Friday, April 22, 2011

The First 100 days

Joshua Marks, a blogger for the Washington Examiner, writes about an incident with Mayor Vincent Gray when a reporter asked about the continuation of the District's transition to a more bike-friendly city.    The title of the story states that the Mayor answered the question  in a "testy" fashion - implying that the Mayor took umbrage at the apparent accusation that former Mayor Adrian Fenty and former DDOT Director Gabe Klein had the only progressive ideas regarding bicycling transportation.  Perhaps now at 100 days, we should look at what has happened or what should have happened.

The 100-day
nexus (which ended on or around April 13, 2011 depending on when you start counting) is a completely arbitrary number and doesn't necessarily mean that what has happened will continue.  After all, many feel that Gray's first months were rocky at best.  That said, is was both a little disconcerting and ironic to read in the Examiner article that the Mayor reminded everyone that when he visited the Paris Auto Show he also noticed and subsequently toured the VĂ©lib’ bike sharing program. 

When the Mayor issued his Government Infrastructure and Transportation report as part of his transition process, some were concerned that the report's criticism of DDOT spending and structure pointed to the prospect of a significant shakeup.  
All this notwithstanding, does anything that happened during or before the first 100 days indicate what could happen over the next 1,000 days?

Capital Bike Share Expansion.

The current and future expansion of Cabi by an 25 stations and the introduction of thousands of new members is an important step that will continue the goals of the previous administration.  While the bike operator, Alta, has some autonomy regarding how it expands, it could not have done so without the continued support of the current administration.  That said, the District should continue to work with Cabi to expand bike sharing to areas of the District that are largely ignored under current plans.

While not directly related to the District, the selection of former WABA Executive Director Eric Gilliland as the
General Manager of Capital Bikeshare is likely positive.  Working for many years as an advocate for District bicyclist, his familiarity with government functions and stakeholders should help continue the expansion of the system and other bike facilities.

Budget for bike infrastructure remains relatively unchanged.

In times of budget austerity, most cuts tend to affect those budgetary items that are considered frivolous or focused on narrowly.  For the most part, the District's bicycle program budget has remained unchanged within the Mayor's fiscal year 2012 proposed budget.  The bike lanes are still on Pennsylvania Avenue and although the occasional government, commercial or private vehicle uses it as parking, the bike sharrows are still on 15th Street NW.  

According to
Dan Malouff of Greater Greater Washington, the District is actively attempting to secure federal funding to expand bike sharing and likely support the expansion of other bike-related facilities. To continue this progress, the District should work continue to look for innovative methods to provide more bike parking, implement the federal bicycle commuter benefit act, and support legislative changes that support the fair allocation of responsibility when bicyclists are involved in accidents with motor vehicles.

DDOT bicycling program staff remains.

When mayoral administrations end, it usually means vast staff changes.  Not only has the District bicycle program remained unchanged, but most of the DDOT leadership still remains.  The Bicycle Program manager
, his staff and most of those who help implement the bike program across the agency are still in there jobs.  This potentially encourages stability and suggests that there is less of 'priority creep'. It also means that there would be no historical knowledge gap creating problems when attempting to navigate the complexities of local and federal procurement and grant regulations.

According to
Aaron Morrissey of DCist, the interim DDOT Director, Terry Bellamy, has encouraged his staff to, "Continue doing what you’re doing, keep working on all the projects and programs that make DDOT shine".  Is DDOT shiny? Who knows, but many have said that the organization continues to operation as it has ... which could mean many things.  While it appears that Mr. Bellamy will maintain his title of interim for the foreseeable future, he apparently has kept his word and continues to -- well -- keep things shining. In light of the expansion of the bicycle program, DDOT may want to consider expanding staff.

What do you think of the first 100 days of the Gray administration?  Is the District moving forward or rolling back?