D.C. opens Pennsylvania Avenue bike lanes

By Ashley Halsey III
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The latest addition to a network of bike lanes that planners expect to grow eventually to 80 miles of dedicated lanes was officially christened Tuesday with great fanfare on Pennsylvania Avenue NW.

Two cyclists -- D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood -- were joined by city officials and members of Congress in inaugurating the lanes.

"There is no better place for the District of Columbia to demonstrate its commitment to traffic safety than right here on America's Main Street," said Fenty (D), a dedicated cyclist and triathlete. "We believe there is room here for everyone -- on four wheels, two wheels and on foot -- and we will use this pilot to determine how best to share Pennsylvania Avenue and make it safer."

The new bike lanes are part of a pilot program on streets selected because they are judged to have the capacity to accommodate bikes and motor vehicles.

"Bike paths like this one -- which will provide cyclists with access to the most historic corridor in Washington, D.C. -- are part of a cleaner, greener future in American transportation," said LaHood, who often bikes with his wife. "I applaud the efforts of Mayor Fenty, Director Klein and their dedicated staff to make our nation's capital a model livable city." Gabe Klein heads the District Department of Transportation.

The bike lanes run east and west down the center of Pennsylvania Avenue from Third Street to 15th Street NW. They were installed in the median to limit conflicts with buses, right-turning vehicles, parked vehicles and entrances on the right-hand side of the roadway.

"We want to thank everyone for their patience," Klein said. "Before we officially opened the bike lanes, we wanted to make sure they provide safe areas for cyclists, motorists and pedestrians, and now I'm confident that they do. With a better design, we have a better chance of success, and this could prove to be a pivotal moment for cycling in the nation's capital."

DDOT officials said they will continue to monitor the bike lanes and make adjustments as needed over the next 12 months. DDOT also plans enhanced enforcement to discourage commercial vehicles from parking in the travel lanes along Pennsylvania Avenue, and the department is working to educate cyclists about how to safely enter and exit the bike lanes, using the pedestrian signals at the cross streets.

The District has more than 50 miles of bike lanes on its 1,200 miles of streets and its goal is to increase the number to 80 miles. The city also hopes to expand its SmartBike rental program from 100 bikes in 10 locations to 1,000 in 100 locations. The program will be linked with locations in Arlington County to create a regional network named Capital Bikeshare this year.

A Census Bureau survey determined that the number of Washington area bike commuters doubled in the first eight years of the 21st century, exceeding 2 percent of all commuters.

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