Bike Programs Across the World

Doctors in Boston are prescribing prescriptions for a one-year membership to Hubway, their bike-sharing program, for $5. This program is called Prescribe-a-Bike. The usual price of the one-year membership is $85. This is an exciting new strategy that could have huge effects on the obesity epidemic faced by urban areas throughout the U.S.

Also, bike elevators are popping up in European cities to help bikers climb steep hills that they need to climb, especially for commuting. This can help encourage timid bikers or those nervous about certain elements of biking, such as the topography of city streets, that are barrier for using bikes for commuting and transportation.

Would these programs work in our area? What other ways can we encourage more people to using biking for health reasons, commuting, or even just for recreation? Share your thoughts on how we can increase interest around biking in the Greater Washington, D.C. area.

Updates on Woodglen Drive and Washington Gas Tower

Back in April of last year, we shared that Washington Gas was planning a 145 foot tall communications tower that would sit in the center of their industrial property on Nebel Street, not far from where new residential high-rise buildings are planned.  At that time, there were several approvals that were necessary before construction commenced but we’ve not heard any updates since then.  Learn more on the background of the project by clicking here.

We checked in with Washington Gas last week when we realized that no apparent progress had been made on the project.  Washington Gas tells us that the county has asked them to look at alternative sites and determine whether another might suit their needs.  No word, yet, on what the result of that process will be but we’ll keep you posted.

Also, in August, we told you about improvements planned by the county’s Department of Transportation along Woodglen Drive.  Specifically, the plan was to install a shared-use path and bike lanes stretching from the trolley trail to the terminus of Woodglen.  These would be extended to metro (and, hopefully, beyond) as properties along the way redevelop.  Learn more about the plan’s details by clicking here.

At that time, construction of the full project was slated for Fall 2013 but nothing has happened as yet.  So, we checked in with MCDOT for an update and learned that the project was delayed while community concerns were considered.  The delay caused the project to miss the construction season before winter but, all things being equal, it’s better to hash these things out before ground is broken.

The shared-use path proposed for the west side of Woodglen, at 8-feet wide, would have required the removal of some trees and also created some pinch points at utility pole locations.  MCDOT and a technical design team are looking at this piece again and will keep the community apprised as they move forward.  The on-road bicycle facilities, including the bike lane and sharrows, will move forward as planned.  When we learn about any community meetings or a construction schedule, we’ll post them here!

 

 

 

Can Bike Signals Make Biking Safer?

We have been focusing a lot of attention on the safety of pedestrians and bikers. Another element that could help the safety of Montgomery County residents are bike signals or boxes, similar to walk signals. Bike boxes were just recognized by American engineers to be included in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), according to Angie Schmitt. These bike signals are used like walk signals, to “reduce conflicts between people on bikes and turning drivers, give cyclists a head start at intersections, or create a separate phase entirely for bicycle traffic.” Before these signals were approved and recognized by the MUTCD, any neighborhood or community wanting to install them had to conduct engineering studies to test if the signals would make a difference. These studies became so expensive that it often hindered communities from trying. Since the signals are approved by the MUTCD, the studies are no longer necessary.

signal-1

Source: Bike Portland

Is this something we want in White Flint? Do you think bike signals will make biking safer? Will it help attract more bikers to the area if they know there are extra safety precautions in place?

Share your thoughts!

Five ways to design for safer streets

Earlier this month, NYC’s Department of Transportation released a major report, “Making Safer Streets” which outlines the various ways the department has re-imagined and redesigned their streets. The results include:

  • 30% decline in fatalities since 2001
  • 29% decline in people killed or severely injured since 2001
  • 1,000 NYC lives have been saved by the decrease in traffic fatalities since 2001—including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists, drivers, and passengers

The overarching aspect of safer streets is “[creating] the opportunity for drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists to move through the street network simply and easily, minimizing the unexpected, the confusing, and the potential for surprises.” More specifically, here are the five basic principles highlighted in the report:

  1. Make the street easy to use by accommodating desire lines and minimizing the complexity of driving, walking, and biking, thus reducing crash risk by providing a direct, simple way to move through the street network.
  2. Create safety in numbers, which makes vulnerable street users such as pedestrians and cyclists more visible. The same design principle, applied to arterial streets when traffic is light, reduces the opportunity for excessive speeds.
  3. Make the invisible visible by putting users where they can see each other.
  4. Choose quality over quantity so that roadway and intersection geometries serve the first three design principles.
  5. Look beyond the (immediate) problem by expanding the focus area if solutions at a particular location can’t be addressed in isolation.

White Flint may not be New York, but it certainly has its share of dangerous traffic. Safer streets are a must in order to realize the vision of a sustainable and walkable community! Check out StreetsBlog’s post on the report for another perspective.

Boston gets bike helmet vending machines

Boston's bikeshare program, Hubway. Photo by the author.

Boston’s bikeshare program, Hubway. Photo by the author.

 

We’re really excited that Montgomery County now has Capital Bikeshare, and have written (a lot) about the many benefits of bicycle-friendly communities. However, as our community shifts from being auto-dominant to having more complete streets, there is a learning curve. Safety has been a concern throughout the process. Bike lanes play a critical role in helping everyone feel safer and are a critical piece of infrastructure. But what about helmets?

Boston is leading the way on this initiative, with Mayor Thomas Menino unveiling a machine that dispenses bicycle helmets for the city’s bike share system, Hubway. The “HelmetHub” machine is the first of its kind in the country. There is only one machine now, which will be used to gather data about use before more machines are introduced in 2014.

The rental fee is $2, with the stipulation that they must be returned in 24 hours. Otherwise, they can be purchased for $20. Helmets returned to the machine will be inspected and sanitized.

Mayor Menino said in a statement “Our goal is to make Hubway a great and safe way to get around town.” You can read more about this initiative here, and be sure to check out HelmetHub’s website as well!

Would You Wear a Bike Helmet if it was Invisible?

Although we talk a lot on this blog about moving away from being a car-centric community, it can sometimes be hard to fathom in this suburb of strip malls.  But, how’s this for a trend:  in almost every European country, bikes are now outselling cars.   And while this movement has not fully hit the United States, it is clear that Millenials are driving less.  They are choosing cities and walkable suburbs.

What’s keeping us off bikes?  Might it be the helmets?  What if we showed you an Invisible Bike Helmet?  Watch this video and start your weekend off with an incredible innovation:

 

The Invisible Bicycle Helmet | Fredrik Gertten from Focus Forward Films on Vimeo.

What Bike Infrastructure Looks Like

Arlington, Virginia, has been a regional leader in smart growth.  With high-density, mixed-use development along transit lines, they are an example worth monitoring as we implement the White Flint Sector Plan.  Because they are out of space to build new roads, and their transit capacity is slowing in growth, Arlington needed to find other ways to move people.  And, that’s really their focus — moving people, not just moving cars.

Bike infrastructure is coming to White Flint and this documentary, produced by BikeArlington, offers some great visuals of what it might look like:

The Japanese Park Their Bikes Where?

Part of the challenge of White Flint planning is deciding how to use street space most wisely.  The Japanese have come up with an excellent alternative to traditional bike racks – and it even protects the bikes from weather and prospective ne’er-do-wells.

 

Even if it’s not so feasible here, this short video is totally worth a few minutes of your Friday.  Thanks to Friends of White Flint Board Member Suzanne Hudson for sending it our way!  Have a great weekend!