“this is becoming a serious hazardous block”

by Prince Of Petworth June 22, 2016 at 2:10 pm 51 Comments

Here’s to your success…

“Dear PoPville,

The demolition of the old WashPo building has created a dangerous situation for bikers. Just wanted to let you know:

“Hello, due to the demolition of the old WashPo building, the bike lane has been removed and now bikers have a “bike path” which is not segregated from traffic on a block where the roadways are down to 2. This is a choke point and with the increasing traffic in DC due to the metro repairs, this is also becoming a serious hazardous block.
What do you intend to do about it ?

The demolition crew used to have a properly segregated bike lane until recently but it was removed. I almost got squished on the concrete barriers yesterday by a USG truck that, in spite of my banging on his truck, did not stop and continued to squeeze me. This is unacceptable. Once again in DC, there is no plan B.”

L Street, NW between 15th and 16th

  • mtp

    It’s no picnic for pedestrians, either. One recent morning, a garbage truck was backed into the hotel driveway across from this photo – so nobody could get by on either side without walking in traffic. I’ve started walking down M Street from 16th to 15th then down 15th to L and over, to avoid it all.

  • Yep, it’s a disaster, and will remain so for about two years. DDOT insists (incorrectly, we believe) that this closure is compliant with its Safe Accommodations regulations.

    Full story on the WABA blog for folks who are interested: http://www.waba.org/blog/2016/06/why-is-the-l-street-protected-bike-lane-closed/

  • jwetz

    It will be like this for two years. Long story short, DDOT decided that developer convince and moving cars was more important than bike and pedestrian safety, or the laws meant to protect them.

    WABA wrote a fairly wonky blog post about it in April. http://www.waba.org/blog/2016/04/no-safe-accommodations-on-l-street-for-more-than-two-years/

  • anonymous

    This person needs to join WABA. They’ve been fighting this. DDOT gave the permit that allows this.

  • Anonymous

    When will it finally sink in for District residents that the city government DGAF about anything that may inconvenience real estate development? Most of our city’s politicians comes from a real estate background and the industry is the single biggest campaign contributor. Bike lanes were not built in DC to improve cyclist safety, but to increase the desirability of living in the city and pushing up property prices. Bike lanes are just another “amenity.” Gotta keep the wheel$ turning.

  • ddd

    Is “find an alternate route” too difficult of a solution? That’s right .. you are a bike rider in the city. Yes it is.

    • stacksp

      I was thinking this but didn’t want to be that guy but construction impacts cars and pedestrians as well and you do just have to find another route. Maybe ride down M St or K St between that block and pop back over to L if necessary.

      • Woodridge

        As long as I can park in front of my church, everything is fine.

        • Bloomy


        • flieswithhoney

          I see what you did there, secret MD driver.

      • flieswithhoney

        That makes no sense. You would think that drivers would prefer cyclists to stick to L over K which is basically just a highway in and out of VA and M street is another one way going the opposite direction. The bigger picture is that this construction is impacting the safety of a lot of people, not just cyclists, on a daily basis. And don’t get me started on the dust clouds that must have asbestos in them…

        • stacksp

          Outside of finding another route or dealing with the conditions as is, I am not sure what else can be done. The construction is not going to stop

          • flieswithhoney

            What can be done is putting the construction barriers back up to form a temporary protected bike lane. The same barriers still exist on 15th, or at least they did yesterday. If the city is going to put a bike lane on L, it should continue to ensure that a bike lane is safe during this construction. Besides, do you really want 100s of cyclists slowing down K?

          • SB_DC

            The construction won’t stop but the District government is not obligated to loan them the pavement for 2 years. The developer is hardly using the space anyway and as Eva explains below the options for eastbound cyclists in this part of town are very limited.

            I am persistently threatened by drivers in this area when I’m in the protected lane so I’m loath to see what they’d do in open traffic.

          • stacksp

            Don’t know the proper solution merely suggesting alternatives. I don’t drive that way during rush hour

      • T.

        Neither of those are ideal alternatives: K Street has heavy traffic, including multiple bus lines; M Street is one-way in the other direction. As a cyclist, however, you have the right, for your own safety, to “take the lane,” for that block, until the protected cycle lane resumes. I would never try to squeeze my bike between a Jersey wall and a truck (or bus).

        • d

          +1, especially on your last sentence. Trying to squeeze by a concrete wall and harried bus or delivery truck driver is a recipe for disaster. I agree with others that allowing this is just another way that DC government shows its incompetence. “VisionZero” my ass.

      • eva

        I used to ride this route every day. The problem is that M is one way in the other direction and riding the wrong way on a one way street is a big no no. Because of some strange engineering N street is ALSO the wrong way in the other direction until 16th and dead ends at precisely the place you’d need it to bypass this issue (b/w 16th and 15th). O street does not run contiguously in this part of town so then you’d have to go up to P. If you’re headed northbound that totally makes sense, but if you’re headed downtown it’s not a very good solution. Also riding on P requires riding through both Dupont and Logan circles, which is intimidating to newer cyclists who are using this route as an alternative to a protected bike line (on L).

        K street is a nightmare to bike on. I do it on occasion when necessary but it’s really not safe for a variety of reasons (tons of buses, no bike lane at all, cars moving in and out of that turning lane/double parking area all the time, very lumpy pavement that requires tricky maneuvering in tight traffic). I Street is the wrong way. So the best alternative on the south side is to head down to H.

        I mean yes, cyclists can be very whiny. But cyclists and pedestrians have a pretty legitimate gripe in this situation as they’ve both been put in unsafe situations due to this construction and the lack of accommodations on a very heavily trafficked route for both.

    • Blerg


    • anonacostia

      I get this argument if it wasn’t labeled a bike lane and detours for the bike lane were posted. As a very new city biker, I’m extremely cautious about my routes and try to stick to roads with bike lanes. If a street says it has a bike lane (as the photos above clearly indicate), and then suddenly it doesn’t and I’m being sandwiched between a concrete barricade and a truck… well I’d rather they just post a sign saying the bike lane is closed.

    • TJ

      This might be a valid point, except the construction blockage breaks up one of the only semi-dedicated cycletracks in downtown DC along L St. NW. And it connects with another cycletrack on 15th St. NW. The location is at the heart of DC’s limited cycling structure, with no planned detour or an obvious good alternative.

    • annonny

      As someone who generally hates on bike riders, I am surprised in this case to be defending them and say “no, finding an alternate route is not an option.” The lanes on 15th Street are the one significant N-S cycle track between Rock Creek Park to the West and 11th Street to the East (see map: http://ddot.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/ddot/publication/attachments/dc_bike_map_2012_full_version.pdf). Biking that far out of the way is a ridiculous suggestion when cars have literally dozens of other N-S roads to use in the same area. While there may not be as much need for bike lanes as for car lanes city-wide, it is outrageous DDOT couldn’t foresee this becoming a problem. These bike lanes need to be restored, even if it means getting rid of some of the car traffic – there are more alternatives for vehicular rerouting than for bikes in this case.

  • siz

    yeah it’s a total nightmare, WABA has been making some noise about it to little effect. but especially with safetrack in full swing, there are a LOT of bikers on the streets – and i mean, i’m very experienced with biking in traffic/downtown, so while it’s clearly dangerous i feel ok about doing it on a daily basis. but if you aren’t so experienced it just completely defeats the purpose of even utilizing L street to get across that part of town. the cars DO NOT give a shit and honk at me all the time for squeezing in there. and i feel for the peds too, all around cannot believe this was approved by the city.

  • Thought

    Painting some stripes on the road – even if temporary – would be a great start.

  • dcd

    This is absolutely unacceptable and unsafe. However, if I were riding a bike on this stretch of road, I’d absolutely take the lane. Drivers will hate it, but it seems like the only safe alternative. And if drivers complain, they may get some traction – the city takes those sorts of complaints much more seriously.
    And to the other posters below, I’d be tempted to ride on this street and take the lane just to make a point, rather than find another route.

    • INWDC

      I kinda agree with this. Sadly though what will probably happen is someone will get seriously injured (and a lawsuit filed) before dumb dot actually does anything sensible. Unfortunately, DC is a textbook example of one step forward, two steps back.

      • Evan Tupac Grooter

        A lawsuit won’t happen. DC currently has contributory negligence. So, if a cyclist is even 1% at fault, they are legally entitled to nothing. In practice, this has prevented injured cyclists from getting anything.

  • DDOT created this problem and they do not care. I attended a community forum hosted by DDOT and the developers a few months ago. Cyclists/pedestrians attended, pointed out the problem (“Hey, I don’t want to die biking L Street”) and DDOT’s response was, “Tough shit.” They have refused to change any of their designs or make any accommodations for pedestrian/cyclist safety. Their priority is moving MD drivers through the city.

  • S

    I bike this block every day on my way home and I have had absolutely no issues. You just have to ride smart and keep your eyes and ears open. I always make sure to use proper hand signals and be patient since it is just one block. No need to cruise between cars. The way the lights work you get into that block when cars are moving at a slow pace so you can definitely be seen as you merge in.

    • DCReggae

      +1. Take the entire lane and wait like everyone else. I ride it everyday and it’s not an issue.

    • welshi

      I agree with this 100%. Also, that segregated “biker only” lane that was originally there for a couple months was much more dangerous because pedestrians refused to head the signs and cross the street to the available sidewalk. The narrow “bike only” lane was, in my opinion, much more dangerous and pedestrians often had the gall to yell at me for biking by them or asking them to move aside when passing. I stopped taking the separate “bike only” lane after a while because it was so dangerous. Everyone just needs to pay attention more often.

      • TJ

        I was amazed at the number of illiterate people in downtown Washington, as evidenced from their inability to read the more than 30 no pedestrians/bikes only signs. But I don’t agree it was more dangerous than the current situation. Those illiterate pedestrians were just a minor annoyance and they couldn’t kill me with their weight – and they were pretty passive and got out of the way when I yelled ‘heads up.’

        • BCC

          It is not that we are illiterate. We just didn’t care. I say this as someone who bikes to the Bikeshare station at L & 15th and then walks up 15th to my office. The minor inconvenience you experienced either having to share the walkway with pedestrians or, god forbid, share the road with cars for one block like you have to do in 90% of the other blocks in DC, didn’t motivate me disregard my inconvenience of walking to the other side of the street, only to walk back to the side I needed to be on.

  • bigorangebike

    I live close, but have resigned to avoiding L Street for the next two years. It was dangerous even before they removed bike lane since clueless pedestrians seemed to miss the signs and still enter and walk in the middle of the lane.

    I have emailed about adding more contra lanes in on N Street (they were added between Vermont Ave and 15th St). Maybe the city could install a contra lane along M street for that block?

    • Biker

      The church on M between 15th & 16th will never allow a contra lane on M St. They fought hard to have it unprotected (unlike the rest of the lane, which is semi-protected), even though it is on the other side of the street from their church.

    • TJ

      Lord no please let’s not have more contra lanes. Salmoning is already too much of a problem.

  • anon

    I find this entire discussion 100% beside the point. The L Street Cycletrack (and its M Street analogue) is a TERRIBLE piece of infrastructure, and most vehicular traffic, parking enforcement, MPD, etc. largely ignore it or don’t know how to adapt to the changed traffic patterns. Even without this stupid blockage, the cycletrack was unsafe and largely unusable most of the time. It needs to be completely redone. Until then, ride your bike in the right lane like you would on any other street in the CBD.

    • Biker

      Case in point, yesterday on L street between 14th & 13th around 6:30pm the ENTIRE bike lane had been taken over by cars (not just the area for turning).
      Given that we have to make do with subpar infrastructure, does anyone have ideas of how to stage protests to at least get cars to respect the signs that are there?

      • flieswithhoney

        Sometimes when I encounter a car mid-block in the bike lane on 11th intending to turn right onto RI I stop right in front of the car which forces the driver to merge back into the traffic lane when the light turns green. A little victory but maybe, just maybe, that driver will be annoyed enough to stop using the bike lane as a turning lane until he/she reaches the intersection. Perhaps the same “bike in” would work on the cars parked in the cycle track?

    • siz

      you don’t provide any points on why you think it’s unusable – i’ve been using both lanes to and from work as long as they’ve been around and i think they’re great. can you elaborate?

      • flieswithhoney

        I don’t regularly cycle on L street but as a driver I’ve observed lots of confusion and/or indifference by cars that are turning left. I’ve seen drivers enter at the beginning of the block and drive through the lane, use it as another parking lane, and turn from the left most traffic lane instead of the turning lane which results in a car cutting across both the bike lane and the turning lane. Perhaps the left traffic lane should have NO LEFT TURN written after the merge to turn ends and arrows directing cars where to turn to enter the merge?

        • siz

          agreed, but i see this as a problem with MPD enforcing the use of the lane, not as a problem with the infrastructure itself

          • anon

            Infrastructure that doesn’t work without constant enforcement is ineffective. It’s why the left turn arrow at 14th & U didn’t work, so they took it out – pedestrians always crossed against the light, when cars had the turn arrow, and more vehicular/ped crashes happened at that intersection than at any other in the city.

            Drivers drive through the cycle track, constantly park in it, or idle, waiting for a passenger, trucks load and unload in the cycletrack, pedestrians use it as extra sidewalk, or wait in it to cross the street instead of waiting on the curb…people even bike the wrong way in them. The absolute worst part is the “mixing zone.” drivers don’t understand it, so just make their turns from the traffic lane…right into cyclists who are going straight. Happened to me often enough that I just stopped using the cycletrack.

    • TJ

      I agree the M St. “death lane” should be torn out and redone by someone who rides a bike. Every time I use it I am baffled at who thought it would be workable. But the L St. design is OK in most spots with a little vigilance, and the 15th St. track is OK northbound (not southbound), as long as you recognize cars will illegal left turns at the lights from time to time.

  • Ampersand

    The thing I find more aggravating than anything else is that I have never seen the blocked-off part of the street being used by the construction crew. It just sits there empty. I realize that it may need to be used for staging later on, but in the meantime why not have it open?

    Also, I live in the Navy Yard neighborhood and somehow the developments here have managed to take place without taking huge swaths of public roadway out of usage for months. Several have had to make covered walkways, but they all made do. The only reason we are stuck with the L Street debacle is because the city declined to enforce its own laws and standards. What a sad, awful joke.

  • No Bikes

    I’ve hated this section even when it was working properly. Why is the bike lane on the left side of the road? That makes in uncomfortable for everyone. I just ride on the right, like you are supposed to do on EVERY other street I know.

  • Ghost

    Does anyone on this thread even use the 15th street bike lane? I went down this on Monday and there was protected lanes along this stretch. Must be an old picture sent in, but there are protected lanes there now

    • flieswithhoney

      This post is talking about the bike lane, or lack thereof, on L St, not 15th. Same intersection, different streets.

    • bigorangebike

      This thread is about the block of L Street between 15th and 16th.

      I was really happy that they manage to carved back out out a pedestrian walkway and a clearly marked two-way cycle lane.

      • bigorangebike

        ^on 15th Street I mean.

  • zeeeeee

    Plan B is using your noggin and finding an alternate route. Don’t wait for the city to do anything for you.
    There will be construction inconveniences for as long as you live here, whether you bike, walk, drive, or take the metro (see: “safetrack”)
    It sucks that the truck almost ran you into a jersey wall; were you in the lane? Did you stop and complain to the driver or the supervisor at the site?


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