Bike Lanes, Fewer Traffic Lanes, Less Parking Coming To Pennsylvania Ave SE
by Larry Janezich
DDOT is implementing a plan to install a continuous protected bike lane on Pennsylvania Avenue from 2nd Street, SE, to 17th Street at Barney Circle. It will proceed in two phases – beginning in 2022 with completion anticipated in 2024. There are three alternatives being considered, and under the most likely, parking would be banned during peak time and direction, and one of the three traffic lanes would be dedicated to bus traffic.
Once approved, the project will proceed in two phases. Phase I will see the safer separated bike lanes and new traffic patterns installed between 2nd Street and 13th Street on PA Ave, SE, beginning in 2022 with the goal of completion in 2023. Phase II planning and design will kick off in 2022 with installation scheduled for 2023 and 2024, after completion of the redesign of the Pennsylvania Avenue and Potomac Ave intersection.
The project is the outgrowth of the DDOT MoveDC Initiative – the blueprint for how the DC transportation network can support anticipated growth thru 2040 when the number of residents is projected to reach 900,000. The Initiative is being undertaken in connection with Vision Zero, the city’s goal to end traffic fatalities and serious injuries by 2024. One of the effects of the plan will be to encourage the use of bikes and public transportation – and discourage the use of single passenger vehicles. The Washington Area Bicycle Association says that some 5% of District residents commute to work on bikes and that the percentage of riders on Capitol Hill is higher than that – maybe much higher.
COVID disrupted DDOT’s plan to hold an in person public meeting to introduce the concept to the community, so the agency piggy-backed on the July 8 ANC6B Transportation Committee virtual meeting. Project Manager Greg Matlesky discussed the details of the three alternative designs for the project. To see and hear a voice-over of that presentation, go here: https://bit.ly/3gBjNRF
DDOT said it would incorporate feedback from the meeting and comments submitted on its website prior to July 31 into the selection of a preferred alternative by end of summer. That will lead to a preliminary design phase and a second public meeting in late summer or early fall.
DDOT is on the agenda of the virtual meeting of ANC6B’s Transportation Committee next Wednesday, apparently seeking the Committee’s (and subsequently the full ANC’s) endorsement of Alternative A (see below). Information on joining that meeting on-line will be posted Sunday night on Capitol Hill Corner’s feature: The Week Ahead. If recommended by the Committee the full ANC6B will consider the recommendation at its monthly meeting on September 8.
Alternate A – the design endorsed by the Washington Area Bicyclists Association – would provide curbside 5 foot separated bike lanes on both sides of the street, each with a three foot buffer, then a lane for off-peak metered parking which becomes a dedicated bus lane during peak hours, and two traffic lanes. The dedicated bus lane will decrease bus times in the corridor. DDOT says this alternate will impact traffic flow the least.
Alternate B – would provide a 6 foot separated curbside bike lane, a 3 foot buffer, a full time metered parking lane, and two full time traffic lanes. DDOT says under this plan, bus travel times worsen and the largest traffic delay occurs.
Alternate C – provides a 5 foot separated bike lane next to the median, a three foot buffer, metered off- peak parking along the curb which becomes a peak time dedicated bus lane, and two traffic lanes.
One Capitol Hill resident who lives near Independence Avenue and has raised concerns, expressed frustration to CHC about the lack of response from DDOT regarding the impact of the project on the neighborhood. That resident noted the lack of communication and consultation with the community. A virtual presentation to the ANC6B Transportation with minimal attendance is a poor substitute for a well-publicized in-person or even a separate virtual community presentation. The resident notes that all three proposals involve reducing traffic lanes on Pennsylvania Avenue from three to two, and worries that this will divert much evening rush hour traffic through neighborhood streets to Independence Avenue, resulting in backups beyond those which already plague out-bound evening traffic. Traffic in the two traffic lanes in all three scenarios will continue to be slowed by the backup in the median side lane – both in-bound and out-bound – as vehicles back up waiting to turn right or left across the median.
As part of the DDOT presentation to the Transportation Committee though, Matlesky noted that the pandemic has reduced total daily vehicular daily trips by 30 – 60%, and suggested that after the pandemics asides subsides, “we likely won’t see traffic return to pre-Covid levels for quite some time.”
Capitol Hill Corner reached out to Matlesky to ask if any study or thought has been given to where drivers seeking an alternate route to Pennsylvania Avenue might go, but as of press time had not received a response.
25 responses to “Bike Lanes, Fewer Traffic Lanes, Less Parking Coming To PA Ave SE”
It would make more sense to eliminate the median strip. All this just for a very few cyclists with big mouths. As it stands with all of the options it’s unlikely I will be doing any business along Pennsylvania Ave anymore. I can’t walk to Beucherts or The Oyster Bar or Mr Henry’s and if I can’t park I can’t go to those and other restaurants or Fragers or the book store. Next time around, I’m voting for the other guy – whoever the other guy is. Other guy has to be better and can’t be worse.
There’s a lot of group think in the District government. I count myself in line with most policies of the Democrats, but I almost always vote Republican in District general elections because I want to see more debate within the Council. Too often the question they debate is how much taxes should be raised on business, not if additional spending is necessary.
I believe the median is owned by the National Park Service, so removing or encroaching on it, is not an option that can be considered without also getting them involved.
Regardless of whether the median strip is removed, the dislocation of parking for the few cyclists that may ride down Pennsylvania Ave., the inconvenience to shoppers as they substitute on-line shopping, or suburban stores with their ample parking, and the loss of custom to local businesses is an unacceptable sacrifice. Once the impact is felt, any public official that supported this blunder will be out looking for another job and, given their bad judgement, will be hard put to find one in the private sector. Elections are not won and political careers are not advanced by grossly inconveniencing the people who vote.
I would ride my bike if I felt I could do so safely. Nobody *wants* to ride down Pennsylvania avenue, they avoid it if possible. When I go to Frager’s I ride my bike down the sidewalk a half a block, to the dismay of the pedestrians. Parking is difficult already; business losses to people not being able to park might just be made up by folks biking instead.
Cycling on Pa. Ave is not going to be safe. Most cyclists do not stop at red lights or stop signs. Blasting through the arterial intersections when motorists believe they have the right of way because they have a green light and expect cyclists to stop, is going to result in a slew of accidents and deaths. For whatever reason cyclists believe they an entitlement of immortality and can ignore intersections that are controlled for public safety. There are more palm trees in DC than cyclists who stop at controlled intersections. They are a menace. If there are new bike lanes established, they should be accompanied by strict enforcement of traffic rules that all other operators of vehicles must and do follow. A ticket and confiscation of the bike are not unreasonable for a violation with the same rules that apply to towed cars.
Golem, riding in DC is so risky that casual bikers that stop at intersections and wave pedestrians through, such as myself, limit themselves to side street and off-hours. You don’t notice us because we are polite. The ones you do notice are those crazy enough to challenge impatient and angry drivers. If you want to see more of my type the streets need to be safer, with bike lanes separating us from the drivers that think Pennsylvania Ave is for cars alone.
I am pleased to believe that you are a safe cyclist and have common sense to stay on side streets. However, I have lived here for a long time. I am not a newbie. I have had a female cyclist blow through a stop sign when I had the right of way and give me the finger as she rode by even though I had not said anything nor blown my horn. Rarely do cyclists observe the same rules of the road that are observed by either drivers or pedestrians. That you are as safe a cyclist as you contend, suggests you are among a very minuscule minority. I wish you well. But I do not support turning Pennsylvania Avenue into a bikeway for very small number of cyclists who have proven themselves daily to be a danger to themselves and others. And I will strongly opposed the election of anyone who supports this boondoggle.
Alternative A is excellent. It’s about time we had dedicated bike and bus lanes. And PA Ave SE has too many car lanes and drivers are constantly speeding on it. Reduce lanes, narrow lanes, install bike and bus lanes, and slow traffic down. We live in a city in an allegedly walk-able neighborhood – there is no need for a road like PA Ave SE in Capitol Hill.
This is an exciting project. I’m a local resident with kids who find biking & walking the easiest and fastest way to get around the city. A protected bike lane will give us the safety confidence to bike along Pennsylvania Ave more frequently and visit businesses and services like the Library and our local doctors more often.
While we periodically drive to get to further destinations, I don’t mind if there are slower times. Foremost, it’s better for everyone and doesn’t stop me from driving, whereas a lack of bikelanes does stop us from cycling. And it’s also such a meaningless loss of time (minutes) that I doubt we would even notice the effect.
Finally this is getting underway. These plans have been out there for some time and it is finally getting to the point of implementation. The alternative A is an excellent plan and complements what has already been accomplished on the east side of the Sousa Bridge to Maryland. Kudos to DDOT. The benefits to pedestrians and bike users is long overdue.
@Golem – I’m curious what data you’re referencing when you state “ Most cyclists do not stop at red lights or stop signs”. That is not my experience.
I do see some cyclists that disobey traffic signals, and I also observe some cars disobey traffic signs. Each should be enforced; although I’m unaware when a vehicle is confiscated for running a red light.
What I also observe are the excessive speeds of motor vehicles. Simply stated when a person is hit by a vehicle traveling 30mph or higher they have only a 20% survival rate (see ProPublica citation below). The simplest safety improvements we can make is to separate motor vehicles from people on bicycles or pedestrians.
There is a wealth of more data in moving violations if someone wanted to evaluate safety concerns https://opendata.dc.gov/search?q=Moving%20violations%202020
The best way for a cyclist to avoid being hit by a vehicle going at any speed is to stop at stop signs and stop lights. I assume you’re an acolyte of the Trump White House press office given your adherence to “alternative facts.” Actually, I’m looking out my window right now and two cyclists blew through the stop sign at 10th & Mass. NE where I have yet to see a cyclist stop.
Pennsylvania Avenue is a major thoroughfare through the city. As cyclists blow throw lights the number of dead and maimed cyclists will increase and there will be more charges that motorists have a duty to give way even when they have the green light and assume the cyclists will stop. Dead and maimed cyclists are on the heads of those who proposed this absurd and dangerous change. And your hands are not clean.
The best way for a bicyclist to avoid being hit by a motor vehicle is to drive a car instead. That is what I do when traffic is aggressive.
The best way to lose any semblance of an “argument” and admit you have nothing to support your assertion is to go straight to ad hominem attacks. Bravo.
Golem–Frankly it appears that you are way overstating any problem with bicyclists “blowing through” intersections. That term insinuates “at speed”. My very long local experience does not validate that. You seem to be the one who is an acolyte of the Trump White House with alternative facts. Bicyclists may not dismount at each intersection stop sign, but they are down to 1 mph before proceeding, unlike many autos. It is a matter of self-preservation from too aggressive car drivers. Beyond that, Pennsylvania Ave. will not “be turned into a bikeway for a very small number of cyclists…” but your strong concern for the safety of bicyclists is much appreciated. They are now 5% of commuters, even without good infrastructure, and will be a far greater number when there is good infrastructure.
The streets should be safe. For everyone, including bicyclists.
If bicyclists should stay off the sidewalk the only other place for them to be is streets, and they should be safe on whatever street – including Pennsylvania Ave. Dismissing redesigning of the streets because some bicyclists may not always obey the rules is not helpful for the discussion. Frankly, maybe these changes are actually being considered more because people who are driving don’t know how to behave and are more selfish when it comes to driving when it comes to speeding, double parking, inattention, blowing through lights/stop signs. Frankly, I have seen more bad drivers in the last 5 years than bad bicyclists.
In DC this has meant the priority is suburbanites who don’t pay taxes, speeding through city streets being given more priority than people who live and pay taxes here. I live and work on the Hill and have commuted by foot for 18 years, the walk down Independence and Pennsylvania during rush hour shows this commuter (and car) preference. Decent traffic flow is important, but in DC it almost totally ignores everything else. It seemed like it took an act of Congress to get the extra stops signs on a few intersections on Independence and the light at 10th and Penn. And lets not forget that intersection/death trap near the NE library branch.
Cityscapes change, how people interact with the neighborhoods can change as well. I think this obsession with The Car as the Only Way People Move Around a Place cuts off all discussion. Again, the city (frankly most cities for that matter) has managed this giving cars primacy over everything else, pedestrians included, and that should change for everyone’s – including those people in cars – safety.
I’d like to move this thread from the behavior of bicyclists to the more important issue,the likely impact of reducing the automobile travel lanes from three to two lanes. I fear when traffic again returns to pre COVID levels, this traffic is going to go elsewhere on Capitol Hill, particularly during rush hours.
The proponent of this proposal is a Bicycle Program Specialist. It is not even clear the proposal has been endorsed by the entire DDOT, and it’s impact on all modes of transportation evaluated.
Following the July 8 presentation to the Transportation Committee, a list of 19 questions was sent to the project manager on July 14. This request has gone totally unresponded to, in fact not even acknowledged. A follow up inquiry on August 21, has likewise been ignored.
The request includes whether any studies had been done on the expected impact on intersecting streets and paralleling streets like Independence.
The closest they came to answering is that they think work and commuting habits will so fundamentally change post COVID that traffic levels will permanents be substantially reduced. This appears be much more a wish, than a realistic expectation.
I can’t help but conclude that either no real studies have been done or it doesn’t support the conclusion they want to reach.
The residents of the homes on the streets where this traffic will likely divert are not going to be happy when they see the added traffic congestion on their streets. They are being totally ignored to date in this discussion.
@John – this is a good aspect of the discussion as well.
A common term for reducing the lanes is “road diet”. There are many examples where road diets didn’t affect throughput (vehicles per day). There’s a weird phenomenon known as “Braess’ Paradox”  where “adding one or more roads to a road network can slow down overall traffic flow through it.” Perhaps counter-intuitively (but true empirically) fewer lanes may improve overall traffic flow.
To your requests, I agree that more data and studies from DDOT or regional agencies would be terrific. In my experience they may exist but for whatever reason they’re not shared publicly or as discoverable as they could be. In the absence of a specific study there are other examples of road diets and their benefits and also no data indicating “overflow” traffic to side-roads. See Arlington example  and USDOT Federal Highway . This concern was a frequent criticism of the Maryland Ave NE road diet project that is now underway (between Benning Road + Stanton Park).
One notable study quote from Seattle:
“Motor vehicle traffic has not diverted to neighborhood streets. Daily traffic counts on parallel streets are down by 12 to 34 percent, which is a greater decrease than the slight decline of 6 percent recorded on Stone Way.
Peak hour capacity has been maintained. The study confirmed the corridor has sustained its capacity to carry the same number of motor vehicles in spite of the reduction in the number of travel lanes.” 
Ultimately, the city transportation infrastructure and people’s mobility behaviors will need to change. As density goes up, and our community aims to make our streets safer for everyone, we will need to increase the accessibility + use of mass transit (dedicated bus lanes) and decrease the likelihood of life-altering crashes. This also relates to the new “Twenty is plenty” default speed limit (20mph) across the city that will have the dual impact of improving safety but also affect typical driving behaviors (assuming appropriate enforcement)
 Braess’ Paradox: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Braess%27s_paradox
 Arlington Road diets: https://ggwash.org/view/72652/people-keep-making-things-up-about-road-diets-montgomery-arlington-traffic
 USDOT FHWA: https://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/road_diets/guidance/info_guide/ch2.cfm
 Case Studies: https://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/road_diets/case_studies/
“More important issue” to whom?
This is an excellent project, very excited for it. Will be a huge improvement.
Bicycles have been cruising Pennsylvania Avenue since long before the traffic signal and roll-up car window were invented. This project will go a long way to restoring the traffic speeds and balance to what it was through much of the streetcar era. That era was fine for local retail. For estimates of volume, doubters among us, check out the Penn Ave cycle track on Pennsylvania Ave NW some time. It has traffic jams.
That’s true. And cyclists back then complained that horses were interfering with their preferred way of life and cyclists tires were slipping in hoof ruts and sliding in horse poop. This is an absurd argument.
The fact is that until cyclists are licensed like every other driver on the road they will continue to ignore stop signs and signals. There are more autos and pedestrians today and everyone except cyclists obey traffic laws. Only cyclists believe they are special-people as if some genetic adhesion in their brains causes them to believe, as far back as complaining about sliding in hoof ruts and slipping in horse poop, that they alone are special-people who do not need to obey the most basic rules that protect everyone from harm.
Cyclists need to be licensed the rules of the road observed and enforced by them and against them. It’s long overdue.
The basic rules and signals and licenses and enforcement that you’re on about are all mostly the fever dreams of the automobile associations made law. Like jaywalking, they just weren’t things until they became necessary to strip bikers and walkers and even horsecart peddlers of their agency. It’s deep breath time, because we’re going to unwind that a bit and give people back their agency. Even if it’s only a few feet at a time.