January 4, 2019

DDOT Proposes Protected Bike Lanes on 20th/21st/22nd Streets

(Thanks to Thomas Fine of AU Park for writing this column!)

For bicycle commuters in Ward 3, geography really is destiny. Because of the windings of the valleys of Rock Creek Park and Glover Archibald Park, there are really only three arteries for Ward 3 cyclists heading towards jobs and recreation in downtown DC: the Foxhall/Canal Road/towpath network in the west, the Connecticut artery in the east, and the Massachusetts artery in between.  Not surprisingly, some of the most prominent projects of the W3BA have focused on these key commuting routes: the foundry trestle project to help our western neighbors and the Connecticut Avenue bike lane project to help our eastern neighbors.

In many ways, the cyclists in the middle who use Massachusetts are lucky: although the hill is a bit challenging on the evening ride home, descending it is a delight in the morning, and the sidewalks are wide, smooth and virtually unused by pedestrians.  But after crossing the bridge and passing Embassy Row the happy cyclist is riding right into a trap.  Caught between the meanderings of Rock Creek and the maelstrom of Dupont Circle there are only three three streets that allow a connection to the Foggy Bottom/GWU/World Bank area east of the White House: 21st Street (southbound) and 20th and 22nd (northbound).  Every commuter, whether in car or on bike, has to use these small streets. The resulting chaos in the mornings and evenings is predictable, yet there are no north-south bike lanes in this area.  The 2005 Bicycle Master Plan identified the need for bike lanes here, but their development languished – until now.

DDOT is currently engaged in a project to select one of these streets for protected bike lanes, connecting Massachusetts, as well as Florida Ave and Connecticut Ave on the north end, with the Mall on the south end:  (https://www.dccycletrack.com/20th21st22ndstnw). By separating bikes and cars, both will be better off. Cyclists will be safer separated from cars, and cars will move more efficiently without cyclists in every lane of traffic during rush hours. Our friends at WABA strongly support this project, and have expressed a preference for the option of a two-way separated bike lane on the length of 21st street. Residents of the small neighborhood along 21st Street north of New Hampshire, however, are opposed because of the fear that they will lose already-scarce parking spaces.  By way of compromise, DDOT has suggested that on the 4 blocks of 21st street north of New Hampshire they could employ a painted “contraflow” bike lane northbound, while southbound cyclists would continue to ride with traffic.

This compromise is far from ideal, but DDOT may find it necessary in order to buy peace with the neighbors, and allow the more significant part of the project though the more congested area south of New Hampshire to continue.
What to do next:
1.  DDOT is accepting comments on this proposal. They can be emailed to DDOT’s Megan Kanagy at megan.kanagy@dc.gov. They are asking for comments by January 6, but comments submitted after this date will still be helpful.
2.  This project is on the agenda of the next ANC2B meeting on Wednesday January 7 at 7:00 PM at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, 1717 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Room 500. Neighbors in opposition to the project are well-organized, and WABA is encouraging supporters of this project to attend. For further information, contact Garrett Hennigan at WABA (garrett.hennigan@waba.org).

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