3/19/14

Blocks

I haven't been feeling well for the past few days, so I've been taking the Metro to and from work. In order to avoid having to change lines (transfers daunt me), I ride Bikeshare to Union Station. It's 1.5 miles and it takes about 10 minutes. And for the most part, it's pretty straightforward. There are bike lanes on East Capitol and then bike lanes past Lincoln Park and then bike lanes on Massachusetts Avenue until Stanton Park. Stanton Park is between 6th NE and 4th NE. The entrance to where the Bikeshare station is at Union Station is First NE. That's 5 blocks. 3 blocks on Mass from the western edge of the park. 

And for those 3 blocks on Massachusetts there is no bike accommodation. The road becomes two lanes wide (during non-rush hour times, the right lane is reserved for car parking) and it stays two lanes until after 2nd NE when there's parking and a bus stop (so it sorta gets to be 1.5 lanes wide. The 'half lane' is a DC driver specialty) and then it becomes two lanes again right before there's a rump of a bike lane for 20 feet before the slip lane entrance to the train station. The bike lanes continue along Columbus Circle almost the whole way to the  entrance to the someday extended Metropolitan Branch Trail via the someday completed First Street NE cycletrack, but they otherwise disappear and that's not really important to this story because I'm only talking about taking Bikeshare, which is on the east side of the train station and not the other side, the side of the Bikestation and the outdoor bike parking. 

Three blocks in 1.5 miles. How much of a difference can it actually make? 

A lot. 

It sucks. 

It's a mess. There's a bus stop at 3rd NE that sometimes backs up traffic in the right lane and there's a left turn on the diagonal to D street which seems to be very popular with drivers and both of these contribute to a lot of attempted lane changes and driver angst. Many drivers having come from Maryland Avenue NE Speedway (traffic calming improvement coming: soon? eventually? this spring?) are still in the mood to speed and weave, so that's an exciting challenge as well. There's a gas station entrance and also a slip lane from 2nd NE, one that looks woefully misplaced in an urban environment. 

I'm a pretty confident rider and I have no problem riding in the middle of a lane, so as to prevent close passes by impatient drives, and honks wash off me like water from a ducks back. I don't mind riding with traffic and I'm pretty comfortable right alongside cars. It's part of the deal, I guess. At least as the deal is currently constituted. I put up with it because it's three blocks in a 1.5 mile ride. But I don't care for it and I'm tired of being asked to do it. 

I want a bike network that doesn't ask (or demand) that I 'take the lane' [I've come to really dislike that phrase. "take" seems so possessive, like I'm maliciously absconding with something that shouldn't be mine] even for 3 blocks. Little gaps make a big difference. If a "hardened, hardcore urban cyclist" (or whatever) like me notices how crummy the road becomes for cycling, what of the person who rides it for the first time? Is there a second time? (For what it's worth, you can ride down 6th Street NE to F and go to Union Station that way. It's a signed bike route, I think. But that doesn't really get you to the First Street NE cycletrack, even though that isn't really where I was trying to go in this story. Plus, why put bike lanes at Columbus Circle and then east of Stanton Park if you were then going to suggest they take some circuitous route between these two places than the route directly between them?)

The thing about fixing little problems (and I don't mean to single out Massachusetts Avenue- it's just the one little gap that I happened to ride the past couple of days. There are plenty of other examples) is that's they're easily dismissible. It's just 3 blocks in 1.5 miles! But it's when the 3 blocks becomes the excuse for not riding the 1.5 miles, when little deals become big deals. It doesn't take a lot to encourage cycling places, but it doesn't take a lot to discourage it either. Fill the gaps. 

2 comments:

  1. Try turning left onto D from Mass Ave, like I do every morning. It's horrible. I get buzzed on the right by cars who don't want to wait for me to turn so they can go straight, and I've had cars behind me turning left onto D as well decide they can't wait for me to make the turn, so they try to slide past me on my left as I'm turning left myself. When that happens, I'm glad I got the lobster gloves that left the middle finger free.

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