Cycling as transportation option is on a roll in D.C.

Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 25, 2010

Drivers in the District could be sharing the roadways with more cyclists as the city expands its network of dedicated bicycle lanes and increases the number of bikes available in a regional program.

Signs and white flexible posts separating bike lanes from car lanes were installed along a stretch of 15th Street NW this week. When the work is finished, cyclists will be able to take 15th Street from V Street to Pennsylvania Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue from 15th Street to the Capitol - a total of 2.5 miles - on dedicated bike lanes.The two-way cycle track includes a new bicycle traffic signal at 15th and Pennsylvania.

"We're still working on about six or seven blocks of 15th Street," Jim Sebastian, cycling coordinator for the District Department of Transportation, said Thursday. "My guys are working on the finishing touches. . . . I'm guessing it will all be open by next week."

The District has 50 miles of bike lanes on its 1,200 miles of streets. It has created 47 of the 50 miles in the past nine years, Sebastian said.Crews installed a bike lane on 15th Street south to Massachusetts Avenue in fall 2009 and on Pennsylvania Avenue this past spring.

The dedicated lanes were designed to protect the riders and to increase the number of people who consider bicycling as a mode of transportation, Sebastian said.

"This is not bicycling for the sake of bicycling," he said. "We view bicycling as part of our transportation system, like the Circulator [bus service] and Metrorail. We want to give people an alternative."

John Lisle, a spokesman for DDOT, said as many as a dozen mostly metered parking spaces between I Street and Massachusetts Avenue NW were removed for visibility, but some of those spaces were replaced on side streets.

According to Census Bureau figures, people are taking advantage of the expanded opportunities for biking. The number of Washington residents who commute to work by bicycle has nearly doubled, to 2.2 percent, in the past 10 years, according to census data.

Annual counts conducted in key corridors show rush-hour bicycle trips increased by 82 percent from 2007 to 2010 at 20 of them throughout the District, according to DDOT information.

"Bicycling in D.C. has been increasing for many years, but we saw a real boost in the past two," DDOT Director Gabe Klein said in a statement. "Thousands of people have discovered this clean, convenient way to get around."

During that time, the District has operated SmartBike, a pilot bike-sharing program with 100 bikes in 10 locations throughout the city. Officials said SmartBike recorded more than 50,000 trips, but it will be phased out by Jan. 2 as a new program gains popularity.

Arlington County and the District launched Capital Bikeshare, a regional bike-sharing network, in September. Capital Bikeshare should have 1,300 bikes in 134 locations by next year, transportation officials said.

"I really don't think we can add stations fast enough to match the demand and incredible enthusiasm for Capital Bikeshare," Klein said.

Capital Bikeshare originally planned to have 1,100 bikes at 100 locations in the District and 14 in Arlington. But the District plans to add 20 stations and 200 more bikes, paid for with funds from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program.

Arlington has identified funding to add 16 locations next year, said Dennis Leach, director of Arlington's transportation agency.

"We're delighted the District is doing this," said Andy Clarke, the president of the League of American Bicyclists.

"Clearly the bikes and the bike lanes go hand in hand. It gives people the places to ride and the bikes to ride."

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