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Pennsylvania Avenue cycle track slated for May

Cycle tracks on M Street SE/SW may be a gleam in Tommy Wells' eye right now, but DDOT is hoping to move forward aggressively to build cycle tracks on several roads in downtown DC including Pennsylvania Avenue, a road Congressman Earl Blumenauer is eager to see get the cycle treatment.

Portland cycle track. Photo by

According to DDOT's announcement, in addition to Pennsylvania, they plan to install the lanes on I, L, and 9th Streets, as well as extending the 15th Street lane downtown.

DDOT is keeping the drawings under wraps until the public meeting on Thursday, March 18th, but a few details have leaked out.

For Pennsylvania Avenue, according to a source, the lanes will run in the center of the street from 15th to 3rd Streets NW. Some intersections will get bicycle signals with leading intervals so cyclists can start before turning cars enter the intersection. Plastic bollards will separate the lanes from general traffic where appropriate.

DDOT hopes to build the lanes by Bike to Work Month in May. The lanes require approval from NCPC and the Commission on Fine Arts (CFA), making this an aggressive timetable.

On I and L, the lanes will run on the left side of the one-way streets, opposite the buses. There are some places where pedestrians get a leading interval; in those places, signs will direct cyclists to cross with the pedestrians to take advantage of that.

As WashCycle reported, some have been asking why use I street instead of M; lanes on M could extend farther to the planned lanes on 9th Street and on-street bike lanes on 5th rather than ending at New York Avenue between 10th and 11th.

If DDOT sticks with I, they should also factor in buses into the analysis. H and I Streets have some of the heaviest bus traffic in the city, and also some of the greatest delays. They should have a dedicated bus lane during peak periods and parking off-peak.

Such lanes could save the District government significant amounts in WMATA contributions by reducing bus delays and the consequent labor expenses as well as rider frustration. If DDOT is already studying the streets, they should identify the best way to do that as well as install a cycle track.

David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. 


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Go DDOT! And send those plans over to VDOT and MDOT.

by Jasper on Mar 10, 2010 2:59 pm • linkreport

I think those plans sound great (I'd like to see the lanes on Penn. Ave. go all the way from Georgetown to the Maryland border, but this is a good start). But I fear the NCPC and CFA will trot out the old "view shed" argument and say that the bollards would obstruct the view down Penn Ave.

Also, I didn't see too much on the federal-grant-denial-to-the-K-St.-Transitway issue, does that mean the Transitway is dead or significantly delayed?

by Reid on Mar 10, 2010 3:17 pm • linkreport

@ Reid: The Feds denied the K-St Transitway because lobbyists live on K St and that would reek of giving something to lobbyists. Apparently nobody wanted to go on O'Reilly/Maddow/Stewart to explain that lobbyists don't ride the bus or bike.

If I remember things correctly.

by Jasper on Mar 10, 2010 3:54 pm • linkreport

More please! I just moved here last summer from a more bicycle-friendly community (Tucson, AZ). While the bike was my main mode of transportation there, I'm hardly using it here, and it's not just because of the weather. I have a feeling I am taking my life into my hands whenever I get on my bike. There are way too few *continuous* bike routes in the city, and the motorists here really don't know how to share the road. Scary and frustrating. My travel distances here would be perfect for a bicycle-focused life style.

by Kat on Mar 10, 2010 3:56 pm • linkreport

If I could attend the meeting, I would suggest treating I and L like 15th -- sheltered contraflow lane on the left side, sharrow lane on the right [or shared bus/bike only]. Those one way streets (and the Golden Triangle sidewalk prohibition) make that area a minor pain to get around (legally anyway).

I like the proposed Penn Ave median routing -- could something similar work on New York Ave NW from 15th to the Convention Center?

by darren on Mar 10, 2010 4:20 pm • linkreport

On Pennsylvania Avenue between 3rd and 15th, anything in the center of the street must be removable for the inaugural parade every four years. The expense of removable bollards of appropriate quality materials (read, granite) was why the pedestrian islands in the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue were not protected when the street was revitalized years ago.

Wherever the bike lanes are located, the view still needs to be protected which pretty much leaves a choice between the unreasonable expense of designing and installing removable bollards made of quality materials and the unacceptable tackiness of plastic bollards in the middle of the grand vista to the Capitol dome.

by Ron Eichner on Mar 10, 2010 4:47 pm • linkreport

I think Ron Eichner brings up an important point. I would propose a third option in favor of something akin to these LED road studs. Cheap and can be turned on and off easily. During the daytime, it would keep cars off the track by being bumpy. That, and it would not take away from the viewshed.

by JTS on Mar 10, 2010 5:46 pm • linkreport

Great. Bike lanes on Pennsylvania Ave means that more Americans see them - and they might actually be useful for two-wheeled tourists.

by Neil Flanagan on Mar 10, 2010 5:50 pm • linkreport

Has this proposal been approved by the feds? I think that stretch of Penn Ave is under federal control at least in regards to its aesthetics. I remember hearing something about an organization formed by the feds in the 80s to rebuild that stretch of Penn Ave (buildings for sure ... and I'd guess the street too?) I've very surprised the feds would approve plastic bollards given the many fed dollars that have gone into making this stretch of Penn Ave as beautiful as it is now. Something doesn't seem kosher with this announcement ...

by Lance on Mar 11, 2010 1:35 am • linkreport

I think this style of bike lane is better, I've always seen the bike lane in other cities (like Minneapolis/St. Paul) on the outside of the roads, closest to the curb. But in DC, we for some reason put the bike lanes alongside moving cars, and cars that are trying to cut through the bike lane to park on the sides of the street. This seems assbackwards so I hope DCDOT catches on and switches the bike lanes to the edges--allowing a buffer of parked cars to protect the cyclists from the moving traffic.

by Matt on Mar 11, 2010 8:42 am • linkreport

Excellent work DDOT. Many of us over 50ers will now be able to pedal to work without worrying so much about our survival.

by Rodney on Mar 11, 2010 9:45 am • linkreport

Lance: You're probably referring to the PADC, Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corp. Authorities etc detailed here:

by Joel Lawson on Mar 11, 2010 10:19 am • linkreport

While it'll be nice to see bike lanes along Pennsylvania, I have to question the wisdom of putting them down the middle of the roadway. Minneapolis tried that about a decade or so ago, and they didn't work out so well...enough to where they were removed when the street in question (and the next parallel street) were converted to full two-way operation.

by Froggie on Mar 12, 2010 1:34 pm • linkreport

Thanks Joel, yes that was the organization. And as your link indicates, it's responsibilities have been transferred to other federal agencies. Probably hence why NCPC and the Commission on Fine Arts need to approve. I'd be surprised to see the orange cones approved. There'll surely be an alternative that meets the requirements in all respects without cheapening the avenue.

by Lance on Mar 14, 2010 12:04 am • linkreport

Matt, the Twin Cities has only one bike lane between parked cars and the curb. Motorists hate it. Bikers hate it. Minneapolis has gotten nothing but bad press for their "cycle track" and I expect they will be removing it soon.

by hokan on Mar 15, 2010 12:07 pm • linkreport

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