Reconfiguration of 15th St. NW: What We’re Getting

by February 20, 2009 at 7:12 pm 2,614 2 Comments

The southwest corner of 15th and R NW. (Photo by WasWoWashington on Panoramio.)

The southwest corner of 15th and R NW. (Photo by WasWoWashington on Panoramio.)

Borderstanians: I received an email today from Christopher Ziemann at the DC Department of Transportation (DDOT) about the plans to reconfigure traffic on 15th Street NW (Borderstan’s Main Street).

DDOT has decided to implement Alternative 5, which was not part of the original four alternatives that were proposed for 15th Street. You can view Alternative 5 at DDOT’s Web site; go to page 2 of the PDF.

Here is what will happen to 15th Street under Alternative 5:

  1. 15th Street NW will remain one-way going north, with three lanes of auto traffic.
  2. Two bicycle lanes will be added to 15th Street NW.
  3. The northbound bicycle lane will be on the east side of 15th, between parked cars and car traffic–just like many of the bicycle lanes we currently see in the city.
  4. However, the southbound bicycle lane will be next to the west curb of 15th Street. Bicyclists will ride between the sidewalk and parked cars, protecting them from northbound traffic.

The email message from DDOT’s Ziemann, along with some helpful Q&A, follows.

Email from Christopher Ziemann:

Thank you to all those who responded with comments and questions to the 5th alternative for reconfiguring 15th Street. Again, this alternative would maintain 15th Street as a one-way street for vehicles with three lanes, but add a northbound striped bike lane and a southbound protected bike lane on the west side of the street between the parked cars and the curb.

The final tally of comments received by email show 15 in favor of Alternative 5, 2 opposed, and 52 unrelated (such as preferring a different alternative, two-way traffic in general, etc.). Therefore DDOT has decided to pursue Alternative 5.

This would be done as a pilot project, to be evaluated and possibly replicated in other parts of the District. If successful, plans can be put into place to make this solution permanent, or to pursue some variation of this. This will be the first of its kind in the District, both as a separated bicycle lane, and also as a counter-flow lane to one-way traffic.

DDOT is finalizing the details and funding plan for this pilot project, and will provide updates when they are available. Thank you all again for your input, this has been very valuable. If you would like to see the original analysis or the draft analysis again, please visit

There were a lot of good comments and questions, which I have listed and answered below.

  1. Will DPW be able to clean a bike lane only 5-feet wide? Yes, DDOT has coordinated with the street cleaning crew and they have assured us that they are able to clean it.
  2. Will the impact on traffic in the afternoon be significant? No, motor vehicle level of service would remain virtually the same and exceed District’s standards for all intersections.
  3. Is a one-foot buffer sufficient to separate vehicles from bicycles? Maybe, there seem to be two opinions in the bicycle community. A door is usually two feet long, so an open door would (theoretically) enter a foot into the bicycle lane. This should (theoretically) leave enough room for bicycles, however this will be an evaluation criterion.   In any case, drivers in parked cars will be facing bicyclists so the risk of dooring will be lower than with a conventional bike lane.
  4. Would church double parking simply block the northbound bicycle lane? Yes, however traffic flows on Sundays are minimal and do not pose a great threat to bicyclists in mixed traffic.
  5. Can we work in bulbouts for pedestrian safety? Maybe, DDOT is working right now to finalize the details of intersection crossings, alley crossings, etc. to increase the safety and reduce the likelihood of crashes. These may include bulb-outs.


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