Evans bicycling on New Hampshire Avenue, NW.

Councilmember Jack Evans says the 15th Street cycletrack should remain as it is and DDOT should move quickly to implement L and M Street cycletracks. These comments followed a bicycle tour of Ward 2 yesterday morning with people from WABA, DDOT, and Greater Greater Washington.

Evans has received complaints about the 15th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue cycletracks in the past, and criticized elements of them from the perspective of drivers on the Council dais. I invited Evans to come experience these facilities from the cyclists’ point of view, to see how they’ve made many cyclists, especially less experienced ones, feel much less intimidated riding downtown.

"It’s easier than I thought it would be” to bicycle around, Evans said of the trip, which included Georgetown, Rock Creek Parkway, the harrowing Washington Circle, L and M Streets, the bike signal at 16th and U, and the 15th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue cycletracks.

Leaving from Evans’ house in Georgetown, he mentioned right away an eagerness to see the 15th Street lane, noting he’d gotten many complaints about it from drivers, bicyclists, pedestrians and more. But at the end, he told me he felt DDOT should just “leave [15th Street] the way it is and people can get used to that.”

He’s referring to the well-known effect that when something changes, people complain, but often after a period of time people adjust to the new pattern. In the case of 15th, many drivers found the left turn red arrows awkward, but now things have settled out well where those driving through know to take one of the rightmost two lanes.

As we passed one downtown restaurant which had complained about parking and loading, DDOT’s Jim Sebastian pointed out that they had created a loading zone in the lane adjacent to the cycletrack to let them continue with valet operation. People have to cross the bike lanes to get from cars to the restaurant and watch for bikes, but they also have to cross the sidewalk and watch for people walking and running, and that has become second nature.

Evans’ committee director Ruth Werner, Jack Evans, and WABA’s Nelle Pierson stopped at a light in Washington Circle.

Evans also endorsed the L and M Street crosstown bike lanes. “We need a complete system,” he said, calling it “crazy” to have to ride crosstown on streets like L and M without any good bicycle facility option in the vicinity. He doesn’t feel DDOT needs to spend much time analyzing existing cycletracks before moving forward on L and M.

Even though he regularly drives L and M, he doesn’t anticipate traffic problems. M does back up in the evening rush, but Evans observed that most of those cars turn left on 23rd to get to the Memorial Bridge , and the bottleneck is on 23rd, not M. Therefore, removing a lane for bicyclists, in addition to taking some cars off the road, won’t actually cut down on the total throughput of the road network.

The group observed some of the flaws in the 16th and U bike signals, where half our group got left behind because they weren’t quite poised to ride quickly as soon as the very short bike signal turned green. Coming back from the north, a bus driver honked at the group on 16th, demonstrating how cyclists can incur the ire of drivers when following the law. It wasn’t the only honk we received on the trip for doing nothing wrong.

The group reaches the Wilson Building. Left to right: Nelle Pierson and Shane Farthing of WABA, David Alpert, Jack Evans and Ruth Werner.

Evans also expects to bike more in the future. Currently, he regularly goes on a 7-mile run along both sides of the Potomac, but knows his knees won’t hold up for much longer. He now suspects he’ll switch to bicycling when his knees can no longer handle running, since they didn’t bother him at all on our trip.

He’s up for reelection this year, and his campaign was surely at least partly on his mind. Evans clearly knows that Ward 2 has some of the highest biking, walking, and transit using rates in the city, and that while he drives to work, understanding the experience and the frustrations of users of the other modes is a necessary part of representing all people in the ward.