A cyclist uses the new buffered bike lane to climb the hill to Columbia Heights on 14th Street NW. Image by Greg Billing used with permission.

If you have biked up 14th Street NW to Columbia Heights recently, you may have noticed something different: a new bike lane between Florida Avenue NW and Columbia Heights. Previously, 14th Street had bike lanes from Massachusetts Avenue to Florida, and again from Columbia Road to former Walter Reed Hospital site. The hill up to Columbia Heights was the only gap.

But the buffered bike lane only runs on the northbound side of the street. There are sharrows on the southbound lane, meaning cyclists there still have to share space with cars. 

The new buffered bike lane stretches from Florida Avenue to Columbia Road on 14th Street NW. Image by Google Maps.

According to DC Department of Transportation (DDOT) bicycle program specialist Mike Goodno, the original plan was to put bike lanes on both sides of the street. Doing so, however, would put downhill cyclists in greater danger of getting doored – when a cyclist hits a car door that is opened in front of them – when moving at high speeds.

A DDOT employee lays decals in the shared downhill lane on 14th Street NW, the buffered uphill bike lane can be seen across the street. Image by Greg Billing used with permission.

“Since most bikes will be traveling at a speed approximate to automobiles in this section, we encourage the cyclists (with the shared lane marking) to take the lane until the bike lane picks up again at Florida Avenue,” says Goodno.

Good plan, tough reality

The changes are immediately noticeable to anyone who bikes 14th Street frequently. In addition to the new uphill buffered bike lane, the roadway has been redesigned with one vehicle lane in each direction and a striped center instead of two vehicle lanes in each direction.

The previous layout of 14th Street NW with two-vehicle lanes in both directions, here looking uphill north of Belmont Street. Image by Google Maps.

For me, when I ride south on 14th through this area, I'm more concerned about cars frequently starting and stopping than I am of getting doored. I imagine it's better when there is not heavy traffic, but since this is 14th Street that just isn't the case all that often. 

The buffered uphill bike lane on 14th Street is a great addition and Ward 1 councilmember Brianne Nadeau deserves kudos for pushing DDOT to close the gap.

Edward Russell is an air transport reporter by day with a passion for all things transportation. He is a resident of Eckington and tweets frequently about planes, trains and bikes.