D.C. Streetcars Putting the Squeeze On Cyclists
Thursday, September 04, 2014 - 11:13 AM
Operator training continues on H Street, making streetcars an increasingly common sight along tracks can present a danger to cyclists.
"Yeah, you don't want to ride your bike into them because you will get stuck," says Rita Pearson, a cyclist who has heard the stories of bikes flipping and tossing their riders.
Now bike riders have something else to content with: part of H Street will be off-limits to them.
"I can see a lot of people not wanting to bike on here at all. I think it would be frustrating," Pearson says.
Regulations proposed by the District Department of Transportation would forbid cyclists from riding within what is called a “streetcar guideway, except to cross the street.”
To Greg Billing of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, that amounts to a complete ban.
"Which is defined as the tracks, underneath the wires, the air space, near the platforms, basically anything that has to do with the streetcar. It would essentially ban bicyclists from using H Street," Billing says, adding that bicyclists have been patronizing businesses on H Street for years while they were waiting for the streetcar to be built.
Billings says such a big switch will raise questions about how the rules will be enforced.
"How does DDOT get out there and figure out who they are going to pull over for biking in the streetcar guideway? How do they educate cyclists they aren't allowed to ride there, and there are alternative routes they could use?" Billing says.
DDOT responded to this concern with a posting on its Facebook page, saying bike riders would be able to use the middle lanes on H Street, meaning they'd have to pedal down the middle of the road.
Loren Copsey owns a bike shop at H and 11th Streets. He says making bicycling more difficult here is a bad idea.
"It would increase bike traffic on the sidewalks, which already occurs partially because of the traffic on H Street — but also because of the streetcar tracks," Copsey says. "But if you ban it from the guideway, you would effectively eliminate the ability to arrive at certain businesses on H Street via bike."
DDOT says the public has until Sep. 27 to weigh in on its proposed streetcar regulations, and the agency promises it will make changes to any biking rules, if necessary. The public can email concerns about the proposed regulations.
The streetcar could open in early November, at the earliest.