City Proposes New Bike Lanes on Pennsylvania East of Georgetown

Over the last several years, DC’s transportation department, DDOT, has been conducting the Downtown West Transportation Planning Study. It looked at the area encircle by the black line in the picture above, specifically Pennsylvania Ave. between Washington Circle and the White House, and H St. between Pennsylvania Ave and New York Ave. The staff has produced a final report, and among the recommendations is a call to construct some excellent bike lanes on Pennsylvania Ave.

This is obviously not in Georgetown, but for Georgetowners commuting by bike, these changes could lead to a different course to work, much like the 15th St. lanes drew nearby bike traffic.

You may be familiar with the bike lanes on Pennsylvania Ave. east of the White House. They were installed under Adrian Fenty. While they were a dramatic improvement at the time, and were installed rapidly, they certainly have their issues. The greatest issue is that drivers often try to drive a u-turn across the bike lanes, which is both illegal and really dangerous. The city has tried different approaches to discourage this behaviour, most recently settling on small rubber curb-like barriers, but it’s still not ideal. The new recommendations would lead to far superior lanes west of the White House.

Pennsylvania Ave. west of the White House presents a great opportunity for improvements. This is because ever since they shut down the road to car traffic in front of the White House in the 1990’s, much fewer drivers travel on the road to the west. Right now it is simply much too wide for the amount of traffic it sees. This is a fantastic problem to have.

The recommendations call for separated bike lines on both sides of the road (not in the center like the older lanes to the east). And the buffer between the lane and the parking lane would be substantial. Here are several cross sections showing how the lane would appear on different blocks:

The green “slices” are the bike lanes. In each case there is either a buffer of vegetation, or a line of trees. These would be an absolute pleasure to ride down.

The only bad news is that this study didn’t look at Pennsylvania Ave. between Washington Circle and Georgetown. The car traffic on this stretch (particularly just west of the circle) is substantially greater that the other stretch. So it might be too much to hope that a similar plan could come right up to Georgetown’s door step. But these lanes would be progress, and once built might draw a good number of Georgetown bicyclists to them.

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