Greater Greater Washington

1st Street NE may get cycle track

DDOT is considering a 3-block cycle track on 1st Street, NE from K to M Streets to help people biking between the Metropolitan Branch Trail or NoMa and Union Station and places farther south.

Drawings of the proposed cycle track.

The off-road segment along west side of the railroad tracks currently runs from L Street in the south to Franklin Street in the north. However, it has a set of stairs just north of L, so cyclists using this portion will generally get on and off at M Street.

From there, users continuing south toward Union Station can go west to 1st Street NE, which leads to the Metro station, the Bikestation, Columbus Circle and more. DDOT is reconstructing the segment from K Street north, and has designed this cycle track for the portion up to M.

According to Mike Goodno of DDOT, they aren't looking at extending the cycle track north of M because because of parking and hotel drop-off issues north of M Street. That means that someone riding southbound on 1st Street from NoMa will have to cross over somehow to get to the cycle track, either by queueing up in front of the traffic on M Street and then turning right into the track, or turning left onto M, or crossing as a pedestrian at the crosswalk.

A few streets cross the segment in question. Drivers can turn right from the northbound lanes or left from the southbound lanes across the track. Therefore, turning conflicts might be an issue. Goodno says they haven't yet decided how to handle these turns.

There are also a few curb cuts accessing the adjacent properties, like the Greyhound bus terminal. The diagrams show some of these potentially being closed. The project wouldn't immediately close them, but DDOT would want to work with property owners to locate any curb cuts on side streets instead as those properties are redeveloped.

The project is currently slated for 2013 or 2014. DDOT also hopes to continue the cycle track south of K eventually, though that is not part of this current project.

They're interested in hearing feedback. What do you think of the plan?

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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Broken link when you click on the drawing.

by oboe on Nov 30, 2011 1:36 pm • linkreport

Fixed.

by David Alpert on Nov 30, 2011 2:17 pm • linkreport

That's great news, but it seems like DDOT is stopping at the place where they could have the biggest improvement in making the area safer for cyclists and pedestrians.

I ride up and down 1st street ne everyday on my commute to work. I actually don't use the MBT because it's out of my way to get on the trail. DDOT really needs to think about getting cyclists through the NY Ave and Florida Ave intersection more safely. Every time I go through the intersection I see lots of bikers besides myself and this intersection is clearly designed to give the car the priority over the safety and comfort of the pedestrian or cyclist. I understand the need to go after the low-hanging fruit, but what about addressing the most dangerous intersections for cyclists and pedestrians.

by John on Nov 30, 2011 3:00 pm • linkreport

It's hard to tell out of context here. How will a cyclist safely continue southbound on 1st? (Since they'd have to cross from the east side of 1st to the west side to transition from the contra-flow track to the traditional bike lane.) How will they turn onto K Street (east- or west-bound) if travelling south?

Where does the MBT terminate at its south end, anyway? I thought it was on L St just east of 1st...

I'm not very familiar with this stretch, but it looks a bit like a "cycletrack to (and from) nowhere"...

by oboe on Nov 30, 2011 3:02 pm • linkreport

Agree w/oboe. I'm not sure how much benefit this would really provide. Now if only DDOT got started working on those L and M street cycletracks...

by JDS on Nov 30, 2011 3:06 pm • linkreport

I dont think I like this. I bike down this every day for work from bloomingdale. There are tons of bikes that traverse this and while the northbound route would be easy, going south would be a difficult cross against traffic after M. Crossing that intesection north looks... difficult. I would go with just making a cheaper and more useful bike lane. What would also help is if M west of 1st street was 2-way. All these one-way streets seem to be a legacy of when people just passed thru the area when it was parking lots. Also, they need to do something better with pedestian traffic on the stretch from M to N. Tons of jaywalkers that would be avoided if there was a crosswalk at patterson.

by Eric on Nov 30, 2011 3:07 pm • linkreport

I'm kind of coming to the same conclusion. I think I'd rather see the cycletrack made one way north (so really just a wide protected bike lane) and then let SB cyclists fend for themselves.

by David C on Nov 30, 2011 3:29 pm • linkreport

I think my feelings could best be summed up with three simple points.

A) There definitely needs to be a top-notch extension of the MBT to give people (especially those who are only going to ride on top-notch protected facilities) a way to finish that ride to Union Station (or the eastern end of the E/W cycletracks, etc.)
B) The current iteration of this plan poses some serious issues with safety and function.
And C) good cycle facilities of some kind on 1st street NE from Florida to Union Station are a must to carry people from points north down through Noma.

by Steve D on Nov 30, 2011 3:55 pm • linkreport

IIRC, 1st already has bike lanes south of K St at least to south of the Hopscotch Bridge. Why not just extend those bike lanes north (ideally all the way to NY Ave) instead of requiring southbound cyclists to shift between the cycletrack and the bike lane?

Or if DDOT really wants a cycletrack here, extend it south of K St (replacing the above-mentioned lanes) all the way to Massachusetts Ave and the bicycle station at Union Station.

by Froggie on Nov 30, 2011 4:01 pm • linkreport

@Steve D:

There definitely needs to be a top-notch extension of the MBT to give people a way to finish that ride to Union Station...

Where does the MBT currently end?

by oboe on Nov 30, 2011 4:04 pm • linkreport

This is a draft plan, but it shows the layby alongside the Greyhound station being closed off by the cycletrack. No reason the cycletrack couldn't jog in and follow the curb line, maintaining the layby as short term pickup/dropoff for inter-city bus riders until the whole parcel gets redeveloped.

The chicanes on 15th show the kind of variations from a straight line that cyclists can navigate without inconvenience.

by Will on Nov 30, 2011 4:18 pm • linkreport

@Froggie "IIRC, 1st already has bike lanes south of K St at least to south of the Hopscotch Bridge."

They extend all the way down to G Street but are often clogged w/ double parked or standing autos and trucks.  All those shiny new buildings must have been constructed without any provision for loading docks.

by cabi addict on Nov 30, 2011 4:30 pm • linkreport

Agreed that this misses the forest for the trees. Finding a better way for cyclists to cross NY ave is far more important than accommodating MBT users.

Worse still, the crosswalk to cross NY Ave (which is realistically the best way to do it) would be located on the opposite side of 1st st from the cycletrack.

Biking from K to M is not currently, and has never been a problem. The segment between M and NY Ave is always much more dangerous to bike on, and this project does nothing to address that.

On-street bike lanes all the way from NY to K might be the best compromise here. I just don't think that a cycletrack is a good solution to any of the problems that cyclists face on this road. (And I'm normally a huge cycletrack advocate).

I also wouldn't mind seeing a comprehensive study that reexamines the overall traffic patterns in the area. As it is, driving from NoMa to the west is weirdly difficult (even worse if you're on a bike), and I wouldn't mind seeing a few of the one-way roads converted to bidirectional use, or even reversed. L Street, in particular is a road that has seemingly no purpose between 395 and 1st.

Of course, to really unite the "urban fabric," between NoMa and downtown, you'd really want to somehow cover over the northern stub of 395, or build a bridge over the existing trench to reconnect L.

by andrew on Nov 30, 2011 4:32 pm • linkreport

@oboe "Where does the MBT currently end?"

Theoretically it crosses under the railway viaduct, turns S onto a widened sidewalk on the W side of 2nd Street and then hangs a right onto F Street (again in the sidewalk r-o-w as the street is one-way Eastbound) and terminates in front of the SEC HQ building just down the hill from the CaBi station. 

by cabi addict on Nov 30, 2011 4:37 pm • linkreport

oboe, it sort of depends on what you mean by "ends." Technically the trail splits into western and eastern halves between M and L Street, but the "trail" portion ends at L.

The east half goes on to L, down the stairs and then on the wide sidewalks under the tracks. From there it goes south on the widened sidewalk on the east side of the tracks all the way to F St and then left on F to Union Station.

The western half leaves the trail at M and then goes west on M to 1st street. It then follows 1st Street all the way to Mass as an on-street route, in places using bike lanes. So this cycletrack would be part of the MBT.

by David C on Nov 30, 2011 4:37 pm • linkreport

I think the larger problem is between K St and Massachusetts Ave. Many drivers ignore the bike lanes in this stretch altogether. I am surprised when I ride this stretch and don't encounter a car in the bike lane. M St to K St is usually a lot easier to ride.

by Slim on Nov 30, 2011 4:40 pm • linkreport

This is crazy.

We'd be better off with nothing.

So, southbound you are supposed to veer into oncoming traffic to continue south when you have a green light? What a deathtrap! How on earth can anyone think this would improve safety?!

Utter insanity.

by Clyde on Nov 30, 2011 4:42 pm • linkreport

This is a great idea, and a good start.

From it's southern point, this cycletrack should then turn east at K street and cross under the railroad bridge (!), then turn south on 2nd St NE and continue on to at least F Street NE, possibly on the west (!) side, and possibly all the way to Mass. Ave!

After Crossing Mass Ave, turn the cycletrack westbound on the south side of D Street to the west side of Louisiana Ave. Riders could cross Constitution at 1st street to get around the reflecting pool and on to the PA Ave median cycleway.

Simple.

by jeff on Nov 30, 2011 5:04 pm • linkreport

They need to pick either a cycle track or bike lanes for the whole street. I'd go with a cycle track, but move it to the other side so it doesn't conflict with the hotel unloading. The best solution is an off road cycle track since the r.o.w for the road is narrow, but for the r.o.w. for sidewalks is wide(110' total only 40' for road) They have a planting strip 5' sidewalk another planting strip and an 8' sidewalk. Simply designate the 5' sidewalk for bicycles and paint it a different color. You can see how this would work at 1st and K or in the plans on the east side of 1st in front of the Hilton . That's how they do it in the Netherlands/Denmark. Youtube it if you're interested.

by nic on Nov 30, 2011 6:50 pm • linkreport

As one who rides on these blocks of 1st NE several times a week on my way home from work (including this very evening, a few minutes ago), I HATE the idea of a separated cycletrack there.

As it is, those blocks are really quite easy to bike and have relatively light car traffic, so a cycletrack would solve no problems -- and would create major problems that don't exist now, such as the turning conflicts mentioned in the post.

I hope this idea is shelved. If there _must_ be explicit bicycle facilities, simple bike lanes would be more than enough.

by davidj on Nov 30, 2011 7:47 pm • linkreport

As in my previous comment, I would agree, the problematic blocks on 1st are between M and N: loading trucks, double parked cars, cabs at the hotel and random pedestrian crossings and south of K, with all the double parked vehicles.

by Eric on Nov 30, 2011 9:27 pm • linkreport

instead of using 1st, cyclists should just go one block further east to 2nd st NE (also delaware ave for 1 block) and take that to points further south and east. I know this doesn't solve the FLA/NY ave crossing issue, but in reality nothing will be done there for a very long time. DDOT just finished the construction of its 'virtual circle', which included no discernible bicycling enhancements. So it is unlikely they will return to modify the intersection in the fundamental ways that will be required to make this a more feasible intersection.

by MBTer on Nov 30, 2011 9:58 pm • linkreport

This plan looks atrocious for pedestrians. The plan shows 1st St being widened to a whopping 5 lanes at New York Ave. Also, the ped refuges are being eliminated on the west crosswalk of that intersection, and the turning radii are being increased across the board, making it much easier for cars to take turns at higher speeds across crosswalks. This is the opposite of progress, and the cycle track looks like a poorly designed afterthought to draw attention from the other auto-centric changes. It seem to awkwardly end for southbound riders at K street, leaving them in the middle of the street with little guidance. Overall this is not a very good plan.

by Jacob on Dec 1, 2011 12:30 am • linkreport

I like this a lot. There are already bike lanes in both directions south of K, so integrating with those works immediately and gets a decent connection between the train and Union Station.

It also makes an obvious case for a connecting bike route on K st in both directions. The road is wide and about to be rebuilt to the west, and with the tracks on H st, K NE is an obvious candidate for an east west bike route on the east side of the tracks.

by Mike on Dec 1, 2011 6:49 am • linkreport

This has 10' lanes on 1st Street, these will be too narrow for transit like a Circulator through NoMa.

by fa7019 on Dec 1, 2011 4:11 pm • linkreport

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