Some preliminary thoughts on the unfinished L Street Cycle Track

I'll get to the usual shtick later, but I rode the L Street Cycle Track from New Hampshire Avenue to as far as it's currently installed (ending to the west of 16th Street NW) and I wanted to share my initial impressions:

  • It's beautiful. It's amply wide enough for cyclists of varying speeds to maneuver around each other and since it's only one-way, people won't have to worry about moving back over and cutting off the person they just passed. This frequently happens on the two-way 15th Street cycle track and it will be a welcome change. Unfortunately, it's also wide enough for someone to drive or park a car in. This is problematic. Curtailing this will require considerable driver education and considerable enforcement.
This gentleman needed to go to CVS.
  • Bollards everywhere but the mixing zones (and parking garage entrances). This is a protected lane, meaning that there's some physical separation between cyclists and drivers. Obviously, this provides an extra level of comfort and the perception of safety. 

  • The mixing zones aren't terrible. My biggest concern about the design of this lane has been, and continues to be, the mixing zones, where car traffic merges across the bike lanes so drivers can make a left turn. Traffic was fairly light this morning (and not irrevocably snarled, as some of our finer media outlets might have predicted) and I didn't have any trouble negotiating the mixing zone with any drivers, mostly because I didn't arrive at any at the same time as any drivers. There will definitely be a learning curve here for all users. My biggest concern about the mixing zones isn't for when traffic is moving quickly, but rather when volume is heavier and drivers, in an attempt to move to the left, block it. This will be annoying. I also wouldn't mind if there were some bollards on the inside of the solid green painted area, providing a bit of a buffer between the track and the turning cars. 

  • The intersections aren't painted or striped. There's a green painted area at the end of the bike lane, but no stripes or paint across the numerical cross streets. I think that some road striping that "suggests" how cyclists should move back to the left would be very beneficial. At one intersection, I had a driver to my left who was making a left turn and a driver to my right who was proceeding straight. In an attempt to accommodate the guy on my left, I stayed pretty much in line with the green patch when I rode forward and this put me rather close to the driver on my right. Some additional road stripes that indicated where I was supposed to be would make this clearer for everyone.

  • There are a lot of parking garages on L Street and this is going to be an issue. In order for drivers to access the parking garages, they'll need to drive across the bike lane. This creates more opportunity for potential conflicts and everyone will need to use abundant caution in order to abate this. I worry more about the afternoon rush than the morning one- when the garages empty and drivers need to "poke" their cars out into the cycle track in order to get a clear view on oncoming traffic. This happens on 15th too and I can't really think of a way to avoid it. Drivers will need to learn to look for cyclists and vice versa. Likewise, drivers will need to learn not to block the cycle track while awaiting their turn. Another thing I saw drivers do was to pull into the cycle track before making the left turn into the parking garage. This is a problem that could be solved with a centrally placed bollard at the "entrances" at each intersection. Or just with learning and time.

  • Cycle tracks are great pedestrian refuges. Can't make it all the way across the street when you jaywalk? Chill on the cycle track. Again, nothing new here. Just something that will happen. 

  • Hotel loading zones. There are a few places along the way where the cycle track gives way to 30 Minute Hotel Loading Zones. Obviously, this is less than ideal. 

  • The (temporary) problem of the unfinished lane. This will only be a concern for another few weeks, but right now the unfinished lane (the parts without the bollards) look like a regular narrow bike lane next to a regular wide travel lane and this might prove confusing to both cyclists and drivers. Like I said, this problem will go away soon, but just keep that in mind if you ride it in the next few weeks.

I don't have an overall assessment because I don't think it's fair to provide one on an unfinished project. I look forward to seeing it when it's completed and all of the bollards are down and green paint is painted. I suspect that, like all pieces of new infrastructure, it will take some time for the users to adjust and the rules and norms to be established. Nonetheless, I expect these things to get sorted out and for the lane to become a permanent and welcome fixture in #bikeDC. 


  1. I actually prefer this post to your usual schtick.

  2. Probably the best way to get everyone accustomed to the new traffic patterns is presence. I'll ride L St tonight with my flashing bright lights.

  3. What ultrarunnergirl said. Many of the issues are self-correcting as many people appear in the lanes. That Land Rover won't park there if there are dozens of cyclists whizzing by (in both directions til M St opens, i'm stickin with that prognostication)

    I like your usual schtick. This schtick too closely resembles my schtick, except that it's less rambling and better organized. So stop. Of course, we both fall well short of the standard set by "Anonymous."

  4. For the second morning there were zero bikes on L St (I cross over headed south on 21st). And for the second morning there were cars in the L St Cycle Track...driving in the Cycle Track...as in using it as a lane. Reminds me of the shared bike/bus lane on 9th which is overflowing with cars.

  5. I was walking to a meeting at around 6pm a few nights ago and noticed about half of the vehicles exiting a parking garage on the opposite side of L Street cycletrack (between 18th and 19th, I believe) actually crossing the travel lanes to squeeze between the plastic bollards to enter the cycletrack. Presumably, they were getting ready to turn left at the next intersection. I understand not all of the paint markings and signs are in, but it was amazing to watch the effort drivers were making to keep their usual habits. Once all of the signs are installed and drivers realize it is a new traffic pattern, it should work.

    I might suggest to DDOT the use of temporary "Change of traffic pattern" signage at strategic locations to open drivers' eyes to the change.

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