Curbs Coming to DC’s Cycle Tracks

Newly installed rubber curbs on the First St. NE cycle track. Photo: @mattyCampy

Protected bike lanes (cycle tracks) are all the rage these days, especially new lanes with curbs to separate cars from bicycles. Today, DDOT contractors installed rubber parking stops along the First St. cycle track to add additional protection for bicyclists along the section south of K St. NE. The two blocks north of K St. NE are already protected with the very deluxe pre-cast concrete curbs. Within days of “opening”, drivers were already parking in the cycle track. The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) is currently installing two different cycle tracks downtown. They hope to have them ready in time for Friday’s Bike to Work Day. The M St. NW cycle track is a one-way bike lane protected by parking that extends from Thomas Circle to 28th St. NW (DDOT Fact Sheet, PDF) and the First St NE cycle track is a two-way bike lane from M. St. NE to G St. NE (DDOT Fact Sheet, jpg). Phase 2 of the First St. NE reconstruction which should begin soon will extend the cycle track to Massachusetts Ave. NE. The on-going issue of drivers using the protected bike lanes for parking and truck drivers using the lanes for loading/unloading puts bicyclists in harms way. DDOT recently ramped up parking enforcement with the #parkingdirty campaign along the city’s bike lanes and cycle tracks, but the issue is still pervasive. The long term solution are physical barriers to prevent cars and trucks from entering the bike lane. We expect to see DDOT install more rubber curbs along other existing bicycling facilities such as the L St NW cycle track and the Pennsylvania Ave. NW bike lanes. Parking in the L St. NW cycle track is still an on-going issue with hundreds of photos documented on On Pennsylvania Ave, cars make illegal U-turns across the bike lanes causing crashes with bicyclists. Last fall, DDOT ran a pilot test of Zebras on a one block stretch of Pennsylvania Ave. NW after a long #StopUTurnsonPenn campaign. DDOT claims to have reduced the number of U-turns across the lanes despite no official results released. Daily commuters still report U-turns across the bike lanes, including the pilot block. The next step for the Pennsylvania Ave. NW bike lanes is curbs. National Park Service, Commission of Fine Arts (CFA), National Capital Planning Commission and DDOT all have oversight of Pennsylvania Ave. NW because of it’s national significance causing it to be a challenging street to change. That might not be an issue anymore, the May 15th Consent Calendar for the CFA includes a recommendation of “no objection to the final plans for the installation of low−profile “wheel−stop” lane separators”. With CFA approval, DDOT would be able to install rubber curbs along the entire length of Pennsylvania Ave. Paint and plastic flexposts has allowed DDOT to test the cycle track concept. If the daily traffic jams on the 15th St. cycle track is any indication, people love DC’s protected bike lanes and want more of them. Increased enforcement of parking in bike lanes and cycle tracks is important to keeping the lanes open and safe for bicyclists but can only go so far. Physically separating and protecting bicyclists with curbs and other barriers is the solution.  

DDOT Responds to M Street Inquiries

L Street Protected Bike Lane Ribbon Cutting

Not yet!

After we announced that WABA filed a FOIA request to learn more about the status of the M Street cycletrack—and after some press attention on the matter—the District Department of Transportation posted this update on its Facebook page:
In order for us to proceed with implementing the M Street cycletrack we need to complete the environmental review process. We are moving towards completion of this process, which will enable us to move quickly into construction. While our construction season is starting to wind down, we are hopeful that we can still complete the project this year. Actual construction will take an estimated three to five weeks to complete. We realize that this project has been in the works for quite some time and that it was scheduled to be implemented this year. This project remains a priority for us and therefore we will continue to work hard to ensure it can be implemented as soon as possible.

Where’s the M Street Cycletrack?

L Street Cycletrack Outreach

Will M Street have something like this soon? No idea.

Where’s the M Street cycletrack, the long-promised eastbound parallel to the L Street cycletrack? We don’t know. Weeks ago, DDOT decided to amend the design to remove the physical separation on a block of the cycletrack, leaving a standard bike lane. A spate of news coverage focused on the AME Metropolitan church’s displeasure with the cycletrack, which seemed to result in the modification by DDOT. Since then, we’ve received no update on the project. Initially, DDOT said the cycletrack would be installed in August. Then, it pushed it to October. It’s now the end of October, and we’ve seen no cycletrack, nor received an update. Hundreds of people have inquired about this project, and yet no city agency or official has provided any answers. As a result, WABA filed a Freedom of Information Act request last week in an attempt to get some information. We don’t know why the cycletrack has been delayed, so on the assumption that it was either 1) a planning decision to delay the project, 2) an issue with environmental compliance issues,* or 3) general internal project management delays, we copied the heads of planning and environmental compliance as well as DDOT Director Terry Bellamy on the request. If you were one of the hundreds who wrote asking for an open conversation and better information about the M Street cycletrack, thank you. We hope this FOIA request will result in an answer and fix whatever has kept the project from moving forward. We’ll keep you posted. *There is an ongoing issue in regional transportation modeling that makes it difficult for projects that might narrow or remove traffic lanes to pass air quality review. Viewed in isolation, the data sometimes shows that the slowing of traffic results in more congestion and thereby additional air pollution. Viewed more broadly and taking into account actual behavioral choices, these sorts of projects that enable more biking and walking are good for air quality. But crunching the numbers to show that fewer lanes are bad for air quality is simple and built into the traditional transportation models. Performing the broader analysis takes longer, more sophisticated efforts and sometimes delays projects. To its credit, DDOT has generally been willing and able to make those more difficult arguments to install projects, but having to do so has led to delays. Read the FOIA request below the jump. Continue reading

Mayor Gray, We Need to Talk About M Street

DDOT plans to break up the 1.3 mile cycle track on M St NW for just one block. Ask Mayor Gray’s support in brokering a better resolution.

As has been reported in the past week, designs for the M Street cycletrack have been severely compromised by the District Department of Transportation. Now, fewer riders will use the cycletrack, and those that do will be less safe. DDOT’s latest plans remove bollards from the 1500 block of M Street, turning the protected, separated cycletrack into an unprotected bike lane. This means that DDOT is ignoring the ever-growing evidence that separated cycletracks—lanes that keep cyclists apart from motor traffic and protect the space with bollards or other physical barriers—are safer for cyclists than unprotected lanes. Cycletracks encourage more people to ride bikes and are widely supported by cyclists, motorists, and nearby residents. From a transportation standpoint, this decision is wrong: Data—and common sense—indicates that removing the bollards will make cyclists less safe and decrease ridership. From a planning standpoint, it’s wrong, too: It undercuts the entire purpose of the M Street cycletrack, which is to provide a safe crosstown connection and encourage bicycle ridership. Additionally, the M Street cycletrack will help achieve Mayor Vince Gray’s Sustainable DC goals. By changing the design of the cycletrack, DDOT has intentionally compromised the safety of cyclists with no reasonable justification. DDOT has also reversed previous public statements made to us and to the community, without the opportunity for further input. Since 2005, WABA has attended numerous public meetings about the M Street cycletrack, from those about its planning stages to those about its actual design. At no point—until now—has DDOT proposed compromising the safety of bicyclists by removing bollards. For the city’s transportation agency to make such an egregious change is irresponsible. The design of the M Street cycletrack is unacceptable. WABA has always acknowledged that in a diverse and vibrant city, public space has a greater purpose than simply moving vehicles, even if many of those vehicles are bicycles. We know that the needs of all affected groups must be considered and taken into account. We respects the diverse interests of our partners in Washington, D.C. We’re all in the business of public space together, and we hope that the city will work to create a downtown that serves the gamut of needs of residents and visitors alike. Such work requires participation, dialogue, and intelligent compromise in a fair and open process. Unfortunately, those elements have gone missing as the M Street cycletrack has evolved. The result is a poor solution that compromises the intent of the project’s goals, the past promises and visions of the mayor and DDOT, and faith in the public process that determines so much of how our city works. Even worse, DDOT’s sudden reversal has incited a public discourse that has lost the constructive tone of mutual respect and the goal of meeting the needs of all parties concerned with the cycletrack. But there is still an opportunity to make the M Street cycletrack work. There are plenty of alternative streetscape designs that are better than a cycletrack with a bollard-less block and that will meet the expectations of nearby property owners. But for a better design to be implemented, public participation, reasonable dialogue, and intelligent compromise are absolutely critical.

In that spirit, we ask Mayor Gray to bring together representatives of the bicycling community and the Metropolitan AME Church for a discussion of our needs. We want an honest joint effort to resolve the issues surrounding the M Street cycletrack in a way that builds, not undermines, respect. We believe that this will result in a plan for M Street that creates a public space that everyone can safely use. Please click here to send a note to Mayor Gray asking for his support in brokering a better resolution. 

Comment on DDOT’S M Street Cycletrack Plans Tonight

Walk the Tracks

Soon, a cycletrack

If you came to our Walk the Tracks event a few weeks ago, or if you’re interested in seeing the installation of the M Street cycletrack come to completion, please consider attending DDOT’s public meeting on the cycletrack tonight. The agency will present and take comments on the proposed cycletrack, which will provide an eastbound pairing for the existing L Street cycletrack. The meeting is tonight, Wed., May 15, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the West End Library, 1101 24th St. NW. More information can be found here.

Walk the Tracks, in Photos

On Monday night, WABA hosted “Walk the Tracks,” in which District Department of Transportation staffers showed off to interested parties—from casual cyclists to ANC commissioners to councilmembers—how the forthcoming M Street cycletrack will work. As an affiliate of Bikes Belong’s Green Lane Project, WABA is able to make its already strong, consistent push for dedicated bike infrastructure even more aggressive. Events like “Walk the Tracks” demonstrate that D.C.’s cyclists, elected officials, and agency staffers are on board with better, safer accommodations for bikes. The M Street cycletrack, which will provide a westbound pair to the L Street cycletrack, is projected to arrive in August. In addition to a number of elected officials, like councilmembers Jack Evans and Tommy Wells, DCist, Washingtonian, and WAMU covered “Walk the Tracks.” WAMU has plenty of details about how the cycletrack will look:
The M Street bike lane will share a similar design to its predecessor on L, but officials said it will be safer. For starters, the new bike lane will lie between the sidewalk and parked cars. On L Street, the bike lane is partially wedged between two traffic lanes. “You will have the three foot separation that provides a little more comfort plus the parking lane adjacent to it. So actually the moving traffic will be 11 feet away from you in the cycle track and it will feel more like a trail,” said Mike Goodno, a bike planner at the District Department of Transportation.
According to DCist, Wells called the M Street cycletrack a “crucial artery.” We at WABA couldn’t agree more, and we look forward to its installation. See photos of Walk the Tracks below, and check out our Flickr set for even more shots. Did you take pictures at “Walk the Tracks”? Add them to our Flickr pool!

Walk the Tracks

Walk the Tracks

Walk the Tracks

Walk the Tracks

Walk the Tracks Tonight!

Come learn about the much-anticipated cycletrack on M Street NW at our “Walk the Tracks” event next Mon., May 6 at 6:30 p.m. WABA staff, members, and supporters will walk the length of project, starting at Thomas Circle, and discuss the proposed bike lane. Staff from DDOT and the Golden Triangle and Downtown BIDs will be present. This event is a chance to have your questions answered about the project, its design, and the timeline for its construction. The proposed one-way westbound cycletrack will extend from Thomas Circle at 14th Street NW to 28th Street NW in Georgetown. The cycletrack will be 1.3 miles in length. Last fall, DDOT constructed a one-way eastbound cycletrack on L Street NW. When complete, the L Street and M Street cycletracks will be parallel routes that establish a major east-west crosstown corridor for bikes—and add to the growing network of physically separated Green Lane Projects in our city. The event will start at 6:30 p.m. at the Capital Bikeshare station on the west side of Thomas Circle. We will walk 1.3 miles west along M Street NW, ending in Georgetown. After the walk, those interested in enjoying a cold drink can do so at a local Georgetown business. If you are planning on attending our “Walk the Tracks” event, please RSVP here.

Keep the M Street Cycletrack on Track

L Street Cycletrack Outreach On Monday, Councilmember Mary Cheh and the Committee on Transportation and the Environment held an oversight hearing on DDOT’s performance. This is the agency’s “annual review,” at which the public can comment. WABA commented, laying out hard truths about the state of D.C.’s trails and the need for improvements. Our testimony specifically addressed the completion of the Metropolitan Branch Trail, the widening and repaving of the Rock Creek Trail, and the opening of the eastern railroad bridge on the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail. That said, we don’t want the good work DDOT has done in implementing bike infrastructure to go unnoticed. And as some residents testify or otherwise speak against the L Street cycletrack, we want our lawmakers to know that we appreciate protected cycletracks—so much so that we want the M Street cycletrack to be completed this spring, not delayed or postponed. It is important to ensure that our elected officials know how much we, as bicyclists, appreciate separated facilities. Too often, the loudest voices can be opponents and complainers. Facilities can always be improved, but DDOT’s work to make the city safer for bicyclists should continue. Installation of the M Street cycletrack should remain a priority. Please click here to tell our leaders you appreciate DDOT’s efforts and want the M Street cycletrack promptly installed this spring, without delay!