L St NW Bike Lane: Good Thing or Bad?

The new L St. NW bike lane is getting plenty of blog and press attention. Its arrival is long awaited, as L St NW is a major and heavily trafficked east-west travel route. Bike lane installation was stalled for years while business owner objections were addressed. Now it’s finally here! My excitement over this new development is tempered by experience though. So far I am less than thrilled. In fact I feel much safer in the car part of the street than in the cycle lane. Here’s why.

1. The lane is wide. Very wide.

The inviting width entices drivers of cars and garbage trucks continue to drive in it.  They, as well as delivery vans, USPS trucks and others park in it. Like constantly.

2. The process for cars to safely turn left is totally not understood by cyclists or drivers.

Here is a descriptive graphic showing what we are supposed to do:

Dealing with left turning cars in L St Cycle Lane. Source District Department of Transportation.

It’s a lovely diagram.  Now that I’ve seen it I get what I am supposed to do to maneuver around a left turning vehicle. However I have to just hope that drivers pull into the lane at a point where I can access the “green zone.”  They tend to pull in well before that. Nor do they appear to be trying to avoid left-hooking cyclists.

3. There is no convenient way for a cyclist to make a right turn out of the cycle lane.

I am possibly having a cleverness failure here, but I can’t figure this one out. Advice, anyone?

4. You have to really watch out.

There are a lot of parking garages along the lane. Not surprisingly, drivers are entering and exiting them. This is true pretty much everywhere but somehow is causing more trouble on L than on other streets I ride on. Maybe it just seems that way because of the above-described issues.

Lets Hope

I hate to think that we have a lovely new cycle lane that makes things worse for cyclists than we were without it. Maybe with time and continued educational outreach to drivers and cyclists we’ll get unconfused about this new piece of DC’s cycling infrastructure.  I might suggest that actually enforcing the “no parking in cycle lanes” law would help?

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