Thursday, January 23, 2014

Snow problems...

Some days it feels like DC is the best city on earth to bike around - but it doesn't feel like that every day.
“The standard bike lanes…get plowed with the rest of the street, the majority of bike lanes are already already taken care of”
DDOT Bicycle Program Specialist Mike Goodno believes that to be true. He's quoted here from a recent WNEW radio interview examining DDOT and DC-DPW's performance at clearing DC's bike lanes, cycletracks, and other paths.

His position isn't borne out by what's plainly visible to anyone who cares to look.

Upon leaving work in Penn Quarter Wednesday night I was dismayed to see just how little success DC's street care agencies have had at plowing the standard bike lanes I was about to use. My homeward route begins at 9th & E NW, heading east.

E Street NW at 9th Street NW

E Street NW at 8th Street NW

E Street NW between 7th Street NW and 6th Street NW

E Street NW between 6th Street NW and 5th Street NW

E Street NW between 5th Street NW and 4th Street NW

E Street NW between 5th Street NW and 4th Street NW, second view
E Street NW between 5th Street NW and 4th Street NW, third view
(U-turns across bike lanes are illegal)
E Street NW between 5th Street NW and 4th Street NW
(Showing the north side of E Street NW)
E Street NW between 4th Street NW and 3rd Street NW
E Street NW crossing 395 / 3rd Street Tunnel

E Street NW at 2nd Street NW - black ice bike lane, dry general purpose lane

E Street NW at New Jersey Avenue NW

E Street NW between New Jersey Avenue NW and North Capitol Street 
E Street NW between New Jersey Avenue and North Capitol, second view

Between the E Street bike lanes at North Capitol and the bike lanes on Mass Ave around Columbus Circle, the only connection is a shared general purpose lane. This pavement was almost clear and dry, but that didn't last long...

Mass Ave NE at 3rd Street NE - NOT a bike lane 
4th Street NE at Maryland Avenue NE
I was curious about conditions for Thursday's planned trip to and from school for with my child. We have ridden through the 2010 snow storms, through summer heat and humidity, through rain, and through single digit temperatures. We will not ride through this:

East Capitol at 2nd Street SE
East Capitol between 6th Street and 7th Street
East Capitol between 6th Street and 7th Street, second view 
East Capitol at 7th Street

East Capitol at 8th Street

East Capitol between 9th Street and 10th Street
I continued around Lincoln Park, which has lovely buffered (but not physically separated) bike lanes. Unfortunately at this point my camera succumbed to the cold and stopped working so I'm unable to illustrate it, but those lanes are much more deeply covered in snow than any I've shown. They're completely hidden and completely impassable. Likewise I'm unable to show the similar conditions on North Carolina Avenue SE.

I'm happy to report that the bike lane on the street where I live merely has occasional patches of snow and ice, but most of the left paint line and some bike lane symbols can be easily found. Unfortunately though, the salty residue on the asphalt surface nearly matches the faded paint, especially where the bike lane is clear and dry, making them difficult to discern with no contrast.

The bike lane in the last block of my trip was a real pleasure to ride, thanks to the kind soul who shoveled it by hand Tuesday night.

Along this route I passed within a block of at least six Capital Bikeshare stations. While the stations themselves were reasonably clear of snow, all bike lanes and routes leading to and from them are unreasonably challenging for occasional riders. Still, I'm sure some occasional riders also believe that standard bike lanes should have been cleared along with the rest of the roadway, and were surprised to see it isn't the case. That's the sort of assumption any reasonable person would make - and the sort of mistake that can discourage people from relying on CaBi in the future.

All these photos were taken between 10 PM and 11 PM on Wednesday, January 22nd. Traffic was extremely light. There are no special conditions on any of these streets that would prevent a standard plow truck from removing this snow and ice, and the general purpose lanes on most of the same streets have been thoroughly treated and are clear and mostly dry. DC has nearly 50 miles of similar standard bike lanes, and I expect the conditions are the same for most of those miles. This snow could have been removed in the normal course of clearing the rest of the roadway, with no additional labor, no additional resources, and requiring no further attention. It would almost seem to require a special effort to AVOID bike lane snow removal so consistently.

Someone needs to explain why this snow removal has not happened. Someone needs to exert whatever pressure is required to escalate the urgency of cleaning these bike roadways immediately. Someone needs to report what DC will do to assure us that in the future "[t]he standard bike lanes…get plowed with the rest of the street, the majority of bike lanes are already already taken care of" will not be the bald-faced lie it is today.


  1. It looks like you're asking for special treatment. There is vastly more traffic in drive lanes which disburse and remove snow and salt after a cursory plowing. The few die-hards who use the bike lanes don't have the same effect.

  2. All I want is the same outcome: clear roads for people using them. If the treatment used for general purpose lanes doesn't work for bike lanes, but they've planned and pledged to remove the snow there, then special treatment is warranted.

    The reason some consider people who ride bikes in snowy conditions to be "die hards" is that DC is not keeping these lanes and paths and tracks cleared of snow according to their own plan. If conditions in the general lanes matched the bike lanes, nobody would be driving either - which would be a top story in any news medium.