by Andrea Limauro
I have been in biking heaven for the past week. Where is biking heaven you might ask?
It’s right here in DC! Biking heaven, also known as the new green-painted on-street biking lane on 1st St NE, is just being completed this week. The bike lane is only one of several separated bike lanes in the nation’s capital – however, in contrast to the ones along Pennsylvania Avenue, 15th Street NW, or L Street NW, this one comes with all the goodies: physically separated from car traffic and sporting a bright and visible green look. What’s not to love?!
Until recently, biking on 1st St NE through fast-growing NOMA was like biking through DC’s version of the wild-west: cyclists had to contend with a street bordered on both sides by new shiny buildings and construction zones, a bottleneck of double parked trucks, cars idling in the opposite traffic lane waiting for somebody to come out of Union Station, and swarms of train raiders crossing everywhere. In other words, 1st St NE was the total opposite of bike-friendly.
Fortunately, our wonderful Bicycle Program team at DDOT has started to work on this stretch of the 8-mile Metropolitan Branch Trail that runs from Union Station in the District of Columbia to Silver Spring in Maryland. Since I bike daily over the entire length of the trail to get to and from work, I can say with confidence that DDOT just made the most hazardous stretch of the entire 8 miles much safer for cyclists. Before last week I used to dread this portion of the trail because of the aforementioned double parking and other hazards. With this project completed, my 10-mile plus daily bike commute is now mostly either on a trail, a bike lane or at least a sharrow (a sharrow is the short-form for “shared lane bicycle marking”. This pavement marking includes a bicycle symbol and two white chevrons and is used to remind motorists that bicyclists are permitted to use the full lane) – Thank you DDOT for this biking bonanza!
So why are these green bike lanes so great? According to the Green Lane Project, an advocacy organization working with several US cities (including DC) to create more separated green bike lanes, “protected bike lanes bring predictability and order to busy streets: drivers like knowing where to expect riders, and pedestrians report fewer bikes on the sidewalk. Protected lanes also add vitality and energy to the street, attracting new businesses and helping create a community people want to be in, not just move through. In New York City, local businesses saw a 49% increase in retail sales after the construction of protected bike lanes, compared to only a 3% increase city-wide.” And as for DC “a recent study showed that bicycling tripled on 15th Street NW and Pennsylvania Avenue following the installation of protected bike lanes.”
Green biking lanes are not a temporary fad by the way. According to the Green Lane Project the number of these lanes in the US “has nearly doubled to 142 protected bike lanes within the first two years of the Green Lane Project, and it is expected to continue to grow dramatically.”
So, talking about growth of green bike lanes, my next bike heaven dream is to see the Pennsylvania Avenue bike lane continue to Union Station over Constitution and Louisiana Avenue NW/NE (*note that this is not in DDOT’s MBT plan).
What is your most dreaded bike commute stretch in DC and where would you like to see the next biking heaven built?
Some interesting links:
– Here is the link to DDOT’s Bicycle Program where you can find, among other things, DDOT’s 10-year Bicycle Master Plan http://ddot.dc.gov/page/bicycle-program
– Here is the link to the Metropolitan Branch Trail project which envisions “that the MBT will one day be an entirely off-road trail”: http://www.metbranchtrail.com/
– Here is the link to the Green Lane Project: the Green Lane Project is a PeopleForBikes program helping cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets: http://www.peopleforbikes.org/green-lane-project