On Tuesday evening, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT), showed its 30% design plans for the Florida Avenue NE Multimodal Transportation Project at a crowded public meeting. Compared to the recommendations released last year, DDOT has made strong improvements to safely accommodate people who bike, including a new two-way protected bikeway between 2nd St and West Virginia Ave. However, the plan still leaves many challenging conflict points and safety issues unresolved, particularly east of West Virginia Ave.
DDOT is accepting comments on the project website through March 15. We encourage anyone who lives, works, or travels through this corridor to review the plans and leave comments and suggestions for how the plans could be improved to make Florida Ave a safe corridor for all road users.
A Protected Bike Lane on Florida Ave
DDOT proposes a two-way protected bike lane on the south side of Florida Ave from 3rd St. to 9th St. This lane would be 8-10 foot wide and separated from car traffic by a 1-2 foot concrete curb. The design includes dashed green paint across conflict areas like driveways and bike lane markings through some intersections for added visibility. At cross-streets, left turn arrows will limit turning conflicts between turning drivers and bicyclists traveling straight and two stage turn boxes will help bicyclists queue to cross Florida Ave. At bus stops, the plans call for “floating bus stops” which run the bike lane behind the bus stop, allowing busses to take on passengers without blocking the bike lane. Compared to the standard 5 foot painted bike lanes proposed last year, these designs offer a relatively low-stress option for riding a bicycle on the west end of Florida Ave.
The protected bike lane, while a big improvement, does has some unsolved issues. On the west end, between 2nd and 3rd St, it transitions to a wide shared sidewalk, where bicyclists will mix with pedestrians walking and bus riders exiting the bus. At West Virginia Ave, where a left turn lane reduces available width, the protected bike lane will again transition onto a shared sidewalk, also at a bus stop, where pedestrian and bicyclist conflicts are inevitable. These are unacceptable compromises.
Addressing these safety compromises is straightforward but requires DDOT to prioritize vulnerable road users. On the western end of the project, DDOT should reduce the road to 4 lanes of traffic and maintain the protected bike lane underneath the railroad bridge. At the eastern end, the design should eliminate the left turn lane onto West Virginia which would create enough space for the protected bike lane. Both of these design changes would demonstrate a commitment to the safety of people walking and biking over the convenience and speed of driving.
Shared Lanes on the Eastern End
Between West Virginia Ave and H St. NE, DDOT plans to bump out curbs at cross-streets and widen sidewalks where they are too narrow, add trees and streetlights, and install new traffic signals at some intersections. But don’t expect any improvements for safe biking. At West Virginia, westbound bicyclists are encouraged to go north to Morse or south to G or I. And while that will work for some, many people on bikes will stay on Florida, so it really ought to be safe too.
DDOT’s plans make minimal changes to the roadway, which will remain two lanes (10’ and 13’) in each direction with off-peak parking. DDOT says this configuration is required to move high peak traffic volumes while still accommodating the community’s parking needs. Unfortunately, the plan’s wide travel lanes are likely to encourage illegal and deadly speeding, rather than decrease it. And the extra-wide curb lane may make more trouble for bicyclists than a narrower one would. That extra road width could be used to widen the sidewalks or create median refuge islands for people crossing.
Review the Plans and Weigh In
If you live, work, play or travel in the Florida Ave NE corridor, head to the project website to review the presentation materials and comment using the comment form. The project team needs to hear what aspects of the design work and constructive feedback on needed improvements. Specific and detailed comments are always most helpful. The comment period closes March 15.