New D.C. rules: Clear paths for pedestrians and cyclists in work zones

August 22
Equipment is positioned along 15th Street between L and M streets for the repaving. (Robert Thomson -- The Washington Post)
Equipment is positioned along 15th Street between L and M streets for the repaving. (Robert Thomson — The Washington Post)

D.C. transportation officials say they plan to crack down on companies that don’t offer pedestrians and bicyclists a safe path near and around work zones in the city.

The D.C. Department of Transportation has released new rules requiring companies to provide “safe accommodations” for people on foot and on two wheels around construction sites. The rules would enforce provisions in the Bicycle Safety Amendment Act of 2013.

The new rules “clarify that the closing of a sidewalk or a bicycle lane is to be treated in the same manner as the closure of a lane of travel.”

Under the proposed regulations, when a work zone blocks a protected bike lane, an alternate bike lane must be provided. The temporary pedestrian and bicycle routes have to be safe and free of “obstructions and surface hazards such as loose gravel or uneven surfaces.”

And they also should follow the path of the original pedestrian or bicycle route as closely as possible.

Pedestrian advocates had been asking the city to enforce the work zones laws. All Walks DC, a pedestrian rights group, had sent DDOT a list of 17 construction sites in the city that they say do not provide “safe accommodation” for pedestrians.

All Walks DC founder Joe Reiner said a construction site can be very disruptive and dangerous to pedestrian traffic, and enforcement should be made to ensure that companies doing work provide a safe pathway for pedestrians. “They don’t do that,” he said.

DDOT said companies seeking a permit from DDOT for a construction project that requires blocking a sidewalk or bicycle facility will now have to also submit a plan detailing how it will accommodate pedestrian and bike traffic. That plan must be approved before the issuance of permits.

Signs to direct pedestrians or bicyclists to a detour route must display a message that is specific to bicyclists or pedestrians, and when a sidewalk or bike lane needs to be closed, flaggers must be posted at each end of closure.

Companies that fail to comply with these rules could have their permits revoked.

“I bike to work every day, so I have first-hand experience with the hazards that work zones can sometimes pose for bicyclists,” said DDOT acting director Matthew Brown in a press statement. “These proposed rules will make getting around the city safer for everyone, especially pedestrians and bicyclists.”

The new rules are now in a 30-day comment period and could be finalized soon after public input is received, DDOT officials said.

 

Luz Lazo writes about transportation and development. She has recently written about the challenges of bus commuting, Metro’s dark stations, and the impact of sequestration on air travel.
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