In early August, Washington, DC’s District Department of Transportation (DDOT) started work on a new green lane that will make it easier and safer for people to cross Downtown DC on bicycles. The L Street Resurfacing and Cycle Track project will install 1.37 miles of “cycle track,” bike lane and sharrows from 11th Street, NW to Pennsylvania Ave NW crossing most of Downtown’s Central Business District with a continuous and protected green lane. The cycle track will cover most of the distance, running from 12th Street NW to New Hampshire Ave.
The L Street green lane will use innovative tools and design to minimize conflict and separate traffic. The 8-foot wide lane is separated from traffic by white, plastic channelizer posts placed in a 3-foot wide buffer as well as off-peak parking. It will be located on the left-hand side of a one-way eastbound street, placing the lane on the north side of the street. At the 10 intersections where right turns are allowed cyclists will find bike boxes, which DDOT has used successfully elesewhere. Green paint will be used as an attention-getter in areas where conflict is expected, such as mixing zones or areas where the cycletrack is narrowed and moved to the right of a left-turn only lane. To minimize conflicts, all but one of the current loading zones will be moved to the south side of L St or onto side streets. The one exception will be for the Quincy Hotel drop-off zone at 1823 L St. There again, green paint will be used to accentuate the bike lane. This separation will allow cyclists to keep moving in heavy traffic, without having to utilize the door zone or filter.
Green paint highlights the bike lane in the area of the hotel loading zone
One of the more interesting aspects of the project is it’s placement. While people on bikes are normally directed to the right-hand side of the road, the green lane on L will be placed on the left to avoid conflicts and comply better with Americans with Disability Act (ADA) requirements. Because taxis and buses pick up and drop off passengers on the right hand side, placing a bike facility there can result in pedestrians and motor vehicles frequently cutting across a bike facility located there. An even more critical issue is that many ADA compliant commuter vans are designed to only discharge passengers on the right hand side, which would result in, among other problems, wheelchair ramps extended from the vans to the sidewalk, occasionally blocking the green lane. As an added benefit, a cycle track on the north side of the street will get more snow-melting sunlight in the winter.
Because DDOT has been busy installing bike lanes and cycle tracks for the last decade, this project provides several opportuninies to connect with existing or planned facilities. As part of the project, bike lane and sharrows will extend the facilites reach on L St to 11th St on the east and to Pennsylvania Ave on the west. The green lane will intersect the bike lanes on 11th St and the popular cycle-track on 15th St. And it will connect to another project, also currently underway, that is transfroming New Hampshire Ave from a one-way street into a two-way street with bike lanes. In the near future, the whole project will be paired with a similar cycle track on M Street that will support people going west.
Orginally to be completed the end of the summer, the L Street cycle track project was delayed so that the the repaving portion could be expanded east to 4th Street. But with concrete work under way, users should start to see repaving and painting work soon.
If the L Street green lane is as popular as the 15th street and Pennsylvania Avenue ones have been, downtown DC can expect to see a lot more people on bikes heading to work or dinner.