Greater Greater Washington

Posts by Tony Goodman

Tony Goodman is an ANC Commissioner for 6C06 in Near Northeast/NoMA and member of the DC Pedestrian Advisory Council. Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, he is a Construction Project Manager with a Masters degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Michigan and has lived in Washington, DC since 2002. 

First flowerpots, and now, a cycletrack

Last week, people noticed flowerpots appear on 6th Street NE between Gallaudet University and Union Market. But that wasn't all. Yesterday, officials put in the next piece: a cycletrack.


Photos by Mike Goodno of DDOT.

This is a "tactical urbanism" project by the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) and Gallaudet University to make 6th Street NE safer for all users, including a new 2-way cycletrack and small plaza.

6th Street NE between Florida Avenue and Penn Street is extremely wide, with 70 feet of asphalt for only two parking lanes and two driving lanes. Each lane was 22 feet wide before DDOT recently re-striped the road. This is double the width of typical travel lanes.

The new layout still provides parallel parking on both sides, but also adds a two-way cycletrack on the east side while narrowing the travel lanes to 12' wide. This is similar to Option 3 for 6th Street in the ongoing Florida Avenue Safety Study, which will set plans for a future project to permanently rebuild the street.


Drawing from DDOT.

Gallaudet has been a huge supporter of this project, and worked with DDOT to have this open now that their Neal Place entrance will be open full-time. The university owns most of the real estate on both sides of 6th Street NE and they were concerned about the campus community crossing the street to access Union Market and other businesses. They also have high hopes for future growth on this street.

While most of this land is now used for maintenance or parking, Gallaudet is planning a new campus neighborhood to improve the campus experience, provide revenue and improve links to the surrounding neighborhoods and Metro. The university recently chose JBG as the development partner for this 1.3 million square foot project.

The changes on 6th Street were able happen so quickly because DDOT did not need to remove any travel lanes, parking, or other elements which require more time to approve. This has also recently become a highly-traveled pedestrian area not only because of Gallaudet and Union Market, but also because KIPP has opened a high school at the former Hamilton School on Brentwood Parkway.

The planters at the Neal Street NE campus entrance will help protect a small plaza on either side of the street. This will make it easier to cross between Gallaudet and Union Market by shortening the crossing distance and making pedestrians more visible. Gallaudet provided and will maintain flowers in the pots.


Photo by Mike Goodno.

This cycletrack will transition to the existing bike lanes on 6th Street south of Florida to K Street NE (which will eventually be rebuilt as part of the Florida Avenue NE project). For access to the southbound 4th Street NE/SE bike lane or to the Metropolitan Branch Trail, DDOT is planning new bike facilities for M Street NE.

The funding comes from DC's new Sustainable DC Innovation Challenge program. David Levy, program manager for Sustainable DC, says the program "funds innovative pilot projects that demonstrate ways to make the District more sustainable."

Sam Zimbabwe of DDOT said planners are "always looking for ways to improve safety and create usable public space. We did some short-term improvements on Maryland Avenue NE at 7th Street earlier this year, so it's definitely more and more in our toolkit, but we don't have other locations identified just yet."

A project like this will have a major impact on safety for all users, and was completed very quickly through collaboration by many partners. Where else are there opportunities for tactical sustainability projects like this?

A new cycletrack will connect 1st Street NE to the Metropolitan Branch Trail

DDOT has started construction on a short cycletrack on M Street NE, to connect an entrance to the Metropolitan Branch Trail to the First Street NE cycletrack.


M Street cycletrack plan. Image by DDOT.

The new cycletrack will be on the south side of the street, and will function like an extension of the existing 1st Street cycletrack. Both parking stops and plastic bollards will protect cyclists in the bike lane, just like on 1st Street. This will replace all 16 metered parking spaces on the block.

Running only a single block, the new cycletrack ends just prior to where M Street passes under the railroad tracks, where there's an entrance to the Metropolitan Branch Trail.

A new ramp is under construction at that spot, to allow bicyclists to cross the sidewalk and access the trail entrance.

For cyclists continuing east under the tracks, DDOT officials will paint sharrows in M Street's traffic lanes.

At one point on M Street, the cycletrack squeezes down to a narrow 6 feet wide. This is to accommodate the wide turning radius of trucks entering and exiting the Harris Teeter loading dock on the north side of the street. The narrow section will have plastic bollards but no parking stops.

Other bike projects in NoMa

This block-long cycletrack is part of a trio of projects DDOT is working on to fill in the gaps of NoMa's bike lane network.

Earlier this summer, DDOT officials added bike lanes to the 100 block of F Street NE. Next up, they'll rebuild 1st Street NE between Massachusetts Avenue and G Street, next to Union Station, to add a cycletrack and wider sidewalks.

Sometime further in the future, DDOT could potentially extend this new M Street cycletrack west to North Capitol Street or beyond, and east to 4th Street or Florida Avenue.

WMATA truck parks on the sidewalk, crashes into a light pole

The NoMa Metro station sports large areas of sidewalk. Unfortunately, some WMATA employees treat this sidewalk as a private parking lot. This past weekend, one even backed into a light pole. This employee was violating WMATA internal policies and was disciplined.


Photos by the author.

This has been a periodic problem for years. Geoff Hatchard observed employee vehicles on the sidewalk and even blocking the bike racks back in 2010.


A minivan with a placard identifying it as belonging to a WMATA employee blocks the bike racks in 2010. Photos by Geoff Hatchard.

If a driver can't avoid a light pole, would he miss a pedestrian?

Here in DC, the sidewalk on M Street at the NoMa station is always filled with people walking their dogs, kids running around their parents, waiting for rides, and more.

One WMATA driver not only hit a light pole, but struck it hard enough to shatter his windshield. What if that had been a smaller, moving object like my 3-foot-tall son, who was walking with us here that afternoon? This station also serves Gallaudet University, where the thousands of deaf students and staff would have never even heard a vehicle backing up.

I cleaned up the glass

The next day, glass still littered the sidewalk. By then, shards had spread across several hundred square feet of sidewalk, making this situation especially hazardous for dog walkers and young parents.

I grabbed a broom, large battery and a vacuum from my house and walked several blocks to clean up the sidewalk outside the station. It took me two hours.

The next day, two WMATA vehicles parked on the nearby sidewalk once again.

Driving on sidewalks can be dangerous without a spotter

Many cities only allow government vehicles on sidewalks for certain prescribed reasons, and require a spotter to ensure that the driver does not strike people or objects.

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) updated its policy recently to require spotters walking ahead of full-sized vehicles on sidewalks after a maintenance truck driver struck a cyclist in a caged bike/ped lane on a Norfolk bridge.

Other times, policies are in place but not followed. For example, last year in San Francisco a woman playing with her infant daughter was struck and killed by a parks employee who was driving a truck through the park against city policy.

Metro policy prohibits most parking on the sidewalk

WMATA spokesperson Dan Stessel looked into the issue and sent us this statement:

As a general matter, Metro vehicles should not be parked on sidewalks at any time. There may be times when no other option is available, depending on the station and the exigency of the circumstances (e.g. elevator technicians responding to an entrapment, track workers responding to an arcing insulator, rail supervisors responding to a person struck by train).

However, for routine work, Metro vehicles should only be parked in marked, legal spaces (except for ADA spaces). Employees who violate parking policies are subject to ticketing (for which the employee pays the fine), as well as internal discipline.

In the case of the NoMa incident you referenced, the vehicle was being operated by a new Red Line supervisor who was assigned to NoMa-Gallaudet as a terminal supervisor to manage the single-track operation and turn-back of selected trains at the station. He should not have parked on the sidewalk.

When departing the station, the vehicle made contact with a pole, causing the rear window to break. The employee was removed from service, taken for post-incident testing (drug/alcohol) which is standard, and will be subject to discipline.

This issue does come up from time to time, and requires occasional reinforcement with our 11,000-employee workforce. (For additional context, we maintain a fleet of nearly 1,500 service vehicles across a myriad departments, such as elevator/escalator, systems maintenance, plant maintenance, rail transportation, bus transportation, car maintenance, revenue/fare collection, etc.)

The vast majority of employees follow the rules and park properly. However, those that don't create a negative impression for the rest of us. Which is exactly why we encourage anyone who wants to report a parking issue to directly contact Metro Transit Police, either by calling 202-962-2121 or by texting "MyMTPD" (696873) 24 hours a day.

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.

"Dave Thomas Circle" could get fixes or disappear entirely

A new study of pedestrian and bicycle safety along Florida Avenue NE is suggesting changes to the "virtual" traffic circle at New York and Florida Avenues. In the long run, that "circle" and the nearby Wendy's could become a simpler intersection and green space.


The current "circle" and short-term fixes. Images from DDOT. Click to enlarge.

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) created the "virtual circle" arrangement as an "interim solution" in 2010 to deal with this difficult intersection. It was very difficult to navigate on foot or bike, and which had seen some very serious crashes.

The circle pattern routes traffic heading eastbound on Florida counter-clockwise along First and O Streets. It got the nickname "Dave Thomas Circle" because that triangle circumnavigates a Wendy's, and to play off the name for Thomas Circle. Wendy's also has many driveways connecting to the surrounding roads, and Eckington Place NE joins the tangle of roads here as well.

Since DDOT set up the "circle," the severity and number of crashes has gone down, said Sam Zimbabwe, DDOT's planning head who is overseeing the study. However, many people find it confusing and it takes up a lot of space.

Once, some suggested an interchange

At the time this pattern was conceived, DDOT studies recommended building a new overpass or tunnel so New York Avenue traffic could bypass the intersection. Some plans suggested extending the I-395 tunnel from its current terminus near 4th Street NW past Florida Avenue.


Image from the 2006 DDOT study.

But a 2006 NCPC study raised concerns about new tunnels or bridges. NCPC worried about how new large-scale auto infrastructure would create an even larger pedestrian barrier in the nascent NoMa neighborhood and between other adjacent areas. Since then, DDOT has largely dropped the idea of tunneling as a solution.

What could replace the circle?

The Florida study proposes some options to simplify the intersection. They would eliminate some turns, delete the block of O Street that's now part of the "circle," and either eliminate the block of First Street or reroute it to connect to Eckington Place NE.


2 options to replace the "circle."

Florida and New York Avenues would get a bit wider to make room for turning lanes instead of the "jughandles" of the old design. Adding this right-of-way would almost certainly mean the city would have to take the Wendy's by eminent domain. But that could make the intersection significantly better for drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists alike.

It would also open up some land for green space or other uses. The National Capital Planning Commission has long envisioned this intersection as a potential future memorial site. In 2001 they named it as one of their top 20 "Prime Sites" in the region in the Memorials and Museums Master Plan.

In addition to the longer-term proposals, later this year DDOT will make minor modifications to tweak how this intersection works. That includes changing which lanes get used for which types of turns, striping bike lanes, and adding new signs.

One change will widen the turn radius at some key spots so that the 90s buses can traverse the circle. When DDOT set up the circle arrangement, Metro discovered its buses couldn't fit, and had to reroute them onto North Capitol Street, adding minutes of extra time for every rider.

Florida Avenue NE and nearby streets could get wider sidewalks and bike lanes

Florida Avenue, NE and other roads in the area could become safer and more comfortable to walk and bike along in the future. The public will get to see several options this week that would widen sidewalks and add bike lanes to key roads.


Photo by Yancey Burns reproduced with permission.

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT), along with consultants Kittelson & Associates and Rhodeside & Harwell, has been working with the community for the past 6 months to identify safety issues in this area. Florida Avenue suffers from extremely narrow sidewalks, with less than 2 feet of space directly in front of many homes and across from Gallaudet University. That width doesn't meet ADA guidelines.

Officials have said there is room for wider sidewalks and bike lanes, since the current traffic volume on Florida does not warrant more than 2 motor vehicle lanes in each direction.

Currently, the number of lanes on Florida varies from 2 to 6 within the span of a few blocks. Some of the lanes on Florida are also quite wide, up to 17 feet. DDOT will present projections for traffic up to 2040 and considering upcoming land use changes, to demonstrate that more lanes aren't necessary in the future either.

DDOT will propose four alternatives. All widen sidewalks to varying extents. Plus,

  • Alternatives 1a and 1b widen the sidewalk while keeping 6 lanes for motor vehicles.
  • Alternative 2 adds narrower painted bike lanes along the curb on each side, and creates a center turn lane along with 4 travel lanes.
  • Alternative 3 skips the center turn lane and adds a buffer alongside the bike lanes, to give cyclists some extra distance from fast-moving cars.


Cross-sections for Florida Avenue: Current 1a 1b 2 3
Images from DDOT.

On 6th Street north of Florida Avenue, which separates Gallaudet University from the Florida Avenue Market, the lanes are 22 feet wide, or more than double typical widths. For this segment, there are three options:

  • Wider sidewalks and and painted bike lanes, plus "curb extensions" (also known as "bulb-outs") to shorten the distance pedestrians have to cross (Alternative 1)
  • Wider sidewalks and a cycle track in each direction, plus curb extensions (Alternative 2)
  • A "curbless flex space" along the market side of the road and a two-way cycle track on the Gallaudet side (Alternative 3)


Cross-sections for 6th Street: Current 1a 2 3
Images from DDOT.

The agency also plans to reconstruct 6th Street between K Street and Florida Avenue, NE; West Virginia Avenue NE; and "Dave Thomas Circle," at the intersection of Florida and New York Avenue (which currently has a Wendy's in the center, hence the nickname). DDOT's report will also likely include some safety improvements within the Florida Avenue Market.

Officials will present the proposals at a public meeting Wednesday, April 2, at the Two Rivers PCS Middle School building on 1234 4th Street, NE, at 7 pm. Feedback from this week's meeting will shape the final report, expected later this spring.

The agency has not announced construction dates for any of the projects. Before it can build anything, changes will also have to go into the regional Constrained Long-Range Plan, which according to DDOT planning head Sam Zimbabwe is the reason the agency can't make any temporary changes to try out new configurations and make the road safer in the meantime.

Striping will start soon for contraflow bike lanes on G and I Streets NE

Now that spring is around the corner, DC is getting ready to install new bike lanes around H Street NE. Signs have started going up on G and I Streets NE for bicycles to legally travel in both directions on each street.


DDOT construction drawings for I NE at 7th.

For cars, I Street remains one-way eastbound, while G Street is one-way westbound. According to an email from the District Department of Transportation (DDOT)'s Mike Goodno, the agency will start striping the lanes in the first "one to two week opening of warm weather and clean pavement."


Signs for the contraflow bike line on G NE. Photo by the author.

DDOT considered several options to safely allow legal two-way bicycle traffic on G and I Streets NE, some of which would have changed parking to diagonal or converted both streets to two-way operation for both cars and bicycles.

They chose an option to place the contraflow lane between parked cars and the primary traffic lane, with parallel parking remaining on both sides of the street. ANCs 6A and 6C supported this choice as well.

You can download the full 95% design drawings for G Street and I Street.

Where else can this work?

While this project will create the city's longest stretches of such contraflow lanes, there are a few other small sections of contraflow bike lanes combined with sharrows in one-way DC streets, such as the 200 block of R NE near the Metropolitan Branch Trail and on New Hampshire Avenue near U Street NW.

This particular configuration is most practical at locations where there is room for a single bike lane, but the street has light enough car and truck traffic that sharrows would work well in the main travel direction. Are there other locations in DC where this method would be successful?

Historic Uline Arena will become offices, retail and parking

For decades, the Uline Arena at 3rd and M streets NE hosted basketball games and concerts before becoming a parking garage. Soon, it will start a new life as offices and retail space as owner Douglas Development prepares to start renovations later this summer.


Overhead view to the South. Image from Douglas Development's ANC presentation. Click for PDF.

Miguel "Mike" Uline built the 11,000-seat arena in 1941 next to his ice supply business. Over the years, it hosted a wide variety of events including professional hockey and basketball, a speech by Malcolm X, Dwight Eisenhower's first inaugural ball, and the pro-wrestling debut of boxer Joe Louis.

Perhaps the most famous event there was the Beatles' first American concert in 1964, one day after their appearance on the Ed Sullivan show.


Photo of the 1953 inaugural ball from the Eisenhower Presidential Library.

The arena closed in 1986. Eight years later, Waste Management bought it for use as a trash transfer station, but sold it to Douglas Development in 2004. When owner Douglas Jemal tried to apply for a raze permit, the Historic Preservation Review Board instead declared the arena a historic landmark with the help of Richard Layman, who served on the local ANC's planning & zoning committee at the time.

In recent years, the arena has been used as an indoor parking structure and billboards have graced the exterior and entry plaza. Meanwhile, the ice house is vacant.

Douglas Development plans offices, parking

Douglas Development announced their plans to start renovating the arena by September at a recent ANC meeting. They will insert 3 new floors in the building to allow for 140,000 square feet of office space and 60,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space, since the underlying high density industrial zoning doesn't allow residential uses. They will also cut windows into the arena's roof to allow light into the upper floors.

Now that they have approval from the local ANC and DC's boards for historic preservation and zoning adjustment, Douglas has recently received permits for interior demolition.


Uline Arena today. Image from Douglas Development's ANC presentation.

The offices will have two entrances, a primary office lobby at 2nd Street and Delaware Avenue, and another on 3rd Street. Douglas Development has flexibility to modify the mix of office and retail space, for instance removing parts of the office space to allow for increased retail areas or taller rooms. They're currently seeking tenants for the renovated building, and it's still possible that a theater or other performance venue could occupy a portion of it.


Site plan for Coliseum project. Image from Douglas Development's ANC presentation.

Douglas will also build a 167-space parking garage on 3rd Street, which is slightly less than the minimum under DC regulations, but Douglas got a special exception with support from the ANC. Building a parking structure means they won't have to dig under the arena's thin concrete shell, which is as thin as 4" and has an unknown foundation system.

Above-ground parking garages aren't common near downtown DC. This will somewhat diminish the pedestrian experience and liveliness along 3rd Street. The garage's small size means there won't be room for street-facing retail. Instead, there will be a large planter box flanked with a long bench, while decorative metal panels stamped with famous scenes from the arena's history will hang from the side of the garage.


Garage facade. Image from Douglas Development's ANC presentation.

After 72 years, the Uline Arena will start a new chapter. No matter who occupies the building in the future, it's good to know that the past will finally be preserved.

Community supports bike lanes around H Street

DC transportation officials would like to help cyclists avoid the streetcar tracks, heavy car traffic, and pedestrians along H Street NE. Yesterday, the transportation committees of both Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANCs) along H Street supported a plan to let cyclists ride in both directions on G and I Streets, while keeping car traffic one-way.


2-way Montreal bike traffic on a 1-way street for cars. Photo by Joe McCann.

G & I Streets NE are both one-way for cars and bicycles for their whole length from 2nd Street NE to their eastern ends, at Maryland and Florida Avenues in between 13th and 14th Streets. Each are 30 feet wide along most of their length, with a few 35-foot-wide blocks at the west ends. Even for the narrower sections, the current travel lane is 16 feet wide versus a typical 9-foot travel lane.

Bicycle planners from the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) created 4 options. All add painted sharrows in the primary direction of travel (west on I, and east on G). They differed on what to do about traffic in the opposite directon.

  1. Make no further changes and keep bicycle travel only one-way
  2. Maintain parallel parking on both sides of the street and add a contraflow bike lane on either side of the parked cars, depending on the road width
  3. Convert parking to diagonal, back-in along only one side of the street with none on the other side; add a contraflow bike lane on either side of the parked cars depending on the road width
  4. Allow 2-way traffic for both cars and bicycles.

The preferred option, 2. Drawing from DDOT.

The committees favored option 2, as did an informal audience poll. There are smaller sections similar to this option already in place on New Hampshire Avenue and R Street NE near the Metropolitan Branch Trail.

Any of these options could be mixed within the corridor, such that the wider blocks use different layouts or G & I receive different treatments. DDOT bike planner Mike Goodno presented one such hybrid option, "3A," which combined portions of options 2 & 3. This would eliminate only 7 parking spots, and was the second choice of the committees and in an audience poll.


Option 3A drawing by DDOT.

Each of the affected ANCs will take up this issue at their next full commission meetings, and DDOT will continue to refine these options and solicit community feedback. Ideally, DDOT will be able to install this new bicycle infrastructure sometime later this Summer or early Fall.

Disclosure: I am a commissioner for ANC 6C, but not a member of its transportation committee. I did not participate in the audience or committee votes.

Bike lanes could let cyclists avoid H Street streetcar tracks

Between heavy car traffic and the upcoming streetcar, H Street can be an intimidating place for some bicyclists. DDOT wants to give them an alternative with new bike lanes on parallel streets.


Photo by Richard Drdul on Flickr.

Mike Goodno, bike planner for the District Department of Transportation, has prepared several options for G and I streets NE. Among the proposals are contraflow bike lanes, which would allow two-way bicycle travel on what are now one-way streets. This gives bicyclists an alternative to riding on H Street.

DDOT's 2005 Bicycle Master Plan already includes bike lanes for G and I streets. Parts of the plan are already in place, like bike lanes on 2nd, 4th, and 6th Streets NE. A larger DDOT reconstruction and safety project is also looking at bike lanes on Maryland Avenue.


Photo by DDOTDC on Flickr.

Streetcar tracks can be hazardous for bicyclists because bicycle tires can slip on the rails or get stuck in them, causing riders to fall. That doesn't mean bikes and streetcars can't coexist, and many world cities have extensive bike and streetcar networks. Small design features can help cyclists better cross streetcar tracks at an angle that minimizes danger, for instance.

But especially for cyclists less experienced riding around streetcar lines, the tracks pose a hazard. M. Loren Copsey has seen many crashes as owner of The Daily Rider, a bike shop on H Street. He says that they have had "numerous customers come into the shop directly after a fall with injuries and damaged bikes."

Last week, Copsey says he "saw a cyclist in the streetcar lane get caught and thrown over the handlebars. The first thing he said was that he was glad there wasn't a vehicle behind him when he fell. Thankfully he wasn't injured."

DDOT has a two-pronged approach to keeping bicyclists safe in this corridor. One is to educate riders on the dangers streetcar tracks can pose. Warning signs could go at Capital Bikeshare stations or be painted on to the roadway itself. There are currently some text-only signs on lightposts, but some could be replaced by more graphic warnings like this one in Portland.

The other way is to offer bicyclists the choice of another nearby route. That's what Arlington County is doing along the future Columbia Pike streetcar line. They're turning two parallel streets, one on either side of Columbia Pike, into "bike boulevards," low-speed streets designed to give bicyclists an alternative to a busier street where there isn't room for bike lanes.

Today, G and I streets are about 30 feet wide and contain 2 7-foot parking lanes and one 16-foot travel lane, which is wider than a normal 9-foot travel lane. DDOT is looking at 4 ways to use that extra space for bicyclists:

Option 1 paints sharrows in the primary direction of travel, with no provision for bicyclists to travel in the opposite direction. This is only a small step above a "no build" option. Riders could need up to a 4-block detour to legally reach a destination if they don't want to ride at all on H Street.

Option 2 also paints sharrows in the primary direction and adds a contraflow bike lane on the left side of the roadway, between parked cars and the primary travel lane. Any drivers trying to park would need to cross the bike lane. However, drivers will not be backing into the lane, improving visibility. The hazard of doors opening into the bike lane would be less because they would be passenger doors, which open less often.


Drawings from DDOT.

Option 3 converts parking to be diagonal along only one side of the street, with a contraflow bike lane on the opposite side. Cars would not need to cross into this area, so bollards or a curb could protect it from the rest of traffic. This option may be the safest configuration for bicyclists, but would take away some parking spaces.

Option 4 converts both streets to 2-way traffic, with painted sharrows in each direction. In addition to allowing biking in both directions, this change could alleviate congestion in the area by reducing the number of turns and increasing the number of alternative routes to H Street. However, this option may increase the chances drivers would hit parked cars.

These options could also help residents find parking spaces. Each block has between 24 and 30 spaces today. Under options 1, 2 and 4, no on-street parking spaces would disappear, while option 3 would mean 4-6 fewer spaces on each block.

Streetcars and bikes happily coexist in cities from Philadelphia to Amsterdam, and they can in DC as well. On some future streetcar corridors, there may be room for bicyclists to get their own lanes. Meanwhile, in areas like H Street where there isn't room for bike lanes, it's good to provide an alternative route for those bicyclists who may not feel safe riding on a busy street.

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