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A major bike lane project in downtown D.C. that was originally scheduled to be completed last summer is days away from opening to bicycle commuters, officials at the District Department of Transportation said on Tuesday.
The M Street NW cycle track — a 1.4 mile protected bike lane from Thomas Circle NW to 28th Street Northwest — was first scheduled for completion last August, then was pushed back to October, and then the winter intervened, delaying construction until the spring. The delays were caused by disputes over the project’s design and environmental concerns.
“Hopefully by the end of the week we will have the striping done, and then we have to put up the signs so people know the new parking regime and also the posts to separate the parked cars from the cycle track,” said DDOT bike planner Jim Sebastian. “It is looking like another week or two.”
The pending completion is welcome news to Washington’s growing group of bicycle commuters. The M Street cycle track will be the westbound companion to the eastbound L Street cycle track, a green stripe separated from vehicular traffic by bollards that connects the same two points, downtown and Georgetown. The M Street design is safer; bicyclists will be protected along most of the 1.4 miles by a row of parked cars, except for stretches of the road in front of the large Metropolitan A.M.E. Church between 15th and 16th Streets and a hotel loading zone.
The new cycle track will also feature the first curb protections in any bike lane in Washington, D.C. At the complicated intersection of M Street, Rhode Island Avenue, and Connecticut Avenue, the cycle track temporarily leaves M Street and flows onto Rhode Island Avenue for about 75 feet against the flow of traffic. The curbs will protect bikers from oncoming cars in that narrow lane.
“There is also at that spot a special signal for bikes, so bicyclists will get a ‘green bike’ when it is time for them to go. We will have another one further down the corridor on 22nd Street where we have double right turns. We don’t want right turns going across a bike lane, so we will have the cars wait and the bikes go at 22nd and M,” Sebastian said.
Bicycling advocates say they are pleased the project is almost completed, although they have heard that story before, adding that DDOT must improve its performance in delivering these relatively simple projects on time.
“This is a challenge that DDOT has with the implementation of bike projects,” said Greg Billing at the Washington Area Bicyclist Association. “The construction just drags on and cyclists and drivers don’t know when it is finished.”
“Our biggest concern is delivery time. We know that cycling is exploding in D.C., over 450 percent growth from 2006. DDOT is not keeping pace with that. We should already be onto another cycle track project if not two this year,” said Billing, who did credit DDOT with moving forward on a curb-protected bike lane on 1st Street Northeast.