A DDOT team installs concrete barriers on 2nd Street SW near Audi Field. Image by DDOT.

The “flexposts” that separate DC’s bike lanes from the rest of traffic aren’t great. They’re susceptible to being knocked down by drivers and aren’t all that attractive. But building a permanent curb can be expensive and time-consuming.

Recently, DDOT has been experimenting with some new ideas for materials, led by its newest bike planner (and GGWash contributor) Will Handsfield. In one case, DDOT’s Urban Forestry group, which manages street trees, made some cut-down trees into rectangular logs it could mount flexposts inside. It installed them along a lane on I Street SE during a construction project.

On 2nd Street SW near the new soccer stadium, DDOT wanted a more permanent barrier, so it’s trying out 1,250-pound concrete dividers which get nailed into the ground with metal rods.

Experimenting with materials lets DDOT see what works and what doesn’t, and copy the successful ideas to other bicycle lanes.

Changes to roads like Florida Avenue cannot come soon enough, especially when DDOT promised urgent improvements many years ago. Fortunately, the agency is now promising to install temporary updates this July as part of a larger effort to try things out on the ground and learn from them, instead of studying options for years while road users face daily danger.

It’s little comfort to the families of those already killed, but moving forward, experimentation can let DDOT see what works and what doesn’t, make adjustments as it goes, and then use successes as prototypes in other unsafe areas. That means safer roads on a faster timeline.

Caitlin Rogger is the Policy Manager at Greater Greater Washington, focused on supporting equity and sustainability in transportation policy. Broadly interested in structural determinants of social, economic, and political outcomes in urban settings, she worked in public health prior to joining GGWash. She lives in Capitol Hill.