Friday, April 20, 2012

Facility Meeting Minutes (04-14-2012)

Bicycling Rhode Island Avenue
DC Bicycle Advisory Council (BAC) Facilities Committee (FAC) Report from April “Rolling” meeting

The DC BAC FAC conducts exploratory rides in different areas of the City in the months of April, June, August, and October. The purpose of these rides it to provide the City with input from a cyclist’s perspective on areas where cycling improvements are needed, or in areas that are slated for major redevelopment.

Ride: Rhode Island Avenue
Route: Rhode Island Avenue from Logan Circle to Eastern Avenue
Date: April 14, 2012
Attendees: Jeanie Osburn, BAC FAC Chair
Ellen Jones, BAC Chair
Randal Myers, BAC member (at large)
Jameel Alsalam, BAC member (Ward 4)
Mike Goodno, DDOT bike/ped coordinator’s office
John Iskander, Friends of Rhode Island Ave
Kyle Todd, Friends of Rhode Island Ave
Katy Bristow
Sean McBride
David Kalter
Mike Turner

Problem areas:
The worst segment stretches from Logan Circle to 12th Street NE. Along that stretch in particular the problems noted include:
  • · Dangerous intersection at Q Street: traffic turning right does so at high speeds and with little regard for cyclists riding along Rhode Island, or for pedestrians crossing Q Street NW in the crosswalk. This dangerous fast right turn scenario is repeated many times along Rhode Island Avenue in both directions.
  • · R Street NW: There is a bike lane on R Street NW that crosses Rhode Island Avenue near Marion St and 7th Street. The bike lane on the east side of Rhode Island Avenue is between a driving lane and a parking lane. On the west side of Rhode Island Avenue between Rhode Island Avenue and 7th Street, the lane is between two driving lanes- one to go straight, and one to turn right. Motorists who plan to turn right merge over to the right without checking for cyclists. Having the bike lane striping going all the way across Rhode Island Avenue would help by giving motorists a visual queue that they’re crossing over a bike lane.
  • · There is a hill between 1st Street NW and 4th Street NE which is hazardous for cyclists, particularly during rush hour, as traffic speed is fast, and cyclists naturally are slower climbing the hill.
  • · The section between 5th Street NW and 3rd Street NW has 3 gas stations with multiple curb cuts for traffic into and out of the stations. Motorists tend to ignore or be “blind” to cyclists and pedestrians as they enter and exit the stations.
  • · The intersection at 4th Street NE and Rhode Island Avenue is dangerous for outbound cyclists, because motorists tend to misjudge cyclists’ speed as they’re going downhill, and then the motorist does not yield right of way turning southbound onto 4th Street (either from the oncoming left lane or turning right when travelling in the direction of the cyclist)
  • · The underpass for the Metro tracks is dangerous. The area under the underpass is dark, the sidewalk is very narrow and thus not an option, and there are commonly events at a nearby church which cause congestion, double parking, and jaywalking.
  • · The slip lane into the Home Depot complex creates a dangerous situation for cyclists and pedestrians. This is similar to the problem at Q Street NW described earlier.
  • · The curb cut on the NE corner of Reed and Rhode Island Ave. NE is dangerous. Rather than having a curb cut on both Reed and Rhode Island, there is a single curb cut that forces cyclists and handicapped people into traffic. Also, there is a big planter at the edge of the sidewalk, so if you do not cut the corner tight when coming up that curb cut, you run into the planter.
  • · The tall streetlights are nice in that the height allows the light to span a large area, however, in the spring/summer/fall when the tree canopy is full, those lights are above the canopy and provide little illumination.
  • · There is a dangerous pedestrian crossing at Newton Street NE. Traffic there goes pretty quickly, since there is no light or anything to slow traffic between South Dakota and Eastern. While there is a crosswalk, motorists pay little attention to crosswalks, particularly those with no signal.
  • · The traffic on Rhode Island Avenue moves as though it is a limited-access highway and not a street that traverses several residential neighborhoods. This is dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians and is not conducive to the commercial development that the Friends of Rhode Island Avenue are working to promote.
  • · Sections of pavement are in bad condition, particularly around the construction at the Rhode Island Ave Metro Station and Eastern Avenue. On Eastern Avenue there is a drainage problem which causes flooding on Rhode Island Avenue NE at the intersection and degrades the roadway. This drainage problem causes icy conditions in cold weather and is a hazard for cyclists and motorists alike.
  • · Tree canopy: The tree canopy is a benefit to all (cyclists, motorists, and pedestrians) and should be maintained. There has been some draconian trimming of the trees particularly around power lines. There are also some missing trees. New trees need to be planted to fill out the canopy, and the health of existing trees should be assessed.
  • · There are no way-finding signs to guide cyclists along Rhode Island Avenue to destinations or to point out streets with cycling lanes, in particular the cycle lanes at Q, R, and 6th Streets NW and 4th, 12th, and 18th Streets NE.
  • Slow traffic down using any means possible including constructing bump-outs, narrowing lanes, replacing traffic signals with traffic circles (such as at Rhode Island Avenue and 34th Street in Mt Rainier).
  • Traffic circles at Reed Street NE, Montana Ave. NE, 18th Street NE and South Dakota Avenue NE could help significantly in slowing traffic. Other things which could slow traffic include tightening the turning radius onto several streets to force slower right-hand turns, closing some curb cuts, and restricting turns at some locations. 
  • Lighting: the area under the Metro track underpass similarly to what’s been done at M and L Street NE underpasses would help tremendously. Also, by augmenting the tall street lights with lighting that is below the tree canopy, the street would have better lighting, and look more like a neighborhood.
  •  Consider utilizing the median space where there are no trees to provide extra footage to incorporate bicycle lanes on both sides of Rhode Island Avenue.
  • Either remove parking altogether from Rhode Island Avenue and make the parking lane a bus/bike lane, or keep the parking but get rid of the rush hour restrictions which would then allow cyclists to ride in the parking lane.
  • Put a pedestrian-activated light at Newton Street NE.
  • Review crash statistics to guide where to begin an effort to make Rhode Island Avenue safer for everyone.

Thanks to Rita’s Italian Ice for providing a free cup of ice to all who joined us for the ride.

As development along the Rhode Island Avenue corridor increases with more multi-unit dwellings, the impact of traffic on the corridor will increase. The DC BAC, Friends of Rhode Island Avenue, and cyclists along the corridor recommend making bike/ped friendly changes to Rhode Island Avenue.

Next ride will be in Ward 4 on a TBD date in June.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

BAC Safety Comm: Improving Crash Reporting

At the April meeting of the BAC Safety, Education, and Enforcement committee, we discussed the Street Smart Campaign, interviewing of injured crash participants, crash report oversight processes, and possibilities for changing the PD-10 crash report form. Thank to attendees: Commander Crane and Lt. Breul of MPD, Dan Hoagland of WABA, Randall, David, and Alphonso of BAC, and Katie Mencarini of Toole Design.

1. Update on Street Smart Campaign

Lt. Breul and Commander Crane provided an update on the Street Smart Campaign enforcement going on in April. The week of 4/10 was the week of bicycling enforcement, following weeks of pedestrian and motorist enforcement. There are a lot of new posters related to distracted driving posted around the city. Through the bicycling week of Street Smart enforcement, there have been mountain-bike mounted police officers participating in enforcement. In addition, the breath program will be starting up again in July. Officers have been instructed to focus on warnings, since this is principally a public education campaign.

In the next few months, MPD will be putting together in-service training modules, which will present situations for officers to deal with involving traffic enforcement. This will be an important tool to further education of officers beyond the initial training course that all officers took in Fall 2011. The module will likely focus on key legal issues for bicyclists regarding riding to the right and riding abreast. In the past, tickets have been mistakenly to a bicyclist riding to the right of traffic for “riding abreast”. In fact, riding abreast refers to several cyclists riding next to each other, not a cyclist riding to the side of traffic. Meeting attendees brought up several other misconceptions of officers - accurate ticket fees, the fact that bicycles are allowed to ride outside of bicycle lanes, and that bicycles may be parked at most meters.

2. Interviewing Injured Crash Participants as Part of Crash Investigations

MPD has stated that their investigations are not complete until they interview all crash participants. In some cases, an injured crash participant is rushed to the hospital to undergo treatment, and cannot be interviewed at the scene of the crash. In these situations, officers have a responsibility to travel to the hospital to interview the crash participant. However, officers also have a responsibility to file their crash report before the end of their shift and many new calls are constantly coming in, pushing officers to complete paperwork as quickly as possible to enable them to respond to new situations. The 2011 Office of Police Complaints report recommended that MPD change its policy to allow officers to wait to file their police report until they have interviewed all crash participants. MPD has not taken this step. Instead, they argue that officers will usually be able to interview an injured crash participant in the hospital by the end of the shift. In the cases where they cannot, they should file a supplementary PD-252 which essentially adds extra information to the PD-10 crash report form.

This outcome is problematic because while it ensures that an injured crash participant is interviewed, it does not ensure that an injured crash participant is interview before assigning fault for the accident and before issuing any tickets. It is difficult to complete a crash report form without determining fault, and therefore if one is filed before all interviews are completed, the officer will be forced to make a judgement without complete information. Even if a later interview changes the officer’s mind regarding fault, it isn’t clear how the PD-10 would be changed - these forms are not amended after they are submitted.

3. Oversight of Crash Reporting

In the past, there have been problem situations in which invalid tickets are issued to cyclists due to gaps in understanding of traffic law as applied to cyclists. Two particular issues include a cyclist being ticketed for not wearing a helmet (when in fact this is only a rule in DC for under 16 riders) and a cyclist being ticketed for “riding abreast” (when only a single bicyclist was present, so this infraction wasn’t possible).

While we can’t expect every officer to know the in’s and out’s of every law, we can expect:

1) That officers use reference resources to look up laws about which they are unsure before issuing tickets
2) That oversight processes be in place to double-check that invalid citations not be issued in crashes

Invalid citations are extremely problematic for cyclists. If a cyclist is improperly faulted in an accident by the police report, then they are faced with the need to go to court to get any compensation. Court costs can quickly swamp possible damages collected. By contrast, if police reports are accurate the first time around, then unnecessary court costs can be avoided in many cases.

After an officer submits his/her report, it is reviewed by a Sargent. While a Sargent cannot ensure that all facts of the case are correct, he/she can and should ensure that there are no internal inconsistencies in the report, such as conflicting information or violations that make no sense. Some troubling situations in the past include these internal inconsistencies. MPD has stated an intention to continue working on education in this area. Their education priorities were mentioned above, which apply equally to these situations.

4. Changes to the Crash Report Form PD-10

The PD-10 is a complex form. Some of its fields are redundant. Language inconsistencies are used. For example, in some parts of the form the word “bicycle” is used, while in other the word “pedalcycle” is used (I had to look it up, pedalcycle refers to a unicycle, bicycle, or tricycle).

An overly complex form only increases the chance of errors in filling out the form, and needlessly keeps officers pushing paper instead of answering calls. The Office of Police Complaints report recommended a couple of minor changes to the report form. In addition, the report form should be simplified to reduce redundant option choices and use consistent language throughout the form. MPD is not currently planning to revise the PD-10.

The crash report form is submitted to federal accident reporting systems. It must collect standard information. Restrictions of the federal systems may be part of the reason for redundanies in the form. Alternatively, it might be possible to add intelligent logic underneath the form to do validation/error checking and to autofill question fields where redundancies exist. The BAC will continue to pursue the issue of making improvements to the form as a way to reduce the chance of errors.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Dr. Gridlock Chat (4-9-12)

As a public service, below are bicycle-related comments / questions issued to Robert Thomson on his Monday midday Dr. Gridlock chat on the Washington Post website, unedited.

This week's comment is about bicyclists who ride against traffic. 

WABA has produced a document that discusses safe riding techniques for children and debunks some bicycling-related myths. It says that bicyclists should ride on the right with traffic because motorists expect traffic to be coming in a particular direction. 

Wrong way cyclists
Question: I work on a one-way street with bike lanes. You would not believe (or may be you would) the number of cyclists going against traffic. Can you please get the word out that people get killed that way. The bike lanes follow the same rules as the regular lanes. A great deal of these folks are riding the red rent-a-bikes and riding without helmets. I like Bike Share but perhaps some read of the rules should be a requirement.

Answer: Robert Thomson: "Never ride against traffic" is one of the safety advisories from Capital Bikeshare, and a real no-brainer. (Or maybe a way to save your brains, which should be protected by a helmet.)

Facilities Meeting - Rhode Island Avenue, NE (April 14, 2012)

Saturday, April 14, 2012, the BAC Facilities Committee will hold a "rolling meeting" along Rhode Island Avenue, NE. The ride will begin at Logan Circle around 1:00p go to Eastern Avenue and then return to Logan Circle.  We invite you to attend  to ask questions or just have fun on a ride. Please see a map of the route.

This ride is in partnership with the Friends of Rhode Island Avenue, a volunteer community organization that works to raise awareness of this corridor and to advocate for its positive redevelopment. The ride will have a rest stop at Rita's Italian Ice, 2318 Rhode Island Avenue (at Kerney Street NE). Rita's is a member of Friends of Rhode Island Avenue and will offering  a free cup of  water ice to all who join the ride.

The total distance is approximately 8 miles and contains sections of hilly terrain. Specifically: eastbound (toward Maryland), from about 1st Street NW to Summit Place NE and from the The B&O Bridge (Red Line Metro  Station and Metropolitan Branch Trail) to about 13th Street NE and westbound, from 4th Street NE to Summit Place NE. If you are unable to join us for the entire ride, feel free to meet us at Rita's or ride a portion of the distance.

This rolling meeting will ride along this major District street to show areas of development and road space constraints for bicyclists.  The  ride will also show that as a commuter corridor that connects the District to Hyattsville, Riverdale and College Park, Rhode Island Avenue does not satisfy the safety needs of bicyclists and does not provide proper signage that would allow this street to connect to the bicycle network.

We look forward to seeing you. For more information about the meeting, please contact Jeanie Osburn, Ward 5 Representative and Facilities Committee chair.

Safety, Education, and Enforcement Committee Meeting (April 10, 2012)

Safety, Education, and Enforcement Committee will be held  Tuesday, April 10, 2012 at 6:30pm at Teaism, 400 8th Street NW in the basement eating area. The meeting will be held by Jameel Alsalam, committee chair and Ward 4 representative.

  1. Update on recent Street Smart Campaign enforcement 
  2. MPD crash report form discussion (does it have the necessary fields to record cyclist crashes?) 
  3. Crash response oversight processes at MPD
As always, the public is welcomed to attend.