Riggs Road NE Cycletrack 30% Design Phase

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) is soliciting public comment on the 30% design of the Riggs Road NE two-way cycletrack (NOI #23-75 PSD; 30% design plan). This is the proposed cycletrack on eastbound Riggs using part of the existing dedicated right-turn only lane between South Dakota Avenue and 1st Place NE that DDOT mentioned at ANC 5A and ANC 4B meetings last year. The project sits in ANC 5A09. Send comments to sean.burnett@dc.gov by May 22, 2023.

Rendering of proposed cycletrack from NOI

According to the notice of intent (NOI), “DDOT proposes to reconfigure the 100 block of Riggs Road between First Place NE and South Dakota Ave NE to remove the curbside eastbound travel lane for 800 feet, and convert that space to a two-way protected bike lane (aka cycletrack).” DDOT says the purpose is to “create a dedicated and safer connection for people biking under the railroad tracks to reach the Metropolitan Branch Trail. This will reduce conflicts between people walking and people biking on the sidewalk.”

The cycletrack is less than 800 feet in length, about 0.13 miles. Traveling eastbound Riggs from 1st Place, it looks like the cycletrack would take up the right-turn only lane to just past Food & Friends’ main entrance/driveway, leading to a bike ramp that DDOT proposes to build that would take the rider to the sidewalk before reaching South Dakota Avenue. So there would still be a dedicated right-turn lane from Riggs to South Dakota Avenue, just a shorter one.

Section from Riggs Road/1st Place NE

Section leading to South Dakota Avenue

I cannot say I have strong feelings either way about this cycletrack. (I really want DDOT to completely overhaul the South Dakota Avenue/Riggs Road NE intersection because it was poorly reconfigured in 2011. This cycletrack is so short I am not sure how useful it will be. And a good chunk of the MBT extension from Fort Totten to Takoma is largely on the sidewalk anyway, including the part leading from 1st Place & Riggs to 1st Street and Riggs).

(Edited to add 5/4/2023: A reader emailed a good point regarding east-west connections to the MBT in Riggs Park. If DDOT is interested in making safe east-west connections, DDOT should work on constructing the Avondale segment approved in the National Capital Trail Network. Also the reader stated DDOT should look at other neighborhood streets to make an east-west connection rather than what is proposed for Riggs.)

But I absolutely think that without any barrier, drivers will “accidentally” drive in the cycletrack to get to South Dakota Avenue. There is a dedicated right turn lane on eastbound Riggs to turn onto 1st Place NE. This right turn lane is useful for all of the buses that go to Fort Totten Metro station. Non-bus drivers, however, often get in this dedicated right turn lane and just keep driving straight to continue on Riggs to turn onto South Dakota. I do not think this practice will change at all just because DDOT puts in a clearly marked cycletrack.

I think DDOT really needs to be careful to have clear signage and road markings directing vehicle traffic on this stretch so that drivers do not use the dedicated right turn lane leading to 1st Place to continue straight onto Riggs only to run into the cycletrack and then have to either keep going (because why not), or swerve into the travel lanes at the last second. It is easiest to see what I am talking about by looking at the Riggs Road/1st Place section in DDOT’s plans.

There is an ever so slight downhill descent on eastbound Riggs from 1st Place to South Dakota Avenue, but it is enough for drivers to pick up quite a bit of speed along this stretch (which is why there is a speed camera on the southeast corner of 1st Place & Riggs). Anyone familiar with this area knows that weekday evening rush hour sees a lot of cars on this stretch and drivers feel entitled to take all sorts of illegal actions and drive at whatever speed they want to get to where they want to go. DDOT really should consider having concrete barriers.

Also, I do not have any data on how often delivery vehicles enter and exit Food & Friends, but I do know that adding this bike facility here will introduce one more thing for delivery drivers to have to watch out for as they enter and exit. Food & Friends drivers have to watch out for pedestrians and bike riders using the sidewalk now. While there is a sign warning drivers not to block the Food & Friends driveway, people often do, so I can see delivery drivers deciding to pull out into the cycletrack and sitting for a bit in order to enter the travel lanes.

All that to say, let’s help DDOT get this right by sending constructive feedback to DDOT.

Send comments to sean.burnett@dc.gov by May 22, 2023.

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