Over 1,800 bicyclists crossed the 14th Street bridge on Sept. 13th, 2011, and that number has no doubt increased by now, but the connection between the bridge and the 15th Street cycletrack simply does not accommodate the level of traffic that uses it.
Most cyclists riding on the bridge in the morning rush are coming from Virginia to major employment hubs: Federal Triangle, downtown DC, and Capitol Hill. Those “in the know” riders are conditioned to the fractured connection between the 14th Street bridge and the 15th Street cycletrack. That’s not typically the case with new riders and visitors to the city don’t know about, or can’t find, this important connection.
Improving it would also allow cyclists from the bridge to easily access DC’s growing network of protected bike lanes outside of 15th Street, including those on Pennsylvania Avenue, L Street NW, and, soon, M Street NW. Extending the 15th Street cycletrack would give cyclists access to downtown bike lanes and multi-use paths on the National Mall.
Three easy projects would help to better connect the 14th Street Bridge to the 15th Street cycletracks.
Extend the 15th cycletrack one block south, to Constitution Avenue
Currently, the cycletrack on 15th Street NW ends at Pennsylvania Avenue. Bicyclists headed south are dumped onto a wide street with many tour buses and fast-moving traffic. Less experienced riders often choose the sidewalk, which has heavy pedestrian traffic and is often filled with vendors selling T-shirts and hats. DDOT’s original cycletrack plans included an extension one block south, but that was never built. So let’s build it!
Sign the route
The National Mall is filled with multi-use sidewalks to view our national memorials. There is plenty of space on these paths that pedestrians and bicyclists can share. But new riders and tourists do not know the bike routes across the Mall. Wayfinding signs communication the bike route for those traveling between the 15th Street cycletrack to 14th Street Bridge should be installed.
Those signs should also tell pedestrians to be aware of the presence of bicyclists. Bicyclists who feel comfortable using the road can still do so, but signing the route would give an alternative to inexperienced riders.
Fix the path to the bridge and multi-use sidewalks around the Tidal Basin
The paved path from the Jefferson Memorial to the 14th Street bridge needs serious repair. The 8-foot width is insufficient, and DDOT long ago placed an interstate sign support directly in the path of trail users. The path needs to be widened to at least 12 feet, and the sign needs to be moved.
Also, the multi-use sidepaths around the Tidal Basin, between the bridge, need attention. There are a pinch points and issues with desired riding lines, especially at intersection of 15th Street SW and Maine Avenue SW. Fixing these small issues would go a long way for improving the riding experience.
The 14th Street Bridge is a major river crossing for area bicyclists coming to downtown from Virginia. Now is the time to finish the connection with a few immediate fixes.
Cross-posted at WABA Quick Release.