Gordon By Bike

By Gordon Chaffin

Due tonight: feedback on DC's Met Branch Trail

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Gordon Chaffin
Gordon Chaffin
TODAY: Please complete the feedback form about the design for the final D.C. section of the Metropolitan Branch Trail.

D.C.'s current plan: green = off-street trail; orange = protected bike lane; red = on-street & traffic-calmed (Image by WABA)
D.C.'s current plan: green = off-street trail; orange = protected bike lane; red = on-street & traffic-calmed (Image by WABA)
Please complete the feedback form about the design for the final D.C. section of the Metropolitan Branch Trail. It’s due by midnight tonight. The Washington Area Bicyclist Association has a blog post with suggested feedback.
I’m sending an email about this because it’s extremely important that D.C. designs trail segments that encourage more people to use bikes, scooters, and their feet instead of cars. The different design options in that form show the difference between simply accommodating people who already bike and walk, versus reclaiming public space and creating safe-for-all streetscapes where *more people* use their bodies to get around the neighborhood.
The choices between the alternatives on the form are clear: D.C. might just put some paint on the road and maybe some speed bumps. Or, D.C. could actually design a clearly visible, physically separate trail section away from cars. Your feedback is needed to demand that D.C. create the safest street, rather than the one with the least change.
Please fill out the MBT survey if you at all interact with D.C.‘s bike network or if your loved ones do. Due tonight!
WABA has good advice on the specifics of each segment. The data on user comfort and crashes show a clear difference between the options. More people will use it and they’ll be safer if you pick the designs higher in this order:
  1. Off-street “shared-use paths” for biking and walking with designs that minimize sharp turns and steep gradients
  2. Separated, protected bike lanes and walkways next to bikes vs. next to moving cars
  3. Dedicated, paint-designated bike lanes on streets that are narrowed and/or have vertical traffic calming like bike
  4. Shared streets (i.e. “neighborhood bikeways”) with the road width unchanged and
Your feedback is important because usually, the safer design requires the removal of additional on-street parking and a reduction in car travel lanes. Please fill out the form to say that your family would benefit from making the street safer and that you are comfortable with the tradeoff of less parking. Personal anecdotes are good here. Would you let your children ride a bike on a street where they share the road with smartphone-using drivers angry about delays?
Met Branch Trail looking south from Rhode Island Avenue overpass on 1/7/2022. (Photo by Gordon Chaffin)
Met Branch Trail looking south from Rhode Island Avenue overpass on 1/7/2022. (Photo by Gordon Chaffin)
I started social media accounts (Twitter, Instagram) and a Google Group for the Metropolitan Branch Trail. I hope you’ll follow, join the listserv, and get involved. The eventual goal is a thriving “Friends Of…” nonprofit like the Friends of Mt. Vernon Trail or Eckington Parks and Arts.
I believe D.C. has to create a connected, physically separated trail from Union Station through Silver Spring. Just like D.C. needs a connected, protected bike lane network. It has to be safe enough for parents to let their young bike-riding children ride the whole distance. We need the designs for the trail’s northernmost D.C. section to encourage more people to use the trail, instead of just accommodating ride-on-highway-in-spandex crazies like me.
Please fill out the MBT survey if you at all interact with D.C.‘s bike network or if your loved ones do. Due tonight!
I live above the Met Branch Trail at Rhode Island Avenue NE. I watch every day: most trail users turn back around when the path hits 8th Street NE, where D.C. forces them to share the road with heavy construction vehicles and aggressive school parents in cars doing pick-up/drop-off. About 1.5 miles to the South, I see every day that many trail users turn back around at the steep M Street NE ramp in NoMA. In short, most people are not comfortable sharing space with cars, ever.
A similar thing happens at Turkey Thicket Recreation Center in Brookland: many people drive their cars to Turkey Thicket, park on the street, and walk laps of the paved loop around the soccer fields. I’ve asked folks a few times why they didn’t just walk from home if they live nearby? They’ve all said some variation of “I don’t feel safe walking on the sidewalk from my home to this Rec Center, even though I can physically do so.” Note that Turkey Thicket sits on Michigan Avenue NE, where several serious crashes happen per year with pedestrians or cyclists, and where several cars per year are driven so irresponsibly that they catapult onto the sidewalk and into adjacent houses. The 480-meter loop at Turkey Thicket is boring and frequently busy with other walkers and runners, but many people feel comfortable walking on it — physically separated from cars.
Protected bike lanes aren’t for “avid cyclists.” Safe-for-all bike/walk designs are for the vast majority of people who believe correctly that “drivers are crazy.” The majority of people, surveys show, are interested in so-called “active transportation” methods like (e-)bikes and getting more physically active with walking/running. But, those people will not change their car-focused ways unless we re-design the roads to encourage them and to make them feel safe.
Please fill out the MBT survey if you at all interact with D.C.’s bike network or if your loved ones do. Due tonight!
Family rides the Metropolitan Branch Trail together on bikes. Did they turn around where D.C. forces you to share the road with cars on 8th NE? (Photo by Gordon Chaffin)
Family rides the Metropolitan Branch Trail together on bikes. Did they turn around where D.C. forces you to share the road with cars on 8th NE? (Photo by Gordon Chaffin)
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Gordon Chaffin
Gordon Chaffin

This is Gordon Chaffin's newsletter featuring commentary on life in Washington, D.C., and tourism on a bike as the primary means of functional and recreational transportation. If society does not replace car-based infrastructure with public transportation and safe-for-everyone (e-)bike lanes, the planet will be destroyed by climate change. Gordon moonlights as a 5-star dog-sitter and freelance photographer, video producer, and audio technician. #GoBlue #RaiseHigh #ForksUp #DCStatehood

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Gordon Chaffin, 680 Rhode Island Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002