Busy times at DDOT - Rock Creek Park Trail, C Street and NY Avenue Trail

If you only blog about DC and DDOT twice a week, they're making it hard for you to keep up lately,

Three big projects are, or have had, meetings lately. 

First of all, there's a meeting tonight on the C Street, NE rehabilitation. This project aims to - among other things - bring cycletracks to C Street, NE. The 30% design was released earlier this month and "at the meeting, the 30% design plans will be discussed to further refine the recommendations provided during the final design phase." That meeting is tonight from 6-8pm at Rosedale Community Center.

In addition, last night there was a meeting on the VRE Midday Storage project that "as envisioned, would preclude long-term plans for a multi-use trail on New York Ave between Eckington and the National Arboretum." But they're promising not to let that happen and their more recent designs give more reasons to be hopeful.

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Speaking of that trail, DDOT's hosting a meeting on that tomorrow night at 6:30pm at REI. "DDOT will present design concepts and gather comments from the community at the public meeting

Tonight there is also a meeting on the Rock Creek Park Multi-use Trail and Pedestrian Bridge over Rock Creek. The meeting will be an open house format with a brief presentation given by staff that will begin at 6:30 pm. Staff will be on hand to walk attendees through the concepts presented. It will be at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park Visitor’s Center. The purpose of the meeting is "to discuss the final design concepts of the Rock Creek Park Multi-use Trail and Pedestrian Bridge over Rock Creek. The goal of this project is to rehabilitate Rock Creek Park Multi-use Trail and Pedestrian Bridge to improve safety and visitor experience, as well as establish new connections to Rock Creek Park from the surrounding neighborhoods."

 

 

The Berlin Wall Trail

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Last weekend I got to ride the Berliner Mauerweg, which I was told literally means the Berlin Wallway, but which we called the Berlin Wall Trail. It's not a trail in the way the the Capitol Crescent Trail is more like the American Discovery Trail, in that uses dozens of different facilities to string together a single route following - as best is possible the route of the old Berlin Wall.

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In February of next year the wall will have been down for just as long as it was up - a little more than 28 years - and there isn't much of it remaining (though I think was true pretty soon after it started coming down. Where the wall once was there is often a line of double bricks in the road or sidewalk or a steal marker with the dates the wall was up and along the path orange markers that commemorate places where people died trying to escape to West Berlin. What does remain in many places is the death strip which, in one of the most striking cases of adaptive reuse I can think of, has often been turned into a lovely park through which the trail runs. It is a bit weird to ride through such beautifully landscaped parkland and think about why it is here. 

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In addition to the Wall, the route takes you past Brandeburg Gate, the Holocaust Memorial, Checkpoint Charlie, the Reichstag and in Pottsdam the houses that Truman, Churchill and Stalin stayed in after the war. We also rode across the Bridge of Spies and the Oberbaumbrücke (which I recognized from "Run Lola Run"). There are also several short detours - Frederick the Greats summer palace and the Russian WWII memorial that are easy short rides away.

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The trail is a 100-mile+ hodgepodge tour of ever imaginable bicycle facility from single track dirt paths to 10 meter wide bicycle highways. We rode on sidewalks, roadways, sidepaths, bike lanes, dirt paths, driveways, old patrol roads, bike trails, rail trails, rails-with-trails, etc... You name it, we rode on it - even unforgiving cobblestones. And we rode through cities, suburbs, farms, parks, woods - even a cemetery. I feel like we got to see much of Berlin that perhaps the usual tourist doesn't see.

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There are more photos here. If you've only got 2 days to see Berlin (as I did) it would be hard to beat. The signage was pretty easy to follow outside the city, where it used the big signs at the top of the post, but in the densest part of the city it used small playing card-sized signs that were useless. I recommend the trail's guidebook which you can get in German or English and a GPS guide as well. We were saved many times from wrong turns or missed turns by the beeping complaints of our GPS device.

Nova Parks has studied widening the W&OD Trail to 16 or 19 feet

The Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority’s (NVRPA) recently commissioned a feasibility study of widening the W&OD Trail or adding a parallel trail to it because of high use at peak times. A future trail could look like the one below:

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The study authors first measured use volumes and resultant level of service measurements. Scores are in the E and F (functional capacity or failed) in both the Columbia Pike and Custis Trail areas.

Locations on the eastern end of the trail (i.e. near the intersections with Columbia Pike, Custis Trail, Lee Highway) have relatively high trail user volumes and higher proportion of pedestrians, which both contribute to a less favorable level of service grade.

They then focused their widening study on the 3 eastern sections from Columbia Pike (Arlington, VA) to Broad Street (Fall Church, VA) and looked at where there was room.

  • between Columbia Pike and Patrick Henry Drive, there are opportunities for widening along the trail; however, the trail crosses the Four Mile Run stream in several locations, which will require bridges be replaced or widened. The Four Mile Run trail runs parallel to the W&OD trail for much of this stretch, which could provide an alternate route for some trail users;
  • between Patrick Henry Drive and halfway between the East Falls Church Metro Station and Lee Highway, opportunities for widening are limited by the I-66 sound wall north of the trail, a stream valley south of the trail and an electrical power substation south of the trail just west of the East Falls Metro Station. Similar to the previous stretch, the Four Mile Run trail runs parallel to the W&OD trail for much of this stretch, which could provide an alternate route for some trail users;
  • from just east of Lee Highway to Broad Street in Falls Church there appears to be ample space for trail widening.

They then identified two possible cross-sections.

  • 16’ wide shared trail, provides 8’ lanes on either side of a centerline wide enough for a bicyclist to pass another user without entering the lane of an oncoming bicyclist or pedestrian.
  • 19’ wide parallel trail creates separate lanes for bicyclists and pedestrians resulting in an 8’ two-way pathl for pedestrians and an 11’ trail for bicyclists divided into two 5.5’ lanes.

The 16-foot trail results in a LOS C or better at each location for each peak studied with the exception of eastbound bicyclists near Columbia Pike during the weekday PM. The 19-foot trail with a separate 11-foot trail for bicyclists would provide LOS A or B for all segments since there would be no pedestrians impeding the bicyclists movement.

As a result, it is the study author's recommendation that Nova Parks move forward with widening and construction of the parallel trail concept as shown in the image above and below.

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Design of Parallel Trail Concept
• It is recommended the pedestrian portion of the trail be separated from the bicycle portion of the trail with a 4-inch solid white line.
• Pedestrian symbols should be placed periodically within the pedestrian lanes to indicate the desired preferential use for pedestrians.
• Bicycle symbols should be placed periodically within the bicycle lanes to indicate the desired preferential use for bicyclists. The opposing lanes should be separated by a 4-inch dashed yellow centerline.
• Signs denoting the intended use may be desirable if users are not traveling within the designated lane as intended. Signs are not required per the MUTCD or other guidelines, nor are they in use at many other parallel type trails around the U.S.

Until that can be done, they recommend widening the trail to 11' during repaving, improve wayfinding and marketing, spot improvements near the  Falls Church gap, trail counting, a pilot widening to 19' near the Vienna Community Center. 

 

Montgomery County makes it legal to bike commute via trails (starting next week)

Actually, Montgomery County is extending hours on trails, but doing so makes it easier to bike commute on trails without breaking the law.

Montgomery Parks, part of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) will issue updated M-NCPPC Park Rules and Regulations effective July 1, 2017. The Rules and Regulations, which were last updated in March 2001, have been revised to better reflect today’s use of the parks, facilities, and amenities.

The comprehensive update to the Rules and Regulations includes numerous changes. Some of the more substantial changes include, but are not limited to:

  • Permission to bicycle on paved trails for extended hours (5:00 a.m. – midnight) (but you have to use a light if it is dark)
  • Permission to bicycle on all official paved and natural surface trails, unless otherwise posted

Under the previous rules the default hours for trails were sunrise to sunset. Now, as before, "An Administrative Directive may provide alternate hours of operation for a Park Property or Facility, including alternate hours deemed appropriate for any trail or trail segments that facilitate bicycle and pedestrian commuting."

In addition

  • It has a separate definition for an electric bicycle
  • Removes the specific call-out to obey the helmet law
  • Removes the default 20mph speed limit
  • Replaces the requirement to yield at all intersections with requirements to obey signs and  yield when required by state law

Trail crossing not part of the Susquehanna Bridge project (yet)

The Susquehanna River Bridge was recently given a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) 

The federally-funded engineering and environmental study, released May 31, identifies Selected Alternative 9A for the new alignment; replacing the existing two-track single bridge with two bridges with two tracks each, structures capable of supporting more passenger rail service along the East Coast. The current 112-year-old bridge spans the Susquehanna River between the Town of Perryville, in Cecil County, MD, and the City of Havre de Grace, in Harford County, MD. The bridge is owned by Amtrak and used by Amtrak intercity trains, MARC commuter trains and Norfolk Southern Railway freight trains.

This is great for rail traffic on the East Coast, but so far it remains to be seen if this will help cyclists. Since planning began the East Coast Greenway and bicycle activists have been pushing for the bridge to include a bicycle and pedestrian path. While that hasn't happened, the Hatem Bridge was opened to bike traffic on weekends and holidays.

On February 10, 2016, Maryland Secretary of Transportation Pete Rahn announced that the Thomas J. Hatem Memorial Bridge – one of the four connecting Perryville and Havre de Grace – will open to bicycles beginning July 1, 2016.

This is good, but it's not as good as a trail crossing - open at all times - would be. The project planners "received substantial public input requesting inclusion of a bicycle and pedestrian river crossing into the Proposed Project." And so, while it's not included in this yet, there is hope still.

While bicycle and pedestrian facilities were not expressly addressed in the scope of the project grant, as part of the public involvement process, FRA, MDOT, and Amtrak are working with government agencies and interested organizations to assess the feasibility of coordinating the Susquehanna River Rail Bridge Project with potential bicycle and pedestrian access across the river.

Furthermore, to respond to the input received regarding a multi-use path, MDOT and Amtrak are conducting a feasibility evaluation. The evaluation entails: reviewing prior studies of Susquehanna River bicycle/pedestrian crossings; ensuring that the Proposed Project does not adversely affect the existing bicycle and pedestrian trails within the Proposed Project’s study area; making efforts not to preclude the potential for a future multi-use path across the Susquehanna River; and assessing the feasibility of constructing a multi-use path in conjunction with a new rail bridge.

The Project Team is considering a multitude of factors, including visual impacts, safety and security, constructability, effects to rail alignments, cost, noise and vibration, in-water impacts, functionality, and community impacts. The Project Team will continue to evaluate the feasibility of accommodating a multi-use path within the project limits in coordination with the high-speed rail project. The Project Team is conducting a Susquehanna River Rail Bridge Project Bicycle/Pedestrian Crossing Hazard Analysis and Security Risk Assessment. If deemed feasible, a separate project would be required for design, environmental review, and identification of potential funding for a bicycle/pedestrian crossing

I can't find any information on that feasibility study, only the similar one done in 2002 which includes the option of a gondola (deemed too expensive). That study answered my question of why not use the existing piers? A: the Coast Guard won't allow it (without raising it up to 90 feet above the waterline), but it didn't consider using the Amtrak Bridge. That study recommended using boat or car ferries to get people across. 

Susquehanna

Klingle Valley Trail to open on Saturday

One of the most contentious battles in the war on cars comes to its final conclusion this Saturday when, in a resounding victory for the all-powerful bike lobby, the Klingle Valley Trail opens. There will be a ribbon cutting on Saturday morning between 10 and 11am followed by the lamentations of the drivers.

A ribbon cutting for the trail is scheduled for this Saturday, June 24th between 10am and 11am near the west trailhead. Join us to officially open the Klingle Valley Trail and welcome in a new chapter to the history of the Klingle Valley.

This project has been amazingly well managed. I love the regular updates on the website and, of course, that it was completed on time. I took a preview ride on Sunday (good thing because I'll be biking in Germany on Saturday) and the trail is AMAZING. It really is a trail in the middle of a park/nature preserve. It's steep - which may lead to some dangerous speeds by downhill cyclists, but the trail is wide, with nice green space and water treatment features all along it. And it's lit. It's enough to make me want to move.

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The West Trail head


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The Trail past the Connecticut Ave Bridge


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Just inside the West Trail head


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Connection to Klingle from the Rock Creek Park Trail


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 The trail approaching the Connecticut Ave Bridge

The Purple Line will finish The Capital Crescent Trail (and in the good way)

In a recent letter to the editor Chuck Sullivan of Bethesda argues that because the Capitol Crescent Trail (CCT) is great, we don't need to build the Purple Line - or something. First he points out that biking in the area is great and helps mitigate traffic. You'll never hear me argue with that. 

We already have one of the more remarkable and beautiful traffic mitigation systems in the county: the Capital Crescent Trail. Every day thousands of residents use it to commute to work. Recreational bikers, joggers and dog walkers use this trail every day. On weekends, Rock Creek Parkway is closed to vehicles, and residents can have more than 22 miles of glorious biking in a natural environment alongside Rock Creek without dreaded and deadly cars.

But then he switches to contrasting that to the proposed Purple Line, implying (incorrectly) perhaps that the Purple  Line will destroy the CCT.

Then there’s the proposed Purple Line, a train. It will require the destruction of acres of trees that won’t grow back for 75 years. The flawed and ugly design calls for the train to be squeezed next to a bike trail along a barren field. It will run behind homes and decrease property values. It will cost double whatever planners estimate. It will destroy the environment. How can anyone claim this is a fair tradeoff?

Mr. Sullivan might not be the best defender of leaving old trees alone, since he's a home builder who has argued that the tree canopy in the county is already very high and replanting trees is super great (which I also agree with). 

Then there are some untrue statements about the train being squeezed (there is actually a lot of buffer) and about a barren field (perhaps he's thinking of a previous flawed design inspired by A Boy and His Dog). that "it will cost double" is not based on anything. 

It is likely that property values will go up when work is done. And I'd be willing to bet on that. 

It will cause some environmental damage, but not so much that the project is unfit. That's what the EIS process was for. As for the tradeoff- that is in the FEIS if I'm correct. There are benefits too.

Some claim it will take cars off the road.

Not just some, but the people who prepared the FEIS. FTA did not disagree.

But the Purple Line would unleash acres of commercial development along its path, which would increase traffic.

That's a feature, not a bug. The alternative is that they live farther away, and not use transit or bike. But again, this was studied. 

Meanwhile, we have a bikeway that could get even more cars off the roads, if it were fully paved and promoted.

The bikeway will be paved and expanded all the way to Silver Spring as part of the Purple Line project. And yeah, it will remove more cars.

We are way behind other countries in promoting bicycle use. The Capital Crescent Trail is an opportunity to make up for our lack of effort and vision.

I agree. Let's finish it (by which I mean complete, not like in Mortal Kombat)

image from www.montgomeryplanning.orgBehold the Barren Wasteland!

Central Avenue Connector Trail 30% Design done for Phase I

Prince George's County recently completed the 30% Design for Phase I - The Addison Road Project portion of the Central Avenue Connector Trail, and had a meeting to present it to the public,

Phase 1 (Implementation) consists of a one-mile segment of roadside trail along MD 214 (Central Avenue) in the Seat Pleasant area. Phase I was prioritized by M-NCPPC to enhance local bicycle and pedestrian access to the Addison Road-Seat Pleasant Metro Station, which is centrally located on this portion of the trail.

The proposed design includes construction of a 12-foot-wide asphalt trail between Addison Plaza and Pepper Mill Drive. The trail facility is designed to achieve a maximum five percent grade in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). A variable width grass buffer is provided between the Central Avenue curb and edge of trail, with a minimum two-foot buffer provided where constrained by right-of-way or utilities, and greater separation provided where feasible. An improved crosswalk is proposed at the Pepper Mill Drive intersection, which is currently not marked as a crosswalk or controlled by a traffic signal. Additional improvements at intersections along the trail are recommended to reduce the barrier effect of Central Avenue. At uncontrolled crossings, it is recommended that a traffic signal or grade-separated structures should be evaluated during final design of the trail.

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The trail would run along the south side of Central Avenue.

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The project will include bioswales and micto-bioretentions to deal with added stormwater, and added lighting. The total project is estimated to cost a little more than $5.8 million.

From the Archives: The Bicycle Crash Murder

Perhaps one of the most shocking and tragic stories of cyclist road rage is the October 8, 1997 involving driver Joy Estrella Mariano Enriquez and cyclist Alejandro Jose Grant. As the Post wrote during the trial

Seconds after a motorist accidentally bumped him off his bicycle at a busy Adelphi intersection last fall, Alejandro Jose Grant calmly got up, pulled a small pistol from a backpack, walked over to the waiting driver and shot her in the head.

Grant calmly walked back to his bicycle, which was still lying in the road, and began to pedal away, Jenkins said. She and Fowler followed Grant into a nearby parking lot, where they saw him put his bike into a dumpster.

Fowler said he drove back toward Riggs Road after Grant saw the couple following him and brandished his gun. Fowler and Jenkins notified county police officers on the scene, who chased Grant across University Boulevard and behind a bowling alley before arresting him.

It would come out later that Grant had a long history of violence and drug use. He had been charged with assault the prior April and

At the time of his arrest, Grant also had been convicted in 1991 of assaulting a Prince George's police officer; possession and sale of marijuana and resisting arrest in New York; and malicious destruction of property last year for which he served 10 days in the Montgomery County jail. It also was reported that Grant had assault charges still pending against him in Washington.

And he spent half a month in jail in 1993 for battery. He was convicted about a year later (despite the accidental destruction of the murder weapon by County police).

Clayton Aarons, Grant's public defender, did not dispute that Grant shot Enriquez. But in opening arguments, he asked jurors to reserve judgment on the premeditated murder charge before hearing "all the facts."

Aarons said Grant was struck by another car earlier in the day, reacted quickly and did not deserve to be convicted of first-degree murder.

He was sentenced to life in prison without parole, after asking for the death penalty. Sadly, when he didn't get the death penalty, he took his own life.

The Silver Spring man was not on a suicide watch when he wrapped a piece of bedsheet around his neck and hanged himself from the bunk bed frame. He was pronounced dead at the scene, jail officials said.

"There was nothing in his background, nothing that would lead you to believe he would hurt himself," Assistant Public Defender Clayton Aarons said yesterday.

Risk, Reward and Speed

Writing about the costs and benefits of regulations, Megan McArdle (who is, or at least was, a bike commuter) tries to make an analogy with driving and speed. 

It may sound heartless to discuss life-saving measures as a calculation. But the fact is that we all make these sorts of calculations every day, about ourselves and others. We just don’t like to admit that we’re doing it.

Consider the speed at which many of you drove to work this morning. I’m sure you’re all splendid, careful drivers. Nonetheless, when a vehicle is being piloted at 50 or 60 miles an hour, the margin of error for avoiding an accident is pretty small. To drive a car even at 5 miles per hour is to accept a small risk of killing oneself and others. To drive at 50 miles per hour is to accept a much higher risk of doing so. It’s a calculation: risk versus reward.

In the U.S., tens of thousands of people were killed in auto accidents last year. We could probably eliminate most of those deaths if we simply made sure that no one ever piloted their personal vehicle above some prudent speed -- say, 25 mph -- which would reduce both the likelihood of crashes occurring, and the damage any crashes would do.

Are you willing to make that trade-off? To avert 40,000 deaths a year, all you have to do is move closer to work, take public transportation (where available), or spend a lot more time in the car.

Americans have made that choice: Nope, not worth it. We are manifestly not willing to exchange personal convenience for lower auto fatalities. Nor, as far as I am aware, is anyone anywhere else. Government sets much higher speed limits -- speeds that are still quite deadly! -- and most drivers opt for even deadlier speeds. Every speeding driver knows, at some level, that what they’re doing is dangerous; they simply care more about what the boss will say when they’re late than they do about the increased risk of killing other people. (Pro tip: If you started late, just accept that you’re going to get there late.)

A few problems here. One, we're terrible about making these kinds of risk/reward calculations. Another issue is that when we speed, we get the full reward, but we only take on some of the risk - since the people around us are being placed at risk too. This is a classic tragedy of the commons issue, and it's why government needs to get involved. 

One of the more striking lines to me is the bolded (by me) line. I was once on Chris Core's show discussing biking on Beach Drive. He was arguing, among other things, that cyclists should ride on the trail for their own safety, and that by forcing drivers to pass, cyclists were putting drivers at risk. When it was suggested that drivers could just wait behind the cyclists and go 20mph or whatever, he said "people aren't going to do that" proving that this wasn't really about safety. As long as we believe that convenience is more important than safety - and I agree that is how Americans see driving - we'll never get to Vision Zero.

Now, I won’t defend the folks who go 90 in a 50 mph zone.  But in less extreme cases, the broader calculation is probably correct. Auto accidents cost lives. But automobile transport has also saved a lot of lives, by enabling the economic growth that has made us richer and healthier. Slowing traffic down to a crawl would make a lot of that economic activity impossible, or at least, unprofitable. 

Very few people would like to lower a very small personal risk of death by agreeing to live in the economic equivalent of 1900.

McArdle is seemingly arguing that Vision Zero isn't worth the cost - and arguing it because average Americans (who haven't done any of the calculations she calls for elsewhere in the article) are deciding it is so. That's a pretty bold assertion, in part because of all the flaws in those calculations and in part because they aren't considering congestion, pollution and bystander damage and other tragedy of the commons issues. 

If we were to actually slow cars down to a safe enough speed to lower car deaths to a few thousand or a few hundred a year - and take away licenses from the worst drivers etc...we'd hardly be living in 1900. Especially if we took all the money we saved and invested it in better transit and transportation. It is a classic false choice. [Even if we made the car illegal tomorrow, we would not be transported back to the days before there was a polio vaccine or smart phones]

Her general idea, that the benefits of regulations should be balanced against their costs is pretty reasonable - and it's pretty much how we do it. 

When the cost is as personal, as glaring and obvious, as restricting every car to a snail’s pace,* we can see that not all safety trade-offs are worth it.

No, we don't see that - because never shows us. The irony here is that she's defending the then Housing Minister's decision because we need to "establish that it was actually a bad calculation." Which is fair. But she hasn't established that 40,000 deaths per year for x amount of greater activity is a good trade-off either. She hasn't even established that it's a trade-off. One could make an argument that it would actually lead to greater economic growth - after all when people like Francis Stanley, Eugene Shoemaker and John Nash die, that can't be good for industry or the economy - let alone the other 40,000 Americans who suddenly leave the workforce. 

*I have yet to see the snail that goes 25mph. 

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