Friday, October 26, 2007

Bike Lanes on 14th Street

One of the items being considered by the Fourteenth Street Transportation and Streetscape Study is the reconfiguration of 14th Street itself. How many bike lanes? One way or two way? Turn lanes? Close the street entirely and turn it into one giant pedestrian walk? If you weren't at the meeting, take a gander at the take-out menu they provided, and the associated posters. You'll not only find out I made up that last option (about closing the street), but you'll get a really solid idea about what options are being tossed around.

One possibility that wasn't on the list, but was sort-of hinted at by a picture at the bottom of the poster, was the reconfiguration of 14th Street bike lanes on the curb side of the parking lanes. I'm fairly enamored with the idea, as I cannot count the number of times I've seen a bicyclist nearly murdered by passing cars. Worse, the bike lanes turn into impromptu parking lanes, forcing the bikes out into the street anyway. I have to imagine a buffer of steel between the bikes and the traffic would be a welcome relief for anyone riding the corridor.

The idea isn't without precedent, either. The New York Times City Room blog reports that New York City is experimenting with this exact idea on 9th Avenue. The picture is great, and there's also a link to a presentation by the New York Department of Transportation on their plans.

Now, I'm not a biker, I'm a walker. So I'd be really curious to hear opinions from the bicyclists in the neighborhood. Would a buffer like this be a good thing, or just a waste? Drop me a note, or post a comment, with your thoughts. I'm the LCCA representative to this study, so I would certainly appreciate the advice.


Anonymous said...

As a 14th Street Biker, I think its a great idea to have a buffer. Motorists on 14th are particularly nasty as regards the sanctity, or lack thereof, a a bike lane. For such drivers, it frequently just serves as another car lane but with less cars, and I am nearly hit most times I use the bike lane. This option would also probably limit those mad bikers on the sidewalk who I admit are as annoying as drivers in bike lanes.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone else wonder why DC doesnt institute more one way streets? Multi lane bi directional streets cause congestion all over DC, not to mention accidents when drivers try to avoid cars using one or both lanes to turn.

Brian said...

The city has actually been moving away from one-way streets; my understanding is that it's in the name of walk-ability, driver and pedestrian friendliness, and catering more to the neighborhood and less to those commuters "just passing through". It seems to me that one-way streets tend to become more like highways and drag strips than streets; and 15th Street seems a pretty good example of how bad it can be.

IMGoph said...

after looking at that presentation from NYC, i'd love to see DC implement something similar. don't think we'll see the ticketing effort necessary to keep the car people from parking in the bike lane somehow. i don't think 14th street is wide enough to have travel lanes, parking, bike lanes, AND a buffer for the bike lanes.

with that in mind, moving the bike lanes to the curb without a buffer will just lead to inconsiderate drivers parking in the bike lane, i'm afraid. let's see what the city thinks, though. if it could be properly regulated, i would love to be able to bike without having moving traffic 6 inches off my left shoulder.

Brian said...


I worry about the amount of space, too. At first, I thought that maybe just a little median could be built, which would be smaller, but still keep cars from parking in the bike lane. But then I started imagining passengers opening their doors and bikes running into them.

At the end of the day, if you just don't have the space, I'm not sure there is a good solution. But I'm being pessimistic - I'm sure DDOT will come up with something interesting. So far, I've been impressed with what I've seen at the meetings.

Rich said...

How do you make a left turn from a bike lane on the right side of parked cars?

Brian said...

The buffer would have to end when you've reached an intersection, which seems pretty easily done since cars already cannot park within a certain distance from the corner. After that, it becomes the situation becomes the same as we have now, except that making a turn in the middle of a block would be more difficult.

Rich said...

The buffer would have to end very early in order for a bike to merge past the parking lane and through the travel lane to make a left turn. You can't expect a bike to make a 90 degree turn at the end of the buffer, move to the left turn lane, and then turn left.

Alexis said...

Passing collisions are one of the rarest types of collisions for cyclists. Merging and turning conflicts are much more serious, and placing bike lanes within the door zone on either side is just plain lethal. I don't know about this situation specifically but the option you describe sounds like a really bad solution to me.

Rhodes said...

As an avid city cyclist, I have met a large number of people who have been "doored" -- i.e. a collison between a fast moving bike and a parked vehicle's door swinging out into moving traffic. Usually, the driver of the vehicle receives a modest ticket, and the cyclist is sent to the emergency room with several broken bones. As a concerned cyclist, I have to second Alexis's statement; using parked vehicles as a buffer zone between the bike lane and moving traffic *IS* lethal. There must be a better stategy to protect bike riders.

To get more perspectives from city cyclists, I would encourage those making transit policy decisions to consult with:

Washington Area Bicyclist Association
1803 Connecticut Ave. NW, 3rd floor
Washington, DC 20009

Brian said...

I can tell you, from the most recent steering committee meeting, that such buffered bike lanes are not happening. There were many issues with it, not the least of which were some of the safety concerns voiced here on this blog. If you'd like to see what plans are in store, come to the next public meeting, to be held at the Studio Theater, on Tuesday, February 19th.

Personally, I'd like to thank you all for educating me on why it's a bad idea.