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Cycling in Washington DC

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Cycling in Washington DC

Old 03-10-08, 08:09 AM
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Cycling in Washington DC

Just got back from DC for the national bike summit.

What a weird town. People put on spandex suits, run red lights and then power away at the blazing speed of 10 mph!

My real complaint though is a bike lane through a traffic circle!!! If I tried to develop a way to get cyclists killed that would probably be it.

I guess they are trying to win a LAB award that rewards bike lanes no matter how dumb of a place they are in.
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Old 03-10-08, 08:20 AM
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Thanks for the post and your observations.

I, too, oppose red light running and inappropriate bike lanes, such as in a traffic circle or any other situation with free merges and/or diverges or other obvious traffic movement conflicts.
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Old 03-10-08, 08:22 AM
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Yeah, those traffic circles are a real challenge. I'll often by-pass them using the regular street grid, but the diagonal streets make good shortcuts.
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Old 03-10-08, 08:51 AM
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are you talking about the bike lane on 14th street that intersects vermont/mass avenues downtown? i hate that bike lane (I often commute on 14th) and always take the right lane when riding there. i agree that it was a horrible idea to design it like that.
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Old 03-10-08, 09:03 AM
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Originally Posted by gosmsgo View Post
Just got back from DC for the national bike summit.

What a weird town. People put on spandex suits, run red lights and then power away at the blazing speed of 10 mph!

My real complaint though is a bike lane through a traffic circle!!! If I tried to develop a way to get cyclists killed that would probably be it.

I guess they are trying to win a LAB award that rewards bike lanes no matter how dumb of a place they are in.
I almost never travel in that direction.

There is a bike lane through a traffic circle? Or does it just lead up to the circle?
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Old 03-10-08, 11:51 AM
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Originally Posted by invisiblehand View Post
There is a bike lane through a traffic circle? Or does it just lead up to the circle?
I haven't ridden to that circle (and if I'm driving, I'm too worried about where other vehicles are, not some effectively-arbitrary paint on the road), but it wouldn't surprise me to see a bike lane marked dangerously.

DC has some of the most complex, confusing, and dangerous traffic "circles" I've ever seen. Multiple entry & exit lanes, red & green arrow stoplights, flashing yellow lights, ring-shaped islands, and pedestrian crossings make for a truly PITA combination.
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Old 03-10-08, 11:58 AM
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Its going around the outside of the traffic circle.
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Old 03-10-08, 01:23 PM
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Nice ...

Navigating DC roads is relatively difficult. I always feel bad for anyone new to the area.
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Old 03-10-08, 02:03 PM
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Originally Posted by invisiblehand View Post
Nice ...

Navigating DC roads is relatively difficult. I always feel bad for anyone new to the area.
Dc is actually very, very simple to get around. The circles are the only thing that can be moderately challenging in terms of some having inner and outer bands, but that's about it, imho.

First, you divide the city into four sections (NW, NE, SW, SE) nearly everything business and gvt is in NW
With in each section Letters and numbers are perpendicular (Letters run E/W, #'s North/South)
states run diagonally
as you get farther from the the center letters are replaced by words according to how many syllables, first with two syllables, then three, etc.
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Old 03-10-08, 02:20 PM
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As someone who has lived here for one year now, I can honestly say that Boston and DC are on par with each other when it comes to getting wildly lost (although for both it's much worse in a car, since I abuse one way streets on the bike)
People from DC always bring up the letters and numbers crap, and I don't care, it's a completely counterintuitive and needlessly complicated system. I get lost anytime I have to go anywhere new. And the signage is horrible.
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Old 03-10-08, 02:33 PM
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Originally Posted by garagegirl View Post
As someone who has lived here for one year now, I can honestly say that Boston and DC are on par with each other when it comes to getting wildly lost (although for both it's much worse in a car, since I abuse one way streets on the bike)
People from DC always bring up the letters and numbers crap, and I don't care, it's a completely counterintuitive and needlessly complicated system. I get lost anytime I have to go anywhere new. And the signage is horrible.
It's an incredibly logical system. That's the point. Keep it in mind and you can't get lost here.
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Old 03-10-08, 02:47 PM
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If the city were truly a grid it would be logical, but with all the random diagonal Avenues, one ways, and circles thrown in everywhere DC is a mess. I don't know how many times I've been on an avenue and gotten forced off of it because I didn't know I was supposed to make a right then a left to stay on it.

And in NW there are tons of random streets that don't follow the system.
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Old 03-10-08, 03:34 PM
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Originally Posted by littlewaywelt View Post
Dc is actually very, very simple to get around. The circles are the only thing that can be moderately challenging in terms of some having inner and outer bands, but that's about it, imho.
Not really if you factor in streets that are discontinuous -- say New Hampshire Avenue --, streets that are single direction (east in one section and west in another) in different areas, the natural errors associated with people screwing up the quadrants, several obstacles which create major impediments to getting around (White House at Pennsylvania Avenue, Rock Creek Park, etc.), unforeseen obstacles (protests, motorcades, Cheney going home), poor signage, blah, blah, blah.

I agree that in principle one can find their way from point A to point B if you remember to count from the Capitol and keep track of the number of syllables of street names. Moreover, I never actually got completely lost in DC. Regardless, it can be quite trying getting oneself around the city -- particularly downtown -- without a few shortcuts and some "inside" knowledge (for instance, the best ways to use the tunnels under the Mall).
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Old 03-10-08, 03:58 PM
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Originally Posted by invisiblehand View Post
... the natural errors associated with people screwing up the quadrants,...
That's probably the most common error. I'd guess that 3/4 of the time I give directions to people lost in my neighborhood, I'd ask, "Did they tell you NE, or SE, or...?" and they either are in the wrong quadrant or don't even know.

several obstacles which create major impediments to getting around (White House at Pennsylvania Avenue, Rock Creek Park, etc.), unforeseen obstacles (protests, motorcades, Cheney going home), poor signage, blah, blah, blah.
I've only been stuck for a motorcade once. They had just blocked the street (I was second in line... grr), and I think I waited for ten minutes before they gave the go-ahead to the Secret Service, who then hustled all the way from the White House to the Capitol at what looked like fifty miles an hour. Sometimes I think the President would be more secure, less of a target, and less disruptive in an armored Honda Accord driven alone.

The signage is a really difficult problem, too. If you're new, you can't find a damned thing; if you live here just a little while, you learn that particular signs mean particular things even if they don't spell everything out. The difficulty comes from the fact that the people in charge already seem to know the area, so it's hard to plan signs as if they were to be interpreted by a complete newbie.
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Old 03-10-08, 04:04 PM
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Originally Posted by BarracksSi View Post
I've only been stuck for a motorcade once. They had just blocked the street (I was second in line... grr), and I think I waited for ten minutes before they gave the go-ahead to the Secret Service, who then hustled all the way from the White House to the Capitol at what looked like fifty miles an hour. Sometimes I think the President would be more secure, less of a target, and less disruptive in an armored Honda Accord driven alone.


Yeah ... I used to live close to Virginia Ave NW which is a popular route for Cheney. Unfortunately, my yoga class was somehow in sync with Cheney's desire to head home. I almost arrived late two or three times ... very bad for the instructor.
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Old 03-10-08, 04:25 PM
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Driving in DC is infinitely worse than cycling there.

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Old 03-10-08, 04:35 PM
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It takes some getting used to but it is a city that can be learned in a short time.
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Old 03-10-08, 04:58 PM
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Driving anywhere near DC is worse.

And what's wrong with spandex?


-D
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Old 03-10-08, 06:48 PM
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Originally Posted by derath View Post
Driving anywhere near DC is worse.

And what's wrong with spandex?


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Remember, the RN and the Army consider Washington DC to be a tropical post and authorize the wearing of formal tropical uniforms in summer.
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Old 03-10-08, 06:55 PM
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Originally Posted by BarracksSi View Post
I haven't ridden to that circle (and if I'm driving, I'm too worried about where other vehicles are, not some effectively-arbitrary paint on the road), but it wouldn't surprise me to see a bike lane marked dangerously.

DC has some of the most complex, confusing, and dangerous traffic "circles" I've ever seen. Multiple entry & exit lanes, red & green arrow stoplights, flashing yellow lights, ring-shaped islands, and pedestrian crossings make for a truly PITA combination.
This is a good example of the bike-lane conundrum. Bike lanes are supposed to make cycling safer and easier. Indeed, in the easiest situations where nothing much need be done, bike lanes manage to do very little while being easy to understand. But the more difficult and complex the traffic situation becomes, by far the more difficult, complex, and confusing the bike lanes become, as if with an exponent greater than 1 to the actual traffic complexity.
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Old 03-10-08, 07:08 PM
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Originally Posted by garagegirl View Post
As someone who has lived here for one year now, I can honestly say that Boston and DC are on par with each other when it comes to getting wildly lost (although for both it's much worse in a car, since I abuse one way streets on the bike)
People from DC always bring up the letters and numbers crap, and I don't care, it's a completely counterintuitive and needlessly complicated system. I get lost anytime I have to go anywhere new. And the signage is horrible.
I never got lost in DC. I had my bike there when I was stationed there, and later on for many meetings about bicycling, until the airlines made bicycle carriage too expensive and difficult. I remember riding through snow and slush in two Januaries for meetings of the Transportation Research Board, and springtime weather for meetings of the Committee for Uniform Traffic Laws and Ordinances, and the misnamed Bicycle Safety Conference, and a bunch of others. En route to an evening meeting I even managed to avoid riding into the unlighted gate across Beach Road (? through Rock Creek Park, anyway), but only because I knew the damned thing was there. It would have taken one of the lovely new bright LED headlamps to illuminate that thing. I heard later that the activist who got that gate installed ran into it himself, hard. Serve him right.
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Old 03-10-08, 07:48 PM
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Originally Posted by BarracksSi View Post
DC has some of the most complex, confusing, and dangerous traffic "circles" I've ever seen. Multiple entry & exit lanes, red & green arrow stoplights, flashing yellow lights, ring-shaped islands, and pedestrian crossings make for a truly PITA combination.
Looking at this, I wholeheartedly agree.

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Old 03-10-08, 08:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Allister View Post
Looking at this, I wholeheartedly agree.

No kidding, right? I mean, look at how 14th St. slices through the circle.

Here's Dupont Circle. Hopefully it'll be zoomed-in enough to show the Saturnian ring island that divides the inner & outer pairs of lanes. If you look closely, you might see that it's not possible to approach from P St. and drive directly into the inner lanes -- but Mass Ave enters into any of the four lanes. Connecticut, however, mostly bypasses it entirely by tunneling underneath, much like Mass Ave goes under Thomas Circle.

They kinda make sense when viewed from above, but at ground level, you have to really trust the lights, AND trust that everyone else is paying at least as much attention.
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Old 03-11-08, 08:53 AM
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My point about spandex is that if you put on the full discovery cycling kit, filter past a line of cars and then run the light you better not get caught by a guy riding a 100 dollar single speed dahon pulling a trailer who stopped at the light.

I saw many people who seemed to be more into the actual dressing like a cyclist rather than acting like one.

Im opinionated though and I just wish that people would stop at lights. At the very least if your in such a hurry that you cant stop at lights have enough fitness to at least average over 10.
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Old 03-11-08, 09:32 AM
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The problem is by no means confined to cyclists. Some years ago, the city started handing out bumper stickers that said, "I stop on red."

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