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More details on New Hampshire Ave contraflow bike lanes

The contraflow bike lanes planned for New Hampshire Ave's one-way blocks north and south of U Street will tie in with signal changes at the intersection of 16th and U, according to DDOT's Mike Goodno. The light will turn red for vehicles in all directions, allowing pedestrians to more safely cross U Street without dodging turning vehicles; at the same time, a new bicycle signal will let bicyclists turn off New Hampshire and onto 16th. They can then enter new bike boxes in front of the traffic on 16th Street, ensuring cars see them. When the light on 16th turns green, the bicycles can then turn onto U, continue straight across 16th, or reeter New Hampshire on the other side.

Here's the recent DDOT diagram of 16th and U, with its great mega-bulb-outs. The bike boxes will be on 16th approaching U from both directions, where arrows are in this diagram, and making cars stop farther back. Bicycles will come out of New Hampshire and enter those bike boxes in front of the stopped traffic on 16th.

This project won't have to wait for the complete intersection redesign, Goodno said. In the meantime, DDOT will put in new striping and a plastic median curb to protect the bike lane from oncoming traffic.

David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. 


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I've always thought New Hampshire Avenue should "cross and intersect" U Street as it was designed. In the L'Enfant Plan the avenues are supposed to be the main arterial roads ... even more "main" than say U Street. Whoever decided to make it impossible for traffic to use New Hampshire Avenue to go from northeast of that intersection down to Dupont Circle erred badly. I think getting the counterflow bikes lanes in there is a good first step at re-opening New Hampshire to all traffic.

by Lance on Aug 8, 2008 12:34 pm • linkreport

I applaud the red in all directions! I was tapped by a car going southbound on 16th street and making a left turn onto U as I crossed (with the light and in the crosswalk) on U street.

by bm on Aug 8, 2008 1:24 pm • linkreport

BIKE BOXES!!!! YAY!!! I know what would be good for those huge bulb-outs: a smartbike kiosk. I know there's one at 14th, but as the program expands, they could put a smaller one here (maybe 6-9 docks?).

by Justin on Aug 9, 2008 12:14 pm • linkreport

The grid system totally breaks up north of about U street - in L'Enfant & Ellicott's plans it was the far-northern tip of the city, and wasn't crowded enough for a massive boulevard. The result is that New Hampshire spins around and becomes Florida Avenue (a more recent creation than these plans), then 9th street. So in one direction the avenue is capped by Dupont Circle, in the other direction it has a topsy-turvy loop going south. There isn't enough traffic on such an odd street to justify being a main arterial road today.

by Squalish on Aug 10, 2008 3:33 am • linkreport

"There isn't enough traffic on such an odd street to justify being a main arterial road today."

Really? Go sit see the northbound traffic that get funneled on to T Street and then sits at the light at 16th/T to make the one hop juant to either continue northward on 16th or eastward on U Street.

Be taking out this necessary "diagonal" street, you cause lots more traffic to flow through other east-west and north-south "streets" which were intended to be more residential in character ... then through the shorter diagonal "avenue" which was purposefully constructed to be wider and capable of carrying more traffic ... and which the zoning regs reflected this more arterial/commercial use by setting height limits based on the wider avenues and setting zoning uses consistent with the character of the avenues. Bottom line, little deviations like this from the essessence of the L'Enfant plan have major ramifications in the way of sending both traffic and commercial buildings down streets the grid streets of our neighborhoods which were intended to be more "local" in usage.

by Lance on Aug 10, 2008 10:18 am • linkreport

sorry for all the typos above!

by Lance on Aug 10, 2008 10:19 am • linkreport

It wasn't "taken out", it just never led anywhere in the first place and was 'patched over' when the city started to exceed the original plans. By the time development reached it, was built as a two lane road and later parking lot, not as a 'grand avenue'.

While obviously an extension of the stylistic elements of these plans beyond the original maps would have been nice, instead we just kept building the city. Tearing up a hundred or so buildings in order to create a new 'grand avenue' going from Dupont Circle to what might be a new square in front of Washington Hospital Center, is just not an option at this point.

On other roads like Maryland Avenue... I could agree with you fully, but in the original plans this was just a place farmers could live that was near their fields, and one of dozens of entryways for the minimal intercity traffic. Nobody was going to forcibly deconstruct a local mansion in order to keep building northwards on their own interpretation of Ellicott's original pattern.

by Squalish on Aug 10, 2008 3:22 pm • linkreport

Squalish, I'm talking about NH Ave. in the "L'Enfant" City (i.e., the original "City of Washington") bounded by "Boundary Street" (i.e., today's Florida Ave.) I wasn't talkning about where it would have gone once out passed Florida avenue and into the former "Washington County" area. The intersection in question (U and 16th) is entirely within the original city ... and that is where we've altered the pattern of development (as well as the flow of traffic) by preventing it to be used fully along its length. Ditto with Vermont Avenue. I can understand people on those legs of those avenues wanting traffic "calmed", but the end result is a re-routing of traffic through narrower streets ... and the following of commerce along those streets. Look at the 1600 block of T NW. Look at the traffic it has to sustain and how it has multiple non-residential uses on both sides of it including a small hotel (unsigned because it's illegally operating as a B&B), 2 grocery stores, a recent addition to a legal hotel on 16th Street, etc. etc. The wider New Hampshire Avenue around the corner should under the L'Enfant Plan be where these commercial uses developed and where the road is wider to serve them. (Remember, this was zoning, and the L'Enfant Plan had to rely on "incentives", such as wider roads with more traffic, to steer development patterns.) All I'm saying is we've strayed from the basics of a plan that in it's simplicity was visonary in terms of urban development ... and still is. The "roundabouts"/"circles" is another area where by putting traffic lights on some of them (and legally distinguishing between the un-traffic-signed 'roundabout' and traffic-signed 'circle') we've messed with a simple idea that worked well ... traffic from various directions "naturally" flowed around it to the intersection streets they needed. Now with lights and all you have a complete mess at most circles. In my opinion, urban planning, like any planning, works best when you set up a "constitution" (i.e., overall plan/design) around which all else must follow ... and then leave it alone other than to ensure it is following that plan as intended. The more you try to "change the plan" as is clearly happening at this intersection, the more problems you'll end up with as the interactions of all the various individual plans play out. It'll be interesting to watch bikes try to use this intersection going in both directions on New Hampshire while cars can't. You wanna bet people will end up confused as to which "plan" applies to them?

by Lance on Aug 10, 2008 5:52 pm • linkreport

*(Remember, this was before the advent of zoning regs, and the L'Enfant Plan had to rely on "incentives", such as wider roads with more traffic, to steer development patterns.)

by Lance on Aug 10, 2008 5:59 pm • linkreport

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