Image by Elvert Barnes licensed under Creative Commons.

DC bike planners are considering a two-way protected bikeway on 17th Street NW in the Dupont Circle neighborhood and farther south. Let's make it happen!

Between Massachusetts Avenue and New Hampshire Avenue, 17th Street today is a one-way street southbound with two driving lanes, one painted bike lane, and a parking lane on each side. Local businesses line the street, which is one of Dupont's neighborhood commercial strips. There are stop signs interspersed with traffic lights.

The two driving lanes are far too much capacity for this lightly-used neighborhood road. In fact, when a (somewhat unambitiousstreetscape project was carried out in 2010, turning the street two-way was one of the options considered but ultimately not pursued. Instead, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) added a painted bike lane and called it a day.

Image by Streetmix.

Especially once a Capital Bikeshare opened at the Safeway (one of the first, in fact), people have been cycling the wrong way on that bike lane. It makes sense: 18th Street is a fairly long block to the west, 16th Street is very busy, and there are a lot of destinations right on 17th.

That's one reason the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission, ANC 2B, asked DDOT to study ways to add a northbound bike lane. On Thursday, bike planner Darren Buck talked to the ANC's transportation committee about their very preliminary ideas.

In the neighborhood commercial strip section from Massachusetts to New Hampshire, Buck said there is enough room and no traffic issue with building a two-way protected bikeway on the west side. The road would only have one southbound driving lane with extra-wide parking lanes on each side. That leaves enough room to squeeze around a double-parked Uber or delivery truck, though Buck hopes to find better places for delivery trucks to load and unload than by double parking.

Image by Streetmix.

What about to the south?

South of Massachusetts Avenue, DDOT hopes to continue the bikeway to K Street. That part of 17th is six lanes all southbound in the morning rush, dating back to a time when 15th Street was the same way northbound in the evening. Buck said they are going to look at whether the one-way rush hour rule is still needed; it's certainly confusing and/or potentially dangerous to drivers who don't know about it, and some of the lanes go fairly empty in the mornings.

They'd like to eventually find a way to continue the lane around Farragut Square to connect to the planned Pennsylvania Avenue west of the White House lanes and even to Constitution, but that's further down the road, metaphorically as well as literally.

The bikeway would provide a welcome addition to 15th, which is so popular that it's become quite congested. Southbound in the morning, Buck said, there are so many people biking that they can't all get through the light at Massachusetts Avenue in one signal. That's the kind of situation engineers associate with very heavy traffic when you're talking about car traffic.

The bike team doesn't want to do a big multi-year study with a consultant team, website, and all that. Instead, they are figuring things out themselves and hope to finish the traffic analysis by the end of 2017.

They are currently meeting with as many stakeholders as they can (and if you're one and haven't talked to them yet, they want to hear from you too!) 

When ANCs are proactive, good things happen

The biggest credit for working on this goes to the DDOT bike team, of course, but a big driving factor was the request from the ANC. Commissioners Randy Downs and Scott Davies and chair Nicole Mann (now McEntee) led the effort; all nine commissioners supported it. 

ANCs get a lot of scorn for being obstructionist, and many are. However, when folks who support walking, biking, transit, better parks, more housing and more affordable homes, etc. run for and serve on ANCs, they can do a lot of good by proactively identifying ways to ways to make their neighborhoods better and asking the government to take action. 

For example, the 59 limited-stop bus on 14th Street is happening because of advocacy from ANC 4C (Petworth) chair Zach Teutsch, as well as many other commissioners on ten different ANCs from Takoma to Logan Circle. 

Tell DDOT you like this project

We can hope some group doesn't come out of the woodwork to fight this, but they could. It's possible the design will affect a couple of parking spaces in some way. Deliveries may also be a sticking point, even though Buck is committed to working with businesses to find a good place for supply trucks.

I'd like people who are excited about this to weigh in with DDOT early and often so they know there's a lot of enthusiasm. We don't need to flood Darren Buck's email box, but please sign the petition here to show DDOT your support. I'll keep you posted if there are important community meetings or other ways to push to make this happen, and soon.

Sign the Petition!

David Alpert is Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Sustainable Transportation (DCST). He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. Unless otherwise noted, opinions in his GGWash posts are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.