Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Tommy Wells Holds Ride to Highlight South Capitol Street Bike Issues

Council member Tommy Wells, District Department of Transportation (DDOT) officials, Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) staff, representatives of DCBAC and the public toured South Capitol Street and the surrounding corridor.  At least 20 people were in attendance, along with representatives of the media (Fox 5 and WAMU) who reported on parts of the ride. DCBAC would like to hear what the public has to say about this project and how bicycle access to this area can improve.

The purpose of the ride was to highlight some of the planned changes to this area which is anchored by the redesign of South Capitol Street and the replacement of the Frederick Douglass Bridge as recommended in the recently completed Final Environmental Impact Assessment.  The ride also provided an opportunity for the DDOT project director to view the sight for himself to see the current impediments and listen to the concerns of the bicycling public. Along with WABA, DCBAC drafted a letter in May outlining bike and pedestrian concerns that the were lacking FEIS, which included access to the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail, Diamond Teague Park and the implementation of aspects of the Bicycle Master Plan for this area.

DCBAC members Jeanie Osburn Liam Healy asked the DDOT project director, Ravindra Ganvir, several questions about the replacement Douglass bridge.  Specifically, we learned that most optimistic timeline for completion of the bridge would be 5 years, the sidewalks on either side of the bridge would be 20 feet, and that the stairs leading to the Anacostia Trail will likely be modified to include provisions for bicyclists and people with disabilities.  As reported by WABA, Mike Goodno, DDOT transportation planned provided his assessment of items discussed on the ride that DDOT, should address:
  1. Lack of designated bike lanes or cycle tracks included in FEIS preferred alternative for S. Capitol Street north of the Douglass Bridge
  2. How  safely bicyclist will be able to navigate the proposed traffic circles on both sides of the bridge, including the travel design speeds of both and any special accommodations being included for bicyclists.  There was concern that if you are on the wrong side of the bridge, it may be difficult to cross the many exit and entrance lanes of the circles.  The particular example used was if they are cycling on the downstream side and they then want to get to historic Anacostia.  How would they do this?  
  3. Making sure the shared paths across on both sides of the new bridge are wide enough to accommodate pedestrians and bicycles at the same time, not narrow like the current bridge 
  4. Why is the new bridge being built south of the existing bridge? 
  5. Making sure a mechanism is in place for more frequent and improved removal of trash and debris from the path than currently happens 
  6. Having ramps, rather than stairs to allow bicyclists to ride rather than walk from the  bridge paths to portions of the Riverwalk Trail on both sides of the river 
  7. How soon new bridge could be built if funding were available? 
  8. More clear understanding of the routes bicyclists could travel between the bridge and metro stations southeast of the river
  9. Improved bike accommodations, such as a wider sidewalk/shared path on Firth Sterling so bicyclist don't have to navigate the Streetcar tracks
  10. The group expressed broad support for continuation of the existing Suitland Parkway Trail along the pkwy to the West side of the Anacostia Metro station.  People wanted a separated bike path, as opposed to the current on-street signed route, and mentioned that the current facility is not safe for children to bike on. The group also discussed the connection of an extended Suitland pkwy trail to a proposed Firth Sterling trail.
  11. Group expressed a need to connect both of these points to the Anacostia River Trail, either through a separated alignment along Howard Rd, or an alternate route.

The radio station, WAMU, reported that  the ride was a protest against the safety conditions for bicyclists and pedestrians who use the Frederick Douglass Bridge. This was highlighted by many of the riders occupying the right lane to travel over the bridge. While safety and the need for better travel options on the bridge are important, the 'taking of a lane' was just one component of the ride and project, and the fastest way over the bridge.

Jonathan Kass, staff member to Council Member Tommy Wells, provided a map of the route and the planned changes to it as part of the project and helped lead the discussion.

CM Wells Handout for SCap Bike Ride

DCBAC invites public comments on this topic.  Please feel free to let us know what you think and how the District should continue making improvements to its infrastructure.