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Zebras will get a trial run on Pennsylvania Avenue

DC transportation officials say a small physical barrier called the Zebra could prevent illegal U-turns on Pennsylvania Avenue, which endanger cyclists using the bike lanes. After some delays, they intend to present a proposal and do a trial installation in September.

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

Last month, officials from the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) announced that they would ask the US Commission on Fine Arts (CFA), which advises on architectural and design issues for buildings, monuments, other forms of art abutting Pennsylvania Avenue, to consider using the Zebra, made by the Spanish company Zicla.

Zebras are used in bike lanes to separate cyclists and cars. On Pennsylvania Avenue, they can also prevent dangerous and illegal U-turns across the bike lanes, which have become increasingly common despite attempts to increase police enforcement.

In June, I met with Bicycle Program Coordinator Jim Sebastian and Bicycle Program Specialist Mike Goodno, who showed me a sample Zebra and gave me a digitally altered mock-up of Pennsylvania Avenue with the Zebras.

Sebastian said that DDOT plans to suggest installing the Zebras, calling them the preferred low-profile option on Pennsylvania Avenue. At the time, he said he wanted to go before the CFA at the next possible meeting. But the June and July CFA meetings came and went without DDOT appearing on the agenda, to the disappointment of DC cyclists.

DDOT has been busy lately with other projects such as the New Mexico Avenue bike lanes, M Street cycletrack, and an expedited repaving of the 15th Street cycletrack. It's unfortunate but understandable that safety improvements on Pennsylvania Avenue have been delayed.

Rendering of Pennsylvania Avenue with proposed Zebras from DDOT.

However, after I reached out to Sebastian this week, he says that DDOT intends to appear at the CFA's next meeting September 19, which is open to the public. He also anticipates the Zebras will be available around that time, meaning that DDOT can install them on a test block of Pennsylvania Avenue soon after the meeting. If they're successful, DDOT will place them along the length of the bike lanes, from 13th Street NW to 3rd Street NW.

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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This is definitely needed. The bike lanes are *constantly* used as illegal U-turn lanes.

by ImThat1Guy on Jul 24, 2013 12:14 pm • linkreport

L Street too please! Woeful amount of bollards left.

by thump on Jul 24, 2013 12:19 pm • linkreport

Support safety for bikes but what can be done to prevent bicycles from reckless riding that imperils drivers and pedestrians? Will the Zebras have that capacity?

by David Marlin on Jul 24, 2013 12:30 pm • linkreport

David Marlin is correct. I can't count the number of t-bone accidents caused by reckless cyclist u-turns. Its an epidemic. Why just the other day, I saw a family of five rushed to the hospital as their poor SUV was broadsided by a wild cyclist.

by JJJJ on Jul 24, 2013 12:34 pm • linkreport

It's just a matter of time before a cyclist does a face plant after running into one of these things. And I would imagine that they'll have to be removed in the winter, so they aren't destroyed by snow plows.

by Ron on Jul 24, 2013 12:38 pm • linkreport

The zebras look pretty unobtrusive, which should be welcome news to committees that look our for historic and sightline preservation. But how do they actually prevent cars from crossing them? They look so low-profile and non-scary. Do they really rip up tires, or give drivers a big jolt if they try to drive over them? I think we need to stop drivers from making u-turns on Pennsylvania, but I an curious as to how these things can deter the average DC cab driver.

by Mike on Jul 24, 2013 12:41 pm • linkreport

A cyclist could fall off their bike for any number of reasons, I'm no sure that's a compelling case for not having them. Meanwhile since cyclists rarely strike vehicles or pedestrians and are the vulnerable ones (compared to drivers) this will be a net benefit to safety along the lanes.

by drumz on Jul 24, 2013 12:42 pm • linkreport

""Zebras are used in bike lanes to separate cyclists and cars.""

Where? We need them desperately on most bike lanes in DC.

by Tom Coumaris on Jul 24, 2013 12:49 pm • linkreport

Before we pass a law that prevents the firing of machine guns at cyclists, we need to guarantee that every cyclist follows the law.

Before we put in something that will deter drivers from cutting across this lane, we must guarantee this will completely prevent them from doing so.

The former is meant to be ironic. As for the latter, if one u-turn is prevented, this is a winner.

by fongfong on Jul 24, 2013 12:50 pm • linkreport

It certainly sounds like DDOT has a plan for doing... something. As I close in on one year of actively lobbying to fix this, and as we've crossed three years of having this problem, I have to say the plan seems to be to set the lowest and slowest possible expectations, and then to make excuses for still failing to meet them.

The Zebras are the LEAST protection I want to see out there, and their simplicity is meant to REDUCE the need for intensive review. Instead it's going to be a year since the lanes were "temporarily" removed for repaving and then hastily restored without improvement.

by DaveS on Jul 24, 2013 12:54 pm • linkreport

Mike, theyd be essentially like driving over a curb. Can it be done? Yes, in fact the design allows emergency vehicles to do so without damaging them. Is it comfortable? No, and thats enough to stop most drivers.

by JJJJ on Jul 24, 2013 1:47 pm • linkreport

I too am worried that the obstructions may cause a wayward cyclist to crash. What is uncomfortable for a motorist to cross could be catastrophic for a cyclist to hit.

If they had kept to the original designed width of the cycle track then I wouldn't as concerned.

by JeffB on Jul 24, 2013 2:02 pm • linkreport

Worry-warts need to stop worrying. Are people constantly running into the curb on the 15th st cycletrack?

by MLD on Jul 24, 2013 2:05 pm • linkreport

The flexposts at the intersections seem to be helping a lot, now that they've been put back in. Even though they don't prevent mid-block u-turns. I think when the flexposts were taken out, ostensibly for snow removal (it hasn't snowed hard in DC for two years of course), it was interpreted by drivers and cabbies that u-turns must be OK.

by Greenbelt on Jul 24, 2013 2:43 pm • linkreport

Now there will need to be lions nearby to control any errant zebras. Carved lions will do :-))

by DaveG on Jul 24, 2013 5:07 pm • linkreport

[This comment has been deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by Sarah on Jul 24, 2013 5:59 pm • linkreport

Sarah, I hope she was prosecuted for assault and battery.

by David C on Jul 24, 2013 6:24 pm • linkreport

What about snow plows?

by MikeR on Jul 25, 2013 12:10 pm • linkreport

I'd love to see them on Canal Road eastbound where it splits for M Street and the Whitehurst Freeway.

by Rhetor Marcus on Jul 25, 2013 12:27 pm • linkreport

As a regular cyclist, I can understand while how this *seems* like a good idea, this will be a disastor. Let's be real, cars will still drive over them, and it will just impeed cyclists from being able to get in and out of the lanes. Now instead of making turns easier, we will now have to dodge these stupid road bumps that will either cause a flat tire or send me flailing out into traffic. Great. Sounds like a death trap waiting to happen.

by Jessica on Nov 8, 2013 3:26 pm • linkreport

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