Thursday, June 28, 2012

BAC Investigates Bike Accessibility along Georgia Avenue in Ward 4

On Saturday 6/23, the DC BAC Facilities Committee explored bike accessibility and connectivity to commercial areas along Georgia Avenue. Building walkable and bikeable communities is an important part of supporting local jobs - but to make it work, we need to make sure that people can get to commercial areas easily.

Ride Attendees:
Jeanie Osburn - Ward 5 BAC representative
Randall Myers - At-large BAC representative
Jameel Alsalam - Ward 4 BAC representative
Nathan Picotte - Ward 4 resident
Julianne Horn - Ward 4 resident

On the ride, we visited:
1) 8th Street signed bike route
2) Walmart development site at Georgia and Missouri
3) Walter Reed development site
4) Crossing Rock Creek Park

We want to send a special thanks to Coucilmember Muriel Bowser and staff members Judi Gold and Brandon Todd who joined us for the beginning of the ride. CM Bowser shared with us her priorities: expanding access to Capital Bikeshare in Ward 4, and ensuring that bicycling is an attractive transportation option for everyone. Achieving these goals means a mix of focus on facilities throughout the city, safety, law enforcement, convenience, and affordability.

[map of our trip here]
View BAC Ward 4 Facilities Ride in a larger map

8th Street Bike Route
We started our ride at the Capital Bikeshare station located at 9th and Upshur Street, and then rode along the signed bike route along 8th Street. Since Georgia Avenue is a relatively busy road, many cyclists use parallel routes, such as 8th Street, to access the commercial areas along Georgia. 8th Street is a quiet residential street which is very comfortable to bike on, but it is also somewhat hilly and has a stop sign at nearly every block, and in many blocks the road surface is not good. Due to this combination, there are some locations where cyclists must brake heavily at the bottom of a hill, thus making 8th Street a somewhat inefficient route for long-distance cycling.

There was some discussion of 8th Street v. 9th Street v. 5th Street and how cyclists from the east would access commerical areas along Georgia Avenue. The consensus is that 8th is better suited than 9th for cycling, and that 5th is better than both of them (in terms of conditions) but is 4-5 blocks away from Georgia, so not ideal for commercial access. Since bike facilities along Georgia are not likely, I would like to pick a parallel route as a recommended route for cyclists accessing the commerical areas, and make some improvements (either 8th, 9th or 5th).

Specific committee recommendations:
  • Choose a route parallel to east side of Georgia Avenue to prioritize as a major bike route to commerical areas along Georgia (either 8th or 9th or 5th)
  • Make improvements to whichever route is prioritized to make it an efficient bike route
  • E.g., if 8th Street, consider making 8th and Kennedy a 4-way stop and removing a stop sign or two along 8th Street so cyclists don't have to brake hard at the bottom of a hill to make the route more efficient

Walmart Development Site at Georgia and Missouri Avenues
In many neighborhoods, new commercial development has increased commerical activity and the number of people walking, biking, and driving through the area. With a new Walmart development planned at Georgia and Missouri, the group wanted to look at how cyclists would access the entrance to the new store. While we weren't sure exactly where the bike racks or entrances would be, the main entrance will likely be along Georgia Avenue. This may create cyclist/pedestrian conflicts since Georgia and Missouri are very busy streets which may lead cyclists to ride on the sidewalk. The ideal access route for cyclists is along Peabody, especially if 8th or 9th or 5th Street is improved as a bicycle route. Walmart has also mentioned plans for a Capital Bikeshare station. This would be the northernmost CaBi station in Ward 4, and its important that it be placed in a location which is safe and convenient to access by bicycle. 

In connection to the Walmart development, ANC4B has requested a number of traffic improvements to handle the increased traffic. One thing they asked for was a traffic diverter on Peabody just east of the parking garage entrance. The group agreed that something like this would also help cyclists as a kind of "bicycle boulevard" improvement to 9th/8th streets, by diverting vehicle traffic and parking away from those routes. ANC4B also asked for a rebuild of Georgia and Missouri, which if undertaken, might be able to handle bicycle improvements to ease cyclists accessing the front Walmart entrance.

Specific committee recommendations:
  • Widen sidewalks along Georgia and Missouri to accommodate higher pedestrian volumes and the likelihood of cyclists along the Georgia Avenue sidewalk.
  • Locate the CaBi station either along Peabody or near the corner of Georgia and Peabody to encourage cyclists to use Peabody instead of Georgia or Missouri.
  • Consider improvements to the intersection of Georgia and Missouri, especially if bike racks and/or CaBi station are located along Georgia Avenue, which would encourage cyclists to use Georgia Avenue.
  • Install a traffic diverter on Peabody in accordance with the ANC4B recommendations, but ensure that the installation does not create dangerous circumstances or blockages for cyclists accessing or leaving the site via Peabody.

Walter Reed Site
The closing and redevelopment of the Walter Reed site is a very exciting project for cyclists and in particular for improving connectivity in upper Ward 4. Currently, cyclists going north-south west of Georgia Avenue in Ward 4 cannot pass through the Walter Reed site and are forced to ride on either Georgia Avenue or 16th Street, both of which are busy commuter routes without any bicycle facilities. With the opening of the fences at Walter Reed, cyclists will be able to ride through what was previously a blockage in the DC bicycle route system. The committee visited the site to examine likely bicycle routes north-south through the area.

We anticipate that the main route people will take is 14th coming from the south, to Luzon diagonal for a block, to Aspen, to the 13th Street entrance to Walter Reed, to the 12th Street exit from Walter Reed, back to 13th along Fern, and then connecting either to Kalmia if going to Beach drive or the CCT or Burlington/Fenton if going to Silver Spring. To anticipate this and create connectivity in the DC bicycle route system, DDOT should focus on creating continuous bicycle route connections through this area.

Specific committee recommendations:
  • Place signage along main bicycle route from 14th Street to the south through to 13th Street to the north
  • Improve pavement and bike facilities along Luzon connecting 14th Street to Walter Reed entrances to the south
  • Consider a direct bicycle route through the Walter Reed site (whether or not this is a road connection, but regular cyclists will likely avoid sidewalks)
  • Place wayfinding signage from the northern entrance to Walter Reed to the CCT (13th -> Kalmia -> West Beach -> Grubb) and to Silver Spring (13th -> Fenton) and Takoma Metro station (Butternut)

Crossing Rock Creek Park
While Ward 4 is a very pleasant place to bicycle, a major challenge is crossing Rock Creek Park to access other the western part of Ward 4 and Ward 3. There are few crossing routes for either bicycles or vehicles, and there is shared jurisdiction between DDOT and the National Park Service. The options for a cyclist crossing RCP are:

1) Military Rd
2) Joyce -> trail parallel to Military
3) Joyce -> trail parallel to Beach -> Bingham
4) Sherrill -> Beach -> Bingham

Military Rd. is a very heavily trafficked route. It has a 35 mph speed limit, but many vehicles travel >40mph. There is no shoulder, bike lanes, or sidewalk, and there is a guard rail which prevents a cyclist from escaping onto the grass should they feel endangered. All of this combines to make Military an unappealing option.

On the ride, we took 14th to Rittenhouse to Joyce to the trail. Joyce road is fairly adequate way to go into the park from the east side. From there, a cyclist could choose to use the paved walking/biking path parallel to Military Rd. up to Oregon. The BAC Facilities Committee examined this route as part of the ride. By chance, we were riding the route on the day after last week's giant storm, which meant that in addition to the downed trees, the entire trail had been covered by 2 inches of mud in a 30 ft section that led several in the group to doubt we were even on the trail. In addition, the trail had tons of sticks and branches which made it even more treacherous than it usually is with its extreme steepness/narrowness/windyness. The group agreed that the trail was inadequate for a regular cyclist. Update: one regular rider and Ward 4 resident has written to disagree with this perspective - he observed that NPS maintenance of the trail has been excellent and by Monday had cleaned up the trail. He rides the trail every weekday, preferring it to other options.

Instead of leaving the park to the west along the trail, a cyclist could ride along Beach drive (on the sidepath or on the road) and then exit via Bingham Dr. NW. We didn't actually ride this one, but based on reports of other Ward 4 residents, it may be better than the two other alternatives. This route is a somewhat circuitous way to cross the park, and there are no climbing lanes, but it currently seems to be the preferred option. On the ride we exited via Sherrill, which also doesn't have a climbing lane, but is comfortable at least on the weekend.

Specific committee recommendations:
  • We need improved routes for cyclists to cross Rock Creek Park
  • Best would be to improve Military Rd. to include a shoulder, at least on the uphill portions
  • Next best would be improving the sidepath to make it safer for cyclists and pedestrians to share
  • Next best would be installing climbing lanes on Joyce and Bingham and ensuring the trail parallel to Beach Drive between these roads is well maintained and widened.
  • Cooperation is needed between DDOT and NPS to improve connectivity in this area.
Overall, the committee thoroughly enjoyed riding through Ward 4 and eagerly awaits the improvement of bicycle connectivity through the Ward, extending the CaBi station network to more areas of the Ward, and improved access to commercial areas along Georgia Avenue. Here's the crew:

[photo of our group here]