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Why, oh, why is D.C. such a bicycle-unfriendly city? It’s small, bikeable, traffic is congested, etc., yet every time I ride my bike outside the paths in Rock Creek Park, I feel as though I must have a death wish! There are a few bike lanes here and there, but they’re mostly unheeded (with cars parked all over them), or they end mysteriously in the middle of a stretch. Why do the few bike lanes in the city stop mid-street?
Many District bike lanes, or bikeways, stop midstreet because the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) marks most new bikeways only when they resurface the street, says Jim Sebastian, the agency’s city bike coordinator. And since most resurfacing jobs only encompass three to six blocks, the process often leaves bicyclists out of luck.
“Waiting for streets to be resurfaced to mark bike lanes is the most time- and cost-effective solution,” explains Sebastian, noting that DDOT does occasionally mark bike lanes on streets that are not being resurfaced, such as one stretch that connects the Shaw/Howard University Metro station to Dupont Circle.
The new bike lanes are part of DDOT’s District of Columbia Bicycle Plan, released in April 2005. The plan calls for the District to double its current 30 miles of bike lanes by 2015. But since the project is only in its early stages, it occasionally leaves bikers befuddled about where to ride, says Sebastian.
When the $45 million Bicycle Plan is finished, DDOT aims to have 150 miles of signed bike routes in place, as well as the bike lanes. In addition to increasing the number of areas for bicyclists to ride, the plan includes educational programs for both bicyclists and motorists about safe bicycling, plus an enforcement program for bicyclists, pedestrians, and motorists.
“You can’t have a bike-friendly city without education and enforcement,” says Sebastian, pointing to Portland, Ore., Chicago, and Philadelphia as cities that have effectively balanced the needs of bicyclists, pedestrians, and motorists.
Every Monday, the ‘Huh?’ Bub takes your questions. Got one?