Braddock Metrorail station and the waterfront is scheduled for 2018 as is the Neighborhood bikeway along N. Royal Street between Jones Point Park and Bashford Lane.


DDOT and NPS have plans for crossing the Anacostia at the Arboretum


In 2016, DC opened an important part of the Anacostia Trail from Benning Road to the Maryland side of New York Avenue. But that was only phase 1 of that section. Phase 2 will build a trail along the river from the existing trail at Foote Street, SE to the existing trail in Kenilworth Park North, and then across the river to the Arboretum and through it (the white dashed lines in the image below).

image from

Phase 2 is being broken up into at least a couple of pieces and the first of those - the new 390 foot long bridge and the trails from it to Kenilworth Park North and Hickey Hill Road in the Arboretum - has made it to the concept review phase with the NCPC.

The 10 foot wide trail will be built above the flood plane with triangle "nodes" at the bridge crossing and the connection to the main trail. The project is limited just south of the bridge on the east side and short of the paved roads on the Arboretum side. [I certainly hope they don't build this but not include a paved connection to the west side roads.]

The western node will be a T-junction that will feature wayfinding, educational space, an amphitheater and lay-by areas.
The east node will feature wayfinding, landscaping and educational signage. 
The existing trail node will feature a bicycle repair station, lay-by area, bench, wayfinding, landscaping and educational signage. 
But the key part is the bridge, which promises great views of the river.
From below:
And usable space beneath the east abutment.

The bridge will also have lights for nighttime boaters. The NCPC presentation is here.
In December, NCPC 
  • requested that the National Park Service continue to coordinate with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to ensure the proposed trail connections between Anacostia Park and the National Arboretum are accessible, and that appropriate signage and wayfinding is provided for trail users
  • recommended that further evaluation of the trail intersections to ensure that the proposed lay-bys, benches and other uses will  not conflict with pedestrian and bicyclist circulation, considering the lines-of-site and set-backs necessary to allow for such uses
  • requested further details about how the kayak and canoe launch will be accessed and if there will be impacts to the existing sea wall.

The CFA and NCPC both approved the design in fall of 2017, and preliminary design is expected to be completed in Fall of 2018, but no schedule for work is provided. Last year, DDOT told me that the full completion of Phase 2 was about 6 years away. 

The project was granted $6 million by the Federal Lands Access Program for construction. 

NIST Gaithersburg Campus Master Plan seeks to open access to cyclists


The National Capital Planning Commission is working on a review of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Campus Master Plan for its 579-acre headquarters campus located in Gaithersburg, MD.

The master plan provides a framework for the future physical development of the campus to ensure that NIST continues to meet its mission of promoting U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards and technology. The plan focuses on research buildings by modernizing existing laboratories and infrastructure to support current and future research, and by adding new research facilities for planned programs.  It also addresses security, roads and campus gates, parking, pedestrian circulation, the landscape, storm water management, the site utilities infrastructure, energy conservation and sustainability.

Though not mentioned above, that also means cycling. NIST would like to make the campus easier to bike to and around. Currently, campus circulation is car oriented and only about 1.1% of employees bike to work, while 83.8% drive. The Master Plan seeks to open access to pedestrians and cyclists by expanding the network of pathways, sidewalks, and trails. Some of the key additions include:

  • A multi-use trail throughout the periphery of campus will be expanded. It would connect the major points of interests outside of the core of campus to each other. Runners, walkers, or cyclists can access this trail at many different points within the core of campus and it will take them to site features such as the ponds, the recreation and sports fields, western forest, and historic stone test wall. The trail will be low maintenance and not paved, except where it uses existing side walks. Several materials are suggested--woodchip path, natural surface, mown path, gravel--depending on the campus location. Some portions of the trail exists today and are frequently used.
  • The installation of more bike parking. Covered bicycle parking near key entrances is recommended to encourage ridership. Simple, manufactured shelters are planned.  New and replacement bicycle racks should be MCDOT-recommended "U-shape" racks rather than the typical grid style racks existing on campus.
  • NIST plans to enhance their Transportation Demand Management policies to further encourage use of public transportation and bicycles, and reduce the use of single occupancy vehicles.
  • Include convenient shower and changing facilities
  • Identify (and fund if necessary) locations for potential Capitol Bikeshare expansion both on campus and at the Visitor Center as the service expands further into Montgomery County past the current limits near Key West Avenue, within two miles of the NIST campus. Provide an on-campus bikeshare service for employees, if Federal policy permits.
  • Require employees that drive to obtain/purchase parking permits to park on campus. These permits should designate a parking lot or area in which the vehicle is allowed to park.
  • Bicycle signage is almost nonexistent within the campus, with cyclists using a combination of sidewalks and roadways to manuever around. It is recommended that shared lane markings (sharrows) be installed on the pavement of North Drive, West Drive, East Drive, South Drive, Center Drive, and Research Drive. By designating these roadways as bicycle routes with appropriate MUTCD-approved signage, drivers will be more aware of cyclists and reduce potential conflicts.
  • Controlled bicycle exits are recommended at Gates D (along Quince Orchard Road) and F (along Muddy Branch Road), extended to Gate E if initial installation is effective. Exits should allow employees to securely enter and exit the campus using their key cards.

CurrentNISTCurrently the campus has some bike facilities nearby, but more is planned. Shared-use paths are present along Clopper Road/
West Diamond Avenue, which provide east-west connectivity between the Metropolitan Grove MARC station and Gate A. At this time, there is no sidewalk on the east side of Quince Orchard Road along the campus. However, Maryland has planned a new shared-use path for this location. A shared-use path to the south of the campus on Muddy Branch Road provides southern connectivity to the Great Seneca Highway, with bicycle access to areas northwest and southeast of the site. 

Two community bicycle/pedestrian trails are proposed, which would provide additional access to and from the NIST campus:

• The Quince Orchard Road shared-use path would be an extension of the existing hiker/biker trail along the east side of Quince Orchard Road that currently terminates approximately one quarter mile south of Gate D to the West Diamond Avenue intersection. This trail would provide much needed pedestrian and bicycle connections and crossings adjacent to the campus on the east side of Quince Orchard Road that could be used by NIST staff to more safely access the campus, particularly at Gate C. Construction is planned for 2018.

• The Muddy Branch Trail is an initiative by the City of Gaithersburg that would provide a hiker/biker trail along the eastern edge of the NIST campus between the campus fence and the Interstate 270 right of way. The trail would provide a connection between West Diamond Avenue and Muddy Branch Road and would require some relocation of NIST fence lines.


It's nice to see so much attention given to biking in a suburban campus. An opportunity for the public to provide comments just ended, but it is possible that more input opportunities will come. 

Banner design by

City Paper's Best Local Bike Blog 2009


 Subscribe in a reader