Flashback Friday: A Presidential Bikeway

Happy World Bicycle Day! This week, New Zealand was in the limelight over in the US as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern got to meet President Joe Biden in Washington DC. Meanwhile, back here in NZ, some quick-build trial cycleways in Wellington have been put on hold thanks to a legal challenge. It’s with those two stories in mind that I think back to when a fairly experimental bikeway in Washington DC got built, as first reported in this blog from Jan 2013. I finally did get to have an up-close look at it in 2015 – and my suggestion below for a cycleway down the middle of Linwood did also come to fruition in due course too…

I’m back from Washington DC and I just managed to avoid the chaos that surrounded the inauguration of President Obama. If you were watching footage of the President’s walk down Pennsylvania Ave the other day you might have noticed something unusual on the ground:

A President powerful enough to temporarily close a bike lane

Yep, it’s a bike lane, running down the middle of Pennsylvania Ave, between the White House and the Capitol building. This was installed back in 2010 after my last visit to DC, so I haven’t had a chance to see it up close yet. But it’s certainly noteworthy for its location down the middle of the thoroughfare, typically with three lanes of traffic either side.

3 foot hatching separates the bike lanes from the traffic lanes
3-foot wide hatched buffers separate the bike lanes from the traffic lanes

The bike lanes have a simple painted buffer to separate them from the adjacent traffic lanes. At the intersections, a separate left-turn (our right-turn) lane is introduced and bollards prevent cars from trying to turn through the bike lanes (in fact motorists are generally prohibited from turning left at many of these intersections).

Some bollards at the intersections to help keep the motorists away

The construction of this bike lane has not been without controversy. As late as the week before their official opening the layout got changed, and even recently there have been calls to add more separators to stop cars making (illegal) u-turns across it. The intersections are also rather odd in having pedestrians share crossing refuges with bikes coming through, and any turning riders are expected to use the pedestrian crossing signals.

Nevertheless, an evaluation of some of the recent innovative bikeways in Washington DC found that cycling numbers along this route doubled in the year after installation, while peak hour traffic volumes fell by 15-20%.

Even segways like the bike lanes…

I’m not sure whether I can picture an application for this in Christchurch (down the middle of Moorhouse Ave anyone?). I have thought that the middle of Linwood Ave would make a pleasant cycleway, but that has a wide green median to work with.

What do you think of the “Presidential Bikeway”?

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