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2016, for all of its other faults, has been a sneakily huge year for bicycling progress in and around D.C. Let’s recount the advances:
Laws: By far the biggest victory of the year was the change in the contributory negligence standard for D.C. crashes involving cyclists and pedestrians. Thanks to the D.C. Council and mayor, and against considerable opposition, cyclists and pedestrians are no longer held to an unfair standard when involved in a crash. As long as they are less than 51 percent responsible, they’ll be able to receive up to 100 percent recovery for their property loss or injury. This dramatically changes the dynamic when seeking representation for crashes, and it’s a gigantic step towards a system that recognizes the vulnerability and safety of those who don’t use cars. Another legal victory of note is Virginia criminalizing “dooring,” which was already illegal in D.C. and Maryland. GP is grateful that the Old Dominion finally caught up.
Trails: This was a fantastic year for trails. The long-awaited final connection of the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail between Benning Road and the Maryland border opened with quiet fanfare. You can now ride from Nats Park to College Park and beyond completely off-road. Wide stretches of trails to the North and East of the city are now open for cyclists (to ruin your formerly quiet dog walk). Also of note is the beginning of the even-longer-awaited widening and repaving of the Rock Creek Park trail. The initial National Park Service study for this project started during the Harding administration (or thereabouts) and it’ll take a few years to complete, but it’s nice to see that NPS doesn’t just stand for Needs Paving Stat. This year also saw the launch of the Capital Trails Coalition, which aims to go big on trails in the coming years.
Bikeshare: Did you know that Tysons (Tysons FUCKING Corner!) has Bikeshare now? Yeah, for real. And Reston too. The streets still have a long way to go, but Fairfax County got on the Bikeshare bandwagon in a significant way this year, and it’s a giant deal if you’ve ever wanted to bike to Auntie Anne’s Pretzels or whatever. Oh, and Prince George’s decided at the end of the year to get involved with Bikeshare too. It’s coming East, and that’s important.
Infrastructure: D.C., Montgomery County, and Arlington all added more protected cycle tracks this year. The region is evolving away from “here’s a white line, good luck!” towards higher standards of infrastructure with buffers and posts (and in very rare cases, concrete), a welcome and overdue development. As always, advocates say that the pace of installation isn’t fast enough (see: the Eastern Downtown Protected Bikeway), but there have been and continue to be substantial gains of lane miles outside of the downtown core. —GP
Gear Prudence is Brian McEntee, who tweets @sharrowsDC. Got a question about cycling? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.