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Cyclists more often get the blame if they die in a crash

Over 100 Washington area cyclists have died in motor vehicle crashes since 1987. Previously, I mapped out their locations. What about the outcomes? Police fault cyclists and drivers equally, except in Prince George's County, where they overwhelmingly blame cyclists.

Cyclists are found at fault more than drivers I collected data on fatal crashes involving both a cyclist and a driver in the region since 1987. The data came from media reports and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). I was able to determine who was found at fault in 83% of the crashes. Cyclists got the blame 58.9% of the time. This could be because cyclists are just more reckless than drivers, but it could also be that there is a failure in the reporting itself. There's a big discrepancy between the two sources. Of all of the cases in which fault was assigned, 34.4% relied only on data from a FARS report. In these cases, cyclists got the blame 74.1% of the time. In contrast, where the details of the crash came from a media report or from both a media report and a FARS report, cyclists only got the blame in 30 out of 59 crashes, or 50.8% of the time.

Prince George's finds cyclists at fault far more often Prince George's County has has the most bike fatalities of any jurisdiction in the area. It's also the place cyclists are most often found at fault. Cyclists got the blame in 76.7% of Prince George's fatal crashes, compared to 52.9% in Northern Virginia, 50% in Montgomery County, and 48% in DC. In fact, outside Prince George's County, drivers and cyclists in the region share fault 50-50.

Could police bias explain these discrepancies? Responding police officers are responsible for filling out FARS reports, so police bias might be a factor. For example, in several cases the only contributing factor was "Walking/Riding With Or Against Traffic, Playing, Working, Sitting, Lying, Standing, Etc. In Roadway." This could mean a lot of things, including something as simple as the cyclist riding in the road. The inherently one-sided interview can also play a role. Often the only living witness, the driver, has a strong incentive to blame the cyclist, and perhaps the police do not do enough to challenge these claims. On the other side of things, it's possible that the media only reported on crashes where the driver was to blame. My data set has far more news stories on the investigation, subsequent trial, and verdict when the driver was criminally at fault. Perhaps stories where the driver is at fault, such as the recent fatal crash near Baltimore, are more appealing to the media. In addition to asking why the county is so deadly for cyclists, Prince George's County needs to ask the question of why cyclists who die there are so much more likely to be blamed. Are Prince George's cyclists worse? Do the roads there invite risky cycling? Is there a difference in the way police and journalists investigate and report crashes in Prince George's? If it's bias, someone needs to address it for the sake of both justice and safety. If it's cyclists riding dangerously, then the county needs more education and enforcement. If it's road design, the county needs to change the roads. Being such a negative outlier should be cause for alarm.

Crossposted at GreaterGreaterWashington


Is this the worst bike lane in Maryland?

Jeff writes "This is Greenbelt Road heading westbound toward Route 201 Kenilworth Ave. The lane starts from nothing after the underpass and ends at the exit ramps for Route 201. Possibly the most dangerous and least helpful bike lane I've ever seen."

Stupidest bike lane in Maryland Greenbelt Road

It's like the (balding) comedian Gallagher said about gray hairs, "I don't want to look old, but it IS a hair."

ANC 5C approves Gateway extension of ART

Robert Looper III an ANC 5C commission has proposed a connection from the Fort Lincoln/Gateway area to the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail via the New York Avenue/Route 50 Bridge. Not so long ago I would've thought the idea crazy, but the MoveDC (page B13) plan does show a trail connection across this bridge

This resolution passed unanimously by the ANC 5C Commission and was enthusiastically received by the Developer of Fort Lincoln.  We need your help to make this a reality by contacting DDOT and letting them know that it’s time to #maketheconnection!


I think it's a great idea (and I've promoted a similar one before).

REI officially opening in NE, near the Metropolitan Branch Trail

Not so long ago, there were no bike shops in NE. Now there are several. REI joins that crowd late next year. 

REI, the specialty outdoors retailer, on Wednesday announced plans to open a sprawling store inside Uline Arena in the District’s NoMa neighborhood. The 51,000-square-foot location is scheduled to open in late 2016. It will be the company’s fifth flagship store and its first in the District.

Executives from REI, which stands for Recreational Equipment, Inc., began scouting locations in the District about 18 months ago. The number of bike lanes in the area, coupled with outdoor parks and a population eager to go hiking, cycling and paddling made it a particularly good fit for the company, Ligtenberg said.

Maybe they'll extend the M Street NE protected bikeway to there.

New on-street bike parking in front of the Bike Rack

The Bike Rack bicycle shop on Q Street NW received permission to remove a parking space to add on-street bike parking. It's a thing of beauty.


NPS to hold meeting on Georgetown Boathouse Plan/Capital Crescent Trail improvement

The National Park Service (NPS) is developing an implementation plan for nonmotorized boating facilities and related park improvements in the area of the Capital Crescent Trail Georgetown trail head. From the announcement (emphasis mine)

The proposed project area extends from 34th Street, NW within Georgetown Waterfront Park to approximately a quarter-mile upriver from Key Bridge. The project area encompasses both public and private land including portions of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park, Rock Creek Park, and several privately-owned parcels (the Potomac Boat Club, several private residences, and a small parcel accessible from the shoreline only).

The purpose of this project is establish a Potomac River recreation zone that more fully supports non-motorized recreation, increases the public’s access to the river, improves functionality of the Capital Crescent Trail (CCT) as it connects to the Georgetown Waterfront Park, and respects the historic character, natural resources, and existing recreational use of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park and Rock Creek Park.  Non-motorized boating facilities are needed in Georgetown due to limited public access points for non-motorized boating and paddle sports along the Georgetown waterfront.  Increased popularity for non-motorized water sports (canoeing, kayaking, rowing, paddle boarding, etc.), and insufficient capacity at current boathouse facilities that provide access to the river and related amenities (boat storage, concessions, access facilities, boat rentals, beach, and docks.  The current configuration of the CCT and its connection to Georgetown does not provide safe and compatible access for pedestrians and bicyclists with motorized vehicles to and through the “zone.”

At this time, the NPS is announcing a public scoping meeting and a 30-day public scoping period to solicit public comments on preliminary alternatives for this proposal (see attached newsletter). The meeting will consist of an open house with a short presentation. NPS staff will be on hand to visit with you and answer questions.

The public scoping meeting will be held on Wednesday, February 4, 2015 from 6:00pm to 8:00 pm at the Palisades Public Library at 4901 V Street Northwest, Washington, DC 20007.

The public is invited to identify any issues or concerns they might have with the proposed project so that the NPS can appropriately consider them in the preparation of the Environmental Assessment.  Comments may be provided either in person at the meeting or electronically at the National Park Service's Planning, Environment, and Public Comment website ( or submit written comments to:

Tammy Stidham
Chief, Planning, Compliance & GIS
National Capital Region
National Park Service
ATTN: Georgetown Nonmotorized Boathouse Zone Development Plan
1100 Ohio Drive SW
Washington, DC 20242

The preliminary alternatives newsletter identifies three alternatives of high, medium and low density. From the standpoint of a trail user they are all identical, but for the amount of development between the trail and the river. I've shown the high density alternative (#1) below.


I only see a couple of differences. One is that cars will not be able to go under the Aqueduct, where the bike path will pass under on the north side. The other is that that, after going past the Potomac Boat Club, the trail will be separated (protected bike lane?) from the cars and located on the south side of Water Street. It appears that this separation will continue past the study area.

Creating a protected bike lane on Water Street is kind of a no-brainer and is something that's been needed for a while, if just to reduce grief. 

PG County zoning rewrite recommendations include better bike parking, complete streets and better connectivity

If you haven't had your fill of zoning rewrites with DC's, you can now get involved in Prince George's County's rewrite. Via RPUS, they're holding listening sessions on it this week starting tonight in Riverdale.

This is mostly relevant to the issue of bike parking design and how much is required.  The Evaluation and Recommendation Report notes that

The only places in the current Zoning Ordinance that include bicycle parking standards are the UC zones established in Subtitle 27A. They include bicycle parking standards that are comparable to standards found in modern codes used in other urban and town-center contexts.

The standards are based on the number of vehicle parking spaces required on the site,84 and specify where the bicycle parking should be located, and limit wheel-based racks (where bicycles are affixed to a rack only by their wheel and not their frame) from counting toward the minimum number.

In addition, the current Subdivision Regulations include a requirement for adequate public pedestrian and bikeway facilities (Sec. 214-124.01, Subdivision Regulations) that includes provision of bicycle parking “at transit stops, commercial areas, employment centers, and other places where vehicle parking, visitors, and/or patrons are normally anticipated.”

And it recommends (I removed non-bike elements from the list) that

To modernize the parking and loading and bicycle parking standards to implement Plan 2035, we suggest the following changes be made to the current regulations.

First, establish different parking standards for the urban and other contexts in the County (versus the “one size fits all” set of standards in the current parking standards table). We suggest three different set of parking standards for the following areas:

  • Centers (The Regional Transit Districts (including the Downtowns), the Local Transit Centers, Neighborhood Centers, Town Centers, and Campus Centers);
  • Areas in the County “inside the beltway;” and
  • All other areas in the County.

Second, review and modify the current parking standards in these three areas to bring them into conformance with current best practices.

  • In the Regional Transit Districts (including the Downtowns) this will include:
    • Making more proactive use of Transportation Demand Management strategies during the development review process to further reduce parking requirements;

Seventh, add the following type of bicycle parking requirements:

  • In the Regional Transit Districts (including the Downtowns), establish requirements both for bicycle parking on-site (especially in parking structures or adjacent to building entrances, and to include covered and secured facilities for long-term bicycle parking intended for transit commuters or all-day employees of uses in the center) as well as in public right-of-way as part of a streetscape, with the latter to be located in places convenient to principal building entrances.
  • In the Local Transit Centers, Neighborhood Centers, Town Centers, and Campus Centers establish requirements for bicycle parking on-site as well as in public right-of-way as part of a streetscape.

Eighth, encourage and incentivize the use of bicycle parking in other locations by establishing basic requirements for retail establishments of a certain size, office zones that permit a certain amount of intensity, and for any office, retail, multi-family residential, community facility or hotel use located on streets designated as bicycle corridors in an official bicycle facility master plan adopted by Prince George’s County; these requirements should also specify acceptable types of bicycle storage.

Refine, expand, and consolidate the range of flexibility provisions that can be used to address parking standards, through administrative approval by the Planning Director. This should include:

  • Reductions in parking for Transportation Demand Management programs in zones where more development intensity will occur over time, with more specific guidance on estimated levels of reduction that an applicant may expect from implementing and agreeing to provide a particular TDM measure as part of a development; and 

In addition to bike parking, there's a whole section on Transportation, Pedestrian, Bikeway, Circulation Standards. For that section the report recommends

A new set of basic street design standards to apply in zones associated with Regional Transit Districts and Local Transit Centers. To complement the mixed-use, urban, and transit-supportive character of development in these areas, the standards emphasize local vehicular circulation, pedestrian activity, on-street parking, street and bicycle network and connectivity, and access management. The concept of complete streets will also be explored in these areas. The regulations will also provide developers significant flexibility to propose alternative mobility and connectivity plans that demonstrate equivalent compliance.

As well as other ideas that would make cycling better, like encouraging roundabout intersections and a grid network; limiting culs-de-sac and requiring pedestrian access to other local streets or pedestrian systems access when they're allowed; traffic calming; creating incentives for the provision of bicycle facilities.

If you want to see better biking in PG County, better zoning regulations are a key step towards that end. Meetings are being held the next three nights. 

January Countywide Listening Sessions

North County
Tuesday, January 27, 2015 [Update: rescheduled for Feb 10th]
Parks & Recreation  Administration Building
6600 Kenilworth Avenue, Riverdale, MD 20737
6:00 - 8.00p.m.
South County
Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Southern Technology & Recreation Complex
7007 Bock Road, Fort Washington, MD 20744
6:00 - 8.00p.m

Central County
Thursday, January 29, 2015
Wayne K. Curry Sports & Learning Complex
8001 Sheriff Road, Landover, MD 20785
6:00 - 8.00p.m.

Department of Commerce now offering bicycle commuter benefit

Someone forwarded me this announcement. 

Effective January 2015, DOC now reimburses government employees who bicycle to and from work, up to $20 per month for bicycle commuting expenses (not to exceed $240 per calendar year).  Commuting expenses under this program may include the purchase of a bicycle or lock, parking/storage, parts, rentals, repairs, and general maintenance.  Participants may not concurrently use the bicycle benefit with other DOC commuter benefits (e.g., mass transit, vanpool, or parking) during the same month, but may cancel one benefit and initiate another one on a monthly basis.  The DOC bicycle commuter benefit policy, frequently asked questions, application and reimbursement forms may be viewed at

I'm surprised that the whole federal government doesn't offer this already, but this is a good change. If Obama's looking to improve health and fight climate change using executive power, making sure every federal employee has access to this benefit is one (if perhaps tiny) way he can do that. 

Peak car happened to DC back in 1996.

The headline stat comes from a recent Wonkblog post

Washington state experienced "peak car travel" all the way back in 1992, and Nevada, Idaho, Kentucky, Oregon, Rhode Island and Virginia all did before the new millennium. By this measure, peak car happened in D.C. in 1996.

Jonathan Krall builds on the same idea - that the transportation future is chaging - is a recent arrticle on the future of driving in Alexandria. 

Census data for Alexandria shows this trend for daily commuting. The percentage of workers who “drive alone” fell from 65 to 58 from 2005-2013, the time period for which this yearly data is easily available, while “public transit” held steady at about 21%. Everything else, walking, bicycling, car pools, telework, etc., is increasing. Nationally, “peak car” occurred in 2005. 

The auto-oriented population is aging and shrinking. The peak demographic for new car sales, 35-44 in 2009, jumped to 55-64 in 2013. Services such as Uber and Capital Bikeshare support a culture that places less value on the freedom of driving.

Arlington Neighborhood Street Improvements Online Survey

A new “Neighborhood Complete Streets” program is being developed to provide improvements on neighborhood streets in Arlington County.

Take the online survey to help County staff and commission members finalize:

 Program goals

 Determine whether we are considering the right criteria

 Identify the elements that should be considered a “problem” on a street

For more information, visit and search “Neighborhood Complete Streets.”

Deadline is Feb 28.

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