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With bike lanes, fewer riders on sidewalk, study says

(John Kelly/The Washington Post)

There is a comment button at the bottom, and some of you are going to race to it the minute you read this:

Fewer bicyclists are riding on the sidewalk in downtown Washington.

The comments will say, that’s not true! And we’ve recently seen some bike riders pedaling on the sidewalk ourselves  (which is illegal in much of the D.C. core area). Some say they’re headed in or out of buildings, while others say it’s simply safer to ride the sidewalks rather than risk competing with traffic on the streets.

But bike riders are abandoning the sidewalks as the District installs more miles of protected bike lanes for them to ride. That’s according to a survey by the District Department of Transportation, which won endorsement from the Alliance for Biking and Walking, an advocacy group that cares for riders and pedestrians in equal measure.

According to DDOT, on 15th Street NW, bike traffic jumped 47 percent when the new protected lane went in, but the number of bikes on sidewalks fell 70 percent. On L Street NW, bike travel increased by 41 percent, while the number of bikes on the sidewalk was down by 27 percent. On Pennsylvania Avenue, there were 47 percent more bikes, and 52 percent fewer on the sidewalk.

Similar increases in biking with fewer bikes on the sidewalk were reported when bike lanes were installed in Denver and New York City.

“People bike on sidewalks for two main reasons: because they’re looking for a space that’s physically separated from speeding cars and trucks, or they’re traveling against traffic on a one-way street,” the group said in a statement. “Well-designed, protected bike lanes, which use posts, curbs or parked cars to divide bike and auto traffic, create a safer solution to both of these needs. In project after project, adding a protected bike lane to a street has sharply cut sidewalk biking even as it greatly increased bike traffic.”

The 15th Street bike lane opened in 2009, and there are now about 60 miles of bike lanes in the District.