New “contra-flow” Bike Lanes on G and I Streets, NE


From DDOT:

Why bike lanes on G and I Streets?
G and I Streets are one-way, low traffic volume roads popular with cyclists. They provide a safe and attractive alternative to cycling on the much busier H Street commercial corridor, and were recommended in the city’s 2005 Bicycle Master Plan. Up to 60 bicyclists per hour have been counted on these streets.* The soon-to-open streetcar line on H Street increases the need for these lanes due to the danger to cyclists of getting their bicycle wheels caught between the streetcar track and roadway.

What will the lanes look like?
The new bike lanes will look different than most of the lanes you see around the city. Placed outside the parking lane, the outer bike lane line will be a solid double yellow line separating the adjacent travel lane. This will provide a dedicated space for bicyclists to travel against traffic (contra-flow). Within this lane will be bike symbols and arrows indicating the contra-flow direction. Shared lane markings, or sharrows, will be placed in the adjacent travel lane indicating that cars and bikes must share this lane. In essence, each street will remain one-way for motor vehicles, while bikes can now travel in both directions.

What are the benefits of contra-flow lanes?
The contra-flow lanes provide better connectivity for bikes, reduce dangerous wrong-way riding, and decrease trip distance, making cycling a more attractive travel option. New Hampshire Avenue, NW has a similar design.

What about traffic?
Traffic flow will remain the same for motor vehicles – one-way westbound on G St, and one-way eastbound on I St. Bikes are the only vehicles allowed to travel both ways. There should be no negative effect on traffic flow.

Will parking be affected?
The amount of parking will remain the same. The only difference is that, on the bike lane (left) side of the road, drivers must cross the double yellow line to park. They should first look for oncoming bikes, then, when clear, cross the bike lane and park against the curb, facing in the direction of motor vehicle travel.

When will the work be done?
DDOT will install these lanes in April 2014.”



51 Comment

  • nice!
    i never had problems biking up and down H but i know these lanes will help many
    so bikes can go either direction in these bike lanes?
    if so i wonder if the bike lanes will be split into two to make this clear

    • Read the article again. The bike lane will be for contra flow traffic, the other lane will be shared by bikes and cars.

    • Read the post again. The bike lane will be for contra flow traffic, the other lane will be shared by bikes and cars.

    • shaybee

      the lane itself is for bikes going against traffic. there will be sharrows in the car lane (traveling west on G and east on I) for bikes going in the same directions as the cars!

    • the article is incorrect from what I understand. I live on G, and we’ve gotten notice that bikes will be able to travel in both directions. That seems counter-intuitive, and means parking vehicles will need to look in both directions for bicyclists

  • I have enjoyed using them so far.

  • “The new bike lanes will look different than most of the lanes you see around the city.”
    Isn’t it better for bike lanes around the city to look similar, so drivers and cyclists can cue in on them more easily, know how to drive near them, etc.? I realize they won’t always look the same (not all bike lanes get the special green paint, the configuration is not always identical), but having every new bike lane designed in its own image seems like not such a great idea.

    • there are similar lanes on new hampshire avenue on either side of u. they work fine.

    • I have no evidence for this, but I bet drivers are more diligent when it comes to avoidance of crossing double yellow lines. The bright yellow color is jarring and we are taught in driver’s ed to never cross a double-yellow. Subconsciously, I think it might make drivers more aware.

    • Are there other contra-flow lanes in the city? I think it’s important for all the contra-flow lanes to look similar, so drivers know what to expect. Double yellow lines appear to be the universal (American) cue that traffic of some sort is traveling in both directions, so this makes perfect sense to me.

  • It’s nice to see this up as this is a necessary part of our bicycle infrastructe- but

    One thing I think they need to make clear with the lanes is that they are only for bikes heading against the main flow of traffic. I’ve seen a cyclist traveling the wrong way in the counterflow bike lanes, as in they use the lane to go the same direction as traffic- but there isn’t enough room from bikes going two ways.

    Also, without placing markers that bikes are only supposed to go one way on the counterflow lanes, cars are going to get angry when they see bicyclists in the regular traffic lane, even though bikes moving with traffic are supposed to go that way.

    Let’s get sharrows up in the main travel lane ASAP and clear markings that these counterflow lanes are only for bikes going one way. The current setup without these marking is a safety hazard.

    • Sharrows and other markings are part of the plan. They’re not done yet.

    • That’s me, every morning – and will still be me after the sharrows are there. I would much rather deal with the one or two bikes heading towards me than have to go 12+ blocks with cars racing to go around if we are sharing the main lane. I kind of hate these lanes – how much harder would it be for bikes to go up to I if they want to head eastbound? Would have been much better to have bike lanes on G and I that were just headed in the direction that the streets are going.

      • As the bicyclist going the correct way in the contraflow lane, I’m begging: Please, please, please, please, please don’t do that.

  • I don’t understand how the lanes “reduce dangerous wrong-way riding.” Insofar as bikes are now allowed to go both ways on a street in which cars are only allowed to go one way, don’t the lanes simply institutionalize “dangerous wrong-way riding” (if we’re defining “wrong-way” as being against the flow of automobile traffic on the street)?

    • they are given their own lane.

    • That’s like saying one lane on a two-way street is necessarily going the wrong way.

    • They simply renamed it. yes, technically the cyclists are going against, traffic. But now that the city painted the lane, it is no longer “wrong way” because they get their own lane. It’s the old “can’t make them follow the laws so we’ll change the laws so what is being done is no longer illegal”. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

      Gonna be interesting with cars looking only 1 way at intersections and bikes travelling 2 ways… and here’s hoping DDoT puts up stop signs in both directions, so the “contraflow” cyclists have a stop sign facing their direction (and, ya know, stop).

      If it works, bravo. If it don’t…

  • The aggressive nature of drivers on Hst are more dangerous to cyclists than the street car tracks.

    I’ve been using the bike lane on G recently to take my kid to daycare…real nice. Am really excited about the lane on I street.

  • I generally support additional bike infrastructure (even if it is ‘just’ paint on pavement), but I guess I am curious whether no one at DDOT understands the concept of the “door zone” (see:

    Are these ‘un-buffered’ bike lanes (without any ‘buffer zone’ between parked cars and the lane) better than nothing? I am honestly not sure, to the degree that these lanes may create a false sense of security for both riders and motorists. It would at least be helpful to know whether or not these conversations are being had at any level within DDOT.

    • The big advantage of this kind of lane, being on the left-side of the road, is that any doors opening will be on the passenger side which means they are less likely to be an issue than if the bike lane was on the other side of the road.

      • Santos, that is actually an interesting point that I hadn’t considered. A passenger looking straight-ahead does seem less likely to potentially door a cyclist than a driver who has look into their mirror to avoid this danger. However, my I think my original question/point is still a valid one, since the inherent danger of the door zone persists regardless of which direction the car is parked.

    • Ride in the left side of the bike lane and you will be clear of the door zone.

      • Tom, I certainly DO ride as far over on the left (traffic) side of the lane as is safely-possible. But, the vast majority of cyclists do not behave this way, and therefore are exposed to a significant hazard even when riding ‘safely in the bike lane.’

        Creating a bike lane which cannot be fully occupied safely is arguably akin to a two-lane road with two separate overlapping center lines– each lane is ‘safe’ to drive in, so long as the car driver either drives to the far outside, or drives anywhere within the full lane so long as no other car comes from the opposite direction! Hope that is not too-tortured of a metaphor…

        • Well, the problem of cyclists riding in the door zone exists whether or not you have a bike lane. Novice cyclists who are not aware of the danger of the door zone will typically ride as far to the right as possible so as to avoid enraging car drivers who can’t bear the thought of having to slow down. Riding to the far right dangerous not only due to car doors, but that it encourages cars to pass too close. What is needed is more education for all alike about the dangers of dooring.

          • Tom, the problem for me is when the government creates bike lanes like this, they are creating unsafe infrastructure, and mandating bikers to use it. As I think you are aware from your earlier posts, the bike lanes throughout the city suffer from a lot of problems, and in the grand scheme, dooring is only one of a myriad of issues the new bike lanes may be exasperating. Is the city installing bike lanes that benefit bicycle operators? I believe they are installing bike lanes that primarily benefit automobile operators, while increasing the risk and limiting options to cyclists…… Before bike lanes, bikers could use a full width travel lane (and many of us did) – if you ride in the middle of an 11 foot lane, you don’t get doored, you don’t get t-boned by folks turning right on red, you don’t have pedestrians walk into you, etc.. While it is still legal to take a lane, you will be the victim of a hate crime if you try it now that there are bike lanes.

    • T – you are spot on. I like bike infrastructure but would prefer to see this setup: bike lanes closest to the sidewalk, then parked cars w/buffer zone, then driving lanes, and parking. This setup allows bikers to be protected by a line of parked cars n from door jobs, it also makes it unecessary for drives to look out for bikers.

  • I rode the G St lane in both directions this weekend with a novice cyclist. They had previously had trouble making a left onto H St from 13th due to the high volume of oncoming auto traffic and drivers behind them getting impatient to make their own left turn. Honestly, I’m very experienced and I’ve had unpleasant experiences making that turn.

    They LOVED the new G St. option! It’s so much calmer than H St. and has 4-way stops rather than lights that queue anxious cars up behind you. We just took G St down to the block we needed on H St and then walked across at the pedestrian crosswalk.

    However, the paving on G St. is pretty rough in spots. Hopefully PotHolePalooza can focus on some of the worst stretches of this street now that its warm.

    • Some parts of G need resurfacing. I’ve dutifully reported potholes on the particularly bad stretch on the 600 block for the past two potholepaloozas since I’ve been living there, but it’s only a marginal improvement. The street is torn up from the many utility cuts replaced with different kinds of asphalt, cracks, and bumps from all the pothole killer they’ve patched the road with over the years. Seriosuly, the center of that block is paved with pothole killer. Maybe now that the city has acknowledged that G St is an actual bike route they’ll improve the street since it’s way rougher on a bike than in a car. [/end rant]

  • With the investment in this infrastructure paid for by all tax payers, why do cyclist feel they don’t need to use it or have the liberty to flow in and out whenever they want without any regard to cars? I find a majority of the cyclist was the freedom of a pedistrian and the rights of cars when it benefits them. When will cyclist be ticketed for disobeying the cycling traffic laws including running light? We need to cove the cost some how. It is also for the safety of both the driver and cyclist.

    • There’s many reasons why a cyclist might be outside of a bike lane or other cycling infrastructure. The bike lane could have a pot hole, the cyclist might need to make a left turn, a delivery van might be parked in the bike lane. All in all, cyclists will prefer to be in bike lanes if feasible, and if you see one outside if it there is almost certainly a reason why- we don’t want to be in your way.

      As far as disobeying traffic laws- cars break the law all the time to. Go one street over up to H St, and you will find cars breaking the speed limit all day long. And, a car driver breaking the law is much, much, much more likely to kill someone than a cyclist breaking the law.

      • Cars are not perfect and break the law, but they run the risk of getting a ticket when they do by either an officer or camera. I had a biker just yesterday nearly take me out while crossing the street at a cross walk at 15th and Corcoran. While the biker did not stop to let me cross, all the cars during rusher did stop.

        I also drive 15th street every day and there is always a biker not using the bike lane for BLOCKS. When you say something to them, they get down right nasty.

      • or the cyclist may just be a jackass, which so many are. i had the displeasure of driving down L street NW a week and a half ago behind some moron who was biking in the left car traffic lane directly next to the dedicated bike lanes (and running red lights despite it being rush hour).

    • It’s perfectly legal to not use a bike lane where there is one, so that might be where they think we get the liberty from.

    • Anon, go hang out at the L St cycletrack during rush hour and tell me how many cars break the law (riding down the lane) versus how many cyclists flagrantly run the red. I think you will be surprised.

      • I have take L street and the answers is zero, because they are posts up preventing cars from driving down the bike lane.

        • There are virtually no posts left (unless they’ve all been replaced in the week I’ve been outside of the US). They all came down in the winter–I presume due to plows, but I don’t know.

          There were times in Feb and March where I would be cycling in the cycletrack and for a period of 4-5 consecutive blocks (ie these vehicles were NOT turning) and was in a line of cars–some of whom even had the audacity to get pissy that I wasn’t moving fast enough.

          At one memorable point I was behind a UPS truck and in front of a motorcycle and 2 cars. For a period of four consecutive blocks before a single one of them turned.

          • there are tons of posts left, and i have never seen a car in the bike lanes that wasn’t turning on my daily commutes. you are making sh!t up.

          • No. I am not making shit up. Thank you.

            I’m not talking about the posts along the side of the lane that divide the bike lane from the left-most traffic lane.

            I’m talking about the posts that were previously placed at the beginning of every block in the middle of the lane–effectively blocking vehicular traffic from entering the lane (unless they want to plow through the post) at points other than the designated “mixing zone” where the lane has the green stripes.

            At the following intersections those posts have been down for several months: 20th and L, 19th and L, 18th and L, Ct. and L, 14th and L, Vermont and L. I can’t remember if they are still in place at 15th and 16th, but I don’t think they are. I ride that route every single day, so I’m pretty familiar with whether or not I need to move over to avoid crashing into a post. But thanks for being an ass anyway.

            If you’ve never seen a car in those lanes that wasn’t turning AT THE NEXT INTERSECTION you are either blind or not paying attention. Or both.

      • I drive on the bike lane all the time on L st. It’s the turn lane. An unbelievable number of bicyclists run red lights on this stretch and curse you at stop lights when you are going to turn left. I’ve seen some really out of control behavior by bikes who incorrectly think that the section to the left of the posts is exclusively their domain and don’t understand it is shared by turning cars (or just don’t care)

        At the same time, I will say that after a long long time of nearly every biker I see breaking some law, the number of law abiding cyclists, and the proportion of the whole that they represent, has been steadily rising over the past couple of years. If all bikers were as courteous as the growing number of good ones, fewer would have a problem with bike infrastructure.

        • having spent a ton of time in amsterdam, i notice that the behavior of dutch cyclists is starkly different than US cyclists. they are incredibly attentive to the rules – you would literally never see a dutch cyclist run a red bicycle crossing light. not sure what accounts for the difference.

  • I just moved to H Street and commute by bike to work around 14th and Mass. These will help for the portion of the ride to the railway tracks, but then I still have to cross over the tracks on H or under them at K. If you ride something like this regularly, any ideas on a better route?

    • You also have the option of taking G street all the way to the west, switching down to F around 3rd st, and going up past union Station. You can then go in front of Union Station, pass the taxi line area, go through the circle in front of Union Station and this puts you out on to Mass Ave.

  • Why not put the lanes on the inside of the parking lane so they’re actually protected from moving traffic (like 15th Street NW) and also protected from parking cars, which will obviously have to cross into the lanes now to park in half of the spaces?

    • the problem for me is that it creates a lot of blind spots at intersections. They try to build in space at the end of the parking for visibility, but then tall and boxy delivery trucks park there and visibility goes to ZERO. I think DC has realized the ‘bikes traveling behind parked cars’ concept is dangerous. IMHO, travel lanes as narrow as the bike lanes in DC will never be safe for high-momentum transportation regardless of where they are placed, as there is nowhere to go if there is an obstacle such as a pothole.

      • “DC may have realized” but that doesn’t mean it is right. Cities with well planned bike infrastructure (e.g. Montreal) do that and it works just fine. What DC should realize is that it needs to enforce double-parking rules for those blind spots.

  • Great news. I wish they could do this on Gales Street too.

  • I live on G St and was really confused when I saw them painting the yellow lines. My first thought was that they were making it a two way street and removing the parking on one side. After a quick Google I learned that wasn’t the case, so I am thankful for that. However, it feels like a bit of a squeeze now. G is also one of those streets where there always seems to be a truck double parked. I wonder how long it will be before a car (or bike) swerves in to oncoming bike (or car) traffic and someone gets hurt?
    My other concern relates to the stop signs. Everyone is used to only having to look one way when crossing G. Just the other day I saw two bikes almost collide, as neither actually stopped at the stop signs.
    At the end of the day it doesn’t affect me. I don’t bike, and the parking is still there. Just hope that it all plays out alright.

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