Long-delayed M Street bike lane nearing completion

WASHINGTON (WJLA) - The long delayed M Street Cycle Track finally appears to be near completion in the District. When it opens, it will stretch 1.4 miles from Thomas Circle to 28th Street NW.

It was supposed to open last summer, but was delayed due to disagreements over the design and an environmental review. Now, DDOT officials say it should be ready in "two to three weeks." On the calendar, that is May 1.

DDOT Assoc. Director Sam Zimbabwe said, “I mean, really it depends on getting more days like this. If we have this beautiful spring that we've been having, then we'll make that date.”

Bicyclists are looking forward to using the new M Street bike lane. It is the westbound equivalent of the eastbound L Street Cycle Track.

“We've learned things after having installed L Street about how to do things,” Zimbabwe said. “We're looking at ways to go back into L Street and try to fix some of the problems that we still have.”

Cyclists have long complained that drivers simply disregard or don't understand the L Street set up, which requires drivers to merge into the bike lane to turn left.

Bicyclist Erik Lang said, “It is really scary sometimes when a car darts right in front of you or cuts you off.”

Unlike L Street, the M Street plan separates car and bike traffic with parking spaces, similar to 15th Street's layout.

A first for D.C. biking infrastructure – the M Street project includes a short section of concrete curb protections. Cyclists say they are much more effective and safer than sporadic plastic barriers or painted lanes.

Cyclist Chris Azar said, “Places like Paris have had that for a long time and it's worked well for them.”

The Washington Area Bicyclist Association is lobbying for concrete curbs to separate future bike lanes from roadways.

WABA officials say they commend DDOT's work expanding biking infrastructure, but after all the delays on M Street they're concerned the pace of delivery on these projects is slowing down.

WABA Advocacy Coordinator Gregory Billing said, “Since 2006, there's been a 450% increase in cycling. We're now at about 4.5% cyclists [of commuters] every day, so DDOT is barely keeping pace if not falling behind.”

In response, DDOT said, unlike previous projects, adding these new bike lanes downtown where roadways are more narrow and more stakeholders are involved will sometimes result in delays.

Department officials said they are learning as they go and they welcome feedback from the cycling community.

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