What’s the issue here?
Getting from Columbia Heights to Brookland is a frustrating experience on a bike. It’s not a whole lot better on a bus, and really not great in a car either.
Starting on the west side of the study area, bikes, buses, commuter shuttles and drivers all share pothole-ridden one way streets with inconsistent parking and intermittent lane markings.
As you move eastward, these high traffic residential streets abruptly spaghetti themselves into a six lane divided highway on the north side of the Washington Hospital Center and four lane arterial on the south side. If you’re on a bike, you’re left to ride on a narrow sidewalk “bike route” or hope that drivers observe the 35mph speed limit on a road that feels like an interstate.
East of North Capitol Street, the north and south routes converge into Michigan Avenue as a six lane arterial road with no dedicated space for people on bikes.
Brookland has several blocks of standard bike lanes on Monroe Street, but after 12th St NE, it dwindles to a few “Bike Route” signs.
Fixing the problem:
At present DDOT Has two concepts for this project. You can read about them here, and they are fairly well summarized in these maps:
You can also read through the full project documents at the project website: dccrosstownstudy.com.
WABA applauds DDOT for tackling this long needed project. All of the options presented are an improvement over the functional absence of any bike facilities along most of the study corridor.
Understanding that this is complex corridor, and that DDOT is attempting to balance the needs of many kinds of road users, WABA has the following concerns with the concepts presented:
Defining shared use paths.
Several portions of the proposed bike network in the Central and Eastern sections of the corridor are designated as shared use paths, but project documents do not offer a clear definition of the term. WABA supports shared use paths that conform to modern trail design specifications. Trails must be at minimum 10 feet wide and clear of obstructions, with curvature, sight lines, and stopping distances designed with a bicycle in mind. These paths should be lit at night, set back from the roadway, maintained, and feature raised crosswalks, appropriate signage and signalization at intersections to communicate an expectation of frequent bicycle traffic to drivers. Widened sidewalks are not bike infrastructure.
When designing off street bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, we also urge DDOT to consider the dramatic increases in pedestrian traffic that will accompany planned development in the corridor.
Bike network gaps at the western end of the study area.
Since this planning study will guide a decade of future transportation projects, it should aspire to completely solve major connectivity issues throughout the project area. If either Concept were implemented today, the bicycle network would still have major gaps at the western end.
In Concept 1, the protected bike lane ends at 14th Street NW with no connection planned to bike lanes on Columbia Road or Mount Pleasant Street. While Concept 2 connects to 16th Street for eastbound bicyclists, it still leaves westbound bicycle traffic stranded at 14th Street. Without a seamless, low-stress route between Columbia Road and the center section’s bike elements, many bicyclists will choose the most direct route or not bike at all.
Removing parking on Park Rd NW would enable the Kenyon St protected bike lane to continue to a low stress connection through Mount Pleasant.
Ending the Crosstown bike corridor at 14th creates additional risk because, despite the paint on the ground, the street does not have bike lanes, it has double parking lanes, taxi standing lanes, and truck loading zones that are occasionally passable by bicycle. This problem is not a matter of enforcement, but one of design. Without infrastructure improvements that carve out exclusive space for bicyclists, 14th Street NW in Columbia Heights will remain a gap in the bike network, and east-west bike facilities should not rely on it.
Maintaining or improving existing North-South infrastructure on Warder St and Park Pl when the street grid is reconfigured.
Concept 1 calls for reopening Park Pl NW between Harvard and Kenyon to two way traffic. Both concepts call for reconfiguring one way traffic in the blocks between Warder Street NW and the Washington Hospital Center. In this reconfiguration, it is critical that the existing bike lanes on Park and Warder are maintained or improved. Sharrows are not an acceptable replacement.
Michigan Ave needs bike infrastructure around the Washington Hospital Center.
While we are pleased to see bike infrastructure improvements on Irving St on the north side of the Washington Hospital Center, without corresponding infrastructure on Michigan Ave on the southern side of the complex, the neighborhoods of Bloomingdale and Stronghold remain entirely cut off from the Crosstown bike corridor. Designating shared bus / bike lanes does not serve most bicyclists. Separate spaces must be made for bicyclists on Michigan Ave through this section.
Shared use paths along Irving create conflicts with cloverleaf ramps.
In addition to our concerns above about width, the shared use paths along Irving between Park Pl NW and Michigan Ave NE create problems where they cross the highway-style ramps that connect Irving St to North Capitol St. Despite existing signs alerting drivers to the crossing, most fail to yield. And, due to the extreme approach angle, it is difficult for a bicyclist to maneuver and check that no vehicles are approaching simultaneously.
While long term plans suggest closing and reconfiguring these ramps, in the short term, we recommend raised crosswalks, rumble strips and stop signs for drivers at shared-use path crossings. The onus should be on drivers to stop for trail traffic, not the other way around, and design should facilitate compliance.
Design considerations for center running protected bike lanes on Irving.
We have two concerns with the center running protected bike lane on Irving St between Park Pl and Michigan Ave NE.
First, intersections at Irving and Kenyon St (in Concept 2) on the west end, and Irving and Michigan Ave (in both Concepts) on the east, will need to be configured to provide safe access to the bike lanes. Requiring bicyclists to merge into the left travel lane to enter the protected bike lane is not a low-stress option.
Second, given the highway-like design and feel of Irving St between Kenyon and Michigan, a center running protected bike lane will need a substantial, permanent barrier. Plastic flex posts and rubber parking stops will not be sufficient to make this a safe, low-stress place to bike. New York City’s Allen Street protected bike lanes serve as an excellent example to follow.
Weak connections to Brookland’s main street and the Metropolitan Branch Trail.
A protected, low stress Crosstown bike route should have a protected connection to the Metropolitan Branch Trail. Neither concept proposes this, instead relying on painted bike lanes to connect to the Metropolitan Branch Trail where it crosses Monroe Street. Parking protected bike lanes on Monroe St between Michigan Ave and 8th St NE would provide a low stress connection to the trail. Continuing them to 12th street would connect the low-stress network to Brookland’s retail hub.
Lack of protected bike facilities in the eastern section of the study area.
Protected bicycle infrastructure needs to extend the length of the study area. Neither the local street route presented in Concept 1 nor the painted bike lanes on Michigan Ave in Concept 2 provide a sufficiently safe or low stress route for people riding bikes.
Michigan Ave between Monroe Street and South Dakota Ave is a busy four lane road, and since it connects the highway-like section of Irving Street and the equally highway-like Queens Chapel Road across the border in Maryland, drivers expect to be able to drive fast. The bike lanes on Michigan Ave need physical barriers to keep people on bikes separated from this high speed traffic. Unprotected bike lanes also increase the risk of drivers illegally parking or stopping in bike lanes, which forces bicyclists out into fast moving car traffic.
We are concerned by the fact that the quality of the proposed bicycle infrastructure declines from west to east. Equity in transportation is an important feature of both the MoveDC plan and the District’s Vision Zero program. DC needs to ensure that all of its residents have access to world-class bicycle infrastructure.