The District Department of Transportation is making plans for more than a mile of protected bike lanes on Pennsylvania Ave SE west of the river to calm traffic and expand the low-stress bike network. There are three possible designs on the table and they want your feedback this week.
All three designs propose a continuous, protected bike lane and fewer driving lanes, meaning less speeding and more people happily biking to shops and around the neighborhood. But in our view, Alternative A, which includes curbside protected bike lanes, bus-only lanes, and easy to navigate intersections, is by far the best option for people who bike, for bus riders, and overall safety on Pennsylvania Ave.
Use the form below to send DDOT a quick email with your comments. Get as detailed as you like and make it personal! Comments are due July 31.
Bike lanes have been planned for Pennsylvania Ave SE since at least the 2005 Bicycle Master Plan and affirmed in the 2014 MoveDC Plan. In 2017 Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6B requested that DDOT study options for adding bike lanes to the corridor.
For a narrated presentation and more details on the proposals, visit the the Penn Ave SE project site. Here is a quick summary of the options for redesigning Pennsylvania Ave from 2nd St. SE to 17th St. SE.
This design repurposes a driving lane in each direction for protected bike lanes against the outer curb. It includes the option for a peak-direction, bus lane just outside the protected bike lane that reverts to parking and loading for most of the day. At bus stops the protected bike lane would rise to sidewalk level to allow bus riders to board and alight onto the narrow shared platform (similar to this design on Brentwood Parkway). Depending on the time of day, the bicyclists would be separated from traffic by concrete curbs or by parked cars. With this setup, intersections would be quite intuitive for drivers and bicyclists.
This design also repurposes a driving lane for protected bike lanes againsts the outer curbs. But, instead of bus lanes, full-time parking would protect the slightly wider bike lanes. Bus stops would include wide “floating bus stops” which separate bus boarding from bike lane crossing for fewer conflicts. Under this option, buses would share the two lanes in each direction (down from 4) with all other drivers, and almost certainly suffer in reliability and speed.
This design puts the protected bike lanes against the median and includes an option for peak-direction, bus lanes against the outer curb where they travel today. By putting bikes on the left side, it is much more difficult to enter and exit the lane, to turn left, or access mid-block destinations. The bike lane will be adjacent to the “fast lane” and never have more than a 3’ buffer and curb+post separation from car traffic. Also, due to the median design, this creates inevitable conflict between left turning drivers and bicyclists at every intersection. The median is not wide enough to store more than two turning cars so they will spill out into the lane and block the bike lanes. It will be very difficult to make this design function and feel safe for most people who bike.
WABA Supports alternative A with bus lanes and improvements
Though not perfect, this design creates a continuous protected bike lane that will be safe, intuitive and comfortable for most people who bike AND bus lanes to speed up buses in this priority transit corridor. The design can be improved by:
- Moving some bus stops to the far side of the intersection to improve visibility,
- Extending the bus lane hours to more than peak-direction. Buses move even slower when traveling against the peak direction and in the middle of the day, and
- Plan to upgrade the busiest bus stops with floating bus islands to minimize conflicts between bus riders and people on bikes.
Why Bus Lanes?
Pennsylvania Ave SE sees between 18 and 24 buses per hour during peak times (every 2.5 minutes) serving routes that carry 22,000 daily trips. Yet, those busses crawl at 8-11mph on average, getting stuck in traffic behind people driving alone. Bus only lanes move that traffic out of the way, making buses more reliable, faster and more attractive. Better bus service on Pennsylvania Ave SE will radiate benefits across the city, including neighborhoods east of the river where transit travel times are often double those from northwest neighborhoods.
Why protected bike lanes?
The state of the practice for safe and low-stress bicycling has changed substantially since 2014. Protected bike lanes are preferred over unprotected lanes for roads with multiple driving lanes,, frequent buses, speeds greater than 25mph, and high parking turnover. Pennsylvania Ave is all of these. If we want most people to feel safe biking on Pennsylvania Ave, we cannot accept anything less than protected bike lanes. See this guidance on Choosing an All Ages and Abilities Bike Facility from the National Association of City Transportation Officials.
Why not move curbs?
You may notice that this project is only working with the road between existing curbs. This is intentional. Moving curbs would increase the complexity, cost, environmental review, and timeline of a project like this by years or even a decade. We need safer bicycling and faster buses on Pennsylvania Ave yesterday.
Read WABA’s complete comment letter here.