Benning Road Streetcar Plans miss opportunities to improve biking and walking.

Map of the proposed streetcar extension. Image from DDOT.

Map of the proposed streetcar extension. Image from DDOT.

In February, the H St Benning Streetcar line finally rolled into service, and now moves thousands of passengers along the 2.2 mile corridor each day. Work continues on plans to extend the streetcar across the Anacostia River to the Benning Road Metro and towards Georgetown. This week, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) is hosting two public meetings to take comments on Environmental Assessments for both plans. If implemented well, these projects present important opportunities to expand bicycle access in the Benning Rd and K St. corridors. Without attention to key details, though, they pose serious threats to safety and access. We encourage bicyclists to attend and speak up to push them in the right direction.

Benning Extension EA Hearing
Thursday, May 19 6 – 8 pm
Department of Employment Services, 4058 Minnesota Ave NE

Union Station to Georgetown Streetcar Public Meeting
Tuesday, May 17 6 – 8 pm
Carnegie Library, 801 K Street NW

On Benning Road, DDOT should learn from past mistakes and make the most of this opportunity

The addition of streetcars to H St. and Benning Rd created some serious safety issues for bicyclists. Running streetcars along the right side of the street places tracks exactly where bicyclists ride, increasing the risk of bicyclists catching a tire in the tracks and crashing. It does not take a statistician to understand this risk. Just take a walk down H St. The installation of parallel bike lanes on G St and I St provided a workaround, but these don’t solve the problem because they don’t serve the whole corridor, or deliver a bicyclist directly to her H St. destination. The Benning extension is an opportunity to learn from these shortcomings and improve the long overlooked Benning Rd corridor to be safe and accessible to bikes.

The Benning Road Streetcar extension spans nearly 2 miles of Benning Road, from Oklahoma Ave to East Capitol Street at the Benning Metro. The study covers three bridges, a crash-prone intersection at Benning Rd and Minnesota Ave, two metro stations, connections to and from 295, and the regional Anacostia Riverwalk Trail. The corridor connects commercial areas, parks and recreation centers, schools, industrial areas and rapidly growing resident populations

With between 4 and 8 traffic lanes, Benning Rd is dominated by the automobile. The road carries an average of 26,000 daily car trips with highest volumes west of the DC-295 viaduct near MInnesota Ave. Pedestrians and bicycle accommodations are laughable, with crumbling sidewalks as narrow as 2 feet, crossing distances up to 90 feet, and a single 5 foot shared path on the viaduct that crosses over DC-295.

So, while the purpose of the project is to extend the streetcar, it is also about fixing bridges, improving unsafe intersections, and creating safe and convenient places to bike and walk. The two build alternatives represent a small step towards better bicycle access, but due to numerous compromises, are not nearly good enough. If built according to these plans, the Benning Road corridor will remain an unsafe place where very few people can to walk or bike.

The Build Alternatives

Narrowed from a wide variety of designs, DDOT is proposing two build alternatives for public comment. Both are very similar except that Alternative 1 runs the streetcar in the right curb lane, while Alternative 2 runs streetcars in the center lanes. Both alternatives would extend the streetcar to the Benning Metro Station in mixed traffic lanes. Both alternatives include sidewalk improvements, a 6-10 foot multi-use trail from the Anacostia River to 38th St NE, slight changes to bridge access, complete reconstruction of the DC-295 viaduct, and slight modifications to the Minnesota & Benning intersection. Neither alternative includes a new bike facility on Benning Road east of Minnesota Ave, neither proposes a road diet where one makes sense, and consequently, neither creates ideal bicycle facilities that comply with appropriate standards.

For full details on the Build Alternatives, see Chapter 2 of the draft EA

Improvements are Needed

Typical section of Benning Road east of Minnesota Ave

Without a more convenient alternative, streetcar tracks make biking less safe

The placement of streetcar tracks in the road has serious implications for bicyclist safety throughout the corridor. Running streetcars curbside east of Minnesota Ave without upgrading the street with a trail or protected bike lane will all but guarantee an increase in track-related bicycle crashes. This would be a repeat of H Street’s mistakes. Since there is no useful parallel route proposed, Alternative 1 will decrease both safety and access for bicyclists. The Environmental Assessment fails to recognize this significant impact. Running the streetcar in the center lane, as in Alternative 2, lessens, but does not eliminate, the track-related crash risk.

cycletrack section

The two way protected bike lane is a good idea, but needs improvement

Both build alternatives provide an option for a two way protected bike lane (cycletrack) between Kingman Island and 36th St NE to separate bicyclists from pedestrians traveling between the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail and the DC-295 viaduct. It is a good idea, and would remove a single eastbound lane, allowing for a slightly shorter pedestrian crossing. However, at only 8.5 feet wide, it is too narrow to accommodate two directions of bike travel. And, with only a 6 inch buffer and rubber curbs separating bicyclists from cars speeding by at and above the 35 mph speed limit, this design is unsafe, substandard, and unacceptable. The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) bikeway standards, which DDOT endorses and helped develop, call for 12 feet (8 feet only in constrained sections) and a 3 foot buffer for a two way cycletrack. This proposal is 6 feet too narrow.

Benning Rd is 90 feet across at many intersections

Benning Rd is 90 feet across at many intersections. Image from Google

Explore a road diet

Benning road is a busy auto corridor, carrying tens of thousands of auto trips each day from DC-295 into downtown. At 8 traffic lanes and a 35 mph speed limit, it is a formidable barrier to cross and an unpleasant, unsafe place to bike or walk. Adding the streetcar to this corridor without shorter street crossings, traffic calming, and lane reductions, misses an important opportunity to change travel behavior. DDOT should seriously study the impacts of removing both an eastbound and westbound lane along the entire corridor. This would allow for uncompromised bike and pedestrian facilities, additional space for greenery and stormwater management and fewer barriers to using the new streetcar as more people move to the area.

Implement MoveDC following  design standards

MoveDC, the District’s long range transportation plan, calls for a bicycle and pedestrian trail on Benning Road from Oklahoma Ave to East Capitol St NE as a Tier 1 priority. At a minimum, this trail must be 10 feet wide and be designed to accommodate both bicyclists and pedestrians. Narrowing the trail at intersections and transit stops, or forcing sharp turns at intersections are  not acceptable solutions when the corridor is over one hundred feet wide. Furthermore, the actuated (“beg button”) signal crossing at 36th street works against the goal of making the corridor accessible and safe for bicyclists and pedestrians, since the inconvenience of these signals encourage crossing against the light. Both build alternatives would only build half of the planned trail. If not now, when will the trail be built all the way to East Capital St?

Attend and Submit Comments

On Thursday, May 19, DDOT is hosting a public hearing to collect comments on the draft Environmental Assessment. Please consider attending and providing testimony. DDOT will also accept written comments until June 2. More info here.

2015 in DC Bike Lanes

DC's First st protected bike lane installed in 2015 (Photo credit Mike Goodno)

DC’s First st protected bike lane, completed in 2015 (Photo credit Mike Goodno)

By many measures, 2015 was a pivotal year for bicycling in Washington, DC. In DC’s public schools, every 2nd grader is learning to ride a bike thanks to a new universal bike education program. In the DC City Council, Councilmember Cheh introduced a comprehensive update to bicycle laws and policies in the Bicycle & Pedestrian Safety Act of 2015. In the offices of over 20 city agencies, staff collaborated to craft a plan to achieve Vision Zero — to eliminate all deaths and serious injuries on DC roads — by 2024. Together, these new programs, laws, and citywide initiatives will make DC a better, safer place to ride a bike for years to come.

On the infrastructure side, 2015 brought welcome developments to long term trail projects in the city. Early in the year, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) showed preliminary designs for the Metropolitan Branch Trail’s northern extension and a timeline for construction. In July, construction began on restoration of Klingle Valley streambed and a new multi-use trail alongside it to Rock Creek Park. The Anacostia Riverwalk Trail’s Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens segment made progress towards a planned 2016 opening. And finally, after over 20 years of troubling trail conditions, the National Park Service and DDOT announced a timeline for the rehabilitation of the majority of the Rock Creek Park Trail. These are all significant milestones.

On the streets, progress was significantly slower. Way back in 2014, DDOT installed nearly 10 miles of new bike lanes including more than a mile and a half of protected bike lanes. It was a record setting year. In 2015, the agency installed just 4.42 miles of new bike lanes. Only 0.14 miles of those are protected bike lanes. Whether compared to 2014 or DDOT’s 2 year Move DC Action plan’s goal of 7.5 miles per year, 2015 was not an impressive year for new bike lanes. The full list of installed lanes is below.

Street From To Street Miles Facility Type
1st St NE G St Columbus Cir 0.14 Cycle Track
2nd St NE T St Rhode Island Ave 0.22 Bike Lanes
2nd St SE East Capitol St Independence Ave 0.15 Bike Lanes
3rd St NE T St Rhode Island Ave 0.25 Bike Lanes
4th St, SW M St P St 0.30 Bike Lanes
4th St, NE C St (S), Maryland Ave C St (N), Massachusetts Ave 0.07 Bike Lane
6th St, NE C St (S), Massachusetts Ave C St (N), Maryland Ave 0.07 Bike Lane
6th St, SE G St I St 0.10 Bike Lane
12th Street, NW Pennsylvania Ave L St 0.60 Bike Lane
19th St, NE C St Gales St 0.30 Bike Lanes
44th St, NW Jenifer St Harrison St 0.26 Climbing Lane
49th St, NE Blaine St Nannie Helen Burroughs 0.50 Climbing Lane
E St, NE North Capitol St Columbus Cir 0.08 Bike Lane
Forrester St, SW Galveston Pl South Capitol St 0.06 Contraflow lane
G Pl NE North Capitol St 1st St NE 0.12 Contraflow
Galveston Pl, SW Forrester St, SW Martin Luther King Jr Ave 0.27 Bike Lane
I St SE New Jersey Ave 2nd St 0.08 Bike Lanes
M St NW 9th St Blagden Alley 0.04 Contraflow
Tunlaw Rd, NW 39th St 37th St 0.57 Climbing Lane
Van Ness St, NW Wisconsin Ave Nebraska Ave 0.24 Climbing Lane
Total 4.42

There is no doubt that bike lane projects on DC’s streets are getting harder. After building more than 70 miles of bike lanes, we have exhausted much of the low hanging fruit. To DDOT’s credit, big protected bike lane projects are in the pipeline for 2016 (or 2017): Eastern Downtown, Louisiana Ave NW, 15th St NW and more. But when our peer cities are boasting yearly records for new protected lanes (as in New York) and planning whole networks of connected, low-stress lanes (as in San Diego), DC needs to be doing more to connect up the city with useful and safe bike networks.

Outpouring of community support for Eastern Downtown Protected Bike Lane project

The second public meeting for the Eastern Downtown bike lane project was a welcome change from the first, and contained good news:  According to the latest data from the project study team, the bike lane would—at most— affect 190 of 1,800 metered spaces and 10 out of 230 Sunday angled spaces. Traffic time increases would vary from three minutes to upwards of 20, depending on the alternative, and under the third alternative, morning traffic waits would actually decrease.

If you weren’t able to make it, here’s what you missed:

The temporary event bike racks DDOT provided were overflowing, with a bike locked up to every signpost and fence within two blocks of the building, as WABA supporters from the community came out in force on a sunny Saturday afternoon.  Around 300 people attended the meeting total. At least half were there to support the project. Regardless of their position on the project, every person who walked in the door got a warm greeting from a WABA volunteer, and a bright green sticker that said “Safe Streets.” They also got a flyer for bike camp and a coupon for a free WABA city cycling class.

DDOT displayed new information about the project on presentation boards outside the  meeting space, and DDOT staff circulated through the open house to answer questions. The meeting itself was professionally facilitated; everyone in attendance agreed in advance to listen respectfully and to keep their testimony to within the allotted time (2 minutes for individuals, 5 minutes for organizations).

DDOT Director Dormsjo opened the meeting by walking through the project planning process, the goals of the project, and emphasizing that DDOT leadership was there at the meeting to listen. Indeed, a panel consisting of of Mr. Dormsjo, DDOT Deputy Director, Associate Director of Planning, Policy and Sustainability and several other high-level leaders of DDOT sat at the front of the room for the duration of the meeting to listen to the testimony of the 50 people who signed up to speak. Only 8 of the 50 speakers opposed the project.

People from all walks of life, ages, genders, races, income brackets and levels of experience on a bicycle testified in favor of the project, demonstrating the wide range of people who ride, the reasons they ride, and their desire to be safe while doing so.

The tone of all participants was decidedly respectful. Though there was still disagreement about the project, it was civil.

A big thank you to WABA members and supporters who turned out big for safe streets. Together, we have shifted the conversation from “Should we do this?” to “Which alternative makes most sense?” and we did that by showing the incredible diversity of the people who benefit from safe streets and why they matter, on a personal level, to all of us. We still have work to do in the upcoming months to get this project across the finish line, but the balance has started to shift.

Click here to check out the list of businesses in the area who support the project.

Next up: if you live in the project study area, please attend your upcoming ANC meeting and ask for a resolution of support for the project.

March 1, 2016 — ANC 6E Meeting (11 blocks in project area)
March 2, 2016 — ANC 2F Meeting ( 5 blocks in project area on 9th)
March 3, 2016 — ANC 1B Meeting (2 blocks in project area 6th & 9th)
March 14, 2016 — ANC 2C Meeting (9 blocks in study area)

Look up your ANC here.

If you’d like to join the group of WABA volunteers working to build support for this project, email and we’ll get you plugged in.

Shaw Businesses Support Safe Streets


Since October, our staff, along with a growing team of committed volunteers, have been out on the streets of Shaw, building support for Safe Streets as part of the Eastern Downtown Protected Bike Lane Study. In conversations with commuters, shoppers and residents on 6th and 9th streets we have found strong support for safe streets and heard more than enough concerns about speeding traffic, dangerous intersections and the frustrations of sharing the road between people walking, biking and driving. Danger and frustration are not great for business, so we are pleased to find that many businesses support Safe Streets in Shaw.

We want to recognize and especially thank a number of community businesses leaders for their support of protected bike lanes and related traffic calming for Shaw’s 6th and 9th streets.  Each recognizes that safe streets that accommodate and protect all ways of getting around are important for any community and necessary for bringing customers and employees to their stores. They know that protected bike lanes mean business.

We are pleased to have the support of the following businesses.

Busboys and Poets – 1025 5th St NW
Calabash Tea – 1847 7th St NW
Chrome – 1924 8th St NW
Frank and Oak – 1924 8th St NW
Pizza D’oro – 717 T St NW
Lettie Gooch Boutique – 1921 8th St NW
Right Proper Brewing Company – 624 T St NW
Rito Loco – 606 Florida Ave NW
Steven Alan -1924 8th Street NW
Uprising Muffins – 1817 7th St NW
Wanda’s on 7th – 1851 7th St NW

Read the full letter of support here.

As we continue reaching out to businesses in the busy Shaw to downtown corridor, we look forward to adding to our business support. Do you have a favorite business not on this list? Ask them if they support the project or send them our way.

Second public meeting for the Shaw Protected Bike lane project– coming up


More than 1700 people have urged city officials to move forward with plans to calm traffic and install protected bike lanes from Florida Ave to Pennsylvania Ave on 6th or 9th St NW. Unfortunately, not everyone in the community is on board yet. If we want protected bike lanes through Shaw, we have to show strong support for this project every step of the way. DDOT will hold a second public meeting to hear feedback about this project this Saturday, February 6th from 12pm-4pm at KIPP DC (421 P St NW).

This week, we got a sneak preview of the project updates DDOT will present at the meeting.  The results are promising: many new potential miles of protected bike lanes with minimal impacts to parking and traffic flow. The proposals reflect our request that DDOT find a compromise that preserves the safety goals of the project while addressing community concerns.

Here are just a few ways this project will make DC a better place to live:

1. DC’s kids need safe places to play. Did you know the D.C. Public School system now teaches every second grader to ride a bike? That means thousands of six and seven year olds every year, eager to use their new skills, ride with their families, and explore their neighborhoods. These kids deserve to be safe when they head out to school and to play.

2. Low-income people need a safe, reliable mode of transportation.  Bicycling costs a fraction of transit fares and virtually nothing when compared with the cost of driving. Reliable transportation improves employment prospects, reduces transportation expenses, and frees up money to be spent on other needs, such as housing and education.

3. Everyone benefits from bike lanes. More protected bike lanes mean more people choosing to get around by bike—which improves traffic flow and parking options for those who choose to drive, and reduces crowding on public transit. 
 More protected bike lanes mean fewer roadway conflicts between vehicles and bikes, fewer people riding on the sidewalk, cars traveling at safer speeds, and shorter street crossings for pedestrians—which is especially important for our children, the elderly, and the mobility-impaired.

4. 83% of residents around the 15th street cycletrack consider it a valuable neighborhood asset.  The 15th St protected bike lanes see 300-400 users per hour during peak times. When they opened, the number of people riding bikes on sidewalks on 15th street immediately fell by an average of 56 percent, making the sidewalks safer for pedestrians.

Everyone should be safe on our streets, no matter how they choose to get around. Protected bike lanes can help.

Let’s get these bike lanes built.

Submit comments in support of the project here.


The next steps towards Vision Zero

Blocked bike lane by USPS

Just before the holidays, D.C. took two important steps toward implementing Vision Zero: Mayor Bowser released the Vision Zero Action Plan, and the D.C. Department of Transportation and Department of Motor Vehicles proposed rules  that increase penalties for drivers who endanger public safety by violating traffic laws. The proposed rules are an important aspect of the Mayor’s Vision Zero initiative, which recognizes that increasing penalties to curtail dangerous driving is an essential part of the broader city-wide effort to eliminate all traffic deaths by 2024. 

WABA fully supports Mayor Bowser’s Vision Zero goal, including the proposed rules, which would crack down on speeding, failing to come to a complete stop before turning right on red, parking in bike lanes, dooring, and other dangerous behaviors that put road users at risk.  Current penalties in the District for the most dangerous and egregious driving behaviors are generally far too low to serve as a deterrent, and in some cases are entirely non-existent. 

The proposed rules would bring the District’s penalties in line with those of comparable U.S. cities. We support these proposed rules as an important part of a much broader action plan that includes improvements to enforcement, education, and street design.

Support New Rules for Vision Zero

Highlights of the proposed rules:


Proposed Change: Increased fines for speeding in excess of 25 mph from $300 to $1000, and the fine for criminal speeding from $300 to $500.

Why WABA supports it:  Speed kills. According to AAA research, a person struck by a vehicle at 30 mph is 74 times more likely to be killed than a person struck by a vehicle going 25 mph.

The District’s default speed limit for residential streets is 25 mph. Between 2010 and 2014, more than half of traffic fatalities in the District occurred on streets with a 25 mph speed limit.  A motorist traveling through a populated neighborhood at 25 mph over the speed limit is going 50 mph or faster. This is reckless, deadly behavior that should be punished severely.

Right Turns on Red

Proposed Change: Increased fines from $50 to $200 for failing to come to a complete stop at a red light before turning, failing to yield the right of way to vehicles or pedestrians, or violating a “No Turn on Red” sign.

Why WABA supports it: D.C. law requires drivers make a full stop and yield the right of way to pedestrians and other vehicles before turning right at a red light.  In practice, drivers often do not come to a full stop behind the stop bar or even slow down before making a right turn on red. The requirement for drivers to stop at an intersection before making a right turn on red is so the driver can take the time to ensure that no pedestrians are in the crosswalk, because the pedestrian has the right of way. Drivers making unsafe turns at red lights also puts any drivers or bicyclists proceeding with the right of way on perpendicular streets at unacceptable risk.

Parking in a Bike Lane

Proposed Change: Increased fines for stopping, standing or parking in a bike lane, from $65 to $300 (for commercial trucks) or $200 (for all other motor vehicles).

Why WABA supports it: Drivers who block bike lanes, even temporarily, create hazards for all road users by forcing bicyclists to merge suddenly into a regular traffic lane. This all-too-common experience in the District discourages inexperienced or apprehensive riders from riding their bikes. It is currently illegal in the District to stop, stand, or park in a bike lane. However, the number of vehicles that continue to do so demonstrates that the current fine is not a sufficient deterrent, especially for commercial delivery drivers and taxis, for whom the fines for parking in bike lanes are treated as a cost of doing business.


Proposed Change: Increased fines for opening a vehicle door into traffic in a way that presents a danger to others, from $25 to $100.

Why WABA supports it: The act of opening a car door into the path of a bicycle or other vehicle is one of the most common causes of injuries to bicyclists. The best way to end dooring is to redesign our streets so that bike lanes are physically separated from traffic and parked cars. In the meantime, the penalty for creating this dangerous situation for cyclists should be strengthened.

The following chart summarizes the full set of proposed changes: (click the image to see a larger version)

Proposed Regs Table

We note that increasing fines in a vacuum will not lead to the types of safety improvements we need to end traffic fatalities and serious injuries. Traffic fines are an effective deterrent when the likelihood of enforcement is high. For Vision Zero to work, Metropolitan Police Department must increase traffic enforcement for all road behaviors that endanger others. All too often, enforcement is concentrated during targeted campaigns, but is lacking the rest of the time.

Moreover, the public must know what the fines are and where the money goes. Though not in the regulations, WABA supports directing funds raised from traffic safety violations towards Vision Zero projects, like enforcement, education and engineering— not the general fund. The city should post signs about traffic fines and use public education campaigns to communicate with road users.

Under these proposals, every road user has a choice: support Vision Zero by behaving like a responsible citizen who values human life, or support Vision Zero with fines. Anyone who wishes to avoid paying a fine may do so by simply obeying the law.

The D.C. Council will hold hearings on the proposed regulations on Friday, January 8, 2016 at 11am in room 500 of the Wilson Building. D.C. residents wishing to provide testimony at the hearing should contact Ms. Aukima Benjamin at 202-724-8062 or via email at

Support New Rules for Vision Zero

If you would like help with your testimony, email a draft before 12pm Thursday to, and we will be in touch.

More Support for a Low Stress Louisiana Ave

Support is growing quickly for a protected bike lane on Louisiana Avenue to fill a major gap in downtown DC’s low stress bike lane network. Since June, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) and the Architect of the Capitol (AOC) have received requests from DC Councilmember Charles Allen, ANC 6C, and even members of the Congressional Bike Caucus, urging swift action and support for a protected bike lane on Louisiana Avenue between existing lanes on First Street NE and Pennsylvania Ave. Following these requests, DDOT and AOC staff have already conducted a preliminary site visit to explore possibilities.

Louisiana Ave in red is a missing link in a much larger protected bike lane network in green

Earlier this week, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton added her support in a letter to DDOT Director Dormsjo and Architect of the Capitol Stephen Ayers.

“A protected bike lane between Union Station and the U.S. Capitol Grounds on Louisiana Avenue would improve safety and provide a vital link between already existing bike lanes in the area,” she wrote. “Union Station and the U.S. Capitol are separated by multi-lane roadways with fast-moving traffic, which poses safety risks to the residents, workers, and visitors destined for Union Station, the U.S. Capitol, and points beyond. DDOT Has already constructed protected bike lanes on Pennsylvania Avenue NW and First Street NE and throughout the city. Filling in the missing link on Louisiana Avenue NE would help complete this network of bicycle lanes.” Read the full letter here.

We are grateful to have the support of Congresswoman Norton for a project with benefits for countless DC’s residents, workers, and visitors. More updates on this campaign as it progresses. Read more about the proposal here