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Bicycle program makes District easier place to get around, residents say

After his primary loss, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty is noting his successes, like last month's initiation of a bike-sharing program.
After his primary loss, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty is noting his successes, like last month's initiation of a bike-sharing program. (Bill O'leary)

Part of the trend, Farrell said, can be traced to shifting demographics and a nationwide trend of more urban residents shying away from cars. But Farrell and community leaders say much of the credit goes to Fenty and his predecessor, former mayor Anthony A. Williams (D), for devoting resources to make bicycling safer and more convenient for residents.

With Williams and Fenty both avid cyclists - the former mayor recreationally and the current one competitively - the District has undertaken one of the most ambitious efforts in the country to promote the use of bicycles.

In 2005, Williams oversaw the completion of the Bicycle's Master Plan, which called for bike lanes, bicycle parking spaces and "more bicycle-friendly policies."

Fenty, a triathlete who can pedal 40 kilometers, about 25 miles, in little more than a hour, aggressively moved to implement the plan, believing it was a key linchpin in his effort to make the District a "world-class city."

Similar to his drive to build turf athletic fields for students and $500,000 dog parks, Fenty tested transportation officials' ability to build top-flight bicycle amenities.

"We would give him ideas, and he would say, 'Can this be the best, and when can you get it done?' " Klein said.

Bicycling advocates are lobbying Mayor-elect Vincent C. Gray (D) to reappoint Klein as transportation director.

In the past decade, the District has constructed about 50 miles of bicycle lanes, including the recent completion of segregated lanes on Pennsylvania Avenue connecting the White House to the Capitol.

The bike lanes persuaded Liz Casey and Mary Kirby, both 23, to test their luck Saturday at biking from U Street to the Mall, the first time either had ridden in the city.

"I've lived here four years, and I think the city is petrifying to bike in, so I am pretty scared," said Casey, who moved to the District from Pittsburgh. "But we heard 15th Street had a bike lane, so we are going to use that."

A year ago, the city also opened a $4 million bicycle-storage facility for commuters at Union Station. And about 1,500 bike racks have been added to streets since 2002.

The city is also finalizing rules requiring developers to include bike-storage facilities in all newly constructed housing and office buildings.

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