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L Street bike lanes officially opened

The L Street bike lanes are officially open for business.

The dedicated bike lanes along L Street NW, stretching from New Hampshire Avenue to 12th Street, have been utilized by cyclists and confusing drivers for weeks now. But on Tuesday morning, officials and cyclists gathered for the ribbon-cutting ceremony, the civic version of hanging a “We’re open!” sign.

Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D), bicycling enthusiasts and officials from the District Department of Transportation praised the bike lanes during the opening ceremony. Gray said that the addition of these dedicated lanes show that the District is doing more than just paying lip service to bicycling and bicyclist safety.

He also warned that it will take time for drivers to adjust to these lanes. This was evident in the initial days and weeks these lanes were open, as cars were using the lanes to make turns and delivery trucks were stopping in the lanes.

“We’re working hard to make sure people are paying attention to one another,” Gray said in his remarks.

A large crowd turned out for the opening ceremony, which occurred on the northeast corner of 15th and L streets. There were so many people gathered around that the bike lanes were blocked just east of 15th Street, forcing cyclists into the edge of the main traffic lanes as they passed the event.

After the event, bicycle riders who had turned up to cheer and mingle eventually went on  their way. Several cyclists walking their bikes and Capital Bikeshare rentals found themselves tangled in a two-wheel traffic jam in the L Street lanes, prompting chuckles and jokes.

“Gridlock on bicycles, it can’t be!” joked Felix Sambuchino, 68, a retired computer software specialist.

Sambuchino lives in Glover Park and travels everywhere on “Forrest Green,” which is what he calls his bike. (Forrest for Forrest Gump, because the character in the film was a runner; green, because the bike is green.)

He said he came out to the event because cyclists are “a family.” After getting out of the traffic jam, he and a group of other cyclists took off, heading east in the L Street lanes.

The turnout “shows the demand for cycling,” said Shane Farthing, executive director of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association.

Farthing said that the new lanes are doing “relatively well.” He added that it will take a few weeks before drivers and cyclist fully adjust to the new traffic pattern, but he is confident that these issues will be resolved.

When Gray emphasized that drivers cannot park in these new lanes, the crowd cheered. But not everyone came out solely to celebrate. Tom Myrga, who works right near the intersection, sought out a reporter to make a plea that bicyclists watch out for pedestrians.

Myrga said he had once been struck by a cyclist running a red light on 15th Street. He said that “not all cyclists, but some cyclists” disregard traffic signals and the rules of the road. Myrga said he supported and empathized with cyclists, but he wants them to show pedestrians the same respect that cyclists want from drivers.

Dan Koenig, who bikes every day from his home in Mount Pleasant to his job on K Street, said the bike lanes are part of making biking increasingly safe in the District.

“To me, it’s just refreshing to continue to see additions like this to the city,” said Koenig, 31, an environmental protection specialist at the Federal Transit Administration.