Greater Greater Washington

DDOT squeezes bike lanes into Pennsylvania Ave median

DDOT has updated their plans for the Pennsylvania Avenue bike lanes following their sudden and unexpected decision to redo the lanes just days before they were scheduled to open.


Image from BeyondDC.

The original design took one car-sized lane on each side of the current median. The new design squeezes the lanes into the existing median in most areas. Where there are wide pedestrian refuges at the ends of blocks, the lanes cut into those refuges, extending over the stone pavers but around the existing poles.


Photo by urbandispute on Flickr.
The lanes did confuse some drivers, who occasionally thought they were turn lanes or regular driving lanes. Since the lanes were never officially opened, we can't really know if those problems would have worked themselves out or DDOT would have found simple ways to fix those problems without fundamentally rethinking the lanes.

Some changes probably were necessary. However, it would have been better to open the lanes and then have a more public conversation about any issues and how to solve them. Instead, whether for political or other reasons, DDOT skipped that step.

The narrower lanes appear to be much less safe for cyclists, at least in some places, such as between 13th and 14th Streets, where there is no buffer at all between traffic and the lanes, unless DDOT can put in a physical separator, such as poles DDOT plans to put poles between the bike lane and the general-purpose lanes. The Commission on Fine Arts rejected recommended against that as well despite the existence of many existing poles, at the pedestrian refuges and for traffic lights, on the avenue today.


Photo by whiteknuckled on Flickr.
There's no uninterrupted vista of the Capitol now, so it's hard to understand why CFA is so concerned with poles except that they simply oppose change. Right now, orange cones line the lanes, which are much more visually distracting than any poles.

However, DDOT's traffic analysis showed that the wider lanes would not harm traffic flow. If there's room for lanes with smaller buffers that aren't as confusing to drivers but maintain bicycle safety, it makes sense to change the lanes. This design, however, seems to prioritize maintaining car space (whether used or unused) over cyclist safety to the other extreme.

You can email comments on these lanes to william.handsfield@dc.gov.

Update: I've slightly modified my statement about the lanes being less safe.

Update 2: DDOT has announced that they will use poles in the tigher spots on the new lanes, despite CFA's recommendations.

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David Alpert is the founder and editor-in-chief of Greater Greater Washington. 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 daughter in Dupont Circle. 

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Do the bike lanes mean no left turns and no u turns at any intersection for the entire length of Pennsylvania Ave NW between the Capitol and the WH?

by Trulee Pist on Jun 8, 2010 10:40 am • linkreport

Poles as separators aren't a good idea. Just some bumps on the ground is enough. You do not want poles because bikes can ride too easily into them with great physical harm as a result. You want a ump on the ground that cars' cant' get over, but bikers can get around in case of emergency.

Psychologically, painting the lanes helps. Red, green, whatever. Just paint them. It helps. Really.

by Jasper on Jun 8, 2010 10:46 am • linkreport

@Jasper

I believe the CFA rejected painting the lanes a different color, as well.

by Alex B. on Jun 8, 2010 10:50 am • linkreport

@Trulee Pist:
No. Left turns are permitted at certain intersections. The protected left turn for automobiles would be at a different phase of the light cycle than the through signal for bikes.

According to the revised plan, cars will be able to turn left:

  • EB Penn onto NB 3rd
  • EB Penn onto EB Constitution
  • WB Penn onto WB Constitution
  • EB Penn onto NB 6th
  • EB Penn onto NB 7th
  • WB Penn onto SB 9th
  • EB Penn onto NB 11th
  • EB Penn onto NB 13th
  • WB Penn onto SB 13th 1/2

by Matt Johnson on Jun 8, 2010 10:51 am • linkreport

My main concern with the revisions to this project is the elimination of pedestrian refuges in the median of Pennsylvania Avenue. Right now at many (if not all) of the intersections along Pennsylvania, crosswalk signals are located not only on the curbs, but also in the median.

This encourages pedestrians to cross halfway. And since the street is wide, that's not necessarily a bad thing. But now, instead of those stone pavers, which are a design cue, will not mean "okay to stand here." Except that pedestrians aren't going to know that.

With this revised design, cyclists will have to avoid stranded pedestrians and pedestrians will have to cross the entire avenue in one fell swoop. The lanes will be less safe for both cyclists and pedestrians under this design.

by Matt Johnson on Jun 8, 2010 10:56 am • linkreport

"However, it would have been better to open the lanes and then have a more public conversation about any issues and how to solve them."

That seems like the reverse order of how the process should be, and quite frankly, a waste of money.

Study. Engineering plan. Public conversation/education. Fix problems. Execute. Open.

This is why the 15th street bike lane is so screwed-up. It was built with shoddy planning and little neighborhood involvement. Now DDOT is going to have to redo it. (Will probably turn it into a cycle track and eliminate the shared lane.) Waste of money. Get the plan right first, then open.

by Disagree on Jun 8, 2010 10:59 am • linkreport

I was told there will be physical separation at intersections. Sounds like Mr. Alpert is not even talking to ddot.

by cpt on Jun 8, 2010 11:00 am • linkreport

I am glad "logic" and "reason" won out over the "wow" factor. When I first heard that DDOT was planning bike lanes on PA Ave I thought, great...good way to put that empty 10' median to use.

Gabe should have been mortified to spend the million bucks to do what he did. Why the median wasn't planned to be used orginally is completely "grade school" and shows that DDOT didn't spend one minute really thinking about what they were about to do.

To remove two entire lanes on such a heavily trafficd road (tens of thousands of vehicles) for what is a couple hundred bikers, while not even using the completely empty median never even passed the smell test.

There was a posting on GGW about a ridiculous bus stop design. That, like this didn't even look right on paper and should have never actually gotten to the point of construction before someone realized it.

You say it is more dangerous. I say it is more safe for bikers. Everyone admits people were confused and driving in the yet unopened bike lanes and without physical barriers (which weren't allowed) there was no way to stop it. People aren't confused about not being able to drive in a median, as no car "anywhere" is allowed to drive in the median, just as it is common convention for cars "not" to drive on sidewalks.

For reasonable people, the median was always the best place for the bike lanes on PA Avenue. It give bikers their dedicated space, keeps bikes and all other vehicles seperated (safer for everyone). This is a win/win for everyone. I just wish Gabe hadn't wasted so much money to then have to go back and do it again.

by nookie on Jun 8, 2010 11:01 am • linkreport

Without bollards, paint or both these lanes will end up just as useless as the 7th street bike/bus lanes. DC Gov officials are already using them as fleet car parking in front of the Wilson Building:

http://dc.mybikelane.com/post/index/13198

by ontarioroader on Jun 8, 2010 11:03 am • linkreport

I like the reflector bump idea -- something that lets drivers know they are on the wrong part of the road. imo, having a physical separation between the car and bike lanes is more important than the width of the lanes.

As for the Penn Ave. lane, the past couple of weekends I've noticed the Segway tours using them. I hope DC bikers will speak up when they notice things like this. In other cities, bikers tend tend to be much more vocal when their lanes are being misused.

by aaa on Jun 8, 2010 11:06 am • linkreport

As for the Penn Ave. lane, the past couple of weekends I've noticed the Segway tours using them.

I don't understand this - just like bicycles, segways are not allowed on the sidewalks downtown - something the segway tour operators ignored for years. Are you saying that this is a misuse for the bicycle lanes? Where do you propose that the segways should go?

by andy on Jun 8, 2010 11:15 am • linkreport

I agree that the biggest problems are the lack of pedestrian refuge and the lack of separation. Does the CFA have power to prohibit painting and/or bollards, or just the ability to recommend? If city council can introduce legislation to allow streetcar wires and/or building height, could they take a similar approach regarding safety enhancements?

Enforcement is also key -- not just for people driving cars in the lanes, but also for illegal left turns (which I have seen a lot of in the past few weeks).

by jj on Jun 8, 2010 11:32 am • linkreport

DDOT should have just painted the lanes and different color, told CFA to kiss their ass, and moved on. Do we have access to anyone at CFA who can be interviewed so we can get to the bottom of what is clearly a "no change for the sake of no change at all" decision?

The whole "painted lanes weren't on the L'Enfant Plan" is utter bullshit. NONE of what exists today was on the plan. Why is there some arbitrary understanding that the way roads were designed immediately post WWII is sacrosanct?

by IMGoph on Jun 8, 2010 11:36 am • linkreport

andy -- it's not my responsibility to find a place for a for-profit Segway tour company to operate its business. But, clearly, the bike lane is not the appropriate place -- just as it isn't the appropriate place for joggers, cars, or pets. The Segways create a dangerous situation when riding in these lanes since they travel at a much slower speed than bikes. Bikers need to speak up when people are using these and all other bike lanes inappropriately.

by aaa on Jun 8, 2010 11:39 am • linkreport

I was told there will be physical separation at intersections. Sounds like Mr. Alpert is not even talking to ddot.

You were told wrong.

by David C on Jun 8, 2010 11:45 am • linkreport

@aaa - funny the DDOT site that includes the rules of the road for all non-motorized vehicles specifically states about segways- "Allowed in bike lanes, not on National Park Service Trails."

So who is using what inappropriately?

by andy on Jun 8, 2010 11:47 am • linkreport

As a cyclist I don't like the idea of being to the left of drivers who already have a hard time both seeing an object smaller than an SUV and remembering I'm there when it's time to stop/turn/etc. Until DDOT comes up with a way to set bike lanes apart from traffic in such a way that drivers actually change their habits, I won't feel safe riding in them. The CFA isn't helping matters with its apparent opposition to any and all set-offs or markings. If multi-modal transportation is to be the wave of the future, somebody at the CFA has to bring some acceptable ideas to the table instead of just a veto.

And the same goes for the Committee of 100 and streetcar wires.

by fedward on Jun 8, 2010 11:56 am • linkreport

I actually rented a Segway a couple of weeks ago, and was directed to use the [unfinished] bike lane on Pennsylvania Avenue to travel to the Capitol. I felt very exposed in the middle of the road, and it was completely unclear who had right-of-way at junctions. If I was on my bike, I would just use the regular lane and skip the cycle lanes, unless the refitted cycle lanes are much better. It looks to me like another case of DDOT putting in unsafe cycle infrastructure just to be seen to be doing something. I have to disagree with 'Disagree' though: the 15th St cycle lanes work pretty well.

by renegade09 on Jun 8, 2010 11:58 am • linkreport

@andy -- funny the DDOT chart also says Segways are allowed on sidewalks.

by aaa on Jun 8, 2010 12:00 pm • linkreport

Sudden, yes. Unexpected, no. Once again DDOT is proving that "planning" is not in its vocabulary.

by Jamie on Jun 8, 2010 12:08 pm • linkreport

Has anyone else tried to make the left turn from westbound Constitution on to 3rd heading south? The bike lanes have created a nightmare at that corner as triple the number of drivers turn to avoid Pennsylvania Ave's reduced vehicle lanes. I've sat through 4 left turn signals attempting to make that left, which has only become a problem with the installation of the bike lanes.

by Redline SOS on Jun 8, 2010 12:10 pm • linkreport

@aaa: "The Segways create a dangerous situation when riding in these lanes since they travel at a much slower speed than bikes. "

By inference, would you agree with this statement? The bicycles create a dangerous situation in roads, since they travel at a much lower speed than cars.

Come on. How can you possibly argue that, among the many forms of transportation that people use, bicycles should be granted exclusive use of a road space that no other vehicle is afforded?

Everyone would love to have a roadway that includes only vehicles that travel at exactly the same speed as they do. Unfortunately, it is not practical. How can you expect that everyone else should slow down for you, but you have no obligation to slow down for the vehicles or individuals below you in the pecking order? What happened to "share the road?"

by Jamie on Jun 8, 2010 12:16 pm • linkreport

@aaa - at the DDOT chart re segways "Ride on
Sidewalk?" - ""Yes, except in the Central Business District (CBD).

Misrepresent things much?

by andy on Jun 8, 2010 12:24 pm • linkreport

Well said, Jamie.

by Hypocrisy on Jun 8, 2010 12:25 pm • linkreport

Anyway, Segways are explicitly permitted in bike lanes except NPS managed ones. So go tell it to the mayor.

I hope that the cyclists who take it upon themselves to "speak up when people are using these and all other bike lanes inappropriately" -- when technically, there is probably no way to inappropriately use a bike lane except in a car - understand the irony of their frequent complaints about drivers who express similar displeasure over their legal presence in roads.

by Jamie on Jun 8, 2010 12:34 pm • linkreport

DDOT. FAIL.

How much money was spent on the original design and street painting?

How much money was spent on the redesign and repainting?

Who's being held accountable at DDOT?

And this is the same agency that will run the streetcars program?

by Fritz on Jun 8, 2010 12:37 pm • linkreport

@Jasper You do not want poles because bikes can ride too easily into them with great physical harm as a result.

The poles DDOT wanted to use were the flexible kind you find on 15th, not bollards

@Disagree, Study. Engineering plan. Public conversation/education. Fix problems. Execute. Open.

Agreed. And DDOT did this. The problem is they were at the period in Execute when the Mayor gave in to political pressure to send them back to the drawing board. This was a political decision, not an engineering one.

@nookie, To remove two entire lanes on such a heavily trafficd road (tens of thousands of vehicles) for what is a couple hundred bikers, while not even using the completely empty median never even passed the smell test.

The road is not heavily trafficed. DDOT's study shows that at rush hour the road is only 69% utilized at it's maximum point.
Though there are few bikes there NOW, the point is to encourage more cyclists to show up. As an example, there are few people who use transit to get to Tyson's Corner, but they're still building the Silver Line there. It's the same concept.

by David C on Jun 8, 2010 12:44 pm • linkreport

@Fritz, not DDOT's fault. It's the Mayor's fault.

by David C on Jun 8, 2010 12:45 pm • linkreport

@David C - This was a political decision, not an engineering one.

Politics is probably the most important part of any planning process. This is true for anything, right down to something as insignificant as building a fence in your back yard.

Political problems don't just materialize. They happen because the project was not properly planned and vetted.

It speaks volumes that so many of the initiatives that DDOT's been working on keep stumbling because of unresolved political issues.

by Jamie on Jun 8, 2010 12:55 pm • linkreport

@Jamie, You're right, having the approval of the Mayor, City Council and biking community - as well as inclusion of a project in a Council approved bike plan shows a complete lack of political planning. DDOT should have used the DC time machine to travel forward in time to see that the Mayor would change his mind in the face of opposition from AAA - who hadn't yet voiced any complaint about the bike lanes until they were already being installed. But I guess they were just too lazy.

by David C on Jun 8, 2010 12:58 pm • linkreport

So the project was approved by our bike-racing mayor, the bike-friendly DDOT head, and our city council that makes $50 million decisions based on emails and phone calls from GGW readers.

What you forgot about one other important party: everyone else.

DDOT should have used their time machine to look back at history, where they would have learned that if you make changes that will have a significant impact on lots of people, you should involve them in the planning process from the beginning.

by Jamie on Jun 8, 2010 1:04 pm • linkreport

@DavidC: I admire the apologia for DDOT. But come on! They royally FUBAR'd this project in their rush to get it all done by Bike to Work Day for a nice photo op. Instead, they now have a ridiculous repainting mess right down the middle of the city's most prominent street. They will be ridiculed for it and rightly so.

Who's going to be held accountable at DDOT for the waste of money?

by Fritz on Jun 8, 2010 1:04 pm • linkreport

I've seen very few problems with the new lanes, from cars and bikes. The traffic seems to be moving fine and the feel of the road is much calmer.

In any case, it is disheartening to see the city now change something that was just implemented. At least let the thing stand and see how it works until spending the money to change it. If it doesn't -- fine -- but at least we wouldn't have totally wasted the money. In New York they'd say "tough luck" to the people that pressed for these last minute changes. This is the type of thing that just grinds me about DC.

by neb on Jun 8, 2010 1:15 pm • linkreport

Pity that the removal of auto lanes on Penn ave wasn't embraced as a the positive side effect of the bike lanes that it is (...er.. was). Penn ave needs a diet (as do Constitution and Independence).

How can anybody think that it is an efficient use of resources to encourage car commuters to the part of the metropolitan area that is absolutely the best served by transit by maintaining these overwide semi-freeways?

by egk on Jun 8, 2010 1:38 pm • linkreport

@egk,

If " efficient transit" was the intended purpose then bike lanes would have been last on the list.

It would have been completely different if the plan had been to give of 25% of the existing ROW for dedicated rapid bus or street cars...you know, "real", and/or "efficient" mass transportation. I would fully support (not that they would get permission for it) DDOT planning something on PA Ave like the K Street transitway.

But it is hard to say with a straight face that the original PA Ave plan had anything to do efficent mass transit policy or the greater good. All it was, was a rushed and unplanned photo op for the bike friendly Gabe Klein. Something that completely backfired in his face.

Look at it this way. PA Ave carries ~35K vehicles per day or ~4,400 cars per day, per lane.

According to DDOT's numbers, there are a TOTAL of 7,000 daily bike commuters (I would claim only on nice days but we'll let it stand) in the entire District. Even if all, 100% of the daily bike commuters in the District rode their bike on PA ave from home/work, it would still only be equivalent to 1.5 lanes of PA Ave traffic, not two.

Of course, DDOT's numbers also tell us how many bikers use PA now so we don't have to make up laughable scenarios to prove an obvious point. According to DDOT, peak hour bike volume along this stretch of PA Ave is a mind blowing 56 bikes per hour. Compare this to the ~1,700 vehicles per hour you get for the peak hour vehicle volume, and it becomes painfully obvious to anyone with the math skills to count to 5, that repurpoing two ENTIRE lanes for bikes should have never been more than a good laugh had amongst friends in the DDOT break room.

As we have seen...that good laugh turned out to be a very public million dollar mistake on the most recongnizable street in the nation.

by nookie on Jun 8, 2010 2:01 pm • linkreport

For what it's worth, they had an approved plan that had been studied and readied to go. Perhaps there was not a long enough public comment period, though they did have one and feedback was received. They got halfway through construction of an approved, studied project and the Mayor's office instructed them to go back to the drawing board because they didn't like how it was turning out. DDOT complied. That's the story.

We can debate the merits of version 1 against version 2 of the lanes for the rest of the day, but that's really a separate issue from why they stopped and redesigned. This is the sole reason it happened.

by Steve on Jun 8, 2010 2:24 pm • linkreport

DDOT spent $80k on this, not $1m. Too bad blogs have no fact checkers.

by cpt on Jun 8, 2010 2:50 pm • linkreport

@cpt
Just to be clear, it was a commenter who suggested that DDOT spent a "million" on this; not the post's author. But thanks for clarifying the cost. It's a helpful number.

by Matt Johnson on Jun 8, 2010 2:55 pm • linkreport

@Matt Johnson,

I'd bet you though that the lost productivity of federal government workers alone was $1 Million ... as people sat in traffic instead of at their desks.

by Lance on Jun 8, 2010 3:26 pm • linkreport

@CPT,

Perhaps you have a link to your 80K number?

by nookie on Jun 8, 2010 3:37 pm • linkreport

CFA's job is to protect the beauty of the nation's capital. It's not their job to facilitate everyone's pet fetish or solve whatever FUBAR corner someone has painted themselves into.

DC could ignore CFA--since they are technically just recommendations--but then Congress might not take too kindly to us thumbing our noses at their authority. They might choose to contribute a little less to the next DC budget. And that would be way worse than having an unpainted bike lane.

GGW have gotten really childish recently.

by crin on Jun 8, 2010 4:12 pm • linkreport

crin: if not painting the lanes leads to the death of a cyclist, would that be acceptable, because at least no one would be rocking the boat?

and please don't tell me that's a hypothetical, because your situation is as well.

by IMGoph on Jun 8, 2010 4:15 pm • linkreport

Nice post. I agree that the medians are important for pedestrians, especially tourist who want to stop and take photos on "America's Main Street."

I've ridden the lanes and think they are just fine. And, FWIW, I stopped on the way home to pick up groceries. The mayor should grow a pair, support his troops in DDOT, and stop spending money on this project until it is clear that additional work is needed. I've written to DDOT[1] and encourage others to do the same.

As for this nonsense that bike lanes aren't needed because few people bike, I'll mention that many studies show people _want_ to bike but are afraid to without bike lanes. Further, studies[2] show that bicycle facilities in tourism areas bring in tourist dollars because cyclists are more likely to stop and shop than motorists. DC needs the to invest in its bicycle network to grow its economy.

[1] william.handsfield@dc.gov

[2] http://www.americantrails.org/resources/economics/NCouterbanks.html

by Jonathan Krall on Jun 8, 2010 4:26 pm • linkreport

@Jamie So the project was approved by our bike-racing mayor, the bike-friendly DDOT head, and our city council that makes $50 million decisions based on emails and phone calls from GGW readers.
What you forgot about one other important party: everyone else.

DDOT should have used their time machine to look back at history, where they would have learned that if you make changes that will have a significant impact on lots of people, you should involve them in the planning process from the beginning.

You mean our car-driving mayor. He drives a car to work, and everywhere else you know? And as for forgetting everyone else, AAA attempted to get people to write to the MWCOG to complain about the bike lanes. They had a media blitz in at least 5 news outlets. They garnered 10 responses (that's about 1 for every half million people in the Metro area). There were 342 pro-bike lanes responses. So I fail to see the outrage of everyone else. People were involved in the planning process, both directly through meetings and a public response process and through their elected leaders.

@Fritz, They royally FUBAR'd this project in their rush to get it all done by Bike to Work Day for a nice photo op.

OK, What's specifically should they have done that they didn't do. And cite something that other DOT's have done.

@nookie According to DDOT's numbers, there are a TOTAL of 7,000 daily bike commuters in the entire District. But there are many more bike trips than just commuting. There are only 300,000 workers in DC. Do you really think that one in ten of them drive on Penn to get to work? So there are more trips, far more, than just commuting making your 7000 number laughably pointless. In addition, biking is the fastest growing form of transportation in DC - having doubled in the last 10 years. And the current trend, thanks to environmental concerns, gas prices, congestion, parking costs, new bike sharing etc..., the number and percentage of trips that are by bicycle will only increase.

DDOT's own numbers show that Penn is only 69% utilized now. So it is painfully obvious that there is roomm on Penn for these bike lanes.

by David C on Jun 8, 2010 10:51 pm • linkreport

@David C,

You really need to get your story straight, because you are all over the place.

You seem to want to treat DDOT's numbers as gospel in one breath, then completely discount them in the next. I am sorry that the fact that 35,000 vehicles per day use PA avenue offends you.

The study you yourself reference quantatatively shows the number of bikers that use PA Ave. The peak hour biker usage is a mind blowing 56 bikes per hour. Excuse me if I am not completely blown away by the "wave" of riders. This is of course in comparison to the 1,700 vehicles per peak hour on the same road.

Lets go completely "off the farm" as it were and just pretend for a second...lets multiple the biker peak hour number (56) by all the hours in the day (24). Basically lets pretend that the height of the "biker rush hour" is every hour of the entire day. Under this hilarious scenario, you only have 1,344 bikers that use PA Ave on a daily basis. Do you see how ridiculous you are being? Even if we were to make the hilarioius assumtion, then the TOTAL bikers that would use PA Ave in a day is still 26% LESS than the number of vehicles that use it in ONE HOUR!

Hmmm...56 vs 1700? I wonder which is just a tiny bit more?

You try to make a point that more than "workers" bike in DC every day, but at the same time disregard that there are more than "workers" who also drive in DC every day. Your cognitive dissonance is pretty funny.

If this was about anything else, you would be up in arms about such a ridiculous reallocation of public resources.

If half the 15th street bike track, or say half the yet to be opened PA Ave bike lanes were given over to the EXCLUSIVE use of Segways only, you would be apoplectic and you know it. Grow up.

This revised plan is the best and fairest use of a finite public infrastructure.

by nookiw on Jun 9, 2010 9:32 am • linkreport

Nookie - you are on to something....let's get rid of ALL the bike lanes in the city...these greedy one-percenters are ruining thousands of peoples lives. I will get started on the press release ASAP.

by Lon on Jun 9, 2010 9:36 am • linkreport

nookiw:
The goal of a department of transportation is to move people safely and efficiently. Bicycle facilities are provided to give cyclists safe places to ride.

by bikermark on Jun 9, 2010 10:17 am • linkreport

@bikermark

And what more safer place than a paved, unused 15' median that no one drives in, or no one is ever confused about "not" driving it. Cyclists get their dedicated and safe place to ride which allows them to move safely and efficiently, and vehicles get theirs. No one loses out, and it is a win-win for everyone.

by nookie on Jun 9, 2010 10:29 am • linkreport

@nookie:
A win-win except for the pedestrians who will no longer have a refuge island and the bikers who will have to enter the left lane of traffic anyway to avoid them. Because they're going to continue to use the brick pavers as a refuge. All the design cues indicate that's what the area is.

by Matt Johnson on Jun 9, 2010 10:32 am • linkreport

@Matt Johnson

According to the blurb by Gabe this morning in the Post, they've thought about that and don't think it is a problem.

by nookie on Jun 9, 2010 10:50 am • linkreport

@nookie
At the risk of sounding hypocritical, they thought about taking a lane of traffic a few months ago and that wasn't a problem either. Until it was.

by Matt Johnson on Jun 9, 2010 10:51 am • linkreport

My experience (biking and walking this area) has been that pedestrians aren't such a huge issue on the island areas. When there is a large event in town, then maybe there is a greater risk for accidents, but generally, with the long sight lines and large width of the street there aren't many surprises when approaching the island area via bike or foot.

Obviously, more people would use their bike as transportation if it were safer to bike in this city. Comparing the present levels of bike traffic vs. car traffic doesn't really tell us anything about policies that are prospective.

by aaa on Jun 9, 2010 10:52 am • linkreport

pedestrians...come on...what's the big deal about "bumping" a few pedestrians when we have 35,000 cars to move...chances are they won't get hurt that badly if hit by bicyclist.

The idea bicyclists would get anything besides "leftover" road space anyway is ridiculous...

by Jon on Jun 9, 2010 10:56 am • linkreport

The one thing about the pedestrian islands is that Pennsylvania Avenue is really wide and some (not all) of the signals do not give much time to cross the street.

by Alex B. on Jun 9, 2010 11:07 am • linkreport

I still think putting separated cycle lanes on each side of Penn. Ave. would be the way to go. (By 'separated' I mean cycle lanes that are defined by 'medians' rather than by painted lines.) This would be safer in all respects for everyone. Some of the real estate needed for these lanes could come from the existing median (i.e., make it a bit narrow), and some from the wide sidewalks on either side. Then there's no need for the view-defiling bright colored paints AND you get bike lanes separated by physical barriers.

by Lance on Jun 9, 2010 12:34 pm • linkreport

You seem to want to treat DDOT's numbers as gospel in one breath, then completely discount them in the next. I am sorry that the fact that 35,000 vehicles per day use PA avenue offends you.

I've actually never discounted any of their numbers (please show me where if I'm wrong) but you do. You keep ignoring the fact that DDOT's study shows that - at peak - drivers only utilize 66% of the road. You seem more than willing to highlight the car-bike ratio the study found on PA Ave, but ignore the conclusion that removing the car lane and adding a bike lane will not lower LOS at all. You've never addressed the reports conclusions.

The study you yourself reference quantatatively[sic] shows the number of bikers that use PA Ave. The peak hour biker usage is a mind blowing 56 bikes per hour.

The number of cyclists using the road now is basically unimportant, as the goal of the bike lanes is to increase the number of cyclists. Just as the goal of adding a transit route is to increase the number of people using transit. Your argument is like stating that some sort of education improvement is unneeded because so few students graduate.

The number is useful for a pre-bike lane/post-bike lane comparison.

This is of course in comparison to the 1,700 vehicles per peak hour on the same road.

This number is more important because it tells us how many cars we need to move. We know that at-grade arterials have a throughput of 500-600 vplph, so that - even at peak - 3 lanes can handle 1700 vph.

You try to make a point that more than "workers" bike in DC every day, but at the same time disregard that there are more than "workers" who also drive in DC every day.

No. I didn't. I stated that it was ludicrous to assume that all traffic is commuters. That's why I stated "There are only 300,000 workers in DC. Do you really think that one in ten of them drive on Penn to get to work? So there are more trips, far more, than just commuting." No cognitive dissonance. But your willingness to distort the facts is pretty funny.

If half the 15th street bike track, or say half the yet to be opened PA Ave bike lanes were given over to the EXCLUSIVE use of Segways only, you would be apoplectic and you know it.

Your analogy fails in that doing so would make the space unusable to both. If you can find a place where cyclists have more space than they need, and capacity can be reduced safely, then I'd be willing to consider apportioning it to other users. I'd love to see some area trails widened and then see users separated.

Grow up.

OK. This brings up a separate point I'd like to address. I've noticed within your comments a rudeness that, in my opinion, crosses the line. Your comments are often insulting "I laugh at your opinions," "you lack basic math skills" etc...If you would like for me to "grow up", then you should start acting like an adult too - which means you have to start being polite.

Having addressed your points, let me make the case as to why removing lanes to add bike lanes makes sense.

The road is overbuilt. DDOT's numbers show that it is only used at 66% capacity - a number you've NEVER contradicted. Taking away a lane means that it would still have excess capacity. We have allocated way more space, something like 30' in width, to drivers on PA Ave than is needed. To quote you: "If this was[sic] about anything else, you would be up in arms about such a ridiculous reallocation of public resources."

So it makes sense to do something else with it. They could have widened the sidewalks, put in a bus-only lane, added bike lanes etc...Of those options it was decided that adding bike lanes was the best as it was relatively cheap, possible within the constraints of PA Ave, and helped to achieve a goal of DDOT's - increasing bicycle mode share.

Your whole argument - that cyclists make up a small portion of Penn Ave users - is irrelevant. The point is that we are inefficiently using Penn Ave. We can narrow it and still move all 34,000 cars in a timely manner. With the additional space we can do more. In this case, build buffered bike lanes that will work in conjunction with bike sharing.

Furthermore, your argument fails on it's own logic. Currently PA Ave is allotted 28% for pedestrian (42 of 146 feet), 61% for cars (88 of 146 feet) and the rest is median/left turn lane (which should add to the car component). But if we allotted it by current use. It would be 50% sidewalk - as peak pedestrian use of 1750 per hour is higher than your stated, but un-cited 1700 for cars, 49% (72 feet) for cars and the other 1% (1.5 feet) for bike. So we'd be narrowing the road anyway.

by David C on Jun 9, 2010 3:05 pm • linkreport

Last comment=@nookie

by David C on Jun 9, 2010 3:06 pm • linkreport

One issue I don't think anyone has raised, and I don't know if DDoT's 69% capacity number takes into consideration is the fair number of buses along Penn. When you consider DC Metro buses, local tour buses (such as the double deckers et. al.), and the out of town tour buses along Penn (particularly going south toward the Capitol, traffic can become almost standstill because the buses are jockeying for position. I've consistently seen the entire right lane undrivable because of parked buses. Additionally, buses congest the next lane, and sometimes the one after that. I know it is unreasonable to try to regulate buses on Penn, but that is as much, if not more, of the congestion problem compared to the new bike lanes.

by JG249 on Jun 9, 2010 3:16 pm • linkreport

"We know that at-grade arterials have a throughput of 500-600 vplph, so that - even at peak - 3 lanes can handle 1700 vph."

500-600 vph is equivalent to 1500-1800 vph is it not? It sounds like 3 lanes would be barely adequate for that traffic, which would be near the estimated capacity of an "at grade arterial."

Also, does that 500 vph account for dedicated turn lanes, or is it based on a typical road configuration with 3 actual travel lanes that continue past each intersection?

Pennsylvania Avenue has many turn lanes and, as such, there will be frequent needs for cars to change lanes to continue straight through an intersection. So I would guess that the actual throughput that one could expect is a lot less than some general ideal for a "three lane road."

by Jamie on Jun 9, 2010 3:19 pm • linkreport

As I understand it, 500 is the low end for a bad road. So at worst, at peak, there would be some slowing down, but DDOT's analysis didn't show much added delay (in the 25 second range as I recall) and no change in LOS so I'm guessing it is on the higher end. It's worth asking if we can afford to build a road system so robust that it doesn't have any delays, even at the peak of rush hour.

by David C on Jun 9, 2010 3:22 pm • linkreport

I'm not saying that we should not build a bike lane because it will affect traffic -- that is inevitable.

However it would be nice be able to discuss it in the context of data that is as accurate as possible so the true impact can be understood. This is the kind of information that is useful in planning, maybe Penn Ave wasn't the best route? It seems unlikely that a trip across town on PA Ave in rush hour will be increased by only 25 seconds, and there are a lot of anecdotal comments about traffic that suggest it's a lot worse than this.

Of course comments of a bunch of irate drivers should be taken no more seriously than I am taking your 25 seconds. I just wish there had been any substantive analysis done beforehand, and we should certainly be doing it now to see what the impact is.

by Jamie on Jun 9, 2010 3:32 pm • linkreport

Medians are the scourge of livable streets. They are used to speed the flow of auto traffic -- nothing more -- and they need to be done away with. That pedestrian refugees are allowed to linger momentarily in places designed to protect street fixtures from physical harm should not distract us from the obvious -- medians benefit cars and drivers to the great detriment of everyone else. The bike lanes belong where all bike lanes belong -- not in the middle of a 6-lane highway.

by Peter Smith on Jun 10, 2010 3:09 am • linkreport

L'Enfant is spinning in his grave. The genius who designed the bike lanes must be the same person who invented the figure 8 demolition derby race track. I've recently purchased a first aid kit for my car. I'm certain I will come upon an injured pedestrian with 10-speed tire tracks across their forehead and will need to render CPR.

by Jackthesnake on Jun 10, 2010 3:06 pm • linkreport

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