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).

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.

UpdateRead WABA’s full comments here.

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 9.5 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 advocacy@waba.org 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.