Greater Greater Washington

Bicycling


Curb-protected cycletracks are now appearing in DC

Two new cycletracks will open in DC this spring, on M Street NW and 1st Street NE. Their designs are a step up from previous DC cycletracks, since they each include spotsthough on M, a very brief spotwhere a full concrete curb separates bikes from cars.


The 1st Street NE cycletrack (left), and the Rhode Island Avenue portion of the M Street NW cycletrack (right).

The 1st Street NE cycletrack connects the Metropolitan Branch Trail to Union Station and downtown DC. DDOT installed its curb last week, from K Street to M Street. Crews are still working on striping and signals, but the project is close to opening.

The M Street cycletrack is longer than 1st Street's overall, but the portion with a curb is shorter. It's less than one block, where the cycletrack briefly curves onto Rhode Island Avenue in order to approach Connecticut Avenue more safely. Officials say the M Street cycletrack is a week or two from opening.

Typically DDOT uses plastic bollards instead of curbs. The bollards are less expensive, easier to install, and can be removed occasionally to perform street maintenance. But they're less attractive and less significant as a physical barrier, compared to a curb.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

Dan Malouff is a professional transportation planner for the Arlington County Department of Transportation. He has a degree in Urban Planning from the University of Colorado, and lives a car-free lifestyle in Northwest Washington. His posts are his own opinions and do not represent the views of his employer in any way. He runs the blog BeyondDC and also contributes to the Washington Post Local Opinions blog. 

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Do street-sweepers fit?

When NYC does the pedestrian concrete medians, the bike lane is 9 feet wide so the street sweeper can roll by. That m street one looks tight

by JJJJ on Apr 14, 2014 1:05 pm • linkreport

the cycletrack briefly curves onto Rhode Island Avenue in order to approach Connecticut Avenue more safely

Can someone explain this further?

by 7r3y3r on Apr 14, 2014 1:10 pm • linkreport

@7r3y3r:
Click the "M Street cycletrack" link in this article. The first diagram shown on that page will show what is happening on Rhode Island Ave.

by bobco85 on Apr 14, 2014 1:22 pm • linkreport

Bollards have been installed on 1st NE south of K St stretching down to G St. NE as well.

by RDHD on Apr 14, 2014 1:46 pm • linkreport

I think the M st one is a bit weird, and I think its intention was to protect cyclists from the many motorists who turn right onto Conn Ave from M. Pretty sure there will be a designated "cycling traffic light" installed as well. It may be confusing for some cyclists in that little chute if they should go straight on M's normal green, on R.I.'s green, or only on the cycling green. That intersection is already weird, since the signalized pedestrian crossing from the north side of R.I. across Conn goes green separately from normal traffic (i.e., R.I. traffic gets a forward-green and right-turn green while the pedestrian signal stays red). I think the pedestrian signal is actually timed with M St's green. Cyclists riding with traffic on R.I. can use this to their advantage since the Safety Amendment Act of 2013 allows them to cross with the pedestrian lights as well as the traffic lights. I go through this (from R.I.) everyday on my bike for work, and it will be interesting to see how it all works out once it is implemented.

by Atlas on Apr 14, 2014 1:50 pm • linkreport

Does the M Street cycletrack still have a raised section behind a bus stop (as described in the "M Street cycletrack" link in the article? If so, cool.

by Steven H on Apr 14, 2014 1:50 pm • linkreport

Now THIS is a cycletrack I would actually use! I still bike on the sidewalk with the L Street track - too many cars either driving or parking in it every single day - it's just not safe, and I'd rather take my chances biking nice and slow on the sidewalk (and it's usually late at night anyway when there's few people down there) with a pedestrian than getting flattened by a FedEx truck. But if they built this curb and made a REAL bike lane that the cars couldn't get into? I'd ride in that every single time. I hope they replicate this plan all over the place!

by ShawGuy on Apr 14, 2014 2:07 pm • linkreport

Thanks, @bobco85. I was mostly wondering why it was safer to move bikers from M to RI for that stretch but the diagram shows that M Street doesn't have enough space for a bike lane/cycletrack there so cyclists and drivers would have to share the right-most lane. Now it makes sense.

by 7r3y3r on Apr 14, 2014 2:10 pm • linkreport

Hadn't thought about right turns. Thanks, @Atlas.

by 7r3y3r on Apr 14, 2014 2:11 pm • linkreport

@ShawGuy

:/ Riding on the sidewalk in the CBD is illegal and dangerous. I would suggest you're more likely to be struck by vehicles going in/out the parking garages and alleys than you would in the cycle track.

by dcmike on Apr 14, 2014 2:14 pm • linkreport

Too bad they didn't go with a protected lane for the contraflow lanes on G and I Streets NE. There is no way I would ride in an unprotected contraflow lane with cars on either side. There's just way too much possibility of cars either swerving into it or pulling into it from a parking space without looking. Even an unprotected contraflow lane between parked cars and the curb surely would have been much safer.

by Joe on Apr 14, 2014 2:16 pm • linkreport

@JJJ
Really!? Street sweeper!? After all the talk I hear, see and read about bike lanes? A bike lane is installed and protected and now you have the (excuse me to say) audacity to ask about street sweepers!? Surely if fitting a street sweeper in the bike lane was a major concern, then the bikers already raised it and street sweepers will fit.

by StringsAttached on Apr 14, 2014 2:51 pm • linkreport

What exactly is the construction on First Street for is it just the cycle tracks, underground cabling, or to simply redo the road cause its been horrible on First Street with construction from New York Ave to K Street for about a year how long does it take to finish 5 or 6 blocks of a street ? Other streets did not take this long to complete.

So is the cycle track on 1st Street gonna be in front of the Hotel with the barrier ?

That is certainly gonna make things hard for hotel goers and what about ADA access for business or residences along the side with the track especially if the whole thing has the barrier ? Assuming a car could not pull up to the curb would someone in a wheelchair etc have to go to M Street or N Street that travel to wherever they want on First Street ?

by kk on Apr 14, 2014 3:29 pm • linkreport

They have a vacuum truck that sucks up leaves and debris from the cycletrack. I saw a photo of it once, but I can't find it now.

by David C on Apr 14, 2014 3:30 pm • linkreport

Ummmm......without a break in the curb, how are cyclists supposed to access Pierce St NE?

It appears DDOT has failed again on intersection details.

by JoeyDC on Apr 14, 2014 3:42 pm • linkreport

What exactly is the construction on First Street for is it just the cycle tracks, underground cabling, or to simply redo the road cause its been horrible on First Street with construction from New York Ave to K Street for about a year how long does it take to finish 5 or 6 blocks of a street ? Other streets did not take this long to complete.

No, it was a complete rebuild of all below-grade infrastructure. I believe they replaced all of the stormwater infrastructure.

by Alex B. on Apr 14, 2014 3:49 pm • linkreport

@StringsAttached

Take a deep breath. If a separated bike lane cant be cleaned, it gets full of leaves, gravel and garbage, making it unusable. The lane must be wide enough to fit the smallest sweeper the city owns.

by JJJJ on Apr 14, 2014 3:52 pm • linkreport

@kk to add to Alex's answer, they also replaced the sewer lines I think. 'Cause man, some days it smelled horrible.

It's been a holy mess, oftentimes with more than 2 corners blocked off forcing mid-block road crossings or walking all the way down the block.

by RDHD on Apr 14, 2014 4:14 pm • linkreport

@Atlas,

"I think the pedestrian signal is actually timed with M St's green. Cyclists riding with traffic on R.I. can use this to their advantage since the Safety Amendment Act of 2013 allows them to cross with the pedestrian lights as well as the traffic lights."

I have not seen the exact word of the law, but I find it hard to believe that it applies in situations where the traffic lights and the pedestrian signals are not on the same cycle.

by UrbanEngineer on Apr 14, 2014 6:52 pm • linkreport

JoeyDC, Since the cycletrack is on the opposite side of the road from Pierce St, it's not the ideal place from which to make a turn there. The idea is that one would just ride in the all-traffic lanes to turn onto Pierce. I don't think this is a fail, it's the design.

by David C on Apr 14, 2014 9:02 pm • linkreport

but I find it hard to believe that it applies in situations where the traffic lights and the pedestrian signals are not on the same cycle.

That's exactly what the law says. Bikes are allowed to go when the ped light is green, even if the traffic light is red.

by David C on Apr 14, 2014 9:03 pm • linkreport

David C,

You're responding to the general circumstances, but the one brought up by Atlas is rather unique. Could you take a closer look at the Rhode Island, M Street & Connecticut intersection and verify that when Rhode Island traffic has a red, M Street has a green, and the pedestrians crossing Connecticut have a walk sign that that will give cyclists on Rhode Island the go ahead?

by UrbanEngineer on Apr 14, 2014 11:02 pm • linkreport

Can they build one on the 34th St/Reno Road corridor? That would be awesome.

by Alf on Apr 15, 2014 8:10 am • linkreport

@David C--I get that it's the design, but it's a bad design. I've seen these in Montreal, Portland, Amsterdam and New York. Some are better than others. This design is creating a new, needless barrier for cyclists. Why not have a gap? This is an intersection after all. Cyclists could proceed straight across from Pierce to the path.

It's a personal observation, but I've noticed that where there are protected cycle tracks drivers expect cyclists to use them, but it's these little details that cause the whole thing to fail. Forcing the cyclist, as usual, to choose the now less-car friendly street or the under-designed bikeway.

If cyclists are expected to ride in segregated facilities, they cannot be inferior to the roads they replace. Cyclists need full connectivity. It would take a bit or effort to design it well, however you see such designs all over the Netherlands for example.

That's why I say this was a failure of DDOT. They didn't really try, they took the easy route and just built a wall for cyclists. Problem solved.

This represents a LACK of design. This same lack of attention to details at intersections is unfortunately the norm and not the exception.

by JoeyDC on Apr 15, 2014 8:46 am • linkreport

@UrbanEngineer -- I haven't checked it specifically, but my recollection from riding through the Connecticut/M/RI intersection last week is that it's exactly the case.

While it may not be ideal design, it shouldn't have terrible traffic effects situation, as M Street west of Connecticut is 1-2 lanes wider than East of Connecticut, so there's a little space for incoming cyclists from the right side to filter into cycle-track traffic from M.

For what it's worth, I believe turns are illegal from M Street onto Connecticut (right turning traffic should turn on 18th), so that's one less conflict that should be occuring.

by Jacques on Apr 15, 2014 9:12 am • linkreport

This design is creating a new, needless barrier for cyclists.

I disagree. Cyclists are still able to do what they have always done - ride in the all-traffic lane and turn on to Pierce. But now they can also go straight through in the cycletrack. It creates a new option without limiting any of the others.

Why not have a gap?

To do what with? Would cyclists stop in front of the gap and wait for traffic to clear so that they can cross in front of traffic going both ways at a non-signalized intersection? Wouldn't that bring it's own problems (and invite cars to drive through the gap)?

It's a personal observation, but I've noticed that where there are protected cycle tracks drivers expect cyclists to use them

They may expect that, but we don't have to design bike facilities to accommodate this belief.

Forcing the cyclist, as usual, to choose the now less-car friendly street or the under-designed bikeway.

I don't see what's wrong with choosing a less-car friendly street. Is there an example of the kind of design that DC should have emulated (a link or something)?

This was not under-designed. A lot of work went into it. There was public input and review. A choice was made, but that choice is not in defiance of best practices or any of the design standards. Failure is a pretty harsh word for a choice that one disagrees with. This design does not fail to allow cyclists to get onto Pierce. It does not make cyclists less safe. There is no way, using the actual definition of fail, that one could say this fails. Mike Goodno at DDOT would be glad to explain to anyone why there is no gap in the barrier. If someone is really concerned about it, they can contact him.

It would take a bit or effort to design it well, however you see such designs all over the Netherlands for example.

Is there a specific example of this that one can cite that is more specific than "the Netherlands"?

That's why I say this was a failure of DDOT. They didn't really try, they took the easy route and just built a wall for cyclists.

That's absolutely unfair. Like I said, DDOT spent a great deal of time designing this. They had others review it. They presented it to the community for comments. I never heard of anyone finding the lack of a gap to a be a failure until now. If 1000 people think it's fine and 1 thinks it's bad, I generally discount the outlier.

Perhaps the time to criticize the design was years ago when the process started, instead of now, when it is implemented. If people want better design, then they should get involved, otherwise, in the end, any failures are their own.

by David C on Apr 15, 2014 9:38 am • linkreport

Yeah, I don't really see what the alternative could be for Pierce. Let's say you put a cut there so cyclists can turn out of the cycletrack at Pierce. Where are they going to have a safe place to wait for a break in traffic?

I agree with David, this has been in the design docs since day one; there was plenty of time to make a comment about this before now. Why overreact by calling is a "failure?"

by MLD on Apr 15, 2014 9:56 am • linkreport

Regarding the intersection of R.I., M, and Conn: I rarely see cyclists crossing over Conn from R.I. to M on the pedestrian green, and those that do tend to use it as a cautious yield. What I am typically more irked about is cyclists who decide to ride that stretch of R.I. on the sidewalk (illegally) rather than wait in traffic or split the lanes (legally), and then cross Conn in the signalized pedestrian crossing. This gets even worse when you realize that many pedestrians think that they can enter the signalized pedestrian crossing on a green light, even if the pedestrian signal is red (which is the case here due to the green right-arrow for R.I. vehicles). The perfect storm (that I have only seen a few times, thankfully without collision or injury) is when a cyclist is riding full clip on the sidewalk on the north side of R.I., and attempts to cross Conn in the signalized pedestrian crossing when R.I. traffic has a green light and right-turn arrow. Some people are just LOOKING for an injury!

by Atlas on Apr 15, 2014 10:29 am • linkreport

Offtopic - why was 1st St NE completely torn up and rebuilt, just to be paved in asphalt? Doesn't concrete last longer? I would think that if DDOT has gone to the trouble to destroy the street, tear it up, and close it for months, it might as well put in the longest lasting surface.

by massysett on Apr 15, 2014 4:12 pm • linkreport

As a daily commuter on 1st St., NE, I'm sad to see the cycle track finally go in - as noted by some folks, where the infrastructure exists, drivers expect cyclists to use it. I used to commute on 15th St. (to a different job), but found a different route after the segregated lane went in and the driver abuse got so much worse.

On 1st St., the segregated cycle track is on the opposite side of the road from the majority of the parking garage entrances - so it's kind of useless for anyone trying to get into or out of their own building. And a merge across two lanes of traffic (one oncoming and then the second not expecting someone to come in from that far to their left) is going to regularly get messy.

I also think it just vanishes south of G St. (though haven't gone to look) - so if you're headed southbound you have to merge across traffic. Although that block alongside Union Station is a disaster for everyone to start with.

Data in WABA's own presentations actually shows that experienced cyclists tend to find segregated cycle tracks less safe than cycle lanes.

by Tom on Apr 15, 2014 4:56 pm • linkreport

As a former almost-daily bike commuter on 1st NE, I agree with @Tom. I too feel that this is in fact less safe than ordinary cycle lanes, or indeed than no special lanes at all -- I never had problems with the traffic on that street, which is only about four blocks long and not a through street for automobiles.

I have no plans to use the new lane. Happily I won't have to, as the months-long closure of the street led me to find several alternate routes which are nearly as convenient as 1st used to be.

by A Streeter on Apr 15, 2014 5:17 pm • linkreport

Saw two cars driving down the segregated track on 1st St., NE this evening.

by Tom on Apr 15, 2014 9:29 pm • linkreport

The cycletrack was not primarily installed to help cyclists who were already using 1st Street NE (strong and fearless). It's meant to help people who weren't riding it, but would if they found the road safer (interested but concerned).

That it doesn't go in front of driveways is a feature not a bug. The vast majority of users will likely not be going to someplace on 1st Street, but instead using it as a connection from the MBT to Union Station. For those along 1st that want to use it, they can still get to it using a Dutch turn.

For now I think there is a gap from G Street to the bike station, but there was beforehand too, and plans are to fix this some time in the future. All good things (and bike lanes) must end.

by David C on Apr 16, 2014 11:23 am • linkreport

According to DDOT, the sometime in the future when the gap south of G Street is closed is sometime in the next year. Work begins in a few months and will take 6 months to complete.

by David C on Apr 17, 2014 3:48 pm • linkreport

I fear getting clipped by an oncoming wobbling cyclist in a track that's too narrow and inescapable to offer paths for avoidance. And I dislike the additional abuse from drivers that comes when I am not using adjacent infrastructure that I am not comfortable using.

One of the reasons I decided not to renew my WABA membership... :(

Just give me lanes up the side that are painted green... I'll take boxes at larger intersections too.

by Tom on Apr 18, 2014 5:52 pm • linkreport

Tom, I think this may be a "roller coaster" problem. Roller coasters are scary, but not very dangerous. Likewise a bi-directional cycletrack may be scary, but I know of no research showing them to be dangerous. Nonetheless, if one chooses not to ride in the bike facility, they shouldn't be abused for that. What kind of abuse are we talking about. Again, I know of no research showing more abuse in these situations. I've been yelled at to get in bike lanes on streets without them.

Still, DDOT is trying new things - and all bike infrastructure is relatively new - so that should be encouraged. I can tell you that WABA actually had very little to do with this facility. It started in DDOT and was a project of opportunity.

On 15th, Penn and L street, DDOT has noticed significant increase in cyclists after the cycletracks were added. Isn't this something that cyclists should support?

by David C on Apr 18, 2014 10:51 pm • linkreport

Yay, gentrifiers got their cycletracks! Now, can we please make it safer for pedestrians to get to the No-Ma metro from Florida ave? Also, if we can get more bus service to the metro that would be great. Signed, All the Other Forgotten Commuters

by Ivy1 on Apr 22, 2014 2:19 pm • linkreport

@Ivy1
http://www.floridaavesafety.org/

http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/22276/florida-avenue-ne-and-nearby-streets-could-get-wider-sidewalks-and-bike-lanes/

DDOT is looking for comment on Florida Ave NE. Definitely weigh in.

by MLD on Apr 22, 2014 2:26 pm • linkreport

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