15th Street: The 2-Way, Multi-Purpose Bike Lane
The southbound bicycle lane on 15th Street NW has turned into a two-way bike lane and, sometimes, a multi-purpose lane. Southbound cyclists now regularly share the lane with northbound cyclists. In addition, the dedicated lane–between the curb and parked cars on the west side of the street–sometimes hosts rollerbladers, skateboarders, parents with strollers, joggers and motorized wheelchairs.
The bike lane opened last November as a pilot program. The lane’s purpose is to give bikers a safe, wide lane between the curb and parked cars to ride southbound on 15th Street–which is a one-way, northbound traffic street north of Massachusetts Avenue. In addition, the city created a shared lane on the east side of 15th Street; the far right lane is to be shared by northbound cars and bikes and there is signage on the pavement to that effect.
The dedicated curb-side bike lane grew out of the DC Department of Transportation’s study of what to do with 15th Street: basically, whether to leave car traffic one-way or turn it into a two-way street. The removal of one lane of northbound car traffic has also effectively slowed the speed of car traffic on 15th Street during evening rush hour.
One danger to northbound cyclists (and other users) is that there drivers are not looking for them. The signage put up by DDoT with the bike lane only instructs drivers to look for southbound cyclists when turning left off 15th. In addition, pedestrians now have to remember to watch for cyclists coming from the south.
So now what?
- Should the city bow to the reality of the situation and turn the southbound lane into a two-way bike lane?
- Is the bike lane wide enough for two-way bike traffic? Should the city widen it?
- What about other uses for the lane? Are joggers and rollerbladers a danger to cyclists?
- Are people using the bike lane for other purposes because the sidewalks are too narrow and/or in disrepair?