Dec 15, 2021 - News

D.C. bike advocates push for more bike lanes, faster

The silhouette of a person riding a bike in front of the Thomas Jefferson memorial at sunset.
Photo: Samuel Corum/AFP via Getty Images
Map: Jared Whalen/Axios
Map: Jared Whalen/Axios

Advocates for bicycling worry the city is not living up to Mayor Muriel Bowser’s goal to add 10 miles of new protected bicycle lanes each year. 

Why it matters: Slow progress on expanding safe cycling routes means less advancement in tackling traffic deaths and providing a robust form of transportation, advocates say.

  • Bowser unveiled the 10-miles-a-year pledge in her budget this year. But several key projects are yet to break ground, sometimes due to neighborhood opposition to removing street parking in order to make way for lanes and other traffic concerns.

Our map of transportation projects (above) shows the protected bicycle lanes that the District Department of Transportation is due to establish by 2024.

  • But the segments on the map are all “a projection, and all projects are subject to change,” DDOT spokesperson German Vigil wrote in an email.
  • One key project is missing: lanes on Connecticut Avenue, which would connect upper Northwest to Dupont Circle and downtown.
  • The project would remake about 2.7 miles of Connecticut Avenue with bicycle lanes and the removal of existing rush hour reversible lanes, a major artery for suburban commuters.

What they’re saying: “The reason we don’t have a bicycle revolution is because of the political will from our elected officials,” said Jeremiah Lowery, advocacy director at the Washington Area Bicyclist Association. 

  • He pins blame on Bowser, saying, “the mayor just needs to step up.”
  • D.C. has had 39 fatalities this year from drivers hitting people. Lowery says protected bicycle lanes make the road safer for all traffic users, including drivers and scooter riders. Just yesterday, a driver hit two children, ages 6 and 3, who were in the crosswalk. 

DDOT declined an interview request, but a spokesperson wrote in an email that progress on protected bicycle lanes “is at an all-time high.”

  • “DDOT installed a record 7.3 miles of PBLs in FY 2021 and more than 27 miles worth of projects are in outreach, planning, and design for construction in calendar years 2022 through 2023,” spokesperson Mariam Nabizad wrote.

Between the lines: A longstanding concern in battles over bicycle lanes has been the removal of parking, fiercely resisted by some businesses and residents. 

  • That has played into opposition to the 9th Street NW bicycle lane, which would run from U Street to Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
  • That project first began in 2015 as a feasibility study, according to DDOT, and construction is “tentatively planned for fall of 2022.” 
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