Photo by M.V. Jantzen on Flickr.

Sometimes politicians delay otherwise popular projects they don’t support by insisting on more studies before work can begin. In DC, less than one mile of bike lanes were added in 2011. Is this a sign of tepid support for bike lanes from Mayor Gray or other top officials?

Former Maryland Gov. Bob Ehrlich used a “paralysis by analysis” strategy to stall the Purple Line. To say the Purple Line went nowhere under his leadership would be an understatement. But it was studied a lot. Ehrlich added new routing options, new modes, new timelines… anything to keep it on paper but not moving forward.

Meanwhile, he fast-tracked the ICC through the planning process in record time.

It’s a great solution for politicians. You’re not actually canceling anything and risking re-election. You’re just waiting for more information to come in, so you can make an informed decision. Who could possibly be against that?

Bike lane striping under the Gray administration has ground to a halt. Almost none of the promised 2011 additions to the bike network were delivered. And while DDOT promises to stripe new bike lanes as soon as the weather warms up, they are clearly falling behind.

Meanwhile, the most significant proposed bike projects, the L and M Street cycle tracks, remain mired in study. DDOT has said it won’t commit to building them until it has completed a study of the existing 15th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue cycle tracks. That’s a little odd, because DDOT already completed a similar study in 2010. Why do we need another one to tell us the same thing? And how long is this study supposed to take? It’s already been six months.

No doubt Mayor Gray hears a lot about bike lanes. It must seem that half of his constituents want more of them, and the other half don’t want them at all. Putting off the decision in order to avoid upsetting anyone must be a tempting solution. It’s hard to know for sure, but the longer these studies drag on, the more likely this possibility seems.

But the delay-by-study strategy can only work for so long. Ultimately voters in Maryland saw through Ehrlich’s Purple Line scheme, and it contributed to his defeat by Martin O’Malley.

When Gray was elected I said we should give him a chance to prove that he really will continue urbanist policies. After one year, the jury is still out. It is still too early to judge him. It is still too early to conclude that he is trying to study the cycle tracks out of existence. But if he hasn’t decided to build them in another six months or so — a year after the study began — then we’ll have our answer.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

Dan Malouff is a transportation planner for Arlington and an adjunct professor at George Washington University. He has a degree in urban planning from the University of Colorado and lives in Trinidad, DC. He runs BeyondDC and contributes to the Washington Post. Dan blogs to express personal views, and does not take part in GGWash's political endorsement decisions.