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Earlier this week, I wrote about D.C.’s so-called bike deserts, parts of the city that don’t have access to a nearby bike shop. The lack of places to fix a flat or buy spare parts discourages biking in parts of the city where low incomes and sparse transit options should theoretically make biking appealing, I wrote—-but an equally or more important factor than bike shops is biking infrastructure, which, I speculated based on personal experience, is less developed east of the Anacostia River than west of it.
Well, now I’ve got some numbers. Here, courtesy of the District Department of Transportation, is the number of miles of bike lanes by ward:
Ward 1: 10.92
Ward 2: 18.14
Ward 3: 5.86
Ward 4: 8.27
Ward 5: 6.17
Ward 6: 16.86
Ward 7: 3.47
Ward 8: 0
That’s right: In Ward 8, there are no bike lanes, according to DDOT’s figures.
Now, I should add two caveats. First, these numbers don’t include off-road bike trails, like Ward 8’s Anacostia Riverwalk Trail, which offers some of the most pleasant biking in town. And second, DDOT doesn’t list bike lanes on streets that form the border between two wards as belonging to either ward, and there are 0.59 miles of bike lanes listed separately as being shared by wards 7 and 8—-presumably the lane on 25th Street SE and Naylor Road SE. Still, a caveat to that caveat: I’ve been listing the “grand totals” of bike lanes, which include not only dedicated lanes, but also shared lanes and bus/bike lanes. Looking only at proper bike lanes, the mileage shared by wards 7 and 8 is just 0.32 miles.
(For what it’s worth, while Ward 2 has the most bike-lane mileage, Ward 1 has the most bike lanes as a proportion of total road mileage: 18.5 percent, to Ward 2’s 15 percent and Ward 6’s 12.5 percent.)
So why has Ward 8 missed out completely on the bike-lane bonanza? It may have to do partly with politics and partly with the fact that much of Ward 8 is rather hilly. But it’s also a chicken-or-egg problem. It’s hard to justify installing bike lanes in neighborhoods where not a lot of people bike. But not many people will start biking until there’s bike infrastructure to make them feel comfortable riding. If people in those neighborhoods start clamoring loudly for lanes, though, we might start to see some lanes installed.
Map via DCGIS