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.

 

Ask the National Park Service to #StopUTurnsOnPenn

U-Turn 5.23.2013

Pennsylvania Ave NW is America’s main street, and all who use it—including bicyclists—deserve to use it safely. After installation of Pennsylvania Avenue’s center median bike lanes in 2010, ridership there has increased over 200 percent—despite the lack of physical separation between bikes and cars.

Only paint separates cyclists and drivers which has, unsurprisingly, not been a deterrent to drivers making dangerous U-turns across the bike lane. Within a year of Pennsylvania Avenue’s lanes being painted, 11 of the 16 crashed recorded on Pennsylvania Ave NW involved U-turning cars.

Last fall, through emergency rulemaking, we pushed to make U-turns across the lanes illegal and for increased enforcement by MPD. Since then, there have been a number of outreach events with D.C. Bike Ambassadors and MPD police officers to educate drivers about the consequences of U-turning. According to the mayor’s office, MPD has written 62 tickets and issued about 70 warnings.

But it’s now time to fix the underlying problem: Bicycles need physical separation from motor vehicles on Pennsylvania Avenue.

The bike lanes need a critical upgrade to prevent cars, taxi cabs, and trucks from illegally U-turning across them. The mayor’s office has stated it can’t make major changes to the streetscape without approval from federal agencies, including the Commission on the Fine Arts, the National Capital Planning Commission, and the National Park Service.

Tomorrow night, please come to the National Park Service’s public meeting to discuss the long-term management of Pennsylvania Avenue and ask that easy changes to keep cyclists safe be implemented as soon as possiblee.

Meeting details
Wed., May 29, 2013
5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
National Capital Planning Commission offices
401 9th St. NW
Washington, D.C.
Google Maps bicycle directions
More information on the NPS website

Thank you for your help in making Pennsylvania Avenue a better bicycling experience for residents of and visitors to our nation’s capital.

Image via Flickr user jantos, from his relentless documentation of cars U-turning illegally across the Pennsylvania Avenue cycletrack

Update from the Mayor’s Office on Pennsylvania Avenue

Pennsylvania Avenue Bike Lanes

Remember the bollards?

Yesterday, long-simmering displeasure with the pattern of illegal u-turns across the Pennsylvania Avenue bike lanes netted considerable media attention from NBC4. Reporter Mark Segraves was most interested in a video by Bill Walsh of a police officer actually pulling someone over for u-turning. However, this is far from standard; more often, drivers u-turn with impunity.

It has been difficult for WABA to get information about Pennsylvania Avenue. We know that the bollards that once lined the cycletrack would be removed for the winter, due to the threat of snow as well as plans for the inauguration. We know that DDOT was working on ideas for better, and perhaps more, bollards. But as to why the bollards have been left in a pile and not been reinstalled? We’re as perplexed as everyone else. Additionally, we haven’t gotten a clear description of exactly what sort of enforcement MPD has done since it and DMV agreed that u-turns were illegal.

After Justin Antos counted and documented thirty U-turns in thirty minutes on Pennsylvania Avenue, I forwarded his photos to Mayor Vince Gray’s office with a request for explanation and assistance. I received the following response:

MPD and DDOT have been working to improve enforcement and protection. It’s my understanding that flexposts are on the way to replace the ones that have come down, and that DDOT is working with the Federal Highway Administration, the Planning Commission, and the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts to find a suitable perimeter divider. We’re hopeful that the divider we’ve presented to them will be accepted. If they are, we will move quickly to install.

As of today, MPD has written approximately 62 improper turn citations and approximately 70 warnings.  Prior to yesterday, we were doing targeted enforcement during selected rush hours and special events.  Today’s AM Officer observed no violations and wrote zero citations during the scheduled enforcement. It should be noted that yesterday was a special situation because of the sinkhole at 14th and Pennsylvania. Our resources were deployed to direct traffic around this traffic blockage.  Moreover, some where cars were allowed to turn around on PA Avenue to mitigate what was a significant traffic/public safety incident.

As you are aware, Pennsylvania Avenue is a special case because of the intersecting jurisdictions. But, we remain committed to expanding cycling in the District and making our streets safe for those who use bicycles.

We now know that the new flexposts are on the way and that DDOT is engaged with the federal planning and fine arts entities that have a say in what happens on Pennsylvania Avenue. We hope that these conversations—especially those involving the Commission on Fine Arts—will be open to the local, affected public. If they aren’t, we’ll find other ways to ensure the CFA understands that its decisions could place the community in physical danger.

We also know that MPD is doing enforcement. I think we can all agree that when a guy with a camera can document thirty instances of unlawful behavior in thirty minutes—and repeat the exercise daily—that enforcement mechanism is failing. But enforcement exists. That said, we want to see it improved, and we want to better understand its timing and method so that we are better able to communicate to the bicycling community what is being done.

From a policy standpoint, the worst possible result would bicyclists losing so much confidence in the safety of biking facilities like Pennsylvania Avenue that those facilities fail to enable more people to bike safely. We are on the verge of that with Pennsylvania Avenue’s bike lanes, and we need prompt improvements to both the infrastructure and enforcement mechanisms. Either alone won’t be good enough.

In the meantime, we need DDOT to rush the procurement of those new flexposts, or put the old ones back until the new ones arrive. Installing a flexpost isn’t  a big job. It’s OK to do it twice to prevent crashes and save lives.

Image via DDOT on Flickr

We’re Really Excited That the Pennsylvania Avenue Bike Lane Will Be Shown Off During Inauguration

The Washington Area Bicyclist Association is thrilled that on Monday, visitors from across the United States and the world will see the inauguration of President Barack Obama—as well as state-of-the-art bicycle infrastructure. The Pennsylvania Avenue cycletrack, a lane that keeps bicyclists comfortably separated from motor traffic, will be on display to those who congregate on and around the National Mall.

As District Department of Transportation Director Terry Bellamy told the Washington Post, “We are very proud that the nation will get to see why D.C. is now regarded as one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the nation.”

The cycletrack is a result of DDOT and the city’s continued commitment to making D.C. a better place for biking. It’s widely acknowledged that physically separated bike infrastructure increases the number of cyclists, and Pennsylvania Avenue is a prime example of a well-planned cycletrack that allows cyclists to ride safely and efficiently on a major arterial. The bike lane is an early example of separated facilities in American cities and has led D.C. to become a part of the Green Lanes Project, an initiative to increase the number of such facilities throughout the U.S.

Separated bike facilities are safe, attractive, and encourage those who might not otherwise bike to do so. According to a 2012 study by the University of British Columbia, dedicated bike lanes have one-tenth the risk of major streets with parked cars and no infrastructure. The study also found that cyclists prefer to ride on routes built explicitly for them, a conclusion that’s proven by use of the Pennsylvania Avenue cycletrack: After its construction in 2010, DDOT found that bicycling volumes on Pennsylvania Avenue increased by over 200 percent and that nearly three in four residents in the area indicated that they supported the center bike lanes, believing them to be a valuable asset.

WABA thanks DDOT for its dedication to building state-of-the-art dedicated infrastructure, and is proud that the city will be able to show off the Pennsylvania Avenue cycletrack during inauguration festivities.

If you’ve got any questions regarding the Pennsylvania Avenue cycletrack during inauguration weekend, contact Alex Baca, Washington Area Bicyclist Association, alex.baca@waba.org, (202) 518-0524. National inquiries should be directed to Lauren Fallert, Green Lanes Project, lfallert@verdepr.com, (970) 259-3555 x3.

Update on Pennsylvania Avenue Cycletrack U-Turn Enforcement

UPDATE (Dec. 12, 2012): The mayor’s office tells WABA that MPD “is out there is force right now” and “plans on having an enhanced presence every morning and afternoon this week.” MPD was waiting on the bike lanes to be completely finished, which included the rider marks in the center of the lanes being painted.

The Metropolitan Police Department tells WABA that it has been notified of the completion of the Pennsylvania Avenue cycletrack by the District Department of Transportation. Now that the cycletrack is considered complete, MPD is planning specific enforcement of drivers that violate Mayor Vince Gray’s Nov. 28 emergency ruling, which prohibits drivers from u-turning across the cycletrack.

WABA will follow up with both MPD and DDOT to ensure that enforcement of the ruling is established and continued.