Rep. Blumenauer on the inauguration of Pennsylvania Ave. bike lanes

Posted by on June 22nd, 2010 at 3:32 pm

View of new bike lanes on Pennsylvania Ave. Photo taken today by League of American Bicyclists. See full photoset here.

Publisher’s note: After a bumpy road that included a redesign and a delayed opening, the bike lanes on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C. finally opened today. I first heard U.S. Congressman Earl Blumenauer mention this project back in June of 2009, so it’s exciting to see them become a reality. He wrote the article below after attending a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new lanes today.

“The inauguration of the Pennsylvania Avenue bike lanes is truly an extraordinary event for our nation’s capital and for American cycling.”

The last 20 years has provided many highlights for me, watching our work on environment and transportation take hold in Portland and around the country. It’s no secret that the bike progress is a special source of satisfaction and pride. Being able to bring to pass bike lanes on Terwilliger Boulevard, watch the Eastbank Esplanade get completed, and to see bike boulevards spring up around the city were each a special source of joy.

I can honestly say that nothing has given me more satisfaction than today’s formal opening of the Pennsylvania Avenue bike lanes.

This project started as I was cycling up Pennsylvania Avenue to last year’s National Bike Summit. [I rode the same stretch with Blumenauer in 2008.] I added to my remarks a challenge to reconfigure that wasted space into bike lanes and see if we could bring that to pass as a test of our ability to get things done, and as a national symbol of cycling. [Read my report on Blumenauer’s Summit speech where he mentions the lanes.]

Luckily, we had the right people in the audience and in positions of authority. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood gave what was his first of now many major bicycle speeches. We had support from other Cabinet officials, and most important, we had a Transportation Director here in DC, Gabe Klein, working with a Mayor who has vision. 15 months later they are now a reality.

Blumenauer at the ribbon-cutting this morning.
(Photo: Earl Blumenauer’s office)

Gathering the horsepower at the dedication today was probably the greatest concentration of transportation leadership for any bike project in America. Anytime you get the Secretary of Transportation, the Mayor of the city, surrounded by supportive Council Members, the DC Director of Transportation, the Chair of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in the House of Representatives, our uber-cyclist, Jim Oberstar, you will have an exciting event and a strong testimony to the importance of the achievement and the power of the symbol.

As Secretary LaHood announced, this was America’s bike lane on one of the most famous streets not just in America, but in the world. The increased usage means hundreds of cars aren’t on Pennsylvania Avenue, and it’s soon to be tied into other bike lane improvements. This will be complemented by a thousand bikes at bike-sharing stations, showing that in our nation’s capital that a little determination and money can have a transformative effect.

As someone who has for the last 14 years made Washington, DC his second home and having made the decision to bring a bike here instead of a car, I have watched with great satisfaction the cycling landscape change in our nation’s capital as an indicator of its enhanced livability, but I’ve never felt better about the progress and of the future than during today’s inauguration event.

Pennsylvania Avenue plays a critical role in the history of inaugurations, but for the cycling movement in America, the inauguration of the Pennsylvania Avenue bike lanes is truly an extraordinary event for our nation’s capital and for American cycling.

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17 Comments
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    Scott Mizee June 22, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    looks good. can’t wait to try them out when I get back to D.C. some day.

    on a side note… I thought they were going to be green. Am I just imagining that?

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    encephalopath June 22, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    I had heard people say the pedestrian islands were dangerous, but wow… they really are awful.

    At night in the wet, ugly.

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    Michael M. June 22, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    So the bike lane goes right through the pedestrian refuges?

    Not too hard to guess where the next cyclists vs… conflicts will emanate from.

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    encephalopath June 22, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    The markings make it look like the whole concrete area is the pedestrian refuge. There’s nothing to indicate that they shouldn’t stand in the bike lane.

    Not that paint is a magic fix for everything, but subtle clues go a long way for people who aren’t paying careful attention (texters).

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    Bob R. June 22, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    Is it really a “refuge” or just a part of the crosswalk that happens to be a different color?

    In other words, is it necessary to seek refuge there when crossing with a “walk” signal? If there is sufficient time to walk across, then bicycle traffic shouldn’t be a problem because bikes will have a red light.

    Serious problems should only arise if pedestrians are expected to regularly take two cycles to cross, which would be a nasty problem just by itself, without bikes in the mix.

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    hanmade June 22, 2010 at 6:24 pm

    I am going there Friday, I will check it out.

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    Opus the Poet June 22, 2010 at 8:36 pm

    My friends in DC tell me it takes 2 light cycles to cross Penn. Ave. so those are in fact refuges.

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    Joe Rowe June 22, 2010 at 9:23 pm

    quote Earl: nothing has given me more satisfaction than today’s formal opening

    Nice tears of joy Earl. You did not use the tools you could have to stop an illegal war. You’ve got the blood of 500,000 innocent civilians on your hands, and 700 Billion in debt.

    This is the typical smoke screen from democratic leadership: Make a pony show about bikes and liberals, but give much larger funding to single passenger vehicles and the roads and oil that flows along with the slick.

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    CaptainKarma June 23, 2010 at 12:39 am

    It seems like everywhere that bike infrastructure is popping up like dandelions in my front yard. Or mushrooms in my backyard. Whatever. But to me, I think the govt knows that the black gooey stuff called oil is about to really run out, a lot sooner than they are currently saying out loud. I mean really – we all of a sudden have Google bike routing; Adventure Cycling and the govt are developing Official Interstate Bike Routes; Rail-trails are coming out of the woodwork…I really think they are getting us ready…not that most of US don’t already see it coming…but I think it’s coming sooner than we think!

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    Eric June 23, 2010 at 7:21 am

    @ Scott: the original plan was to paint the lanes green, but that (along with protective flexiposts) got nixed by the DC Commission on Fine Arts because of the impact on the viewshed.

    The pedestrian refuge islands, or lack thereof, are going to be a problem. But the bigger, more strategic issue, is that the redesign was done in order to return the two travel lanes that had been removed. Initially, designers were told to not touch the wide media because it was needed for pedestrians. With the redesign they were told to stay within the median. That said, bike lanes on “America’s Main Street” are a good thing and are a highly visible sign ofa commitment to bicycling. I for one can wait to see shots of the next inaugural parade with a re-elected Obama waking in the bike lanes. Too bad the new design creates more problems than it solves.

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    Angela Koch June 23, 2010 at 10:18 am

    Gonna go try out that new bike lane this weekend!

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    matt picio June 23, 2010 at 11:56 am

    Joe (#8) – Sure, blame Earl. Certainly none of the other 400+ members of Congress had anything to do with it. Why the Earl hostility? Why aren’t you picking on David Wu, or other NW politicians? Or for that matter, what about Carl Levin, who’s actually in a position to DO something about said war(s)?

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    Joe Rowe June 23, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    To answer the many questions people send me in private:

    I’m not hostile to Earl anymore. I’m just pointing out how he does a few small good things for bikes, but has much larger, unspeakable crimes and silence on his soul, they are also things that steal money from bike projects.

    I did yell profanity once. Why? He invited 200 people to talk about Impeachment, then answered no questions and left early. Silence speaks volumes.

    Why Earl?

    a) I live in his district

    b) People who greenwash are bigger targets than those who show no shame in killing the Earth. When it comes to War, Earl claimed he’s against the war, and made some ornamental votes, but did not use the tools that would have ended it. He’s say one thing, do another.

    c) This is forum is about bikes culture and the budgets that affect it.

    d) Earl had no political risk to demand impeachment, it only would have made him more popular in Portland. Earl was silent. Other democrats would have risked losing office if they mentioned impeachment.

    e) If Earl was silent on impeachment to be a compliant democrat, then what he’s done is barter 500,000 lives for some appointment to a committee, or simply get democrats in the Whitehouse a bit sooner in the cycle, a cycle that always swings.

    f) Earl’s job in the house is to represent those in his district. He has 2 key duties: drafting law and holding the other 2 branches in check. He’s failed on the greater of his duties.

    g) Earl refused to meet with me an many people who spent 1-2 years standing outside his office demanding he write a statement about impeachment.

    in the words of MLK: we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends

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    Joe Rowe June 23, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    It’s a nice ornament. DC is too hot or cold most of the time for this to work for the general DC population. Put some AC on a streetcar connecting metro stations and you will change their habits in DC.

    #10 Eric. Well said: Too bad the new design creates more problems than it solves.

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    Joe Rowe June 23, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    Matt, #12 Here’s your answer: let’s say you’re hired as a security guard along with 435 guards. Then a murder and theft happen in daylight. You could not stop the initial crime but you had the tool to end the spree, and get back most of the money.

    Let’s say you were silent because you might fail if you tried, most of the other 434 security guards were silent because they wanted to keep their jobs. If they spoke up and failed, their strategy might also mean their boss might miss the next election.

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    Mike FIsh June 24, 2010 at 9:19 am

    I think it’s great that there are some new bike lanes in such a high-profile place.

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    Joe Rowe July 23, 2010 at 11:08 am

    What good is a rarely used bike in our Capitol when we spend almost endless funds building road projects that focus on putting more single passenger cars on the road?

    This is the height of hypocrisy. Say one thing with a bike lane, do 10,000 times more damage a few days later.

    Update July 22nd. Another $42 million for the CRC bridge

    http://blog.oregonlive.com/commuting/2010/07/sen_murray_gets_42_million_for.html

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