What probably was Washington's most bike-free bicycle lane, a narrow strip of Sixth Street SE-NE across Capitol Hill, quietly has been abandoned as a failure.

The bike lane appeared last November on the previously two-lane-wide, one-way-north street between the Southeast Freeway and F Street NE. Creation of the bicycle lane alongside one remaining auto lane replaced two narrow side-by-side automobile lanes.

One reason for providing the bike lane was a desire to eliminate sideswipe accidents involving both moving and parked cars, a D.C. Transportation Department official explained at the time.

A frequent user of the street during morning commute hours has reported seeing a total of three bikes using the reserved bicycle lane in the following nine months.

"It was not a good plan," Sara Campbell, an assistant director of the Transportation Department, said yesterday in explaining why the striping for the bike lane has been eradicated. For one thing, she said, compact cars were claiming the bike lane as their own.

So what happens next? Campbell said she didn't have the answer, but it's possible the street might be restriped to indicate one wide vehicular lane in the middle of the street, as has been done on Sixth Street's southbound "twin," Fourth Street.