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.