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"Zebra" could prevent U-turns on Pennsylvania Avenue

3 years after DC first installed bike lanes on Pennsylvania Avenue, drivers making illegal U-turns continue to endanger cyclists. DC officials hope that a small and relatively unobtrusive physical barrier called the Zebra could prevent them, but will federal agencies go for it?

The Zebra (with yellow stripes DC's would not include). Photo from Zicla.

Drivers frequently make illegal U-turns across the lanes, which run down the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue, so much so that they've become the most common cause of bike crashes there. Bill Walsh, a local cyclist and an editor at the Washington Post, recently recorded a video of a taxi driver making a dangerous and illegal U-turn, and Justin Antos documented one illegal U-turn per minute one day.

Area cyclists want better enforcement, but writing more tickets may still not stop drivers from crossing the lanes. Next month, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) will present a proposal to the US Commission of Fine Arts, a federal board which has power over design issues on and near federal property.

City and federal agencies have clashed over physical dividers for bike lanes

When DC first built the Pennsylvania Avenue lanes, they had a wide median and significant buffering spaces between the lane and motorized traffic. That design might have discouraged U-turns, but city officials removed it after pushback over losing one general travel lane in each direction.

The original Pennsylvania Avenue bike lanes. Photo by whiteknuckled on Flickr.

Last Thursday, Mayor Gray announced that DDOT will work with other agencies that have authority over Pennsylvania Avenue, including the CFA, National Park Service, Federal Highway Administration, and the National Capital Planning Commission to find a physical divider that can deter drivers from making U-turns and win approval.

The Metropolitan Police Department held an event on Friday where representatives from the Taxicab Commission and the Washington Area Bicycle Association handed out educational material informing drivers about illegal U-turns. Metropolitan Police Department Assistant Chief Lamar D. Greene said that a physical separator or some sort of barrier was the best way to solve the problem.

Soon after the installing the lanes, DDOT placed white stanchions near the corners, where the lanes often have no striped buffer area separating them from general traffic lanes, and where some drivers would mistake the lanes for left turn lanes.

CFA, however, "recommended against the installation of reflective plastic stanchions, commenting that these would be intrusive and incompatible elements in this iconic streetscape." Because Pennsylvania Avenue is one of the most heavily photographed and visited streets in the United States, the CFA is very sensitive to anything that might affect views of the Capitol.

DDOT still placed some stanchions at the corners, but did not use them midblock, where they could have stopped U-turns. The agency also removed them for the winter and is only now restoring them.

Rendering of Zebras on Pennsylvania Avenue from Zicla.

Next month, Jim Sebastian, Bicycle Program Coordinator for DDOT, will submit a proposal to the CFA for protective devices called the Zebra. Spanish company Zicla specifically designed them for cycle tracks and bike lanes. Zicla can make them black with reflecting strips so they blend into the pavement.

If CFA is open to the Zebras, DDOT will probably install them on a test block of Pennsylvania Avenue as a trial before putting them elsewhere, Sebastian said.

A barrier is the only way to make the lane safe

While it's great that the MPD is starting to enforce the bike lanes on Pennsylvania Avenue, it's not enough to prevent illegal U-turns and places an additional burden on an already-stretched police force. The best way to change behavior is with a physical barrier preventing drivers from entering the bike lanes.

Two drivers make illegal U-turns at the same time. Photo by jantos on Flickr.

Cyclists who have long complained that the Pennsylvania Avenue lanes are unsafe are starting to avoid them, undermining Mayor Gray's "A Vision for a Sustainable DC," which calls for a 25% cycling mode share by 2032. Making cyclists feel safe here should be a priority, though it doesn't have to conflict with the needs of drivers and the interests of CFA and other agencies.

After 3 years, there's some hope for a solution that can create a physical barrier and protect the street's aesthetics. Hopefully, the CFA and other federal agencies will be willing to allow some change to ensure cyclist and pedestrian safety.

The National Park Service is holding a public meeting tomorrow about Pennsylvania Avenue, and WABA is urging cyclists to attend and ask NPS to support a physical barrier.

Ryan Sigworth is an urban planner at the Maryland National Capital Parks and Planning Commission. He bikes or takes public transit to work from his house in Adams Morgan, where he has lived car-free with his wife and cat since 2009. He is a cyclist, urbanist, and smart growth advocate who blogs on his personal blog, The DCyclist. 


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Just a point of reference. While the lanes have been there for 3 years, making a U turn was quite legal until only 4 months ago when it was made an illegal action.

by Argile on May 28, 2013 2:59 pm • linkreport

The idea that asphalt is "iconic" and that it becomes less iconic because of bollards is absurd. I watched four cars at a time make u turns across the bike lanes this weekend, likely carrying tourists to watch the parade. some kind of physical barrier would make the lanes much safer.

by aaa on May 28, 2013 3:03 pm • linkreport

"Iconic streetscape"? What on Earth do they mean by that? It's a wide, ugly road. Those can be found in many places.

by Gray on May 28, 2013 3:08 pm • linkreport

Good article on the problem and the history, but a little more discussion of what a "zebra" is and how a row of them work to stop U-turns would be helpful. (I presume it's named for the stripes?). Hard to tell from the photos the height, for example.

by Bitter Brew on May 28, 2013 3:15 pm • linkreport

Britter Brew,
The technical specifications on the Zebra can be found here:

by Ryan Sigworth on May 28, 2013 3:19 pm • linkreport

Argile, it was *clarified* that the action is illegal a few months ago. Yes, the mayor declared it illegal, but that's because adjudication services wasn't doing its job to enforce the already-existing law prohibiting crossing a travel lane to make a u-turn. It became illegal the minute the median went from empty space to travel lanes, by the letter of DC law.

by Ms. D on May 28, 2013 3:21 pm • linkreport

Great article, Ryan. The Pennsylvania Ave bike lanes could be the crown jewel of bike infrastructure in D.C. once this is fixed. I hope some kind of physical barrier can be in place soon, for the safety of cyclists who use this lane.

by JDAntos on May 28, 2013 3:22 pm • linkreport

Argile - in fact, making the U-turn was always illegal but the wording of the law was unclear, this is what was changed recently. It has always been illegal to make a U-turn "across a travel lane", but the term "travel lane" is not defined and many police officers interpreted it narrowly to mean only car travel lanes. The revision enforces the broader interpretation to include all travel lanes, including cycle tracks.

by Aaron R on May 28, 2013 3:23 pm • linkreport

Would the zebras be removed in the winter?

by Gray on May 28, 2013 3:27 pm • linkreport

DDOT believed one side would need to be but would be a wait and see approach.

by Ryan Sigworth on May 28, 2013 3:29 pm • linkreport

Would the stanchions have been removed this winter other than for the inaugural?

Some earlier GGW post last fall made the good point that surely the cost of removal and replacement of all of them each year is greater than the cost of replacing only those broken by plows on the off chance we actually have meaningful snow in the winter.

by ah on May 28, 2013 3:29 pm • linkreport

I'm not sure about the NCPC, but it's worth noting that the city can ignore the CFA if it wants to. There's no obligation to adhere to its decisions. That's why people can appeal the commission's decisions to the mayor's agent.

Like I said, I'm not sure what the dynamics are with the NCPC. But I believe their authority may be limited to federal buildings, not the streets. Penn Ave might be an exception though.

Either way, DDOT needs to go in strongly and let it be known that this is a clear and present danger.

by TM on May 28, 2013 3:29 pm • linkreport

These "Zebra" barriers might end up having a negative impact on cyclist safety. Cyclists around here have already proven that they can't handle trolley tracks in the street. How long would it take before some preoccupied cyclist makes contact with one of these Zebras, mid-text?

by Ron on May 28, 2013 3:39 pm • linkreport

"Councilmember Tommy Wells wants to stop the practice. His staff have obtained crash reports from DDOT for Pennsylvania Avenue and have been analyzing them for some time. Based on those reports, it appears that U-turns are by far the most common cause of bicycle-related crashes in the Pennsylvania Avenue lanes."

Cmon guys. I figured this was certifiable fact when it was written above, and was surprised when I clicked on it and it simply took you to a "he said, she said" sentence that DDOT never even weighed in on, but you are now claiming as fact some unverified scuttlebutt from Wells staff, when no one here has seen the source data or the resulting data.


by Argile on May 28, 2013 3:41 pm • linkreport

When I need to make a right turn, I usually just merge with traffic to the right, then behave as a vehicle as I merge across into the right turn lane.

On the whole, having a barrier to keep cars from u-turning in front of me is preferable.

by Michael Perkins on May 28, 2013 3:42 pm • linkreport

Hopefully something can get approve. However, if these aren't approved, would rumble strips or Convex road lines between the bike lanes and the regular lanes be a good fall back option? They can be plowed over and surely wouldn't upset the CFA, NCPC, etc. Obviously not as good as a raised barrier, but perhaps better than nothing?

by Jared Christian on May 28, 2013 3:45 pm • linkreport

Like I said, I'm not sure what the dynamics are with the NCPC. But I believe their authority may be limited to federal buildings, not the streets. Penn Ave might be an exception though.
This is the kind of informed analysis that brings me to the GGW comments.

I looked it up, though, and here's the relevant passage from the "Penn Ave Transfer Legislation" found at

Jurisdiction of Pennsylvania Avenue and all other roadways from curb to curb remains with the District of Columbia but vendors are not permitted to occupy street space except during temporary special events.

by Gray on May 28, 2013 3:50 pm • linkreport

Ryan - Thanks for the link. Can you shed any light on which model is being proposed ("Zebra 9" or "Zebra 13").

Also, is it decided that, as in the Pennsylvania Ave rendering in your post, they will be used in a "parallel" deployment rather than an "oblique" deployment? Seems like oblique would be better suited both for discouraging U-turns and for permitting cyclists to merge into traffic as Michael Perkins describes.

by Bitter Brew on May 28, 2013 3:52 pm • linkreport

These will only work if they are like the spikes when you return a car at car rental 'DO NOT ROLL OVER - SEVERE TIRE DAMAGE'

by Craig on May 28, 2013 3:58 pm • linkreport

@Bitter Brew,
The Zebra model is up in the air right now. During my sitting down with DDOT they showed me a Zebra. I believe it was the Zebra 9. They are definitely stout but for that application I think the taller Zebra 13 should be used. As far as the placement, that is to be determined as well. The photo of Penn Ave with the Zebras were digitally added by Zicla so their interval and placement was decided by the company and not DDOT. Obviously, DDOT will have to finalize the model, interval, and orientation.

by Ryan Sigworth on May 28, 2013 4:00 pm • linkreport

A series of these zebra bumps that are 4-5 inches high are definitely enough deterrent. Seems like it will be fairly obvious that you shouldn't drive through them.

by MLD on May 28, 2013 4:03 pm • linkreport

Seems like it will be fairly obvious that you shouldn't drive through them.

you'd be amazed what determined cabbies and clueless people will drive through.

by Birdie on May 28, 2013 4:17 pm • linkreport

However, if these aren't approved, would rumble strips or Convex road lines between the bike lanes and the regular lanes be a good fall back option?

I have a hard time believing that taxi drivers don't know that U-turns are illegal. They just don't care. Only a massive jolt will potentially stop them.

Perhaps for regular drivers, who also make U-turns but at a much lower rate, it might help.

by ah on May 28, 2013 4:17 pm • linkreport

We could also prevent illegal u-turns with actual zebras in the median.

by Snarky Jones on May 28, 2013 4:31 pm • linkreport

Ryan - Any information about where Zebras are currently installed? I saw something similar to this being tested in San Jose a few months ago, but I'm not sure it was the same thing...

by Bitter Brew on May 28, 2013 4:37 pm • linkreport

Cab drivers should be experts in the laws of the road and should face additional and stiff penalties for violating them.

by guest1 on May 28, 2013 4:41 pm • linkreport

There's tons of streets in the area that don't even have reflective markers in the lane dividers. If those are deemed too expensive, I'd be surprised to see the government shell out the cash for some kind of raised barrier.

by Chris S. on May 28, 2013 4:44 pm • linkreport

For all those interested in figuring understanding which organization has authority over Pennsylvania Avenue of if you want bike lanes, cycletracks or other bicycle facilities, please attend the NCPC Pennsylvania Avenue Plan public meeting tomorrow at 401 9th Street, NW.

by Randall M. on May 28, 2013 5:04 pm • linkreport

Pennsylvania Ave is a living and breathing street, not a frozen statue of the past. Just put some stanchions there and end the discussion.

by Scoot on May 28, 2013 5:06 pm • linkreport

you'd be amazed what determined cabbies and clueless people will drive through.

Ugh, this kind of constant negativity in DC just annoys me. So what? So if some idiots are determined to drive over a large barrier we should do nothing? It only helps to perpetuate the idea in this town that everything must be spelled out 1000 times or it's deserving of being ignored.

by MLD on May 28, 2013 5:10 pm • linkreport

Has there ever been a study to move the bike lanes to the sides of the avenue like on most other streets? I think the problem with those lanes is the rarity of having bike lanes in the middle of the street.

Wouldn't it be preferable to have a separated bike track on each side, like here?

by jyindc on May 28, 2013 5:16 pm • linkreport

Ugh, this kind of constant negativity in DC just annoys me. So what? So if some idiots are determined to drive over a large barrier we should do nothing? It only helps to perpetuate the idea in this town that everything must be spelled out 1000 times or it's deserving of being ignored.

Where did I say that we shouldn't do anything about it? I am all for making bike lanes safer from bikers and doing as much as possible to keep drivers from doing dangerous U-turns across them. But zebras probably won't solve all the problems, and that's all I was pointing out, because cabbies seems to think the rules don't apply to them, and our streets are full of inattentive drivers. Just like the more than ample signage didn't prevent some woman from cluelessly driving the wrong way down a one-way street yesterday.

by Birdie on May 28, 2013 5:31 pm • linkreport

2 questions:

1. What about emergency vehicles that have a legitimate need to make u-turns. Do you really want police, ambulance, etc having to divert onty side streets to change direction? The Zebra here is better than a larger barricade.

2. Snowplows. It does occasionally snow around here and when it does, plows are needed. Plow vs Zebra? You either get a damaged Zebra or a damaged plow. Money either way.

by dcdriver on May 28, 2013 6:10 pm • linkreport

How about instead of coming up with creative ideas for barriers, we just hold MPD's feet to the fire until they start putting a lot more effort into enforcing the d**n traffic laws.

by Rob on May 28, 2013 6:31 pm • linkreport

dcdriver, the zebras are designed for emergency vehicles. Thats why theyre sloped, and not just rectangles like a curb.

Its time to start discussing bringing the bike lanes back to their original design. The median shared with pedestrians is still dangerous.

by JJJJ on May 28, 2013 7:01 pm • linkreport

The problem here is that the bikelane design is inherently unsafe. Generally, slower participants in traffic are on the right, not on the left. The bike lanes should be on the right of PA Ave (and on L St).

It is interesting that while we have a lot of criticism here on the design of bad roads and intersections, apparently, there is no such thing as badly designed bike lanes.

Traffic safety should be more important than other considerations. Period.

by Jasper on May 28, 2013 8:07 pm • linkreport

Jasper, I don't think relative speed is really an issue. Part of the reason they put the lanes in the center on Penn is that, for the legal traffic moves, the center represented the fewest potential conflicts. Since Penn no longer cuts through east-west on E Street, it's not nearly the high volume thoroughfare it was, and therefore has a lot more turning movements on and off of Penn.

The center-running lanes allowed for control of left turns via traffic signals.

by Alex B. on May 28, 2013 8:52 pm • linkreport

From perusing the literature posted, it appears that these *can* be driven over, particularly by larger and more durable vehicles (like emergency vehicles) without damage to the car or "zebra." Emergency vehicles could also make U-turns at any intersection, which would not have barriers and are pretty frequent on Penn.

One of the major drivers of U-turns across the median/bike lanes on Penn is the lack of legal lefts to go SB. Perhaps a couple of signs directing people up to E for legal lefts would help? I mean, *I* know that to turn left onto 14th, etc., I need to jet up to E, but it seems that many people don't know that it's a quick, safe, and legal option. Being in the area frequently, I see many people cross 14th on Penn, and then pull a Uie to turn onto 14th SB.

As far as the location of the lanes, with so much parking along Penn, and the parking lanes being travel lanes during rush hour for most of the length of the bike lanes, I'm not sure right-side is too much help except in select locations. And we wouldn't want bikes weaving back and forth, that would be bad for both bikers and motorists. Yes, pedestrians getting stranded there is a *bit* of a problem, but that's a result of the function of the walk signals as well as a lack of marking the bike lanes through the crosswalk. For example, the crosswalk signal across Penn at 14th doesn't start flashing a hand until there are only *5* seconds remaining to cross the street. The crosswalk signals are still timed for pedestrians to have safe refuge in the median, even though most of it is now travel lanes. And the pedestrians stranded don't know that part of the median is now travel lanes, since the striping and marking stop before the intersection. Either striping the lanes RIGHT up to the cross-street or re-timing the crosswalks would help. Better if both. Even better if there were signs warning pedestrians to be aware of cross-traffic from bikers if they *still* get stranded in the median. There's room for pedestrians to wait when stranded, but they need to know that they need to scoot into the area dead in the middle.

by Ms. D on May 28, 2013 9:20 pm • linkreport

Jasper, those traffic rules are for highways, not local roads. For example, on one way roads, bikes can be on the left or right. Neither is the "fast" lane - everyone must abide by the same low speed limit.

by JJJJ on May 28, 2013 10:27 pm • linkreport

Is there a reason why there are no yellow lines in all those markings?

by Another Nick on May 29, 2013 12:12 am • linkreport

@Bitter Brew,
I am unaware of any U.S. use of this product. That being said, its difficult to research individual cities that use one particular product.

by Ryan Sigworth on May 29, 2013 8:27 am • linkreport

Is there a reason why there are no yellow lines in all those markings?

CFA or whoever controls the design on Pennsylvania Ave doesn't allow anything other than white paint.

by MLD on May 29, 2013 8:34 am • linkreport

@ Alex B:Since Penn no longer cuts through east-west on E Street, it's not nearly the high volume thoroughfare it was, and therefore has a lot more turning movements on and off of Penn.

I keep forgetting that in the US straight traffic does not necessarily have the right of way over crossing traffic.

@ dcdriver:What about emergency vehicles that have a legitimate need to make u-turns.

Blocks on PA Ave are a few hundred feet. The emergency vehicles can go the next intersection and U-turn there. Problem solved.

by Jasper on May 29, 2013 8:48 am • linkreport

The zebra dividers look like a good solution to the problem. However, I would prefer to have them in the oblique orientation instead of parallel so that there is more of a barrier. I understand that more would have to be bought instead of the parallel orientation, but having them spaced too far apart will leave us with the same problem that we had before with the bollards where people would just drive between them in making u-turns.

This will not stop the really determined drivers, but it will make it clear to a majority of drivers that u-turns are not allowed. Hopefully they'll be aesthetic enough for approval.

by bobco85 on May 29, 2013 9:05 am • linkreport

I would like to see MPD try stepped up enforcement before going to the trouble of installing yet more devices, which may have to be removed in the winter and will have to be removed for parades. Pennsylvania Ave. has to be one of the most patrolled stretches of roadway anywhere in the country, so how hard is it to make enforcement of traffic regs a priority? I realize that historically MPD has yawned at making traffic stops -- and some of the 'old timers" especially hate to get out of their patrol cars -- but the mayor and police chief should make this a clear enforcement priority. And, on top of that, other police forces have jurisdiction over the Avenue: Park Police, Capitol Police, Secret Service, FBI, etc.

I know folks don't want to hear it, especially those who like the symbolism of bike lanes on Penna. Ave., but the fact remains that the median is a lousy place for them. It's not great for pedestrians who wait there while crossing the wide street, and it's not the ideal placement for bikers either. At some point, their whole placement should be re-thought.

by James on May 29, 2013 9:33 am • linkreport

I don't quite understand the Zebra from the one-pager. Is it supposed to damage cars that go over it? If not, what kind of a bump does it give?

by worthing on May 29, 2013 10:00 am • linkreport

I would like to see MPD try stepped up enforcement before going to the trouble of installing yet more devices, which may have to be removed in the winter and will have to be removed for parades.

Stepped-up enforcement has been tried. It doesn't reinforce proper behavior.

The incentives/desire lines for u-turning are very high here. Lots of cabs who want to pick people up on both sides of the street. A barrier is the only thing that's going to keep them from u-turning.

DDOT should also look at whether they need to legalize more left turns and even legalize u-turns at intersections with a green left arrow.

by MLD on May 29, 2013 10:20 am • linkreport

Placement of bike lanes in the median is the problem. Why not put it on the right side of the road like every other bike lane? Taxi drivers have been legally making those U-turns for like a hundred years before the bike lanes appeared with little or no input from them.

by Frank on May 29, 2013 12:10 pm • linkreport

Placement of bike lanes in the median is the problem.

Is it? Has there been research done as to whether the lanes are more dangerous in the middle?

by drumz on May 29, 2013 12:14 pm • linkreport

Yes, because certainly nobody ever violates the sanctity of a bike lane on the right!

Come out with me sometime and I'll show you how many drivers crowd the bike lane, turn/merge into the bike lane without signaling, etc. Maybe we'll even get doored!

I'll go against the grain here and say it: I feel infinitely much safer in these lanes in the middle than in any unseparated lane on the right. At least on the crowding/turning front, from my observation drivers respect the barrier to the lane more than a regular right-side bike lane. I have never had a u-turn close call though.

by MLD on May 29, 2013 12:17 pm • linkreport


Not sure why taxi drivers should be given a veto on this. If they don't like it, let the miniscule fraction of DC taxi drivers who are actually DC residents (and can vote in DC) take it to the ballot box.

by oboe on May 29, 2013 12:19 pm • linkreport

Not sure why taxi drivers should be given a veto on this. If they don't like it, let the miniscule fraction of DC taxi drivers who are actually DC residents (and can vote in DC) take it to the ballot box.

If only there were some government backed group that came up with proposed regulations and rates for Cab companies in the district that also came out occaisonally and talked about stuff that was only tangentially related to taxi issues. We could call it the DC Taxi Cab commission or something.

by drumz on May 29, 2013 12:37 pm • linkreport

If Donald Trump can build a hotel along their "Iconic Streetscape" then I have no idea what some plastic bollards would do to the landscape. Good thing some senseless bureaucrat or MOC from the land of no one goes there, is here to oversee living and working in DC.

by James on May 29, 2013 1:53 pm • linkreport

The original PA Ave bike lanes, with the 6 main lanes and the more separated bike lanes, were better. Better for pedestrians to have more refuge out of the bikes' path too.

But nothing says "America's Main Street" like 8 lanes of motor traffic, I suppose.

by Jeff Lemieux on May 29, 2013 1:57 pm • linkreport

I see more u-turns than I see actual bicyclists in the lane. Total waste - get rid of the bike lanes all the bicyclists are on the sidewalk anyway. heck, just ban bikes please.

by Kimberly on May 29, 2013 5:06 pm • linkreport

I'd like to see a ban on people who call themselves 'Kimberly'.

by Tina on May 29, 2013 5:53 pm • linkreport

Show of hands (plus friends who don't comment here) who use the PA Ave. bike lanes...

+1 for me at least 4 days a week, +2 for friends who use it 3-5 days a week each.

Since that's more people than I know who *drive* on PA Ave. more than occasionally (a few times a year), heck, just ban personal cars...they can find an alternate route. ;)

by Ms. D on May 29, 2013 7:31 pm • linkreport

@jasper: What @mld said. I haven't had too much trouble with the U-turn issue when I ride on Pennsylvania Ave, maybe because I use it only early in the morning. But I love it being in the middle instead of the side because I don't get clueless drivers speeding by me and then suddenly turning right as if I have magic brakes on my Capital Bikeshare bike.

The other big issue is pedestrian jaywalking, at least early in the morning when there aren't as many cars. Penn Ave has long blocks and so many just wander across willy nilly and stop in the bicycle path. Or they cross at the light when the road is clear of cars - but not bikes and then stop right in front of the bike lanes.

Also, one morning a Homeland Security car was parked in the middle of the cycle track. I wonder how often that happens.

@ Kimberly: I invite you to survey it at 7:30 or 8 a.m.

by lou on May 30, 2013 7:24 am • linkreport

@MLD: when was stepped up enforcement tried? The last numbers I saw showed that MPD issued more warnings than tickets this year for illegal U turns. If you tell people with a wink that they're not supposed to do it, but they won't be punished for it, does that actually count as enforcement?

by Mike on May 30, 2013 8:02 am • linkreport


That is the kind of enforcement MPD is engaged in. It is much easier to get DDOT to install barriers along the lanes than to try to get MPD to do effective enforcement.

Apparently at the NPS meeting last night they said DDOT was in charge of the street. Can the public attend the CFA meetings? Looks like we may need to pack the next meeting with angry cyclists if we want them to see that this is an important issue.

by MLD on May 30, 2013 8:19 am • linkreport

First sentence should say "...MPD is willing to engage in."

by MLD on May 30, 2013 8:22 am • linkreport

MPD really needs to step up to the plate and get with 21st century policing, whether it's traffic enforcement or actual patrol work. Last night PBS aired a program on Nova that featured the NYPD and Boston police department. It made DC's police seem like a bunch of bama bumpkins.

by James on May 30, 2013 9:30 am • linkreport

@MLD: Agreed that MPD is useless in this regard, but you should be clear and say "MPD refuses to do actual enforcement" rather than "stepped up enforcement has been tried" lest people get the idea that MPD has actually taken the issue seriously.

by Mike on May 30, 2013 9:39 am • linkreport

They tried a level of enforcement that is possible. They can't post multiple officers on Penn Ave every day to enforce U-turns. There is a fairly obvious solution, which is barriers. All I was responding to initially was the call for "more enforcement before barriers" which is absolutely a waste of time and resources.

by MLD on May 30, 2013 10:06 am • linkreport

They certainly can issue citations rather than warnings. If they did, people might actually feel like there's some downside to making a u-turn. (Aside from possibly killing someone, which they don't seem to care about.)

by Mike on May 30, 2013 11:43 am • linkreport

We need more data and less theoretical discussion in order to make informed choices (as with anything in life). Ryan, can you get these data?

1) How much does each zebra cost and what is the cost to install and maintain them?
2) What is their lifespan?
3) How many bicycle crashes per month are occurring on Pennsylvania Avenue? 2? 20? 100?
4) Are some blocks more dangerous than others, or would all need zebras?
5) How serious are the injuries?
6) How much would the fine be if the illegal U-turners were fined rather than warned?
7) How much would DC make if it enforced the no U-turns?

Without information we have only opinion.

by JLo on May 30, 2013 4:16 pm • linkreport

JLo, we already have some information so it's not all opinion, but your point about measuring the costs and benefits is not without merit. However, another cost of the u-turning cars/lack of barrier are people who are dissuaded from using the bike lane because they feel unsafe - and I'm not sure how you'd measure that. Also, the cost of adding these in is probably trivial and the cost of gathering all of the data you request is probably pretty close to the same cost of installing them (if not more). It seems silly to spend, for example, $10,000 to study the prudence of a $20,000 purchase, when it's pretty clear the benefit is > zero.

by David C on May 30, 2013 9:45 pm • linkreport

Typically I take E St. to Union Station, but last week I took PA for the first time. A taxi cab made in illegal u-turn within inches of me and I swore never to go that way again. It's pretty scary...

by Elizabeth A Jones on May 31, 2013 9:08 am • linkreport

yes, please do this!

by Reality on May 31, 2013 1:00 pm • linkreport


The basic information (how much do they cost, how many collisions are there, and how much money they could make by enforcing no U-turn laws) is freely available. Then we can see what the # of $$ per collision averted is and whether the fines for enforcing no U-turns could cover the cost of installation. And if the zebras are wildly expensive, perhaps enforcing the laws--while making money for DC-- would protect bikers without the expenditure.

There really is a difference between one collision a week and several a day--we should find out. Alpert's post of 10/2012 indicates DDOT has data on Pennsylvania Avenue crashes and #stoputurnsonpenn has complaints (I don't do Twitter, so I can't look at it). I can't see how you figure this would cost as much to find out as installing the zebras would be (without knowing the cost of the zebras).

by JLo on Jun 1, 2013 3:53 pm • linkreport

(I don't do Twitter, so I can't look at it)
Anybody can read tweets. You could go here to read them for yourself.

by Gray on Jun 1, 2013 4:13 pm • linkreport


As I understand it, standard traffic enforcement doesn't pay for itself. The cost of having an officer write a ticket, following up on it, etc... is more than what is made from the ticket itself, but I could be wrong. Cameras are a different story.

We actually probably don't know how many crashes there are. We might know how many crashes are reported, but surely there are some that go unreported. We'd need to do an observation to get that data and that would be pricey. And in order to know the damage caused by each crash would require even more investment.

I can't see how you figure this would cost as much to find out as installing the zebras would be

I don't actually figure that, since I don't know how much either would cost. But I wouldn't be surprised if that were the case.

by David C on Jun 1, 2013 10:33 pm • linkreport

Gray--thanks for enlightening me on tweets. I looked at all of them: 2 collisions, 1 "almost," and 53 tickets purportedly written is the data they contain in the 6 months. Plus lots of anxiety and hostility reported.

David C--Perhaps we should ask MPD or DDOT to confirm what you understand about traffic enforcement costs, as well as the number of reported collisions (as you say, we can't know about unreported ones).

And we could ask the company what the cost of the zebras is. Then we could decide whether it's worth it--or maybe more stanchions are the answer. No numbers, no persuading policy makers, just grousing.

by JLo on Jun 1, 2013 11:51 pm • linkreport

JLo, there is nothing preventing MPD from enforcing it now. If they were going to do that, they would have already done it. And even where enforcement is 100% violations continue. So that is not a solution. It might be a way to raise funds, but that isn't the goal here.

The goal is to keep drivers out of the bike lanes. I agree that they should be reasonably priced, but based on what they look like, I can't imagine they aren't.

I think the point of this post is that a solution is needed. DDOT thinks this could be a solution and I'm going to assume that they know much of the information you're looking for (like the cost), so it is reasonable to believe that your concerns (cost, efficacy) are their concerns and that they have been addressed. In a sense you're arguing that governments should do their due diligence, but my experience with DDOT is that they do, and I suspect they have done so here.

This post is not a formal proposal to the city council. It's an opinion piece.

by David C on Jun 2, 2013 1:42 pm • linkreport

Have bicycle counts been conducted along this route? It strikes me that few pictures of this facility show bicyclists.

by David on Jun 7, 2013 9:42 am • linkreport

David, DDOT does them every year. According to 2012 data there are about 92 cyclists per hour during the day with a peak of 198 per hour. Here's a pretty good place to look at it all

by David C on Jun 7, 2013 9:48 am • linkreport

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