Two-way protected bike lane slated for 17th Street in Dupont

The city is proposing to add two-way bicycle traffic to a section of 17th Street NW, which would reduce the number of automobile lanes. (Brady Holt/The Current)

A two-way protected bike lane is slated for a stretch of 17th Street NW in Dupont Circle, which would replace a current southbound-only bicycle lane on the street and reduce the number of automobile lanes.

The D.C. Department of Transportation’s proposal would run along the west side of 17th from New Hampshire Avenue south to either Massachusetts Avenue or K Street.

The lane would be protected from vehicular traffic by a row of parking spaces and potentially an additional physical barrier, although that is still being determined, the Transportation Department’s Darren Buck told The Current.

“You’d have a two-way bicycle lane that would be located between a row of parking and the curb,” Buck said. “It feels much safer to be separated from moving traffic by a row of parked cars.”

Between New Hampshire and Massachusetts, 17th is currently a two-lane roadway that runs one-way southbound. With this proposal, it would be reduced to one automobile lane. According to Buck, the street is currently relatively lightly trafficked, and it doesn’t appear that the change would cause a problem with congestion.

From Massachusetts to K, 17th has two-way traffic with six travel lanes during rush hours and four lanes during other times, when two lanes are converted to parking. Under the current proposal, vehicles would be limited to four lanes in rush hours and two lanes in off-peak periods. Buck said that the department is completing traffic analysis on the Massachusetts to K section of the project, which could cause changes in the proposal.

Randy Downs, a member of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2B (Dupont Circle), lives nearby and regularly sees cyclists going northbound in the southbound-only lane that currently exists on 17th. He told The Current that this is unsafe for both the cyclists and drivers — a key reason to support this proposal to create additional bicycle infrastructure.

“Traffic in D.C. is quite a headache,” Downs said. “And so if we can help build infrastructure and help promote a safer ride for bikers, our commission is very supportive of that.”

The new lane would be similar to the one on 15th Street NW, which debuted in 2010. That lane has been so successful that there is sometimes congestion of bicycle traffic, which will potentially be mitigated by the proposed lane on 17th, according to Buck.

“I’m an avid biker; I bike to work pretty much every day,” Downs said. “The protected bike lanes make me feel so much more safe. And these protected bike lanes encourage people to get on their bike and commute around the city.”

Fellow ANC 2B member Nick DelleDonne has expressed concerns about the ability of businesses to unload deliveries if there is a bicycle lane present. DelleDonne told The Current that he has spoken with a number of establishments on the street who have problems with the proposal.

Buck said that there are currently four freight loading zones in the area, and the department will review whether additional zones are necessary as part of the project.

ANC 2B’s Transportation and Public Infrastructure Committee, which Downs co-chairs, will be discussing a strategy for community engagement at its meeting tonight, Downs said. Both Downs and Buck said that they will be seeking feedback from stakeholders as they move forward.