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15th Street cycle track repaving starts tomorrow

Starting tomorrow, DDOT will repave the 15th Street cycle track between K and Swann streets. The agency agreed to fix the protected bike lane in June after months of complaints from cyclists about its uneven and dangerous pavement.

Photo by the author.

The first protected bike lane in DC, 15th Street is one of the city's most popular cycling corridors, used by hundreds of bicyclists daily. But the road surface is uneven and falling apart, causing cyclists to swerve into oncoming traffic to avoid bumps.

At the Dupont ANC, we heard from many, many frustrated cyclists, or would-be cyclists, about the need for repaving the lane. Because we believe good infrastructure is vital to encouraging a diversity of transit options, I and fellow ANC commissioner Noah Smith have worked with the city and the DC Council for many months to get this project accomplished.

The project will cover 13 blocks of 15th Street between K and Swann streets. When completed, the cycle track will have a 4.5-foot-wide southbound lane, which contains a 1-foot-wide gutter but has enough room for cyclists to avoid it. The northbound lane will be 3.5 feet wide, but will also be adjacent to the 3-foot parking buffer, making it feel wider.

Work will begin tomorrow in two main phases. During the first phase, the work will move in two block segments. DDOT will repair curbs, gutters, and pedestrian ramps along the corridor. While construction takes place in each section, there will be restrictions on using the parking lane and the bike lane. This phase should take about two weeks.

During the second phase, workers will resurface the 15th Street cycle track with new asphalt and install pavement markings. This should last one week, but restrictions on parking and biking will cover larger segments of the work area. During this time, DDOT recommends that cyclists use 14th or 16th streets instead.

Throughout the entire construction process, DDOT will post "No Parking" signs ahead of time so residents know when to move their cars. In addition, work should only take place between 9:30am and 3:30pm.

I'm excited to see that this important cycling corridor will get the repairs it needs to keep everyone safe and moving. However, if you encounter any problems or have any questions, please contact me at

Kishan Putta is a Dupont Circle ANC Commissioner who is also an avid District cyclist and health reform advocate. He has lived on 16th Street for several years with his wife Divya. He is also an active board member of Friends of Stead Park. You can find out more and contact him at


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While this is good news, I have to add to caveats.

The first is that this is a major commuting route for cyclists and yet there has been zero discussion about where to put the people that normally take this route. 14th or 16th...HA, no way anyone other than people in full on beast mode are tackling those. DDOT really should have taken away a car lane for this project and made it the temporary cycletrack.

Second, the volume of cyclists on 15th is very high. I don't regularly use it anymore, b/c it's just impracticable to go at any sort of speed (or the speeds needed to get certain lights) w/ the number of people out there. The last few times that I've used it I've counted more cyclists stopped at lights than drivers in cars. My last trip on it was Monday. At 15 and Mass there were 12 cyclists NB and 3 SB at ~6:10 pm and 11 cars. The time before that (about the same time of day) there were 22 NB cyclists and 3 or 4 SB and only 17 cars at the light. Cyclists are given only 1/5th the space and that's not equitable and it certainly doesn't encourage others to shift modes. I watched a 30 second video this morning and 10 cyclists went by in that time. Only a handful of cars passed.

This is a missed opportunity for DDOT, WABA and DC bike riders to increase space for cycling and the lack of safe alternatives during the repaving is a step back.

by thump on Sep 5, 2013 12:42 pm • linkreport

Good news and thanks. Much of the southbound lane of the cycle track has been virtually unusable since it opened. Repaving will help with the morning ride in for the rapidly growing number of bike commuters who use this track.

by aaa on Sep 5, 2013 1:02 pm • linkreport

How do the new rules regarding making accommodations for cyclists during construction affect this project? Have they taken effect yet? 16th is definitely not a reasonable alternative for most cyclists. 14th would be if not for the incessant construction (making no accommodations for cyclists despite the multiple blockages of the bike lane).

by Jon on Sep 5, 2013 1:06 pm • linkreport

I thought I read somewhere that DDOT was considering creating a temporary cycletrack lane during the construction. Surprise surprise, guess that's not happening!

DDOT recommends that cyclists use 14th or 16th streets instead.

Nobody should be biking on 16th. Car traffic, bus traffic, aggressive drivers. Use 17th to go SB or 18th/14th to go North.

by MLD on Sep 5, 2013 1:09 pm • linkreport

I agree with thump, the planning for detours during the construction phase has been very poor and communicated with very little realistic information. If DDOT was going to close the cycle track for a month, it should just be stated as so. If this is the case, the construction should have been delayed until late October/early November. At least then, the weather might have reduced the number of cyclists. The "detour" is not real and requires navigating circles and roads without bike lanes for the majority of the detour. It would seem prudent for cyclists to just stay on 15th and take a lane (at least when traveling the same direction as the one way) even without DDOT officially closing it. As mentioned the auto traffic volumes don't justify forcing cyclists on this detour. Auto traffic can more easily detour one street in either direction if they need more space during construction since the "detour" streets are already constructed for them.

by ujavitiz on Sep 5, 2013 1:30 pm • linkreport

If DDOT is going to recommend that users take 16th or 14th Sts as a detour, it needs to work with the MPD to enforce the laws prohibiting speeding, reckless driving & illegal parking/standing on those streets. It's hard enough to safely drive there, let alone bike.

I'm not sure what's the lesser or two evils. 14th St has the craziest drivers but then again 16th St has the cluster*** known as Scott Circle.

I think 17th St is a better alternative because there is at least a bike lane north of Massachusetts. But anything between K St and Massachusetts can be quite harrowing due in large part to cabs and delivery trucks.

13th St might be an OK option because traffic tends to move a bit slower there.

Hopefully this construction will only take a month!

by Scoot on Sep 5, 2013 2:03 pm • linkreport

I predict that an even-larger-than-usual number of cyclists will be riding the wrong way in the 17th Street bike lane while this is going on. (And the usual number is a lot! Pretty annoying to be using the 17th Street lane correctly and have to keep playing chicken over and over.)

by iaom on Sep 5, 2013 2:18 pm • linkreport

To be honest, if this is only happening 9 to 3 on weekdays, the number of people effected will be very small and the need for diversions miminal.

That being said, I doubt it take only three weeks. Someone DDOT contractors manage to f** up like no tomorrow. That mess around NM and M has been going on for over a year now.

by charlie on Sep 5, 2013 2:32 pm • linkreport

@Charlie--does this mean that during pre-9AM hours, the 15 st cycletrack will be usable?

by Dan Miller on Sep 5, 2013 2:43 pm • linkreport

I would guess it will be unusable for the entire month, even during non-construction hours, and probably on weekends too. But a clarification from the DDOT would be appreciated.

by Scoot on Sep 5, 2013 2:55 pm • linkreport

@DanMiller; good question -- but from this post it is hard to tell.

"In addition, work should only take place between 9:30am and 3:30pm."

"While construction takes place in each section, there will be restrictions on using the parking lane and the bike lane. This phase should take about two weeks."

"This should last one week, but restrictions on parking and biking will cover larger segments of the work area."

by charlie on Sep 5, 2013 3:32 pm • linkreport

It might be usable if you're riding a mountain bike, but if not, probably not. Just b/c they're not working on it, doesn't mean it will be usable.

by thump on Sep 5, 2013 4:03 pm • linkreport

^ Or if you enjoy riding through construction zones.

by Scoot on Sep 5, 2013 4:23 pm • linkreport

I enjoy the similar attire between myself when I'm riding and that of workers in construction zones: hi-viz safety shirt, protective eye-wear and gloves, special footwear, and of course, hardhat.

by Tina on Sep 5, 2013 4:34 pm • linkreport

Jon, the law you're referring to has not passed the council yet.

by David C on Sep 5, 2013 9:41 pm • linkreport

@David - Thanks. That would explain why it's not even close to being followed.

by Jon on Sep 6, 2013 9:35 am • linkreport

I've been receiving a lot of questions very similar to the ones raised here and I was able to get some answers from DDOT:

The curb work has begun just north of Mass Ave. Segments may be restricted once work begins daily (9:30am) – especially the southbound lane adjacent to the curb.

But before 9:30am, you should still be able to bike most of the cycle track (just be extra careful)… Until, of course the repaving stage, which will hopefully begin by the end of the month – and should take 3-5 days, DDOT says.

If you do need to take a detour, I agree with you - don't take 16th Street (17th, 18th, 13th are all better options, and 14th too).

Thanks for all the input and support and let me know if you see anything noteworthy (good of bad) about this project or anything else.


by Kishan Putta on Sep 8, 2013 10:32 pm • linkreport

Thank you for this updated information. I rode the cycle track Friday and today and found both days that the contractors had set up a parallel lane on 15th St. marked off by cones which cyclists were using very effectively with minimal impact on auto travel lanes. Kudos to DDOT and the contractors for being responsive to the feedback. I also noted that the construction signs no longer suggest specific alternative routes and the "Use Alternate Routes" could now be read to be applicable to automobile traffic rather than bicycles.

by ujavitiz on Sep 9, 2013 9:39 am • linkreport

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