The long-awaited reconstruction of Oxon Hill Road will start this week, according to signs posted along the road by the Department of Public Works and Transportation (DPW&T) of Prince George's County. The $14 million project will add bike lanes to the 1.5-mile section of roadway extending from the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Trail south to Ft. Foote Road. A few traffic lights will be replaced with roundabouts.
This project will have almost immedate benefits for some cyclists who wish to ride from the Wilson Bridge south to Fort Washington. The worst section of roadway between the bridge and the fort for cyclists is the first mile on Oxon Hill road, which has 10-foot lanes, no shoulder, and drivers who often ignore the 3-foot rule when passing cyclists riding to the far right, and lay on the horn when cyclists use full lane. When I suggested adding "Bicycles May Use Full Lane" signs, the DPW&T safety director responded that they prefer that cyclists not ride Oxon Hill Road until the construction is complete. Nevertheless, the construction barriers will provide drivers (and hopefully cyclists) with the optical hint that bikes should use the full lane.
The bicycle accommodations for Oxon Hill Road will not be perfect. The rotaries are being designed to encourage novice cyclists to ride onto a sidewalk and cross the streets as a pedestrian, but DPW&T has tentatively agreed to refrain from posting a sign stating that the bike route goes onto the sidewalk. There will be some door-zone bike lanes; but DPW&T is open to marking the hazard if the state will pay the cost for the extra striping (and the door-zone bike lanes account for less than half of the section of rebuilt road).
(Jim Titus is a cycling activist from Prince George's County)