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Alexandria's crackdown on stop-sign running cyclists

Late last month, Alexandria police were aggressively ticketing cyclists who ran stop signs in Old Town Alexandria. As one reader reported to me

This morning there was a motorcycle cop pulling over cyclists in Old Town on Royal St.  He was hiding behind the brick entrance to the tunnel near the intersection at Wilkes St. He was watching for cyclists who were running stop signs.

The Post picked up on the story, reporting that 24 cyclists were ticketed for running a stop sign and about 300 more were given warnings as a way to address concerns voiced at civic association meetings.

Alexandria Police spokeswoman Crystal Nosal said assorted complaints and comments at civic associations meetings have driven an increase in enforcement of traffic laws for cyclists.

It's worth asking if "complaints at civic association meetings" is a good metric for deciding where to focus enforcement, as opposed to something like fatalities or injuries or crashes, but moving on from that there are some other odd things.

According to the Post article "cyclists were stopped for everything from running stop signs to riding at excessive speeds and weaving through cars in an unsafe manner."  Other than the stop sign tickets, the others sound very subjective to me - not speeding but "excessive speeds" and riding "in an unsafe manner." Hopefully those are just warnings, because I don't trust someone who doesn't ride regularly to know what manner is safe or unsafe. How much training do Alexandria Police get in identifying unsafe cycling. I'm glad to see that we have finished enforcing all of the objective traffic violations like speeding and I look forward to drivers being ticketed for driving in "an unsafe manner." 

Furthermore, this was a lot of enforcement for what is arguably not even the most dangerous of bad cycling behavior (like riding at night without lights, BUI and wrong-way cycling, to name a few). 

Margry said he noticed two unmarked police cars and three officers patrolling in the area where he was ticketed. Around the time he was ticketed, at the end of his four-and-a-half mile commute, three others were stopped for the same infraction.

Personally, I support the Idaho Stop and so don't even think that garden-variety stop sign running - especially when no traffic is present as was the case with Margry - should be illegal. 

The fine was reportedly $91. I suspect that is the same amount as is paid by drivers (and what an odd number), but in the District the maximum fine for any bicycling violation is $25, which seems a lot more reasonable. And Margry agreed. 

The longtime cyclist said it is impractical to assess the same penalties on cyclists as those given to motor vehicle operators. 

To the Post's credit, and perhaps because of recent events in San Francisco, this led to a mention of the Idaho Stop.

Byclists in San Francisco staged a protest in July after residents called for bikers to be treated like drivers in the eyes of the law. Protesters, aiming to show the city how congested it would become if cyclists acted just as drivers do, “snarled traffic almost immediately,” according to a story in SF Weekly. Cyclists say treating stops merely as yields — as the “Idaho Stop law” proscribes — allows them to conserve energy and become immediately visible to drivers, making them safer.

Perhaps a similar protest through Old Town is in order. Maybe it will lead to a similar policy change. At the very least, the fine might be able to be lowered. 

From the Archives: The Met Branch Trail is a Millennium Legacy Trail

Back in 2000, the White House Millennium Council - which was an actual thing - tried to mark the historic passage of time by designating things as Millennium Projects or Communities or in the case of the Metropolitan Branch Trail, as Millennium Legacy Trails. Hillary Clinton played a large role in the council, which would explain why she attended the trail's groundbreaking. I had completely forgotten about this program, which some people would see as a tragedy.

"The wealthiest, most powerful nation on Earth will leave little permanent behind to mark the moment," author James Reston Jr. fumed in an Outlook article in The Washington Post in October.

To some critics, the country's investment has bought nothing truly significant, nothing to match a project like England's Millennium Dome, for example. That immense structure, built for $1.2 billion on the banks of the Thames River in Greenwich, will showcase educational exhibits.

Yeah. That's OK with me. Especially when considering what a flop the UK's Millennium Dome was. As for the MBT

"It's speeding up the process," D.C. Parks and Recreation planning officer Ted Pochter said of the Millennium Legacy honorific bestowed on the seven-mile Metropolitan Branch Trail, which ultimately will connect Union Station with Silver Spring. The White House recognition included no direct funds but has helped prod negotiations on trail sections. There is no target date for completion, but "the expectations are high to build this," Pochter said.

Yes. It really sped up the process. Supposedly the MBT got a "special Millennium Trails marker with the national logo" on it, but I have never seen this. 

There's more here

Here's where a protected bikeway could go on the east side of downtown

People who want to ride a bike north-south along the east side of DC's central business district and in Shaw could soon have a new protected bikeway to do it. A new study recommends four options, including 6th Street NW, 5th and 6th, or 9th.

The 15th Street protected bikeway. Photo by Elvert Barnes on Flickr.

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) has been studying options for a bikeway to connect areas between Florida and Constitution Avenues. This bikeway would connect central DC neighborhoods, downtown, and the existing major east-west bikeways like the one on Pennsylvania Avenue.

This area has high levels of bicycling and many popular destinations but a distinct lack of quality bike facilities. Currently, 7th Street has the most bicycle traffic, but usage is pretty evenly spread out. 5th stands out because a large number of people ride south on 5th despite the road being one-way north.

DDOT planners studied an assortment of designs, considering every street between 4th and 9th. They first eliminated 4th and 8th because they were discontinuous streets. After a round of data gathering, where they looked at parking, parking utilization, auto and bicycle traffic, transit, potential pedestrian conflicts, cost, loading zones, events, and institutions along the route, they eliminated 7th Street because of heavy transit and pedestrian usage; they didn't want the bikeway to become an auxiliary sidewalk.

Data on transit ridership (left), pedestrian volume (center), and Capital Bikeshare usage (right) in the study area. Images from DDOT.

During this whole process, they have also been involved in a public outreach effort, meeting with institutions, businesses, churches, council staff, and other stakeholders. With data screening complete, there are four alternatives which they have made public and plan to discuss at an upcoming public meeting. After that, they will narrow the alternatives to three, which will get more intensive study and planning before choosing a preferred alternative sometime this winter.

Here are the alternatives:

5th and 6th couplet: Alternative 1 would place a one-way northbound protected bikeway on the east side of 5th Street up to New York Avenue and a painted bike lane north of that. A one-way southbound bikeway would go on the west side of 6th.

This would remove a travel lane on 6th north of New York and a parking lane south of there. On 6th south of New York Avenue, the bikeway would be adjacent to a rush hour travel/off-peak parking lane converted from what is now a southbound travel lane. While DDOT considered using angled parking on 6th, that didn't make it into the final design.

One-way on on each side of 6th Alternative 2, would replace a travel lane in each direction on 6th Street with a one-way protected bikeway on each side. South of New York Avenue the bikeways would be adjacent to a rush hour travel/off-peak parking lane.


Bi-directional on 6th: Alternative 3 would remove a northbound travel lane north of New York Avenue and a parking lane south of New York and would convert a northbound travel lane to a rush hour travel/off-peak parking lane to make room for a bi-directional protected bikeway on the east side of 6th. This is similar to what exists on 15th Street (though the one on 15th is on the west side).


Bi-directional on 9th: Alternative 4 is like Alternative 3, but on 9th Street. A northbound travel lane north of Massachusetts Avenue and a parking lane south of Massachusetts Avenue would disappear, while a northbound travel lane would become an rush hour travel/off-peak parking lane. This would make room for a bi-directional protected bikeway on the east side of 9th. The southbound bike-bus lane would remain.

Bike planners are looking at numerous factors in deciding which to eliminate next. All the alternatives have similar expected travel times for cyclists, so that will not be a factor. But they will be considering turns across bike facilities, pedestrian intensity next to the bikeway, the amount of protection along the facility, and other safety factors.

As one example, the Verizon Center often shuts down a lane on the west side of 6th Street for loading for shows. That could be an obstacle for Alternative 2. There may be similar challenges in other spots for the other alternatives.

The planners will look at which designs affect buses the least, and how to deal with the unique parking needs of churches to accommodate their loading and unloading requirements, large event needs, funeral needs, etc.

Alternative 1 provides the least protection. DDOT has decided not to remove on-street parking in residential areas, which limits 5th street to painted bike lanes north of New York. Another consideration for 5th Street is that it has fewer stop lights, but more stop signs and some speed bumps.

In Alternative 4, 9th is one-way south of Massachusetts, so northbound cyclists would be going the opposite direction from car traffic, meaning it would suffer from the same light timing issues as 15th Street does. Timed lights on 15th mean people riding north hit more red lights than on a typical street.

DDOT has a website with all the designs which is accepting comments. The team is planning a public meeting soon, but haven't settled on details. If a final design is chosen this winter, work could begin before the end of 2016.

Which design do do you think is best?

Westbard Sector Plan promotes protected bike lanes, better connections to the CCT and more green space along the trail

Montgomery County recently held a hearing on the Planning Department's Westbard Sector Plan update.

The new Westbard Sector Plan re-assesses and updates the goals and achievements of the 1982 Plan to provide guidance for the next 20 years. It addresses new challenges in the Westbard area, including changes in traffic, housing demand and office and retail trends.
Westbard straddles the Capital Crescent trail between River Road and Massachusetts Avenue, and so using the trail plays a large part in shaping the transportation plan.
A tremendous asset in the community is the Capital Crescent Trail (CCT) on the old B&O Railroad right-ofway. This pedestrian and bicycle trail is a major regional connection that also provides limited local service in the Westbard area. Increasing local connectivity to and from the CCT will allow it to be more integrated into the community.
The plan would replace many surface parking lots with buildings, tree-lined streets, parks and new bicycle paths. At the hearing several people complained about the plans lack of support for driving.
“No matter how many bicyclists you provide for, we will still be driving,” said Patricia Johnson, a resident of the nearby Kenwood neighborhood.
“Senior citizens are counting on that full-service gas station,” said nearby resident Robert Dyer. “The message to them is ‘Drop dead.’”
But for cyclists the plan has many elements worthy of support. The plan recommends creating a more bike and pedestrian oriented area by "Adding a network of green open spaces connected by trails and bikeways that provides places for outdoor recreation, gathering and relaxation" and building a complete streets network. 
To achieve that goal they recommend many new bike facilities.
  • An 11-foot-wide, two-way separated bike lane (cycle track) on the north side of River Road with a buffer. The separated bike lanes and sidewalk will transition to a shared-use path outside of the Sector Plan boundary. The separated bike lanes and sidewalk will also connect to the proposed trail that runs between the Capital Crescent Trail and River Road.
  • 5-foot-wide, one-way separated bike lanes (cycle track) on each side of an extended Westbard Avenue (LB-1 on the map below) with a buffer from traffic. The one-way cycle tracks on Westbard Avenue would transition to an off -road shared use path on both sides of the road south of Westbard Circle to Massachusetts Avenue.
  • Bikeways on a new "Connector Road" (LB-2 on the map below) between Massachusetts Ave and River Road. The roadway is envisioned to be a low speed road that would allow for bicyclists to safely share the travel lane with vehicles. This road would also lead to a proposed new connection to the Capital Crescent Trail.
  • Space reserved for bicycle facilities, such as a bike share station and long-term bicycle parking, within any Transit hub included in the redevelopment area on Westbard Avenue. 
  • Creation of a connector from the new "Connector Road" to the Capital Crescent Trail with a bicycle ramp. A connection from the new connector road to the CCT would allow pedestrians and bicyclists to gain access to the CCT instead of using ramps on River Road or a staircase on Massachusetts Avenue.
  • All bikeway improvements be completed to the nearest intersection with appropriate transitions across major roadways.
  • Added short term and long-term bicycle parking amenities that are safe, secure and convenient. Racks would be protected from the elements and be highly visible.
  • Bike share stations expanded in and around the Westbard Plan area.
  • An enhanced at-grade crossing of River Road at the CCT to facilitate an easier and faster crossing of River Road for pedestrians and bicyclists. The enhancement could be tied into a possible signal that could be located at the Landy Lane/River Road intersection
  • A new hard surface trail from the Capital Crescent Trail to the Whole Foods site and a new entrance to the Capital Crescent Trail between Whole Foods and Washington Episcopal School and a community open space at the intersection of the proposed hard surface trail and River Road
  • When Washington Episcopal School redevelops, renovate the associated portion of Willett Branch to restore the flood plain and provide a trail connection to the Little Falls Stream Valley and Capital Crescent Trail.

In addition, the plan recommends making the CCT more of a park, with more adjacent parkland. It calls for the creation of a Countywide Urban Recreational Park adjacent to the Capital Crescent Trail at Willet Branch that could include a skate park, a pump track and a dog park; the completion of plantings to complete Westbard’s Greenway network along the Capital Crescent Trail and Little Falls Parkway; the creation of an environmentally sensitive Willett Branch crossings at the Capital Crescent Trail that would consist of a wider span for a naturalized channel and a pedestrian trail along the stream; and that the county reclaim and replant encroachments on the Capital Crescent Special Park to create a more naturalized condition.

Connector Road along the CCT

River Road with Protected bikeway

Westbard Avenue with raised, protected bike lanes on each side


Maryland announces new bike projects, Central Avenue Connector Trail, Bikeshare to Wheaton and Takoma Park

Governor Hogan of Maryland announced $14.9 million worth of bicycle and pedestrian grants for state projects yesterday, including Capital Bikeshare expansion into the DC suburbs, as well as projects in Capital Heights, College Park and Mount Rainier.

image from

Three types of grants were announced. Transportation Alternatives grants which can go to a wide category of transportation, historic preservation or environmental projects. Recreational Trails projects, which are usually smaller projects like building bathrooms or adding trail counters. And there are the Bikeways programs which are large, bike-specific projects.

Of note in the DC area:

  • Central Avenue Connector Trail design ($362,000) (see above map)
  • 10‐station bikeshare construction in Wheaton Central Business District and Wheaton Metro Station ($300,350)
  • Construction of two 15‐dock bike share stations on New Hampshire Avenue in Takoma Park and in the Takoma Langley Crossroads area ($100,000)
  • Removal of 10 sections of concrete wall and construction of 100 feet of bike/pedestrian trail in College Park ($95,000) (???)
  • Installation of bicycle improvements including signage, pavement markings, and bicycle racks along various roads in Mount Rainier ($80,000)
  • Patuxent River State Park Trail Project: Phase 1 Completion ($40,000)
  • Montgomery Parks/SCA Trails Project ($40,000)
  • Hollywood Road Sidewalk Feasibility Study in College Park ($36,000) [I'm going to guess "is feasible" will be the result]
  • Laurel Place bikeway signage and pavement markings and implementation of an on‐street bike lane or shared roadway in Laurel ($9,600)

The Central Avenue Connector Trail is a big, important project and it's good to see it get heavily funded. Capital Bikeshare expansion into more of Montgomery County will be very welcome I'm sure. The other projects, though smaller, are likely to pay off as well.

Farther out, some notable projects are:

  • Rehabilitation of the Conococheague Creek Aqueduct for engineering, safety, and accessibility improvements ($6,962,904) [This was the top funded project statewide]
  • Cross County Connector Trail – Grasonville ($3,431,084) [This was the second highest funded project]
  • Desig and construction of a portion of the Upper Chesapeake Rail Trail ($398,966)
  • Indian Head Trailhead Restroom ($360,000) [Those are going to be some nice restrooms at that price]
  • 0.75 miles of two‐way pop‐up cycle track on West Pratt Street in Baltimore ($300,000) and another 0.3 miles on East Pratt Street ($10,850)
  • Bicycle safe storm drains in Baltimore County ($152,900)
  • At grade crossing of Bloomsbury Avenue for the Short Line Trail design in Baltimore ($50,000)

Here's more on the XCCT in Grasonville.

The Cross Island Trail currently extends six miles from the Chesapeake Bay at Terrapin Park in Stevensville across Kent Island High School to Old Love Point Park and along Route 50 east to Kent Narrows north, including a spur to the Chesapeake Exploration Center and Ferry Point Park. The connector trail would link Long Point Park to Kent Narrows north.

DC's State Rail Plan and bicycling

On Monday night, DDOT hosted an open house to start the development of a District of Columbia State Rail Plan (SRP). While, as the name states, primarily a rail plan, there is some overlap with cycling in some of the likely projects. 

One issue is how a passenger rail transportation system ties into the bicycle network. Something noted in the presentation material under "Plan Elements."

Assesses passenger rail connections with other transportation modes (transit, automobile, bicycle, pedestrian)

Union Station is pretty well connected, with the Metropolitan Branch Trail ended at the Bike Station there. And it will get better if it is built as rendered in the Union Station Master Plan.

image from

The L'Enfant Plaza VRE station isn't quite as connected. I've always thought it would be cool to use the ROW from the west end of that platform west to 14th (under the Maryland Avenue Circle through the unused portion of tunnel for a bike trail. That's pretty unlikely to happen and it looks like CSX has been doing work on that part of the ROW and so it may not be unused for much longer. [As long as we're dreaming though, it could end with a ramp that uses this old abutment to allow you to jump the sidewalk Evil Knievel style.] But the Rail Plan presentation mentions that VRE will start a study of L'Enfant Station Improvements soon. 

In addition to station access, there is also complimentary facilities work like the Virginia Avenue Streetscape project and its possible extension.  The nascent New York Avenue rail trail would use an old rail tunnel and then run parallel to the Northeast Corridor/Camden line. A new Long Bridge will likely include a bike/ped path as well. And creating a principle that all future rail projects - like replacing the two bridges across the Anacostia - should include a bike element when possible could help to expand the bike network. Rail with trail should be the default.

There will reportedly be more open houses and a survey in September of 2015 (I know...I know). 

The Purple Line Trail through the University of Maryland campus

This rendering comes from a Post article on Purple Line ridership. I'd never seen the rail with trail rendering on this section before.

image from

To the relief of its fans, the Indian Head Rail Trail is now reopened. May get a friend.

Since opening, the Indian Head Rail Trail has spent quite a lot of the time partially closed, but as of this month the work that closed it has been completed and the trail is fully open again

Just when Charles County got the trail established in 2014 on an old railroad line that ran to Indian Head’s Navy Powder Factory from 1918 until the 1960s, portions of the trail were shut down earlier this year while water lines were inserted for the Mattawoman Treatment Plant.

As part of the work, the trail is being improved as well. There are interpretive signs and amenities being placed along the trail.

“One thing we found out was how much people appreciate the trail when it was closed,” said Charles County Commissioner Vice President Ken Robinson. “Citizens were very anxious to have it reopened. We understand how much of an asset it is.”

The trail was almost entirely paid for with the revenue from recycling the old rails (which always makes me think of the movie "Rocket Boys.")

Donations from private sources and a grant from the Southern Maryland Heritage Area Consortium helped pay for signage and amenities.

The paved Indian Head Rail Trail traverses roughly halfway across Charles County, connecting Indian Head to White Plains.

There are lots of plans for future trails in Charles County as well.

“We have very extensive plans to establish over 100 miles of trails throughout Charles County,” Robinson noted. “It’s something that’s not going to happen overnight.”

Included in those plans for the near future is construction of a 3-and-a-half-mile trail from Route 301 to Pope’s Creek on the Potomac River.

Robinson added that long-range plans call for construction of a hiking trail along the right of way for the “ill-fated and ill-conceived” Cross County Connector from Middletown Road to Indian Head Highway.

“If all goes well, we hope to connect that to the Indian Head Rail Trail,” he said. “Connectivity is going to be critical as we move forward.”

I'm not sure the CCC is completely dead yet, but putting a trail there instead of a highway would be pretty great. 

The cross-county connector may have been a controversial road proposal, but Charles County Commissioner Ken Robinson (D) has proposed keeping the hiking and biking trails associated with the now-defunct project.

This evening, county staff presented to the Charles County Planning Commission a proposal for a cross-county trail that will link with an ambitious and extensive network of trails planned throughout the county,” he wrote in the post.

The XCCT would run parallel to and north of the Indian Head Rail Trail.

image from

Mayor Bowser's Vision Zero Act of 2015

Following on the heels of Cheh's Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Act, Mayor Bowser has transmitted the Vision Zero Act of 2015 to the Council for their consideration. 

This bill does several things geared towards making DC's roads safer.

  1. Like Cheh's bill, it would codify a Complete Streets policy as law
  2. It would ban the use of dirt bikes and ATVs on DC streets (I thought this was already the law)
  3. It establishes an Ignition Interlock Device Program that repeat offenders or 1-time offenders with particularly high BAC will be required to install.
  4. It changes the fines and jail sentences of drunk drivers
  5. It Increases the fine for distracted driving from $100 to $500 and adds 2 points 

So, not as sweeping as Cheh's bill and the distracted driving part isn't as good as the Mendelsohn's Enhanced Penalties for Distracted Driving Act of 2015, but it represents a growing consensus that safety legislation is needed - specifically with respect to Complete Streets and distracted driving. 

From the Archives: Let's Build the Metropolitan Branch Trail

Here's a 1993 Letter to the Editor by early MBT activist Patrick H. Hare calling for the District to build the Metropolitan Branch Trail.

The proposed Metropolitan Branch Trail would use the former sidings to connect Silver Spring and northern Prince George's County to the Mall. It has been endorsed by many institutions and communities, including the D.C. government, the National Park Service and the Council of Governments. But the word "trail" is too limiting. The former sidings are an opportunity for a trail-and-transit avenue, a new kind of urban greenway that could symbolize reduced reliance on cars and the physical influence of the environmental movement on the nation's capital.

Here's a 2006 article by Hare about his a bike ride in DC during a trip back after he moved to CT. 

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