Greater Greater Washington

Evans discovers joy of cycletracks on Ward 2 bike ride

Councilmember Jack Evans says the 15th Street cycletrack should remain as it is and DDOT should move quickly to implement L and M Street cycletracks. These comments followed a bicycle tour of Ward 2 yesterday morning with people from WABA, DDOT, and Greater Greater Washington.


Evans bicycling on New Hampshire Avenue, NW.

Evans has received complaints about the 15th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue cycletracks in the past, and criticized elements of them from the perspective of drivers on the Council dais. I invited Evans to come experience these facilities from the cyclists' point of view, to see how they've made many cyclists, especially less experienced ones, feel much less intimidated riding downtown.

"It's easier than I thought it would be" to bicycle around, Evans said of the trip, which included Georgetown, Rock Creek Parkway, the harrowing Washington Circle, L and M Streets, the bike signal at 16th and U, and the 15th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue cycletracks.

Leaving from Evans' house in Georgetown, he mentioned right away an eagerness to see the 15th Street lane, noting he'd gotten many complaints about it from drivers, bicyclists, pedestrians and more. But at the end, he told me he felt DDOT should just "leave [15th Street] the way it is and people can get used to that."

He's referring to the well-known effect that when something changes, people complain, but often after a period of time people adjust to the new pattern. In the case of 15th, many drivers found the left turn red arrows awkward, but now things have settled out well where those driving through know to take one of the rightmost two lanes.

As we passed one downtown restaurant which had complained about parking and loading, DDOT's Jim Sebastian pointed out that they had created a loading zone in the lane adjacent to the cycletrack to let them continue with valet operation. People have to cross the bike lanes to get from cars to the restaurant and watch for bikes, but they also have to cross the sidewalk and watch for people walking and running, and that has become second nature.


Evans' committee director Ruth Werner, Jack Evans, and WABA's Nelle Pierson stopped at a light in Washington Circle.

Evans also endorsed the L and M Street crosstown bike lanes. "We need a complete system," he said, calling it "crazy" to have to ride crosstown on streets like L and M without any good bicycle facility option in the vicinity. He doesn't feel DDOT needs to spend much time analyzing existing cycletracks before moving forward on L and M.

Even though he regularly drives L and M, he doesn't anticipate traffic problems. M does back up in the evening rush, but Evans observed that most of those cars turn left on 23rd to get to the Memorial Bridge, and the bottleneck is on 23rd, not M. Therefore, removing a lane for bicyclists, in addition to taking some cars off the road, won't actually cut down on the total throughput of the road network.

The group observed some of the flaws in the 16th and U bike signals, where half our group got left behind because they weren't quite poised to ride quickly as soon as the very short bike signal turned green. Coming back from the north, a bus driver honked at the group on 16th, demonstrating how cyclists can incur the ire of drivers when following the law. It wasn't the only honk we received on the trip for doing nothing wrong.


The group reaches the Wilson Building. Left to right: Nelle Pierson and Shane Farthing of WABA, David Alpert, Jack Evans and Ruth Werner.

Evans also expects to bike more in the future. Currently, he regularly goes on a 7-mile run along both sides of the Potomac, but knows his knees won't hold up for much longer. He now suspects he'll switch to bicycling when his knees can no longer handle running, since they didn't bother him at all on our trip.

He's up for reelection this year, and his campaign was surely at least partly on his mind. Evans clearly knows that Ward 2 has some of the highest biking, walking, and transit using rates in the city, and that while he drives to work, understanding the experience and the frustrations of users of the other modes is a necessary part of representing all people in the ward.

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David Alpert is the founder and editor-in-chief of Greater Greater Washington. 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 daughter in Dupont Circle. 

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Good work David !!
Now we need you to convince CC "Fully Loaded" K. Brown to switch to cycling and quit pushing his Ward #9 agenda !!

by w on Jul 15, 2011 10:51 am • linkreport

Hurray for Councilmember Evans!

by Alan on Jul 15, 2011 10:52 am • linkreport

This is a great example of what Greater Greater Washington and other organizations can do. Kudos to David and to everyone on the ride. Thanks!

by Michael Perkins on Jul 15, 2011 10:57 am • linkreport

Making a left on 23rd to get to Memorial Bridge? Written by someone who doesn't drive?

Most of the traffic on 23rd is going to Washington Circle, and then to Penn, Whitehurst, 23rd or K st. Very little gets down to the Memorial Bridge.

And the other backup on M is 21st.

The point is the problem is 21st or 23rd, and not M is valid, however.

Putting the bike lane on the right side of the road on M would alleviate those problems. Losing parking, however, would suck.

L St, however, is a lot tricker.

by charlie on Jul 15, 2011 10:58 am • linkreport

I've taken 23rd to the bridge, but actually I now realize it was to go to the TR bridge. Anyway, I've deleted that part because Evans just said they're going to 23rd, not specifically where. Sorry.

by David Alpert on Jul 15, 2011 11:00 am • linkreport

It's a minor point. That intersection (m and 23rd) is one the worst in DC for crossing. Granted, I cross it everyday, but I've almost been clipped about 20x times in 10 years. The backup is actually people turning onto L st, not the ones going to the Circle.

As I've said, M is a pretty easy case. 3 or M blocks past Conn. Ave where it will be tricky, but from 21st onwards an easy case. L st, however, will be a mess.

The other larger point is there does need to be some tinkering on the 15th st lanes. Leaving it "as is" isn't the best idea either. However, I think most of the study items come from the two way nature -- which wouldn't apply to either L or M.

by charlie on Jul 15, 2011 11:16 am • linkreport

I like the 15th Street track (and look forward to there being more), but the street surface is in terrible condition, making it somewhat hazardous to actually ride a bike in the track. They should have improved the road when they created the track.

by Arnold on Jul 15, 2011 11:44 am • linkreport

I just began commuting this week from Near Southeast to the Golden Traingle area and the PA Ave track is amazing; there's no way I would have begun cycling without it. Great to hear more is coming to L and M Sts as there's no safe/easy way to bike to the office once I pass the White House.

by Alan on Jul 15, 2011 11:44 am • linkreport

"The other larger point is there does need to be some tinkering on the 15th st lanes. Leaving it "as is" isn't the best idea either. However, I think most of the study items come from the two way nature -- which wouldn't apply to either L or M."

The 15th ST segregated lane doesn't work for me. Although I can imagine changes that address some issues.

FWIW, here is a short blip of the 15th ST segregated lane taken during bike week ... at least that is when I suspect it was taken.

http://vimeo.com/23743067

by Geof Gee on Jul 15, 2011 11:48 am • linkreport

Sounds like a red light camera is in order for 15th & K. Lots of box-blocking, which is a ticketable offense.

Oh, and can we talk about how Washington Circle is awful for *every* mode of transportation?

by andrew on Jul 15, 2011 12:05 pm • linkreport

How 'bout you take the rest of the Council next?

by Jasper on Jul 15, 2011 12:15 pm • linkreport

Great to see Evans taking it to the streets and proud to have him as my Councilmember!

by Taken on Jul 15, 2011 12:17 pm • linkreport

@Geof Gee: The beginning of the video shows a number of illegal moves by cyclists. Drivers have to deal with blocked lanes all the time, but they don't veer into oncoming traffic to get around; they just get frustrated and wait for the intersection to clear. Downtown DC is notorious for it, hence the "Don't Block the Box" signs. It does look like there needs to be a better signal for right turns, though. As a one-time driver, navigating rush hour pedestrian traffic in a car is nightmarish: I don't want to get in the way of pedestrians but also need to turn right. Forcing cars to turn across vehicular (bike) traffic makes the experience more harrowing.

In California, bike lanes are travel lanes: if a driver needs to turn right, they merge into the bike lane. Any intersection with a cycle track needs to reflect the conflict between through traffic and turning traffic. This needs redesign, but cyclists shouldn't put themselves in danger just because their part of the box is blocked.

by OctaviusIII on Jul 15, 2011 12:18 pm • linkreport

@andrew

A red light camera isn't the answer at 15th and K; a human traffic control officer is.

As someone who picks up the D6 for my ride home at that intersection, I've seen equally bad behavior by automobile drivers (especially the ones driving Metrobuses and MTA commuter buses), cyclists and pedestrians. Someone needs to be at that intersection to say: "No, you cannot start drive the intersection when the light is turning red; no, you cannot start walking/pedaling across the street when the don't-walk hand is on steady orange."

by anon on Jul 15, 2011 12:18 pm • linkreport

It is good to see the Council Member willing to walk a mile in our shoes to see things from a different perspective. What does he think about the honking drivers and buses?

We should take the rest of the council. What does a "fully loaded" bike look like?

by SJE on Jul 15, 2011 12:18 pm • linkreport

Now we need you to convince CC "Fully Loaded" K. Brown to switch to cycling and quit pushing his Ward #9 agenda !!

Better yet, convince CM Barry to join you on one of these rides. Maybe ride out Mass Ave from Dupont Circle to Goldboro Road. On a Code Orange day. When the temperature hits 100+ degrees.

by oboe on Jul 15, 2011 12:28 pm • linkreport

@OctaviusIII:

The beginning of the video shows a number of illegal moves by cyclists.

The entirety of the video shows a number of illegal moves by drivers. Also, the asphalt is dark colored, and the sky is blue.

by oboe on Jul 15, 2011 12:33 pm • linkreport

This is a great idea, BTW. It would be nice to set up a walking tour of some of the city's crappier intersections, as well (e.g. Dupont, Lincoln Park, etc...). Obviously, that's tough logistically, though.

by oboe on Jul 15, 2011 12:37 pm • linkreport

You rock, David. Good work, and thanks.

by Brad on Jul 15, 2011 12:38 pm • linkreport

@SJE

What does a "fully loaded" bike look like?

Here's an option

by Dizzy on Jul 15, 2011 12:47 pm • linkreport

Poor Marion would most likely need to ride a 3 wheeled bicycle - the kind that elderly folks sport around on in Saint Petersburg Florida. My bet is that most of the DC city council members have not been on a bicycle since childhood- except of course- for Tommy. It would be a great video clip to get shots of "fully loaded Brown" swaying and trying to balance on a bicycle that is not a stationary gym model. I think that most of our illustrious CM's drive cars and never can be seen cycling.

by w on Jul 15, 2011 12:57 pm • linkreport

"It would be a great video clip to get shots of "fully loaded Brown" swaying and trying to balance on a bicycle that is not a stationary gym model. I think that most of our illustrious CM's drive cars and never can be seen cycling."

Yep, nothing is funnier than watching (elderly) black people trying to bike. Well, black people trying to swim is even funner, but probably not even PC for GGW.

I must admit some fun sitting on 16th st and watching hipster try to drive. Now that is funny.

And Alpert, get some new wheels.

by charlie on Jul 15, 2011 1:04 pm • linkreport

@w -Mary Cheh rides a bike regularly.

by Tina on Jul 15, 2011 1:11 pm • linkreport

@charlie: I think a couple of weeks ago Alpert put out an article asking for suggestions on a good urban bike.

by Michael Perkins on Jul 15, 2011 1:13 pm • linkreport

Note to self....

Dont put sarcam mode in correct format.

by Charlie on Jul 15, 2011 1:32 pm • linkreport

Dizzy: thanks. I don't know that is the sort of fully loaded Kwame wants. Perhaps a scraper bike like they have in Oakland.

Y'know, this is a good opportunity for CM Thomas to use some of his "youth sports league" money to actually do something athletic.

Perhaps an appropriate symbol for the way Thomas and Kwame seem to think of the residents of DC is to have a bunch of poor DC residents do the pedaling, while the CMs ride in a bike trailer and talk about how they are doing the people's business. Barry can have a bike but only if he is behind on in his payments for it, and is not registered.

by SJE on Jul 15, 2011 1:32 pm • linkreport

Thanks to David and WABA for this. Evans is far from perfect but I definitely appreciate his willingness to engage in something like this.

by JS on Jul 15, 2011 1:46 pm • linkreport

I think that the 15th Street cycle track is, while not without faults, the most viable cycle track setup. You are parallel to a very heavily used and dangerous street (16th), you have dedicated lanes, and there is still on street parking in the residential section so drivers can't complain that the biking is hindering parking.

@Geoff Gee- Your video is really not that crazy. So, downtown, at a busy intersection, it can be hard to cross the street. The track goes from Mass Ave to U Street. Is every intersection that bad? Then, I understand. I think that 15th Street should be a model. I particularly like using a road that isn't a major artery but is parallel to one.

by thesixteenwords on Jul 15, 2011 1:52 pm • linkreport

Nice work!

Next stop....get an Obama to do a bike lane tour of DC! I bet you could get Michelle as part of her "get moving" exercise initiative.

by Falls Church on Jul 15, 2011 2:15 pm • linkreport

@ Geof Gee

Thanks for posting that video. It definitely helps make the case that that cycle track (at least at that location) doesn't make things 'safer' during rush hour. As I've said before, bikes don't belong in situations like that. Give the bikers a secure lane or ban them outright. Situations like the one illustrated in the video aren't fair to bikers or to drivers(or pedestrians.)

by Lance on Jul 15, 2011 2:28 pm • linkreport

'As I've said before, bikes don't belong in situations like that."

Everybody who can read knows this is what you think, sir Lance-of-the-Car. To you, bikes only belong on trails. You say it on every bike post.

Just like cars only belong on freeways. Roads were built for pedestrians, carts and and horses. Cars do not belong on them. Get your car off to the freeway where it belongs.

by greent on Jul 15, 2011 2:41 pm • linkreport

It is encouraging to see how there are now backups of cyclists at red lighted intersections on the 15th Street cycle track during rush hour, whereas before I was often waiting in these places alone. I've also noticed that cyclists drive with greater cautioun as these routes become more popular. How about tossing a biking invite to Mr. Brown as way for him to start building bridges?

by aaa on Jul 15, 2011 3:04 pm • linkreport

I agree with thesixteenwords. The video isn't that bad. The only really dangerous thing is that move by the cyclist at 3:00 who almost takes out two other riders because he feels the need to pass while veering into oncoming traffic.

The rest of the video looks like typical rush hour traffic at a major intersection. It's inconvenient to everyone, but just take your time and be cautious (drivers and bikers).

by Greg on Jul 15, 2011 3:15 pm • linkreport

"Mr. Brown as way for him to start building bridges? "

What if it is GGW who needs to build those bridges?

Getting Mary Cheh out woudl be better, and she now leads the committee.

by greent on Jul 15, 2011 3:48 pm • linkreport

OctaviusIII "Drivers have to deal with blocked lanes all the time, but they don't veer into oncoming traffic to get around; they just get frustrated and wait for the intersection to clear."

Um, NO. I see plenty of drivers do exactly what the cyclists are doing.

by SJE on Jul 15, 2011 4:45 pm • linkreport

@geof gee

Since during that video 30 bikes went through that intersection and only 15 cars made right turns, the case might be made to prohibit right turns by cars there, since the greater need would be met by banning turns.

by jyindc on Jul 15, 2011 5:38 pm • linkreport

Geof Gee, amazing video. The number of illegal driving moves by CARS is outstanding. Violation after violation after violation.

I especially enjoyed the ridiculous u-turn by a driver at around 2:20.

Looks like banning right turns is in order, the drivers just can't seem to handle the responsibility of doing it safely.

Continuing to move your car forward into the bike path when a bike is coming straight at you? Looks like assault to me. Continuing to move into the crosswalk when dozens of pedestrians are in it? Looks like harassment to me.

by JJJJJ on Jul 15, 2011 6:18 pm • linkreport

Excellent to have invited Councilmember Evans to do the ride.

by Dennis Jaffe on Jul 15, 2011 7:15 pm • linkreport

Congratulations David on "showing not saying." I give CM Evans great credit for joining you for the ride and for supporting the bike lanes. Great work all.

by todd on Jul 15, 2011 8:27 pm • linkreport

Nice work! How difficult was it to set this ride up with Evans and his staff? It would be great if WABA and GGW could do this with more councilmembers, perhaps even in the realm of other projects, not just biking. It would be great to see politicians experiences such things more often at the ground level with their constituents.

by David on Jul 15, 2011 9:31 pm • linkreport

Lance: I give you only a 3/10 for that troll attempt. I liked your "bicycles should be banned from that street" hook, but ultimately it was too obvious and the entire effort was not one of your best.

by JustMe on Jul 15, 2011 10:04 pm • linkreport

Good job, David! I suppose those opposed to the cycle tracks will have to take Mr. Evans on a windshield perspective tour now. Wonder if that would get written up?

by Geoffrey Hatchard on Jul 17, 2011 6:56 pm • linkreport

Cool. This reminds me... Whenever Councilmembers meet with Association heads, Agency heads and or business and community leaders, such information should be published online so that citizens can keep track of how electeds are working on our behalf day in and day out. Mayor Gray does it. President Obama does it. Members of Congress do it. Time for all DC Councilmembers (including lo-tech CM Barry's office) to step up. The Examiner's Harry Jaffe has said as much. In as much as their paid scheduling staff keep a schedule of non-personal (non family or health related time) business, citizens are entitled to be informed.

Mr Evans has a great new web site, the only thing it's missing is the daily schedule log. Thanks!

by CCCAPrez on Jul 18, 2011 7:51 am • linkreport

Thank you Councilmember Evans! And WABA, DDoT, and GGW. A great idea, and glad it helped to broaden the perspective of someone with the power to help!

by Aaron on Jul 18, 2011 10:57 am • linkreport

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