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NoMa's First Street will get first cycletrack in NE DC

Bicyclists, pedestrians, and the environment will all benefit when DDOT reconstructs the stretch of First Street, NE that forms NoMa's main street over the next 2 years. The stretch from Columbus Circle to New York Avenue will get new crosswalks, stormwater retention, and a cycletrack to help connect the Metropolitan Branch Trail to Union Station and the Mall.

Part of 1st St NE. Photo by Elvert Barnes on Flickr.

DDOT and associated contractors presented plans for the reconstruction of the road at a meeting last night. The biggest news for regional cyclists is the plan to add a a 2-way cycletrack along 1st Street from Columbus Circle to M Street NE.

The cycletrack will be 8 feet wide and separated from automobile traffic. Plastic bollards will handle that duty from the circle to K Street. From K to M, a 2-foot-wide precast concrete barrier will keep automobile and bicycle traffic separate. This barrier will be the same height as a standard curb.

Bicyclists will need to share travel lanes with automobiles on one block of M Street to get from the ramp that marks the southern end of the Metropolitan Branch Trail to the northern end of the cycletrack. Bicycle traffic will now have a much safer route to get from the National Mall to the MBT.

Typical cross-section of First Street NE between K and M Streets. Image from a meeting handout.

A Montreal cycletrack with a concrete curb for separation. Photo by tracktwentynine on Flickr.

The project will include new crosswalks at almost every intersection. The one exception is Pierce Street, between L and M, which DDOT promises to revisit when development at that corner brings more pedestrian activity. Sidewalks will get better lighting, including Washington Globe lights along the road and teardrop lighting at the intersections. Wider sidewalks will ensure ADA compliance.

Bio-retention areas, similar to what exists on the east side of the 1200 block of First Street, will be installed where possible along the road. This will help ensure that less water pours directly into the sewer system during rains, helping to curb the volume of water that leads to combined sewer overflow episodes.

Crews will relocate a water main and do other utility work between September 2012 and Spring of 2013. The full-depth reconstruction of the road will then occur from K Street to New York Avenue, one side of the road at a time. The road will allow one-way southbound traffic at all times. From G Street to K Street, the road will simply be resurfaced.

Construction is scheduled to last 18 to 24 months, though the team expects all work to be finished closer to the 18 month end of the timeframe. That would mean they will complete the project sometime in the spring of 2014. A page with project details will be available on DDOT's website once construction gets underway.

Geoff Hatchard lived in DC's Trinidad neighborhood. The opinions and views expressed in Geoff's writing on this blog are his, and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer. 


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Hallelujah. I biked First Street this morning and nearly got hit no less than three times in just a few blocks.

by Dave Murphy on May 30, 2012 10:43 am • linkreport

Now if they'd only address the bike situation at Dave Thomas Circle...

by Dave Murphy on May 30, 2012 10:46 am • linkreport

@Dave Murphy

If they could just address the entire situation at Dave Thomas Circle... that intersection doesn't work for drivers, bikers, or pedestrians.

by Adam L on May 30, 2012 10:47 am • linkreport

How wide is the cycletrack you have pictures? I find the 15th St track to be too narrow for my preferences, and I fear this will be dangerously narrow as well. What's wrong with 2nd St NE? It seems to be handling quite a bit of MBT traffic as is.

by @SamuelMoore on May 30, 2012 10:51 am • linkreport

Terrible news. I ride on that street several times a week. This will render it unrideable. Sheesh.

by A Streeter on May 30, 2012 10:55 am • linkreport


by Dan Gamber on May 30, 2012 10:58 am • linkreport

They should extend the currently under construction bike lane on K ST NW to go all the way to 1st NE so it connects with the cycletrack.

by Falls Church on May 30, 2012 11:17 am • linkreport

I have to say, this takes the best part of this area (1st st.) and improves it, leaving the biggest problems festering: Florida Ave/Dave Thomas Circle
North Capitol St.
New York Avenue

These roads form a monstrosity that gets Maryland motorists in and out of the city as quickly as possible, but cuts off foot and bike travel between NoMa and northwest DC.

To be successful, this 1st St. Cycletrack has to figure out how to link cyclists up with east-west routes such as Q and R Streets, particularly Q St., since it's hazardous to get from Q/Florida to 1st St. NE

by Ward 1 Guy on May 30, 2012 11:38 am • linkreport

+1 to Falls Church. K St. is a very logical connection between MBT/1st St. and downtown. The only problem is getting through Mt. Vernon Square.

by Ward 1 Guy on May 30, 2012 11:39 am • linkreport

The one exception is Pierce Street, between L and M, which DDOT promises to revisit when development at that corner brings more pedestrian activity.

Um, that corner has a gargantuan Archstone apartment building that just finished construction and is already leasing and will be filling up in the coming months.

by Ward 1 Guy on May 30, 2012 11:41 am • linkreport

You know, the Dave Thomas Circle actually isn't all that scary to navigate on a bike. You sometimes need to walk a bit, but it's not awful to get from 1st St to Eckington Pl (and then R St). It certainly could be better, but I've never felt unsafe when sticking to the crosswalks.

I agree that crossing NY Ave unnecessarily sucks, but I think that some of us are overstating the matter. Honestly, the Dave Thomas circle is possibly one of the least-terrible ways to cross NY Ave on a bike.

by andrew on May 30, 2012 11:48 am • linkreport

I really don't find this stretch to be all that difficult to ike on the road, depste another poster's assertion that it's a dangerous stretch. I would estimate I have each block to myself (no cars coming or going) more than half the time I ride down this stretch. I'd rather the city spend the money addressing messier areas.

by mustourdman on May 30, 2012 11:54 am • linkreport

Oh, and 2nd St is by no means a good road for bikes. The designated (but unmarked) "on-sidewalk" bike route is dangerous for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers.

It's a very big sidewalk, but the lack of striping for the bikes, and heavy pedestrian traffic from the medical facility make it unsuitable to actually ride on. There's also a bunch of seemingly-unnecessary street parking that could be removed to make room for bikes... (and MPD could certainly do a better job of ticketing the hordes of people (and MetroAccess vans) who illegally idle in front of the medical facility).

The intersection of 2nd & K is also terrible for bikes (probably one of the worst in the city, if only because it deceptively looks safe). There are bulb-outs installed on all of the sidewalks for no #*@&$ing reason, and they don't leave enough room for bikes and cars to ride side-by-side. The lights also aren't timed well, and the intersection frequently backs up due to the lack of turn lanes or turn restrictions. Visibility is poor around almost every corner too, and cars rarely yield to legally-crossing pedestrians.

Similarly, 2nd St gets a bit narrow for bikes north of F St, and leaves no great alternative route for bikes to continue north (say, to the D St bike lanes). At the very least, sharrows would be nice.

by andrew on May 30, 2012 11:57 am • linkreport

I'll add my +1 to Falls Church and Ward 1 Guy on connecting K St NW to NoMa and the MBT (I ride that way home every day - from 14th and K along K St, via Mt Vernon Sq, 1st St NE, north to M St to the MBT. Not a terrible ride, but would be much less scary with at least a bike lane if not a cycle track.
Also, as an Eckington (R St NE) resident, while sometimes it would be good to go to NoMa via Dave Thomas Circle, I try to just use the R St MBT entrance and avoid the NY Ave/FL Ave mess.

by elizqueenmama on May 30, 2012 11:59 am • linkreport

@andrew Dave Thomas Circle is indeed a hazard. It puts bikes and pedestrians onto a collision course.

You simply can't ride safely on Florida Avenue, so cyclists take to the south/west side sidewalks in both directions. That means you have two-way pedestrian and bike traffic all on one sidewalk that alternates between wide and narrow and turns a tight corner. Might as well station an ambulance there because someone is going to get hurt. Once development picks up, there will be more and more pedestrians and the situation will just get worse.

That intersection is optimized for out-of-state motorists. If NoMa BID and DDOT are serious about fostering growth, they need to tackle this tangle of roads as a higher priority than slick new cycle tracks down First St.

by Ward 1 Guy on May 30, 2012 12:18 pm • linkreport

I stopped biking in the street on Florida Avenue when a motorist threw a cup of hot coffee at me.

My hope is that after the 11th Street Bridge opens the 295 North ramps, efforts will be made to deter Maryland traffic off New York Avenue.

As for Dave Thomas Circle, I live at the top of Eckington Place and it is most certainly unsafe to cross it on a bike, either on the sidewalks or in the street. Cars in all directions routinely run red lights, block the sidewalks, and worst of all, speed.

I think projects like Washington Gateway
and the Union Market redevelopment
will bring more pedestrians to the area and tighten up the intersection as well.

Frankly, I think some street trees would do wonders for that intersection all around.

by Dave Murphy on May 30, 2012 3:30 pm • linkreport

I don't understand why they would choose to do this on 1st instead of 2nd. They should narrow the sidewalk(s) on 2nd and use the extra space to add a cycle track. I ride 2nd all the time and it's great. Not too much traffic, connects easily and logically to the Met Branch Trail. Nice and smooth.

by Inez on May 30, 2012 4:48 pm • linkreport

You know, the Dave Thomas Circle actually isn't all that scary to navigate on a bike. You sometimes need to walk a bit...

I think we'll just have to agree to disagree on what constitutes "scary to navigate on a bike." ;) For my part, if you need to get off and walk, it's a failure.

by oboe on May 31, 2012 11:41 am • linkreport

Why are any cyclists taking 14th street to get downtown anyway, when 15th st. has a dedicated bike lane down most of that area?

Avoid the stupid Thomas Circle (which is a nightmare for everyone) and just use the alternate route.

Honestly, I think DC is one of the most bike-friendly cities I've ever lived in and there are always alternatives that are just 1 or 2 blocks away from the problem areas.

And I'm sorry, but part of the deal of being a cyclist is that yes, on occasion, you will have to stop your bike and get off or put your feet on the ground to get around.

Like it or not, that's the deal, whether it's here, or Portland or New York City or Madrid.

If you want convenience and 100% comfort, then you drive a car.

by LuvDusty on May 31, 2012 1:01 pm • linkreport


People are talking about DAVE Thomas Circle, a tongue-in-cheek reference to the fact that the NY Ave/FL Ave intersection has a Wendy's on it.

by MLD on May 31, 2012 1:11 pm • linkreport

Bike lanes are great!

Though, I suggest that the city install a gate at the end of the lane that closes when there's a red light so they'll actually stop for it.

Silly suicidal bikers, I see the same one almost get hit every day by my apartment in College Park

by menobikey on Jun 2, 2012 9:56 am • linkreport

Silly suicidal bikers, I see the same one almost get hit every day

If they're suicidal, then why do see the same one every day?

by David C on Jun 2, 2012 11:16 am • linkreport

@MLD: oops! "never mind" (Emily Letilla voice)...

In any case, thanks for the clarification...but the last part of my post still applies.

No city is 100% bike friendly. You still will have to on occasion, stop, get off your bike, and well, walk a bit.

If you are a cyclist and you have a problem with occasionally walking 1-2 blks when needed, then you are kind of defeating the whole reason why you are supposedly taking alternative (non-car) transportation in the first place.

by LuvDusty on Jun 6, 2012 10:49 am • linkreport

I agree that not every street has to be 100% bike accessible. I disagree that we should accept that there are places where I have to get off my bike and walk for a couple blocks. I don't think that not wanting to walk is "defeating the whole reason" of alternative transportation, in fact slowing people down like that defeats the entire purpose of riding your bike in the first place (that it is faster than walking). What is the reason for using non-car transportation? There are plenty of slow streets in NoMA where it is safe to ride a bike along, but bike access INTO the area sucks, especially from the NW where you have to traverse the FL/North Cap/NY high-speed throughways. Usually I just use the sidewalk.

The better bike connections I think the area could use are making 1st St NW friendlier to bikes period (cars have great access on N Cap one block over so this should not be considered a major through street for them). This would improve N-S connectivity and connect to the Q St lane. M Street could have a 2-way cycletrack from First NW to Gallaudet, and K Street should have better bike infrastructure from Mt Vernon Sq eastward.

by MLD on Jun 6, 2012 11:10 am • linkreport

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