The beginning of 2015 marks the transition from the unexpectedly stalwart friend of bicyclists Vince Gray as mayor to Muriel Bowser. Unlike 2010, “bike lanes and dog parks” no longer served as rhetorical stand-ins for gentrification in the mayor’s race. Bowser and her opponent David Catania had similar stances on bicycles during the campaign: We should put in more bike lanes where we can, and D.C. should commit to a Vision Zero policy that strives for the elimination of transportation deaths. But both were pretty thin on details.
Much will depend on who Bowser appoints to run the District Department of Transportation and how intently the director pushes to increase and improve bike accommodation. Bowser, though she was closely allied with ex-Mayor Adrian Fenty, has proven herself more cautious and consultative than the triathlete who jumpstarted D.C,.’s growth into a bike town nearly a decade ago. Her administration is much more likely to deliberate and study, and then seek collaboration and compromise. That said, don’t expect hesitancy: She campaigned on the idea of ensuring that all parts of city see a more equitable growth. Bowser and her team won’t need to start from scratch. The MoveDC plan, completed in 2014, provides a blueprint for transportation improvements in the District. Among other things, it calls for a whopping 72 miles of protected cycletracks. Expect the first of these improvements to start in 2015. In the near-term, there are two notable projects: adding more protection to Pennsylvania Avenue to prevent U-turns (supplementing the existing “zebras”—those mostly ineffective striped plastic humps) and extending the First Street NE cycletrack another block to reach Union Station.
Expect continued trail improvements in 2015. DDOT begins work on the long-stalled Metropolitan Branch Trail from Brookland to Maryland in 2015. The bike-pedestrian bridge from the MBT to the Rhode Island Avenue Metro station will open, connecting neighborhoods separated by train tracks. Work continues on the Kenilworth section of the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail, which will eventually connect the D.C. bike network to trails in Maryland. Also, look forward to progress on a trail along New York Avenue NE through Ivy City and on an improved Oxon Run trail in Ward 8, both in underserved areas for cyclists.
Also, expect the D.C. Council to take another crack at reforming contributory negligence laws for cyclists. Currently, even if a cyclist is only 1 percent at fault in any crash, he or she is disqualified from collecting any damages. Whether a fairer comparative negligence standard is adopted just for bicyclists and pedestrians or for all road users could make this is a substantial political battle. But enough prognostication: Next week, back to advice! —GP