Have you seen DDOT’s Plan for Florida AVE NE?

Almost eight years ago, the District Department of Transportation began looking at redesigning Florida Avenue NE, between New York Avenue and H Street NE, to address chronic speeding and an alarming pattern of severe crashes. Through studies and design iterations, plans emerged to calm traffic, create better options for biking and walking, and make more livable spaces along the corridor.

Sadly, while that planning was underway, the corridor produced unthinkable carnage and traffic violence, taking the lives and livelihood of community members and bringing grief and loss into the lives of thousands across the region. But we can also put credit where it is due—after a crash that took the life of a dear member of our BikeDC community, the DC Council and DDOT sprang into action. In just a few months, DDOT designed and installed a temporary road diet and protected bike lane on Florida Ave, which has already reduced speeding in the corridor.

Late last year, DDOT held a public meeting to present the 60% plans for the complete reconstruction of Florida Ave NE as well as 30% plans for the complicated intersection of Florida Ave, New York Ave, 1st St, and Eckington Pl NE. 

These plans propose many high-quality improvements to sidewalks, trees, curb-protected bike lanes and intersections, reflecting many lessons learned from the interim treatments installed last year. You can find the plans and presentation materials on the project website.

However the proposals are far from perfect. We believe DDOT can and must go further to create safe spaces for walking and biking and limit opportunities for unsafe speeding. WABA submitted detailed comments for both the corridor and intersection reconstructions. Read WABA’s full comments here. In particular, we would like to see improvements to include:

  • More aggressive traffic calming and a lower design speed
  • protected intersections especially at 4th, 6th, West Virginia Ave, and at the many intersections at New York Ave
  • Wider protected bike lanes and wider buffer from traffic
  • A wider north side sidewalk under the rail bridge to meet Union Market’s pedestrian needs
  • More complete and rational connections for people who bike across New York Ave, to the future New York Ave Trail, and further west on Florida Ave to meet the future needs of people who use the corridor

Once built (scheduled for 2021), this street design will remain in place for decades, so it is critical that the city gets it right, not just better. 

What you can do

If you want to see Florida Ave NE done right, join our 20×20 campaign to organize the support DDOT and our community leaders need to make the right call. Sign up for a 20×20 Ward group here to get started.It is still not too late to tell DDOT what you think about their plans. Take a closer look at the plans here, then click here to email constructive comments to the project team.

What’s next?

Thank you to everyone who joined us in person or in spirit last Friday as we rallied for safer streets. You can read a write up of the rally at Greater Greater Washington.

Here are several things you can today to keep the momentum going:

Immediate fixes to Florida Avenue NE

Ask your Councilmembers to support emergency legislation that will require DDOT to take immediate action to make this deadly road safer.

Big Picture Meeting

If you are interested in systemic fixes, Councilmember Charles Allen is hosting a meeting this evening (Monday, 4/29) seeking input on how best to use legislation to make DC’s streets less deadly. Details here.

Details Meeting

If you like to get into the nitty-gritty, DDOT is hosting an open house to discuss proposed changes to “Dave Thomas Circle”—the intersection of Florida Ave NE, 1st St NW, Eckington Place NE, and New York Avenue NE. Previous proposed changes to this dangerous intersection were underwhelming—the designs omitted key crosswalks and biking connections to minimize delay for drivers. Details here.

Plan for Florida Ave is Better, But Plenty of Room For Improvement

Rendering of a protected bike lane on Florida Ave NE (Source DDOT)

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

Two-way protected bike lane on Florida Ave NE with “floating bus stop”

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.

Design mixes pedestrians and bicyclists on narrow sidewalk at West Virginia Ave

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

Minimal changes to Florida Ave between West Virginia Ave and H St.

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.

Submit Comments

Don’t let DDOT ignore bike safety on Florida Ave NE

Florida Ave NE is a crummy place to bike and walk (Source Google Street View)

Since 2013, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) has been studying ways to make Florida Ave NE between First St. NE and H St. NE a safe corridor for people who walk, bike, and drive. After a tragic 2013 pedestrian fatality, DDOT began a planning study, and finally released a final report last February. On Tuesday, February 21st, DDOT will host a long-awaited meeting to share preliminary engineering designs for what we hope are major changes to this car-focused corridor.

Meeting Details

Tuesday, February 21, 2017 | 6:30 pm – 8 pm | Presentation at 6:30 pm
New Samaritan Baptist Church 1100 Florida Avenue NE
Please attend and insist on a design that reduces speeding, protects vulnerable road users, and encourages multimodal transportation.

I’ll Be There

Florida Ave Has a Chronic Speeding Problem

Statistics and personal experience tell us that Florida Ave is a dangerous and stressful place to bike and walk. As an example, between 7th & 8th Street, DDOT analysis shows that the average driver exceeded the 25mph speed limit by between 5 and 10 miles per hour. In the same block, the 85th percentile speed, or the speed that 85% of drivers will drive at or below during free-flowing conditions, was 33 mph at morning rush hour, 38 mph at evening rush hour, and almost 45 mph overnight. During the study period, the fastest recorded speed was 70 mph.

Speed and Volume analysis on Florida Ave NE (Source DDOT)

A growing body of research shows that speed kills, and lower vehicle speeds result in fewer and less severe crashes. A pedestrian struck by a vehicle at 20 mph has a 90% chance of survival, but a 90% chance of death at 40 mph. Florida Ave NE, as designed, is undeniably and unacceptably dangerous. If DDOT is serious about Vision Zero, its initiative to eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries, then it must address this chronic speeding problem.

Pedestrian and Bicycle crashes in the study area (Source DDOT)

Florida Avenue Needs Fewer Lanes, Wide Sidewalks, and Protected Bike Lanes

Sidewalks on Florida Ave NE

Speeding is a chronic problem in this corridor because the road design encourages high speeds. Florida Ave is up to 6 lanes and 67 feet across. Some lanes are up to 17 feet wide. And while this width may help move cars during rush hour, it far exceeds the needed capacity during off-peak times, leading to a wide-open road and comfortable speeding. Even DDOT’s own traffic models show that the road could function quite well with one fewer travel lane in each direction.

Since so much width is dedicated to moving cars, pedestrians face a long list of challenges on Florida Ave. The sidewalks are in poor condition, but also comically narrow. On one block, the sidewalk is just 2 feet wide due to a light pole in the middle, rendering it impassable to anyone with a walker, stroller, or wheelchair. Pedestrian crossings are very long, and many of them are unsignalized. These challenges are particularly dangerous for senior residents, wheelchair users, and deaf students attending Gallaudet University. Wider sidewalks and shorter crossings are sorely needed.

Finally, Florida Avenue NE is a key link in the bicycle network, yet lacks any kind of bicycle facilities. The high stress environment does not serve the needs of people who bike today. A continuous, low-stress, protected bike lane is required for most people to even consider riding in this otherwise convenient corridor.

DDOT’s Preferred Alternative Misses the Mark

In 2014, DDOT presented 3 alternatives covering a range of options including fewer travel lanes, widened sidewalks, buffered bike lanes, and streetscape improvements. DDOT asked the public to weigh in both at a public meeting and in an online survey (WABA supported these alternatives). Almost two years after the last public meeting, DDOT released a final report. This Washcycle blog post provides a helpful summary.

Surprisingly, even though the issues of speeding, excess road capacity, wide lanes, inadequate sidewalks, nonexistent bicycle accommodations and the resulting major safety issues are discussed thoroughly in the report, the recommended alternative clearly sacrifices essential bicycle and pedestrian safety improvements to keep extra travel lanes and minimize vehicle delay. Citing the need to balance local and regional uses of Florida Ave, the study’s recommended alternative keeps most of the features that the study admits contribute to illegally high vehicle speeds and undeniable safety concerns.

The recommended alternative is not at all beneficial to bicyclists. Even though 85% of those surveyed chose as their #1 choice an alternative that included buffered bike lanes and fewer travel lanes, the recommended alternative adds only 6 blocks of narrow, unprotected bicycle lanes flanked by 2-3 travel lanes. These very stressful bike lanes will not connect to West Virginia Avenue to the east or the Metropolitan Branch Trail on the west end, which leaves gaps on either end of the proposed bike lane. The recommended alternative adds unsafe bike lanes where it is easy for DDOT to put them in, and nowhere else.  For a project explicitly about safety, this project does not promise to do much for bicycle safety.

Read the full planning study here.

You Can Help Improve the Plans

On Tuesday, DDOT will present its 30% engineering designs. Despite what you may hear, there is plenty of time to improve the plans. DDOT’s planning study includes many great ideas for a safe and inviting Florida Ave corridor that encourages biking and walking and keeps safe even the most vulnerable road users. Please join us on Tuesday to hold engineers accountable and demand that this project make Florida Avenue a place where safety is a reality and not a dream.

Join Us At The Meeting