Greater Greater Washington

Florida Avenue NE and nearby streets could get wider sidewalks and bike lanes

Florida Avenue, NE and other roads in the area could become safer and more comfortable to walk and bike along in the future. The public will get to see several options this week that would widen sidewalks and add bike lanes to key roads.


Photo by Yancey Burns reproduced with permission.

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT), along with consultants Kittelson & Associates and Rhodeside & Harwell, has been working with the community for the past 6 months to identify safety issues in this area. Florida Avenue suffers from extremely narrow sidewalks, with less than 2 feet of space directly in front of many homes and across from Gallaudet University. That width doesn't meet ADA guidelines.

Officials have said there is room for wider sidewalks and bike lanes, since the current traffic volume on Florida does not warrant more than 2 motor vehicle lanes in each direction.

Currently, the number of lanes on Florida varies from 2 to 6 within the span of a few blocks. Some of the lanes on Florida are also quite wide, up to 17 feet. DDOT will present projections for traffic up to 2040 and considering upcoming land use changes, to demonstrate that more lanes aren't necessary in the future either.

DDOT will propose four alternatives. All widen sidewalks to varying extents. Plus,

  • Alternatives 1a and 1b widen the sidewalk while keeping 6 lanes for motor vehicles.
  • Alternative 2 adds narrower painted bike lanes along the curb on each side, and creates a center turn lane along with 4 travel lanes.
  • Alternative 3 skips the center turn lane and adds a buffer alongside the bike lanes, to give cyclists some extra distance from fast-moving cars.


Cross-sections for Florida Avenue: Current 1a 1b 2 3
Images from DDOT.

On 6th Street north of Florida Avenue, which separates Gallaudet University from the Florida Avenue Market, the lanes are 22 feet wide, or more than double typical widths. For this segment, there are three options:

  • Wider sidewalks and and painted bike lanes, plus "curb extensions" (also known as "bulb-outs") to shorten the distance pedestrians have to cross (Alternative 1)
  • Wider sidewalks and a cycle track in each direction, plus curb extensions (Alternative 2)
  • A "curbless flex space" along the market side of the road and a two-way cycle track on the Gallaudet side (Alternative 3)


Cross-sections for 6th Street: Current 1a 2 3
Images from DDOT.

The agency also plans to reconstruct 6th Street between K Street and Florida Avenue, NE; West Virginia Avenue NE; and "Dave Thomas Circle," at the intersection of Florida and New York Avenue (which currently has a Wendy's in the center, hence the nickname). DDOT's report will also likely include some safety improvements within the Florida Avenue Market.

Officials will present the proposals at a public meeting Wednesday, April 2, at the Two Rivers PCS Middle School building on 1234 4th Street, NE, at 7 pm. Feedback from this week's meeting will shape the final report, expected later this spring.

The agency has not announced construction dates for any of the projects. Before it can build anything, changes will also have to go into the regional Constrained Long-Range Plan, which according to DDOT planning head Sam Zimbabwe is the reason the agency can't make any temporary changes to try out new configurations and make the road safer in the meantime.

Tony Goodman is an ANC Commissioner for 6C06 in Near Northeast/NoMA and member of the DC Pedestrian Advisory Council. Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, he is a Construction Project Manager with a Masters degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Michigan and has lived in Washington, DC since 2002. 

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I'm definitely going to be there to advocate for the bike lanes on Florida Ave NE and I'd encourage all of you to as well. This is going to be a crucial connection in our bike infrastructure network between U Street and Upper Northwest and H Street and Cap Hill.

I'm both a cyclist and a car driver, and I can tell you as a driver four travel lanes is fine for FL AV. Drivers have the alternatives of WV Ave, Bladensburg RD. to Mt. Olivet Rd, or H St /K St to North Capitol to get to NW. Cyclists do not have such a good option for going this way.

by Tom on Mar 31, 2014 10:30 am • linkreport

I'm really glad buffered bike lanes and cycletracks are options for both the Florida Avenue and 6th Street plans. I hope the buffered lanes on Florida could be curb-separated, which would be even better. Cast my vote for Options 3 and 2, respectively.

Too often the answer to overwide streets in DC is to put in overwide amenity zones rather than a complete street. Good job, DDOT.

by David Edmondson on Mar 31, 2014 10:31 am • linkreport

I like option 2 for both sections. IMO narrower bike lanes are less likely to have cars parked in them. If this really happens it will be a game changer for how safe I feel in that area as a frequent pedestrian (and maybe a bike rider there now!).

by Sally on Mar 31, 2014 10:33 am • linkreport

Are those areas largely industrial?

by selxic on Mar 31, 2014 10:37 am • linkreport

I'm so happy to see this. Pedestrians need more sidewalk space and a cycle track or bike lanes would do wonders to help connect H Street to U Street.

by I. Rex on Mar 31, 2014 10:37 am • linkreport

@Selxic

The South side of the street is primarily residential. The North side is industrial from 3rd-6th NE(with new apartments on the way), Gallaudet University from 6th-West Virginia, and mostly residential from West Virginia to H.

by Tony Goodman on Mar 31, 2014 10:43 am • linkreport

While I'm a fan of any option to expand the narrow sidewalks and provide bike lanes, I am left wondering how DDOT intends to incorporate their future steetcar line into these options. From the looks of things, when the time comes, they will either need to do another complete redesign or fail to have right-of-way...similar to H Streeet.

by namjak on Mar 31, 2014 11:03 am • linkreport

I hope the studies take into account pedestrian crossing times. I've seen plenty of pedestrians pushing strollers, older people, not even make it halfway across Florida at the R Street new light, because the light timing for crossing is so short.

by Greenbelt on Mar 31, 2014 11:06 am • linkreport

@namjak - options 1a and 1b would allow the outer most travel/transit lane to be repurposed as a streetcar/bus only lane.

by @7r3y3r on Mar 31, 2014 11:11 am • linkreport

Thank you, Tony Goodman.

by selxic on Mar 31, 2014 11:27 am • linkreport

Option #3 for both, please. There's no way the volume of traffic on either of these streets warrant the current configuration. I'll be curious to see what becomes of Mac Tire Service. They currently use Florida Ave between 4th and 5th as sort of an ad hoc parking lot when they're busy.

Also, how in the hell was that Wendy's allowed to be built at the intersection of Florida and NY? Furthermore, how do they stay in business? As if that intersection wasn't enough of a nightmare, negotiating their drive thru is reserved for true masochists.

by dcmike on Mar 31, 2014 11:31 am • linkreport

@namjak

I agree that it's important to allow for future streetcar operations here, but I think it may be possible even with bike lanes on the sides. These lanes could temporarily route around the stations at the 2 or 3 places where that would occur.

Here's a similar example from Portland, Oregon. That one has street parking, so for Florida they could potentially route the bike lanes around the stations by ramping up to sidewalk level and eliminating the treebox at those places.

(Note this is just pure speculation - though I got these images from DDOT, we didn't discuss how this could work with streetcar.)

http://streetsblog.net/wp-content/gallery/bike-infra/4587155174_fe2ed81776.jpg

by Tony Goodman on Mar 31, 2014 11:42 am • linkreport

@ DC Mike

Wendy's success = drive through. We were headed to Union Market on Saturday, and the rainy-day drive-through traffic spilled into the travel lanes. Who would walk there?

Let's see how long this take DDOT to implement. Great to have planning but the inability of DDOT to move things out of the planning department to construction is its biggest fail.

by fongfong on Mar 31, 2014 11:57 am • linkreport

For Florida Ave, Option 3 is the best, but it needs to be physically protected (something more substantial than flex posts) or else people will drive and park there. Bus stops need to be carefully designed so that the cycle route bypasses them.

How to design bus stops with cycle tracks:
http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2011/10/bus-stops-which-dont-cause-problems-for.html

Portland, OR: bike lane bypass around Streetcar stop
http://goo.gl/maps/QwvYx

For 6th St NE, I'm glad to see cycle tracks in the plans, but cycle tracks must actually connect to something to be useful. They'd need to continue up Brentwood, across the 9th St bridge over New York Ave and the railroad tracks, linking up with Rhode Island Ave and into Brookland. This would be a fantastic connection, making this investment well worth it.

by TransitSnob on Mar 31, 2014 12:10 pm • linkreport

@dcmike - that intersection is only f*ed because of the way DDOT routes the traffic counterclockwise around Florida/1st/O as if it's a circle. I wish they'd just go bi-directional for all the streets. It'd make walking less scary.

by @7r3y3r on Mar 31, 2014 12:12 pm • linkreport

I like the ideas, but as unpopular as this suggestion is going to be, I have to say we should do a PARKING lane and a Bike lane. We already have to circle forever to find parking and the big projects on NY Ave. haven't even been completed yet. Florida does NOT need to be 6 lanes of cars... period. It is only 4 lanes before W.VA Ave and after NY Ave. So why not give the Florida Ave. homeowners the same chance to park in front of their home that most of the rest of us have. I don't live on Florida Ave. but think we need parking more than an extra two lanes of traffic.

by GreginDC on Mar 31, 2014 12:14 pm • linkreport

DC Mike,

That island has been occupied for a very long time. Here's a photo (circa 1921) of the Crowell service station on the same site: http://lcweb2.loc.gov/service/pnp/npcc/30100/30188v.jpg

by 20002ist on Mar 31, 2014 12:18 pm • linkreport

Everyone who is in favor this should show up at Officials will present the proposals at a public meeting Wednesday, April 2, at the Two Rivers PCS Middle School building on 1234 4th Street, NE, at 7 pm. Make sure the public officials here us on this.

by Tom on Mar 31, 2014 12:44 pm • linkreport

Cycle track would be nice, Florida Ave would be a really useful route to have and its a little trafficky right now for my comfort.

by BTA on Mar 31, 2014 12:45 pm • linkreport

Kudos to DDOT for the road diet! Extremely worthy project. May construction begin quickly. A prominent crosswalk with pavers for the main Gallaudet entrance would make good sense at the 8th Street intersection (and probably others too) as well.

Two words for Mr. Dave Thomas: "Eminent" and "Domain"
A real traffic circle belongs there.

by boris on Mar 31, 2014 12:46 pm • linkreport

Dave Thomas Circle would still be a problem though. That "intersection" is a nightmare.

by BTA on Mar 31, 2014 12:47 pm • linkreport

Would it be possible to combine bus bulbs with a bike lane? I've been curious how that might work on 14th St. and/or here on Florida. Something like the Portland arrangement for streetcars?

by LowHeadways on Mar 31, 2014 12:55 pm • linkreport

Any streetcars on that part of FL Ave are at least 20 years out so the road would need to go through a resurfacing/rebuild before that anyway.

by BTA on Mar 31, 2014 1:41 pm • linkreport

@greenbelt - the timing of the light at Florida and R NW is strange. But note: if a pedestrian triggers it with the call button, the timing is usually quite long. But if a car heading west on R St triggers it, it is quite short (often too short for bikes to get across as well, if they are not right at the front of the line of cars). The trick is to push the button, even if you can see that you're about to get the green because of the cars on R St.

by elizqueenmama on Mar 31, 2014 1:56 pm • linkreport

Alternative 3 stands out as a clear winner for Florida Ave... with one main modification: the planting strip (aka "Amenity Zone") could be located between the Bike Lanes and the Travel Lanes.
- The Bike Lanes (at 5-6') would be in a protected zone, thus eliminating conflicts due to parking/loading/etc.
- A wider Amenity Area with landscaping (at 7-8'), could be located at grade, helping to collect stormwater; canopy trees and plantings in the zone could help cool both the roadway, as well as bikers and peds.
- This arrangement could easily accommodate future streetcar stops, as they would naturally take place between the bike lanes and roadway.

by Emily O on Mar 31, 2014 3:49 pm • linkreport

@Transitsnob: For 6th St NE, I'm glad to see cycle tracks in the plans, but cycle tracks must actually connect to something to be useful. They'd need to continue up Brentwood, across the 9th St bridge over New York Ave and the railroad tracks, linking up with Rhode Island Ave and into Brookland.

Agreed!! I have biked up that way a few times for errands and such, as well as during WABA's 50 States bike ride. Going up the hill from Florida to the bridge is fine, as there's not much traffic. Once I reach the bridge, though, I want NO PART of biking on the road, and I think the cars want me on the road even less. Two lanes in each direction with no shoulder and cars going 40+ mph. No thanks. Sidewalks only for me along there, and I hate biking on the sidewalk.

I honestly don't know why they'd want to put in a cycletrack on 6th north of Florida since it's already mostly fine for biking and there's nothing to connect to. If I wanted to go down Mt Olivet I'd just take West Virginia and avoid the long uphill anyway.

by Ampersand on Mar 31, 2014 5:00 pm • linkreport

@Ampersand

There are already bike lanes on 6th South of Florida (which may be upgraded to a cycletrack as well connecting to K or I). The former Hamilton School on Brentwood Parkway is also being rebuilt as a KIPP high school, which would be a major destination at the top of the hill.

by Tony Goodman on Mar 31, 2014 5:04 pm • linkreport

I also think option#3 would be best for Florida Ave.

by Meti on Mar 31, 2014 5:23 pm • linkreport

As someone whose brother was just hit on a bike by a red light running driver on Saturday morning at P and Florida NE, any improvement beats the current free for all..

by Chris R on Mar 31, 2014 11:45 pm • linkreport

Thanks for the great work, Tony! I love option 3 for Foorida Avenue. Do we have to sign up somewhere to give feedback, or just show up?

by ForsterDC on Apr 1, 2014 8:02 am • linkreport

Hey Tony maybe you can answer this trivial question for me/us - why do the street signs in DC show, for example, "6 St NE" and not "6th St NE?"

by DaveG on Apr 1, 2014 8:17 am • linkreport

@DaveG - Good question, but I don't know.

@ForsterDC - DDOT should be providing some ways to provide feedback even if you can't attend the meeting. I'll write a meeting summary article that will include how you can submit comments.

by Tony Goodman on Apr 1, 2014 3:28 pm • linkreport

@Tony Goodman The former Hamilton School on Brentwood Parkway is also being rebuilt as a KIPP high school, which would be a major destination at the top of the hill.

This is an excellent reason! Thanks for your reply.

by Ampersand on Apr 1, 2014 5:35 pm • linkreport

Also while you mention it, I think that extending the cycletrack all the way down to I would be nice as well. Going southbound, it would be possible to ride on the cycletrack to the new contraflow lane on I street and use it to connect to the southbound lane on 4th. Unless something comes up I'll plan to make it out to the meeting tomorrow!

by Ampersand on Apr 1, 2014 5:42 pm • linkreport

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