Greater Greater Washington

Bicycling


14th Street bridge area needs a good bicycle connection

Bicycling to and from the 14th Street bridge on the DC side is not a pleasant experience. Cyclists must choose between harrowing high-speed roadways, too-narrow sidewalks, or long detours. The 14th Street Bridge EIS doesn't address this connection, but it needs to, immediately.


Photo by M.V. Jantzen on Flickr.

The Mount Vernon Trail, along the Potomac River in Virginia, has a few faults but it provides a safe and well-used bicycle route. It connects to a bike and pedestrian path on the George Mason bridge (the northernmost of the 3 road bridges) which is 8 feet wide, narrower than what AASHTO recommends. Still, many use this path even though it's adjacent to highway traffic.

In DC, there are some excellent bicycle facilities like the 15th Street bike lane, but it doesn't go any farther south than Pennsylvania Avenue. The Mall is also fairly bicycle-friendly for east-west travel.

The problem is getting from 15th and Pennsylvania, or the Mall, to the Mason Bridge.

Someone riding south on the 15th Street lane has to merge into busy traffic and then cross the Mall either by riding on the sidewalk, which is often quite crowded with tourists and joggers, or in the road, where cars expect to drive fast and not encounter cyclists. The last time David rode there, a DC taxi pulled up right behind and started honking, even though there was another, mostly empty lane it could switch into. It eventually did, honking even more.

It gets worse around Maine Avenue and Ohio Drive, near the Tidal Basin. Not only is the pavement in this area in horrible condition, but those roads are configured like highways with cars speeding along the winding curves. The sidewalks are extremely narrow and packed with pedestrians, especially during warm, sunny weather and in Cherry Blossom season.

The pedestrians deserve to use that space, but what do cyclists do? Riding in the road is only an option for southbound bicyclists, and it's a harrowing experience with the curved yet high-speed roads and drivers traveling very fast.


Bicycle issues near the bridge. Image from Google Maps.

In the other direction, there isn't really a choice. From the path over the Mason Bridge, a cyclist has to ride on the sidewalks around the Tidal Basin, go the long way around west of the Tidal Basin toward the Lincoln Memorial, or take a long detour through East Potomac Park to get to the eastern side Ohio Drive and then head back up through the Maine Avenue area.

From Southwest DC, there's a path along the Case Bridge, which carries I-395 over the Washington Channel, but to get to it you have to navigate across and around highway-style ramps in Banneker Park, then 2 narrow switchbacks which force dismounting.

On the East Potomac Park side, the path turns into a narrow sidewalk along the on-ramp from the Park Police headquarters. Riders have to travel though the NPS parking lot (or go farther out of the way), then ride along the western Ohio Drive past the George Mason Memorial to get to the path.

On the Virginia side, the Mount Vernon Trail connects to many trails, but has no direct connection from the 14th Street bridge area to Pentagon City right across the freeways. Someone riding there has to either head north through Lady Bird Johnson Park and then wind around the Pentagon parking lots, or go south to the airport and then backtrack through Crystal City.

Alternatives improve Virginia connections

The Draft Environmental Impact Statement suggests 3 alternatives. The most ambitious, Alternative 2, proposes a new bridge from western Ohio Drive across the Potomac along side the Long Bridge (the CSX and VRE tracks) and then over the GW Parkway, with access to both the Mount Vernon Trail and Long Bridge Park.

The connection in Virginia seems great, but dumping cyclists in East Potomac Park isn't that useful. It's a little closer to the Case Bridge path, but not much, and getting to downtown or the Mall is worse than today's existing bridge.

The DEIS also contains 2 other, smaller bicycle proposals. Alternative 1 slightly widens and makes some changes to the approaches to the Mason Bridge path on each side, connecting to the Mount Vernon Trail and to the Jefferson Memorial. An earlier version also proposed widening the bike/ped path on the George Mason Bridge, but this bridge widening was removed from the alternative for "technical complexity." The final EIS ought to reconsider this option.

Alternative 3 has two parts. One would create better and more consistent wayfinding signage on both sides of the river. The second part proposes new trail connections to the Pentagon and in Pentagon City.

Around the Pentagon, a new connection would extend the half-built trail under the Humpback Bridge over to Boundary Channel Drive, providing a more direct connection between the 14th Street Bridge and the Pentagon. In Pentagon City, it would create a better bike connection from the north end of Crystal City (12th and Clark) west along Army-Navy Drive, under I-395, and along the south edge of the Pentagon Reservation to Columbia Pike and the Washington Blvd trail.


Proposed trail connections in Virginia. Labels added to base image from the EIS.

DC needs better bike connections as well

The Virginia connections would significantly improve access to the bridges, but there are no comparable bike connections proposed on the DC side of the river. This is the most glaring missing piece in the DEIS. The team should study and propose a better connection to 15th Street.

Drivers have direct connections in all directions here, even having too many ramps to too many roads. Cyclists, meanwhile, have one bad connection southbound from downtown and none at all northbound, and poor and winding connections to other directions.

This isn't just a recreational amenity. Many already use the bridge for commuting. Many more likely would for both commuting and general transportation if there were a clear, direct, and safe connection.

Ideally, we could find a way to extend the 15th Street cycle track from Pennsylvania down through the Mall, then past or through the Maine Avenue/Ohio Drive/East Basin Drive area up to either the Mason Bridge path or a new bridge.

WashCycle suggests extending the new bridge along the railroad tracks across East Potomac Park to the east side, where it's a lot closer to the mainland. Another option is to convert 1 lane on East Basin Drive (the 2-lane road from Maine Avenue to I-395 South and the Jefferson Memorial) into a 2-way bicycle facility up to Maine Avenue, and eventually connect through the Mall to the 15th Street lanes.

What do you think is the best way to create a connection between the Mall and downtown across the Potomac?

David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education. 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 loves the area which is, in many ways, greater than those others, and wants to see it become even greater. 
Adam Froehlig, aka "Froggie," is a US Navy sailor working as a GIS analyst. Transportation is his primary hobby and he is often seen at transportation meetings in Alexandria and southeastern Fairfax County in addition to being a member of the Alexandria Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee and the transportation representative for the Huntington Community Association. He lives in Huntington and blogs at Just Down the Parkway

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If you're going to build a new bridge, why not get REALLY ambitious, and put it someplace else other than alongside the 14th St Bridge? There's no benefit to running the bike path alongside a highway and freight railroad.

Put the bridge between Gravelley Point and the East Potomac Golf Course, and also build a crossing over the channel along 9th St to connect the SW Waterfront to East Potomac.

(Which is not to say that we shouldn't also fix the 14th St Bridge; there are some fairly easy fixes that could improve access. Also, any proposal involving a new bridge is going to be crazy expensive)

by andrew on Mar 13, 2012 2:00 pm • linkreport

I agree. I used to live at 5th and G SW. Commuting home via Bikeshare from Arlington very doable - I just hopped on the trail and took it nearly all the way home. I'd like to see the bridge path widened, too, as it was somewhat narrow at times, but the worst part of the commute was probably the sidewalk of Maine Ave (from 14th past the fish market).The sidewalk there is very narrow, littered with poles, and non-existent in places. At some point I started going over to East Potomac Park and going alongside 395 again. Which leads to the same problem: the area around Banneker Point isn't good for someone who isn't in a car. If you're going in reverse, you actually have to dismount to climb curbs.

Now I live at 7th and E NW. I don't bike home anymore, because I think it a bit too risky when I just want a relaxing ride home. Getting to SW via bicycle isn't too hard, but dealing with rush hour traffic around the mall and downtown? No thanks. Having something along 14th/15th would be most excellent. E is fortunate enough to already have a cycle track for a lot of its run.

J

by J on Mar 13, 2012 2:22 pm • linkreport

This is a very good summary of the problems south of 15th St. NPS will have to be part of any solution. If there will be bikeshare stations on the National Mall, there will need to be safe cycling routes around it, including north-south routes from the Jefferson Mem. up to Penn Ave.

by freewheel on Mar 13, 2012 2:22 pm • linkreport

Awesome article. For the time being, I would love it if someone would add the 20-30 feet of asphalt to better connect the 14th Street Bridge to the northbound trail. Whoever fixed up the Humpback Bridge did a bang up job, though.

by aaa on Mar 13, 2012 2:43 pm • linkreport

Northbound trail = northbound Mt. Vernon trail

by aaa on Mar 13, 2012 2:44 pm • linkreport

A bike lane should be added with the expansion of the Long Bridge and connect with the new Maryland Ave

http://www.ncpc.gov/ncpc/Main%28T2%29/Planning%28Tr2%29/SouthwestEcodistrict.html

http://recovery.dc.gov/recovery/lib/recovery/pdf/1511_certification_long_bridge_study.pdf

http://g.co/maps/9jszd

by mcs on Mar 13, 2012 2:47 pm • linkreport

I occasionally take CaBi home from Crystal City to Columbia Heights, which with the exception of the areas you highlighted has excellent bicycle infrastructure.

I personally like the suggestion of converting one of the East Basin Drive car lanes into a two-way cycle lane, but one potential caveat would be the heavy tour bus traffic this road receives. Buses stopped at the Jefferson Memorial often use the right-hand lane for idling, if I remember correctly.

by Robert on Mar 13, 2012 2:58 pm • linkreport

There's no benefit to running the bike path alongside a highway and freight railroad.

I'm not a Civ-E but I'd guess it is cheaper.

Put the bridge between Gravelley Point and the East Potomac Golf Course, and also build a crossing over the channel along 9th St to connect the SW Waterfront to East Potomac.

There was originally an idea to build the bridge across the river on the line made by Buckeye Drive and then to cross the channel at P street. But this still involves some backtracking across the island to get across the channel; and once on the VA side, you still have to get across the GW Parkway, which has few options.

The advantage to doing it at the railroad bridge, in addition to the cost, is that one can continue across the Parkway into the new Arlington recreation park and Crystal City.

by David C on Mar 13, 2012 2:59 pm • linkreport

Its a confusing area for sure. I used to Cabi from NoMa to Crystal City 3x a week last winter and spring and didn't have any problems, but it was always late at night when traffic died down, and the sidewalks around the mall and parks were deserted so they were perfect for riding on.

by Bill Cook on Mar 13, 2012 2:59 pm • linkreport

The connection north from the bridge to the Mall and downtown isn't really that hard. You do have to ride a bit on unpleasantly narrow sidewalks, but once you figure it out the crosswalks that take you to the northbound side of 15th Street from the Jefferson Memorial/Tidal Basin area it's pretty fast and easy. I rode this route between Del Ray and the Smithsonian for years and never had a problem.

by jimble on Mar 13, 2012 3:29 pm • linkreport

I'll just repeat a comment I made on the Anacostia Bridges post and say that the 14th Street Bridge is actually the *best* bicycle crossing of the Potomac, and if I were imperial infrastructure poobah, I'd spend money improving the sub-standard and frankly unsafe aspects of the other crossings.

by Kolohe on Mar 13, 2012 3:31 pm • linkreport

Great summary.

15th St NW/SW: I've made do with the walkways on the west side of 15th through President's Park and around the Washington Monument, but it's become increasingly untenable with the buildup towards Blossom Madness. Also, it's really not clear whether bikes are allowed on the President's Park drives, but I'm going to continue until the security guards tell me otherwise. The alternative is to ride on 15th, where the curb lane is filled with... souvenir trucks.

East Basin Drive: making northbound cyclists cross over southbound East Basin Drive twice -- particularly since drivers treat it as an on-ramp and rarely yield for bikes or peds -- seems silly, but that very on-ramp makes such a crossing inevitable. I find that the worst congestion is around the 15th/Ohio/Maine intersection, where both peds and bikes are relegated to one narrow, curving path with fast cars whizzing past, oblivious to the crosswalks.

Case Bridge has a fine path, but it goes from nowhere to nowhere: an NPS office building in the middle of East Potomac Flats, er, Park on one side and Banneker Overlook at the other. Banneker has poor onward connections to everywhere: L'Enfant Promenade is famously detached from everything, and high-speed traffic exiting 395 onto 9th St SW makes getting to the Southwest Waterfront tricky. Plus, the paths don't have curb cuts. I'm not sure why the proposal for a new ped/bike bridge stops short of actually linking to the Case Bridge -- it links to Arlington's Long Bridge Park on the other side -- and why funneling people there seemed like a good idea in the first place.

@J: The Maine sidewalk from Ohio to the fish wharf has been redone with new, wider paving, new streetlights, and new landscaping. It's much nicer, but the connection past the fish wharf parking lot to Water St is now a bottleneck.

by Payton on Mar 13, 2012 3:42 pm • linkreport

That said, I only know this area well because all of the other bridge crossings are worse.

by Payton on Mar 13, 2012 3:44 pm • linkreport

How about a floating bridge, like the Queen Emma Bridge in Willemstad, Curaçao. It's even movable, to allow considerable ship traffic through.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queen_Emma_Bridge

by Phil on Mar 13, 2012 4:09 pm • linkreport

See, this is the reason I don't go to planning/study/ANC meetings: ya'll pretty much know everything that I'm thinking (plus a great deal that I'm not), and will articulate these ideas far better than I ever could. Problem solved.

I think the 15th street cycletrack should be extended regardless of the bridge alternative, since East Basin Drive will remain the best option for many Virginia-bound cyclists east of 10th Street even if the Case Bridge pathway is improved. Replacing a general purpose lane on East Basin with a cycletrack has always seemed pretty obvious to me (but I haven't really taken the opportunity to check out rush hour traffic on that particular roadway- I'm usually riding in that area on weekends, when most of the traffic is on foot).

In the long-term-- and in a perfect world-- the Long Bridge alternative would connect directly to a cycletrack extending from 15th Street, and along Maine, to M Street SW and beyond; and would continue to a trail/cycletrack/bike lanes along Maryland Avenue to the heart of L'Enfant Plaza.

However, converting a lane of East Basin Drive to a two-way cycletrack seems like something that we can do relatively easily now, without sacrificing any longer-term plans for either the proposed Long Bridge alternative, or Washcycle's longer Long Bridge alternative.

Also, are there any indications that NPS will move away from combined bike/ped facilities towards at least some cycle-specific infrastructure in key corridors in the Mall area? Hasn't it been well-established by now that pedestrians and cyclists don't always mix well (or willingly)?

(also- sorry if I'm repeating others' comments. I started this comment a long, long time ago)

by Steven Harrell on Mar 13, 2012 4:53 pm • linkreport

@kolohe

I totally agree. 14th street is the best crossing. I also agree with this article that the DC side has problems, but at least the bridge is pleasant to ride on unlike some of the others.

Side note: does anyone else feel like east potomac park is stuck in the 1950s? I rode down there for cherry blossoms last year and found the whole loop a parking lot for cars (while I cruised by). Pretty sad to see.

by Sam on Mar 13, 2012 4:57 pm • linkreport

One other thing to consider: the rail bridge will likely see rehabilitation/expansion in the future. There's reason for it to be a full four-track main line between DC and Alexandria, at least. With the eventual CSX completion of a new double-track Virginia Ave Tunnel, as well as increased passenger traffic south of Union Station from both VRE and Amtrak, there's going to be a need for more capacity at the river crossing.

Things get pretty tight in terms of ROW with Maine Ave, 14th St, the RR tracks, and the Outlet Bridge...

by Alex B. on Mar 13, 2012 5:03 pm • linkreport

Seems to me there is plenty of room to expand portions of the sidewalk on southbound Ohio since there does not need to be two lanes northbound. Only cars existing East Potomac use that.

Expand the bridge over the channel to fit two lanes southbound to East Basin. Then shove the two southbound lanes away from the newly expanded sidewalk, and viola!

by fongfong on Mar 13, 2012 5:05 pm • linkreport

one word: zip lines. Well, I guess that is two.

The idea of extending a bike/RR bridge on to, say, 12th (as per Washcycle) sounds about right. On the Virginia side, that is also a good one.

Would be be possible to run flying entrance ramps for bikes from the existing bridge down to Ohio Drive. I could imagine somehting very interestig there, and it might be cheaper than some of the other alternatives.

The biggest use would be recreational. I don't see that as a problem. The river is wide there and a lot of people won't enjoy crossing it, no matter how good the connections.

Signs on the bridge (please walk to your right, watch yourself, on ring a bell when passing) would make it all much easier for everyone.

by charlie on Mar 13, 2012 5:22 pm • linkreport

@charlie

During the busy times, cyclists should dismount. Far too dangerous.

by TGEoA on Mar 13, 2012 10:02 pm • linkreport

Funny TGEoA, I say the same thing about drivers downtown. When it's crowded they should get out and push their car. Far too dangerous.

by David C on Mar 13, 2012 11:04 pm • linkreport

@david

I was referring to the bridge pedestrian paths. I bike across them all the time, and will dismount and walk vs risk getting knocked over or running someone over. I don't mind spending an extra 5 minutes to arrive safely.

by TGEoA on Mar 13, 2012 11:10 pm • linkreport

Roadways are not 'high speed'. The speed limit is an upper limit, not a mandatory minimum. And roadways are only 'harrowing' if cyclists don't believe they belong on them.

Motor vehicles have brakes and steering wheels, and their operators don't want to hit us. Why anyone should feel unsafe on the road when cycling has a lifetime mortality risk that's half that of driving a motor vehicle is a mystery to me.

by Ian Brett Cooper on Mar 14, 2012 6:55 am • linkreport

I used to take the 14th Street Bridge to the GW Bike Trail to Old Town and never had a problem. And when I needed to get to Arlington, it was either Memorial Bridge or the Key Bridge and I never got killed. Seriously, how safe do you need to make those sidewalks and bike lanes? Riding should be a kickass adventure. It's not a game for wussies. At best, they should widen the bike trail since GW is choked with joggers, geriatrics, and doublewide strollers. Sad state of affairs when a bike lane needs its own dedicated bike lane, but that's induced demand for you. I blame Obama.

Agree with the ziplines.

by monkeyrotica on Mar 14, 2012 7:10 am • linkreport

@ TGEoA; disagree. I find the Key and 14th st bridge paths wide enough for two people. Roosevelt is a judgment call -- it isn't used much, and you've got to guage the other rider.

The sidewalks around the Tidal Basin are a mess during Cherry Blossom time, but you shouldn't be biking there during peak blossom. I think in a perfect world you'd shut down all car traffic in that area and let it become a pedestrian only zone.

by charlie on Mar 14, 2012 8:57 am • linkreport

Regardless of the bridge, the cycle track ought to be extended down 15th and along Ohio and Basin Drives. Pedestrians, cars and cyclists should all be separated in this area. A 20 mph speed hump ought to also be placed where the trail begins at Basin to slow cars here where bicyclists and walkers are crossing.

by neb on Mar 14, 2012 10:12 am • linkreport

FWIW, I think I've written about this issue before. What it comes down to is that we don't have a sense of integrated regional bikeways for the metropolitan area.

One of the gaps in the non-system in the city is the lack of signage directing people to and from the regional links. So there is no signage within the city showing the linkages between the various regional trails, this one being one. This isn't the only problem. How do you find the Rock Creek Trail or the CCT or get over to the Custis Trail, etc. if you are in Georgetown...

It's an illustration of why local bike plans should include guidance on state/federal issues if relevant. I'd have to go back and re-read the MWCOG plan to see if it discusses this issue. I'd bet it doesn't.

Hopefully, this will come up in the NPS study of bikeways that they are in the process of doing.

by Richard Layman on Mar 14, 2012 10:47 am • linkreport

"Motor vehicle... operators don't want to hit us"? Then you try crossing at, oh, East Basin and Maine. I have stood there wearing a bright orange coat, gesturing wildly at the "DC LAW STOP FOR PEDESTRIANS" sign, and watched as dozens of motor vehicle operators (criminals, the lot of them!) flew right past. This "vehicular cycling" nonsense makes even less sense when talking about what is actually a freeway on-ramp, and when playing in traffic that consists of vehicles up to 1000X more powerful than a bicyclist.

@RLL: it took me half a dozen tries before I figured out even how to ride along the east bank of the Potomac River (hint: turn slowly at the sand volleyball courts). Seems like it's more an NPS problem than a city problem, though; the Anacostia trail is fairly well signed, minus the occasional wild "we haven't built this part yet" detour.

by Payton on Mar 14, 2012 11:35 am • linkreport

@Payton

Yes, the NPS roads are a) quasi freeways, and b) horrible for cyclists and pedestrians. Even just trying to walk from the Lincoln Memorial across the Memorial Bridge is a nightmare - traffic does not stop or slow down, crossing any roadway there involves taking your life into your hands.

I always love it when movies set in DC show characters walking up and down the Watergate steps behind the Lincoln Memorial, without showing the truth that it's virtually impossible to cross the roads both at the top and the bottom of those stairs.

by Alex B. on Mar 14, 2012 11:44 am • linkreport

I've seen lots of TV shows and movies in DC, and I don't ever recall seeing

1) national cathedral
2) Rosslyn Skyline
3) the Watergate steps behind Lincoln.

Funny, if Memorial Bridge is so bad why is it always packed with pedestrians?

by charlie on Mar 14, 2012 11:48 am • linkreport

Charlie:

Really? I've seen lots of movies that feature brief walk-and-talk scenes that use the Watergate steps. Hunt for Red October did, others have too. The NBM used to have a clip reel of films set in DC, and there are several that have used that location.

Funny, if Memorial Bridge is so bad why is it always packed with pedestrians?

The bridge is great. The sidewalks are wide and generous. The connections on either side of the bridge leave a lot to be desired. If you're on the north side of the bridge heading to DC, and you want to go see the Lincoln Memorial, you have to loop around the north side of the entire circle around the Memorial to do so, or dart into traffic. If you're on the south side and want to get to the Watergate steps, you have to walk around the entirety of the Memorial, or dart into traffic.

If you get to the steps, you can't actually get to the water without darting across Ohio Dr, where traffic does not stop or slow.

The fundamental issue is that too many of those roads are treated as semi freeways, with sweeping, grade separated intersections and few traffic control devices. Just slap a few stoplights and crosswalks up there to handle ped traffic and you'd make a huge difference.

by Alex B. on Mar 14, 2012 11:59 am • linkreport

@Payton,

This "vehicular cycling" nonsense makes even less sense when talking about what is actually a freeway on-ramp, and when playing in traffic that consists of vehicles up to 1000X more powerful than a bicyclist.

I'm sympathetic to cyclists who are timid about riding in traffic, but I've been riding Independence westbound from Capitol Hill to 15th, heading south across Maine Ave onto East Basin Drive, and then on to either the bridge or East Potomac Park. I've been doing this for about 7 years without incident. I come down the 15th street hill, then get in the right-hand lane if I'm heading to the bridge, or the left-hand lane if I'm going to Haines Point. I've never had a problem, and it certainly seems safer (at least to me) than standing on the side of the road, waving frantically, and trying to cross the road like the protagonist of Frogger.

Having said all that, the current situation sucks. Especially coming off the bridge, and trying to get back to the entrance to East Potomac Park. Especially now that the weather's getting nice.

by oboe on Mar 14, 2012 12:24 pm • linkreport

The fundamental issue is that too many of those roads are treated as semi freeways, with sweeping, grade separated intersections and few traffic control devices. Just slap a few stoplights and crosswalks up there to handle ped traffic and you'd make a huge difference.

This gets it exactly right. The ridiculous thing is, the freeway-style engineering is rationalized by the fact that there are few non-car users, and many, many drivers. Of course, the shitty design drives down the number of non-car users. Par for the course for many of these outdated traffic sewers. (Hell of a lot better than Tysons, though.)

by oboe on Mar 14, 2012 12:27 pm • linkreport

@AlexB; you know I have almost scene from Red October memorized. Oh well.

You are overstating the problem with access to the Bridge, but what I wanted to say it is being used. A lot. So the problem aren't that bad -- as opposed to the 14th street area, which has much less bike traffic.

It is ironic that the best bike connection (Roosevelt) is the least used. Not many Rosslyn to Foggy Bottom commuters, I guess. I did it yesterday and bikeshare and beat the circulator to 21st and M.

by charlie on Mar 14, 2012 12:31 pm • linkreport

I suggested this a while back (probably 3 or 4 years ago) on Greater Greater Washington in the context of the proposed "force protection" plans for the Jefferson Memorial. Essentially, you could construct a cycle track along this stretch of roadway that both serves as a barrier protection for a cycle track AND serves the force protection standards that NPS has implemented for monuments.

by Rob Mandle on Mar 14, 2012 12:49 pm • linkreport

@oboe: I have no problem taking the lane 90% of the time, and often do on 15th headed north. Consider, though, that I'm approaching from Southwest Waterfront. M/Maine, unlike Independence, has a bunch of blind curves, either flies at 55MPH or stands gridlocked, and then just delivers me into a series of I-395 ramps before I finally get to the park entrance -- which I can't turn left into, because obviously I should have taken the cloverleaf onto the bridge. So yeah, I do have to play chicken with the speeders on East Basin Drive four times a day.

Yesterday, I used Case Bridge to bypass the blossom mayhem and East Basin. Longer and higher, but for the next few weeks it'll have to do.

by Payton on Mar 14, 2012 1:02 pm • linkreport

I'll agree that the TR/I-66 bridge is pretty swell. Shame that it rarely makes sense for my rides: its overly long entrance ramps point in the wrong direction, and its entrance creates further confusion in that overcrowded TR Island parking lot.

NPS might consider prioritizing parks and trails over parking lots and highway on-ramps. Just a thought.

by Payton on Mar 14, 2012 1:07 pm • linkreport

MUCH-NEEDED ARTICLE. I commute from DC out to Crystal City every day and sometimes count hundreds of cyclists commuting the other way. The Mt. Vernon trail itself is great - the biggest problem is the approach to the bridge on the DC side - a narrow, bumpy scrap of pavement that is an accident waiting to happen. There needs to be a graded ramp leading up to the bridge like on the VA side. Other improvements in the vicinity of the bridge would be great but upgrading the DC approach to the bridge is going to prevent a lot of serious accidents.

by Chris on Mar 14, 2012 2:33 pm • linkreport

Re: "It is ironic that the best bike connection (Roosevelt) is the least used"

Not sure I would call this "the best bike connection" Very narrow and dangerous when there is an oblivious pedestrian jogger or slow cyclist in front of you (or a rude cyclist coming toward you).

by Fred on Mar 14, 2012 3:23 pm • linkreport

Oboe: since you mention 15th, I'm sure you'd agree with me that the pavement at 15th and Maine is absolutely horrid.

by Froggie on Mar 14, 2012 8:59 pm • linkreport

"This "vehicular cycling" nonsense makes even less sense when talking about what is actually a freeway on-ramp, and when playing in traffic that consists of vehicles up to 1000X more powerful than a bicyclist. "

If vehicular cycling - the stuff taught by the League of American Bicyclists, endorsed by the government both here and in the UK, and shown in numerous studies world-wide to be the safest way to use a bicycle is 'nonsense', I'd like to know what your favored method is. Maybe you've found a fantastic new theory of bicycle travel.

As for cars and trucks being more powerful than a bicycle, so what? Minis are much less powerful than 18-wheelers, but I don't hear Mini drivers whining about how they're scared to be on the road.

If you can't even negotiate a freeway on-ramp, maybe you shouldn't be riding a bicycle. Bicycles are for adults who know how to use them on the road. They are not for fearful children who lose their nerve whenever a truck gets too close to them.

by Ian Brett Cooper on Mar 14, 2012 9:16 pm • linkreport

Cycling is not for wimps!

by Ian Brett Cooper on Mar 14, 2012 9:18 pm • linkreport

Cycling is not for wimps!

Actually, cycling is for everyone. I have a t-shirt that says so.

by David c on Mar 14, 2012 9:41 pm • linkreport

vehicular cycling as a way of riding /= "vehicular cycling" as an attitude.

I'm pretty sure there are people who take the lane when necessary who don't do the whole "anyone who doesn't ride my way is a child" thing

by enuffalready on Mar 14, 2012 10:21 pm • linkreport

Cycling is for people who are not afraid to cycle on the road. If they are afraid, they cannot get from A to B, because bike paths and lanes don't go everywhere and they never will. Cycling takes a bit more than the ability to balance on a bike and make it go. Sadly, bicycle advocacy in this country seems to be mired in the idea that anyone can ride a bike, which is why bicycle advocacy continues to be an abject failure. How much has the cycling mode share changed in the last 50 years? From 1% to 2%? Whoop-de-fricken-doo! You folks who so smugly deride VC are courting a bunch of scared SUV drivers who don't care a damn about cycling and who just want to dust the cobwebs off the bike every summer to take their kids out to the park on sunny days - and you wonder why those numbers stubbornly refuse to go up. Meanwhile, many of the commuter cyclists, who are out there in large numbers and who advocate among their workmates for cycling, and who practice VC because VC consistently gets them to work safely, get ignored by cycling advocacy groups because "VC is 'nonsense'".

If T-shirt logos are what people rely on to figure out who can cycle, it's no wonder that every time I see cyclists in DC and MD, they act as if they have no clue about traffic laws. Knowledge of what's in the Driver's Handbook should be what determines who can ride a bike, not being able to quote a fricken T-shirt! If people would take cycling a bit more seriously, we might not be derided by people who have passed actual driving tests and who, in contrast to most cyclists, put what they've learned into practice with some regularity and operate their chosen vehicles with some level of responsibility.

The thing that really gets me is that the vast majority of these bozos who run red lights, run stop signs, ride on the sidewalk, ride on the road against traffic etc., have ALSO passed driving tests, yet when they get on a bike, they act as if their driving test doesn't apply and they act as if the rules don't apply to them. And you wonder why I equate the attitude that supports this as 'childish'.

And anyone who is afraid to use a bicycle on the road, when our roads were built by cyclists for cyclists back in the 1890s, needs to stop pretending he's a cycling advocate. Anyone who insists on forwarding the motorists' agenda of segregating cyclists and getting them off the roads and onto bike paths needs to get back in his car and give up any idea of (as Payton puts it) 'playing in traffic'. Bicycles are not toys.

It's about time self-styled 'cycling advocates' got serious and gave up playing at cycling advocacy.

by Ian Brett Cooper on Mar 15, 2012 12:18 am • linkreport

So, if I'm reading Ian correctly, he's suggesting that we give up entirely on bike lanes, cycletracks, bike paths, etc etc...

by Froggie on Mar 15, 2012 12:31 am • linkreport

"If they are afraid, they cannot get from A to B, because bike paths and lanes don't go everywhere and they never will."

if a bike lane gets from A to B, why should I care that bike lanes dont go everywhere? Besides, I can ride in streets, just not all the ones VC advocates say I should.

by enuffalready on Mar 15, 2012 1:09 am • linkreport

"How much has the cycling mode share changed in the last 50 years? From 1% to 2%? Whoop-de-fricken-doo!"

but its in that period that VC has been official policy, as you state, and that VC advocacy has grown. Maybe you are doing something wrong?

by enuffalready on Mar 15, 2012 1:11 am • linkreport

As I said before, bicycles are not toys. We do not need 4-6ft wide 'play tracks' for 'play vehicles' when we have perfectly good and perfectly useable infrastructure for REAL vehicles already. It is wider, it is smoother, it is regularly maintained and it is built using actual engineering principles.

Again, the US road system was created in the 1890s for the bicycle. Why are so many here so willing to give it up?

Heck, if you want to ride along at 4-6mph on any play track the government installs for you, go right ahead - ride on it to the park, ride on it to the beach, ride on it to picnic spots. But don't pretend these bicycle tracks are suitable for useful cycling (by which I mean actually getting serious things done, like commuting at a pace that rivals motorized commuting, or shopping) because they are not.

Bicycles are built for use on wide roads at speeds in excess of 10mph - that's why they maneuver the way they do and that's why they are equipped with effective brakes and gears. Put a bike on a 4ft wide winding pathway and you effectively emasculate it and make it useless for commuting. You might be fine with that, but I am not, because unlike self-styled 'bicycle advocates' who deride those of us who prefer to use the road and who take a similar scornful view of traffic lights and traffic laws, I don't take my bike out once a year when the LAB announces a Bike to Work Day, once again on a Critical Mass ride, and once again when it's a nice Sunday in the spring or fall. My Bike to Work Day happens EVERY weekday, rain or shine, in snow or in 100 degree heat, because I'm an actual cyclist, not just someone who wants to play at being one every now and then, as long as there are no nasty cars and as long as there's a safe track to play on.

by Ian Brett Cooper on Mar 15, 2012 1:14 am • linkreport

"And anyone who is afraid to use a bicycle on the road, when our roads were built by cyclists for cyclists back in the 1890s, needs to stop pretending he's a cycling advocate."

Being afraid to use a bicycle on a particular road is not, being afraid to use a bicycle "on the road". If VC advocacy conflates those different things, its either a stupid position, or it is dishonest

by enuffalready on Mar 15, 2012 1:15 am • linkreport

"but its in that period that VC has been official policy, as you state, and that VC advocacy has grown."

No. VC training is grudgingly supported because no one has come up with a better method, but the official policy is to implement bike paths and to get cyclists out of the way of cars. VC works, bike path advocacy doesn't.

by Ian Brett Cooper on Mar 15, 2012 1:21 am • linkreport

I am going to look past the insults about me being a "fearful child" unfit to ride a bicycle. Anyone who knows me would find that notion laughable.

I will solely point out that it is impossible to travel from M St SW to Crystal City, etc. as a purely vehicular cyclist. There are turns, like the one from Maine Ave westbound to Ohio Dr southbound, which are prohibited for vehicles. (Vehicles making that turn should just use the cloverleaf to get to the freeway. Oh, wait, cyclists aren't allowed onto the freeway, an injustice which should be remedied posthaste, I'm sure to the delight of traffic reporters everywhere.) A cyclist must cross as a pedestrian at some point, but doing so requires the kind graces of local drivers, who of course always yield because they are equipped with brakes and always drive under the speed limit and always "operate their chosen vehicles with some level of responsibility." And then the cyclist must use a dedicated path, not the freeway, to cross the river and to proceed south (or north). What a disgrace. I know that I'd much rather be up there on the freeway, because taking the lane is always safer, and engenders respect from drivers.

by Payton on Mar 15, 2012 1:22 am • linkreport

Ian Brett Cooper -- there is a difference between "cycling advocacy", infrastructure development, treating bicycling as serious transportation, and developing the complementary facilities and support systems (parking, air, repair, etc.), and the programming (what in bike planning is called education and encouragement) to assist people in making the change.

I argue this within the profession, granted it resonates only with the forward/systems thinkers, otherwise it's seen as kvetching.

So point #1 is to set realistic goals for cycling mode share, based on the fact that in the US, 51% of all trips are 3 miles or less (an add'l 13% trips are 3-5 miles) and that in a head-to-head competition, bike trips are generally competitive with cars in terms of time and convenience. Based on that kind of trip data, you can set goals for capture and total mode share. I argue that in the core of DC for example, a 20% mode share goal is not unrealistic.

point #2 -- focus investment in bike infrastructure starting with those communities where high bicycling mode share is possible (urban centers, towns, schools, etc.). (Too often, bike infrastructure is put down based on the convenience to DPWs/DOTs based on their construction schedules, so that infrastructure tends to be installed in underpopulated areas, where it isn't used, and becomes support for anti-bike politics.)

point 3 -- to get the infrastructure used, bike and ped plans AND PROGRAMS need to incorporate and implement significant elements for programming. While I am proud of these elements in the Western Baltimore County Pedestrian and Bicycle Access Plan that I did a couple years ago, I am finding more examples, albeit still just a handful, out there (Nashville is one, but I just found a "community transportation plan" for a sector in San Francisco, etc.). And of course there are a number of best practice examples of particular programs (Community Cycling Center of Portland is particularly great).

point 4 -- I argue that bike infrastructure, programming, and access plans need to systematically address all demographic segments (most don't, and the respondents are primarily white men under 40 years of age).

point 5 -- I argue that the next generation of bike plans need to drill down to the sub-city level of sectors and neighborhoods, tightly integrating infrastructure and programming. That community transportation plan is an example.

by Richard Layman on Mar 15, 2012 7:39 am • linkreport

Whether or not the alternative proposals are adopted, 15th St. needs a southern continuation of the current bike lane further south. As it stands, there is no safe or convenient way for cyclists to reach the 14th St. bridge. There is also no safe and convenient way for tourists rding their bicycles to reach the Jefferson Memorial. They are either forced onto a busy and potholed roadway that is leading into I-395 or else they are forced to share a narrow and busy sidewalk. The 15th St. bike lane should extend at least as far as where Ohio Drive definitively separates from traffic that leads onto I-395.

by Robert Hart on Mar 15, 2012 9:17 am • linkreport

Why not just copy what is being done with the 11th Street Bridge in Anacostia; redo the freeway and build local bridge to East Potomac Park

by kk on Mar 15, 2012 3:31 pm • linkreport

Cycling is for people who are not afraid to cycle on the road.

Well, when you ride a bike, if you aren't careful you could die. And if you are careful, you could still die. If this doesn't instill in you a healthy level of respectful fear then you're probably overly confident. There is a real relationship between fear and wisdom. I think one problem with our road system is that not enough people drive, ride or walk with enough respectful fear. Overconfidence may kill more often than fear does.

Sadly, bicycle advocacy in this country seems to be mired in the idea that anyone can ride a bike

Yes. That is sad. I'm glad to see someone has the courage to dismiss a large swath of possible cyclists by calling them names and telling them they are unwelcome. I'm sure that will drive up LAB membership.

How much has the cycling mode share changed in the last 50 years? From 1% to 2%?

That's a doubling, which is pretty good. And it's really been over the last 10 years. I'd love it if my income doubled every 10 years and I'd freak if my wasteline doubled every two years. And efuffalready makes an excellent point on this as well.

If T-shirt logos are what people rely on to figure out who can cycle, it's no wonder that every time I see cyclists in DC and MD, they act as if they have no clue about traffic laws.

So only 2% bike, and except for you, they're all doing it wrong?

we might not be derided by people who have passed actual driving tests and who, in contrast to most cyclists, put what they've learned into practice with some regularity and operate their chosen vehicles with some level of responsibility.

And which group is that exactly? DC drivers?

bicycles are not toys

They can be. Mountain biking or racing or some other such events are kind of toy-like uses. But they can also be transportation tools.

Again, the US road system was created in the 1890s for the bicycle.

That was before there were cars. I would say that has changed things a bit. And I'm pretty sure we had a road system before 1890.

if you want to ride along at 4-6mph

Really? Does this happen?

But don't pretend these bicycle tracks are suitable for useful cycling (by which I mean actually getting serious things done, like commuting at a pace that rivals motorized commuting, or shopping) because they are not.

You should inform the good people of Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Davis, Boulder and pretty much every city with more than 10% mode share that they're doing it wrong.

Put a bike on a 4ft wide winding pathway and you effectively emasculate it

Interesting choice of words. Some might call it telling.

I'm an actual cyclist, not just someone who wants to play at being one every now and then

As a 'bicycle advocate' I believe that almost everyone can bike for transportation. Maybe not everyday and certainly not everywhere, but everyone can - if even only a few times a year. And if everyone biked to work on the 10 nicest weather days each year, that would be a massive victory.

I think we do bicycle advocacy a disservice when we discredit fair-weather cyclists, when we treat cycling as something only for MEN who are willing to bike in the snow and rain and 100 degree temperature. Likewise when we discredit VC cyclists or those who are timid about riding in traffic. We need a big tent. If all it takes is a little paint to get people out on the road, then a little paint is what we need. You should read the Portland study about the different types of cyclists. If you limit it to your type, you limit it to 2% of people.

by David C on Mar 15, 2012 4:27 pm • linkreport

Well said, David C.

by MLD on Mar 15, 2012 5:07 pm • linkreport

This is a LOT of complaining over nothing. DC has about the best set of bike trails in the US...and yet these pie-in-the-sky proposals are made about new bridges? Please, in the current budget environment that's not going to happen anymore than high speed rail is ever going to happen nationwide. And so what if the 14th Street Bridge trail is not quite wide enough per some bureaucratic mandate. This is biking for crying out loud. VERY FEW commute...whether more would is not known. Let's keep perspective here. Always good with ideas here but NEVER do I hear about funding.

by Pelham1861 on Mar 16, 2012 9:39 am • linkreport

in the current budget environment that's not going to happen anymore than high speed rail is ever going to happen nationwide

True. In the current budget environment we don't have any money to rebuild bridges.

Except for the 11th Street Bridges.

And the New York Avenue Bridge.

And the Long Bridge.

And the Douglass Bridge.

And a few bridges in Arlington.

And every bridge on the section of the Beltway getting HOV lanes.

And the Beltway Bridge over the NW Branch.

But other than that, there is no money for bridges. Everything will just have to stay the way it is until roads fall apart.

by David C on Mar 16, 2012 10:13 am • linkreport

Ian Brett Cooper: "Why anyone should feel unsafe on the road when cycling has a lifetime mortality risk that's half that of driving a motor vehicle is a mystery to me."

Well, please don't bother with us cyclists, focus your efforts on making drivers act safer if there are more of them and they're more likely to die. Rally against any kind of segregation for motor traffic such as freeways or the autobahn in case cars get banned from normal roads (some early motor lobbyists actually thought like that).

And maybe, just maybe, if the drivers behave in a safe way, then there might be just a teeny weeny, microscopic benefit for cyclists. Nowhere near as much as if you try and dismiss 99% of cyclists as incompetent scaredy-cats, of course.

by Christopher Waller on Mar 16, 2012 4:13 pm • linkreport

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