MARC trains now have bike racks (that you can't use for 10 months)

At the beginning of the year, MARC announced that they would spend the year adding bike racks to their trains. 

the Maryland Transit Administration will spend $196,000 over the next year to add bicycle racks to its 22 daily commuter trains. The goal is to have at least one car equipped with bike racks on each train by spring 2018, officials said.

Because MARC currently only allows fold-up bicycles, which are generally more expensive, on weekday commuter trains, few of its estimated 39,000 daily riders bring bikes with them, said MTA Administrator Paul Comfort.

MARC began allowing bikes on its weekend Penn Line trains in 2014 by replacing seats on one side of a car with a long rows of racks, but those cars aren't practical for weekday use because the racks take up too much valuable seat space.

Instead, MTA will outfit 15 train cars with a more out-of-the-way solution: a pair of vertical bike racks plus storage space at the end of a car, replacing three seats in the corner.

Well, someone (Matt C) finally spotted one of these new racks post-installaion and sent me a photo

BikeRackMARC

But it looks like, according to the sign, you won't be able to use them until Summer 2018.

The cars will be marked on the outside, so bicycle-toting riders can find them. Each car can accommodate two bicycles. Conductors will monitor the number of bicycles on the racks, and as demand increases, officials will add bike rack cars on each train, MARC director Erich Kolig said.

"We're going to start small: one per train," he said. "We'll see how it goes from there."

The MTA doesn't track how many passengers ride their bikes to MARC stations and lock them up before boarding the train.

Of course not. Why would you?

The current weekend cars, with their full rows of bike racks, average about five bikes at any given time

It's going to be hard to bring a full-sized bike and rely on being able to bring it with only 2 spaces per train. We'll see how they handle that. 

In other MARC/bike news, they replaced a bunch of bike parking at stations this summer

MARC Train is replacing bicycle racks at several stations.  Please take note of the stations and dates below.  On the dates indicated, the old bike racks will be removed and new racks installed, therefore there will be no bike racks available on the dates indicated.  Any bikes that are attached to the old racks will be removed.

  • Odenton: August 21 - 23
  • Laurel: August 24
  • Frederick: August 28
  • Germantown: August 29 - 30
  • Brunswick: August 31

Not sure if this was a one-for-one replacement or if now they have more, or if the parking is better. But it is newer. [Also, sorry if you lost your bike]. While we're at it, check out the covered bike parking in Baltimore as seen in this Baltimore Sun video. Just a little bit of tin, but it goes a long way.

Here's MTA's bike policy for you policy nerds. 

Help Name the Capital Trails Network

image from capitaltrailscoalition.org
Hello,

Do you have two minutes?

As you might already know, the Capital Trails Coalition is a collaboration of public and private organizations, agencies, and citizen volunteers working to create a world-class network of multi-use trails that are equitably distributed throughout the Washington D.C. metropolitan region. The regional trails network will transform public life by providing healthy, low-stress access to open space and reliable transportation for people of all ages and abilities.

The Coalition would like your feedback as we develop a unified identity for the existing and planned trail network in the Washington, DC region. We've got a few ideas that we'd like to hear your thoughts on, and you'll have a chance to share your own at the end of this very quick survey.

Take the survey

Thank you so much for your time. We'll keep you posted as we move along in the process.

Sincerely,

Katie Harris

Trails Coalition Coordinator

 

WC: But not Traily McTrailface as that is already the name of the trail network for the Vatican. 

Phase II of the Washington Boulevard Trail contract approved, work could begin this year

Last month, the Arlington County Board voted to approve the contract fort Phase II of the Washington Boulevard trail. The new trail section will connect Columbia Pike to S. Walter Reed where it will connect with Phase I.  Phase I connects Water Reed to Arlington Blvd.  The trail will primarily be located within the highway right-of-way but will also pass through the property of the U.S. Navy Supply Facility and Arlington County’s Towers Park.  Access to the public streets will be provided at Walter Reed Drive, 6th Street, 9th Street and South Rolfe Street.

image from washcycle.typepad.com

This trail was originally identified 23 years ago in the 1994 Bicycle Master plan and so it has taken quite a bit of time to get here. When Phase I was completed back in 2009, the idea was that the second phase work would start soon thereafter, but neighbors complained about all the trees that would be cut down (~180), despite the facts that many of these trees were invasive or dead, that more trees would be planted to replace them and Arlington will give you a free tree so, y'know, maybe people should just do that, but... bygones. There's now a design that everyone seems content with (though I'm not sure the new design is better as Jay Fisette claimed) 

The original design had a 10' wide trail, separated from the road by a 1.5' wide concrete barrier, 2' wide paved buffer and a 10' shoulder while removing 198 trees. Instead they're building a 10' wide trail separated from the road by a 2.5’ wide curb and gutter and a 5’ wide landscaped buffer which only removes 84 trees.

Trail users will now be 6' closer to the traffic lanes. 

The project also includes an extensive planting plan that includes 263 new trees.

Fort Myer Construction won the $2.8M contract which came in about $900,000 high because of increased construction costs everywhere. That gap will be covered with TCF-NVTA Local balances from the Complete Streets Program. Work could end by the end of the year, but since the contract was awarded at the end of their window (Summer) it might not start until early 2018.

 

New York Avenue Trail design gets some changes

NYAvenorth

DDOT hosted the 4th public meeting on the New York Avenue Trail last month and there are a few changes since the July meeting, including a change in the already-installed 4th Street cycletrack. 

One of the biggest changes is in the arrangement of the area north of NYAve. In July the bike facility was placed between the tree boxes and the sidewalk and now it is farther from the street, with the sidewalk between it and the tree boxes as is shown in the rendering above. This will result in a mixing space at 4th and New York, whereas before, the bike facility continued west.  The new design is on top and the old one on bottom. 

New NYA

New design
New NYA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Old design

This allows for a redesign of the intersection of 16th and NYAve that allows for the bike facility to stay behind the sidewalk instead of mixing as was done previously.

16th

At the intersection of 3rd and M, there was an unusual set of sharrows to let cyclists know how to navigate the intersection where the cycletrack moves from one side of the street to the other, but that has been removed. 

Sharrowbox

Along 4th Street from Morse to NYAve the plan was to add sharrows, but that's now listed as an interim design with a protected bike lane (PBL) as the ultimate design. The new design also removes a connection from 4th to the old rail spur to Morse

West Virginia Ave has been changed too. In the old design, it had a raised two-way cycle track on the north side between 16th and New York and now it has a pair of one-way cycle tracks on each side at street level (which was an identified alternative in the old design). That change also comes with a removal of the path across the south half-circle at Montana. 

NewCircle

New Circle
NewCircle

Old Circle

 The new design also identifies a "potential future bike facility" on the south side of NYAve from Montana to Blandesburg and bike lanes (instead of sharrows) on T Street east of Blandensburg Road. 

Finally, the new design adds some sidewalks to 24th south of S and potential interim bike facilities on Montana and S Street. 

Eastside

But these changes in most cases are small, and the trail will fundamentally perform the same way. It will connect to the MBT in three places - on street at M Street, via stairs on the south side of NYAvenue and via a ramp on the north side on NYAve.

 

It will proved 5365 linear feet of separated bicycle facilities and the bike facility on NYAve will get its own lighting. It will also realign some bus stops, remove a few trees and plant over 300 more and add storm water management elements to the area. 

DDOT is still moving its way through the process which will include future studies of the New York Avenue/Montana Avenue intersection (which I hope will recommend a name for that circle) and of a Bladensburg Road to South Dakota Multimodal
Connection.

They've identified 6 phases, but not when or which order in which to do them. A final report on 

Metropolitan Branch Trail Wayfinding Study (past)

This meeting happened several months ago, but I thought it was worth bringing up anyway. I suspect the study is still being performed. 

Improvements to MBT wayfinding was recommended by community members participating in the 2015 MBT Safety and Access Study.

In coordination with DDOT, the NoMa Business Improvement District engaged Alta Planning + Design to complete a wayfinding study of the MBT from Union Station to Michigan Avenue. Your input is needed to make sure we get a great product.

Other improvements recommended in the Study that have been implemented to date include:

- signage annoucing the MBT

- new safety mirrors and safety signage along the MBT

- meeting point at M Street ramp

- several new murals along the MBT

Stormwater project to relocate block of Northwest Branch Trail

Prince George's County is planning to build a storm water management pond in a place where a small section of the Northwest Branch Trail is. As part of the project they will relocate a very short section of the trail north of University Boulevard. This will likely be a benefit, because the trail in that area is too narrow and in terrible shape, but not much of it will be rebuilt.

Swmpondlocation

The purpose of the project is to treat runoff from up to 7.9 acres of impervious surface along University Boulevard. The county looked at 11 alternatives, including one that would conflict with the Purple Line, and settled on lucky number 8. 

Under Alternative 8, an off-line wet stormwater management pond would be constructed on the north side of University Boulevard, northwest of University Boulevard and Northwest Branch within M-NCPPC property at Adelphi Manor Park. The inflow for the pond would be created by diverting runoff into the pond from the existing storm drain system. Based on the existing conditions analysis, an off-line wet pond was designed in order to provide the most beneficial treatment for the area.

Interestingly, there's no discussion of the trail in the Environmental Assesment, not even in the traffic and transportation section. Even in that section when discussing the existing conditions it only lists the various roads in the area. For the traffic impacts, they note that

The construction of the BMPs would take place in close proximity to University Boulevard. Construction-related traffic and potential lane closures during construction would result in a minor, short-term adverse impact.

In fact the trail isn't mentioned in the text - only on a technical drawing. I've highlighted the existing trail in yellow below. The re-aligned trail would be the dark grey portion near middle. It would create a larger mixing area and a new connection to Judson Street. 

Swmpond1

UMD Cycling Safety Study

The Urban Computing Lab is currently working on an NSF-funded project focused on cycling safety. We have created a website to collect cycling safety ratings from cyclists like you and we are spreading the word asking people to participate. Participation is really easy, cyclists just need to go to the website, watch as many cycling videos as they can and provide a 1-5 rating with respect to cycling safety in the video.
 
This is the link to the website:
 
www.cyclingsafety.umd.edu
 
Washington's Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) talked about the project recently in their blog:
 
http://www.waba.org/blog/2017/07/help-with-this-research-how-safe-is-this-street/

10 things to hate about the I-66 trail

The I-66 trail, as currently proposed, is going to be better than nothing. People will use it for both recreation and transportation. It will be fine, a "gentleman's C" if you will. Nonetheless, the thing isn't going to win any awards or have people in other cities asking "why can't we have something like that." It looks like what it is, a trail that was added to - and around - a design for a road. One could imagine how different I-66 would look if they put the trail in first and built the road around it instead. Here, are ten things you might choose to hate about the I-66 Trail. 

The placement inside the sound wall. It wasn't originally supposed to be like this, but as I'm sure you know, VDOT is planning to build the trail between the sound wall and the highway. The problem is not so much that it's beside the highway - as many have noted, lots of trails are built next to highways - it's the placement inside the sound wall that's a problem. This means that the sound from the highway is actually amplified at the trail, and that road exhaust is trapped there too. It means little to no shade. It means that in a crime situation a jogger would have no place to escape to. And it means that neighbors can't build gates or walkways that connect themselves to the trail. Though the trail will be 10-20 feet away, some people might have to ride a mile or more to get to it. I think it is only marginally less safe, but it is terribly less pleasant and much less useful. 

image from 4.bp.blogspot.com

The argument is that the soundwall can't be flipped without taking more land, and I finally figured out what they're talking about . Here's the image of the trail inside the wall, followed by the image of outside the wall.

Inside
Inside

In the first, the wall+trail need 16.6 to 20.6 feet and in the second 20.6 to 23.6 feet. There are a few differences, but the main issue is that 4' concrete..whatever it is...between the barrier and the sound wall if the trail is put on the outside. This means that 3-4 extra feet are needed. I find it hard to believe that this can't be found with a combination of reasonable acquisitions, narrowing of the trail or narrowing of other items in the right of way.  But we may never know. Fairfax County Supervisor Linda Smyth recently stated in an email that

VDOT/EMP is not going to spend time or money on figuring out the amount of ROW needed to put the trail on the residential side of the sound wall. It would require surveying and preliminary engineering to come up with a reasonable estimate.

So when they say it will take more lane, just know that they don't actually know that for sure and they don't know how much or where. This is why they can't and don't answer those questions. 

They also claim that the outside the wall design prevents utility work, but I find this unconvincing as well unless the utilities are to be below that 4' concrete base. But they haven't done the work mentioned above, so I don't see how they can know that.  It's pretty clear from emails sent by Smyth that this is about people not wanting the trail next to their house and not about engineering.  

Long Detours - The trail suffers from the same problem that complementary trails to a multi-modal project suffer from: it's viewed as secondary. By that I meant the road was designed first and then the trail was added in afterward. How different it would look if they designed the trail they wanted and then built the road around it. Alas, this process leaves cyclists with long detours. At Fairfax County Parkway, for example, they have to travel north, south and west if they want to go east. (The trail is the lime green line). A cyclist travelling on the path through this section will travel about 2100' farther than a car on I-66 will.  And they have to make an at-grade crossing of Fairfax County Parkway.

FairfaxParkway

No direct W&OD Trail connection - despite the fact that the W&OD trail passes through the project area, the I-66 trail doesn't connect to it directly. Instead it peters out more than a mile away at the intersection of Gallows Road and Stenhouse Place (below), where a "potential shared use path" could someday connect the east end of the I-66 trail to the W&OD Trail. Until then, this is your connection

East trailhead

And while we're at it, it sure would have been nice if this had included a new W&OD Bridge to straighten out the trail along the old RR right of way (the red line below).

Straight W&OD

Connectivity opportunities missed - The trail has more missed connections that a Valentine's Day issue of the City Paper. It could easily connect to Lotus Lane in Centerville, Heron Dr, Crown Rd, Rosemallow Circle, Fair Oaks Mall, etc...but it doesn't. And the connection to Dunn Loring Metro involves going north a block, crossing Gallows at grade and then going south two blocks. 

Here it passes beneath Wapples Mill Road, which appears to have a bike facility that suddenly stops, without connecting to it.

Wapples mill

Or here, where the trail could be easily connected to Quail Creek Lane if a connection were built across the red line and up the right side of the image below.

Route 50

Gaps - There's a gap in the trail from Nutley to Blake, and another from Route 50 to West Ox. Those sections are to be built by VDOT/FXDOT as part of other projects but I'm not sure what will fill them. Trail? Bike lanes? Sharrows? They look to be on-road facilities that follow a longer path. That one of these gaps is in the area near the Vienna Metro is only more disheartening.

Crossing over -  At Route 50, the trail crosses from the north side to the south side and then dead ends. At the other end of this gap, it crosses back over to the north side. Why not stay on the north side?

Route 50

Close up of the transition to the south side

Route 50 detour

South side route

The break at Stringfellow - In order to avoid a stormwater management pond, the trail will hit Stringfellow Road at two different places. Trail users will need to cross at grade and then use this sidepath. Instead of going over Stringfellow like drivers will. 

Route 50

The trail ends at Centreville - I-66 expansion goes on to Haymarket.  Sure, there are plans to extend the trail as well, with work performed by VDOT, FXDOT, Fairfax County Park Authority and Northern Virginia Parks Authority, but I suspect this will mean a lag in completion. 

I-66 trail west

For most of the way, the trail is only on one side. Maybe hate is too strong for this, but a trail on both sides would serve many more destinations. 

The proposer is allowed to use reduced trail widths.

Route 50

The trail is still going to make it easier to bike through the area, and will likely serve many cyclists, runners and walkers, but it isn't anywhere near as good as it could be. 

Oh, Bell No!

I originally wrote this as a response to a recent Washington Post opinion piece, but it doesn't appear they're interested in publishing the other side - or correcting the record - so, I'll publish it here instead. 

-------------------------------------

Patrick Thibodeau's article on bicycle bells and tail lights criticized the role of the DC Bicycle Advisory Council (BAC) in the regulation of this equipment and called for the BAC to be held to account. As chairperson of the BAC, and the person to first suggest the change in the bell law, I feel the need to correct the record and explain our reasoning.

The bike bell requirement dates back to the 1884 District of Columbia Police Regulations. At the time the primary reason for the bell requirement was for night time biking. Cyclists were expected to ring the bell when they rode on the darkened streets of the District, and to do so for the same reason sleighs were required to have bells, because bicycles were so quiet that without them pedestrians walking in the road in the dark would not know they were coming. For this reason the bike bell regulation was added to the section dealing with sleigh bells.

DC has changed a lot since 1884. We now have citywide electric lighting and few, if any, sleighs. It made sense to review the wisdom of this particular regulation. The DC Bicycle Advisory Council (BAC) found that the bell regulation came with some downsides that we could not justify. The first is that while bells are not expensive, they're not free either. Adding a requirement for additional equipment increased the cost of cycling, creating an additional barrier. The other is the record of police abuse of the law as a way to stop and search "suspicious" individuals. A 2016 Justice department report on bicycle stops in Tampa showed that black cyclists were 2 to 3 times more likely to be stopped than they're white neighbors. And bike bell law abuse is so common that the American Bar Association made note of it in their brief submitted to the Supreme Court in the Fourth Amendment case Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders. (More here

Furthermore, we could not come up with a positive case for the regulation. Despite its long history there is no research showing that bike bell requirements improve safety. In fact, since the regulations require cyclists to have a bell, but not to use it, it would be surprising if there were. The BAC took the position that cyclists should pass at a speed and distance such that ringing a bell would not be needed, and that in cases of close calls it was safer and faster to simply call out. If the audible sound of a bike bell is so critical for safety that we need to reinstate the regulation, perhaps we also need to ban earphones so that everyone can hear them. 

The removal of the bell regulation was but one of several ideas presented to Council-member Cheh's staff, at their request (OK, mostly Will Handsfield) for ways to improve the laws relating to cycling. It was the only BAC idea to make it out of her office's review. It was then included in the Bicycle Safety Amendment Act of 2013 and as such went through the normal review process among the council. Despite Thibodeau's claim that the bell legislation "never received" a hearing, the bill in fact did have a hearing in March of 2013. I know because I was one of 14 people who testified at it. The record remained open for several weeks thereafter. Furthermore, two ANCs voiced their support for the bill, and none opposed it. No one testified against the removal of the bell mandate. The council then unanimously approved the law and the mayor signed it.  Prior to all of that it was discussed, and voted on, at a BAC legislative committee meeting and then again at a meeting of the full BAC. Thibodeau is entitled to his opinion, but he's absolutely wrong to suggest that the public had no chance to weigh in on this. 

Thibodeau never makes the case that bells make us safer. He does argue that New York requires them. It's true that New York requires bike bells, as does most of the country, but the District has never been afraid to point New York in the right direction. For example, the District legalized gay marriage almost two years before New York did. And we introduced bike sharing 5 years before New York City. The good thing about New York is, eventually they catch up. 

On the issue of tail lights, Thibodeau is ill-informed. The BAC long ago voted to support a mandatory tail light law. Though they have the same issues as bell laws (cost and enforcement abuse), we did find the safety argument for them compelling, especially since their use is normally mandated.

The BAC is serious about road safety and our members feel a deep responsibility to provide good advise leading to safe streets for all road users. If Mr. Thibodeau feels we have failed in that responsibility as he claims, or if he simply shares our passion to build a city where people don't die trying to get to work, I invite him to attend one of our bi-monthly meetings and join a committee. Anyone can join one of our committees - and become a voting member of it. Our meeting schedules and agendas are posted at our website at bikedcbike.org.

I'll note that I have bells on all my bikes. I find they are useful as the sound is more polite than calling out. I prefer to use the bell when I'm going to pass someone and I don't want to startle them. But, in a truly dangerous situation, I don't want to be fumbling with my bell when I need to be actively sailing. 

Delaware Governor signs limited Stop-as-Yield law

Yesterday, Delaware became the 2nd state to put in place an Idaho Stop law, though it's not as expansive as the Idaho version. Governor John Carney signed the "Bicycle Friendly Delaware Act" that, among other things, allows cyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs (the stop-as-yield half of the Idaho law) but only on two lane roads. The law also

prohibits drivers from honking their horns at cyclists, unless a collision is imminent, requires drivers to change lanes when passing cyclists and calls for the installation of bicycle-specific traffic lights. 

It also removes the "ride right" requirement. Gov. Carney also signed a separate law that 

enhances the penalties for drivers who cause serious physical injury to a cyclist and gives jurisdiction over these violations to Delaware Superior Court, which handles the more serious criminal cases in the state.

Both laws take effect immediately. 

So Delaware joins Idaho and parts of Colorado in allowing stop-as-yield (albeit limited to most roads), and it happened because they got buy in from the Delaware State Police (I'm pretty sure that the opposition of MPD is what killed the Idaho Stop law in DC).

To get the State Police buy-in, the Delaware Yield does not include traffic signals (red lights) and only applies on roads with two travel lanes. But that includes most city streets and most suburban/rural roads where yielding makes sense versus a complete stop with no exceptions.

Jeffrey Whitmarsh, a lieutenant in the Delaware State Police and a cyclist himself, said it’s best when traffic laws reflect how people actually behave on the road. That way, everybody knows where they stand.

“[The new law] adds safety for cyclists, and it adds realistic expectations for drivers,” he said.

“If you’re trying to move a safety bill forward and the police hate your bill, you might as well go home,” said James Wilson, executive director of Bike Delaware. “They don’t have to love it. They don’t have to work on its behalf, as long as they're not speaking out against it to their legislative friends.”

Interestingly, the push for the "change lanes to pass" portion came from the police. They found the 3 foot law to be too hard to enforce, which it probably is. 

Police officials also suggested the requirement that drivers change lanes while passing cyclists even when there is a double yellow line, on roads too narrow to share side by side. That rule arose from the fact that police often struggle to enforce the state’s existing passing law, which requires drivers to provide a three-foot buffer when maneuvering around cyclists.

“There are certain laws that are best left at the conceptual level, because they are exceptionally hard to enforce,” Whitmarsh said. “So it’s important to include law enforcement in those initial conversations. We have insight on what it’s like to actually enforce these laws.”

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