Following is the testimony presented at a December 16 hearing by the Committee on Transportation and the Environment on the city's Bicycle Master Plan. Ward 3 councilmmember Mary Cheh is the chairperson of the committee.
Good afternoon. I am Bradley Green, a member of the Smart Growth Committee of the Washington DC Chapter of the Sierra Club. The chapter has over 2,000 members living in the District of Columbia.
We support the goal in Mayor Gray’s sustainability plan of increasing the number of trips by bike, transit, and walking in this city. Progress toward this goal will improve our environment, the health of our citizens, and our quality of life.
The full implementation of the city’s 2005 Bicycle Master Plan can play an important role in reaching that goal. We applaud the progress that has already been made. This includes the marking of more bike lanes, the creation of protected bike lanes on Pennsylvania Avenue and 15th, L, and M Streets, and major progress on the Met Branch and Anacostia Riverwalk trails.
The biggest single boon to biking in this city, however, is undoubtedly the creation of Capital Bikeshare. This program has proven to be an easy on-ramp for introducing many residents and visitors alike to the ease and speed of getting around the city on a bike. As a result, the distinctive red Capital Bikeshare bikes have become a familiar sight on our streets.
More needs to be done, however, Capital Bikeshare needs to continue to expand. It has yet to reach my Takoma neighborhood, for example, even though it recently arrived in neighboring Takoma Park.
The Met Branch Trail, which was supposed to have been completed years ago appears to be stalled. We recognize that ongoing development of the trail involves multiple players, including notably the National Park Service. The city should continue to work with the Park Service to route the trail across Park Service land where appropriate.
The same cooperation is also needed to establish the crucial connection from the Met Branch Trail at Fort Totten to the trail network in nearby Prince Georges County. The use of Park Service land is key to this effort.
A joint effort with the Park Service is also needed to finally widen and rehabilitate the badly deteriorated trail through Rock Creek Park. Its condition is now so bad that many people simply avoid it, even though it could provide both a safe and highly scenic commuting and recreational corridor.
The Klingle Valley Trail also needs to be constructed. It will provide an important link between Rock Creek Park and neighborhoods to the west of the park. This trail’s right of way is entirely within the city’s control. There is no reason not to proceed towards its completion.
Other trails are also languishing, including the South Capitol Street, Suitland Parkway, and Oxon Cove Trails.
The creation of additional bike lanes and the maintenance of existing lanes is also needed. Wherever possible bikes should be separated from motor vehicles. Creating a bike lane is the easiest way to do this. We realize that much of the low hanging fruit in this regard has already been picked. Nonetheless, the city should look for additional opportunities to better accommodate and facilitate bikes on our streets.
Separating cars from bikes reduces accidents. It also increases predictability for drivers and a sense of security for cyclists. This, in turn, encourages more people to take a bike rather than a car.
More needs to be done to educate both drivers and cyclists to about the need for responsible and legal behavior on our streets. Bad behavior is a major source of tension between these two groups. We also need to look at ways our laws can be revised to recognize the unique realities of safe bicycle use.
Finally, conflicts between cyclists and drivers are often seen as a zero sum game: a gain for cyclists is a loss for drivers and vise versa. We believe this is a false dichotomy. Each additional cyclist on the road is potentially one less car on the same road. And as we all know, a bike takes up a lot less space on that road than a car or SUV, thus reducing congestion for the other cars still on the road.
In conclusion, cycling can and should play a key role in making our city more sustainable, healthy, and liveable. We encourage the city to redouble its efforts to build a cycling infrastructure and support program that moves us towards these goals.