P Street SW cycletrack testimony

My name is Payton Chung, and I live in ANC 6D. Thank you for the opportunity to speak tonight. I support the current proposal for a cycle track on P Street SW, and was greatly disappointed in tonight’s resolution (attached).

The existing P St SW does not work well for pedestrians, bus riders, drivers, scooter riders, OR bicyclists of any age. It excludes all except drivers (when it’s not backed up with traffic) and only the most agile bicyclists. I would point out that 1/3 of Americans cannot drive, notably disabled and elderly people but also children, and that 40% of Southwest households do not have cars, whether because they cannot drive, cannot afford to drive, or simply choose other ways to get around — all of which are safer, cleaner, greener, quieter, and more space-efficient than driving, and therefore deserve not just encouragement but full-throated support.

Protected bike lanes are the definition of inclusive street use. They make it possible for everyone to use the street for bicycling or micromobility. I have seen children on scooters, elderly tricycle riders, and disabled motorized wheelchair riders in protected bike lanes.

This segment of the proposed Anacostia River Trail is a critical east-west connection that will link not only both sides of the river here in the District, but connects to an entire five-state region. Thousands of people, including residents like me but also employees and customers for local businesses, use these trails already, including many low-income DC residents in communities both west and east of the Anacostia River. Many more would use these trails if there were a safe and obvious connection across the Southwest Waterfront neighborhood. I’ve personally talked to many people who have told me that they’d like to try bicycling across the area, but don’t see how they can do that today because the trail abruptly ends at my front door.

In a perfect world, the Army would allow a trail on their property; N St SW and O St SW would not have been privatized into culs-de-sac and would be available for public purposes, like bike lanes; and  there would be more reserved parking for people with disabilities. Alas, we don’t live in that perfect world, and DDOT’s proposal is the best balance available in this world to ensure that all of us are allowed a safe passage down the street.

A cycle track of this design is a proven safety strategy, which could potentially save lives and allow more residents to safely choose healthful and environmentally sound transportation choices. Implementing these strategies should within our public spaces should be matter of fact, not controversial, and should be able to be implemented quickly, rather than requiring months of reviews.

Recently: instant neighborhoods, unmasking institutional capital, dockless bikeshares compared

Cranes around Navy Yard, from roof of 100 M SE

Three things I’ve written elsewhere this week, the first two inspired by the mechanics of my neighborhood’s growth:

1. “Instant neighborhoods” don’t make for great cities, but DC insists on them in GGWash. I really do relish living in a neighborhood that’s growing and changing quickly, but it’s a little bit unnerving to think that we may be repeating the biggest mistake of Southwest’s past — the hubristic assumption that our best-laid urban plans can anticipate every need, for all time.

2. Meet the everyday people who own these iconic Washington-area buildings in  GGWash. Amidst a lot of dark insinuations about outside money, it’s kind of funny to uncover the rather more quotidian reality of who’s paying for all these new buildings.

3. I wrote a Twitter thread about riding all four of the new, dock-less bike sharing systems that have launched in DC this past week. Click through for the reviews:

 

What to memorize before you’re in a crash

Crash report

I was injured in a hit-and-run crash last year, and unlike so many others, the driver is being brought to justice. (I recently talked to a prosecutor about the case.) Here’s what I’ve learned to do: shout out the license plate number. Then repeat it, even louder. Get in the habit of doing this whenever you see bad driving, and certainly do this instead of cussing. You will need to make this so habitual that it becomes instinct — at the moment it happens, you will not be able to think clearly.

What happened to me: I was on a short summer vacation to Toronto. On a whim, I decided to take the bus to the nearby city of Hamilton, just to see something different. (Oh, it’s different, all right.) As I was crossing Main at James, with the light, I noticed a left-turning car proceeding through the intersection — clear of traffic, but not yet clear of me. I had a stomach-dropping realization of “uh, that car is going to intersect with my leg” a moment before the car’s bumper grazed my ankle.

I pivoted and began shouting out the license number repeatedly. This (a) helped me remember it when I had a chance to get to the corner and write it down, for recitation to 911, (b) alerted the driver that yes, someone had noticed, and most importantly (c) caught the attention of a witness, who was thinking clearly.

A witness who was a block away ran back towards me just afterwards, told me that the motorist had turned right, offered a description of the car complete with a correct license plate number [I was off by one], and offered to look in that direction for the car. He found the car two blocks away, parked in a parking lot, confronted the driver, and told him that he needed to return to the scene — which he did. (Like a good Canadian, this witness apologized profusely on behalf of Hamilton, and while we were waiting for the police talked about his hockey league.)

Everything else about the sequence of events was relatively easy to recall when on the phone with 911, and later when filing the police report. But without the license plate number, there’s no way that I could have even begun the process.

All of the above is also good advice, but only after you’ve correctly remembered the license plate number.

Friday photo: a room with a view

C&O Lockhouse 22: your very own waterfall (well, waste weir)

Click for video

The C&O Canal’s Lockhouse 22 made a great destination for a Thanksgiving-holiday S24O. Not only is it an easy 40-mile roundtrip from Georgetown along the easy towpath, but Pennyfield Lock is situated on a secluded stretch of the river, surrounded by protected lands on both sides of the river — Blockhouse Point Park, the Dierssen waterfowl sanctuary, and NoVa’s Seneca Park.C&O Lockhouse 22, Travilah/Tobytown, MD

Not mentioned among Lockhouse 22’s amenities was that running water surrounds this lockhouse. Mike High’s book notes that Pennyfield has a “waste weir” that directs canal overflows into the Potomac just upstream of the lock; since this is the first lock below Seneca, where the downstream reach of the canal is watered, there’s usually a good flow across the weir. There’s also a bypass flume just inland from the canal, which also burbled with water headed for a small, stream-fed pool just below the lock.

By contrast, the closer-in Canal Quarters lockhouses (#6 and #10) might have electricity but are surrounded by traffic (Clara Barton Parkway) rather than water. Lockhouse #25 is just a few miles up, but looks out at the Lansdowne golf course rather than parkland. At mile 49, #28 pushes the boundaries of a weekend trip and sits next to busy railroad tracks, and #49 looks grand but is way out west.

Yes, the cabin was chilly — the thick stone walls keep the interior cave-like year-round — and a bit spooky at night, especially when light reflected off the rising moon suddenly appeared. The firewood had been scattered about the woods by vandals, but fallen wood was plentiful. Since it was winter, the water pumps are locked and we had to pack in a couple of bottles of water. At $100 a night, it would make a superb rustic getaway for a small group.

Friday photo: Canopy street

image

America’s federal government (unlike governments elsewhere) has historically frowned upon continuous canopies of roadside trees — or, indeed, any roadside trees at all. After all, anything that distracts drivers from the task of racking up lots of miles, at high speeds, is simply inadmissable.

Thus, I was pleasantly surprised to find these few hundred linear feet of bucolic bliss lining a federally maintained road just a few miles from the Beltway. Of course, this road is within the USDA’s Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, and the USDA is probably friendlier to (cultivated) trees than its counterparts in other agencies.

Oops, NPS accidentally fixed the Peters Point trail crossing

Rock Creek trail crossing at Peters Point

Peters Point, which I earlier called the worst trail junction in town, was miraculously fixed for a few days.

All it took was a resurfacing project that sent cars around the useless little loop. Since the drivers were forced to slow down and pay attention, they were much more likely to notice the crosswalk and yield to pedestrians. That’s even though the temporary crosswalk was more difficult to see, and a set of warning signs were taken away.

Now that the main roadway resurfacing is complete, though, everything’s back to “normal” now. The really sharply angled ramp has been regraded, and perhaps the crosswalk will be restriped with a ladder rather than two thin lines, but I don’t expect to see compliance to ever again be quite as high.

Not that the deadly and criminal behavior by car drivers stopped, of course. This guy illegally blew through the crosswalk without stopping, slowing, or even bothering to look for the cross traffic that was inches away.

Rock Creek trail crossing at Peters Point

A few possible bike + train itineraries via Amtrak’s Capitol Limited

Harper's Ferry in October

The Capitol Limited rolls into Harpers Ferry, W.V.

The launch of roll-on/roll-off bicycle service on Amtrak’s Capitol Limited makes it much easier for bicyclists to travel the Great Allegheny Passage and C&O canal towpath. Although the train’s mileage is very similar to the trail’s, a look at the mileage charts will still come in handy when planning an expedition.

For instance, one could complete the trip over two (slightly ambitious) or three (light) weekends, rather than blocking off an entire workweek and hoping for no rain. Starting from DC, this might look like:

Capitol Limited schedule

Capitol Limited, 2015 schedule

C&O Friday
4 PM: Amtrak from DC to Cumberland; overnight. (The late departure makes it possible to get most of a workday in.)
C&O Saturday
Bike 85 miles from Cumberland to Williamsport
C&O Sunday
Bike 68 miles from Williamsport to Reston; Silver Line back

GAP Thursday
4 PM: Amtrak from DC to Pittsburgh; overnight
GAP Friday
Bike 76 miles from Pittsburgh to Ohiopyle
GAP Saturday
Bike 75 miles from Ohiopyle to Cumberland
GAP Sunday
9 AM: Amtrak from Cumberland to DC

The trip’s even easier starting from Pittsburgh, since you can roll off the early-morning Capitol Limited and have a full day of bicycling ahead. Here’s an easy-pace three-weekend schedule, involving just one weekday:

GAP (Part 1) Saturday
5 AM: Amtrak from Pittsburgh to Connellsville
Bike back to Pittsburgh (downhill)

GAP (Part 2) Saturday
5 AM: Amtrak from Pittsburgh to Connellsville
Bike 44 miles to Rockwood
GAP (Part 2) Sunday
Bike 45 miles from Rockwood to Cumberland (mostly a fantastic downhill)
7 PM: Amtrak from Cumberland to Pittsburgh

C&O Friday
5 AM: Amtrak from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, arrive 9:31 AM
Bike 60 miles to Hancock
C&O Saturday
Bike 65 miles to Harpers Ferry
C&O Sunday
Bike 59 miles to Washington DC
4 PM: Amtrak from DC to Pittsburgh

For Washingtonians, Harpers Ferry is also a gateway to a great many weekend road rides in the western hills. Begin with the 4PM ride out on a Friday, and an overnight in the old town. The next day, choose between several loop routes near Harpers Ferry, like around Antietam or South Mountain. After one more overnight (no need to carry everything), take the train back the following morning.

Or take the train out on a Friday evening and begin riding back east along the C&O, perhaps spending a night at a trailside campsite or a cabin (Lockhouse 28 and the Bald Eagle Island campsite are 10 miles downriver, bikeable before sundown during DST). Then, head up out of the valley to explore northern Loudoun or western Montgomery counties. Ultimately, either the W&OD or C&O (or even RideOn on Monday morning from Poolesville) offer a return trip into town.

Another, less complete trail links two other cities along the Capitol Limited — Pittsburgh and Cleveland. Here’s how that trip would work as a one-way.