Friday, November 4, 2011

Regional Call to Action Published: Updated 11/11/11

Shane Farthing, Executive Director of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, officially released the Regional Call to Action report yesterday at the Call to Action Summit. The report was based on the over 1,000 suggestions from 200 cyclists, gathered at local meetings hosted by WABA during the past month.

The primary message was that bicycling needs to be a viable, functional transportation choice for the 60% of area residents who are interested in cycling but concerned about the perceived dangers of bicycling. "They would ride if they felt safer on the roadways—if cars were slower and less frequent, and if there were more quiet streets with few cars and paths without any cars at all."

In order to create conditions for encouraging those interested but concerned cyclists, we all need to work toward this goal; advocates and bike advisory groups, local bike shops, recreational and competitive organizations, and WABA leading the way as the regional advocacy organization. WABA has paid staff who can help make this happen. FABB serves as WABA's volunteer advocates on the ground in Fairfax and we need everyone's help.

The best way to help in Fairfax is to get involved in planning for the future of bicycling in the county. The bicycle master plan is currently being developed by the county. Meetings are being held to gather cyclist input. This is the detailed information needed to develop a list of projects and activities that will help make bicycling a functional transportation choice in Fairfax. The next meeting is for the Mt. Vernon area on Thursday Nov. 176.

Other highlights from the Summit included a very good presentation by local attorney Bruce Deming, "Crashed! Your Legal Rights In A Bicycle Accident." Bruce covered what cyclists should do if they're involved in a crash. He stressed the importance of having a witness to the crash. Without that, it's going to be your word vs. that of the motorist. Find out if a ticket was issued to the motorist and if so, follow the case.

Be aware that anything you say about the crash and your actions can be used in court. Since Virginia, Maryland, and DC are all contributory negligence states, if you admit to any negligence, however minor, it can result in the case being dismissed if it is tried in court. If you need an attorney, look for someone with experience working with bicyclists. WABA maintains a list of bicycle attorneys.

Gina Arlotto, WABA Safe Routes to School Network Coordinator, discussed Tools for Planning Healthy Communities. She discussed the Safe Routes to School program and Health Impact Assessments (HIA) as possible tools. "HIA is used to evaluate objectively the potential health effects of a project or policy before it is built or implemented." Gina has been a tremendous asset in Fairfax, helping FABB and others as we work with Fairfax schools to encourage more kids to walk and bike to school. See the Fairfax SRTS Facebook page for more info.

One statement that summed up her discussion is that people should not only live in a place but they should be able to thrive. Bicycling allows people to get around in a healthy, low cost way. A good resource on the topic is Making Healthy Places: "There is a pressing need to create healthy places and to reduce the health threats inherent in places already built."

Former WABA Executive Director Eric Gilliland gave an overview of the first year of Capital Bikeshare. He is now General Manager, of Capital Bikeshare (CaBi). CaBi now has 19,000 annual and monthly members. Over 1,000,000 trips were taken in the first year. Most of those trips were less than 20 minutes in duration (there is no additional charge for trips under 30 minutes).

We asked Eric about the possibility of having CaBi in a suburban location like Reston. He said it depends on the situation such as the density of population, type of destinations, proximity to transit, etc. Charlie  Denney, Senior Associate of Alta Planning & Design, said that 20 stations with 200 bikes is a rough guess at the critical mass needed for a small system.

Professor Ralph Buehler and Masters Candidate Darren Buck, of Virginia Tech Alexandria Center presented interesting research on CaBi use and bicycling in the DC Metro area in general. Their research will be presented at the Transportation Research Board meeting in January. An interesting but not surprising finding of Darren's was that proximity to bike lanes has a significant impact on use of CaBi in an area. The results of an extensive survey of CaBi users will be available in December.

Professor Buehler gave preliminary results of his work on bike commuting in the Metro area. He noted that in DC, bike commuting comprises a much higher promotion of bike trips that in other places. He also showed that where there are more bike trips per person, the rate of bike fatalities is lower than where there are fewer bike trips per person, with Fairfax Co. having the highest fatality rate in the region.

WMATA panel
WMATA staff Nat Bottigheimer (Assistant General Manager), Patrick Schmitt (Parking Manager), Kristin Haldeman (Manager of Access Planning & Policy Analysis) discussed advances WMATA is making in providing better access to, and parking at WMATA facilities. WMATA expects to need 30,000-40,000 new parking spaces in the future at a cost of $20,000-25,000 per structured parking space. If some of those patrons rode bikes or walked, significant savings could be realized.

Forty five percent of those who park live within 3 miles. Currently 33% of their patrons walk to the station, 29% park, and 1% bike. One major change at WMATA is that bike parking, both lockers and racks, is now managed by the Parking office. As we noted earlier, a Bike & Ride facility is under construction at College Park Silver Spring and one is planned at Franconia-Springfield.

Local bike industry panel
The final panel consisted of local bike industry reps discussing the importance of bike advocacy to their business. They know that if more of those 60% interested but concerned cyclists were riding, they would sell more bikes and we'd live in a better place. It was mentioned that we need to get other businesses that support bicycling and healthy communities to get involved. When they are in the room, politicians listen. Without their help, it will be a much harder struggle making the DC Metro area a more bike-friendly place.

One added benefit of attending the conference was the spectacular view of Georgetown and DC from atop the Waterview Conference Center, including being able to watch the interactions of trail users and other traffic at the Custis Trail/Lynn St intersection.

Update: WABA has posted their summary of the Call to Action Summit and the final version of the Call to Action report.

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Just a detail -- the bike corral is being constructed at College Park rather than Silver Spring, with additional projects currently in the design phase for Vienna and Franconia-Springfield stations.
Nat B., Thanks for catching that error. I've changed the post accordingly.
Minor point: I think the Mount Vernon public meeting is on the 17th, not the 16th.
Pat, Thanks for the correction. I've made the change. Looks like I need to do a better job of editing these longer posts.

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