Monday, October 24, 2011

Minutes from the Far Southeast Livability Study Area Rolling meeting

Below are the minutes from the Bicycle Advisory Council (BAC) Facilities Committee (FAC) October minutes which occurred  October 15, 2011


Rolling meeting exploring the Far Southeast Livability Study Area

Attendees: Mike Goodno (DDOT), Jeanie Osburn (BAC FAC)

  • Improve bridge crossing conditions for cyclists and pedestrians on all bridges connecting the eastern and western sides of the city
  • Change curb cuts on the downstream side of the Sousa bridge to facilitate cycling across the ramps
  • Improve lighting on Nicholson St under the I-295 underpass
  • Work with the Community prior to installing signs

    It was a perfect day for a bike ride.  We met at 9:30AM at the corner of 11th and M Streets SE, reviewed the map and decided to check out Good Hope/Naylor road for connectivity between the eastern/western parts of the city as well as connectivity to destinations in Maryland.  In a subsequent conversation with Veronica Davis, a cycling activist in the area, she emphasized the area’s highest priority is improving bridge crossings between the eastern and western sides of the city.   The 11th Street bridge has been commented on many times by BAC.  It’s a very uncomfortable ride across the 11th Street bridge, and we didn’t know what the plans for bicycle accommodation are with the new bridge.  The path down the hill from the 11th St. Bridge to Good Hope Rd. needs attention.  It has potholes, and  manholes stick up out of the path about 6 inches creating a hazard.  In addition, there is a lot of sand and other debris on the bridge sidewalk.  It looks like it hasn’t been cleaned for at least one year. 
    One theme that runs through the Far Southeast Livability Study area is terrain.  It’s hilly here.  While hills build character, they also tend to discourage people from biking!  Veronica also pointed out that the community is leery of people coming into the community and putting up bicycling signs, striping bike lanes or putting in sharrows.  Not that we should not work on this, but that we need to work WITH the community (ANC’s, Civic Associations, etc) to build trust.  Also traversing the area on streets other than the big avenues is choppy, because of the park, so we tried to find good alternatives to routes such as PA Ave and Branch Ave as well as reasonable north/south and east/west streets to be signed for bike lanes or as bike routes.

    We took Good Hope Rd from the 11th St. Bridge to Alabama Ave., Alabama Ave. to Naylor Rd., and Naylor Rd to Suitland Pkwy to check connectivity into and out of the area.  Good Hope Rd. between MLK and MN Ave is a very unpleasant ride.  The lanes are narrow, there’s parking on both sides of Good Hope Rd, many businesses, and an entrance onto the 11th St. Bridge at 13th St.  The traffic is heavy (even on Sat. AM), and there are many pedestrians on the sidewalk, so routing bicyclists on the sidewalk is not a good option. 

    We looked at an alternative, and considered that it may be better to route cyclists south on MLK to V Street, even though that requires a left hand turn from MLK onto V (which is out of the study area).  V Street to 16th is a very pleasant ride.  After 17th, V begins to climb, becomes more isolated, which could pose safety problems, and then goes back down to Good Hope on 19th St.  So we decided that a good route would take cyclists on V to 16th, left on 16th to Good Hope.  At 16th St. the cycling conditions on Good Hope Rd. cycling improve.  Fewer parked cars, wider lanes, and less traffic. This route provides easy access to the library at 18th and Good Hope. 

    It’s a long climb up Good Hope to where it “T’s” into Alabama Ave. and where there is a Safeway on Alabama  Ave.    Alternatively, Veronica rides a lot in the area, and suggested riding on the sidewalk on the north side of Good Hope for a block to 13th Street, and taking 13th Street to S.    S goes all the way to Naylor Rd. and Naylor meets Good Hope near Alabama. 

    The intersection of Good Hope and Alabama has 4 lanes of Good Hope Rd and 6 lanes of Alabama Ave, and there is high traffic volume.  That intersection needs attention to accommodate cyclists comfortably, particularly cyclists turning left or going straight into the Safeway.  From there, we took a right onto Alabama Ave to Naylor Rd, and took a left on Naylor Rd. flying down hill to Southern Ave.  Southern Ave. ends at Naylor Rd, and Naylor continues down to Suitland Pkwy.  We didn’t cross into PG county, but given there is the Iverson Mall within a mile on the other side of Suitland Pkwy, that would be a destination and should have accommodation for cyclists.  The lanes are certainly wide enough there to accommodate a bike lane across Suitland (but that’s out of DC’s jurisdiction).

    We turned around and went back up Naylor to 30th.  30th is a very pleasant street to ride.  It’s residential, wide, low traffic volume, and a rather gradual climb UNTIL about 50 – 100 yards or so south of Alabama Ave.  Then 30th gets quite steep.  There is an entrance to the Safeway shopping center from 30th, so in spite of the stiff climb, it seems a nice alternative to Naylor Rd which carries a heavier and higher speed traffic  volume. 

    We crossed Alabama on 30th and turned right onto W.  We were looking for options to riding the busier streets like Alabama, Naylor, Good Hope, MN, Branch, and PA Aves.  We also noted several streets (including W) which were one way M-F from 7 – 9:30 AM (but most of those signs could have “except bicycles” appended to them. )  W St. over to Branch Ave. is a very pleasant ride, though there’s a short, steep climb from Hillcrest to 31st.  We took a right onto Branch Ave.  Branch Ave has relatively narrow single travel lanes with wide bump-out hard medians south of Alabama.  While the drivers were very nice to us on Sat. AM, we were clearly holding up traffic, even going downhill. 

    Veronica said she rides the sidewalk on Branch Ave because of the narrow lane and high speed traffic, and that a helpful improvement would be to widen the sidewalks on Branch Ave.  We took Branch to Southern, and turned around at Southern.  The climb up Branch from Southern is steep, and the traffic volume is high and moving fast, so we opted to walk our bikes back up the hill on the sidewalk to Gainesville St, happy to be off Branch Ave.

    We climbed Gainesville (and it’s a climb) to 32nd Street, and rode 32nd to Park Dr.  32nd is a very pleasant option to Branch Ave.  It is residential, quiet, has stop signs at intersections which slows any traffic there is, and it parallels Branch Ave.  A very pleasant downhill to Park Dr, though climbing up wouldn’t be as much fun.  We took a left onto Branch Ave for about ½ block to 33rd St.  That’s a really pretty street.  Quiet with lovely homes and a great downhill from S St. to PA Ave.  The bad news is that uphill from PA to S is really steep, and 33rd is one-way northbound beginning at S, so it would not make a good option for southbound bicycle traffic. 

    Given that, we rode back up to S Street, and took S over to Branch Ave to see if there were viable options.  It looks like there may be sufficient right of way along the west side of Branch to put in a sidewalk.  The traffic on Sat. AM was not heavy there, so it appeared also possible to mark the right hand lane as a shared lane, at least till Park Dr.  We rode back down to 33rd and down the hill to PA Ave.  We were able to cross easily, because of construction there right now.  However, crossing PA on 33rd after the construction is complete and traffic is again moving fast with no median for refuge may be dangerous. 

    From 33rd we turned left onto O St. and enjoyed the gradual downhill on a quiet residential street to where O intersects PA Ave at 27th.  O St looks like a pleasant option to PA Ave, because it’s quiet, and pretty nearly parallel to PA Ave.  Veronica reiterated her point about signage and working with the community by pointing out the wide sidewalk that was planned for bicycles and pedestrians, and that the community was amenable to the wide sidewalk and having cyclists on the it, but they did NOT want signs up to encourage cycling on the sidewalk.  Wow. 

    We wanted to check out 28th Street as an option for crossing through the park, unfortunately, 28th St. between O and PA Ave is one way northbound.  So we rode back to 30th, and crossed PA at 30th.  There’s quite a climb from O to PA on 30th and again up to S, so it would be good to have a contraflow lane on 28th.  From 30th we rode westbound on R St to see how that would work for an east-west bike route south of PA Ave.  R St. is quiet and residential, and is a roller coaster with ups and downs, so not the easiest route.  We also took a slight detour and rode through Fort Davis Park on 28th St.  This is a good connection that takes you back to Park Dr to continue east.  Or, you can continue straight, up a steep hill, on Hillcrest Dr which dead ends at W St.  From W St, you can connect to either 30th or 32nd to continue south. 

    We also rode 16th St from V to Fairlawn, and then Fairlawn to Nicholson St to get over the Sousa Bridge.  Going to PA Ave on Fairlawn to get to the Sousa Bridge is possible, but crossing on the downstream sidewalk is especially problematic because of the entrance and exit ramps to I-295.  Veronica pointed out the curb cuts need to be moved so that cyclists don’t have to make odd-angle turns to use them.  Changing the curb cuts to make cycling across a straight shot would improve the crossing of the ramps on the downstream side of the bridge.  And crossing PA Ave to get to the upstream sidewalk is nothing short of zaney, plus you still have to cross the entrance from eastbound PA Ave. onto I-295 north.  While there is a stoplight, it’s definitely NOT a good choice.

    Fairlawn is quiet, wide, and one way northbound.  There appears to be plenty of room for a contraflow lane on Fairlawn to allow for cyclists to ride southbound on Fairlawn.  And, because there are no streets entering on the west side of Fairlawn after Nicholson, there is not the inherent danger with cross traffic not seeing a cyclist coming from the “wrong” direction and running into them.  Going west onto Nicholson Street from Fairlawn you cross under a bridge carrying I-295 traffic. 

    Crossing under that bridge is spooky and needs lighting, murals, etc to improve the safety and aesthetics of this route.  Nicholson takes you into Anacostia Park where you can ride under the Sousa bridge on Anacostia Drive, and take a bike/ped path up to the bridge to get to the upstream side to cross.

    “meeting” adjourned around noon.