[Yes, I know Christmas is over, but I fell a little behind this year]
The John Philip Sousa Bridge carries Pennsylvania Avenue SE across the Anacostia. It's not a bad little bike bridge. There are wide lanes on both sides, access to Anacostia Drive from both lanes on the east side and to Barney Circle SE and K Street SE on the west side. Eventually it will tie in nicely with the Anacostia Riverwalk trail on both sides. In addition, it's easy enough to transition from the bike lanes to Pennsylvania Ave on the west side and to Nicholson St. SE on the east side, so you basically have all six directions of the ideal bridge crossing. [pictured at right, a cross section of the ART trail bridge over the CSX railroad tracks planned for both sides of the Anacostia in proximity to the Sousa] You also have sidewalks along the east side of Penn Ave SE, but it involves some tough crossings (map)
Nonetheless, what could be improved?
1. A better connection to Nicholson St. SE for one. The existing path off the downstream lane takes one to Anacostia Dr on a fish hook shaped path. A social trail already exists that provides a better route, so making that official would work. And it should include signage directing users to the nearby Shepherd's Industrial Branch when (if) that becomes a trail.
2. On the upstream side of the west side the only good way to get across 295 is to cross under the Sousa and head toward Nicholson. Not a terrible detour, but with the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail planned to run the length of the river, a crossing over or under 295 between Pennsylvania Avenue and East Capitol would make a lot of sense. The easiest way is to connect the ART and Shepherd under 295 just north of G Street where the railroad over pass is. The coolest way would be to build a bike ped bridge over 295 continuing from Mass Avenue SE. Part of the AWI plan is to build a Massachusetts Avenue bridge (pictured) - for bikes, peds and park vehicles only - over the Anacostia (by either taking it around the Anacostia Railroad Bridge or by rerouting the CSX line outside the city). With a bridge over 295, Mass Avenue would then run all the way across the District - the only road to cross from the NE edge to the SE edge. Alternatively, a bike path could be build along side the Anacostia Railroad Bridge.
3. Finally, if you were just being greedy, you could ask for a connection from the downstream lane to M St SE on the west side. It wouldn't be critical, and wouldn't be used enough to make it a high priority, but it would be nice.