Curbs Coming to DC’s Cycle Tracks

Newly installed rubber curbs on the First St. NE cycle track. Photo: @mattyCampy

Protected bike lanes (cycle tracks) are all the rage these days, especially new lanes with curbs to separate cars from bicycles. Today, DDOT contractors installed rubber parking stops along the First St. cycle track to add additional protection for bicyclists along the section south of K St. NE. The two blocks north of K St. NE are already protected with the very deluxe pre-cast concrete curbs. Within days of “opening”, drivers were already parking in the cycle track.

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) is currently installing two different cycle tracks downtown. They hope to have them ready in time for Friday’s Bike to Work Day. The M St. NW cycle track is a one-way bike lane protected by parking that extends from Thomas Circle to 28th St. NW (DDOT Fact Sheet, PDF) and the First St NE cycle track is a two-way bike lane from M. St. NE to G St. NE (DDOT Fact Sheet, jpg). Phase 2 of the First St. NE reconstruction which should begin soon will extend the cycle track to Massachusetts Ave. NE.

The on-going issue of drivers using the protected bike lanes for parking and truck drivers using the lanes for loading/unloading puts bicyclists in harms way. DDOT recently ramped up parking enforcement with the #parkingdirty campaign along the city’s bike lanes and cycle tracks, but the issue is still pervasive. The long term solution are physical barriers to prevent cars and trucks from entering the bike lane.

We expect to see DDOT install more rubber curbs along other existing bicycling facilities such as the L St NW cycle track and the Pennsylvania Ave. NW bike lanes. Parking in the L St. NW cycle track is still an on-going issue with hundreds of photos documented on whosblockinglsttoday.tumblr.com. On Pennsylvania Ave, cars make illegal U-turns across the bike lanes causing crashes with bicyclists. Last fall, DDOT ran a pilot test of Zebras on a one block stretch of Pennsylvania Ave. NW after a long #StopUTurnsonPenn campaign. DDOT claims to have reduced the number of U-turns across the lanes despite no official results released. Daily commuters still report U-turns across the bike lanes, including the pilot block.

The next step for the Pennsylvania Ave. NW bike lanes is curbs. National Park Service, Commission of Fine Arts (CFA), National Capital Planning Commission and DDOT all have oversight of Pennsylvania Ave. NW because of it’s national significance causing it to be a challenging street to change. That might not be an issue anymore, the May 15th Consent Calendar for the CFA includes a recommendation of “no objection to the final plans for the installation of low−profile “wheel−stop” lane separators”. With CFA approval, DDOT would be able to install rubber curbs along the entire length of Pennsylvania Ave.

Paint and plastic flexposts has allowed DDOT to test the cycle track concept. If the daily traffic jams on the 15th St. cycle track is any indication, people love DC’s protected bike lanes and want more of them. Increased enforcement of parking in bike lanes and cycle tracks is important to keeping the lanes open and safe for bicyclists but can only go so far. Physically separating and protecting bicyclists with curbs and other barriers is the solution.

 

Take a Survey about L Street

L Street Cycletrack Outreach

Portland State University is conducting a national study of protected bike lanes, asking cyclists in six cities across the country to share their experiences riding on protected bike lanes in their cities. In D.C., PSU is looking for feedback about the L Street cycletrack in particular.

The university has already conducted targeted intercepts of riders on L Street, but is now opening the survey to the public to get as much feedback as possible. Take the survey here.

It should take about 10 to 20 minutes. Please complete the survey by Sat., Nov. 30. Feedback—including what works and what doesn’t—will be shared with the District Department of Transportation as well as a national audience.

PSU’s disclaimer: “Your participation in the survey is voluntary. We will protect the confidentiality of your individual survey responses. If you have concerns or problems about your participation in this study or your rights as a research subject, please contact the Human Subjects Research Review Committee, Office of Research and Strategic Partnerships, Market Center Building Suite 620, Portland State University, (503) 725-4288 / (877) 480-4400. If you have any questions about the study, contact us at (503) 725-2875 or streets@pdx.edu.”

Help The D.C. Bike Ambassadors Survey L Street

L Street Cycle Track Project

You’re likely familiar with the L Street cycletrack, D.C.’s eastbound, physically separated bike lane. The L Street cycletrack is one of a few bike lanes in D.C. that emulates the kind of infrastructure BikesBelongs’ Green Lane Project is trying to encourage across the country.

Next week (Tuesday and Thursday), the D.C. bike ambassadors will be teaming up with the District Department of Transportation and Portland State University to conduct a bicyclist survey that will indicate the effectiveness of the L Street cycletrack. We need volunteers! This is a great opportunity to get directly involved with the future of D.C.’s bike lanes. Data from this survey will be used to make the case for more L Street-style bike lanes in D.C. Read on for more information and for details on volunteering.

Overview
The Neighborhood Street Study is a national study of separated bike lanes (“cycletracks”) funded by the Green Lanes Project and the National Institute for Transportation and Communities. Researchers at Portland State University are carrying out the study in six cities across the United States, including D.C. The goals for the project are to find out how well the cycle tracks are working, how they are impacting neighborhoods, what people’s experiences are with them, and what needs to be improved. Results and findings will be shared with each city and will help improve transportation in your neighborhood and with others around the United States.

Our role in this study is to help survey the people bicycling on D.C.’s cycle tracks, specifically, L Street. We will be handing out postcards to bicyclists at two locations on the L Street cycle track, with information about the survey and instructions directing them to an online web address where they can find the survey. each postcard has a unique code so we can be confident that the respondent actually received a postcard. It’s important that actual users have their voices heard!

Next week, on Tues., June 11 and Thurs., June 13, bike ambassadors will be help DDOT conduct this survey. We will provide more detailed information upon sign-up.

Feel free to sign up for any and all dates you can help out. You won’t be out there by yourself, so don’t fret. We need folks at the following times:

  • Tuesday, June 11th from 7:30am – 10:00am
  • Tuesday, June 11th from 11:00am – 1:00pm
  • Tuesday, June 11th from 3:00pm – 5:00pm
  • Tuesday, June 11th from 5:00pm – 7:00pm
  • Thursday, June 13th from 7:30am – 10:00am
  • Thursday, June 13th from 11:00am – 1:00pm
  • Thursday, June 13th from 3:00pm – 5:00pm
  • Thursday, June 13th from 5:00pm – 7:00pm

To sign up, use this form. We appreciate your continued efforts to help make bicycling in DC more awesome each day!

For more information on the Neighborhood Street Study, check out its website. Please feel free to contact the D.C. bike ambassador, Megan McCarty (megan.mccarty@waba.org), for more information or to answer any questions.

Photo via Flickr user DDOTDC

An Evening of Outreach on L Street

As promised, D.C. bike ambassadors blanketed L Street NW last night to reach out to drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians with information on how to properly use the cycletrack. About eight ambassadors and several MPD officers distributed literature, talked to cyclists and drivers, and worked to alleviate any tension in the cycletracks. Read an additional recap on Pilut.

Do you have any burning questions about D.C.’s cycletracks? We may have answered them in our Cycletracks 101 post!

See photos of yesterday evening’s outreach initiative below (there are more on our Flickr page!):

L Street Cycletrack Outreach

L Street Cycletrack Outreach

L Street Cycletrack Outreach

The above photos were taken by Matt Kroneberger

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Cycletracks 101

There are three cycletracks in place in D.C. More are being planned. And despite cycletracks being some of the city’s most visible infrastructure for cyclists, there’s plenty of “confusion”—or ignorance—on the part of drivers who try to park or drive in them.

This legitimately baffles pedestrians and makes it harder for bicyclists to use the cycletracks appropriately. To alleviate some of the tension, D.C. bike ambassadors will be out on L Street NW tonight to help drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians navigate the lane.
In the meantime, here’s a brief guide to D.C.’s cycletracks. Perhaps you might forward it to your favorite scofflaw driver.

What is a cycletrack?
Unlike a bike lane, a cycletrack is separated from traffic by barriers, parking lanes, or curbs. They may allow for travel in one or both directions, and cyclists may be asked to obey different signals than in driving lanes. DDOT has installed cycletracks on 15th St NW, Pennsylvania Avenue NW, and L St NW. Plans to install additional tracks on M Street NW and 1st Street NE are in the works. There is also an ongoing conversation about a cycletrack on M Street SE/SW.

Why are they all designed differently?
DDOT has the unenviable job of combining best practices from other cities with the unique demands of D.C. traffic when designing its cycle tracks. At this time, none of the tracks are permanent and each has a different design that’s supposed to be incrementally safer than the last cycletrack built. DDOT continues to fine-tune the designs and observe how riders use these routes so that D.C.’s cycletracks can one day be made permanent.

What makes a cycletrack permanent? The plastic bollards will eventually be replaced; curbs, medians, colored paint, or pavement markings will indicate that the route is intended for bicycles only. Such permanent tracks can be found in cities from Portland to New York, Montreal, and Copenhagen.

How do I know how to ride in them?
The first rule of thumb is to ride as if you were a vehicle and obey all of the laws, signals, and courtesies of the road. (Guidelines and links to regional bike laws are available on our website.)

Each cycle track has signs posted to guide cyclists at intersections. On 15th Street, obey the pedestrian signals and be sure to stop for cars turning left on a green arrow. If you need to wait to make a right turn, there is usually space in the parking lane. On L Street, be attentive when cars merge through the lane to turn left. DDOT produced these diagrams for drivers and cyclists. Check out the city’s first bicycle signal at 15th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW and follow it as you would a regular traffic signal. (Do not follow the bike signal if you are driving a car!)

How do I make a turn out of or into a cycletrack?
In all cases, be careful when making a turn across traffic. You may need to make a right turn from a left- or centered cycletrack, and vehicular traffic may have the right-of-way. Consider the following options:

  • Wait for a pedestrian signal and cross traffic in the crosswalk.
  • Maneuver in line with the traffic waiting at the cross street. Proceed across the intersection when the light changes.
  • If you are comfortable doing so, before reaching the intersection, merge into the main roadway and over to the rightmost lane, then turn as normal. Remember to yield to oncoming traffic and be safe, if you choose this method.

Can I drive/park/idle/U-turn in a cycletrack?
No.

These offenses put cyclists at risk of being struck and forces them into the main road where they may not be safe or even want to ride. Driving, parking, idling, or U-turning across cycletracks may result in a citation or fine, on top of endangering cyclists. Contact the business or residence you plan to visit to find alternate legal parking or loading areas.

Mayor Vince Gray recently clarified that U-turns across the Pennsylvania Avenue cycle track are indeed illegal. They are also dangerous; most of the accidents on this road in the past year were caused by cars making illegal U-turns. It’s convenient, but illegal and unsafe.

What is being done to educate cyclists and drivers how to use the cycle tracks?
The D.C. bike ambassadors will be doing outreach tonight at the intersection of the 15th Street NW and L Street  NW cycle tracks from 5:00-6:30 p.m. Stop by to say hello! As new cycle tracks continue to be built and we all adjust to the new traffic patterns, don’t hesitate to contact dcba@waba.org with additional questions.

Mayor Gray Officially Opens the L Street Cycletrack

Mayor Vince Gray cut the ribbon on the L Street Protected Bike Lane today, officially opening D.C.’s newest stretch of dedicated cycling infrastructure.

Among those in attendance at the ribbon-cutting ceremony were Gray; DDOT’s Jim Sebastian, John Lisle, Sam Zimbabwe, and Mike Goodno; Downtown D.C. BID Director Ellen Jones; and about forty cyclists and interested individuals from around the region. WABA staff handed out green, hand-printed bandanas to attendees.

The one-mile L Street Protected Bike Lane runs from New Hampshire Avenue to 12th Street NW. After a year and a half of delays, it’s open for cyclists traveling eastward across downtown, making accessible a heavily trafficked area of the city.

Mayor Gray extolled the virtues of the bike lane—a safe, visible route exclusively for cyclists, separated from car traffic by bollards and set off with green paint, that would encourage more people to get on bikes—and said that such pieces of infrastructure are critical to D.C.’s growth. Cars, he explained, will take up too much space in a D.C. that could soon be home to over 800,000 residents. And, referring to a problem that’s plagued the lane since its lines were painted, Gray firmly assured the crowd, “I want to underscore also that people can no longer park in the bike lanes.”

Dedicated bike infrastructure, like the lanes on 15th Street NW, Pennsylvania Avenue, and now L Street NW, makes riding a bike appealing to those who might not otherwise consider it. Three mayoral administrations have worked on the completion of the L Street lane, and that it’s come to fruition demonstrates D.C.’s commitment to becoming a place that prioritizes bike-friendliness and safety.

Many thanks to DDOT, the Gray administration, the Downtown D.C. BID, and local advocates, neighborhood groups, and planners for making the L Street Protected Bike Lane a reality!

See more photos from the ribbon-cutting, and the celebratory ride on L Street that followed, here.