Florida Avenue 30% design includes a protected bike lane from 3rd to 9th
by Ezra DF
Last night, DDOT held a public meeting to give an update on its Florida Avenue NE project. The project is looking at Florida Ave starting just east of the dreaded "Dave Thomas Circle," where Florida Ave crosses New York Ave in one of the most confusing and dangerous intersections in the city; down through where Florida Ave hits H Street and Benning Road (the "Starburst Intersection"). Varying between four and five lanes of cars, the road currently has narrow sidewalks, no bike infrastructure, and excessive speeding.
This is a significant opportunity to make the street safe for bicyclists and pedestrians in a neighborhood with unique issues and undergoing rapid change. Florida Avenue has always had a high number of deaf pedestrians because Gallaudet University is located right in the middle of the study area. In fact, there were several sign language interpreters at the DDOT meeting and several deaf neighbors who gave their feedback about safety in the area. The continued growth of H Street as a destination for people from all over the city, and the presence of Union Market and the pedestrians and cyclists it adds means it's especially important that pedestrians and cyclists have a way to get there safely. This will only become more acute in the future as buildings are still being developed on the western edge of the study area (near the new REI).
As recently as yesterday, WABA was letting people know that the previously released plans for redesigning Florida Avenue were alarmingly car-oriented and didn't do nearly enough to accommodate pedestrian or cyclist needs. They encouraged cycling advocates to attend the meeting and give DDOT feedback on the plan.
Here's the good news: DDOT's proposal has gotten much better since they last gave an update, It now includes reduced travel lanes and a ~0.6 mile long, curb protected, two-way cycletrack along about half the length of the street, from 3rd to 9th, with a shared use path along the south side of the short block from 9th to West Virginia and another one along the longer block from 2nd to 3rd. There are also two-stage turn boxes at 5th, 6th, 8th and West Virginia. Given what the cycling community had been expecting, that's a huge improvement (and an even larger improvement over the current situation). There are no planned bike facilities from West Virginia to H Street.
Cycle track between 4th and 6th Streets NE
Still, the proposal seems like too little to me. While it will serve a busy street, by itself, it won't do a good job connecting to other parts of the bike lane network nearby, such as the First Street NE cycletrack, the Metropolitan Branch Trail, or the bike lane on I Street. The Florida Ave cycle track also doesn't connect directly with the two-way lanes on 6th street. On a positive note, there are plans, I learned today, for a future lane along West Virginia Avenue, which will connect well with the Florida Avenue cycletrack. [Editor's note: There are also proposed facilities along M Street and through Union Market which, if built, would create connections to First Street, the Metropolitan Branch Trail and a future New York Avenue Trail.]
Map showing the location of the proposed cycletrack and the existing bike lane network.
In the end I felt like these improvements to Florida Avenue will be welcome, but with just a little bit more ambition this facility could be a truly great, very useful new addition to the DC cycling network.
You can see detailed maps of the proposal here, and leave a comment here. DDOT hopes to reach the 100% design stage in the spring of 2018 and start construction soon after that. I'm still disappointed in the glacially slow progress of the Shaw protected bike lane so take those dates to be extremely rough estimates only.
Florida Avenue, NE from 2nd Street to West Virginia Avenue, NE