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Old 09-20-06, 07:13 PM   #1
DCCommuter
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First the bike lane, then the no-bikes sign

Part of my commute goes through downtown DC, and I ride on the streets. The downtown core of DC has traffic circles every few blocks. The circles are problematic for traffic. They predate automobiles, and they are usually the intersection of three or more multi-lane streets.

At some circles, the city has tried building underpasses, where the most major road goes under the circle. While the underpasses are a little scary-- think of a 50-yard tunnel -- a lot of cyclists use them. These are city streets, speed limit 25, and outside the tunnel, parking on both sides, no median.

One of the circles on my route is Thomas Circle. Here's a map:
http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=e...,0.010729&om=1

Massachusetts Avenue is the street that goes under the circle.

About a month ago, I noticed that bike lanes had been added to the circle. The city has been doing a lot of striping lately, part of a program to make the city more "bicycle friendly." I don't think much of the bike lane in the circle -- to navigate the circle you need to negotiate with traffic, and the bike lane doesn't help. But I didn't really care, because I always go through the underpass anyway.

Yesterday, I noticed a sign prohibiting bicycles on the underpass.

This is really annoying. To go straight on Massachusetts, a motorist goes through the underpass. A cyclist has to exit onto the circle, navigate three intersections, wait through at least two light cycles, and then rejoin Massachusetts -- all to cover 50 yards.

This is "bicycle friendly?"
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Old 09-20-06, 07:51 PM   #2
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Friggin government.

Lol...

Sorry about your commute - mine is going to be ruined by weather (ice) limiting my ability to go up a narrow and STEEEEEEEEP hill, forcing me to make a 3/4 mile adjustment to the south.

Ouch.
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Old 09-20-06, 07:55 PM   #3
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Last night I rode in a taxi through the underpass of that circle. Speed limit may be posted 25 MPH but the driver easily hit 60 going through it. I then had to brace myself as he slammed he brakes at the very next light.
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Old 09-20-06, 08:02 PM   #4
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Don't worry--it's DC. In a couple months they'll rip out the freshly striped pavement and move the "no bikes" sign to the circle.
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Old 09-20-06, 09:12 PM   #5
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Is there a bicyclist advocacy organization in DC? I don't mean a bike advocacy group, the kind that lobbies for facilities that cause people to want to start riding bikes, and thus buying bikes, on the mistaken notion that the facility will protect them from traffic (then the bike just sits in the garage, unused). I mean a bicyclist advocacy organization, the kind that protects the interests of people who actually use their bikes.

The California bicyclist advocacy organization, CABO, just beat back a similar ban (though it wasn't a tunnel) today in Dana Point, California. There is a separate thread on that.
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Old 09-20-06, 09:32 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Helmet Head
Is there a bicyclist advocacy organization in DC? I don't mean a bike advocacy group, the kind that lobbies for facilities that cause people to want to start riding bikes, and thus buying bikes, on the mistaken notion that the facility will protect them from traffic (then the bike just sits in the garage, unused). I mean a bicyclist advocacy organization, the kind that protects the interests of people who actually use their bikes.
I don't know of any local group that doesn't fit the first description. Most consider the bike lanes a victory.
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Old 09-21-06, 01:18 AM   #7
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I'd say make a case to them anyway... bicycles being banned anywhere sets a bad, bad precedent, particularly from an advocacy standpoint... especially since it's a 25MPH city street we're talking about here

I've seen the underpass in question (or at least a similar one, they have em on North Capitol Street also if I'm not mistaken) and it does look conducive to speeding. but regardless, we can't let the city ban bikes from (theoretically) low speed surface streets. what will they do next if they're allowed to get away with that?

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Old 09-21-06, 05:42 AM   #8
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There is a similar tunnel in downtown Fort Lauderdale that I ride through. There is NO bike lane in it, however there is a sign at either entry point that says " Share the Road " and has a bicycle in the top section....

I always point at the sign as I enter the tunnel so that cars behind me know that they must share the road with ME.

It is marked 35 mph, but cars usually go 60 + mph through there..... its 2 lanes in each direction, but scary as heck !!!!!
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Old 09-21-06, 06:14 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DCCommuter
I don't know of any local group that doesn't fit the first description. Most consider the bike lanes a victory.
http://waba.org/

http://washcycle.typepad.com/

Write these orgs and let them know your thoughts! I work off and on with WABA and they do a great job. The problem is there is a lot of good stuff happening and a lot of junk, these orgs can’t fix junk they don’t know about.

(Too many Departments of Transportation do things on there own to “help” cyclists without ever talking to any cyclists and end up hurting as much as they help.)
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Old 09-21-06, 08:35 AM   #10
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This reminds me of an issue I encountered while on vacation recently at my mom's house in Massena, NY (Canadian border, St. Lawrence River, north of Syracuse and Watertown). In the state park area by the Seaway (a series of locks and dams, including a large hydroelectric dam), I was glad to see a lot of "Shared Roadway" signs with bicycle icons. However, at one point there is a short tunnel underneath the shipping channel that sounds basically like the DC tunnels the OP describes. (It's pretty cool, really - where else can you go through a tunnel directly underneath a large laker navigating the lock above you?!) But at the entrances to the tunnel are signs reading "Bicycles Keep Extreme Right".

Now, the lanes in the tunnel are narrow, and terminated at the edge with a curb. There is also a narrow sidewalk, but the sidewalk is slightly elevated with steps, making it even more useless to bikes! So my argument with the signs is that they promote the idea that cars should be able to pass bikes in the tunnel, whereas to do so is actually very unsafe!

My proposed solution, which I will be communicating to a NY state bike/ped employee in the near future, would be to replace those signs with ones reading something like "Yield to Bicycles in Tunnel". I wonder if this would be a worthwhile direction to pursue with these DC underpasses as well? (Although I'm pessimistic, since the point of building the underpass was no doubt to streamline the flow of through automobile traffic, so allowing and even encouraging bikes would probably be interpreted as contrary to that aim.)

I think the current signage situation the OP describes is very dangerous in that it implies to the motorists that bikes have no right to be there, making the motorists even less likely to watch for cyclists, and then less tolerant of the ones they do see. The situation also of course opens the cyclist to the risk of being ticketed and fined! Good luck, DCCommuter, and be careful!

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Old 09-21-06, 09:01 AM   #11
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Bike lanes on a traffic circle seem pointless. The whole idea of a traffic circle is that it accomodates an arbitrary number of entrance and exit points, and any bike or car may need to use any of them. So where would the bike lane direct the bicyclist?

In the LAB Road I course I took, we actually navigated a traffic circle during class. The instructor had us enter the circle one at a time, ride completely around a few times on the inside lane, taking the lane, then exit to come back. The point being that unless you're getting off at the very next exit after you get on, you're better off moving to the inside lane until you're approaching your exit, then negotiate to move back outside and off. The cars are usually not going all that fast in a traffic circle (unless it's a very large one), and on the inside lane, you don't have to deal with people entering and exiting the circle at every single entrance you pass. This advantage would seem to be completely negated by having a bike lane that simply follows the outside of the circle! (Assuming that's where it is.)

Riding the inside lane not only cuts down on your interactions with cars at every entrance/exit point, but if you can't successfully negotiate when you need to move to your exit, you can easily just go around again and try next time!
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Old 09-21-06, 09:59 AM   #12
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Keep at it.

Just as a somewhat related aside. Here is a government (Arizona DOT) page that properly describes the right way for cyclist to use a traffic circle:
http://www.azdot.gov/CCPartnerships/Roundabouts/faq.asp
"Properly designed roundabouts also safely accommodate bicycles. Because vehicles are traveling at low speeds, which are comparable to bicycle speeds, bicycles can negotiate a roundabout like motorized vehicles. Bicycles have two choices to negotiate a roundabout. The more avid and skilled bicyclists can merge into a traffic lane before the bike lane ends; ride close to the middle of the lane to prevent vehicles from passing and cutting the bicyclist off; enter the roundabout after yielding to vehicles within the roundabout; circulate the roundabout being careful to watch for vehicles waiting to enter the roundabout; and exit the roundabout as a normal vehicle would do. Bicyclists not wanting to enter the roundabout can enter the sidewalk using the ramps where the bike lane ends, and proceed around the roundabout as a pedestrian."
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Old 09-21-06, 10:16 AM   #13
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DCCommuter, can you describe in more detail exactly where the bike lanes are in the circle? The Google satellite image is still pre-BL. But wow, what a complicated "circle" that is!
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Old 09-21-06, 10:41 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnBrooking
DCCommuter, can you describe in more detail exactly where the bike lanes are in the circle? The Google satellite image is still pre-BL. But wow, what a complicated "circle" that is!
Yeah, those circles make me uneasy when I'm in my car, nevermind while riding.
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Old 09-21-06, 12:54 PM   #15
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I think cities just like adding bike lanes because they're pretty.
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Old 09-21-06, 01:09 PM   #16
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DCCommuter, can you describe in more detail exactly where the bike lanes are in the circle? The Google satellite image is still pre-BL. But wow, what a complicated "circle" that is!


The bike lanes are visible around the edges. They don't go around the circle. It's not clear how they intend cyclists to navigate the circle.
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Old 09-21-06, 01:15 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DCCommuter
The bike lanes are visible around the edges. They don't go around the circle. It's not clear how they intend cyclists to navigate the circle.
That is so absurd. Perhaps they expect cyclists will want to always exit at the first turn after they enter.

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Old 09-21-06, 01:35 PM   #18
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I would not want to ride a bicycle in that particular traffic circle, because of the multi-lane entries and the large radius (and therefore high operating speed). In contrast, we have a new traffic circle in Encinitas, at the Santa Fe Dr. / Devonshire Dr. intersection, whose tight radius (15mph design speed) and single-lane entry and exit points make it quite conducive to lane-taking by bicyclists.

http://www.mapquest.com/maps/map.adp...y=US&geodiff=1

Sorry, MapQuest's resolution does not facilitate display of the circle's geometry, but this one evidently works very well.
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