4th Street NE Protected Lane is a Connector We Didn't Know We Needed

The 4th Street bike route no one knew about
Image: Author
The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) held an Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) transportation meeting to discuss plans for a cycletrack, also known as a protected bike lane, along 4th Street NE in Edgewood. Held at the request of Commissioner Edward Garnett and prior to the full ANC 5E meeting Tuesday, June 20, 2017, this meeting allowed the public to learn more about the project and provide initial comments.

This connection could make bicycling in this area safer, fills in a gap in the bike transportation network by creating a parallel street route for much the Metropolitan Branch Trail and making travel from east to the north and west of the District a little easier.

Long before the current movement to create more bicycle infrastructure, 4th Street NE was part of the District's old bicycle route system. According to the 2005 District Bike Plan, the District's interest in bicycling as an alternative to motorized transportation grew in the 1970s in response to the energy crisis. Its first official bicycle plan was prepared in 1975 and adopted in 1976.

Budget for the 1976 Bikeways Initiative (click to enlarge)
Image: Author
The 1976 Bike Plan called for approximately 16 miles of bike lanes, 17 miles of trails, and 38 miles of signed bike routes. The budget for 1976 was $330,000 or an inflation-adjusted $1,435,500 with a total 5-year spending total of $7,177,700 in today's dollars. Originally, the University Route started at Dave Thomas Circle. Similar to current bike lanes in the community, the route meanders through Eckington until it connected to 4th Street. The route had no bike lanes or other infrastructure, just a sign. Due to budget cuts, much of the plan was abandoned.

Today, the area has seen population growth with the addition of dozens of new homes as a part of  the Chancellor's Row townhome development and the expansion of Catholic University of America near Monroe Street NE. Currently, this section of 4th Street isn't particulary appealing to bicyclists with 4 lanes of vehicular traffic moving at above the posted limit (except if a spead camera is present). A better bike lane on 4th Street may provide a potential connection to the proposed Irving Street Protected Bike Lane as part of the Crosstown Multimodal Transportation Study.  In addition, this street could be an alternative to or parallel route of the Metropolitian Branch Trail (with a few adjustments).

Project Scope
The project will install a new protected bike lane from the current lanes that run along 4th Street NE terminating at Lincoln Road. The two-way lane would run on the west side of 4th Street for about a third of a mile to Harewood Road NE, there connecting to existing bike lanes. The DDOT representative stated that the total cost of the plan as presented is $25,000 - $30,000.

As part of his presentation, the DDOT representative described the nature and types of protected lanes considered explaining that the current plan calls for flexible bollards and parking blocks or bumper -- the lanes looking similar to the center lanes of Pennsylvania Avenue NW. To reduce potential crashes, conflict zones or areas where cars and bicycles could interact would be painted green. Getting cyclists into lane at Lincoln will have separate bike signals.

Below are highlights of the plan, which represents the design at 60 - 70 percent.

Figure 1
Image: DDOT

Figure 1 is the planned route of the protected lane at Lincoln and 4th Streets NE, where 4th Street north and south runs horizonally with the northbound side on the bottom. The current northbound lanes would cross 4th Street using a bike-priority signal. Northbound cyclists would queue in a 10x8 foot protective green bike box and wait for the traffic signal. The bike signal would be timed, providing 10 to 20 seconds to cross as currently planned, requiring cyclists, vehicles and pedestrians to wait. A signal sensors is under consideration. 

As the traffic movements are somewhat complicated, an alternative discussed included moving the northbound crossing south by one block to Franklin Street. This would reduce potential conflicts between bikes and southbound 4th Street vehicles. 

Figure 2
Image: DDOT

In figure 2, the protected lane is near the center of the image, running bidirectionally on the westside of 4th Street.  The protected lane is 11 feet wide and replaces a peak hour vehicle travel lane. The new vehicular configuration of 4th street will add permanent parking spaces on the eastside of the street, creating one northbound and two southbound lanes.

Currently, there is a green right-turn arrow for vehicles turning from 4th to Lincoln. The plan calls for this to be a red arrow signal for vehcles turning right. Protective flexposts every begin 60 feet from the Lincoln Road intersection and green paint identifies automobile conflict zones along the protected lane. Like Pennsylvania Avenue, a combination of reflective white paint, flexposts, and rubber parking blocks line the route. Also, a new High-Intensity Activated Crosswalk pedestrian signal could be added somewhere along this section.

Figure 3
Image DDOT

Figure 3 depicts the crossing of the protected lane at Michigan Avenue NE and Harewood Road, with north at the top of the image and south at the bottom. The cycletrack is on the west side of Harewood road to cross Michican using the pedestrian signal. On the northbound side and not currently included in the design, a bike box would be required to allow bicyclists to travel from the southbound side of Harewood continue northbound north of Michigan.

The full ANC discuss the 4th Street cycletrack at its monthly community meeting on Tuesday, June 20 at 7:00 pm. The meeting will in the cafeteria of the Friendship-Armstrong Public Charter School, located 1400 First Street NW. DDOT will seek a Request for Support for the lanes so that the project can move foward. If approved, the cycletrack could be installed later this fall.

Below is the draft lane design.


  1. Are there any plans for an 8th st NE cycle track? The street is decent but it's an obvious missing leg to the MBT


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