Kidical Mass Ride Sunday, July 30, 2017: Kidically summer 3.0

It's summer in Arlington and all you want to do is get wet and eat ice cream!
 
Kidical Mass is here to help. For the third year, we're going to ride from a sprayground to ice cream: we'll meet at Hayes Park -- come early and enjoy the sprayground. We'll roll out around 4:45pm and meander through the neighborhoods of Virginia Square, Ashton Heights and Lyon Park, ending at the Carvel Ice Cream in Virginia Square.

The route is pretty short, and as flat as they come in Arlington. All crossings of major streets are at stop lights. This route is great for beginners. The route back from Carvel to the park is short and well signed, and you'll definitely have company. 

All are welcome. Details here.

Bus Lane Project could make 16th Street more bikeable

DDOT is holding another meeting on the 16th Street NW Bus Lane Project tomorrow night and this may be a project cyclists want to follow. The design visuals of the 16th Street corridor were promised this past spring, but I haven't seen them yet. Perhaps they'll be presented tomorrow.

The design plans include bus lanes running from Arkansas Avenue NW to H Street NW (Which is Piney Branch to Lafayette Square) open to buses only for limited hours. It would be very useful to cyclists if they were bus/bike lanes and of course there is precedent for that on Georgia Ave.

In December 2016 the District Department of Transportation kicked off the first 6- month phase of design of the 16th Street Bus Lanes Project. During this phase of the project, DDOT will use the recommendations from the 16th Street NW Transit Priority Planning Study as a guide in developing preliminary 30% design plans. The design plans will include peak period bus lanes, ADA accessible bus stops, enhanced passenger bus stop passenger amenities (off-board fare payment kiosks, bus shelters, etc.), signage, and pedestrian improvements.

It can't hurt to show up at tomorrow night's meeting and ask about bicycle access. 

16bus

Wake me up before you Dormsjo

DDOT Director Leif Dormsjo is leaving for a job at the engineering firm Louis Berger.

In an interview Tuesday night, Dormsjo said he informed Bowser of his decision last week, and though she tried to talk him out of it, he said, “I’d made up my mind.”

“I just decided that I wanted to begin the next stage of my career,” Dormsjo said. “It’s never a perfect time to transition, but we’ve accomplished a lot at DDOT over the last few years.”

He was mostly brought in to focus on transit, but he's been involved in biking issues as well.

Dormsjo was also instrumental in creating the city’s Vision Zero plan, which aims to eliminate traffic fatalities by 2024. As part of the initiative, the city has began (sic) to adopt new strategies for enforcement, public education and street engineering, and also is expected to expand the city’s sidewalk and bicycle network.

During his tenure, Dormsjo pushed for higher traffic fines, including a failed attempt to introduce a $1,000 ticket for “super speeders.” Though the plan was widely criticized, Dormsjo defended it, saying the higher penalties were intended to deter dangerous behaviors responsible for many of the city’s traffic fatalities. Upping traffic fines, Dormsjo said, was key to leveling the playing field in a region where the District’s “fine regime is the weakest.”

My take on Dormsjo was that he was a low-key guy who tried to balance the transportation needs of the various constituencies in the city. I saw him defend higher fines on drivers, but also the need to for on-street parking. If I were to give him high praise for anything from a biking perspective, it would be that he promoted people who were for better biking and put them in positions of power. On the downside, it feels to me like we could be moving forward a lot faster (when I look at other cities and other times here).

Still, time marches on and DC will need a new Transportation Director. Ideas?

Oregon's Bicycle Tax is kinda stupid

As you probably know, Oregon passed a bicycle tax that will go into effect in the near future.

Oregon state legislature voted to slap a $15 surcharge on the purchase of bicycles that cost $200 or more. 

This is not good policy, in fact as Jonathan Maus of BikePortland puts it, it's not even really about policy.

He thinks the motive behind the bike tax is emotional, not financial.

“This is like a culture war kind of thing,” Maus said.

There are a lot of times that people get fired up about fairness for fairness' sake (and certainly I get caught up in it at time). But sometimes "fairness" makes for bad policy. If you were on a plane without enough fuel to make it to land and someone had to bail out, you might draw straws, but you wouldn't let the one lady who can actually land the plane draw a straw. Is that fair? No, but it's good policy.

Of course in this case, the fairness holds up - or would if we hadn't already baked in so much unfairness to the benefit of drivers. Right now drivers pay a gasoline tax, but that tax is insufficient to cover the cost of roads and it certainly doesn't cover the cost of pollution, parking, crash damage and other negative externalities. We're subsidizing all of those costs for drivers - that's how we're paying our share (and then some). 

If drivers were paying the full cost of all those things (which would require a gas tax around $1 a gallon) then it might be fair for cyclists to kick in some money for trails and bike lanes, but until then, it's not.

Unfortunately it appears that other states might follow suit. 

On Wednesday, Colorado state Sen. Ray Scott, a Republican who is the assistant majority leader in the Colorado General Assembly, was pledging to follow Oregon’s trail, coloradopolitics.com reported.

I guess Republicans finally found a tax they like. 

Anyway, I - like the rest of the biking community - am torn on this. 

Pedal pushers were still trying to decide whether Oregon’s tax measure signaled a potentially positive development or a setback in the continuing culture clash between bikers and cars.

Positive as in, while nobody likes to pay any kind of tax, the surcharge at least suggests that maybe bicycling has become entrenched in the culture as a smart, ecological and healthy alternative to the car, whether for work or play.

Negative as in, this is a legislative slap from lawmakers who represent all those drivers who honk like crazy at the sight of a bicycle in their lane. It’s just another zing from the car culture that defiled the planet and despoiled people’s health, and collective payback for every bicycle that’s rolled through a stoplight without stopping.

But I probably agree more with Maus and League of American Bicyclist director Bill Nesper that this is a bad idea. It's done for a bad reason (to placate angry drivers) which rarely leads to good results. It will make cycling slightly less appealing. Is it enough to reduce BMT? I don't know, but we should be making biking cheaper and easier to reduce congestion, improve health, improve the environment, etc...

“Cycling is something we want as many people as possible to do,” Maus said. “The idea of basically putting what amounts to a sin tax on that behavior is really ridiculous.”

Earl Blumenauer disagrees, BTW 

“I think this is a really great opportunity for the cycling community to take a step back and think about the bigger picture,” Blumenauer told the blog.

For more, the LAB has an excellent post on this. 

The Oregon bike tax is not good policy. It is a sign that transportation investments are likely to remain tied to revenue sources rather than community preferences. It is a sign that transportation-related taxes are not seen as tools of broader public policies, but primarily as revenue sources for transportation investments. It is a sign that policymakers care more about ensuring that people who drive feel assured of their return on some of the lowest gas taxes in the world than about confronting the public health and environmental issues caused by prioritizing automotive infrastructure.

Bipartisan group introduces the Bikeshare Transit Act of 2016

Congressman Earl Blumenauer (OR-03) and Congressman Vern Buchanan (FL-16), co-chairs of the Congressional Bike Caucus, reintroduced the Bikeshare Transit Act last month. This bipartisan legislation supports local bikeshare programs by helping communities access federal funds for bikeshare facilities and equipment.

I can't actually find the bill online, but an identical bill was introduced by the pair last year.

This bill makes a bikeshare project eligible to be an associated transit improvement project, including one carried out to facilitate a bicycle rental operation that makes bicycles available for public transportation, allows riders to pick up and drop off bicycles, serves a defined geographic area, and facilitates the transit of individuals between various points in the area. Public transportation capital projects shall include any project for the acquisition or replacement of bicycles and related equipment, including technology and vehicles needed to restock stations, and the construction of bicycle-related facilities to facilitate a bikeshare project. The bill also makes eligible for funds under the congestion mitigation air quality improvement program projects or programs that reduce demand for roads through bikesharing.

Meanwhile, another piece of bikeshare friendly legislation was reintroduced last month as well.

bikeshare is missing from pre-tax transit benefits that offer many commuters savings on transit passes. Last month, Reps. Joe Crowley (D – N.Y.) and Erik Paulsen (R – Minn.) introduced the “Bike to Work Act,” which would fix that gap and add bikeshare to the list of modes eligible for commuter benefits.

 

Pope's Creek Rail Trail construction could start next year

Screenshot 2017-07-23 at 11.59.28 PM

11 years after Maryland made money available to buy the land, and more than 3 years after getting additional funding to buy (more land?) and to design the trail, it appears that they might break ground on the southern terminus of the 2 mile long Pope's Creek Rail Trail in 2018

Steve Engle of Vista Design Inc. outlined a conceptual plan for the trail, which includes an elevated observation platform over the Potomac River and a possible museum at the site of the old Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative power plant at Popes Creek, built in 1938. The facility closed in 1953, but because it was as the first power-generating station to serve Southern Maryland, its flat-roof, brick structure and arched windows make it architecturally worth preserving.

“We would like very much to incorporate the old power plant into the rail trail plans,” Engle said. “There’s a lot of history with this area. It would be a very nice enhancement for the Popes Creek area.”

The trail would run from the old power plant on to Route 301, he added.

The park is just phase I, which frankly has very little of the trail. Phase II appears to be off to the right in the image above and that is where the other 1.99 miles of trail will go, all the way to Crain Highway at Crossover road (and then I suppose a little beyond that to the existing railroad tracks). No idea when work will begin on that. 

The tracks will not remain, but the sidewalk will use colored pavers to look like tracks. 

Screenshot 2017-07-24 at 12.01.46 AM

I-66 Trail should be outside the sound wall, but VDOT giving into irrational fears instead of rational ones

I-66trail

The I-66 Outside the Beltway project will include 22 miles of parallel trail, which is great, but there is a real fight going on right now about what that trail will be like.  Specifically over the ~5 miles that will inside a sound wall.

For about five of the project’s 22.5 miles, the trail would be squeezed between the highway and the concrete wall that will serve as a buffer between traffic noise and adjacent neighborhoods.

Trail users, led by FABB, want the trail to be outside the sound wall. 

“It is air pollution, it’s noise, small particles that get kicked up from the highway,” said Bruce Wright, a member of the Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling. “Imagine riding on this trail and there is really no place to go if you have a problem. You are right next to a very tall soundwall, and you are right next to a jersey barrier.”

But it seems that VDOT is putting it inside the wall to address the irrational fears of neighbors while ignoring the rational concerns and fears of trail users. The only way to fix this is to speak up

Susan Shaw, the director of megaprojects at VDOT, said opponents of the design will have an opportunity to publicly state their cases in hearings later this year, before a final decision is made by the Commonwealth Transportation Board.

 At community meetings, residents said they fear a trail will bring crime, such as break-ins, to their neighborhoods.

The design plans are a response to property owners’ complaints that placing the trail outside the sound barrier could bring unwanted strangers riding bikes into their neighborhoods. 

I had always assumed that there was an engineering or project reason for this - like it would allow for access to break downs, or storm water benefits or something. I had no idea this was to placate the unfounded fears of jittery neighbors. (What the hell is an unwanted stranger - and can't roads or sidewalks also bring them? Can I oppose a sidewalk outside my house because it might bring "unwanted stragners"? I'm sorry, but eff that)

Update: I have since talked to someone closer to all of this who told me that VDOT is using utility space to build this trail. They indicated that the sound barrier could not move, meaning that if the trail is placed outside the barrier, more land will need to be taken from adjacent landowners. I had not understood that to be the case before. <end>

VDOT should listen to everyone, but when the desires of one group are in direct contrast with the project goals - and when their reasoning is so unfounded - they should politely tell them no.

the idea to place six segments of the trail inside the sound wall, starting with a 1.2-mile stretch in Dunn Loring, is about striking a balance between the needs of travelers and rights of property owners along the highway in Fairfax County, Shaw said.

“We are coming into peoples’ backyards. We are doing strip takes across those backyards with right-of-way just to get the roadway in,” said Shaw.

None of that is changed by moving the trail outside of the wall. And any loss of privacy can be fixed with a simple 6-foot tall privacy fence. More importantly, you don't need to compromise with lunacy. 

While safety concerns influenced the process, [Susan Shaw, the director of megaprojects at VDOT] conceded, “I don’t believe there is any data that would suggest that [crime] is an issue.”

OK, so you don't need to address it. 

Biking and walking to DCA might actually become a thing

The Crystal City BID is funding a feasibility study for an improved connection between Crystal City and DCA. 

the Virginia Railway Express (VRE) is in the middle of a planning study that may relocate the Crystal City VRE station to support larger trains and an island platform configuration in the  pursuit of multi‐directional service. This relocation could bring the VRE station closer to the National Airport Metro station and presents a 

strategic opportunity to not only integrate the VRE station better with Crystal City, but to improve the physical connection 

between the VRE and Metro and between DCA and Crystal City with a direct pedestrian bridge or tunnel. 

Project Objective: To directly link Crystal City with DCA and the National Airport Metro station via a 
context‐sensitive pedestrian connection that enhances economic development opportunities, 
strengthens the neighborhood’s hotel community, and offers new opportunities to link the thousands of 
workers and residents of Crystal City to a growing regional rail network

 And there are specific calls out for bicycle elements

4. Additional Pedestrian/Bicycle Connections – Consultant shall determine feasibility of 
designing the connection to accommodate bicycle traffic linking the on‐street bicycle network 
along Crystal Drive with existing or new potential bicycle parking at the airport, Metro station, 
and to the regional bicycle facility and recreational amenity along the Mount Vernon Trail. 

I remain hopeful that Capital Bikeshare will get a station close to the doors of DCA, but if not, a better pedestrian connection from the closest stations in Crystal City would greatly help. 

Arlington Bike and Walk Happy Hour - July 26th

Link

The Coalition for Smarter Growth is excited to link up with WalkArlington and BikeArlington for our July happy hour! Join us at the new Heritage Brewing Co. in Clarendon for a lovely night of socializing and chatting about we can work towards safer walking and biking, and more responsible growth in Arlington and throughout our region. 

Arlington County has earned Silver Level Bicycle Friendly Community designation, from the League of American Bicyclists, and has been named a Gold Level Walk Friendly Community by the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center!

Come chat with our staff, like-minded people, and Arlington's leading bike and walk advocates to learn what they're doing right in smart growth.

Meeting will discuss Monroe Street Bridge plans and schedule, including the Metropolitan Branch Trail

DDOT is hosting a meeting on the Monroe Street Bridge Project tonight from 6:30-8:30pm at Luke C. Moore High School, where they discuss the Reconstruction of Monroe Street NE Bridge Project. DDOT will present the plans and schedule for the upcoming bridge reconstruction.

The project will not include a tunnel under the bridge - as was once proposed, but it will include an improved intersection of 8th and Monroe as well as better bike facilities.

In its current condition, this intersection is unsafe for trail users. When waiting to cross Monroe Street at 8th Street, it is difficult to see westbound traffic coming over the Monroe Street Bridge. Left-turning (southbound) vehicles make many bicyclists waiting on 8th Street to cross Monroe Street feel unsafe. Additionally, the crosswalk is not aligned with the northbound lane on 8th Street, presenting cyclists with a less-than-ideal choice about where to situate themselves to cross Monroe Street.

Clearly the intersection needs major help, and in light of the tunnel being off the table, we know that trail users need a well-engineered intersection that puts the safety of the most vulnerable users (including bicyclists) first.

WABA asked for a set of improvements and there are some of these in the design:

Dedicated bike signals
Bike Boxes on 8th St. NE
Separated green lanes through the intersection
Raised crosswalks
Design features to slow westbound traffic on Monroe, coming over the bridge
Signal Detection and Actuation
Addition of an ADA compliant ramp

First of all, the bike lanes on Monroe will remain, and basically unchanged, but the real difference will be on 8th. On 8th, a bi-directional protected (by flexposts) bike lane will be added on the east side. The lanes - both NS and EW - will be painted green.

8thandMonroe

They're going to replace the stops signs at the intersection with traffic lights, including bicycle signals and loop induction detectors.  The intersection will get a bike box, separated green lanes and an ADA ramp. And somewhere there is a bicycle signal (but I can't find it). 

The cycletrack will fade out at Lawrence, but probably be continued later (as is the long-term plan).

8thand Lawrence

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