The L Street cycletrack has made it easier to bike across downtown DC, but it’s wide enough that drivers often park or drive in it, endangering cyclists. But slightly adjusting the buffer between the cycletrack and the travel lanes could keep them out.
A truck and cyclist in the L Street cycletrack. Photo from Who’s Blocking the L St. Bike Lane Today?.
Yesterday evening, I witnessed a crash in the cycletrack. A driver drove between the flexposts that separate the cycletrack from the travel lanes, well before the mixing zone where there’s a gap to let drivers enter the left-turn lane, and crashed into a cyclist. The cyclist was okay; the driver admitted his responsibility in the crash, and police gave him a ticket.
However, bicyclists remain susceptible to collisions with drivers who willfully cross into the cycletrack between the flexposts. There is, however, an inexpensive and easy solution to prevent this from happening: make it too narrow to accommodate a car or truck.
This would solve both the problem of illegal parking and prevent drivers from using the cycletrack as a cut-through. The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) would simply need to paint a slightly wider buffer zone and move the flexposts over a few feet. The cycletrack would remain amply wide for bicycle use, while keeping cars or trucks out.
In the long term, DDOT officials have proposed building a permanent curb between the cycletrack and the the travel lanes. Additionally, they might consider a separate traffic signal phase for bicycles and automobile traffic, and whether “mixing zones” are really in the best interest of cyclists and motorists.
But for now, a narrower cycletrack, even one separated by simple flexposts, would prove a safer space for cyclists.