Bike riding is Nick Carros and his family’s primary mode of transportation, so he’s taken multiple steps to ensure he and his one-year-old stay safe on the roads in D.C. His bike is sturdy enough to protect his child, has extra safety features like reflectors and bright lights, and a helmet that registers impact and alerts his wife to any potential accident. Carros rides on Q and R streets daily and said the commute can be dangerous.
“You have to be head on a swivel, paying attention to everything that’s going on and anticipating what not only the car that’s three spaces in front of you is going to do but the guy who’s coming up behind you as well,” Carros said. “I have redundant systems to call for help for one day when I expect to get hit, and that’s the reality of riding in D.C. is at some point, something like that is going to happen to us.”
Carros and cycling advocates call on the District’s Department of Transportation, or DDOT, to upgrade Q Street NW/NE and R Street NW/NE bike lanes to protected bike lanes. The streets connect Dupont Circle to the Metropolitan Branch Trail. A petition urging the city to do so has gathered more than 1,300 signatures.
Carros and about a dozen other cyclists rode to the DC Family Bike Fest event at Alethia Tanner Park on Sunday to help raise awareness of the efforts aimed at adding protected bike lanes on Q and R streets. The group also reminded people about the ongoing petition that’s been circulating on the issue.
The current bike lanes on Q and R streets are painted and do not have any extra barriers to protect cyclists. Carros said upgrading the lanes to protected lanes, also known as cycle tracks, would improve cyclists’ safety.
“Everybody becomes a lot more aware that there is a third mode of transportation,” Carros said.
Protected bike lanes allow for physical separation between bike riders and others around them. According to the District Department of Transportation website, separation can be “a row of parked cars, a concrete curb, and/or flex posts and wheel stops.”
Garrett Hennigan with the Washington Area Bicyclist Association said that adding protected bike lanes on Q and R streets would allow the city to have an east-west low-stress bike corridor, connecting north and south streets with protected bike lanes.
“This is a place where tons and tons of trips could be made by bike, but the limiting factor is most people look at the streets outside their door or between their door and where they’re going, and they say that is way too stressful for me to hop on a bike for myself and certainly not with my kids,” Hennigan said.
The push to add protected lanes on Q and R streets has been going on for more than a year. Hennigan said advisory neighborhood commissions in Dupont Circle, Logan Circle and Shaw have also asked DDOT to look at adding the protected lanes.
DDOT did not respond to The Wash’s requests for comment on its status of looking at adding protected bike lanes to Q and R streets NW/NE.
In 2020, the District planned to build 20 miles of new protected bike lanes over three years, according to its website. Q and R streets NW/NE were not on that list.
However, the push for adding more protected bike lanes in the city also has opposition. Nick DelleDonne with the Dupont East Civic Action Association said protected bike lanes usually mean losing parking or driving lanes, and he said both are greatly needed in D.C.
“It’s not good news for businesses or automobile traffic, and people will get a headache just thinking about trying to find a place and how to get around in the district,” DelleDonne said.
DelleDonne pointed to problems he said people have encountered with protected bike lanes on 17th Street that were constructed in 2021. 17th Street is home to many businesses.
“It is so difficult for the delivery drivers to find a place to park that they are parking in the intersection, they are unloading their cargo in the intersection, and you can’t tell me that it is safe or that is the result of a plan,” DelleDonne said. “It is an accident.”
DelleDonne said DDOT needs to look at other ways to keep everyone on the roads safe and said more emphasis needs to be put on improving public transit instead of adding more protected bike lanes.
Hennigan said the Washington Area Bicyclist Association presented its ideas for the protected bike lanes to DDOT earlier this year but said the group has not received an update from the department since then.