Better Bikeability for DC as City Embraces Bike Culture – New L Street Cycle Track a Fast East Bound Cross-Town Route
by Cathy Plume
Earlier this year, Walk Score, a website that ranks cities for their bikeability, listed Washington among the top ten most bikeable cities. Studies indicate that some 3 percent of DC commuters use bicycles as their mode of transportation. That’s one of the highest percentages in the US and DC is promoting and facilitating the use of bikes by residents as a matter of policy.
The most recent addition to DC’s bike lanes is the L Street cycle track (bike lanes and cycle tracks are essentially synonymous as far as I can tell). Running west to east from 25th to 12th Street, NW, this bike lane provides a fast crosstown east bound route that is well protected and signed specifically for cyclists. The traffic lights are timed such that one can safely and legally make almost every light. The L Street, NW, cycle track will soon be mirrored by a track on M Street, NW, the two cycle tracks providing a major east-west bike corridor.
I live on the Hill and have long commuted to my office located in West End by bicycle. I’ve experimented with various routes over the years. The L Street cycle track is an important new segment to my daily cycle commute back to Capitol Hill. On my route home from the West End I take the L Street cycle track from 25th Street, NW, to 15th Street, NW, then the 15th Street bike lane to the White House, the 14th Street bike lane down to the Pennsylvania Avenue cycle track, Pennsylvania Avenue to the US Capitol and down the East Capitol bike lane. I’m on bike lanes for 48 of my 53 block commute! (At this writing, the Pennsylvania Avenue cycle track is down as they resurface the road in preparation for the inauguration. The lanes should be back – and improved – no later than mid-December).
Over the last three years, bicycle commuting has become much easier and safer for DC residents. At first, I attributed these changes to sports enthusiast Mayor Adrian Fenty. I’m thrilled to see that the number of bike lanes across the District has continued to expand under Mayor Vincent Gray. Under Gray’s administration, city agencies are embracing programs to promote bicycling and mass transit while discouraging car ownership. New bike lanes and parking restrictions are part of the over-all strategy. The L Street cycle track eliminated 120 parking spaces – partially offset by the creation of 70 spaces elsewhere.
Bike lanes provide added safety for cyclists, but you’ll still need to be ever vigilant for the renegade taxi making a left turn from the center lane….or doing a U-turn on Pennsylvania Avenue! You can ensure your safety by outfitting your bicycle with both a headlight and a taillight. While you may not need these lights to see, you’ll be more visible to others. A cyclist is almost invisible to drivers, cyclists and pedestrians once the sun begins to go down. Reflective clothing is also a good investment, and please, ALWAYS wear a helmet!
There are some great cycling resources here in DC. The nation’s first automatic bike-share system, Capital Bikeshare is a huge success in the District and there are a plethora of stations around the Hill. The DC Department of Transportation (DDOT) provides downloadable bike maps and the app Spotcycle provides real time information on the location of the nearest Capital Bikeshare station and the number of bikes and docking stations available. The Washington Area Bicycle Association (WABA) offers urban cycling classes and sponsors rides in the area. WashCycle is a cycling advocacy blog. Biking has never been better in DC. Ride safe!