Greater Greater Washington

New Hampshire Avenue latest to get 2-way and bike lanes

DDOT is on a roll changing roads from traffic sewers to multimodal neighborhood streets. It's remaking New Jersey Avenue, and now you can add New Hampshire Avenue in Foggy Bottom and the West End to the mix.


New Hampshire Avenue at L Street. Photo by keever04 on Flickr.

An upcoming streetscape project will add bike lanes between Washington Circle and Dupont Circle, bulb-outs at some corners, and change the one-way segment north of Washington Circle into 2-way.

The project will start in September and last until about March 2014. It includes a complete reconstruction from M Street to Dupont Circle, and just resurfacing from H Street up to M.

Washington Circle will get new crosswalks and traffic signals, which we discussed in March. Right now, Washington Circle is extremely unfriendly for pedestrians, and that will change with the project. In addition, the intersection of 22nd and K, just east of the circle, will get new pavement, crosswalks, and ADA-compliant curb ramps.


Intersection of NH and L. Images from DDOT.


Intersection of NH and M.


Plan for Washington Circle.

A lot of District streets were last reconstructed with a cars-only mindset. Engineers optimized all of the public space to maximize traffic, give pedestrians only the scraps left over, and make bicycles an afterthought at best. The changes, especially to Washington Circle, restore more of a balance and create a street for all users.

The sidewalks will stay brick south of Washington Circle, but the sidewalks north of Washington Circle will be concrete aggregate. Other Dupont-area streetscapes, like on 17th and 18th Streets, have chosen concrete with a brick strip along where the tree boxes are. It doesn't look like that brick strip is part of this one.

One concern I've sent to DDOT is to make sure the bulb-outs on M Street don't interfere with a future cycle track, as DDOT has promised to add. A cycle track on M would go along the curb lane. It might replace parking on one side, as it is on L, or if there is parking, the parking should go between the cycle track and the street. Either way, a bulb-out immediately adjacent to the current curb isn't right for a cycle track street. I'll update the post if I hear back.

Here is the presentation DDOT showed to community groups last night. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to make it; was anyone there who can relay any comments or concerns from the ANCs or other residents?

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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I like the redesigns. Would rather the bike lanes be on the inside of the parked cars rather than the outside, of course, but this is pretty good.

As an aside, the NH and M link points to a broken image.

by OctaviusIII on Aug 30, 2012 12:52 pm • linkreport

I've fixed the link. Thanks.

The thing about putting the lanes inside the parked cars is you have to make the lanes wider to do that. It is better, but it's not just a matter of "let's swap the bike lane and the cars."

People opening doors into the lane is an issue now with bike lanes, but you can ride on the left edge and sometimes go into the general lane; you can't if the lane is inside the parked cars. And there has to be something at the intersections to make sure turning vehicles can merge into the lane or otherwise interact with the bikes.

When you do all that, you get a cycle track, which we should have more of (especially on M!), but it can't be the solution for every street.

by David Alpert on Aug 30, 2012 12:57 pm • linkreport

I'd be concerned about where a new two way NH meets N st. That is a bad interesection for a lot of reasons, and adding to two -- espcially then to the Circle will be a mess.

It is also some of the last free, non-metered parking in the area.

by charlie on Aug 30, 2012 12:58 pm • linkreport

These changes, especially to Washington Circle, I find most welcome. I rarely ride through the circle today but when I do I have to come with my game face on in order to stare down the mass of swirling automobiles.

by JeffB on Aug 30, 2012 1:03 pm • linkreport

Washington Circle has exploded as a destination since the new mixed-use development opened last year. No matter the time of day, the area is bustling with employees, tourists, students, residents, and customers. A redesign of Washington Circle will keep pedestrians safe, traffic moving, and establish a more welcoming neighborhood for all who visit and live there.

by cmc on Aug 30, 2012 1:11 pm • linkreport

@David A.

True; they'd probably need an extra 5 feet in the roadway for cycletrack buffers. I've got to imagine there's something better for those intersections at least.

by OctaviusIII on Aug 30, 2012 1:12 pm • linkreport

Will the new sidewalks be the permeable kind that help reduce stormwater runoff? Considering the billions DC is spending on sewer projects, seems like all new sidewalks should be permeable to mitigate the need for further sewer expansions.

NH isn't a high priority for cycletracks considering it's between RCP and 15th cycletracks. But we need those L&M cycletracks!

by Falls Church on Aug 30, 2012 1:12 pm • linkreport

This is great news. Washington Circle is a disaster. This piece got me thinking about master plans for bike lanes. I'd like to see the city do something really ambitious, instead of a few blocks here and there.

@David Alpert: Has GGW ever done a "bike lane fantasy map"? I think that could be something cool to explore. In my dream DC, there would be bike lanes on most major cross-town thoroughfares. (Penn, Mass, NY Ave, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Florida, Wisconsin, Connecticut)

by MJ on Aug 30, 2012 1:26 pm • linkreport

@ MJ

I think bike lanes on connecticut would be a fantastic idea. I'll bet it would induce demand considerably.

by Sam on Aug 30, 2012 1:45 pm • linkreport

@ MJ:In my dream DC, there would be bike lanes on most major cross-town thoroughfares. (Penn, Mass, NY Ave, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Florida, Wisconsin, Connecticut)

Actually, you probably want them on the somewhat quieter parallel streets. Just like the bike lanes on T and R, not on U.

But that's only in DreamDC. In unicornDC, there would be bike lanes on every street.

by Jasper on Aug 30, 2012 2:01 pm • linkreport

My two offices are right on Washington Circle at New Hampshire and New Hampshire at I. I could not be more thrilled by these plans (well except maybe if they were able to put the bike lanes between the parking lane and sidewalk). I walk across Washington Circle at least five times a day and this will make my life so much easier and safer. Now they just need speed & red light cameras on the circle!

by Russell on Aug 30, 2012 2:25 pm • linkreport

I know I'm in the minority, but I actually love the thrill of riding Washington Circle (at least eastbound). That said, a more sane pattern would certainly increase the comfort level of cyclists who aren't looking for a roller-coaster experience.

My bigger want is for a center cycle-track on Pennsylvania Ave between Washington Circle and the White House. As it is, the road is about 50% wider than its traffic levels would suggest, so I wouldn't expect to see any drop-off in LOS as a result of taking out a traffic lane.

by Jacques on Aug 30, 2012 2:25 pm • linkreport

I find Penn to Penn westbound at Wash Circle eminently doable too. (never take that way east bound though). And since traffic is so light, taking the whole lane between Wash Circle and the White House is always practical.

What's missing is a good way to get anywhere when taking Penn Ave westbound from Wash Circle. The entrance to Rock Creek trail is on the opposite side of the street in a non-intersection, and the right lane ends exactly where the traffic going onto M starts backing up.

by Kolohe on Aug 30, 2012 2:36 pm • linkreport

Yes, Washington Circle is a disaster for pedestrians. Some drivers don't even notice the traffic signals there. But where is that L Street bike lane that was supposed to go in once the weather warmed up?

by aaa on Aug 30, 2012 3:05 pm • linkreport

Any idea on how the proposed streetcar* will interface with Washington Circle?

*In ~2040

by Tyler on Aug 30, 2012 3:11 pm • linkreport

Now this is a place that could use a speed camera.

by ceefer on Aug 30, 2012 3:41 pm • linkreport

It's great to see the Washington Circle redesign. When I lived in Foggy Bottom I would always walk a couple blocks out of the way just to avoid having to cross at the circle. These changes are badly needed.

by JW on Aug 30, 2012 3:44 pm • linkreport

I'm actually disappointed with the Washington Circle redesign; I think it's too timid. I would have built a British-style roundabout: 2 lanes instead of 4, and replace every last stoplight with "yield to traffic in circle" and "yield to peds" signs.

by Tom Veil on Aug 30, 2012 3:47 pm • linkreport

Tom Veil: How do people get to the center in that style of roundabout?

All-yield roundabouts seem to be good for low density areas like Loudoun where a few roundabouts there are working much better than big intersections and are cheaper than interchanges, but it seems drivers would just plow through and not stop for pedestrians and cyclists in the city.

by David Alpert on Aug 30, 2012 4:00 pm • linkreport

Am I understanding this right: they want to build a fence all the way around Washington Circle (presumably to funnel pedestrians into the crosswalk)? p. 9 of the presentation.

by Gavin on Aug 30, 2012 4:15 pm • linkreport

Has GGW ever done a "bike lane fantasy map"?

No, but DC has. It's called the Bicycle Master Plan.

DC does bike lanes in bits and pieces to take advantage of ongoing construction. It's not revolutionary, but it is frugal. Going faster would mean hiring another person and paying for unique construction. More money would be great, but doubling the rate of bike lane construction would probably take 3-4 times as much money as the current pace.

by David C on Aug 30, 2012 4:49 pm • linkreport

Here is a sort of downtown bike lane and bus lane fantasy map, of sorts:

Purple: Cycle tracks.
Blue: Existing bike lanes.
Red: K Street Transitway.
Orange: Bus lanes that also allow bikes, or bus lanes as well as bike lanes.

It was in this post.

by David Alpert on Aug 30, 2012 5:02 pm • linkreport

Gavin wrote:
Am I understanding this right: they want to build a fence all the way around Washington Circle (presumably to funnel pedestrians into the crosswalk)? p. 9 of the presentation.
Yes. NPS has been building a lot of fences around parks lately, a development I'm not especially fond of. More here.

by David Alpert on Aug 30, 2012 5:04 pm • linkreport

I'm really happy to hear about this project. I ride on NH Av by M St everyday. Recently, about 3 weeks ago, I was southbound on NHA between N & M when I got aggressively buzzed by a driver in a late model red SUV DC plates who then slammed on the brakes at the red light on M.

At the light I told him he was way too close to me and could have easily killed me. He said "You're the one on the bike. You gotta get outta my way. I only have so much space on this side", and gestured to his left. The "conversation" devolved from there.

So yeah - a bike lane on NHA south of DuPont Circ. is long overdue and welcomed. Its fun knowing red-suv guy will be confronted with his way of looking at the world, at least on NHA between N & M.

by Tina on Aug 30, 2012 5:27 pm • linkreport

No matter the amenities, be they bike lanes, even cycle tracks -- I never feel safer than on lettered and numbered DC streets, and avoiding the diagonal avenues. The intersections create blindspots and the lanes of auto traffic too wide for cyclists to be amply noticed. I will not be riding on Mass Ave to Dupont circle when there are slightly longer routes that are safer.

by Read Scott Martin on Aug 30, 2012 11:40 pm • linkreport

So presumably the one-way blocks on NH to the southwest and northeast at U & 16th will also be reconfigured? That's going to make that U/16th/NH junction a mess. But hey, that's why I ride a bike.

I'd be happy with dead-ending those blocks.

by Jack Love on Aug 31, 2012 8:29 am • linkreport

Jack: That's not part of this particular project, which is just south of Dupont Circle. That is part of the planned U Street streetscape.

http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/1003/now-those-are-bulb-outs/
http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/1119/u-street-reconstruction-rev-u/
http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/7615/klein-demands-better-plan-for-14th-u/

I don't know when DDOT is currently planning to do this or whether they're changing anything in the plans.

by David Alpert on Aug 31, 2012 8:37 am • linkreport

I noticed on the drawings that L St. and M St. do *not* have their cycle tracks. Why would DDOT do a plan that doesn't include what DDOT has already planned?

For example, it seems to me that a north-bound cyclist on NH turning right onto the L cycle track (i.e. into the left-most lane of L St) is at serious risk of a right-hook accident, if the intersection isn't designed with that sequence in mind. It needs a bike box in front of the traffic-light stop-line, a green-lane street marking, or whatever.

But if DDOT isn't talking to itself, then the new bicycle infrastructure may actually *increase* the risk of these routes.

by Shalom on Aug 31, 2012 11:38 am • linkreport

Shalom: My thoughts exactly. The left hand doesn't appear to know what the right hand is doing.

by Geoffrey Hatchard on Sep 2, 2012 9:12 am • linkreport

Thanks for this article and posting the powerpoint from the 8/29 meeting.

Information on this project was sparse until I made it to this article and reached out to @DDOTDC which linked me to dashboard for this project: http://dashboard.ddot.dc.gov/ddotdashboard/#ProjectDetail/ItemID=2ProjectID=57PhaseID=1 . Hope others find that link helpful too.

Thanks again

by Mark Silverberg on Sep 7, 2012 10:07 am • linkreport

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