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.

DDOT Sidestepping Complete Streets Policy in Bridge Rehab Plans

Over the next few years, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) has plans for substantial rehabilitation work on the aging Whitney Young Memorial (East Capital St.) Bridge and Roosevelt (I-66/US-50) Bridge. Opened in 1955 and 1964, both bridges are structurally deficient and in need of serious rehabilitation. These bridges are important links in the city’s highway network, yet due to insufficient design, they fail to connect gaps in the region’s trail network and perpetuate barriers to safe walking and biking. Despite the opportunity, DDOT’s plans consider non-motorized accommodations as “outside the scope of work.” As DDOT plans the rehabilitation of these bridges, it has a duty to correct the mistakes of the past and improve both bridges for safe non-motorized access.

Transition from the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail to the East Capitol St. Bridge (10 feet to ~3.5)

Last week, WABA sent DDOT a letter outlining serious safety and access issues for people biking and walking on the Whitney Young and Roosevelt bridges. As DDOT moves forward with rehabilitation plans, it is imperative that the existing sidepaths see substantial improvement as well. Unlike roads, which get repaved every decade, bridges are built to last many decades. DDOT cannot let design decisions of the 1950s continue to limit DC’s future transportation choices. That’s common-sense and good policy. It is also a requirement of DDOT’s own Complete Street’s Policy (pdf) and a requirement of Title III of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Act of 2015 which will become law in November (awaiting Congressional review).

Read WABA’s letter here (pdf).

5 Key Campaigns for 2015

We have a spectacular opportunity to make biking in our region even better in 2015.

Below are five key campaigns that we here at WABA want to advance in the coming year.

These are big ideas that can move our region beyond what most of us would have dreamed of 10 years ago, but they are within reach. If we think bigger together and invest bigger together, we can make this vision a reality in 2015.

Complete Streets: More than just a slogan

It’s a commitment to ensuring that our public spaces are for everyone. That includes designing our roads to be safe for people of every age and skill level. WABA works every day—tracking plans in all of our jurisdictions, reviewing engineering drawings, riding problem areas, working with governments—to make sure every project we touch creates safe space for everyone who bikes.

When officials try to take away the right to travel by bike, or simply design without regard for people’s needs, we push back. Your donation helps us keep pushing.

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Future Trails: More than just a hope

Our trail network is growing—we make sure it stays healthy.

Our advocacy team helps new trail projects navigate our region’s complex bureaucratic terrain. Our Trail Rangers program, family rides, outreach, and cleanups keep your favorite trail growing and thriving.

Everyone in our region should be an easy ride away from a network of safe, connected off-road trails.  Your donation helps us get there.

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Green Lanes: More than just paint

They are next-generation protected bicycling infrastructure.

Protected bike lanes encourage people to take that first ride on the street, something they might not otherwise have considered. WABA, with the support of our members, is pushing for improvements and working behind the scenes planning, designing, and advocating to get them done. Your support helps us make more people feel safe riding a bike.

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Access to Justice: More than just an abstraction

We do not lose the protections of our laws when we ride a bike.

Our legal system does not adequately protect the rights of bicyclists, and that has to change to keep pace with the growth of bicycling. We are working hard every day to change laws, educate the police, hold officials accountable, connect injured cyclists with support and to ensure that the rights we have on paper are protected on the streets.

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Vision Zero: More than just a brand.

It’s actual changes to laws, policy and road design. Vision Zero is an unequivocal stance against trading lives for speed. Every jurisdiction in our region needs to adopt it fully and quickly.

People are dying on our roadways. Until that stops—until that number is ZERO—we must work harder.

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With your help, we can change the way roads are built, the way people move, and the way the law treats bicyclists. We know we can do it. WABA has a foundation 40 years deep. With your help, we can build a region where everyone can get where they’re going on a bike. Please donate today.

Success: King Street Bike Lanes Will Go Forward

Success! The City of Alexandria will install bike lanes on King Street in 2014.

The City of Alexandria will move forward with plans to install bike lanes on King Street east of the Metro station. In a letter to residents of King Street, Director of Transportation and Environmental Services Rich Brier will direct City staff to implemented the compromise proposal in the new year.

66 speakers testified at the TPB hearing on Nov. 25. 48 spoke in favor of the bike lanes, and 18 were opposed. City residents who spoke in favor of the bike lanes included a high-school teacher, two vision-impaired riders who ride with sighted riders on tandem bicycles, parents, students, and other residents. WABA worked to mobilize the support of Alexandria bicyclists and gave testimony on behalf of our Alexandria members and supporters.

In the four page letter to residents Director Rich Brier writes, “As a professional engineer tasked with ensuring the safety for all users of our street system and after reviewing the data and researching alternative proposals, I believe that the modified plan is the best plan to achieve the common goals of improving safety and balancing the needs of multiple users of King Street.” Read the letter in its entirely on the City of Alexandria’s website.

Learn more about the City’s proposal for King Street online including their original proposal and the late compromise solution. City staff initially proposed removing all 37 on-street parking spaces but late presented a revised proposal that retained 10 on-street spaces.

The City of Alexandria has made an important step towards towards making the streets safer for all roadway users. Please take a moment now and send a note of thanks to the City Mayor and Council. Click this link to send an email of appreciation.

The Washington Area Bicyclist Association is the leading voice for bicycling in the region. WABA members and supporters enable us to advocate for better conditions for bicycling. Join or donate today to ensure that we can continue to represent you.

 This blog post was updated to include a link to the full letter from Transportation Director Rich Brier.

Thursday is the Last Chance to Comment on M St SW/SE Cycle Tracks

Download, print and bring this poster to the meeting to show your support for Cycle Tracks on M St

Come speak up in support of an improved M Street SE/SW.   DDOT will be holding its third and final meeting on the M Street Southeast/Southwest Transportation Study. The study is evaluating proposed alternatives for multi-modal transportation improvements to the M St SW/SE corridor. Public comments will be taken during the meeting.

The study area is roughly 1.7 square miles along M Street SE/SW and the Southwest Waterfront from 12th Street, SE to 14th Street, SW and from the Southwest/Southeast Freeway south to the Anacostia River/Washington Channel M St. This area is very significant to bicyclists in Washington, DC as it is the crossroads for major bicycling routes and trails including the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail.  Also, there is access to two of the three bridges (South Capitol & 11th Street) in DC that cross the Anacostia River.

DDOT has held two previous public meetings, a very well attended January meeting and much smaller meeting in May. Public input was taken at both meetings and bicycling was overwhelming supported by attendees. Most attendees indentified bicycle lanes in the area and cycle tracks on M Street as a high priority.

The M St SW/SE corridor is rapidly developing into a major destination for employment and entertainment. DDOT has also identified M St in the DC Streetcar concept plan. Streetcars and on-street parking on M St should not come at the cost of bicycle access.  Bicyclists should have safe and protected access not just to M St, but on M St!

Come to this final meaning and support bicycling in the SW/SE waterfront area Thursday night (September 13,2012)at 6:30pm at the Amidon Bowen Elementary School, 401 I Street, SW. Read the complete meeting announcement online. We have created a small poster (8.5″ x 11″) you can download, print and bring to the meeting show your support for Cycle Tracks on M St.

(To be clear, this is about M Street SE/SW, not M Street NW)

WABA Testifies in Support of Prince George’s Council Bill CB-2-2012

End of the Sidewalk

End of the Sidewalk by M.V. Jantzen, on Flickr

As you’re riding along a side path or walking along a sidewalk of a busy suburban road, the path mysteriously ends. There is nowhere to go except onto the busy street, a grassy shoulder, or a narrow dirt path. Suburban bicyclists and pedestrians know this situation all too well.

WABA testified in support of Prince George’s Co. Council Bill CB-2-2012 titled “Adequate Public Pedestrian and Bikeway Facilities in Centers and Corridors” at the February 15th, 2012 meeting of the Planning, Zoning, Economic and Development Committee. Co-sponsored by Eric Olson (District 3) and Mel Franklin (District 9), CB-2-2012 would require new developments to fill in the missing links in walking and biking facilities from the neighborhoods to the new development.

WABA strongly supports this bill and the leadership of Councilmembers Olson and Franklin in creating safe bicycling and pedestrian connections in Prince George’s Co. During the hearing there was discussion about the proposed financial limits for developers, the maximum required distances of the connection and how “adequate” connections should be measured. We believe these are important points of discussion but should be made in the regulation process and not through legislation. The full text of the bill can be downloaded here.

Where Did All the Bike Lanes Go?

2011 was not the year for bike lanes in the District.  Since 2006, DDOT has  installed on-street bike lanes at a rate of four to eight additional miles per year. Less than one mile of new bike lanes was installed in 2011.

As DDOT nears the end of the timeframe laid out in 2005’s Bicycle Master Plan, the target for miles of bike lanes installed per year gets fuzzy. On average, the Master Plan calls for 10 miles of new bike lanes per year. The more recently adopted 2010 DDOT Action Agenda sets a goal of 80 miles, total, of bike lanes and protected cycle tracks by 2012.  As of today, the District has about 50.

DDOT had planned to install about 6.5 miles in 2011.  Of that 6.5 miles, approximately 4.25 miles are studied, designed and ready for installation.  But these have not been installed due to internal delays at DDOT.  The bike planners seemingly have done their part, but 2011 will end without these lanes installed, as it is now too cold for road striping.

The other 2.25 miles of that 6.5 that were slated for installation but have been put on hold for various reasons including a lack of ANC approval or a delay in necessary roadwork and signal work.

The map below shows on-street bike projects we expect in the next year.

  • Red indicates projects slated for 2011 that are planned, designed, and ready–but not installed.
  • Orange indicates projects slated for 2011 but pending additional work (ANC approval / additional roadwork) before they are ready for installation.
  • Purple highlights projects slated for 2012.
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After installing less than a mile of bike lanes in 2011, DDOT needs to dramatically improve its performance just to meet the 10 mile per year average of the Bike Master Plan, much less the 80 mile goal of the Action Agenda.  This year’s performance is unacceptable, and signifies broken promises to the District’s cycling community.

Director Bellamy and, ultimately, Mayor Gray need to recognize that this year’s performance is unacceptable, and that major improvements are needed in 2012.