For those who Bike around Town – Have You Been Injured Biking on H Street?

by Prince Of Petworth June 30, 2014 at 1:25 pm 49 Comments

safety tips from DDOT

@CarolineBehr tweets us:

“Any polls on how many injured from biking on H St NE streetcar tracks?

people are still getting hurt, even with those lanes [G and I Street contraflow lanes]. I see abt 2 injuries/month. Something isn’t working.”

Do you think there needs to be better signage encouraging use of the new G and I Street, NE contraflow lanes? And of course no need to answer the poll if you don’t bike around DC.

  • Badly hurt myself and I now avoid H St. I’m grateful that the car behind me wasn’t turning right.

  • Those streetcar tracks are a dangerous trap for cyclists. They caught me a couple years ago. They’re in the right-lane so they’re impossible to avoid. I was riding parallel to them but had to cross over. My front tire got stuck in the space between the rail and the road and I went flying. Luckily I didn’t break anything but got a bloody road rash along my right side.. Since then I use G or I, which are nice alternatives.

    Those streetcar tracks have cost millions of dollars and all they’ve done is injure cyclists.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, got caught in the tracks just once when they first laid them down. Since I’m only kind of an idiot, I take the parallel streets now and avoid H in general.

  • sizzler

    i don’t bike down h street that often myself, but this happened to my roommate. luckily she only walked away with a bad scrape.

  • Anonymous

    I got caught in the tracks while biking across H Street down a cross street, but no injuries because I was able to respond quickly and jump off the bike before it fell over.

  • CommutestoSE

    I have never had occasion to bike in that area. But I know that riding parallel to tracks is dangerous. I am glad they are implenting improved parallel routes – the advantages of a grid! In Portland cyclists and street cars have learned to live together.

  • AtlasCesar

    has anyone ever been hit by another vehicle after getting caught? that seems like the much larger danger.

  • No, but I’m also not crazy enough to bike on H when I could take G or I even before the bike lanes were added.

  • GiantSquid

    Sometimes, due to things such as the streetcar tracks, taking a slightly less direct route is the safest route. G and I have no tracks, less traffic, and slower moving traffic.

  • AG

    No, but my roommate did. Really glad they improved the parallel routes. I kind of sketches me out, so it’s nice G is an option.

  • SF

    I generally avoid it but I have seen lots of people endo on the H Street tracks. It really is not safe for cycling. I once saw a poor woman face plant into a parked SUV in front of H & Pizza. They could have better bike signage at intersections notifying cyclist of the G/I Street options. I wish they could put down some of that bending track filler that some countries use that creates a smooth surface when the rail isn’t being used.

    • SF

      Also a good time to mention that the entire H Street area needs some better bike infrastructure. The Starburst Intersection is a nightmare and Florida Avenue, Benning Road, and Bladensburg Road are some of the most bike-unfriendly streets in the city. Hoping that changes soon.

      • H ST Guy

        As a frequent biker around DC let me just say that every road you just mentioned shouldn’t be expected bike friendly. Generally diagonal roads should belong to cars and bikes should be accommodated on numbered & lettered roads (aka north-south and east-west grid roads). There’s no reason for bikes to be on Florida Ave, Maryland Ave, Benning and Bladensburg. There are much more bike friendly paths for each of those streets. Nothing is more infuriating than a bike in traffic on a road like Maryland where there are actual bike lanes on any of the surrounding streets.

        • Anonymous

          “There’s no reason for bikes to be on Florida Ave, Maryland Ave, Benning and Bladensburg. There are much more bike friendly paths for each of those streets. Nothing is more infuriating than a bike in traffic on a road like Maryland where there are actual bike lanes on any of the surrounding streets.”
          +100. I’d add Rhode Island Ave to that list, as well. Especially now that it’s a damn construction site.

        • T. Roll

          As a frequent internet troll, I like your completely arbitrary rule! Diagonals for cars, letter streets for bikes. I’d also propose that Rock Creek be for duck boats only and that Mount Pleasant St be restricted to just that Segway cop who rides in circles while chatting up the ladies. Nothing is more infuriating than a car/bike/bus/pedestrian/street harasser/duck boat in traffic when Segway cop is a-comin’ through.

        • Moira

          As someone who bikes across the city in a diagonal direction several times a week, I could not disagree more about the diagonal streets. What is the rational for making the most direct routes inaccessible to bikes? Why not prioritize mixed use of these very useful routes? I use them regularly because the alternative can add 15 to 30 minutes to a ride. Bikes have every right to use those streets and should be able to do so safely.

          • sarah

            +1. I live in bloomingdale, and if I want the most direct, fastest way west, my best bet is often either RI ave or FL ave. there’s no reason cars and bikes can’t share the road here.

          • Anonymous

            sarah, try Q and R.

          • H St Guy

            I think mostly my comment was those people that only feel comfortable riding in a bike line. Bikes have a right to just about everywhere in a city, but if you’re only comfortable in a bike line then you have to be willing to go out of your way for comfort. The specific case I encounter and think of is bike riders going west on Maryland from the Starburst. It’s uphill and a mid-sized artery for east west traffic. There’s not point in trying to keep up with traffic there when there are a lot of good east-west options on lettered streets. My frustration comes when a CityBike n00b is riding up Maryland 2 feet away from parked cars because they’re obviously in over their heads.

          • Alan


            Especially Florida. That’s a HUGE street that cuts through a residential neighborhood. Studies show that bike lanes adjacent to car lanes slow down traffic (drivers knowing bikers are right next to them apparently subconsciously causes them to slow down, either out of concern or perhaps because they see themselves flying past parallel traffic). Seems like the cheapest, most efficient form of traffic calming for Florida there is…and would connect two very dense neighborhoods full of bikers (Capitol Hill & U Street)

        • Ann

          Where are there bike lanes on ANY of the streets around Benning and Bladensburg (and, for that matter, the great majority of Florida)? Please tell me, because I would very much prefer to take those alternative routes that I have somehow overlooked.

        • SF

          That’s an interesting stance, but I can’t agree with you. Florida Avenue is practically the only way to get between the east side of H street and U Street. Bicyclists shouldn’t have to square a hypotenuse to get between those two hubs of town.

          Bladensburg should absolutely be more bicycle accessible, largely for purpose of making the great biking areas in the arboretum more accessible. I might agree with you on Benning except for the real probablem posed by the end of the city grid around the area of the Starburst intersection. There are several structural realities around there that greatly hinder the ability to cycle westward– namely chunks of grid-splitting buildings like Miner Elementary School and Hechinger Mall combined with lots of one-way streets. It’s somewhat a matter of individual opinion and priorities but I think all three of these could be greatly improved with bicycle lanes. Florida Avenue especially, and I’m very glad to hear that bike lanes are on their way there.

        • Valerie

          Oh dear, imagine a cyclist slowing your trip down by 5 or 6 seconds! There is NOTHING more infuriating!

      • Anonymous

        FYI: There are plans to put in bike lanes on FLA NE.

        • Alan

          Thank you God and/or urban planners, depending on your belief system.

  • Anonymous

    I won’t even drive my Vespa on H Street due to fears of getting stunk in the track, despite my much wider tires. I’m baffled when I see cyclists biking on H Street, considering the amount of dangers on there (fast cars, reckless MD drivers, higher likelihood of getting doored, idiot pedestrians who suddenly wander out into the middle of the street, and the rail tracks). It’s the most dangerous street in the city for cyclists, IMHO.
    DC cyclists, please have an ounce of self-preservation and use G or I Streets. They’re a much more pleasant ride.

  • Starburst

    Fell backward off the bike in middle of starburst intersection last summer. Was not impaired in any way. My full backpack and helmet saved me from any injury. Just embarrassment. 4 different motorists stopped mid-intersection to make sure I was ok. This confirmed my view that DC really is full of some caring people. Was headed from east of river down Benning Rd. to Biergraten Haus. Shouldn’t have used H Street, but figured I was only going a few blocks. Definitely tried to cross as perpendicular as I could, and was very surprised when my crossing failed.

    Not a fan of streetcar for a few reasons, but blame only myself for that fall. I’m not one of those “I’m going to bike down this street anyway–my own safety be darned” kind of people. I put some serious miles on my bike, but this was only the 2nd time I’ve fallen off.

  • H ST Guy

    I bike on H St everyday for two blocks at the end of my commute. A little common sense goes a long way as you never never never cross over those tracks at anything less than a 30 degree angle. And, to be honest I should be using the new contraflow lane on G St to get east for those last two block but habits die hard.

  • Moira

    I bruised a rib when a car swerved close to me and my wheel went in the tracks. AtlasCesar, you’re right–I was lucky that the car behind me had been stopped and hadn’t reached full speed when I flew over my handlebars.

  • If you’re riding a bike you’re presumably looking at the road. For example, if you saw a big pothole you would veer to avoid it, right? So if you can see that there is a continuous line going down the road that looks deep enough to sink your tire in, do you really need a sign telling you it’s there? Would more signs really make a difference? Can you not see what’s directly in front of you?

    • Anonymous

      In other words, “you can’t fix stupid” with a sign. I agree, Justin.
      Where people have a “right to cycle” and where they “can safely cycle” are two entirely different issues. Unfortunately, the trolley is taking precedence at the expense of cycling on H Street. I don’t take my Prius on an unpaved path meant for 4×4 trucks, even though I have the “right” to be there. That would be stupid on my part.

      • Yeah, basically. I mean I do feel bad for people who bust their grill when they expect to be able to ride on DC roads. But come on, you can see it’s all jacked up…you’re just being lazy, or defiant, or something that more signs would not correct. Why anyone would want to bike on H Street even if there were no streetcar lines is beyond me, it’s so much easier on G or I.

        • sarah

          ok, what if your destination is on H st, and you need to be on H for at least a block? a car could get too close, causing you to swerve right into a trolley track. or you might cross over it at an awkward angle and get caught, which is what happened to my roommate. saying everyone who gets hurt is being lazy or defiant is just silly.

          • Get off your bike and walk for a single block. That’s what I do when I park my BikeShare bike on the H Street docks.

          • Anonymous

            Agree with Justin. Take G or I Streets, turn down the appropriate cross street, and when you get to H Street walk your bike for half block. Or if the sidewalk is empty, ride on the sidewalk for half block.
            It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out.

        • Valerie

          Just being lazy or defiant in expecting infrastructure to accommodate the way we travel to the places we need to go?

          Instead of calling names, advocate for better infrastructure.

          Could be easily solved by some traffic calming and marking the left lanes with sharrows up and down H.

          • Yes, it’s lazy. I would love to have flying cars too, but that’s not the world we live in. We live in a world where you can visibly see an impediment to your path, yet you still choose to ride in it and risk injury, rather than taking a side route.

      • I knew there was a streetcar track. I didn’t know there was a gap between the track and the road that fit my bike tire perfectly. Don’t blame users – this is poor design by DDOT.

        • Anonymous

          How is this poor design by DDOT? This is an issue with trolley tracks all over the world.

    • Alan

      I got caught in the tracks when a car veered in front of me, I made a quick evasive maneuver and got caught in the track, flipped over the handlebars and landed hard (injuries were only minor scrapes). Accidents happen, Justin, have a heart, buddy.

  • Slappy J

    Riding around RR/streetcar tracks and in heavy, aggressive traffic on major arterials should be left to experienced urban bikers. I have very little fear riding between the tracks, but I’m also adept at bunny-hopping obstacles, thanks to years of biking in suboptimal conditions. Unfortunately, there are a lot of fair-weather cyclists out at this time of the year, who have precious little experience at riding in heavy traffic on terrible roads.

  • Betty

    I think your poll is very limited. I was definitely injured on H st but this was before the bike lanes on I and G were there. Now I always try to stick to those- at least until I need to cross the bridge or get to somewhere ON h st. I see more and more people use them but sometimes, it just isn’t an option.

  • i fell too

    Yup. I am among the many who have fallen. I was leaving a restaurant and went to cross H St to head up to Florida and my front tire got caught. The road was clear when I was crossing, so luckily no cars got close. The look of horror on the onlookers faces as they peered behind me to check if cars were coming will stay with me forever. I walked away with a bruised knee and a bigger hole in my already ripped jeans…so thankful.

  • Anonymous

    my advice to those that must ride on H is to bike between the tracks, not to the right of them. you have to basically take the lane to do this though, which can anger drivers, so beware.
    then come to a complete stop to turn. there are one or two places where theres a metal plate that closes the gap tighter. you can turn there too.

  • Valerie

    To be sure, I was injured before the contraflow lanes were installed, and there wasn’t really a way for me to easily avoid H Street given that my destination was on H street. I was trying to avoid the tracks, but got stuck right in one, and tipped right over. Hurt my side & shoulder, but grateful there wasn’t a car or bus right behind me.

  • Ryan

    The tracks aren’t that hard to cycle on. You just need to stake out a lane position between the tracks and enter/exit them at a slightly sharper angle than normal. Short of someone being caught unaware, they don’t strike me as posing a serious safety hazard that should cause rethinking commitment to streetcars along a corridor that badly needs transit.

    My first time down H after they were installed, I caught a skinny rear tire (23cm) on my road bike and had a short skid before it hopped out. On my commuter bike (2.3in tires) I’ve never had a problem and have actively tried to catch a rear tire in the track.

    • Anonymous

      I’m confused by your units. 23 cm is more than 9 inches.

      • Anonymous

        Should be 23mm, as in a 700×23 tire, which is the standard skinny-ish road bike size.

        • Ryan

          Yep. I botched my metric units typing too quickly.

          In summary: skinny road bike tire = potential problem; normal mountain bike tire = no problem.


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