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Bicycling


See 32 years of DC bike lane growth in one animation

DC has had a smattering of bike lanes since at least 1980, but the network only started to grow seriously starting in about 2002. This animation shows the growth of DC's bike lane network, from 1980 through to 2012.


Animation from Betsy Emmons on MapStory.

From 1980 to 2001, literally nothing changed. Then in 2001, two short new bike lanes popped up. The next year there were 5 new ones. From then on, District workers added several new bike lanes each year, making a boom that's still going on.

This animation ends in 2012, so it doesn't include recent additions like the M Street cycletrack. But it's still a fascinating look at how quickly things can change once officials decide to embrace an idea.

In a few years, a map showing the rise of protected bike lanes might start to look similar. That map would start in 2009 with DDOT's installation of the original 15th Street cycletrack. It would expand slowly through this decade, then maybe (hopefully), it would boom as moveDC's 70 mile cycletrack network becomes a reality.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

Bicycling


The 15th Street cycletrack will soon continue up the hill to Columbia Heights

When the 15th Street cycletrack opened in 2010 with great fanfare, bicycle planners talked about extending it farther north. But attention shifted to other important projects. Now, it's coming back, and the cycletrack should lengthen from V Street to Euclid Street sometime in 2015.


Looking south from 15th and W. Photo by the author.

Since 15th Street is one-way northbound except for bicycles in the cycletrack, the only legal way to get on it at its northern end is using V Street from the west. People riding from farther north or east have to take busy 16th or U Streets or, as many do, ride illegally the wrong way on 15th or V.

Finally, a regular intersection for 15th and New Hampshire

In addition, the intersection of 15th, W, New Hampshire, and Florida has been waiting for a larger overhaul. The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) added temporary bulb-outs in 2009 to narrow what was a huge intersection and a dangerous place, especially for pedestrians.

In the summer of 2012, DDOT unveiled potential designs to permanently rebuild this intersection and extend the cycletrack through.

Where 15th now widens into a huge sea of concrete feeding into 15th, W, and Florida, it will become a narrower, more classic intersection. There will be new trees and pedestrian medians including bicycle signals. The rest of the space will become bioretention basins to improve storm water runoff, water quality, and the walkable feel of the area.


Plans for 15th from V to W and surrounding streets. Image from DDOT.


Rendering of the cycletrack with curbs and bioretention. Image from DDOT.

Up the hill

After passing W/New Hampshire/Florida, the cycletrack hits a very steep hill along the east side of Meridian Hill Park, one of the steeper hills in northwest DC. Now, 15th has a pair of bike lanes, both going uphill, one on each side of the street.


The hilly and awkward dual one-way bikes on 15th Street. Photos by the author.

This design has never made much sense. Two bike lanes are redundant. Plus, it is dangerous to try to use the east side bike lane, because cyclists have to cut across fairly high-speed traffic to get to it. With this project, there will instead be a two-way cycletrack like 15th farther south.

Being allowed to go down the hill on 15th Street next to Meridian Hill Park will be a welcome change. Still, cyclists riding uphill will get a serious workout, while those riding down will have to take care not to build up more speed than is safe, particularly around the curve at Belmont Street and approaching the intersection at the bottom of the hill.


The space for the cycletrack is already there; it just needs to be reconfigured.

Reaching the top

After Euclid, there will still be a painted bike lane on the right side of the street. Goodno said DDOT will add a bike box (not currently shown on the plans) at 15th and Euclid to let cyclists headed north safely switch from the new cycletrack on the left side to the existing bike lane on the right.


The northern terminus point for the project at 15th and Euclid Streets, NW.

Drivers will not lose travel lanes and little if any parking. The parking on the west side of 15th will shift over to go next to the cycletrack, as elsewhere, but will just take up the space previously occupied by the old bike lanes. The parking on the east side of 15th won't change.

DDOT Bicycle Specialist Mike Goodno said,

This will be an extraordinary connection between existing bike lanes on V St, W St, and New Hampshire Avenue. There will be improvements for pedestrians with the hard medians. Cyclists will have 10 feet of space, versus 8 feet in the rest of the cycle track south of V St, and be protected by curbing. It will extend the reach of protected cycling north to Euclid Street, and there will be bicycle signals as recommended in the 2012 bicycle facility evaluation report.
DDOT has selected a final design and plans to put the project out to bid within the next few months. Construction should begin in 6 to 12 months, once a contract is awarded.

Bicycling


How to make cycletracks public art

As more cities build more protected bike lanes, some are beginning to use them as opportunities for public art. In Seattle, the new Broadway cycletrack includes a section with "art bollards."


Seattle cycletrack. Photo by Gordon Werner on Flickr.

Most cycletracks around the US use flexposts or concrete curbs to separate the bike lane from car traffic. A few use other methods like parking stops or zebras, but there are better-looking options available.

In addition to Seattle's art bollards, a growing number of cities use landscaped barriers.


Vancouver cycletrack. Photo by Paul Kreuger on Flickr.

These are great ideas. As cycletrack networks continue to expand, cities around the country can look for opportunities to make their bike lanes more beautiful.

But that being said, beautification adds time and expense to construction, and most cyclists would likely rank having more usable cycletracks sooner as a higher priority than art or landscaping.

So art is great, but there's definitely a place for easy, cheap flexposts.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

Bicycling


"Floating" transit stops work well with bicycles

Ever played a game of leapfrog with a bus while riding your bike? Some cities are using "floating" transit stops so buses don't have to pull into the bike lane to discharge passengers. Could one work here?


A floating light rail stop in San Francisco.

Since buses (and sometimes streetcars) discharge passengers onto the sidewalk on the right side of the street, bicyclists often face conflicts with transit vehicles or transit riders. That's one of the primary reasons the Pennsylvania Avenue cycletrack was put in the middle of the street, rather than as a pair of curb-side bike lanes.

These "floating" transit stops make it possible for cyclists to stay next to the curb, while still allowing transit vehicles to stop without blocking the bike lane. As the video shows, cyclists and transit riders share the space easily.

With DC's growing network of bike lanes and cycletracks, conflicts with transit stops are going to grow. Floating stops like this could be a solution to the problem.

Bicycling


Four tweaks to further improve the First Street NE cycletrack

Cycletracks are such new additions to the repertoire of American street infrastructure that the most progressive DOTs around the country are still experimenting with how to best design them. DC's latest experiment, on First Street NE, is a still-evolving laboratory of design options. Here are four ideas to make this excellent bike facility work even better.


The cycletrack north of K Street. All photos by the author.

The District Department of Transportation recently finished work on DC's first curb-separated cycletrack, on First Street NE in NoMa. Bike planners also have announced plans to close some gaps, including the one-block section between the cycletrack's current southern end, at G Street, and Columbus Circle.

Curb separation, parking stops, and full-length green paint are great additions to cycletrack design. First Street looks fantastic, and is a joy to bike down. Besides the gaps DDOT will close, here are a few more experiments worth trying to make the cycletrack safer and function better:

Help cyclists enter the cycletrack from the north

At the northern end, cyclists riding north can easily exit by merging into northbound traffic. But southbound cyclists coming down First Street hoping to enter the cycletrack have to awkwardly cross the street.


Looking south on First at M. How are cyclists supposed to enter the bike lane, barely visible across the intersection on the far left side of the street.

Seattle's Broadway cycletrack solves a similar problem using a bike box, which gives cyclists a designated place to cross the street to enter the cycletrack.


A bike box at the north end of Seattle's Broadway cycletrack.

Could the bike box idea work in DC? There are bike boxes on DC's L and M Street cycletracks, after all. I spoke with Mike Goodno at DDOT, and he said they would consider painting a bike box.

Ban right turns on red

At intersections, the cycletrack is marked with a line of sharrows. Signals prevent drivers from turning across the cycletrack while cyclists are continuing straight.


Left turns are prohibited across the cycletrack when cyclists have a through green.

But westbound drivers on cross streets are still allowed to turn right across the cycletrack. If they are turning right on a red light, they will cross the cycletrack while cyclists have a green light. At K and L Streets, it may be wise to prohibit right turns on red.

Goodno said they currently have no plans to ban right on red at these intersections, but are monitoring operations and safety, and may make changes if they decide its necessary.

Help cyclists turn the corner

For cyclists who want to turn onto or off of the cycletrack, signs instruct them to use the crosswalk. This two-stage turn is similar the Pennsylvania Avenue lane.

Alternatively, bike boxes can also help cyclists make two-stage turns like that. For example, Seattle's Broadway cycletrack has bike boxes at intersections to help guide cyclists and inform drivers, and Arlington is planning a similar turning bike box in Clarendon.


A turning bike box on Broadway in Seattle.

Putting bike boxes between the cycletrack and the crosswalk allows cyclists to position themselves on cross street in front of traffic. It helps make them more visible to drivers, and makes it possible for them to proceed as soon as the light changes.

Add bike signals

First Street does not have any bike signals. Like on Pennsylvania Avenue, signs instruct cyclists to follow existing signals. But unlike on Pennsylvania Avenue, the signs on First Street are small and are farther from the signal heads, which makes it harder to determine which signal cyclists are supposed to follow.


Sign at First and L.

Dedicated bicycle signals, which DDOT placed on some spots on the new M Street cycletrack, would give cyclists clear information about when to go and when to stop.

All in all, the First Street cycletrack is a great addition to DC's bicycle network. It's interesting to follow the changes DDOT makes to each new protected bike lane. So far, every one in DC has been different.

As DC's cycletrack network grows, DDOT will continue to learn from its growing implementation history. Future cycletracks will no doubt be even better.

Bicycling


Next up for NoMa bicycling: Fill in the gaps

Last Month, Mayor Gray and DDOT cut the ribbon on DC's newest protected cycletrack on First Street NE in NoMa between G and M Streets. This is a part of the Metropolitan Branch Trail (MBT), which will eventually connect Union Station to Silver Spring. Next, they plan three short extensions to fill in some important gaps.


Celebratory cake for the 1st Street NE ribbon cutting. Photo by the author.


Map of gaps in the Metropolitan Branch Trail. Base map from Google Maps.

First Street NE between Massachusetts and G

The cycletrack doesn't cover one last block of First Street NE just north of Columbus Circle. There is one lane for traffic in each direction, plus metered spaces on the west side.

Delivery trucks often park on the east side as well, facing the wrong direction and blocking northbound traffic. This leaves little room for bikes and no room at all for northbound cars.


Sidewalk gap and illegal loading on First Street between G & Mass NE. Photo by the author.

DDOT plans to fix these issues by making this block one-way southbound for cars. The northbound vehicle lane will become a two-way cycletrack. A concrete curb, identical to the one on First Street between K and M Streets NE, will separate the cycletrack from other traffic. The parking lane will become a loading zone.


Proposed road sections for 1st NE from G to I. Drawings from DDOT. Click for larger version.

This project will also include rebuilding and expanding the sidewalks, particularly on the east side where a loading dock entrance and bollards currently cause the sidewalk to disappear completely for approximately 80 feet. This will help prepare the street if and when DDOT is able to expand the mezzanine in the adjacent Union Station Metro station.

M Street NE between First and Delaware

The elevated Metropolitan Branch Trail ends at L Street, but there is only a stairway there, so bicyclists on the trail usually exit at M Street. They ride down a ramp onto a wide sidewalk across from the NoMa Metro Station. The trail then continues on-road on First Street NE, but there is a one-block gap on M Street without any dedicated bicycle infrastructure.

This block of M now has one lane of vehicular traffic in each direction, with metered parking on the south side. DDOT's proposal would remove these 16 parking spaces to create a protected cycletrack.


M Street NE at 1st showing potential cycletrack. Image by the author.

DC's 2005 Bike Master Plan and the recently released MoveDC Plan both show protected bicycle lanes for M Street all the way from downtown, past this block, to the end of M at Florida Avenue NE (between 6th and 7th Streets NE). The new M Street NW cycletrack runs from Thomas Circle at 14th Street west to Pennsylvania Avenue at 29th Street (with a one-block gap between 15th and 16th).

DDOT's Mike Goodno is also preparing designs to add more blocks on M Street NE and portions of M Street NW, but this first block is the highest priority because it would fill a gap in the MBT.

F Street at 2nd Street NE

The MBT technically splits south of L Street into a pair of pathways on 1st and 2nd Streets, NEon either side of the Union Station tracks. The 2nd Street section primarily runs on widened asphalt or concrete sidewalks which abruptly end at F Street close to Union Station.

The block of F Street between Union Station and 2nd Street, which goes past the Securities and Exchange Commission building, is one-way eastbound with limited parking spaces. However, the street is the same width as the blocks to the east, in residential Capitol Hill, which have two lanes of traffic plus parking on both sides.

DDOT proposes adding an eastbound bike lane on the south side of the street, along with a contraflow bike lane on the north side for westbound bicycles similar to nearby G and I Streets NE.


Proposed bike lanes on F Street NE. Drawings from DDOT. Click for larger version.

This will connect to planned bike lanes for F Street NE from 2nd to 8th, which Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6C voted to support in September 2013.

Next steps

ANC 6C will be voting on these new bicycle facilities at its monthly meeting tonight, June 11. The ANC's transportation committee previously endorsed these projects. DDOT has already begun the procurement process for some of these projects, and is aiming to have all of these MBT sections complete this year.

Roads


“Every street’s going to prioritize pedestrians,” says moveDC’s lovely fine print

Livable streets advocates all over the country are buzzing about DC's far-sighted new transportation plan, called moveDC. Yesterday, Streetsblog sat down to interview some of the people responsible for writing and implementing the plan.


The purple lines are cycletracks. MoveDC has 72 miles of them. Image from DDOT.

MoveDC is an ambitious and wide-ranging plan that calls for overhauling streets to improve walking, biking, and transit. If you want to absorb it all, here's the whole, massive document.

I spoke to Matt Brown, the District Department of Transportation's new acting director; Colleen Hawkinson, strategic planning branch manager at DDOT's Policy, Planning and Sustainability Administration (PPSA); and Sam Zimbabwe, associate director of the PPSA.

What's your favorite part of this plan? What do you brag to other cities about and say, "DC's gonna do this and it's gonna be amazing"?

MB: I'm struck by the comprehensive nature of it all. It speaks to new investments, but it also speaks to state of good repair for what we have, and really trying to maximize the road system we have so that it accommodates all choices of travel.

I don't think it's an all-or-nothing plan. I don't think it's: "We have a vision, we need whatever dollars and without that it's going to fail." Certainly there are dollars that are needed to implement, and we can't realize the full capacity of the plan without doing that.

But I think this is a plan for the future of the District, and also for our agency. I mean, there are recommendations in here about how to prioritize sidewalk repairs better. One of the recommendations is to better prioritize how we make investments with the baseline money that we have.

So I guess it's not one policy element I'm excited about. I'm excited there's so much, and they're interrelated but they're not dependent on each other. We can make a big impact even if we can't build a downtown metro loop, or pick your favorite infrastructure investment from the plan.

SZ: Or a downtown congestion charge!

[All laugh.]

Yeah, I definitely want to talk about that. If that's your most exciting thing, we can talk about that now, or we can talk about it when we get to my most exciting thing.

CH: What I was most excited about was the level of analysis. It's not just a study that says, "Here are some good ideas; let's go and do more studies." I feel like we really have a true sense of what should be going on. And I think it'll even help us as the plan evolves, if things come out and other things go in; I don't think anything will be jarring, because of the baseline analysis we have there.

SZ: In terms of bragging to other cities, I think this idea of complete networks is where we need to go. And this is not a criticism of Complete Streets at all, because I think the premise is the right one, that we need to accommodate multiple users of every street. But in applying that citywide, in some ways Complete Streets bogs us down. Because we don't have the right-of-way. We don't have the space to accommodate everybody.

If you are looking at making a transit improvement and the cyclists say, "Well, where am I in this street?" and if you're not accommodating them in that street, you've failed. I think we've identified complete corridors, or complete networks.

And you don't want streets a quarter of a mile wide.

SZ: Exactly. We have a great urban fabric and we don't want to lose that in the name of providing for everybody to make every choice on every street.

We weren't trying to pit modes against each other. We were trying to say, here's a connected network that addresses the fundamental vision of the transportation system. And then we were able to blend between them. So we ended up with this policy framework, which then translates into infrastructure, that says, "Every street's going to prioritize pedestrians. Every street's going to accommodate vehicles. And every street is going to do something else."

That is, everything above a local neighborhood street. But everything else is going to do something besides just carry cars and people. That might be better transit facilities; it might be better bike facilities; it might be a freight route.

Once you do that, you give yourself flexibility. So ideally, once we start planning for anything, whether it's a bike lane or a transit facility, we're not having to answer the question of, what about this other mode? Because we've tried to de-conflict them. And we can say, well, we're planning for bikes on this street and we're planning for transit on that street. And we'll still evaluate how those interact.

But there is an incredible amount of bike infrastructure. Cycletracks, especially, going from three miles to 72 miles.

SZ: We're at five now!

In that case I think I need to correct a tweet. But, that's stunning. And you're not taking away vehicle capacity?

SZ: Oh, we could. As we did our analysis, very often there would be a choice between vehicular capacity and parking capacity. And we erred in this plan on the side of vehicular capacity. And we did that partly because it gave us some absolutes: At least we're being conservative on a consistent basis. But some of these could result in a reduction in number of lanes, or trade-offs in parking, or it might be that we start with an unprotected bike lane sometimes where in the vision plan we've got a protected bike lane.

But you know, we've done a lot of the easy bike lanes. So a lot of our facilities now will take some other impact. And that's partly been the challenge in the last few years. We were able to quickly deploy a lot when there's not much impact, but as you start to make trade-offsyou know, L and M Streets downtown, there's a trade-off. And that takes more conscious decision-making.

But there is an attraction and a benefit to making protected facilities, and we felt that was something that was important to carry forward.

CH: The number of cycletracks absolutely is stunning, and it's very exciting. But compared to miles of roadwaythey will never be equal, but we're just trying to balance out different modes so that people are able to make different choices.

I appreciate that. People didn't used to think about balancing out accommodation for bicycles with roadways. That's a pretty new way of thinking. So, you guys touched on so many things I wanted to get back to and now I can't remember what I wanted to ask next.

SZ: Congestion charge?

OK, let's do it. So, that's something that New York tried to do, but they couldn't get it through the state. We don't have a state government.

SZ: We have another building up there [the US Capitol] that likes to be the state.

Right. So is there a reason to think this is going to go better in DC than in New York? Is there appetite for a congestion charge outside of this building?

SZ: It will take continued engagement and planning. We did an exercise really early on in the planning process and we asked people what types of things they would like to see in the system. But you had to tell us how you would pay for it. And that give us great intelligence.

And did you tell people how much things would cost?

SZ: No, we were mostly trying to put the idea in people's heads that you can't just get everything you want without some trade-offs. So I would say the plurality of answers about how people would pay for things was to tie congestion relief downtown to funding these other items.

People were saying congestion relief should be a funding source?

SZ: Yes. We felt it's a policy approach; it's not really about the funding per se. It's not a huge amount of money, especially in the assumptions that we made.

It really resonated, and we got good feedback through our workshops about it, in theory. We felt it's an important thing to continue to consider.

It's one of those things, like raising the gas tax or any number of other things, that if you have the time and space to speak rationally to people who are thinking openly, you can explain this and it makes so much sense. But it's so quickly misconstrued in the media as just another tax, and people get riled up about it. It's a hard thing to sell.

SZ: Yes, it's been the headline of every story that's been written about the plan so far. And it's this minor componentobviously it's not a minor thing, if it happens, but it's just one thing out of many, many things that are part of the plan. But we understood that might happen.

The interview continues in part two, coming soon!

Crossposted from Streetsblog USA.

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.

Bicycling


Baltimore starts building a real bicycle network

Baltimore transportation officials have proposed a "network of bicycle infrastructure," including the city's first-ever cycletrack. It's a big leap beyond today's incongruent sharrows and paint.


The proposed Downtown Bicycle Network. Image from Baltimore DOT.

The cycletrack will stretch 2.6 miles along Maryland Avenue and Cathedral Street, from Johns Hopkins University in the north to the convention center near the harbor. It will be installed this fall. For the city's bicycle advocates, the network represents a hope that Baltimore may start to build bicycle infrastructure on par with Washington and catapult bicycling forward in the central business district.

Will the Downtown Bicycle Network actually serve downtown?

While its name is the "Downtown Bicycle Network," the projects are mostly actually in Mt. Vernon, a neighborhood north of the central business district. The cycletrack will get a bicyclist downtown, but for now that is where the network ends.

A Pratt Street cycletrack could provide an east/west complement to the north/south Maryland Avenue cycletrack.

Pratt Street is the main artery of the business district. Because of its width and concentration of businesses, hotels, tourist attractions, facilities like the convention center, institutions like the University of Maryland, it remains the grand prize for a cycletrack. Bikemore, Baltimore's bicycle advocacy organization, is pushing this idea.


Image: Pratt Street in Baltimore. The south lane (on left) is a bus/bike lane. Photo by the author.

Officially, Baltimore's bike map lists bus/bike lanes on Pratt Street. However, these lanes are not often enforced and not comfortable for many bicyclists.

Some maps and officials also consider the Inner Harbor Promenade and the Jones Falls Trail adjacent to Pratt Street as bike facilities. But in summer, they are often packed with tourists, strollers, pedestrians, and are often impassable for bicyclists.

If not for Bixi's financial troubles, it is likely Baltimore would have a bikeshare system by this summer. Hopefully, Baltimore can use the delayed launch to continue to build a better network to support cycling. The better the infrastructure, the better bikeshare will work when it eventually launches.


Proposed bikeshare stations. Image from Baltimore DOT.

Baltimore can learn from DC and Pittsburgh

Washington is not the only nearby city for Baltimore to seek inspiration. Pittsburgh has integrated quality bike facilities along its waterfront and made connections to nearby neighborhoods. In a Pittsburgh Magazine article about the steel city's revitalized riverfront, Lisa Schroeder, president and CEO of Riverlife, likens the increased traffic along the riverfront to the growth of the regional trail network.

"The more trail that was created, the higher the number of users," she said. "We hit that momentum point along the rivers this year. People realized, 'Ahathis is a network, and I can go in all directions.'" Bill Peduto, Pittsburgh's new bicycle-friendly mayor wants his city to be in Bicycle magazine top ten US cities, despite its hilly contours.

Will the Maryland Avenue cycletrack be the first of a series of complementary projects, extensions, and improvements to Baltimore's bicycle network? The fast growth of DC's and Pittsburgh's networks make us optimistic that the Charm City will soon catch the momentum too.

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