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Posts about Bicycling


Part of the Metropolitan Branch Trail might close temporarily, but that just means a big opportunity

Part of the Metropolitan Branch Trail (MBT) near the NoMa Metro stop may close for several months to make space for building construction, meaning there will be no direct route to avoid the treacherous intersection at Florida Avenue and New York Avenue. But what if there's a way to make the intersection far safer for walking and biking?

The MBT could be closed during construction of an adjacent development. Image by Aimee Custis.

The closure would be for construction of the second phase of the Washington Gateway, which is slated to be 16 stories tall with 372 residential units, 8% of which will have rents capped at affordable levels for people who quality.

"There will be a period of time when we have to pick up the asphalt and put in a better MBT," said Fred Rothmeijer, founding principal at developer MRP Realty, at an Eckington Civic Association meeting. Improvements will include repaving the trail, new landscaping and better light, he added.

The location of Washington Gateway with the section of the MBT in question. Image by MRP.

Michael Alvino, a bike program specialist at DC's Department of Transportation, tacitly confirmed the closure at the meeting, saying, "we're still trying to determine exactly what the impacts on the trail will be, certainly it's not going to be closed for an extended period of time—we're going to push for that to be open as much as possible."

Right now, the trail lets cyclists avoid a perilous intersection

This is a critical section of the MBT. The trail is the only car-free alternative to the congested "virtual circle," as DDOT puts it, intersection at Florida Avenue, New York Avenue and First Street NE.

Also called "Dave Thomas Circle" because it's home to a Wendy's, the intersection has narrow sidewalks along frequently backed up streets, primarily on Florida Avenue and First Street. It's unenjoyable for pedestrians and unsafe for cyclists in the roadway. In addition, the lights are timed to prioritize through traffic on New York Avenue, giving people on foot and bike little time to cross the six-lane wide thoroughfare.

In other words: the MBT is your safest and most practical route if you're headed to the NoMa-Gallaudet Metro station or the First Street NE protected bikeway.

The closure could be an opportunity

What if DDOT used the potential MBT closure as an opportunity to improve the pedestrian and bike connections through the virtual circle?

The agency is already studying ways to improve the circle as part of a planned redesign of Florida Avenue NE. It proposed two possible alternatives that include direct pedestrian and bike connections through the intersection in the final report it released in 2015.

The orange lines in both options below represent new "pedestrian areas," though the report does not go into detail on exactly what kind of walking and biking facilities these would include:

One potential redesign of the virtual circle at the intersection of Florida Avenue and New York Avenue NE. Image by DDOT.

A second potential redesign of the virtual circle. Image by DDOT.

Right now, DDOT's potential redesigns of the circle face a significant stumbling block: they require the acquisition and demolition of the Wendy's restaurant at its center. DDOT has yet to set a timeline for this, or for redesigning the circle.

An interim solution to allow cyclists a safe path through the circle would be to build a protected bikeway that begins at R Street NE, heads south on Eckington Place to Florida Avenue, then continues briefly on Florida before turning south on First Street NE, crossing New York Avenue and then connecting with the existing bikeway at M Street NE.

Route of a possible protected bike lane from R Street NE to the existing facility on First Street in NoMa. Image by MapMyRun.

This solution would not require the acquisition of private property but it would likely require taking some of the traffic lanes for the roughly 150 feet the bikeway would be on Florida Avenue and the roughly 300 feet on First Street NE north of New York Avenue. There is no on-street parking in either of these stretches of roadway.

The protected bikeway could be created by reorganizing the traffic lanes and parking spaces on Eckington Place north of Florida and First Street NE south of New York Avenue.

Now is the time to speak up

MRP is in the process of modifying its planned unit development (PUD), the agreement where it commits to certain community benefits in exchange for DC Zoning Commission approval of a project, to include changes to Washington Gateway. These include converting one of the planned buildings to residential from commercial, as well as changes to a controversial "bike lobby."

The Zoning Commission has yet to set a date for a hearing but a modified PUD could include specifics for how the developer works with DDOT to mitigate the likely MBT closure during construction.

You can find out more by searching here for case number 06-14D.


The biggest and the smallest Capital Bikeshare stations

Capital Bikeshare stations range in size, from nine docks to 47 docks. Here are photos of the smallest station (a secret station!) and the five biggest.

First, the smallest station: the White House secret station. It's got nine docks, and sits behind a fence at 17th Street and State Place NW, just south of the Old Executive Office building.

Photo by the author.

The station is not open to the public and does not appear in Capital Bikeshare's data feed. It's also an anomaly for its size: 81 stations, each with 11 docks, are tied as the second-smallest stations in the system.

Now, the biggest stations, starting with a three-way tie for third place:

3rd-biggest (tie): 12th Street & Independence Avenue SW, next to the USDA buiding (39 docks)

Photo by the author.

This station sits close to the Smithsonian Metro station's south exit and is likely popular among tourists and office workers alike.

3rd-biggest (tie): Maryland & Independence Avenues SW (39 docks)

Photo by the author.

Farther east on Independence Avenue is this 39-dock station, placed in the median of Maryland Avenue SW, which is slated to become the future Eisenhower Memorial. This station is the closest one to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, the third most-visited museum on the planet.

3rd-biggest (tie): Nationals Park / 1st & N Streets SE (39 docks)

Photo by the author.

It's no surprise Nationals Park is a huge trip generator. This station likely saw even higher demand than usual when WMATA decided to keep with its early closing schedule during the Nationals' playoff games.

2nd-biggest: Massachusetts Avenue & Dupont Circle NW (45 docks)

Photo by the author.

The second-biggest station sits at Massachusetts Avenue and Dupont Circle NW. The docks are split between two parallel rows. Located in a neighborhood populous with both residences and offices, it's no surprise this station is the system's second-busiest.

Biggest station: Union Station (47 docks)

Photo by the author.

Capital Bikeshare's biggest and busiest station resides at Union Station, a multimodal transportation hub serving 40 million visitors a year. The 47-dock station stretches along Columbus Circle NE near the east faÁade of the station and lies at the end of a contraflow bike lane that runs on F Street NE.


Montgomery County's second protected bikeway just opened, and more are on the way

On Monday, Montgomery County's second protected bikeway opened, doubling the number of lane-miles in the county where there's a physical barrier between space for bikes and general traffic. It's part of what will one day be an expansive network that will make bike commuting in Montgomery safer and more practical.

Nebel Street. Photo from MCDOT.

Actually comprised of two one-way lanes on either side of the road, the new infrastructure is on Nebel Street, a commercial and industrial street in White Flint that sees a lot of use. The lanes will eventually be part of a bike corridor that runs from downtown Bethesda to Twinbrook, in Rockville.

Protected bikeways are the wave of the future for Montgomery County, which has plans for a network of them in White Flint, the Life Sciences Center, and Silver Spring. In 2014, the county opened the protected bikeway on Woodglen Drive, which was one of the first of its kind in the nation for a place outside of a major city's limits (and, different from this one, has two lanes that run in opposite directions but sit side by side).

The new bikeway runs from Marinelli Road to Randolph Road. At the southern end, they will connect to bike lanes planned for Marinelli Road, which will connect to Metro and eventually to the Woodglen Drive bikeway.

Nebel Street. Photo from MCDOT.

The new bikeway on Nebel Street brings the county's total mileage of protected bike lanes to 0.8 miles, roughly the same number as Arlington County. The District has around six miles of protected bikeways.

Other projects to add to Montgomery's total are underway now, and more are in planning. A separated contraflow bike lane on Glenbrook Road in Bethesda will be completed within weeks, and the county hopes to begin construction on downtown Silver Spring's first protected bikeway along Spring Street in November, weather permitting.

Glenbrook Road nearing completion. Photo by MCDOT.

Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett reaffirmed the county's commitment to building a low-stress network of bikeways at the ribbon cutting Monday. The county has a long way to go, but is working quickly to build better bike facilities.


In a week, Reston and Tysons will have Capital Bikeshare!

Capital Bikeshare is coming to Fairfax County. On October 21st, 15 stations will open in Reston and 14 will open in Tysons Corner. Between the two areas, there will be about 200 bikes.

Photo by James Schwartz on Flickr.

An announcement that these stations were coming came out last fall, and in January, Fairfax County finalized the necessary funding to move forward.

Installation has begun already with many stations installed already and waiting for bikes.

CaBi started in DC and Arlington in 2010 and has become a transportation success story across the country. The system has consistently grown since it's initial roll-out of around 50 stations in central Washington and Arlington. Fairfax joins Montgomery County and the city of Alexandria as local governments who have helped expand the system through the region.

Reston is a natural spot for bike sharing in Fairfax. The community is one of the more bike-friendly areas of the county, with an extensive network of paths. The anchor is the W&OD Trail, which by the Wiehle Metro Station and the popular (and growing) Reston Town Center.

A map of the stations coming to Reston. Click for a larger version. Map from Capital Bikeshare.

Tysons is the county's business hub (it's even got a rush hour at lunch time!), and CaBi's arrival will be another step in making the area less car-dependent and more like a bustling downtown with lots of transportation options. The hope is that CaBi can help bolster the county's pedestrian and bicycle improvements coming to the area.

A map of the stations coming to Tysons. Click for a larger version. Map from Capital Bikeshare.

Fairfax County officials plan on holding a ribbon cutting event for the system at both Reston and Tysons on October 21. They will dedicate the stations at Reston and then at Tysons a few hours later.

While these stations will be the farthest afield from the system's core, there are connections coming: Falls Church wants its first stations ready to go sometime in 2017, and the system has been steadily growing outward since its inception.

Who knows; maybe in a few years it will be possible to ride from one end of the W&OD trail to other and avoid the extra time charge by switching bikes along the length of the route.

Public Spaces

Thanks to World War II, we love to bike here

Hains Point, which sits at the southern end of DC's East Potomac Park, has long been one of the District's prime destinations for serene river views—especially for cyclists who want a flat, lightly-trafficked, gently curving course for serious exercise. Yet even though it was built in 1917, it only became a popular place to bike after World War II (and car rationing) started.

Photo by Payton Chung on Flickr.

Take Ohio Drive well past the tidal basin and the Thomas Jefferson Memorial and you'll hit East Potomac Park, with groves of cherry trees lining the fringes of its 36-hole golf course, and eventually Hains Point, where a group of picnic tables command a view far down the Potomac River. The roads that encircle the island are popular with DC-area road cyclists, who gather in groups to ride in clockwise laps.

What many might not know is that its track-like drive first gained popularity as a cycling destination during the "Rosie the Riveter" days of World War Two, when the Park Service sought to encourage cycling instead of driving as a way to see the park.

Hains Point, as seen looking south from central DC. Photo by Valerie on Flickr.

According to the National Park Service's Historic American Buildings Survey description of East Potomac Park:

The most popular means of access by far, however, was by automobile. As the number of automobiles in the District increased, the park attracted more and more visitors seeking the cool breezes at Hains Point in the midst of Washington's hot summers. To accommodate the increasing number of motorists, the OPB&G built a shelter with restrooms at the southern tip of the park in 1922.

When the United States entered World War II, NPS closed the tea house at Hains Point since its use as a recreational automotive destination was inconsistent with the national effort to conserve tires and gas... A bicycle-rental facility in the park thrived on the business from the new crowd of wartime workers.

Regional population had increased with the war and subsequently, traffic congestion worsened. The stables closed in 1950 when the mixture of automobiles and equestrians were seen as a safety hazard. Likewise the demand for bicycles decreased and the rental shop closed in 1955.

Although the bike rental shop might be long-gone, East Potomac Park does have a Capital Bikeshare station.

Meanwhile, another historic way of getting to Hains Point is about to make a comeback.

For a brief period between 1919 and 1921, the park was accessible not only by automobile, but also by ferry. A boat called the Bartholdi ferried passengers between the government wharf in Southwest and the tip of West Potomac Park, named Hains Point in 1917.
The Wharf's developers promise that they will re-launch a ferry across the Washington Channel after the development opens next year, docking at a newly built pier behind the fish market. The bike shop that's proposed nearby could prove convenient for flat-tire-stricken cyclists, and visitors to the park's golf course, mini-golf course, tennis courts, swimming pool, picnic areas, and cherry groves could enjoy different dining options besides the golf course's snack bar.


Whether you're traveling from Virginia or Maryland, Capital Bikeshare isn't just for short trips

People often rely on Capital Bikeshare for short, local trips. But not always; lots of times, they use the system to travel a little farther. These graphs show how often people use Capital Bikeshare to go between different groups of stations in the region and where exactly they travel to and from.

A Capital Bikeshare station in Montgomery County. Photo by author.

When Capital Bikeshare first came to our region, the vast majority of stations were in DC and a few were in Arlington. As the system has expanded, so have options for traveling between places.

I wanted to analyze bikeshare trips between counties, cities, and the District, as well as trips within different parts of the same county but still outside of DC. To do this, I divided Montgomery County and Arlington County into what I'm calling geographic clusters: Rockville, Silver Spring/Takoma Park, and Bethesda/Chevy Chase/Friendship Heights for Montgomery County, and North and South Arlington County, with Arlington Boulevard being the dividing line. Then I looked at CaBi trips from between September 2013 and May 2016.

This graph shows how many trips from each of those clusters ended in another one:

All graphs by the author. Click for a larger version.

As you can see, the places closest to DC are the ones from which people take the most trips between clusters; about 36% of trips in North Arlington and 35% of trips in Bethesda/Chevy Chase/Friendship Heights end somewhere else, while only 1% of trips in Rockville end outside of Rockville. Among all the clusters outside of DC, approximately 30% of trips go from one to another.

A closer look shows that most of the trips from one cluster to another are trips to DC, but not all. For instance, 9% of the trips that begin in South Arlington are between clusters but do not end in DC.

Click for a larger version.

This graph shows where, exactly, most bikeshare users go from various clusters:

Click for a larger version.

Further examination of South Arlington shows that approximately 71% of the trips there are local, 20% end in DC, 4.5% end in Alexandria, and 4.5% end in North Arlington. Also notice that nearly 8% of trips starting in Alexandria and 4% of trips in North Arlington end in South Arlington. As an area that is adjacent to clusters that use bicycle share, South Arlington sees more bikeshare activity.

Similar to the dense bikeshare system in DC, bikeshare outside of DC serves mostly local trips. But that doesn't mean bikeshare doesn't have a regional value, as nearly a third of trips system-wide are between clusters. As bikeshare continues to expand in the region, municipalities, especially those near other places with bikeshare, like Mount Rainier, Hyattsville, or Langley Park, would see an increase in ridership if bikeshare users could access the regional system.

This data only shows individual trips and doesn't show the length of time of trips or whether the user has a causal or annual membership. Exploring this information, as well as specific bikeshare travel patterns in more suburban areas, would tell us more about how bikeshare fits in both the local and regional transportation system.


Copenhagen uses this one trick to make room for bikeways on nearly every street

I visited Copenhagen for the first time in June. I knew it was one of the bikiest cities in the world, but it's quite astounding to see what a place looks like where 52% of commuters travel by bike.

All photos by the author.

Almost every street has a type of protected bikeway. It's essentially a lane of the street but raised up with a small curb, low enough that vehicles can mount it but high enough to discourage that. (And generally, they don't.)

These are everywhere. It's not just the main streets or a few selected bike boulevards. Virtually every street of any appreciable size had one. It was almost strange to encounter a street with any traffic that didn't. The typical medium-sized street had two car lanes (one each way), two bike lanes of the same width (one each way), and a sidewalk on each side.

As an old city, the streets are fairly narrow (and, honestly, the sidewalks were pretty narrow and are made of cobblestones; it might be a bike mecca, but the walking experience could be better). So how can there be enough room?

Here's a picture. What do you notice that's missing?

If you said "on-street parking," you're right! As compared with most US cities which have parking on nearly every city street, Copenhagen has it on many smaller streets but far from all, and doesn't have it on most mid-sized and larger streets.

Could DC be like this?

There are some obstacles to DC having as much biking as Copenhagen (once again: 52% of commuters!) For one, our weather is both hotter and colder, and DC has more hills. Copenhagen is a smaller city, with about 2 million people in its metropolitan area versus 6 million for Washington.

Still, we can do so much better. We don't have to put a bikeway on every street, and maybe won't ever have the mode share to justify that, but there already is enough mode share to warrant a network of them connecting every neighborhood and spaced a certain distance in the city's core.

Instead of always blocking bikeways with construction, they keep the bikeways open!

More bikeways would also boost the amount of cycling; with DC's weather and topography we could easily double, triple, or quadruple the 2% of commuters bicycling (after all, 11% walk and they have to contend with the same weather!)

It's crazy that it takes years to build support for a protected bikeway on even one street. The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) built only 0.14 miles of protected bikeways and 4.28 miles of other bike lanes in 2015.

A few streets also do have on-street parking as well, but it's uncommon.

The MoveDC plan calls for 7.5 miles a year of bike lanes. New York built 12.4 miles of protected bikeways in 2015, and the city does have about 12 times as many people as DC proper, but that means DC is still falling short by a factor of about seven.

It's certainly true there are political obstacles to changing even a single parking space into something else, but there's a simple political solution as well: do it differently.

Copenhagen is building a new bike/ped bridge next to an existing one, because the existing one has too much bicycle traffic.

Compared to many other US cities like Orlando and Cleveland, DC is doing great on transit, on bicycling, on walking. We shouldn't forget how far we've come, either; DC had zero protected bikeways until 2009. But go around the world and it can easily become clear: we also could do so, so much better.


How Barcelona gets bicycling right

This summer I spent a few days in Barcelona on vacation. What I found there is a city built for people who ride bikes and car-free tourism that would be welcome here at home.

Bikeshare station with moped parking at Placa de Catalunya. All photos by the author unless otherwise noted.

Bikes are everywhere in Barcelona. Family members who had visited before told me it's the best way to see the city, so my friends and I rented bikes for two days rather than taking public transit, taxis, or organized bus tours.

Renting the bikes was simple—there are numerous rental shops as well as bike share stations, the latter requiring sign up similar to Capital Bikeshare.

A very popular destination are the city's picturesque beaches. Riding a bike there, and everywhere, you quickly notice is that there are lots of marked bike lanes that share the road with cars and bikeways that are totally separated and shared only with pedestrians.

Left: A separated bikeway and pedestrian strip. Markings, signal and signs visible. Right: A protected bike lane with marking and bicycle traffic light ahead.

This makes riding a bike feel very safe, which is probably why it is rare to see people wearing helmets. On the beach, the pedestrian and bike path is plenty wide to accommodate everyone, even at the busiest times. Finding a bike rack there as well as everywhere else in the city is also a breeze, with some located right on the boardwalk leading onto the sand.

Bike parking in front of Antonio Gaudi's Casa Batllo.

At the Arc de Triomf and neighboring Ciutadella Park, wide sidewalks and dedicated bike lanes make getting around easy, fast and safe. In the Gothic District, typically narrow one way streets in the oldest part of town mean that biking and walking are the only fast way to get around.

The only place you have to get off your bike (which is very much worth doing!) is the the famous La Rambla, the main street in the old town. The reason you have to dismount is not cars or buses, but throngs of people. La Rambla is not a pedestrian only mall, like those in many downtowns around the US and world, because it has one lane on each side for car traffic but it has a wide strip in the middle reserved for foot traffic, of which there is plenty.

In the photo below, the car lanes are visible on each side, along with the Metro entrance located at the end of La Rambla. During our visit, we didn't go into the underground, but Metro stops were plentiful and well-marked.

The north end of La Rambla. Metro station in foreground.

Nearly seven miles of bike riding made it clear that bike is the best way to get around Barcelona. We encountered some road construction with clearly marked the detours for cyclists and cars alike, showing that both are valued and considered during traffic disruptions. We also saw the Barcelona tram, which made me think about the multiple modes you could easily use in the city.

One of Barcelona's trams.

By bike, you can also get to the Montjuic Castle and the old Olympic Stadium, which are on a hill overlooking the city. Bikeways and connecting bike lanes along the beach make for a quick ride with plenty of sightseeing. Instead of climbing the hill to the castle, you can ride the Teleferic de Montjuic—a gondola operated by the same company that runs the Metro and bus service (fare system is separate for the gondola though).

In this instance, a gondola seemed like the perfect mode to take you to the top and back quickly and efficiently. It also gives riders an amazing panoramic view of the city and a cyclist time to rest the legs.

On the way to return our rentals we enjoyed more sights and sounds of the city. At this point, you notice that most car traffic was fairly confined to a few large boulevards, and in those places room is almost always reserved on the side or in the middle for bikeways and walkways. The central gathering places for people almost always seem to be planned around bikes and pedestrians, with cars being an afterthought.

Image from Google Maps.

In Barcelona, it was obvious that planning for bike riders, giving wide sidewalks to pedestrians, and connecting all those facilities with well marked and signaled infrastructure encouraged people to use those modes. Combining that with mass transit like a subway, light rail, or buses (even gondola, where it's useful!) can get people moving effectively and create more livable and beautiful city landscapes.

In a lot of our region's densely-populated areas already have bike lanes, but there isn't always separation from car traffic. And that's what makes the biggest difference. In Barcelona, it feels as though all but the busiest streets are for bikes and people rather than just cars.


A DC law that was terribly unfair to cyclists and pedestrians will soon be a thing of the past. Let's thank the DC Council.

Since the spring, the DC Council has been flirting with a bill that would end "contributory negligence," an unjust rule that keeps people who are hit when walking or biking from collecting medical costs from a driver's insurance. The bill officially passed on Tuesday. Please help us thank the legislators who made it happen.

Photo by Joe Flood on Flickr.

DC's "contributory negligence" rule says that if you're involved in a crash while traveling on foot or bike and even one percent at fault for what happened, you can't collect any damages. The Motor Vehicle Collision Recovery Amendment Act of 2015 will do away with that rule, allowing people to collect damages as long as they were less than 50% at fault.

An earlier version of this bill came up two years ago, but fell apart at the last minute. The Council was set to vote on this one early in the summer, and while the vote did get delayed for two weeks, it passed its first reading in July. This week's vote was what's called the second reading, and the bill passed without debate.

This is very, very important

I had my own run-in with "contrib" when a minivan driver hit me, fracturing my pelvis and spraining my back, while I was riding my bike home from work in 2008. The driver's insurance denied my claim, saying that I had contributed to the crash. Instead of receiving a settlement proportional to my injuries and experience, I wound up in court.

I was extremely lucky that a pedestrian witnessed the crash and, over a year later, was willing to come to the Rockville District Court to testify on my behalf. I won a $30,000 judgement against the driver, which his insurance company paid. The amount was above and beyond the total of my lost wages and medical bills, which the judge said was to "make me whole" by compensating me for pain and suffering.

While dollars and cents are what the court has to work with, money alone doesn't make people whole. The months of pain and struggle, the paperwork, the rage I felt when I heard the driver tell the judge that I threw myself in front of his car... well, it's laughable to suggest that the few thousand dollars left over after my lawyer and my health insurance took their cuts could compensate me for all that.

Justice would be a better compensation. When Mayor Bowser signs this bill into law, I will at last be made whole.

There is a huge discrepancy in how drivers experience the costs of collisions as opposed to people on bike or foot. Doing away with contributory negligence in DC will be a huge step forward towards treating road users more fairly in accident compensation.

We should give credit where credit is due

Mayor Bowser still needs to sign this bill (she has praised it before), and then Congress has to approve it. But for today, let's make sure to give DC Councilmembers the thanks they deserve for educating themselves on this issue, finding a solution, and carrying it to completion.

From the bottom of my heart, I thank the DC Council for passing this just, fair law that protects the most vulnerable on our roads.

Use #ContributoryNegligence and #fixcontrib to thank your councilmember, in particular @marycheh, the bill's sponsor, and @CM_McDuffie, the judiciary committee chair. Also use our tweets here below:

  • #DC is much closer to ending #ContributoryNegligence! Thanks #DCcouncil, esp. @CM_McDuffie @marycheh for your votes
  • Votes are in, #ContributoryNegligence is out. Thx #DCcouncil, esp @marycheh @CM_McDuffie for working to #fixcontrib!
  • Thx #DCcouncil for doing your job. @MayorBowser will you sign the #ContributoryNegligence bill & #fixcontrib in #DC?
Check out what people have been tweeting so far:


The Park Service plans to connect key bike trails on the Mall, in Arlington, and elsewhere

A 15th Street protected bikeway that extends through the Mall and a Mount Vernon trail with more connections are two of the many changes that a new plan from the National Park Service (NPS) would make to the region's trails.

The Mount Vernon Trail near National airport. Photo by the author.

In its recently-released Paved Trails Study, NPS makes 121 recommendations for improvements that include everything from bridge access to safety and closing missing gaps in the trail network. It prioritizes 18 projects for implementation in the next two years, including:

  • Extending the 15th Street NW protected bikeway about a mile, across the Mall to the 14th Street bridge. It currently ends at Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
  • Connecting the Mount Vernon Trail to the south side of the Roosevelt Bridge, which would make it easier to get between the trail and the Mall by using the existing path on the bridge that ends on the west side of the Potomac River.
  • Studying the possibility of a protected bike lane from Rock Creek Park to 16th Street NW along Military Road, a stretch of road that is like a four-lane highway with scant shoulder and no sidewalks or bike lanes.
  • Studying the possibility of an off-street connection between Oxon Hill and the planned South Capitol Street Trail that would connect to National Harbor and the Woodrow Wilson bridge path. Closing this gap in the trail system east of the Anacostia River would provide cyclists and pedestrians with access to job and activity centers in Prince George's County and Virginia.
  • Improving safety at the "intersection of doom" where cyclists and pedestrians on the Custis and Mount Vernon trails must share space with cars at the corner of Lee Highway and North Lynn Street in Rosslyn.

Map of NPS and other trails in the Washington DC region. Image by the NPS.

NPS will make prominent trails easier to get to

Extending the 15th Street protected bikeway to the 14th Street Bridge would close a prominent gap between the District's burgeoning bike lane network and one of the busiest bike crossings of the Potomac River. The bridge saw an average of 2,400 to 2,500 cyclists on weekdays during June, July and August, Bike Arlington's counters show.

The route of an extended 15th Street protected bike lane to the 14th Street Bridge. Image by the NPS.

The lane would replace parking along 15th Street north of Constitution Avenue NW, be built in the space between the curb and sidewalk from Constitution to Independence Avenue SW, and replace a southbound traffic lane on Maine Avenue SW to the bridge, the report says. It would be built in partnership with the DC Department of Transportation.

The other planned connections listed above also close gaps in the regional trail network. One of the more exciting is probably the off-street trail to Oxon Hill that would provide District residents who live east of the Anacostia River an off-street bike route to jobs and activities in National Harbor and in Virginia. It would also create a new bike loop on both sides of the Potomac River using the 14th Street and Woodrow Wilson bridges.

The proposed off-street connection between South Capital Street and Oxon Hill. Image by the NPS.

A fix is coming to the "intersection of doom"

The Park Service plans to work with Arlington County to improve safety at the busy intersection of the Custis and Mount Vernon trails in Rosslyn, otherwise known as the "intersection of doom."

The intersection is one of the most frequent sites of bicycle and pedestrian collisions, Arlington County Police data has shown. Pedestrians and cyclists going from the Mount Vernon trail to the Custis trail, or waiting to cross Key Bridge, must pass through the intersection, sharing the space with two lanes of auto traffic that is trying to turn onto the Key Bridge from I-66.

The recommendation includes "clearly separate" spaces for bikes, pedestrians, and cars at the intersection, as outlined in Arlington's Realize Rosslyn Sector Plan, the report says.

Concept plan for the intersection of the Custis and Mount Vernon trails in Rosslyn. Image by Arlington County.

However, beyond saying that the NPS will work with Arlington County on the plan for the intersection, the report does not detail exactly how they plan to clearly separate pedestrians and bikes from car traffic.

A change of heart from NPS?

The recommendations hopefully signal a change of heart for NPS. For years, the agency did not take bike travel seriously, instead emphasizing keeping existing auto-only roads as they were. For example, it took NPS 20 years to respond to trail user and resident requests for improvements to the popular trail through Rock Creek Park.

"Trail usage has increased significantly and as the area continues to grow in residential and employment population, walking and biking trips will also continue to increase," NPS says in the report. "These trends place increased pressure on the trail network, particularly the trail segments that form the backbone of the larger regional trail network."

The plan has one big hole: funding. None of the proposed improvements can be implemented in the timeline outlined by the report without funds to pay for them.

The plan does not gloss over funding entirely. It points out that NPS parks in the Washington region have been more successful at securing funding for projects from non-federal sources, like partnering with local jurisdictions, than parks elsewhere, but that it also receives fewer federal funds.

Such partnerships certainly present an opportunity for funding the 121 trail improvement recommendations but fall short of a firm plan that leaves the fate of many of the proposed projects in limbo.

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