DC’s 15th St Protected Bike Lane is 400 Ft Longer, 100% Better

15th St. protected bike lane extension

Since last summer, construction crews have been busy transforming a complicated intersection in Northwest DC from one of the most crash-prone in the city to a model example of a complete street. Earlier this month, crews finished up work on the large block where 15th St, W St, New Hampshire Ave, and Florida Ave NW meet near Malcolm X Park. The result is a far more intuitive and safe experience for people biking, walking, and driving!

In 2009, a driver turning right onto W St struck and killed a pedestrian crossing 15th St. In response, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) installed temporary curbs and flex-posts to reduce speeds through the intersection while a permanent solution moved through design. DDOT shared initial designs in 2012 and began construction in 2015. Now, seven years after the fatal crash, we have that permanent solution in place.

While it is frustrating to see crucial safety fixes for streets like Florida Ave NE, Maryland Ave NEC St. NE and this one take so long to implement, it is encouraging to know that the final results are worthy of praise. The District must find a way to accelerate timelines for those most needed projects and has plenty of excellent examples to follow from peer cities. But let’s spend a minute to appreciate this project.

15th St. protected bike lane at W

The new design removes a dangerous high-speed slip lane, drastically reduces the width of the intersection to slow vehicle speeds, and reclaims hundreds of square feet of open pavement for green space, walking and biking. People on bikes can enjoy an extension of the 15th St protected bike lane (now with curbs), bike lanes striped through the intersection, bike specific signals, bike boxes for easy turning from W and Florida, and bike parking. People walking can luxuriate in wider sidewalks, dramatically shorter road crossings, slower vehicle speeds and extensive landscaping in bioswales (still in progress). Drivers will notice more predictable interactions with bicyclists, pedestrians, and other drivers. It took a long time to come, but this is public space done right.

What was a high speed turn lane is now a spacious pedestrian plaza

What was a high-speed turn lane is now a spacious pedestrian plaza

What’s Next?

Though major construction is complete, and the road, bike lanes, and sidewalks are open to the traveling public, crews will continue planting trees and other water-thirsty greenery into the new bioswales to help manage stormwater from the road. Two more important developments will help fully complete this project.

15th St. extension view north

  • That hill deserves a protected bike lane: Just glance at this photo and the plan is obvious. In fact, DDOT plans to extend the protected bike lane up the hill to Euclid St. Fortunately, there is plenty of space to simply shift parking on the left side of the road and combine the two existing bike lanes against the left curb.
15th St extension bikeshare

This wide plaza was designed with a Capital Bikeshare dock in mind

  • Install a Bikeshare dock: DDOT planned to add a new Capital Bikeshare dock all along. Tonight, Oct 6, the area’s Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC1B) will decide if it supports this plan. If you live in the neighborhood, please ask your commissioner to support the plan or attend the meeting. Learn how here.

Closing a protected bike lane for two years is a bad idea.

Removing a protected bike lane for more than two years is a bad idea. Unfortunately, this is exactly what District officials have permitted on L St NW to allow construction at the site of the former Washington Post Building. The sidewalk will be completely closed too.

bike lane closed for two years.png

We are frankly astonished that DDOT granted this permit, given that it flies in the face of the District’s Safe Accommodations Law and its commitment to Vision Zero. You can look at the DDOT approved drawings here.

Unfortunately, because the permit has already been granted, opportunities for public input are limited. However, the developer and contractor on the project are hosting a community meeting to discuss their traffic plan. This is a chance for you to explain why the L Street protected bike lane is important to you, and why closing it for two years is not an acceptable option.

What: Community Meeting
When: Thursday, March 10,  7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Where: Lowes Madison Hotel, 1177 15th St. NW, Washington, DC 20005

If you’re planning to attend, please let us know here.

A couple of points worth noting:

  • In a month or so when demolition is complete, the current lackluster accommodations for the 15th Street protected bike lane will actually improve. The protected bike lane on 15th will be maintained, and a separate space will open up for pedestrians. It’s L Street that will lose all bike and pedestrian accommodations for two years.
  • Because the permit has already been granted (which, again, what the heck DDOT?), the developer is not required to do anything about this problem. So this meeting is an asking situation, rather than a demanding situation.

We hope we’ll see you there.

The Papal Visit might affect your bike ride

The Pope is visiting DC next week, and everyone’s bracing for transportation chaos. Your bike ride may well be affected. DDOT has a set of maps at pope.dc.gov, but there’s not much useful information for bicyclists.

Pertinent points are:

  • Roads that are closed to cars are also closed to bicyclists. Note that this also means you won’t be able to walk your bike through the restricted areas.
  • Bikeshare stations inside closed area will be inaccessible, but there will be Bikeshare corrals at major papal events.
  • Don’t lock your bike to temporary security barriers.
  • Expect crowds of people on foot, including lots of folks from out of town, so be polite and cautious.

Here’s a day-by-day breakdown:

Tuesday

Starting Tuesday and continuing through Thursday, Masschussetts Ave NW around the Observatory will be closed. DDOT’s recommended detours to Wisconsin or Calvert & Cathedral are probably your best bet.Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 10.00.19 AM


Wednesday

Avoid the area around the White House and Washington Monument entirely if you can.

  • You will definitely not be able to connect from the 15th St NW protected bike lane to the Pennsylvania Ave lanes.
  • To get across town East-West, your best bet is probably the L & M St Protected Bike Lanes, though there may also be intermittent closures on M Street at 17th during the morning.
  • North-South, you’ll be able to reach the Memorial Bridge from the West side of the Lincoln Memorial, although 23rd St is not a particularly bike friendly street.
  • Also North-South, the 14th St Bridge will be open, but the popular commuter route up 15th SW to Jefferson St SW will be closed. The lowest-stress detour is probably to take Maine Ave to the 4th St SW bike lanes.

Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 10.00.38 AM


Major connections will also be closed around Catholic University and in the Brookland and Edgewood neighborhoods.

Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 10.01.26 AM

Most notably:

  • The section the Met Branch Trail along John McCormack drive from the Brookland Metro to the Taylor St Bridge will be closed. For through traffic on the trail, we recommend Taylor -> 10th St NE -> Franklin. Note that Franklin St will have extra car traffic as it is serving as the auto detour for Michigan Ave.
    Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 10.49.25 AM
  • If you normally ride on Michigan and Irving to cross from Northeast into Northwest, your lowest stress detour option is to take the Met Branch trail south to R St and head west.
  • the 4th St bike lane from Franklin to Michigan will be inaccessible.

Thursday

The streets around the Capitol Building will be closed Thursday morning.

Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 10.04.13 AM

  • You will not be able to ride through the Capitol grounds to connect from Capitol Hill to the Pennsylvania Ave protected bike lanes.
  • Though Massachusetts Ave will be open, Columbus Circle around Union Station will probably be pretty chaotic.
  • The lowest stress connection from Capitol Hill to downtown will be the bike lanes on 4th & 6th NE and K St through NoMa and Mt Vernon Triangle.

There will also be closures on Thursday around the National Portrait Gallery and St. Patrick’s Church.

Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 10.03.38 AM

  • If you normally ride in the bike lanes on G St NW, your best detour is to use the bike lanes on E St NW instead.
  • If you normally ride in the 9th or 10th St NW bike lanes, your best detour is to use the bike lanes on 11th St NW.

 

Construction Starting on 15th St Bike Lane Northern Extension

15th-st-extension-2

A short but very important extension of the 15th St NW protected bike lane. Photo provided by DDOT.

The 15th Street NW protected bike lane is about get a little longer and a whole lot prettier. Last night, this District Department of Transportation updated the community of their final designs for the intersection of 15th St, New Hampshire Ave, W St and Florida Ave NW. The final plans will extend the two-way protected bike lane from V St. NW to W St NW and will be separated from traffic by granite curbs. The bike lane will also incorporate curbed pedestrian refuge islands between the bike lane and travel lanes to provide a safe place to wait for people walking.

While it may seem like a minor accomplishment to extent of the protected bike lane one block. This extension is critical to extending the lane further north to Euclid St. DDOT refused to reconfigure 15th St NW from W St to Euclid St NW to a two-way protected bike lane from the bizarre double bike lane, until this project was finished. This project is the missing block and will pave the way for a full extension of the bike lanes to Euclid (pun intended).

15th-st-extension-1

Final design for the new 15th St, New Hampshire Ave , Florida Ave and W St NW intersection. Photo provided by DDOT.

Beyond the new protected bike lane, the project will replace the dangerous slip lane from 15th Street to Florida Ave with a new pocket park. The new street will incorporate low impact development (LID) to manage stormwater and shorten all of the crosswalks with curb extensions. The new intersection will be a vast improvement for all.

Construction will start in the next few weeks and it’s expected to be complete by the end of the year. Weather and other delays could push the completion past December, but should not take more than 6 months. Access for bikes will be maintained during construction in the current northbound direction.

Stop Blocking Access to Pennsylvania Ave Plaza, says Rep. Norton

Closed Pennsylvania Ave Plaza

An all to familiar sight: Pennsylvania Ave Plaza by the White House closed to people walking and biking in November 2014.

If you bike around the White House regularly, you’ve probably had this happen to you: the Pennsylvania Ave plaza by the White House is frequently closed to people on foot and on bike, often without notice or any clear or safe detour. Congresswomen Norton (D-D.C.) sent a letter to US Secret Service and National Park Service leadership asking for a meeting to discuss this issue.

Unannounced closures force people to make long detours by foot or bike. Bicyclists are routed onto congested sidewalks (where it is illegal to ride) or down one-way streets in the wrong direction. Obviously the top issue for US Secret Service is ensuring the security of the White House,  but these long closures without safe options for pedestrians or people on bikes are not acceptable. The agency needs to work with the District to find a better solution to this problem.

We thank the Congresswomen for addressing this quality of life and transportation issue that affects both residents and visitors. Read the full press release and the letter to US Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy and NPS Director Jon Jarvis  here.