Updated 15th St. NW Cycletracks Almost Finished

The northern terminus of the cycletracks (V St NW)

The northern terminus of the cycletracks (V St NW)

The redesigned 15th Street NW Cycletracks are quickly nearing completion in downtown DC. When the project is finished, the two-way cycletracks will connect the new Pennsylvania Ave. bike lanes to V St. NW, adding roughly 1.7 miles of physically separated bicycle facilities to the DC network.

The pilot project began last year with a single contra-flow (or counterflow) lane for southbound bicycles separated from motor vehicle traffic by a parking lane. Northbound cyclists were encouraged to utilize the rightmost travel lane with sharrows, pavement markings that direct drivers to be more aware of cyclists sharing the lane. A study of usage patterns by DDOT found 14 percent of traffic in the contraflow lane was in the wrong direction and 81 percent of riders favored a two-way cycletrack configuration.

Updated plans for the cycletrack were drawn up and made public this summer.  Curiously, the northbound sharrows in the rightmost travel lane were removed as part of the project.  We understand that this was because DDOT wants to encourage cyclists to use the new facilities rather than riding with traffic in the rightmost lane.  However, DC law does not require cyclists to use bike lanes, paths, cycletracks or trails where they are provided, and cyclists should feel free to ride northbound by whichever method–travel lanes or cycletrack–they prefer.

During an exploratory ride by WABA staffers last week, the painting or striping of the project seemed nearly complete, while much of the details–such as signage–still needed to be added. The northernmost section (V St. NW) was the most complete and had new, shorter bollards.  As we headed south, the bollards disappeared (as of Tuesday 12/6) but lane markings continued to the original cycletrack’s endpoint at Massachusetts Ave. NW. Between there and Lafayette Park (at H St. NW) was a brand new cycletrack along 15th St. NW and a block of Vermont Ave. NW, though it too lacked bollards.  There was also a significant number of cars parked in the cycletrack and it seemed as though the parking meters were still operating. Parking signage was also still in place, no doubt adding to the confusion for both drivers and cyclists.

East of Lafayette Park, the cycletrack reappeared on the west side of 15th St. NW opposite New York Ave. NW and continued south past the Federal Reserve.  Again, the lane markings looked great (but still no bollards). The final block of the planned cycletrack on 15th St. NW between Pennsylvania Ave. NW and E St. NW had yet to be striped.  Lastly, the “missing” block where the Pennsylvania Ave. NW bike lane would have extended onto E ST. NW between 14th and 15th Streets NW has been completed!

Our observations were made on Tuesday, December 6th and we realize that more work has been done in the past week. On the Washington Area Bike Forums there was an update today about more work from the past weekend.

There are of course some issues that still need to be worked out.  We are hopeful that DDOT and parking enforcement will help us with cars, trucks and postal workers who insist on illegally using the cycletracks for parking. Another issue will be the routing bicyclists through Lafayette Park. There are currently no signs or pavement markings to help cyclists navigate through the park to the rest of the cycletrack.  There is one lonely turn arrow. More bicycle wayfinding–to direct cyclists to the E St. NW or G St. NW bike lanes, for instance–would also greatly improve the experience of riding in the new cycletrack

Originally, the project was slated to be finished by the “end of the fall”.  With the fall officially ending next week, we are hopeful the end of construction is imminent, and will post here and on our facebook page as soon as the official opening is announced.  On a brighter note, the cycletracks will almost certainly be finished and ready for the spring 2011 riding season, with plenty of time for “discovery” by casual riders. Of course, we’ll do our part to let bicyclists know about this addition to the city’s bicycle infrastructure.  Now, how about those L & M Street NW cycletracks