Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity
Transportation Home  |  Discussions  |  Traffic  |  Columns  |  Q&A     |      Twitter |    Facebook   |  phone Alerts

D.C. revises bike lane plan

[4 p.m. update]
Gabe Klein, director of the D.C. Department of Transportation, says he's heard every rumor out there about why he decided to narrow the planned space for bike lanes on Pennsylvania Avenue NW. Did the mayor make him do it? Did AAA?

No, he says, put it on him. When he got a chance to go out and look at the paint put down on Pennsylvania for the new bike lanes, "We had some choke points at either end, which I thought were unnecessary," Klein said Tuesday afternoon. "In some places, not only did we not use the median, but I started to question how safe it would be for cyclists once we removed the orange cones."

When Klein had his people remove some of the temporary barriers to test that concern, cars retook the bike lanes, he said. An idea that had looked great on paper looked somewhat risky on pavement.

Cyclists, knowing they were in lanes set up for bikes only, might not be as wary about the presence of cars. Motorists might simply be confused and cross over, since there were no barriers separating the cycling lanes for the motor vehicle lanes.

Limiting the bike lanes to the median would make the separation more obvious, he said. This also avoids taking lanes from automobiles, but Klein said this isn't being done out of fear about traffic congestion -- the concern expressed last month by AAA Mid-Atlantic.

On Tuesday afternoon, AAA Mid-Atlantic's John B. Townsend II said this in an e-mail: "We applaud the city for revisiting the issue and for putting safety and practicality first. From the beginning, our concern was adequate consideration and requisite approval of the configuration of the bike lanes on Pennsylvania Avenue, focused on two overarching and overlapping issues: 1. whether the design would increase the number and severity of car/cycle crashes and 2. whether the design would impede mobility for all."

Drivers and cyclists need to share the same expectations about travel on such a busy route through downtown Washington, and this new plan takes us in that direction. But it does raise this issue: Will pedestrians pausing in the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue come into conflict with cyclists using the median bikeway?

That's on the mind of Shane Farthing, the new executive director of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association. "WABA appreciates the District's efforts to incorporate bicycle lanes on this portion of Pennsylvania Avenue," he wrote in an e-mail to me, "but we are concerned that the reconfiguration may create a dangerous competition for space between cyclists and pedestrians in certain places -- most notably at the brick pedestrian refuges."

By attempting to reduce confusion between drivers and cyclists, will the District's new plan create confusion between cyclists cruising in the bike lanes and pedestrians seeking a safe spot to wait out a "Don't Walk" signal?

Klein thinks the realities of Pennsylvania Avenue will limit such conflicts. First of all, he said, there aren't hordes of pedestrians waiting in the middle. People tend to make it all the way across on the first try. Second, he said, sight lines on Pennsylvania are very good. A cyclist can see pedestrians a long way off, slow down and avoid them.

This is my main concern about the new version, and I hope DDOT will be monitoring the potential pedestrian conflicts closely. I think Klein's concern about the car-bike conflict and the decision to revise the plan is quite reasonable.

I was especially glad to hear him say that the Pennsylvania Avenue experience will inform, rather than delay, the overall effort to put more bike lanes in downtown Washington. The current process highlights the need for on-the-scene review of proposals, Klein said.

While WABA would have liked to see the original plan tested, "we still firmly believe that the good outweighs the bad and that installing the lanes is an enormous benefit," Farthing said. However, he added, "we hope to be able to work with the District government to more appropriately balance the needs of cyclists, pedestrians and vehicles."

[Original post]
The District Department of Transportation says it has modified its plan for the bike lanes on Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
What's new: In this version, the left lanes are returned to motorists. The cycling lanes will be in the median. DDOT says this will offer better protection for the cyclists by helping to keep cars out of the bike lanes. DDOT Director Gabe Klein had told me that when he took a look at the original setup, he was worried about cars straying into the wide area intended for bikers.

DDOT also notes that this new version should ease traffic congestion. In May, AAA Mid-Atlantic had expressed concern that greater congestion would result from removing traffic lanes. "Lane closures must be approached with extreme caution to avoid excessive traffic delays," AAA spokesman John B. Townsend II said at that time. "I think what's confusing to us is that they're taking out complete lanes." See bike lanes story by Ashley Halsey III.

What's the same: The revised version keeps the new signals intended to protect cyclists and walkers from left-turning cars. Here's a link to a pdf on DDOT's Web site showing the revised lanes block by block and intersection by intersection.

What's next: DDOT is inviting comment in the revisions. Send an e-mail to william.handsfield@dc.gov. Do it soon. The new lanes are scheduled to be completed by mid-June.

I'd like to hear what cyclists and motorists think of this new, narrower version of the bike lanes.

By Robert Thomson  | June 8, 2010; 9:15 AM ET
Categories:  Biking, Traffic Safety  | Tags:  Dr. Gridlock  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Closings set for Rock Creek Parkway
Next: Share your commuting stories

Comments

Nice to see Fenty really stand up to suburban dominated AAA. The way he said "no, we're going to give these bike lanes a try. I'm going to stand by my DOT and the research and work they've done" is truly inspiring. A lesser man would've given in during an election year and made DDOT restore the unneeded car lanes. What's that? Oh....

Posted by: cranor | June 8, 2010 10:38 AM | Report abuse

Finally, some commonsense.

See, despite all the car hate rhetoric, cars and bikes can coexist. I don't see a problem with this. I was astounded that the huge median wasn't where the orginal bike lanes were. To remove 2 entire lanes on an already crowded city street that sees 35,000 to 40,000 vehicles per day for the benfit of the couple hundred bikers a day that use it (in nice weather of course) instead of using the huge empty median was completely ridiculous.

Posted by: Nosh1 | June 8, 2010 10:39 AM | Report abuse

If we have any hope to reduce our dependency on cars and driving this is an essential step forward. Safer and more prominent bike lanes translate to more bikers, less drivers and conservation (not to mention better health). Let's make DC the bike capital of the USA. I hope NVA follows up and develops more bike lanes for us too. Good work!

Posted by: citizen4truth1 | June 8, 2010 10:57 AM | Report abuse

If Gray promises to get rid of Gabe Klein, he'll have my vote.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | June 8, 2010 11:38 AM | Report abuse

I can already envision how the secret service and DC police will utilize the bike lanes to escort heads of state and diplomats through traffic.

Posted by: SaysEye | June 8, 2010 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Bike lanes huh! Wonder how many people use bikes to grocery shopping, or to go retail shopping

Posted by: rickyjohnson1 | June 8, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

In response to the following, I go shopping throughout DC all the time on my bike. Eastern Market, Farmers Markets, grocery, downtown, etc. I purchased and accessory to hold the purchased items to get them home safe.

Bike lanes huh! Wonder how many people use bikes to grocery shopping, or to go retail shopping

Posted by: rickyjohnson1 | June 8, 2010 12:19 PM


Posted by: jdindc | June 8, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

"Bike lanes huh! Wonder how many people use bikes to grocery shopping, or to go retail shopping"

Yes Ricky - because they do so much of that on Pennsylvania Ave

Posted by: hohandy | June 8, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse

This is how it should have been done to begin with. I assumed that it was not done this way because the median strip is used as free parking for city officials. Presumably they will now just park illegally in the bike lanes.

Posted by: HT12 | June 8, 2010 1:15 PM | Report abuse

Good to see some common sense instead of more of the same car-hating and kissing up to the bike tyrants we've been getting from Gabe Klien (Exactly what are his urban planning creditials, if any?). To take away a full lane of traffic on one of the city's major thoroughfares for a few dozen daily bikers (in good weather) was nonsense.

I wonder how long it will take for the gonzo cyclists to return to weaving through traffic, running red lights and riding on the sidewalks because the bike lanes are "too slow".

Posted by: ceefer66 | June 8, 2010 1:41 PM | Report abuse

I live, work, and pay lots of taxes in DC. I am all for more bike lanes. We already cater to suburban motorists WAY too much, only to deal with the traffic and pollution they produce with none of the benefits their tax dollars would provide.

Posted by: monongahela79 | June 8, 2010 1:57 PM | Report abuse

I see two comments about "car hating", but all of the negativity is coming from that side. Hmmm.
I'm fine with bike lanes. Don't need 'em, though. I can just keep riding and taking my usual lane of traffic.

Posted by: krickey7 | June 8, 2010 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Who will pay for fixing up the screwed up bike lane on Pennsylvania Avenue, NW? The taxpayers in DC of course. Who ever made the original decision regarding the bike lane needs to find a new job to waste money on.

You didnot have to be a genius to realize that this was a safety hazard.

Posted by: maserfentyaintnogood | June 8, 2010 2:45 PM | Report abuse

@monongahela79 - do you think the suburban motorist commuters somehow don't pay sales taxes on the lunches, dinners, movie tickets, theater tickets, sports concessions, etc., that they purchase in DC?

Considering that most non-motorcade route surface streets in DC look like the surface of the moon, clearly no tax dollars are spent there as it is.

Posted by: nocando | June 8, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

I live, work, and pay lots of taxes in DC. I am all for more bike lanes. We already cater to suburban motorists WAY too much, only to deal with the traffic and pollution they produce with none of the benefits their tax dollars would provide.

Posted by: monongahela79
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

I don't live in DC but I do own property in the District so I too pay "lots" of DC taxes - I dare say say as much as if not more than you when I include the taxes I pay for meals, purchases, parking, etc. when I entertain clients or go out with my girlfriend in addition to real estate taxes.

That said, considering the sorry, shabby state of DC's overloaded streets and its truncated freeway system (the reasons for which are the results of a stated DC policy of making life difficult for drivers), along with the speed cameras that are deployed mainly on commuter routes, I am hard pressed to find any examples of how DC "caters to suburban motorists" AT ALL, much less "WAY too much" (the current 11th Street Bridge reconstruction is the very least the District can do to benefit REVENUE PRODUCING commuters and it's late in the day).

Can you?

Yeah. That's what I thought. One more DC apologist/suburb-hater diced, seasoned, skewered, and grilled.

Posted by: ceefer66 | June 8, 2010 4:02 PM | Report abuse

Count me as one DC Bike Commuter that is glad DDOT put the lanes inside the median. I immediately noticed the choke points caused by the bike lanes and shared DDOT's concerns about safety. The first time I rode on the new lanes I was keenly aware of the P-ed off motorists just inches away from me in "their" old lane. I was amazed that there still appeared to be 15 feet of real estate in the middle of the road, and wondered why they chose to take a lane of car traffic away rather than use the median. The new design appears to have corrected that situation and will hopefully achieve the goal of allowing cyclists and motorists to more peacefully co-exist. Now can DDOT just synchronize those traffic lights, please?

Posted by: jpkeese | June 8, 2010 5:35 PM | Report abuse

The great thing about supporting bike lane creation is that it will open up opportunities to share lanes or have special lanes created for ultra-narrow cars like the Tango (www.commutercars.com).

Once commuters see the value added benefits of ultra-narrow electric cars, our city transportation systems will transform into a far more efficient and pleasant experience.

Go Tango Go.

Posted by: MichaelWeiser | June 8, 2010 6:52 PM | Report abuse

Bike lanes are a stupid idea on an already congested street. Why cant they just ride in the street with everyone else, since traffic is mostly crawling anyway? These urban planners must have gone to school with those genuises in the 70's who closed off city streets to make pedestrian malls, like F street in front of the MLK Library and 4th Street near Waterside Mall. Commonsense finally prevailed 20-30 years later and those streets were reopened, allowing the business districts to flourish once again.

Posted by: PepperDr | June 8, 2010 10:09 PM | Report abuse

So what's the problem with cameras to deter speeding? Sounds like a great idea to me!

Posted by: fredcorgi1 | June 9, 2010 10:40 AM | Report abuse

@fredcorgi1

"So what's the problem with cameras to deter speeding? Sounds like a great idea to me!"

The problem is with the predatory manner in which the cameras are deployed. The locations and the speed limits in those locations are intended to target suburban commuters, espescially Maryland commuters.

Cases in point:

SW Freeway - an Interstate highway. 45 mph speed limit.

3rd Street Tunnel - an Interstate Highway. 45 mph speed limit.

I-295 near Blue Plains - a WIDE OPEN Interstate Highway. 45 mph speed limit

NY Ave east of Florida Ave. 35 mph speed limit.

East Capitol Street below the 295 viaduct -40 mph speed limit- in an open area when there is NO speed cameras in front of Eastern High School 1.5 miles west.

I could go on.

When I see the cameras in school zones and residential neighborhoods - especially in neighborhoods with a large number of children and elderly, I'll buy the "safety" angle. Until then, I'll continue to use a radar detector in DC -in spite of the law against them.

Posted by: ceefer66 | June 9, 2010 11:43 AM | Report abuse

I ride my bike to work whenever I can. Penn Avenue is part of my route, between 9th and 4th streets. The bike lanes in the median are fine when you are going straight along Penn Avenue or making a left. Making a right from the median, however, is very dangerous, and typically requires that you wait until the light on Penn turns red to allow the cross-street to go. For the short distance I am on Penn Avenue, I find it faster and safer to stick with the main road.

Posted by: spaul_2000 | June 9, 2010 12:28 PM | Report abuse

" ride my bike to work whenever I can. Penn Avenue is part of my route, between 9th and 4th streets. The bike lanes in the median are fine when you are going straight along Penn Avenue or making a left. Making a right from the median, however, is very dangerous, and typically requires that you wait until the light on Penn turns red to allow the cross-street to go."

I thought we ALL - drivers, walkers, bicyclists - were SUPPOSED to wait for the green.

Am I missing something? Oh, yes. Bicyclists are EXEMPT from the laws the rest of us are required to follow because THEY have a RIGHT to use to roads.

Wow! You get your own lane and you STILL whine.

Posted by: ceefer66 | June 9, 2010 12:43 PM | Report abuse

I am sure insurance companies are hating this. Pedestrians, bicycles, automobiles, streetcars, metro buses, ALL sharing the same public space.

I love biking, but I just am not going to put my safety in jeopardy to prove a political point that I have a right to a dedicated lane. To be fare, my cycling is reserved to exercise and leisure, mostly on the weekend and completely along biking trails.

Because my bicycle does not have bumpers, I prefer not to be in the general vicinity of a car who may or may not be operated by a sane, sober driver.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | June 9, 2010 1:56 PM | Report abuse

Hey Ceefer66 -- You are indeed missing something. I was talking about the fact that the bike lanes are in the median (that is, the center of the road) and if you want to make a right-hand turn, you either have to cross in front of two lanes of moving traffic to make the right, or wait until the light on Penn Ave changes red. You might want to make yourself a diagram to help visualize this. Certainly appreciate the RANT though.

Posted by: spaul_2000 | June 9, 2010 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Ol' ceefer seems to also forget that just a minute ago, he was complaining about red light cameras that, if I recall correctly, only result in tickets if you are speeding.
I guess some of us consider ourselves exempt from traffic laws if we find them inconvenient.

Posted by: krickey7 | June 9, 2010 2:11 PM | Report abuse

I welcome every bike lane created! However, I never let my guard down in a bike lane or not, because bike-oblivious drivers are everywhere.

Oh yeah, let us no forget the dangerous, unconscious cell phone using drivers who threaten everyone.

We (DC residents) pay taxes while suburban drivers speed their way in and out of town (if they're not lost) endangering other drivers as well as bikers. Ditto for the pollution-spewing tour buses and metro buses that I dread getting stuck behind.

Perhaps we need a Bikers Rights bill?

(And all of you helmet-less bikers riding like you're on a country road, wake up!)


Posted by: freestyling | June 9, 2010 2:12 PM | Report abuse

@spaul_2000

"if you want to make a right-hand turn, you either have to cross in front of two lanes of moving traffic to make the right, or wait until the light on Penn Ave changes red."

Then wait for the dam(sp) light!

"You might want to make yourself a diagram to help visualize this."

This isn't rocket science so I don't need any diagram. YOU on the other hand, obviously need instructions, so let me do the favor:

If you need to turn from the Pa. Ave bike lane onto, say 11th Street, wait for the 11 Street light to turn grreen.

"Certainly appreciate the RANT though"

Sheesh! My sister has a pregnant she-dog that whines LESS than you do.

Grow the foc up already!

Posted by: ceefer66 | June 9, 2010 5:16 PM | Report abuse

@krickey7 (the same person who porvoed to be incorrect and irrelevant during the Rock Creek discussion).

"Ol' ceefer seems to also forget that just a minute ago, he was complaining about red light cameras that,"

Find a comment I've ever made "complaining about red light cameras".

Yeah. That's what I thought.

"if I recall correctly, only result in tickets if you are speeding."

44 mph on the SW Freeway is "speeding"?

Have a friend who drives take you out and show you what 44 mph feels like on a freeway before you try any more of your cute-kid preachiness.

"I guess some of us consider ourselves exempt from traffic laws if we find them inconvenient."

You mean like the cyclists who blow through red lights and stop signs or the guy in this discussion who keeps whining about having to wait for a green light on the cross street so he can turn across 2 lanes of vehicular traffic.

You're still batting 1.000, pal.


Posted by: krickey7

Posted by: ceefer66 | June 9, 2010 5:31 PM | Report abuse

Hey, ceefer old buddy, I don't set the speeds. I do, however, obey the traffic laws. All of them, without whining. Unlike some people.

What's that radar detector for, anyway? Strasburger's fastballs?

Posted by: krickey7 | June 9, 2010 5:40 PM | Report abuse

Oh, yeah.

We refuse to grow up. That's what riding a bike is all about. It sure beats getting old and bitter.

Posted by: krickey7 | June 9, 2010 5:55 PM | Report abuse

@krickey7

"Oh, yeah.

We refuse to grow up. That's what riding a bike is all about. It sure beats getting old and bitter."

I actually do ride a bicycle -for recreation. I just don't use it to get to work. Something about not wanting to arrive at work sweaty and stinky then ending up smelling bad and feeling clammy all day. When you grow up, you'll understand.

Still batiing 1.000, baby boy. Keep talking.

Posted by: ceefer66 | June 9, 2010 6:17 PM | Report abuse

Oh, I do.
I understand everytime I drive to work in rush hour traffic, my soul dies, just a little bit.
I understand that when I've been riding, I've seen comets in the winter sky, stopped for deer 5 feet in front of me, and helped a little girl catch her dog.
I understand I'm 47 and when I'm on my bike, 20-something girls are still checking me out.
You're making me feel better already, ceefer.

Posted by: krickey7 | June 9, 2010 6:25 PM | Report abuse

krickey7

"Oh, yeah.

We refuse to grow up. That's what riding a bike is all about. It sure beats getting old and bitter."

I ride for recreation, baby boy (see what happens when you try to categorize people?).

I don't however, ride to work. You see, I've got a bit of a problem with arriving at work hot, sticky and, stinky then spending the day smelling bad and feeling clammy.

When you grow up you'll understand.

You're STILL batting 1.000, pal.

BTW, how's that search for my complaining about red light cameras going?

Posted by: ceefer66 | June 9, 2010 6:35 PM | Report abuse

"Oh, I do.
I understand everytime I drive to work in rush hour traffic, my soul dies, just a little bit.
I understand that when I've been riding, I've seen comets in the winter sky, stopped for deer 5 feet in front of me, and helped a little girl catch her dog.
I understand I'm 47 and when I'm on my bike, 20-something girls are still checking me out.
You're making me feel better already, ceefer."

So your point is....?

I get to look at the sky, check out the animals and the neighborhood kids and commune with nature whenever I take a walk in my safe neighborhood (you know what that is?) or work work in my yard (if you work hard, save your money, and pay your bills on time you can get one, too).

I'm 10 years older than you and I still get play from those young hotties - when I'm on my bike and even more so when I'm riding in my Benz. Between the 2 of us, who do you REALLY think they would rather get with?

Or, are girls even your thing? Given your penchant for smart aleck banter, I'm starting to wonder.

Posted by: ceefer66 | June 9, 2010 6:44 PM | Report abuse

Signing out, krick.

The last word is yours.

Have a happy landing.

Posted by: ceefer66 | June 9, 2010 6:49 PM | Report abuse

okee doke, ceeferdude.

take care.

Posted by: krickey7 | June 9, 2010 9:15 PM | Report abuse

I commute both by car and bike on Pennsylvania Avenue and my office overlooks the Avenue. The current bike lanes wasted the median strip and caused a lot of traffic congestion. You didn't need to be an AAA lobbyist to see the congestion. The bike lanes should not interfere with pedestrians since the bikes should stop before the walkway begins.

It is great to have the bike lanes. Please extend them to 15th Street to reach the car-free White House area and serve bikers coming from Virginia bridges and Capitol Crescent Trail via Virginia Avenue and E Street.

Posted by: dailyrider | June 9, 2010 9:15 PM | Report abuse

As a DC resident with a car and a bike commuter to work for 10 years, I understand the desire of users of each to have better transportation options. I am happy that DDOT is addressing the problems with the new bike lanes on PA Avenue, but I don't think they are going far enough. The problem is the new signal timing only allows cars making a left turn to move whenever there is a left turn arrow. When no cars are making a turn, everyone waits- cars and bikes in all directions- and no one moves until the arrow goes out. From the car side, this increases pollution due to idling and decreases safety by encouraging drivers to speed to try to get through as many solid green lights as possible. I understand why DDOT is doing this- so bikes must obey the solid green signal and not get hit by cars turning left- but DDOT needs a better approach. Either have special bike signal lights for bikes (like in Copenhagen) or put in vehicle detectors for the left hand turns (loops or microwave-based vehicle detectors) so the left arrow only comes on when a car is waiting to turn.

Posted by: Skollins1 | June 10, 2010 7:15 AM | Report abuse

As a daily bike commuter in DC for more than 30 years, I predict that the true utility of the glorious new bicycle lanes on Pennsylvania Avenue will hinge on timing the traffic lights to accommodate the flow of cyclists as well as motorized traffic. I tried the lanes at mid-day two weeks ago and was totally frustrated by the fact that I needed to stop at 8 out of the 10 intersections along the route. If that doesn't change, the bulk of cyclists who regularly travel between the Capitol and 15th street will seek alternate routes and those beautiful new lanes will be left to the occasional cyclist and tourists.

Posted by: DMMOG | June 10, 2010 12:00 PM | Report abuse

@ DMMOG

" I tried the lanes at mid-day two weeks ago and was totally frustrated by the fact that I needed to stop at 8 out of the 10 intersections along the route."

And your problem is...?

Needing to stop at 8 out of 10 intersections is what drivers do all the time if the traffic lights dictate it. If the light turns red, you're suposed to stop. What about that is such an inconvenience for you?

It's just this sort of attitude that makes drivers detest street cyclists. You demand that drivers "share the road" and you claim your "right" to use the streets, then you complain about abiding by the rules. That is childish.

Look. You want to run with the big dogs, then follow the rules. If the light is red, stop!

"If that doesn't change, the bulk of cyclists who regularly travel between the Capitol and 15th street will seek alternate routes"

Be my guest. Take your toys and go home.

"and those beautiful new lanes will be left to the occasional cyclist and tourists."

And perhaps the city will reconsider its bikes-everywhere mentality and finally accept the fact that there are some streets where bicycles just don't belong.

Posted by: ceefer66 | June 10, 2010 2:33 PM | Report abuse

L'Enfant is spinning in his grave. The genius who designed the bike lanes must be the same person who invented the figure 8 demolition derby race track. I've recently purchased a first aid kit for my car. I'm certain I will come upon an injured pedestrian with 10-speed tire tracks across their forehead and will need to render CPR.
by Jackthesnake on Jun 10, 2010 3:06 pm

Posted by: jakethesnake | June 10, 2010 3:22 PM | Report abuse

Ceefer:
As an acknowledged scofflaw, you really have no right to talk. As an aside, you really, really have issues.

And Jake, given L'Enfant lived a century before cars were invented, I think he'd find a human-powered vehicle such as a bike a whole lot less disturbing to his eternal rest.

Posted by: krickey7 | June 11, 2010 9:32 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company