Reporting on pedestrian life in the D.C. area

When to expect D.C.'s L and M Street cycletracks and other bike lanes

March 8, 2012 - 11:18 AM
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(Photo: flickr/dylanpassmore)

When will D.C. see cycletracks on L and M? In the past year, the rumored bicycling infrastructure always hovered on the edge of transportation discussions only to be relegated to more study and mystery. Studies, studies, studies ... and all the while, the District Department of Transportation appeared to be making less progress with their bike lanes. Well, it's March now, and warmer weather is on the way, so let's review where we stand and what's to come. As the Washington Area Bicyclist Association's Greg Billing highlighted in December, the Bike Master Plan called for 10 new bike lanes a year, and initially, D.C. planned 6.5 miles for 2011. But how many were built?

One mile of bike lane. Not encouraging for bicyclists. Meanwhile, L and M appeared to float in limbo ever since last summer.

"We advocate," Billing told the Council on March 2, "but we need DDOT to build."

When we learned the proposed bike lanes and infrastructure for 2012 back in December, there was some encouraging news. The L and M tracks were labeled and were slated for this year, pending the ongoing study.

Here's the official update that DDOT gave the Council recently:

As of January, L Street is at the 65% design phase. Involvement of stakeholder groups, including the public, will be take place throughout the spring of this year. DDOT plans to implement L Street this coming summer.

The M Street plans are at 50% design. Planning and implementation of L Street will inform development of the M Street lanes.

The significant part here, of course, is the reaffirmation that DDOT plans to install the L Street cycletrack this summer. There's no double talk. As of last week, DDOT plans to add 5.5 miles of bike lanes in D.C. this year, a significant improvement over the mere one of last year. Expect new lanes in these locations:

Columbia Rd, NW – Connecticut Ave to 16th St

4th St, SW – Virginia Ave to I St

New York Ave, NW – 9th St to 15th St

Upshur St – 8th St to Rock Creek Church Rd

I St SW/SE – 7th St to New Jersey Ave

Tilden St, NW – Reno Rd Connecticut Ave

R St, NW – Florida Ave to Met Branch Trail

L St, NW – Pennsylvania Ave to Massachusetts Ave

Some people in the District have already spotted these changes happening. That first enhancement on Columbia Road, for instance, received attention on Prince of Petworth this month. The Wash Cycle noted that changes are afoot on 4th Street.

WABA's Billing said there's no reason not to trust DDOT Director Terry Bellamy at his word and says that, given the warm weather we're experiencing, bicyclists should be happy about the advances. He hears that the agency has a new paint machine and acknowledges the work on some of the projects initially intended for 2011 is now in progress (like Columbia and 4th). He doesn't give too much credence to the status of L and M's design and points out that both were listed at 50% in October of 2010. He adds that they were meant as a "paired couplet" and hopes that if L is implemented first, M comes very soon after. But the progress and recent action is encouraging.

His other main message is that D.C. needs to revise its Bike Master Plan, which was released in 2005, and begin prioritizing how to use the city's different corridors best when looking forward to the next decade. Although D.C.'s progress with bike lanes has occurred in fits and starts, Billing observed that the city has exceeded expectations regarding bike parking.

"We're happy about that," he told me.

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