What Does the Sustainability Plan Say About Bikes?

Mayor Vincent " Mayor Vince Gray" Gray has, today, revealed his sustainability plan (it's a pretty ambitious document) and some of it directly references bicycling and much of it, if implemented, would indirectly impact bicycling. Here are the key excerpts (page 83-84):
Goal 2: Expand provision of safe, secure infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians.
Target: By 2032, increase biking and walking to 25% of all commuter trips.  
My take: Seems like a good idea. Not sure if the 25% number is meant to refer to solely DC residents or whether we'd like commuters from the States to likewise take up bicycling and walking. If it's the latter, I'm not sure how that's supposed to work. Perhaps we spend some loot procuring a bunch of these and stationing them at the borders.
Action 2.1: Develop a citywide, 100 mile bicycle lane network. (Medium Term)
The District currently has 4 miles of protected bicycle lanes, 56 miles of bicycle lanes, and another 55 miles of separated multiuse trails. Still, not everyone has easy or convenient access to this infrastructure and there are many more people who would like to bike as long as there are safe routes to and from their homes and destinations. Improving dedicated bicycle access around the city will encourage more people to travel by bicycle. The District will expand the existing bicycle lane network to include 100 miles of connected lanes. These new bicycle routes will be prioritized in neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River where bicycle infrastructure is currently insufficient. 
My take: I don't know how accurate those numbers are, but I'll take them as about right. It's really only an expansion of 40 more miles. I think the key word in this goal is "connected" in reference to the 100 miles of lanes. DC needs a bicycle network and not just more lanes. Also, if you want to hit 25% modeshare, the old "let's paint a white stripe and call it a bike lane" trick isn't going to be sufficient. DC needs to prioritize protected cycletracks and that's going to require a whole lot more space and a whole lot more political capital. Maybe we could redeploy the car crushing monsters from the borders to strike fear in the hearts of car-loving NIMBYs. Just throwing that out there. I mean, if we're going to invest in them, we might as well get maximum utility. With regard to the EOTR bike infrastructure expansion, it's a laudable goal and one that emphasizes transportation justice. Along with the streets, don't forget the bridges! 11th Street is vastly better now, but the other bridges are a mess and could stand for significant improvement for better bicyclist and pedestrian connectivity.
Action 2.2: Expand the Capital Bikeshare program by 200 stations. (Medium Term)
The Capital Bikeshare program has been extremely popular since it began and has grown to nearly two million riders in just two years. To maintain this momentum, the District will expand Capital Bikeshare by an additional 200 stations in the city with a specific objective of incorporating neighborhoods further from downtown into the program. In the future, Bikeshare will be a viable travel option both within and between all wards. These additional Bikeshare locations will be coordinated with District and regional transit services to support ease of transfer from one mode of travel to another. In particular, new Bikeshare stations will be prioritized near new Streetcar and Circulator bus stops.
My take: 200 sounds like a lot, I guess. I mean, that'd be more than double what we have now. I'm not a Bikeshare data boffin (I know you're out there!) so I won't try to get all technical about the utility of expanding the systems to neighborhoods versus expanding it in the core or whether the commuting pattern in DC makes it such that the system will always be imbalanced or even whether Bikeshare expansion is useful towards the overall goal of increasing bicycling modeshare. You all have much more knowledge (and stronger opinions) about this than I do. Putting Bikeshare stations near streetcar and bus stops seems like a good idea. Also, Metro stops.
Action 2.3: Partner with community organizations to deliver bike and pedestrian safety education. (Short Term) The District already benefits from initiatives such as the DC Bike Ambassadors who attend community events across DC to encourage more people to bike for fun, fitness, and transportation. Bike Ambassadors educate residents about bicycle commuting and distribute bicycle maps. They also collaborate with drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians to promote the safe use of roads, sidewalks, and trails. To improve public safety, the District will expand the coverage of bicycle and pedestrian safety education to ensure that more drivers, community groups, and public transit operators are aware of pedestrian and bicycle safety measures. Every road user—including bus, car, and taxi drivers—has an influence on the safety of non-motorized travelers. The District plays an important part in ensuring that everyone understands their role in creating a safe environment for pedestrians and cyclists. 
My take:  Seems sensible. But there's only so much that yelling "Don't hit people with your car who are walking or on bikes" can probably accomplish, but maybe we can employ some grandmas who are really good at guilt-tripping people and in that way, it'd be like a senior jobs program too. Ultimately, I'm unpersuaded by the idea that people drive recklessly around bicyclists and pedestrians because they simply haven't been told not to enough times. But hey, whatever. Yelling isn't very expensive.
Action 2.4: Collect data to improve understanding of cyclist and pedestrian travel patterns. (Short Term) One of the biggest challenges in planning for bicycle and pedestrian access, infrastructure, and safety is the availability of biking and walking travel patterns throughout the District. Without this valuable information to form a baseline or predict future changes, it is difficult to plan for future users, allocate funding, or design and build new infrastructure. Currently, there is a lack of robust, high quality data on bicycle and pedestrian travel patterns in DC.The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) will take the lead on improving data collection and analysis about cyclist and pedestrian travel in DC. This data will be reviewed on an annual or biannual basis and used to prioritize investments in future infrastructure design for cyclists and pedestrians.
My take: I'd like to submit the past two years of blogging my rides in DC as evidence. Maybe this can also finally be a good use for Strava. Just have DDOT follow everyone who rides or walks through the city and they'll know soon enough where everyone is going. Generally, I'm of the belief that have more data is better than having less data when it comes to prioritizing bike infrastructure and also in Star Trek TNG episodes.
Action 2.5: Program crosswalks and traffic lights for improved safety and convenience of pedestrians and cyclists. (Medium Term)
Crosswalks and traffic lights can be risky places for pedestrians and cyclists. Some of our crosswalks do not provide walkers with enough time to cross the road safely, especially those with reduced mobility such as seniors or people with disabilities. DDOT will complete a full review of  crosswalk timings to ensure that all of our pedestrian facilities are programmed for the safety of all potential users. For cyclists, traffic light cycles will be analyzed along major avenues in the central city and business districts to ensure safe and convenient travel for both cyclists and vehicle traffic. In some cases along major routes, traffic lights may be able to be adjusted so that cyclists and vehicles can both travel unimpeded through green lights on their way through the city. Phasing of lights may be adjusted for different times of day for consistent traffic flow.
My take: Yes! It'd be great if traffic lights reflected more than the needs of drivers. It was also be great if we changed the red/yellow/green to colors that are a bit more modern, fashion-forward and runway inspired for a more haute couture experience. If I ever caught a "green wave" while riding through the city, I'd smile for the rest of the day. However, you can't just fiddle with the lights without thinking about the design of the bike infrastructure itself (e.g 15th Street). But it's nice that they're thinking about this.

So, that's the story about bicycling in the transportation section of the Sustainability Plan. Obviously, this is the first of many, many documents we'll see from this plan (to say nothing of what we'll see from WeMoveDC) so there's a long way to go. In the mean time, I'm just hoping for consistent and steady progress on the projects already underway (M Street Cycle Track, finally finishing the Met Branch Trail, spring 2013 50 station Bikeshare expansion, 7th and 9th Street, etc.) and I'll worry about the big stuff when it's time.


  1. To put the 25% number in context, commute trips in DC are currently (2011) at 11.8% walk, 3.2% bike, so a combined ~15%. The other 85% is about 40% transit, 40% driving, 5% other.

    Source: http://factfinder2.census.gov/bkmk/table/1.0/en/ACS/11_1YR/S0801/0400000US11

  2. MOAR bike parking!

    Oh, and also, 50 more bikeshare stations (not counting the 54 currently being installed) should stretch the system out to all edges of the District, so the next 150 will be all about infill.

    Once they're not focused on expanding the geographic capacity, the biggest benefit will be turning some of the "commuter origin stations" (like Woodley Park, all of the spots in Columbia Heights and Mt. Pleasant), into hubs, like the Dupont Circle north station, which have a mix of people riding in from their homes to use the metro and others taking bikes from those stations downhill to get to work. Most of the downtown stations are always going to be net-importers of rush hour bikeshare traffic, but the more "self-balancing" stations in the system, the less of a rebalancing effort will be necessary.

  3. To put the 100-miles of bike lanes in context, DC is currently home to over 3,500 lane-miles of roads.

    Source: (2009) http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policyinformation/statistics/2009/hm60.cfm

  4. By "collect data", I'm pretty sure DDOT is referring to bicycle and pedestrian counts. Actual, scientific counts. Strava and TFTS posts are all well and good, but are anecdotal evidence at best. Need hard numbers. Portland and Minneapolis have well-established count systems in place, and Arlington has recently installed automatic bike counters (similar to automatic vehicle traffic counters) on a few of its trails. Not exactly something that can be put in bike lanes, but it shouldn't be too hard to muster an army of counters at select times of the year to perform counts.

    Regarding counts, I bring your attention to this: http://www.bikepeddocumentation.org