Contraflow Bike Lanes Coming to G and I Streets NE


Freshly painted contraflow bike lane on G Street NE

Now that winter is mostly behind us, DDOT can begin painting new bike lanes. In February, we shared the proposed bike lane installation plan for 2014. Among the planned lanes were new contraflow bikes lanes on G and I streets NE from 2nd Street NE to Maryland/Florida Ave NE. Now that it’s warm enough to stripe pavement markings, DDOT has gotten installation of these lanes underway.

Bike lanes throughout the city are generally 5 feet wide and placed on the far right of the street, next to on-street parking. People riding bikes in the lanes travel in the same direction as the cars to the left. Contraflow bike lanes allow bicyclists to ride in the opposite direction of traffic.

G and I streets are narrow one-way streets on Capitol Hill that see low volumes of traffic. After community outreach with the two affected ANCs, the decision was made to install long contraflow lanes on the streets. (See the considered alternatives in a Greater Greater Washington blog post.) Shared lane markings (sharrows) are being installed in the center of travel lane for bicyclists traveling in the direction of traffic. The contraflow lanes are being placed on the far left side of the street and will be striped with a double yellow line. Bicyclists traveling in the opposite direction of traffic will use the 5-foot wide contraflow lane. The project also includes signs warning drivers that bicyclists are using the one-way streets in two directions.

Generally, contraflow lanes are installed with a painted buffer or are physically separated from traffic. There is a one block example of a parking-buffered contraflow lane on the 200 block of R Street NE near the Met Branch Trail. G and I streets are too narrow to float parking away from the curb and place the buffered contraflow in that space. Neighbors objected to losing parking to provide the necessary space for buffered contraflow lanes.


gi2iTypical blocks of G & I Streets NE with sharrows and 5 foot contraflow bikes lanes. 

G and I streets were chosen for improvements to help provide an additional route for bicyclists traveling east and west in the H Street NE corridor. The streetcar tracks on H Street NE have caused a large number of crashes, including some very serious injuries, for bicyclists. Adding contraflow bike lanes to G and I streets creates two new east-west routes along the H St corridor.

Unfortunately, DDOT began installation of traffic signs related to the contraflow lanes back in December; this confused drivers and bicyclists alike. The yellow warning signs and small stop signs were installed four months ago, but the pavement markings didn’t begin to go in until last week. DDOT should have kept the signs covered until the bike lanes were painted. An especially harsh winter pushed the installation later expected, but the poor timing of the sign installation demonstrates that DDOT needs to plan better for construction of bike facilities.

DDOT will monitor the bicycling traffic and traffic operation on G and I streets. Its engineers will assess the contraflow bike lanes’ effectiveness and safety. Learn more about the project from DDOT. In a city with many narrow one-way streets, contraflow bike lanes are another tool for connecting the bicycle network where the conditions are just right.

While hard to know for sure, we believe the contraflow lanes on G and I streets are the longest continuous contraflow bike lanes in the country. It’s great to see them finally be installed, especially as the busy spring bike season begins.