Greater Greater Washington

Posts about L And M Street Bike Lanes

Bicycling


Cyclists got tickets for riding on a short one-way half-block. There's a better way to design this street

Last month, police ticketed bicyclists riding the wrong way on M Street near the Convention Center, POPville reported. We asked our contributors and DDOT what they think is the right solution in this area.


The one-way block of M, looking west from 9th Street NW. Image from Google Maps.

This one-way block of M is essentially only a half block, between 9th Street NW and Blagden Alley, halfway to 8th. Besides this half block, M is two-way from Thomas Circle, at 14th, eastward to 5th Street NW.


The one-way block of M, looking west near Blagden Alley NW. Image from Google Maps.

DDOT spokesperson Keith St. Clair said a change to one-way appears on convention center plans dating to 2004. Contributors speculated that the construction of the convention center might have spurred the change as a traffic calming measure. The loading dock is on M, one block to the east.

At that time, contraflow bike lanes, which allow cycling in the opposite direction of traffic on an otherwise one-way street, weren't a regular part of DC's road design toolbox. Now, DC has several roads with such lanes, including G and I streets NE, on either side of H Street, and New Hampshire Avenue NW for a block on each side of U Street.

Here, the street is the same width east of Blagden (where it's one-way) as west. This leaves plenty of room for a contraflow lane. St. Clair added,

Safety is our number one priority at DDOT. The law rightly treats cyclists as legitimate users of the roadway, and cyclists are subject to traffic laws for everyone's safety—especially their own. Without facilities and signage designed to let bikes ride contraflow safely, we don't support wrong-way bicycling.

That said, M Street east of Thomas Circle is a potential route for improved bike lanes. DDOT is exploring options on how we might proceed. A contraflow lane, similar to what we installed on G and I Streets NE last year, might be possible without modifying vehicular conditions or parking. The results of our analysis will be shared with the public, and their input will be taken into consideration when DDOT finalizes any action plans.


Base image from Google Maps. The red oval shows the one-way half-block in question.

Meanwhile, ride on the sidewalk

Riding on the sidewalk is legal in this area, and some contributors said they do just that. Payton Chung pointed out that DC explicitly encourages this in one spot:

I know of one local precedent for signing a contraflow bike route on the sidewalk. On O Street SW, across from Nats Park, the street goes one-way westbound (away from the stadium) for one block. Eastbound cyclists are directed onto the south sidewalk.

Photo by Payton Chung on Flickr.
In that situation, though, bicyclists are going uphill to an actuated stoplight at South Capitol Street, and are therefore going slowly past a few houses. The 900 block of M, on the other hand, is leading away from a stoplight and goes past many more houses, few of which might want relatively fast crosstown cyclists riding past their stoops.
If DC were able to follow Europe's lead, it might be possible to have a contraflow "lane" without even repainting the street. In Germany (as in the picture below), the Netherlands, and elsewhere, some low-speed, low-traffic streets (as M is here) with "do not enter" signs that don't apply to cyclists.


A Berlin sign exempting cyclists from the "Do Not Enter" restriction. "Frei" is German for free, or clear; this sign says bicycles can still enter while motor vehicles cannot. Photo by Matt' Johnson on Flickr.

Still, a contraflow lane might be the best approach and aligns with DC's practice in other areas. It's good to hear DDOT is considering that option.

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Bicycling


Drivers may not notice them, but utility hazards are a big danger for bicyclists

After utility companies rip up the streets, they're supposed to restore them. But the low-quality way they often restore pavement under bike lanes and cycletracks makes them very dangerous for cyclists.


Photo by the author.

On Wednesday, I lost control of my bike and crashed after riding over an asphalt patch and a large, loose chunk of asphalt in the L Street NW bike lane. What I hit may have been no more than a minor inconvenience for someone in a car, but since I couldn't see well because it was raining and the sun had yet to rise, it was enough to knock me off my bike.

Leather gloves, a few layers of clothing, and an impact-absorbing roll that I half-jokingly credit to my Army training cushioned my fall. I scraped my right arm, hip, and leg during the initial impact. When I instinctively put out my left arm to break the fall, I badly bruised that wrist. Thankfully, my trusty helmet didn't come into play.

As a cyclist, I'm mindful of drivers, obstacles, other bikes, weather, and even deer when I ride. If I wreck, I'm likely to receive a disproportionate share of the impact and injury.

But at the site of my crash, the asphalt patch I hit looked smooth and the chunk of concrete blended into the rest of the road. I felt a couple bumps, and next thing I knew my wheel turned sharply, I was in the air, and then on the ground.

A DDOT inspector responds

After getting to work and bandaging my wounds, I emailed District Department of Transportation (DDOT) Director Matt Brown asking if he could send an inspector to look at the spot. At the very least, I thought, this might keep someone else from also getting injured. Six minutes later, Brown responded, "Thanks. I'll send someone to check it out."

The inspector found chunks of asphalt but couldn't determine whether they came from that site or somewhere else, like off the back of a passing truck. A utility company had temporarily laid the asphalt patch. Utilities are allowed to use these as long as they permanently fix the road before their construction permits end.

GGW contributor Kelli Lafferty reported manhole covers on the 4th Street SW bike lane with patches that aren't flush with the rest of the street, and Payton Chung fell a few months ago at 9th and G NW where pavement had worn away around a gas outlet that was inside the bike lane. Both problems, they say, persist despite having been reported months ago.


Photo by Payton Chung.

Utility companies need to do their part

DDOT regulations require utility companies to ensure safety where they dig up the road whether the fix is permanent or temporary. The agency says, "When the work is completed, the utilities are responsible for restoring the roadway, and DDOT ensures that all utility cuts are in compliance with the District's permitting guidelines and that public space is properly restored within District Standard Specifications to ensure safety."

But utility companies sometimes need prodding to properly restore the road or sidewalk. Too often they just to slap down some asphalt and leave a more hazardous situation. People can report a bad restoration through SeeClickFix or by calling 311 directly.

It's not practical to expect every street and alley to be perfectly smooth. And being aware of the conditions and risks is ultimately each cyclist's responsibility. But it is reasonable to expect utility companies to be sensitive to cyclist (and pedestrian) safety.

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Bicycling


DCís most bike-friendly corner: 15th and L

Look at this beautiful photo. Two cycletracks meet at a street corner, bike boxes and green paint flow in every direction, and a bikeshare station sits in the background. It's almost Dutch. Almost.


15th and L, NW. Photo by the author.

This is the corner of 15th and L Streets, in downtown DC. It's the only intersection in the Washington region (so far) where protected bike lanes extend out in all four directions. It's also home to the only two-stage bike box in the region. And as of Tuesday, it's got a sparkling new bikeshare station.

Whether or not it's really DC's most bike-friendly corner is debatable. Certainly the heavy car traffic at 15th and L can make biking there uncomfortable, even with cycletracks. And while most bike movements through this intersection are easy, there's still no good way to turn right off the L Street cycletrack onto southbound 15th Street.

But no other corner in the city packs so much bike infrastructure into one spot. According to that metric at least, this corner is tops.

And it's right outside the Washington Post's headquarters.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

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Bicycling


Every DC & Arlington cycletrack, in one map

With DC's M Street and 1st Street cycletracks on the ground, the central city network of protected bike lanes is starting to actually look like a network.


Image by the author using Google.

This map shows every cycletrack in town. In addition to M Street and 1st Street, there's L Street, Pennsylvania Avenue, good old reliable 15th Street, and the diminutive R Street lane near the Metropolitan Branch Trail.

For the sake of completeness I also included Rosslyn's super tiny cycletrack, which exists mainly to access a popular Capital Bikeshare station.

Between DC's proposed 70 mile cycltrack network and plans coming together in South Arlington, hopefully future iterations of this map will look even better.

Notice anything missing or wrong?

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

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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 spots—though on M, a very brief spot—where 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.

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Bicycling


DDOT lays out its plans for new bikeways in 2014

It may be snowing today, but spring is approaching. With construction season therefore around the corner, DDOT has released its list of planned bike projects for 2014.


Map of 2014 bike projects. Image from DDOT.

Most exciting, the highly anticipated M Street and 1st Street NE cycletracks are listed as "ready to go."

Also ready to go are contraflow bike lanes on G, F, and I Streets NE, and standard bike lanes on 13th Street NW, F Street NE, I Street SE, and New Hampshire Avenue NW.

Several other bike lane projects are still in planning, although it doesn't appear DDOT is actively moving any other cycletrack projects after M and 1st Street.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

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Bicycling


Couple berates cyclist for reporting van in bike lane

Last night, a cyclist nearly hit a van blocking the L Street cycletrack and decided to report it to the police. That's when he met Fred and Fran Smith, the husband-and-wife heads of a conservative think tank who started berating him for "minding other people's business."

Rob, who tweets as @the_baseband, captured the interaction on his helmet camera and posted it online yesterday. It not only shows the need for more public education about cycling laws in the District, but also the divisive attitude some have towards cyclists, even when they're following the law.

Rob was turning left from 19th Street NW to L Street when he almost slammed into the back of a white van parked in the lane. He walks his bike onto the sidewalk and can be heard calling the police, when a woman approaches and asks if he's going to report the van.

As Rob reads out the license plate of the truck over the phone, an older man in a suit walks over and the two begin screaming at him. The two are later identified as Fred Smith and Fran Smith, founder and board member of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank that promotes free-market economics and denies global warming.

The interaction is brief, but it says a lot about lingering attitudes towards cycling and cyclists in DC. While the driver of the van broke the law by parking in a bike lane, it happens so frequently that people like Fred Smith either assume that it's acceptable, or that it's not actually a bike lane.

When Rob explains that he almost hit the van, Fred yells, "The truck is not in the bike lane at all!" He walks out into the street, points to the striped buffer between the bike lane and the general traffic lanes, and says that's the bike lane.

It's also interesting the way that Fred and Fran immediately try to paint Rob as the aggressor for trying to report the driver, chiding him for "minding other people's business." Fred makes multiple assumptions about Rob, saying he "hasn't worked a day in his life" and is "mad" at the driver for not being a cyclist.

When another couple walking by stops to see what's going on, Fred tries to rope them in and marginalize Rob (and by extension, other cyclists, or other young adults) as an outsider. Holding a cigarette, he says to them, "This used to be a nice town where people actually got along." It's hard to hear what he says next, but it's clear he's pointing at Rob.

On YouTube, Rob notes that he stayed to wait for the police, then "I realized it would be better for me to leave."

Our streets have limited space, and tension between different users is unavoidable. But as the ranks of cyclists in DC grow and the cycling infrastructure needed to serve them becomes more common, they won't be seen as outsiders anymore. Fred and Fran Smith may be a lost cause, but hopefully others will be more willing to accept cyclists and acknowledge their rights to the road.

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Bicycling


MoveDC plan proposes 70 miles of cycletracks

DC could one day have 70 miles of protected bike lanes, if the latest proposal from DDOT becomes reality.

The proposal comes as part of the latest draft of MoveDC, DDOT's master plan. It's still only a proposal, and has not been approved by the DC Council. But what an exciting proposal it is!


Existing & proposed DC cycletracks. Maps by BeyondDC, using base maps from Google.

And that's not all, just for bikes. The proposal also includes over 60 miles of new off-street trails, and another 70 miles of new regular bike lanes.

Of course, it's easy to adopt great plans and harder to accomplish them. DDOT is still struggling to implement the M Street cycletrack, after all. But one must start with a plan, and this appears to be an extremely progressive plan.

Tomorrow I'll share the latest recommendations for transit.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

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Government


Enough broken promises from DDOT

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) promised to complete a number of important projects by now or by the end of this year. Quick quiz: Can you identify which of these have met or will meet the promised deadline?


Photo by Len Matthews on Flickr.

  • Start streetcar service on H Street NE-Benning Road by the end of the year.
  • Devise a better system for handling visitor parking passes and residential permit parking.
  • Start building a separated bike lane (or "cycletrack") on M Street NW.
  • Expand Capital Bikeshare to twice its original size.
  • Make pedestrian safety improvements to Maryland Avenue NE.
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of a new median on Wisconsin Avenue NW in Glover Park.

The answer: None of the above. DDOT has delayed or given up on all of these promises.

Continue reading my latest op-ed in the Washington Post.

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