Friday Question of the Day

Thanks to Lisa for attending a meeting on the 15th St reconfiguration proposals. Lisa reports:

15th St NW – Make it a 2-way Street?

“Last night there was a presentation by DDOT about what to do with 15th St between Mass Ave and W St/Florida Ave/New Hampshire Ave intersection. Currently, it is a one-way, four-lane northbound street with timed lights, so cars and cabs can barrel down it without stopping, pretty much as fast as they want. Because of this – it is rare to see pedestrians on the sidewalks and bikers on the street. DDOT proposed several alternative plans for the street (see complete detail at,a,1249,q,643030,ddotNav_GID,1586,ddotNav,%7C32399%7C.asp), including making it a two-way street. One of the four proposed alternatives included a 2-way cycle track like they have in Montreal, which more or less is a 2-way bike path on one side of the street, which looks pretty cool. Residents at the meeting were all over the place for a variety of reasons – some want to keep it a one-way street, and others are in favor of changing it to 2-way with bike lanes.

Long story short, there is rarely traffic and congestion on 15th St like you see on 16th and 14th streets. Maybe the road is being under-used. However, apparently there are about the same number of crashes on 15th as there are on 16th and 14th streets. So, what to do? DDOT is going to consider public comments and decide the fate of 15th St. If the timed lights change and bike lanes are added, I bet cab drivers won’t be too psyched, but the bikers will be pleased…”

So which proposal do you like best? Should they just leave it the way it is? Keep it one way but add bike lanes? Or make it two way?

25 Comment

  • I attended the meeting and it was really interesting to hear the concerns of the folks from different parts of 15th and surrounding areas. There were a host of issues I didn’t think of, ranging from the one-way character of other streets like R and Q to issues relating to the alleys entering 15th.

    In any event, I’ve been advocating for the option that keeps 15th one-way, but adds the cycle-track. I’m definitely more open to the two-way suggestions now, but still prefer keeping the street one-way. I think it is a great opportunity to try out the cycle track option too.

    As for the safety issue, I’m not sure I agree that 15th has a similar amount of accidents as 14th and 16th. This may have something to do with the bus lines on 14th and 16th, which add a lot of volume. But if you check out the crash map (, you’ll see that 15th actually is safer than its two-way counterparts 14th and 16th. In fact, the city’s pedestrian study rates 16th street as a priority corridor to improve. So, I don’t think the comparisons to 14th and 16th make a lot of sense.

    If we can keep the one-way character of the street, but take away a lane and add the protected cycle track, it can be done relatively cheap and relatively soon. So, I say let’s do it.

  • Eric – This cycle track sounds great. Was there a lot of support for the idea?

    Could we also tell those jokers who are building the metropole one brick per day that they have one week to stop blocking the street?

  • I must admit that when I do drive (rarely, about once every two weeks) I like the fact that I can get through several blocks fast on 15th St. But there is a bit of a race track feel to it. On other days I bike on it. Its not too bad usually as the street is so wide that cars have some space to get around me, actually more so than in some other street.

    So at first glance I would tend to support the 3 lanes North and the the two way biking lane on one side. That would be great and should really enhance the appeal to and safety of bikers.

    If I was to live on the street, I would obviously support a two way solution.

    Btw, why don’t they have a comments/feedback link on that city webpage? Would seem like an obvious way to let people easily comment.

  • Cycle track, let’s try something new to make the city more livable.

  • Isn’t the purpose of timed lights that you time the lights so that if you are going the speed limit, you never have to stop, but if you are driving too fast you find yourself stopping at each light? I don’t get how timed lights = racetrack. Or has DC managed to F that one up and not time them right?

  • Ugh, please, please let them keep it a one way. Driving around in the city is bad enough because it seems every other block you hit a red light. I see people speed up for yellow lights all the time and barrel through red lights, probably because of frustration–not a good excuse for bad driving, obviously, but keeping streets that have timed lights would cut down on this behavior, imo. Plus, as a pedestrian, I love 15th because I only have to worry about cars coming from one direction.

    NYC has plenty of one way streets with timed lights, making Manhattan actually a more pleasant and less rage-inducing driving experience than DC. That’s appalling.

  • I’m also a fan of the one way action on 15th. I am pretty sure the lights are timed so that if you’re going 35-40 you never hit a light (not exactly a “barreling” speed). Unfortunately, any time I’d save getting home that way is ruined by the left turn onto Columbia.

    I would also advocate for bike lanes, everywhere, all the time.

  • It does seem a bit like a racetrack on 15th. Can’t the timing of the lights just be changed to slow it down a bit?

    And, hey, cabbies (and people from Maryland). The lines painted on the road! Drive between them, not on top of them!

  • Oh man, don’t change it! It’s the only street in the city that allows me to get from downtown to home relatively quickly! If you’re coming in from out of town after a weekend away, 15th Street is a godsend unless you enjoy spending an extra 30-40 minutes in the car getting from one of the bridges to Columbia Heights.

    Most cities have multiple timed light streets. We seem to have one. Let’s not make it none.

  • I am not sure I understand the problem with 15th Street. The lights ARE timed for approx. 25 MPH. It’s probably one of the safest streets for peds because of this – everyone knows the drill, there’s no purpose in driving like Dale Earnharth between lights because of it. And from a pedestrian point of view, cars are only coming one way so there’s less to worry about. It just works.

    Compare to 16th Street, where the lights are apparently completely random. Now THAT road is the autobahn. Good times, to be sure, but certainly not civilized.

  • Kepp it one way!!! Every other street is a nightmare going north. I don’t own a car, but support keeping it one way. Could care less about the cycle path; don’t know if it would get used all that much and it would take away from parking (which everyone says is a problem, especially with more rowhouses being turned into condos).

  • i live just off 15th and as a pedestrian I really love getting across easily and quickly, only having to look one way. I don’t own a car and don’t really understand what the problem with is or who is complaining. I would also love the added bike lanes. Obviously not owning a car influences my view, but whether biking or walking I would much prefer to be on 15 rather than 14 or 16th Streets. They seem much more chaotic and the speeds of drivers don’t seem that different to me, just the amount of gridlock.

  • I commute by foot on 15th street to and from work every day and would *hate* it if the street were to become two way. No matter how fast traffic may be going, there’s something about 15th Street that doesn’t make me feel overwhelmed as a pedestrain (which happens on streets like Mass.) I would go so far as to support the bike lan as long as it does not eliminate the parking on either side because the parking helps create the buffer from the cars.

  • I live at 15th and T and want 15th so stay one way simply because there will be less congestion. 14th and 16th are full of cars at all times of the day, and I’d rather not have to cross over three freeways in a row while walking down T.

  • The bike track would be a mistake. People can barely ride straight and on the right side of the road as-is; why would you want to put two lanes of rapidly moving pedestrians right next to each other?

  • Rapidly moving pedestrians? Barely ride straight? Hmm.. you sound like a biker-hater.. 😉

    Look, people can do it on other parts of the world, I am fairly confident even Americans can do it. 😀

  • *wish there was an edit function*


    “Could care less about the cycle path; don’t know if it would get used all that much”

    I think it would. And infrastructure creates demand and use. Over time biking will increase and the lanes will get used more and more.

  • I think the cycle track would get commuting use. I, for one, would welcome not having to navigate the 14th Street bike…err, bus, double parking, and pizza delivery lanes.

  • im all for giving 15th street to bikers/roller bladers/pogo stickers, 16th to joggers/baby strollers/pedestrians/dog walkers, 14th to crazy/drunk/maniacal drivers … and north capitol to anyone else who can maintain the speed limit (+ 10), signal for a lane change (or better yet, stay in their own damn lanes.. you wont get there any faster by going back and forth between lanes), and obey the ‘slower traffic to the right’ rule…

  • The lights on that stretch of 15th Street are timed so that you get all green lights IF you are going the speed limit or only slightly above it. If you try to race through there way above the speed limit, you will find yourself getting stopped by red lights. So I’m not sure what the problem is. It’s pretty much the only street in DC where the traffic signals are timed in some sort of sane manner. If only DC could correctly time the traffic signals similarly on other streets, instead of the road rage- and pollution-inducing, car-damaging manner in which they’re timed now.

  • the problem is: people trying to get to that rhythm by speeding when they see there is 2 seconds left on the pedestrian crossing timer.

  • I’ve tested it while working downtown on 15th street and living close to it’s end at Irving. At minimum speed (25mph) you’ll make almost every light, and at 40 mph you won’t be stopped between K and Euclid. Any faster and you’ll beat the light.

    Don’t change it, give us a south bound version, it’ll clear up traffic on 14th and 16th. Peds and cyclists – which I am when I get home from work – stick to streets with big sidwalks and bike lanes.

  • Wow- I really love that option 2 with three northbound lanes and a two way cycle path. Mostly because it has a raised curb between the cycle path and the car lanes. And from the mock ups, it looks like it’s OUTside of the parking lane so it couldn’t be used as a loading/waiting/buz zone- very creative. It might be a little counterintuitive for riders to get in and out of the southbound bike lane (I’m envisioning some bizarre “no left turn, except bikes” signs), but once you figured it out, I bet it would be a breeze.

  • GforGood:

    I’m a daily bike commuter; I’m just not optimistic that a two-way cycle track is the smartest and most realistic way to go. DC has to plan for the average moron who doesn’t adhere to basic biking rules of the road or common sense. If they make the road two way, just put a lane on each side.

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