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Gear Prudence: I’m a daily user of the L Street cycletrack. Nearly every day I encounter the same frustrations, but contrary to what you might think, it has nothing to do with trucks parking in it. It’s my fellow cyclists who stop at green lights waiting to turn and block the bike lane. More than once I’ve been forced to stop short or make a last second swerve. Can you please clarify how bicyclists are supposed to make turns from L Street?
—Tell Us Right Now
Dear TURN: The L Street cycletrack, like its counterpart on M Street, is a one-way protected bike lane that runs in the same direction as car traffic. It does not have its own traffic signals, so bicyclists are expected to follow the same traffic lights as drivers. The cycletrack primarily runs alongside the sidewalk, except in the “mixing zones” where the path for bicyclists shifts from directly next to the sidewalk to the right side of a left-turn-only lane. There are only “mixing zones” at intersections where left turns are allowed, and learning how to deal with the ten along the 1.4-mile-long cycletrack is a key element of riding it. Why are there so many mixing zones? Does it have anything to do with the longstanding rumors of nefarious backroom dealings between local bureaucrats and Big Stand Mixer to promote brand awareness? Likely not. It was just a design decision based on the conditions of the roadway.
The mixing zones add an element of confusion to riding the cycletrack and likely are the cause of your frustrations. When the cycletrack and turn lane cross, the bike lane narrows. If a bicyclist stops in this narrow section (which is painted green) and comes to a stop waiting to turn, this causes a bottleneck. The green painted sections are meant for bicyclists continuing straight. There’s even an encouraging arrow that helps point the way. Green paint, go straight.
Turning left is generally easy: Just use the left turn lane. Once you reach the mixing zone, stay next to the sidewalk and merge in with any drivers. Turning right is trickier. Since the cycletrack is on the left hand side of the street, a bicyclist trying to make a right turn must cross three lanes of traffic. To do this, you can leave the cycletrack well before the intersection and slowly work your way over, but that can be harrowing. Instead, stay in the left lane until the intersection, then get in front of the stopped traffic headed in your intended direction. Or you could just fly a helicopter everywhere because helicopter pilots don’t have to worry about this shit. —GP