The Zebra (with yellow stripes DC’s would not include). Photo from Zicla.

DC transportation officials say a small physical barrier called the Zebra could prevent illegal U-turns on Pennsylvania Avenue, which endanger cyclists using the bike lanes. After some delays, they intend to present a proposal and do a trial installation in September.

Last month, officials from the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) announced that they would ask the US Commission on Fine Arts (CFA), which advises on architectural and design issues for buildings, monuments, other forms of art abutting Pennsylvania Avenue, to consider using the Zebra, made by the Spanish company Zicla.

Zebras are used in bike lanes to separate cyclists and cars. On Pennsylvania Avenue, they can also prevent dangerous and illegal U-turns across the bike lanes, which have become increasingly common despite attempts to increase police enforcement.



In June, I met with Bicycle Program Coordinator Jim Sebastian and Bicycle Program Specialist Mike Goodno, who showed me a sample Zebra and gave me a digitally altered mock-up of Pennsylvania Avenue with the Zebras.

Sebastian said that DDOT plans to suggest installing the Zebras, calling them the preferred low-profile option on Pennsylvania Avenue. At the time, he said he wanted to go before the CFA at the next possible meeting. But the June and July CFA meetings came and went without DDOT appearing on the agenda, to the disappointment of DC cyclists.

DDOT has been busy lately with other projects such as the New Mexico Avenue bike lanes, M Street cycletrack, and an expedited repaving of the 15th Street cycletrack. It’s unfortunate but understandable that safety improvements on Pennsylvania Avenue have been delayed.


Rendering of Pennsylvania Avenue with proposed Zebras from DDOT.


However, after I reached out to Sebastian this week, he says that DDOT intends to appear at the CFA’s next meeting September 19, which is open to the public. He also anticipates the Zebras will be available around that time, meaning that DDOT can install them on a test block of Pennsylvania Avenue soon after the meeting. If they’re successful, DDOT will place them along the length of the bike lanes, from 13th Street NW to 3rd Street NW.

Ryan Sigworth is an urban planner at the Maryland National Capital Parks and Planning Commission. He bikes or takes public transit to work from his house in Adams Morgan, where he has lived car-free with his wife and cat since 2009.  He is a cyclist, urbanist, and smart growth advocate who blogs on his personal blog, The DCyclist.