DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton will hold a community meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 24th to discuss a proposed bike lane along Louisiana Avenue NW on Capitol Hill. Currently, cyclists heading east along the Pennsylvania Avenue bike lane have to use car travel lanes to get up to Union Station. The Pennsylvania Avenue lane terminates at 3rd Street NW and cyclists climb up or descend down Louisiana Avenue NW to reach the beginning of the Metropolitan Branch Trail on the west side of Union Station.
The Louisiana Avenue NW bike lane meeting will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018, from 7 pm to 9 pm at HVC-201 in the Capitol Visitor Center (CVC). The meeting is open to the public, press, and residents are encouraged to attend. You get to the CVC through the eastern side of the Capitol. There’s a long staircase that takes you to the main entrance of the CVC, where there’s a security checkpoint.
The Money for the Bike Lane is Already Here
According to Holmes Norton’s office, DC received money from the Federal Government in FY 2017 that may support this project. Norton, DC residents and bike advocates like Washington Area Bicyclist Association have been working for awhile to get this connection built. “Our meeting will provide an update on the project’s details, allowing residents an opportunity for feedback,” according to a press release from her office.
Cycling near Union Station is Scary
Living along the Metropolitan Branch Trail, I frequently ride or run South through NoMA to the path’s end at Union Station. Once you’re there, there aren’t bike lanes that get you down to the Mall—certainly not ones that appear with signage for infrequent cyclists or out-of-town visitors.
To go southwest toward the National Mall or northeast from the Mall — the traffic follows typical commuting patterns — the direct route is to round Columbus Circle, then get onto Louisiana Ave. Louisiana Avenue runs diagonally toward Constitution Avenue NW, onto which you veer to head west. You take Constitution to the 3rd Street NW intersection, where you can turn onto 3rd and connect with the Mall, or you continue straight and veer onto Pennsylvania.
Louisiana Avenue NW is a short but heavily trafficked connection. The roads are wide, designed to accommodate peak loads of cars during rush hour. It is almost never safe to ride on a sidewalk, but the ones around here are especially busy. On that road, commuters are walking to/from Capitol Hill, heavy pedestrian traffic goes to/from Union Station, and loads of out-of-town visitors are walking toward/away from the Mall. The sidewalks are also restricted currently by a long-term renovation project of Lower Senate Park.
Cycling-Friendly Design is Art and Science
If you sit on the grass curbside along Louisiana Avenue on a weekday, you’ll see a wide variety of cars, tour buses, and Metro buses. The road gets busy, but it has two travel lanes each way with parking lanes on each side. Go to that same spot during off-peak hours, especially on the weekend, and the road will be deserted. There is plenty of room for protected bike lanes, and there’s reason to use that exact stretch: bike commuters use it heavily already.
Cycling-friendly design is art and science. You can look at a map or mock-up, but you have to use the street in person, observe the ballet of the street, and get a good sense of it. Bike commuters get a quick sense of what the road was built for, and the answer for Louisiana Avenue is it was built for cars, lots of them.