DC innovates on 15th Street bike lane
During my online chat Monday, I got a comment about the new bike lane the District Department of Transportation is installing along 15th Street NW. The lane is designed to allow bikers to travel southbound in a protected area on what otherwise is a one-way street northbound. This is the reader's comment:
15th Street, NW, Washington, D.C.: The 15th street contraflow bike lane is an absolute disaster. Traffic has not slowed. It's still as dangerous for cyclists. Street cleaners cannot get to the curb or they will rip off the reflective covers that indicate the bike lane. Cyclists are going the wrong way. Cars are parked in the lane. 15th street does not feel part of the neighborhood. There are misspelled words like "yield" in the bike lane. Please tell me this is not permanent.
John Lisle, a spokesman for DDOT, saw the comment and went out to take some pictures of the new lane. You can see one of his pictures below.
He says most of the installation work is done, and this may resolve some of the potential issues raised. Lisle suspects there might have been some confusion -- particularly about the parking by the bike lane -- while the installation was underway, but thinks this will no longer be the case.
Also, he said, "The signage, for both cyclists and drivers, is very good and I think the bike lane is going to be very popular."
Some cyclists will indeed go the wrong way in the lane, meaning they will use it to ride northbound, rather than stick to the regular lanes of traffic, which are one-way north. They'll prefer the protection of the bike lane. But even that should not be a major problem, Lisle said.
DDOT says it is testing the contra concept on the 14-block stretch of 15th between Massachusetts Avenue and U Street. It's the city's first protected bike lane, buffered from traffic by parked cars.
What's the impact on traffic? It takes away a travel lane and eliminates six parking spots, the latter to increase visibility for bikers. That's not a crippling blow to traffic. Many drivers heading north still will prefer 15th to 16th or 14th. DDOT says there is more road capacity than necessary on 15th, given the number of cars regularly using it. But the narrowing of the roadway for the bike lane may have the side benefit of slowing down traffic on 15th, which has always gone too fast.
DDOT has been working with the neighborhood for several years on proposals to reconfigure the roadway. DC is looking to move away from the car-dominated road network of the mid-20th century into something that is friendlier to walkers and reconnects neighborhoods.
Here's a DDOT image showing a cross section of the reconfigured street. The contraflow lane is on the left side.
November 12, 2009; 9:00 AM ET
Categories: Biking , Safety | Tags: DDOT, Dr. Gridlock, contraflow bike lane
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