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DDOT shares downtown bicycle facility plans

Last night, the District Department of Transportation shared its proposals for a network of "innovative" bike facilities in downtown Washington.

DDOT's proposal calls for new facilities to be constructed this year along Pennsylvania Avenue, 9th, 15th, I, and L Streets. They hope to have Pennsylvania Avenue facility, which has been championed by U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), ready for bike commuters on Bike to Work Day in May.

DDOT presented statistics on the effects of the cycle tracks as well, which WashCycle noted. Bicycle ridership generally increases 18-20% when cities add cycletracks, but only 5-7% for bike lanes. New York's cycletracks also reduced injuries by 56%, crashes by 48%, injuries to pedestrians by 29%, and injuries to cyclists by 57%.

Pennsylvania Avenue
A bidirectional cycletrack would go in the median of Pennsylvania Avenue, between 15th Street at Freedom Plaza to 3rd Street. Cyclists would use the signals for through traffic as their indicators for when it is safe to go. When leaving the cycletrack, they would make a "pedestrian left" by proceeding through the intersection on a green light and stop in the median to wait for the perpendicular walk sign/green light. If turning right, they would stop in the median and wait for the perpendicular walk sign/green light or would work their way right one lane at a time as they approach their turn.

Top: Penn. Ave. at 6th/7th Streets. Bottom: Penn. Ave. signals.

9th Street
In addition to a one-way, right-side bike lane flowing with traffic southbound on 9th Street, DDOT would install a one-way contraflow cycle lane (like the one on 15th Street) between Pennsylvania Avenue and Mount Vernon Square. The contraflow cycle lane would be on the east side of 9th Street.

Left: Penn. Ave. & 9th St. Right: Mount Vernon Square.

I (Eye) Street
On I Street, a one-way westbound bike lane would be located on the left side (south side) of the street. It would run from New York Avenue (near 11th Street) to Pennsylvania Avenue (near 21st Street). In some places, the lane would be buffered with stripes or parking, and in other places, cyclists would mix with left-turning motorists.

Left: I St. & Penn. Ave. Right: I St. between 14th & 15th.

L Street
As a complement to the I Street bike lane, a one-way eastbound bike lane would run along the left side (north side) of L Street. It would run from Pennsylvania Avenue (near 24th Street) to Massachusetts Avenue (near 11th Street). Like the I Street lane, it would be a mix of buffered and shared lanes.

L Street & 13th

15th Street
Between I Street at McPherson Square to Massachusetts Avenue, 15th Street would acquire right-side bike lanes in both directions. At the northern end, this would tie in with current bike facilities on 15th Street. The southbound contraflow lane would become a regular cycle lane south of Mass. Ave, and the northbound cycle lane would connect to the existing "sharrow" lane north of Mass. Ave.

Cycle facilities would continue south of McPherson Square as bike lanes on Vermont Avenue. Currently, DDOT is not sure how they'll connect the Vermont Avenue cycle lanes to 15th Street adjacent to the Treasury Building. They may just sign it as a bike route. Between Pennsylvania Avenue (the section in front of the White House) and Constitution Avenue, a bidirectional cycletrack would be located on the west side of 15th Street.

Left: McPherson Square area. Right: 15th St. & Penn. Ave.

Other bike lanes
DDOT also plans to add regular right-side cycle lanes along 13th Street between K Street and Massachusetts Avenue and on New York Avenue between 15th Street and Mount Vernon Square.

WashCycle points out that one drawback of these designs is the way they vary from block to block, which could be confusing. On the other hand, downtown changes greatly from block to block, so while not ideal, this might be the best way to get cycle tracks built downtown.

In an upcoming post, I'll share a few other concerns and questions that came out of the meeting.

Matt Johnson has lived in the Washington area since 2007. He has a Master's in Planning from the University of Maryland and a BS in Public Policy from Georgia Tech. He lives in Greenbelt. Heís a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners. He is a contract employee of the Montgomery County Department of Transportation. His views are his own and do not represent those of his employer. 


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Your second paragraph has a typo. Should be 15th not 5th.

by FourthandEye on Mar 19, 2010 9:13 am • linkreport

Fixed. That was my mistake in editing.

by David Alpert on Mar 19, 2010 9:15 am • linkreport

Completely tangential, but what is up with DDOT's arrows on their diagrams?

by Erik W on Mar 19, 2010 9:25 am • linkreport

I don't know if you intend to cover this in your next article, but I'd really like to know more about the barriers on Pennsylvania. I don't want cycling's debut in the public's eye to be one of grimy broken-down plastic.

by Neil Flanagan on Mar 19, 2010 9:28 am • linkreport

I don't recall any details about the barriers on Pennsylvania, aside from the talk that they need to be removable to accommodate parades/inaugurations/that-sort-of-thing...

by Froggie on Mar 19, 2010 9:40 am • linkreport

I'm really excited about this. We aren't Portland yet, but we're on our way...

by Matt Glazewski on Mar 19, 2010 9:40 am • linkreport

What happens to the existing bus lane on 9th Street? Does the right side bike lane replace it?

9th Street will continue to be dangerous for all modes of travel until the city decides to start enforcing the laws against double parking.

by c5karl on Mar 19, 2010 9:42 am • linkreport

I agree with Neil that many of us are wondering what materials they plan to use on Pennsylvania Ave.

I also wonder what impact the plans for 9th street have on the Mount Vernon Square District study which was supposed to shape transportation around the square and lower 7th and 9th Streets. I still prefer alternative 3 with one way circulation around the square.

by FourthandEye on Mar 19, 2010 9:43 am • linkreport

It looks to me like the "Pennsylvania Avenue" track is actually on E street between 14th and 15th.

by BeyondDC on Mar 19, 2010 9:50 am • linkreport

I was in downtown Portland last May. Bike lanes really aren't everywhere like our local advocates seem to make it sound like. TONS of bike racks but not really that many bike lanes downtown.

Portland also the good sense to not try to mash bike lanes onto the same streets as the streetcar or MAX lightrail - they placed them on parallel streets one or two blocks away. I'm glad sensibility won out here and we're putting tracks on I & L rather than K. Peter Smith, WABA, etc were rather adamant about putting cycle space on K Street but it was not sensible. Better to take several streets and do them right than hodge-podge everything onto one street.

by FourthandEye on Mar 19, 2010 9:51 am • linkreport

Also, in looking through Matt's flickr set of pictures from the event, there are some photorealistic renderings of Pennsylvania Avenue, in which it appears there are *no* bollards or planters of any type separating the lanes - only very substantial and wide striping.

That would make make sense, because IIRC DDOT said the Penn Ave lane would be designed so as not to impede parades.

by BeyondDC on Mar 19, 2010 9:57 am • linkreport

The cross-sections show removable markers (presumably plastic). The street lights on Pennsylvania Avenue are removable as well, so maybe they can class it up with metal ones. I don't want to make too much of it until we know more, though.

by Neil Flanagan on Mar 19, 2010 10:06 am • linkreport

BDC: it meets 15th at the intersection with what used to be E Street to the west of 15th, but both DDOT maps and street signage curiously call that Pennsylvania Ave and the next street north is E Street.

by Froggie on Mar 19, 2010 10:29 am • linkreport

I wish the 9th Street bike lane would extend up to Q Street, where there's also a cross-town bike lane. My uneducated opinion is that bike lanes should connect with other bike lanes to create safer bike routes.

by shaw rez on Mar 19, 2010 10:32 am • linkreport

I have no problem with bike lanes - I have a problem with bikers. Even when there are bike lanes, bikers tend to weave in and out of traffic; they don't use hand signals to indicate if they are turning, etc. If something should happen the motorist would probably be responsible. I think a public education campaign for bikers and motorists would be appropriate.

by quilter on Mar 19, 2010 10:50 am • linkreport

@Erik W.:
DDOT representatives said they're still working out how to mark "conflict areas." Several potential markings are shown as indicators of how bikes would know where to ride in an intersection and to alert drivers.

@Neil Flanagan:
DDOT has not determined how the Pennsylvania Avenue cycletrack will be demarcated. Because of the inaugural parade and such, there are additional issues. For instance, they may not be able to use green paint (right now, white is the only color allowed for paint on the roadway, including the centerlines).

Bollards of some kind may or may not be included. It is not clear at this point. Regardless, whatever is included will need to be removable.

As I understand it, the 9th Street southbound bus lane would be between the curb and the bike lane. So, the cross section of 9th street from West to East would be:
*SB bus only lane
*SB bike lane
*SB traffic lane
*SB traffic lane
*SB Parking Lane
*NB cycletrack

@shaw rez:
I agree that the cycletrack on Ninth should connect to the crosstown bike lanes on Q, R, and T Streets. Right now, DDOT is going to direct cyclists to use the sidewalks around Mount Vernon Square to get to other streets, including the existing 7th Street bike lanes.

by Matt Johnson on Mar 19, 2010 10:57 am • linkreport

I have no problem with car lanes - I have a problem with motorists. Even when there are car lanes, bikers tend to weave in and out of traffic; they don't use turn signals to indicate if they are turning, etc. If something should happen the cyclist would probably be maimed or dead. I think a public education campaign for bikers and motorists would be appropriate.

by Matt Johnson on Mar 19, 2010 10:59 am • linkreport

*ah, meant to say "drivers weave in and out of traffic"

by Matt Johnson on Mar 19, 2010 10:59 am • linkreport

@Quilter, Bike lanes and cycle tracks will ultimately have a positive effect on American cyclists. In places where cyclists have been part of the landscape for generations, cyclists actually do follow the rules to a far better degree than what we've been witnessing here of late. Get more cyclists out there, and give them the facilities they require, and I think you'll find they have to self-regulate ... in the same way drivers do today. Yes, of course there will always be perceptional differences as to what is 'following the rules and what isn't'. In the same way many cyclists today think drivers aren't following the rules if they aren't driving at exactly the speed limit (or lower), many drivers will always think that cyclists aren't following the rules when they do their own-cyclist specific things like 'making a pedestrian left' or going to the front of the line at a red light. But the big things, such as cyclists breezing through red lights without even acknowledging that a pedestrian in the crosswalk, or a car coming from a cross street, might have the right of way, will cease. Just look at the rules that are being proposed by the bicyle office of DDOT itself. These things are a good thing ... for everyone.

by Lance on Mar 19, 2010 11:05 am • linkreport

Actually, upon further review, it looks like the 9th Street bus lane does not appear on the plans. It is shown as a "parking lane". Unfortunately, I didn't get too many photos of the proposed 9th Street facility.

I would hope that DDOT retains the bus lane, but I'm not sure what the plans are exactly.

by Matt Johnson on Mar 19, 2010 11:11 am • linkreport

When I make reference to Portland, it's not only their bike lanes and bike-friendly community attitude, it's also that drivers there respect cyclists, as opposed to telling people to Running them down like some people do here in Washington.

by Matt Glazewski on Mar 19, 2010 11:34 am • linkreport

Ugh, my grammar is awful in that post. Note: don't type posts and talk on a conference call at the same time.

by Matt Glazewski on Mar 19, 2010 11:43 am • linkreport

In my experience riding in Portland, the police department there does a significantly better job in enforcing/educating both car drivers and cyclists with regard to traffic laws. I was 'educated' by means of an officer speaking over her police cruiser's public address system that if I continued to run red lights on my bike [as I had admittedly done for the prior six blocks] I could be ticketed. Bike lanes are great and all, but without a significant change in enforcement by MPD, the security that many people think bike lanes provide could be a false one.

by ontarioroader on Mar 19, 2010 11:52 am • linkreport

@ Matt Johnson Your response to quilter would have been much more effective if we didn't require drivers to take a class, pass a test, and get a license.

I'm not saying that makes bad drivers any less dangerous, but the two situations are hardly analogous.

If DC required us all to take WABA's confident cycling class and get a license there'd be some similarity. And I'll bet there'd be a lot more safe riding and a lot less whining about bicyclists from motorists.

by jcm on Mar 19, 2010 12:45 pm • linkreport

Is there any plan to get the 11th St NW and 14th St NW lanes to link up? Currently there's no way to get from Columbia Heights downtown staying on bike lanes, at least that I know of. Cutting over from 11th to 14th isn't the end of the world, but it'd be nice if there were a lane on that stretch of Florida to do so.

by jcm on Mar 19, 2010 12:57 pm • linkreport

I agree with jcm.

Right now, I use Euclid to get across, but it is not the most efficient method.

I would also like to see better access into and across Rock Creek Park, or otherwise more direct routes downtown from Upper NW on either side of the Park (the 14th street lane is a good start, but hard to access from West of the Park.

I will say this though: Kudos to the folks at WABA and Jim Sebastian and DDOT for moving the agenda of safe routes throughout the city for the past several years. The number of non-couriers riding in the streets everyday demonstrates an incredible societal shift in the past decade.

by Andrew on Mar 19, 2010 1:06 pm • linkreport

So why is it that they decided to go with concurrent bike lanes for I & L Streets instead of counterflow bike lanes like on 9th and 15th?

by Mario on Mar 19, 2010 1:47 pm • linkreport

Were those the 'final' options presented for the bike lane on Pennnsylvania Avenue ... or do those pre-date their hearing with the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts? While I'm glad to see they're not as visually obtrusive as what was done on 15th Street NW, IMHO they're still lacking the 'monumentality' that's going to be required if we're going to put in cycling facilities on Pennsylvania Avenue. Come on, DDOT, spend a little money and do it right. A real cycle track could work there. And it doesn't need to be in the center of the avenue. If raised surfaces are an issue because of the inaugural, then shift the cycle track to one side or the other. The street is plenty wide for it.

by Lance on Mar 19, 2010 5:17 pm • linkreport

DDOT has already gotten approval for the concept from the Commission for Fine Arts. However, the details have not yet been worked out. It is not clear what the final concept will look like.

If you have input, please make sure to send it to DDOT. They want to know what you think.

by Matt Johnson on Mar 19, 2010 5:19 pm • linkreport

@Matt, Thanks for the info. If they're working with the Commission of Fine Arts on it, then I'm sure whatever goes in there will enhance that space.

by Lance on Mar 19, 2010 6:44 pm • linkreport

Matt, one of the few usable pictures I got was of the cross-section of 9th and it clearly shows no bus lane. I too would prefer to see a bus lane to a parking lane.

by David C on Mar 19, 2010 11:24 pm • linkreport

I hope they reconsider the green color because it shows up at night as opposed to no color, or red, or others. Lots of engineers have agreen on this color for bike lanes in America.

Coloring the bike lanes will create order.

by DRJ on Mar 23, 2010 7:53 pm • linkreport

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